CEI Appoints Experienced Colorado K-12 Champion as President and CEO

December 6, 2016

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Melissa Reeves
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Denver, Colorado – The Colorado Education Initiative’s (CEI) board of trustees is pleased to announce the appointment of the organization’s new President & CEO, Rebecca Holmes, who joins the CEI team in January 2017.

“We’re excited that Rebecca is joining the CEI team,” said CEI Board of Trustees Chairman Leroy Williams. “Her experienced leadership, vision, and passion for making a difference in Colorado education is contagious — while she understands the dynamics and unique challenges of Colorado’s K-12 public education system. Her wealth of experience and ability to partner and collaborate will be great assets in advancing CEI’s mission to help all students achieve success.”

Starting her education career as a teacher in Denver’s Cole neighborhood, Holmes is a proud alumna of Colorado’s public schools, a graduate of Yale University, and holds an MBA from Harvard Business School.

Holmes brings an extensive background in K-12 education and organization leadership to guide the next chapter in CEI’s development and has held several leadership positions in Colorado education focused on innovation and student outcomes.  She has also worked for several Colorado philanthropic foundations and has private-sector experience with Deloitte Consulting — where she worked with a variety of clients on change management, talent strategies, and organizational design.

“CEI has played an important role in classrooms, schools, and districts across Colorado and it will be a privilege to lead the next phase of that work,” said Holmes. “Our state’s future depends on what we provide now for our students and CEI has proven it can be a partner and a catalyst in helping leaders on the ground take learning to the next level.”

Holmes leaves the local Gates Family Foundation as their Senior Program Officer for Education to join CEI’s team and was previously at the Colorado Department of Education (CDE) as the Associate Commissioner for Innovation, Choice, and Engagement. Prior to CDE, Holmes served as the CEO of a public charter school network serving over 90 percent low-income students.

About The Colorado Education Initiative

The Colorado Education Initiative is an independent nonprofit working in partnership with the Colorado Department of Education, educators, schools, districts, and other public education stakeholders to accelerate educational improvement and innovation across Colorado. CEI envisions that every student in Colorado is prepared and unafraid to succeed in school, work, and life, and ready to take on the challenges of today, tomorrow, and beyond.

Sustainable Careers: Work for the Long Run

By Karen Newman

Ron arrived for his last day of work as usual, before anyone else was in the office. He tried to ignore the knot in his stomach as he turned on his computer and prepared for his first conference call of the day. Ron had risen through the ranks of his international consumer products company, stayed current in his field, become a manager, and participated in many projects that had been very profitable for the company.

It made Ron physically ill to think about this being his last day at work. True, he was past retirement age and was fully vested in his retirement program. True, he was no longer striving for promotions. Yet he still had plenty to offer. Unfortunately, the company didn’t see it that way. Ron wanted to keep working, but dial back his hours. But the company’s philosophy was ‘‘all or nothing’’ — you are either fully engaged or you are not employed here. The truth was, Ron was being pushed out and he didn’t like it. ‘‘I’ll show them,’’ he thought to himself. ‘‘I’ll take my knowhow and my business relationships with me tonight when I leave. To heck with them.’’ Yet no matter how much indignation Ron tried to muster, he still had that knot in his stomach. He didn’t want to leave.

We all know a “Ron.” The 78 million Baby Boomers born between 1946 and 1964 in the U.S. have challenged us as a society for over sixty years. We built new schools to educate them, new suburbs to house them, and new industries and jobs to challenge them. Women’s widespread entry into professional positions is a Baby Boomer phenomenon, as are 401(k) retirement accounts, credit card debt, dissolution of the nuclear family, and increasing reliance on science and technology for a better and longer life.

Baby Boomers in the U.S. are currently between the ages of 47 and 65. The sheer size of the generation is going to place tremendous strains on Social Security and Medicare, and the reliability of 401(k) accounts for retirement is questionable, at best. In addition, with life expectancies in the 80s, it is unreasonable to assume that any pension plan could affordably support this large population for 20-30 years of retirement. Finally, Boomers are not very good savers. They cannot afford to retire. Baby Boomers have changed many things about life in the U.S. since their births, and they are not finished.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, about 10 percent of the labor force was age 55 or older in 2000. By 2015, 20 percent will be 55 or older. And a recent survey by the Transamerica Center for Retirement Studies found that 39 percent of respondents plan to retire after age 70 or not at all. How do we productively engage the aging workforce in work now, and how do we craft careers for younger employees that will serve them well through all stages of their adult lives?

