By Haid Bloxham, Co-President, Finance and Operations
Since stepping into the role of Co-President of WA Charters alongside Natalie and Rekha, I have been reflecting on why education has been a north star for me and my career.
I grew up in Atlanta, the middle of three girls, and benefited from the love, resources, and experiences of my parents, both full-time professionals. My parents were able to navigate systems and make choices that enabled my sisters and me to explore different interests and discover our passions. An outdoor skills and leadership course at my high school sparked an early passion for the outdoors and highlighted the possibility for career paths in outdoor education. I often wonder if I would have found this passion or path without the influence of the choices my parents made about my K-12 schooling. These choices placed me in an educational environment where I was challenged, known by my teachers, given the opportunity to explore my unique interests, and most importantly, feel safe and a sense of belonging. My parents’ choices were also deeply rooted in their privileges – privileges from which I directly benefited.
After completing my undergraduate degree at Colby College in Maine (Go Mules!), I followed my passion for wilderness leadership and spent six years guiding expeditions for Outward Bound and the National Outdoor Leadership School (NOLS). Over the course of 21-to-50-day expeditions in Alaska, North Carolina, and Wyoming, I worked with small groups of students, guiding them as they honed their wilderness and leadership skills. It was not the goal for students to leave our courses with a lifelong love of muti-week wilderness expeditions. Rather, the core purpose of these experiences was to foster a self-image of themselves as capable leaders in their communities and beyond.
I left outdoor education to pursue a Masters in Business Administration (MBA), with a goal of building quantitative and analytical skills to continue my path in the education space, but in a role where I may be able to make a broader impact. During my time in graduate school, I worked on a consulting project to build an early financial model that projected state revenue available to charters based on enrollment and demographics. That was my first insight into the ways funding for public schools, especially charters, is inequitable. These issues continue today and are a core part of WA Charters advocacy priorities – equitable funding for charter public students and all public school students in Washington state.
In 2017, I joined WA Charters as Senior VP of Finance and now serve as Co-President, Finance and Administration. My work and team support our organization and sector’s financial sustainability, and WA Charters’ operations and HR. I am proud of the work my team and the organization has led to overhaul our internal HR practices, ensuring policies and practices are human-centered and grounded in our value of aspiring anti-racism. This work is ongoing and part of who we are as an organization that is continuously learning and improving.
This fall, my three-year-old son officially started pre-school at an early learning center in our neighborhood. Every morning, we walk the two blocks to school, and he lights up when we see other families doing the same – calling out the names of friends, and waving to his teachers, who enthusiastically welcome him. Every child at every level deserves to feel such a sense of belonging in school – a sense of safety and feeling known, and excitement for the day ahead. As a parent, I have become acutely aware of how social-emotional and community connections are integral to thriving in school.
Elementary school will be here before I know it, and I am already wondering what type of choices I will be able to make to ensure that William continues to be in a community-rooted environment where he will thrive academically, feel a deep sense of belonging, and be challenged to discover and pursue his unique interests. Every parent and family deserves to have choices, and Washington’s charter public schools are providing student-centered options across our state. I’m honored to have a role in our collective work.