Organization: Carole Robertson Center for Learning

Location: Chicago, IL

Express Interest

About The Carole Robertson Center for Learning:

The Carole Robertson Center for Learning (The Center) serves children and their families at every stage of a child’s development. The Center is a non-profit, multicultural, community-based, family development organization providing quality programs to Chicago’s west side.

With a mission to educate, enrich and empower children and families, The Center is named in memory of Carole Robertson, Addie Mae Collins, Cynthia Wesley, and Denise McNair — the four girls who were tragically killed in the 1963 16th Street Baptist Church bombing in Birmingham during the Civil Rights Movement.

The Center was founded in 1976 by parents and other community residents who rallied to save their local school age program when its sponsoring agency closed. These visionary neighborhood parents created a governance structure that assured parents would hold the dominant voices in agency leadership and management. From its modest beginning, the Center has evolved into a comprehensive family development agency.

The vision of the organization is that every child and family creates pathways to lead productive, fulfilling lives. This will be accomplished through comprehensive child and family development programs. The programs promote school readiness, a love of learning, and a culture of curiosity. The Center provides services with bilingual instruction in English and Spanish, family literacy development, and music and fine arts education. The Center strives to be inclusive and all children, including those with special needs, are welcome in its programs. Its support also extends to the entire family, and they offer extensive family engagement, parent education, parent leadership development, and social service support.

The Center operates three sites in the North Lawndale, Little Village, and Near West Side communities of Chicago. These communities have the highest concentrations of crime and poverty in the city. Although many parents are in school or working full time, all the families served are low-income, with over 90% living below the federal poverty level. The Center serves over 700 children between the ages of 6 weeks and 12 years, along with their families. 84% of children served are under the age of 5. 54% of the children and family members served are African American and 44% are Latino. Notably, the Center’s agency-wide English and Spanish dual-language immersion project has grown to become a national model of early childhood bilingual education.

As an agency serving a community generally characterized as limited in resources, the extraordinary spirit, dedication, and energy individuals contribute in settings which value their involvement is amazing. The Center has thrived under the leadership of a constituent-led Board of Directors. The Center’s by-laws require a governing majority comprised of constituent representation (parents of the Center’s children, former parents, or alumni of the Center’s programs). At least 51% of the governing Board of Directors is comprised of Constituent Representatives, who are elected at large by the corporate membership. This very unique governance structure ensures that the Center’s constituency has the dominant voice in agency growth and development and that it maintains its focus as a family-centered and community-driven agency.

With 3 sites, 152 employees, and oversight by a 12-member Board of Directors, the Center’s FY18 budget is approximately $10 million. A fiscally responsible agency, the Center has cash reserve accounts as well as lines of credit.

For more information on the Carole Robertson Learning Center, please visit

The Opportunity:

As the Center enters this exciting chapter in its history, the President and CEO (CEO) will provide leadership and direction to fulfill the organization’s mission. Inspired by a genuine passion for empowering children and families, the CEO will have a clear vision for the Center. Developed collaboratively with the Board, strategic planning and implementation will be one of the major priorities for this CEO.

The CEO will be a highly visible member of the community, representing the Center to partner organizations and throughout Chicago, particularly the North Lawndale and Little Village communities. S/he will embody the Center’s strong commitment to its children and families and will promote the organization, accelerating its impact, resource development and brand recognition. The role provides leadership and oversight of the organization’s operations, culture, values, talent and financial performance, and owns and protects the mission.

A successful CEO will have the character and confidence to work comfortably in a highly visible role and to work effectively with a broad range of constituents, both within the Center and externally. S/he will be a strong and decisive leader, making decisions on a factual/analytical basis with fair consideration of other’s views.

Reporting to and partnering with the Board of Directors, the CEO will be expected to provide refreshed strategic leadership to the organization. The CEO will work proactively with the Board and development team to fundraise for the Center and strategically lead the organization into its next chapter which will inspire enrollment and engagement among families, donors, partners and constituents.

The CEO will be able to credibly represent the organization in the early childhood, after school and family development space, grasping core concepts, trends and social impact, increasing the Center’s positioning as subject matter experts.

