Providing Students a Liberating and Equitable Education | Leadership for Educational Equity Skip to main content

Providing Students a Liberating and Equitable Education

  • Beth Anderson - Founder and CEO of the Phoenix Charter Academy Network,

Beth Anderson is the Founder & CEO of the Phoenix Charter Academy Network, an organization that comprises three Massachusetts high schools focused on enrolling students who have been disenfranchised by school and other social systems and supporting them to “succeed in high school, college, and as self-sufficient adults.” She is also Board Chair of the Massachusetts Charter Public School Association, where she helps shape statewide policies to ensure all Massachusetts families can access an equitable, high-quality education. As a LEE member, Beth has participated in house meetings, town halls, and in one-on-one coaching.


Beth Anderson believes deeply in the liberating power of education. Along her leadership journey, she has learned the importance of pairing quality instruction with coaching for students. “A great education also requires strong advice and supports from adults on how to leverage it,” she says, adding, “and the system is designed for some people not to get those things.” Beth’s path into dismantling that inequity was to start a new kind of school. She founded Phoenix Academy, a public charter high school in Chelsea, Massachusetts, seeking change.

Since opening its doors in 2005, that one school has grown into a network of three, now serving over 500 students. Phoenix prepares students to meet their post-secondary goals and create economic viability through college or career training.  

Beyond academics, Phoenix has intentionally created a place of belonging for all students, whether they identify as LGBTQ+ or carry other marginalized identities. Phoenix ensures that staff are trained in restorative, and other, social-emotional practices and employs social workers and other support staff who actively reach out to and support marginalized students. Beth personally has held “salons” in her home to guide other educators through coming out in their classrooms and to their administrators, supported Phoenix’s participation in Pride parades and other LGBTQ+ public endeavors, and supports students operating GSAs at any Phoenix school. 

Underneath it all is a foundation that Beth embodies within herself and her own leadership. She shares, “I needed to be out to do this work and as the groundwork for other staff and students to come out if they choose. We talk about the notion of safe spaces, which has been politicized and mocked, but safe spaces are really in our souls – it’s showing the students that we will embrace whatever you bring in, your identity, your life walk.”

Beth has also been clear about the broader work of her school from the start, “The way racism uses poverty as a tool is so evident in public schools, and in launching Phoenix, I was committed to showing a proof point – with adults who are totally committed to the students plus a rigorous academic curriculum. I knew that inside of this combination, the students would succeed.” Beth draws a line from her experience launching Phoenix Academy to her personal identity, reflecting, “Starting the school was so risky and hard – and so was coming out, and that was a crucial realization for me. I realized I needed to walk this world in an out-lesbian identity. That galvanized me then, and it galvanizes me still every day.”

When Phoenix Academy grew into the Phoenix Charter Academy Network, with the launch of its school in Lawrence in 2012, Beth went from being the Executive Director of one school to the CEO overseeing all three. Now she feels another shift in perspective happening as she thinks deeply about public education as a whole: “I’m feeling a pull to what is happening in the political space around the edges. I see how these young people are creating a runway for their lives through education, and I’m wondering: what is our responsibility to prepare them for what comes next, for how to live in the political space of right now?” 


Can you relate to this crossroads where what students and your community need meets what’s next in your leadership journey? LEE coaches can help you level up your skills and take action.

Not ready to make a change in your own leadership, but want to make change through the leadership of your fellow LEE members? Support a LEE member candidate running for office to change the face and values of our country’s elected leadership.