Organization: The Primary School

Location: East Palo Alto, CA

Express Interest

About The Primary School:

The Primary School (TPS) is a new non-profit organization dedicated to dramatically improving health and educational outcomes for children.

Fueled by the belief that the current model of school is too limited to close the achievement gap for our nation’s most at risk children, TPS is designing a new model of primary education and primary care which braids together education, health, and family support services starting at birth. TPS pairs high expectations and joy, in a powerful community of supports to care for the whole child. TPS partners with a progressive health center that aims to redefine the boundaries of primary health care. With this innovative new model, the organization aims to expand the traditional definition of “school” in order to prepare all children to succeed in college, career, and life.

TPS’s approach has three defining characteristics:

  • Provide integrated and comprehensive services: TPS partners with an existing healthcare and community organization to address the needs of the whole child. Educators, parent coaches, partners, and healthcare professionals come together as a team to provide integrated academic and health (physical, mental, and socio-emotional) services to students and families.
  • Start early: TPS aims to admit students at or before birth, and provides parent-driven, early childhood supports alongside medical care during the critical years of child development, ensuring that students are ready for school at age 3. TPS’s infant-toddler program consists of regular parent-child playgroups to support the goals of attachment, language development, and resilience.
  • Offer two-generation supports: TPS puts families at the center of this work and focuses on building parent capacity to support the health and education of their children. Families receive services, including primary care, parenting coaching and connection to other social services, to help them better support their children and become healthier themselves.

In addition to TPS’s core focus on directly serving children and families, TPS is committed to designing a model that is replicable in other communities and redefines what is possible for our highest need children and families. TPS is designed as an R&D engine, focused on investing in design, research, evaluation, and dissemination that will allow them to replicate the model and transfer the organization’s learnings to others.

TPS opened its first site in East Palo Alto in 2016 and currently serves 250 children and families (age 0 to 6). TPS is also exploring pilot sites in the East Bay and San Francisco. The goal in new sites is not to exactly replicate their first site but to explore new innovation and answer critical questions in the development of TPS’s model.

The Opportunity:

TPS has engaged Koya Leadership Partners in the search for a new Chief Executive Officer (CEO) – a dynamic mission-driven executive to manage and lead the organization by working in deep collaboration with the Board Chair, senior leadership team, community partners, and staff to advance its mission of dramatically improving the health and educational outcomes for underserved children.

The CEO will bring excellent leadership and strategic abilities, proven organizational management skills, interpersonal maturity and emotional intelligence, and a collaborative, solutions-oriented approach. This leader will be chiefly accountable for implementing the strategic direction for TPS, strengthening existing programs and partnerships, and increasing the organization’s visibility, impact, and financial resources. Achieving operational excellence, the CEO will build and maintain a strong culture, lead effective operations across a complex, matrixed organization, and assess and implement high-quality program management. TPS’s CEO will also play an external role with partners, the community, and other constituents.

This is a unique opportunity to lead a high-impact, entrepreneurial organization to its next level, exploring opportunities to leverage and enhance the organization’s current model, programs, and resources.

Key Responsibilities

Strategic Vision: The CEO will be a proven strategic thinker with the foresight, capacity, and experience to understand and balance complex and discrete constituent needs. This individual will lead TPS in an analysis of how best to scale the organization and build and retain a talented team that will work with them to implement the course of action for achieving the vision.

Operational Excellence: The CEO will have a demonstrated understanding on how to run a financially sound organization and will be an approachable leader who builds a culture of collaboration and operational excellence among the staff and TPS’s various constituents. The CEO will set up the structures and systems needed to support the organization’s overall goals and objectives.

Management: The CEO will inspire, motivate, develop, and lead a team of talented professionals. This leader will create a high performing and cohesive team to work efficiently across sites and departments.

Collaborative Consensus Building and Networking: The CEO must work in a collaborative manner, building relationships and promoting TPS throughout the community. This individual will actively and strategically seek partnerships and build coalitions with other organizations, educational institutions, and leaders on behalf of the strategic vision of the organization.

