David Harris (pictured), founder and chief executive officer of The Mind Trust, is leaving the organization to become a founding partner of a new national education organization. He helped establish Indianapolis as a model city for education innovation during his 11 years at the locally-based nonprofit. Harris will step down in April, and Senior Vice President of Education Innovation Brandon Brown will take over as CEO.
Harris will remain in Indianapolis for his work with the new organization, which is being formed to help cities around the country build the right conditions for education change, drawing from The Mind Trust’s success in Indianapolis. The new organization will launch later this year.
Through his work with The Mind Trust and as charter schools director under former Indianapolis Mayor Bart Peterson, Harris has spent the last two decades working to turn his native Indianapolis into a magnet for the nation’s top education talent and a hub for high-quality schools. As a result, Indianapolis is among the best-positioned cities in the country to dramatically improve its education system so that every student can attend a great school.
Harris began his work in education as Peterson’s first charter schools director in 2001. In that role, he helped build the nation’s first mayor-run office to authorize public charter schools, creating a high bar for charter school quality and a rigorous accountability system. Those standards helped garner the mayor’s charter initiative a 2006 Harvard Innovations in American Government Award and laid the foundation for Indianapolis’ sector of high-performing charter schools.
Harris founded The Mind Trust in 2006 to help Indianapolis build upon this momentum and launch best-in-class schools. The organization has created three competitive “incubator” programs to attract top education leaders and innovators to Indianapolis and support them in starting high-quality schools and education nonprofits. The Mind Trust also provides the organizations it incubates with the critical supports they need to thrive, including up to two years of planning time, access to national experts, and support in engaging the community. The Mind Trust has supported the launch of 17 schools and 10 education nonprofits and the ongoing development of several other schools. The Mind Trust also has recruited top national organizations such as Teach For America, TNTP and Stand for Children to Indianapolis.
Under Harris’ leadership, The Mind Trust also has helped drive sweeping changes to how education is delivered in Indianapolis. In 2011, the organization released Creating Opportunity Schools, a bold plan for reinventing education in IPS. The report cast a vision that IPS students would attend schools that enjoy the freedoms and accountability that have made other schools successful. Today, The Mind Trust is working in partnership with IPS and the Indianapolis Mayor’s Office to incubate Innovation Network Schools with the freedoms called for in The Mind Trust’s Opportunity Schools report. Today, almost half of public students in the IPS boundaries are in charter schools or IPS innovation network schools.
Brown joined the organization in 2015 and has overseen the development and launch of 11 Innovation Network Schools through the nonprofit’s partnership with IPS and The Mayor’s Office, with five additional innovation and charter schools potentially set to open this fall. He previously served as director of charter schools for Mayor Greg Ballard’s Office of Education Innovation, where he led the opening of 15 innovative charter schools and managed oversight for 38 schools serving nearly 15,000 students. He began his career as a classroom teacher and served in leadership roles with Teach For America Indianapolis.