Katrina Conley is a teacher’s dream.
The director of operations for Green Dot Public Schools is working toward one goal for the public charter network’s principals and teachers.
“I want them to focus only on teaching and learning,” Conley said. “Everything else I want to take off their plate.”
The Broad Residency alumna is managing a team that oversees facilities, purchasing, food services, transportation and student recruitment for 23 Green Dot schools in Los Angeles, Memphis, Tennessee and Tacoma, Washington. Based on feedback from school operations staff, Conley has implemented a plan she calls School Operations 2.0, creating a career pathway for school operations staff to become school operations managers. These new positions, Conley believes, will free principals and teachers from worrying about operations while giving school operations staff an opportunity to grow in leadership roles.
“In the past, this was a more clerical role,” said Jesus Sandoval, a school operations manager at Alain LeRoy Locke College Prep Academy in Los Angeles. “Now it’s hands on. We have to find the best ways of managing the school, and that will translate into something positive for our students.”
Thanks to Conley’s efforts, educators can focus on Green Dot’s mission of serving more than 10,000 students, the great majority of whom live in historically high-need communities. As one of the rare non-profit public school operators that pursues full turnarounds of schools—taking charge of an existing school rather than starting a new school and adding a grade each year—Green Dot embraces a demanding operating environment.
For Conley, who is the first in her family to graduate from high school, it is an ideal role.
“I found my calling,” she said. “The experience I had in college completely changed the trajectory of my own life. I wanted to support schools that do the same thing for others.”
“I am the first person in my family to graduate from high school. My
Mom dropped out in ninth grade, and my father dropped out in 10th grade. I grew up with my grandparents, who dropped out in elementary school and middle school. Education was not a huge issue in our family. It was not emphasized. The main thing was getting a job to help support the family. I worked at a factory where most of my family worked. I’m putting these pieces together in an assembly line and I thought, ‘this is not what I want to be doing with my life.’”