Financial Planning: The CEO, in concert with board and staff, will complement TPS’s existing funding with diversified support from foundation, corporate and individual funders, government, and other sources of income.

Core Competencies:

With a genuine commitment to serving children and families, the CEO will be responsible for leading the overall business operations of TPS, enhancing the internal processes and systems and continuing to build the infrastructure that will allow the organization to support its mission as the organization expands.

The CEO will have a progressive outlook towards best practices, including the capacity to innovate and pioneer new models, and to create a culture of accountability and transparency. S/he will be a resourceful person who can handle conflict, foster understanding, and advance ideas. A Bachelor’s degree is required.

Ideal candidates will have significant leadership experience in education, healthcare, complex nonprofit or government settings. The successful candidate will have the following professional competencies and personal characteristics:

Strategic and Entrepreneurial Leader: The CEO will be an experienced leader with an entrepreneurial and enthusiastic spirit, and the background and skills to deliver on the vision for TPS and the organization’s impact on the communities they serve. This individual will demonstrate the ability to diagnose critical areas for attention, and implement clear, action-oriented, innovative strategies that address challenges with thoughtful, effective solutions that engender broad support. Agile in ambiguous situations and capable of providing stability when faced with quickly-changing circumstances, the CEO will possess the ability to challenge and improve the status quo yet employ a servant-leadership approach embodied by TPS’s culture.

Business Acumen and Management Experience: This individual will have the vision to develop and implement progressive innovations to the TPS model and leverage relationships with partner organizations in order to amplify the organization’s reach and impact. The CEO will be a strong manager and inspire confidence through clear, competent, transparent decision-making, and will foster a culture of accountability and support. With the organization’s financial and personnel needs in mind, this leader will forecast progress towards stated goals and position the organization for growth and success with sustainable solutions. A results-oriented problem solver, the CEO will have the perspective to consider the impact of decisions on the organization and make sound recommendations. This individual will demonstrate the ability to build, nurture, and retain a strong team of professionals focused on excellence, accountability, and efficiency.

External Relations and Communication: The CEO will have a high level of public relations insight. The CEO will be the outward-facing voice of TPS, helping to guide messaging, communicate about new initiatives or developments to all stakeholders, and help to build the brand of the organization as it continues its growth and expansion. This executive will able to speak fluidly and extensively about TPS’s history and impact, growth strategy, and future direction, as well as the impact of the organization’s work with children and families. An influential and persuasive communicator, the CEO will have an inspired ability to build community across demographic lines, using accessible language to explicate information, strategy, and processes to individuals with differing levels of familiarity. The CEO will be able to persuasively explain the impact of TPS to funders and garner financial resources to support its continued growth and operation.

Relationship Building & Collaboration: The CEO will be exceptionally skilled at developing, building, and sustaining excellent relationships, both internally and externally to the organization. This leader will be a natural collaborator with a demonstrated ability to connect with and build bridges among the various stakeholders at TPS, including potential partner organizations, staff, the Board, and other constituents. The CEO will be thoughtful and open, working collaboratively to find efficiencies and opportunities for the benefit of TPS, and the children, families, and communities that the organization serves. Calm under pressure, this individual will be consultative, promoting open dialogue with team members to identify best practices, synthesize divergent views, and coalesce all constituencies around a shared view or plan. The CEO will be accessible to staff and proactive in partnering with others to address the human impact of change.

Passion for the Mission and for Education: The CEO will have a passion for the mission of TPS, in addition to holistic child development and education. With a genuine commitment to the community, this leader will establish strong connections to TPS’s families and local leaders. The CEO will be an empathic leader and a clear advocate for equity and inclusiveness, treating others with respect.


TPS has engaged Koya Leadership Partners to help in this hire. This search is being led by Michelle Bonoan and Stephen Milbauer. Please submit a compelling cover letter and resume here, or email Michelle and Stephen at the following:

Michelle R.S. Bonoan
Managing Director

Stephen Milbauer

An Equal Opportunity Employer: TPS does not and shall not discriminate in employment on the basis of race, color, religion (creed), gender, gender expression, age, national origin (ancestry), disability, marital status, sexual orientation, or military status.

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, educational institutions, 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, visit