Keys for success include:

  • Championing a spirit of collaboration and open communications across all organizational departments and operations to advance organizational goals and engender trust among the staff;
  • Serving as a thought partner to the Board of Directors, collaborating with them to solidify vision and positioning and maintaining effective lines of communication;
  • Embodying a clear, inspiring vision and translating those strategies into effectively executed plans;
  • Growing revenues to improve and expand programming and enrollment;
  • Ensuring program effectiveness through evaluating quantitative and qualitative program analytics in order to have a comprehensive impact story to share that connects with people’s heads and hearts; and
  • Cultivating relationships with current and prospective donors and Board Members, and actively engaging and energizing the Center’s external stakeholders to garner new opportunities for generating revenue and community partnerships.

Candidate Profile:

The CEO will be passionate about fulfilling the Center’s mission. S/he will have the character and confidence to work comfortably in a highly visible role and to interact effectively with a broad range of constituents. As a leader in Chicago, s/he will bring a genuine passion for the mission of the Center coupled with deep experience driving sustainable success.

The ideal candidate will have the following personal qualities and characteristics:

A Passion for the Mission

The CEO will embody the values and mission of the Center and as a result, will inspire and motivate others. An empathic, confident leader, the CEO will embrace the history and culture of the Center, which is integral to gaining credibility with the Board, staff, children, parents and community. S/he will be grounded while staying connected with the Center’ community. S/he will have a vision for the early childhood, after school and family development landscape and will have an eye consistently focused on the future and how to best adapt the Center to its changing environment. S/he will have a collaborative spirit and will be a charismatic leader who treats others with respect. S/he will be an individual of unquestioned integrity, ethics and values; someone who can be trusted without reservation. On the most fundamental level s/he will look for ways to educate, enrich and empower children and families.

A Strategic Leader

The CEO will be a strategic leader who, with the Board, will set and articulate a vision for the organization. S/he will have the ability to set priorities decisively, delegate responsibilities, assure accountability and allocate resources to ensure results. The CEO will be an intelligent self-starter and finisher who is resourceful and entrepreneurial, yet team oriented. A tactical executor, s/he will have a strong data and analysis orientation and a proven ability to use metrics to drive decisions and achieves strategic objectives. S/he will have an abiding commitment to a team environment centered on accountability, one that is able to establish priorities, goals, and timelines to achieve quantifiable and qualitative outcomes. S/he will understand and implement best nonprofit management practices and planning, ensuring that overall day-to-day operations are aligned with strategic goals. S/he will have a demonstrated understanding on how to run a financially sound organization. An engaging and supportive leader, s/he will have a track record of motivating and inspiring others to achieve impact through creativity and teamwork and of leveraging individual strengths to meet organizational goals.

An ‘Ambassador’ for the Carole Robertson Learning Center

The CEO will be a high-energy, charismatic leader who will serve as an ‘Ambassador’ for the Center. S/he will have an executive and mission-driven presence and will be able to effectively articulate and convey the Center’s mission and priorities to a range of constituents including donors, partner organizations, children, families, Board of Directors and staff. The CEO will have familiarity with a wide range of fundraising channels, with particular emphasis on corporate, foundation and government giving. The CEO will have an inspirational approach to building collaboration and buy-in and generating support for the organization. S/he will be able to work effectively with diverse populations and will be credible in the early childhood, after school and family development communities. As the external voice of the organization, s/he will possess excellent oral and written communication skills and must be a confident public speaker.

Building Relationships and Using Influence

The CEO must be able to build and sustain excellent relationships at multiple levels internally and with the various external constituencies including the Board of Directors, DCFS, CPS and a range of partner agencies and other institutions. It is imperative that s/he is an excellent and persuasive communicator. S/he will have the ability to foster an atmosphere of collaboration and partnership across the organization. The CEO will be a dynamic and credible leader, which will be conveyed both internally to the organization and externally to the broader community and can deal effectively with people of different philosophies, backgrounds and cultures. The CEO will be a proactive, transparent communicator at all times.

A Bachelor’s degree is required; an advanced degree is preferred.


Marissa Martin and Chartise Clark of Koya Leadership Partners have been exclusively retained for this search. To express your interest in this role please submit your materials here or email Marissa and Chartise directly at All inquiries and discussions will be considered strictly confidential.

The Carole Robertson Center for Learning is an equal opportunity employer and strongly encourages applications from people of color, persons with disabilities, women, and LGBT applicants.

About Koya Leadership Partners:

Koya Leadership Partners is a national retained executive search and human capital consulting firm that works exclusively with mission-driven organizations, institutions of higher education, and social enterprises. We deliver measurable results, finding exceptionally talented people who truly fit the unique culture of our client organizations and ensuring that organizations have the resources and strategies to support them. For more information about Koya Leadership Partners, visit