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.

The Primary School approach has three defining characteristics:

  • Provide integrated and comprehensive services: TPS partners with an existing healthcare organization to address the needs of the whole child. Educators, parent coaches 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 admits 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. The Primary School’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.

TPS opened its first site in East Palo Alto in 2016 and will serve 350 children and families (age 0 to 6) by fall of 2018.

In addition to TPS’ 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. The Primary School is investing in design, research, evaluation, and dissemination that will allow us to replicate the model and transfer the organization’s learnings to others.

The Opportunity:

The Primary School has engaged Koya Leadership Partners in the search for a new Executive Director to take on the leadership of the flagship East Palo Alto site. The Executive Director will build and maintain a strong culture across the East Palo Alto site, lead effective operations across a complex, matrixed organization, and assess and implement high-quality program management. Reporting to the Chief Operating Officer for The Primary School, this Executive Director will be a member of the central leadership team, serving as a thought partner to the CEO and COO, sharing best practices, as well as advice and counsel as TPS expands into new regions and communities.

The Executive Director will be responsible for managing the organization’s three major programs: school; early childhood and parent program; and local health care partnership. With this comprehensive portfolio, the Executive Director will be responsible for ensuring effective and innovative cross program integration that leads to outstanding results for TPS’s children and families. The Executive Director will work closely with the centralized program design and operations team to ensure the program design is implemented with fidelity on the ground.

This is an opportunity for the right leader to build credibility, establish trust, and earn community support for a unique nonprofit educational organization while championing the mission, vision and strategic goals as TPS’s chief ambassador in the East Palo Alto community.

Key Responsibilities

Build and Support an Exceptional Team and Powerful Organizational Culture

  • Create a strong, collaborative professional learning community for all site staff (50 FTEs & PTEs) that emphasizes results, reflection, and humility.
  • Manage the performance of the team with coaching, professional development, and accountability systems.
  • Foster a strong, cohesive culture among staff, children, families, and partners that reflects core Primary School values of excellence, growth, courage, community and soul.

Provide Excellent Strategic and Operational Program Management

  • Manage school lead and parent program lead while working closely with the medical director to execute the trifecta of programming, resulting in achievement of academic, soul, health and parent outcomes.
  • Identify areas of strategic overlap between program areas that allows our work with students, parents, infant and toddlers to integrate, producing results that are greater than the sum of its parts; this would include managing the strategy, implementation and iteration processes for care coordination on site.
  • Develop and execute on a clear strategy to achieve goals, leading both multi-year and short cycle strategic planning processes.
  • Work with the organization leaders to set clear academic, parent, health, operational and financial programmatic goals and manage to them while remaining responsive to changes in internal and external changes.
  • Leveraging data to help teams continually refine the program and improve practice; support design and iteration of new program design.

Engage Local Community and Key Constituents

  • Represent The Primary School in the local community, building awareness of and trust in our work.
  • Develop and manage relationships with key local partners, in particular with city leaders, school district and health care partners.
  • Actively support our ongoing facilities needs through strong partnership, including with our school district (where are temporarily co-located) and the city of East Palo Alto (where are pursuing a permanent site).

Build Systems to Ensure Optimal Program Delivery

  • Develop and create effective and scalable management processes and systems, including around human capital, knowledge management, communication, and operations.
  • Work with school lead and program directors to ensure efficient and consistent day-to-day operations.
  • Oversee planning and usage of space and facilities for student, infant-toddler and parent programming.
  • Manage relationship with organization wide business office.

Core Competencies:

The ideal candidate will have an authentic and strong belief in the mission of The Primary School and that all children and families are capable of extraordinary things. With excellent judgment and a proven track record of success in building an organization and programs, the Executive Director will be skilled in effectively leading and managing a dynamic and diverse team of highly talented individuals with deep expertise in their respective areas of responsibilities. This leader will have high comfort in a fast-paced, entrepreneurial, and innovative organization.

The Executive Director will have demonstrable project management abilities and a collaborative mindset to drive complex, cross-functional initiatives with decisiveness and adaptability. The Executive Director will operate with kindness, humility, courage and demonstrate the empathy to effectively foster an inclusive, high-performing and joyful culture.

Ideal candidates will be familiar with the region, political landscape, local healthcare networks and/or school systems, and will have experience working with a similar community to East Palo Alto or Belle Haven. A bachelor’s degree is required for the position and a graduate degree is preferred. Ideal candidates will have significant leadership experience in education, healthcare, or complex nonprofit settings, with a comfort and proficiency in Spanish preferred. The successful candidate will have the following professional competencies and personal characteristics:

Strategic Leadership and Business Acumen: The Executive Director will be an assertive and proven leader with integrity who inspires confidence through transparent and competent decision-making, and the vision and skills to develop progressive innovations to TPS’s programming during this period of growth and expansion. With a credible knowledge of a combination of education, health, child development and business operations, the Executive Director will accept and seek feedback from those with specific expertise, fostering a culture of accountability and support.

Organizational Development, Management and Operational Expertise: With the credibility and gravitas to lead a highly complex, matrixed organization, the Executive Director will be entrepreneurial and decisive, able to inspire, empower and provide focus for a high-performing team. This individual will be a strategic problem-solver with the foresight, capacity, and results-driven mindset to balance complex and discrete needs. This individual will evaluate critical areas and operationalize TPS’ vision in a way that engenders broad support. Agile in ambiguous situations and providing stability when faced with quickly changing circumstances, this leader will be able to respectfully challenge the status quo with an inclusive approach.

External Relations and Communication: The Executive Director will be a natural and proactive relationship builder with the strength of character and grace to navigate a high-profile role in the East Palo Alto community. The Executive Director will be the primary ambassador for the organization in helping to build the brand of TPS in the community, guiding messaging, representing the School before all audiences, and inspiring credibility and support.

Relationship Building & Collaboration: This leader will be a listener and a skilled collaborator, and will endeavor to connect, build bridges and sustain excellent relationships with families, community members, potential partner organizations, and TPS team members. With high emotional intelligence, the Executive Director will champion professional development opportunities for team members, delegate appropriately, and inspire relationships based on trust. Calm under pressure, this leader will be consultative, promoting open dialogue with team members to identify best practices, and proactive in addressing the socioemotional impacts of change.

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


The Primary School 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: The Primary School 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, 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, visit