The Aging Advantage

Contrary to common beliefs, older employees are not stubborn, rigid, low performing liabilities. Numerous researchers find older workers to be more engaged, more loyal, less likely to quit, less likely to be absent voluntarily, more willing to work hard, and just as adaptable when given the opportunity, compared to their younger colleagues.

This is especially true for jobs in which the physical requirements of work are not a limiting factor. Older employees are better qualified, more interested in accomplishment, more interested in doing meaningful work, more motivated by autonomy and flexibility and less interested in promotions than their younger co-workers. Older employees hunger for an opportunity to make a difference, to bring their years of experience to bear and help others. They want to make a contribution and be respected for their wisdom and expertise.

Sustainable Careers

It is not the strongest species that survive, nor the most intelligent, but the ones most responsive to change.” – Charles Darwin

Sustainability implies preserving and enhancing human capital rather than depleting it. It implies restoring and maintaining balance. To be sustainable throughout life, careers must have three features. They must include renewal opportunities, times when employees paus briefly to reinvigorate themselves. They must be flexible and adaptable. Half of what we think we know now will be obsolete in a few years. Individuals and firms need to be continuous and flexible learners, ready to travel new roads as conditions dictate. Finally, sustainable careers must include opportunities for integration across life spheres and experiences that lead to wholeness, completeness, and meaning. Let’s look at each of these in more depth.


Renewability implies replenishment in a reasonable amount of time. It implies the ability refresh, to extend, and to be available indefinitely. The renewability feature of careers prevents burnout, akin to allowing time for muscles to recover after a rigorous workout. Renewable career practices provide periods of time for consolidation, reflection, rethinking and retooling. The case of Nancy Tuor of CH2MHill is an example.

Nancy was the project executive for CH2MHill charged with cleaning up a highly complex hazardous waste site that was littered with radioactive waste. She and her team completed the estimated 60-year job in less than 10 years at a cost of one-fifth the original estimate. The project was a quintessential high visibility, high stakes, fast moving and extremely successful experience in her career.

After completing the project, her career trajectory took her to a less visible, less turbulent assignment as vice-chair in which she developed future revenue streams through project proposals. She was not stagnated or plateaued, as might happen in another firm. She was investing in the future. After her time as vice-chair she went back into another high visibility job as the company’s project executive for building a carbon neutral city in the Middle East.

Nancy’s story is not unique in engineering firms, yet it is also not common. Too often we move ourselves (or our employees) rapidly from place to place, assignment to assignment. A lull in the action is an indication of a problem, not an opportunity. Not so at CH2MHILL. While the firm certainly keeps its billable hours at a reasonable level, it also has a practice of asking people to contribute from time to time in a different, less turbulent, less visible role, as Nancy did. The company benefits, as do its employees.


Flexibility means being easily shaped and reshaped, adaptable, agile and capable of change. Flexibility implies range of movement, elasticity, and the ability to bend without breaking. Flexibility produces resiliency and confidence, two key components of positive psychology. Careers of the future must be flexible and adaptable, characterized by continuous learning both in response to change and in anticipation of change. We know things will not be the same next year as they were previously, but we do not know how they will be different. At Intel and many other technology-based companies, the majority of profits in any one year are from products that did not exist two years previously. Continuous learning is akin to tennis players always keeping their feet moving. The best players may not know where the ball will be, but being in motion helps them get to the ball more quickly.

Daniel started his career in the financial services industry, working in operations – the backroom activities that keep the system working. It was not a job that led to trading or investment banking or wealth management, yet these were the types of jobs Daniel wanted. He continued his education, learned the fundamentals of investing, and achieved professional certifications necessary for advancement in investment analysis and wealth management. He made himself available for task forces and special projects that gave him visibility among investment professionals; he learned everything he could about the business on the job; and he found a mentor who straddles his world (operations) and the other functions in the firm to which Daniel aspired.

After several years in operations, Daniel was asked to lead a project team that gave him great visibility among investment associates. When the project was completed, he was asked to manage the new activity – located in the investment management part of the firm. He is now a managing director in a prestigious investment bank.

Daniels’s case illustrates on person’s tenacity and flexibility. Even better are examples of employers who have flexible, on-demand talent management strategies so that many “Daniels” can develop simultaneously. These firms are likely to be young and doing business in rapidly changing fields, firms such as Google, Zappos, and Apple. Their flexibility and adaptability are part of the reason for their success- being able to deploy the right talent at the right time on the right task. And these firms attract talent that is excited about flexibility and not worried about a lack of fixed career paths.


Integration implies completeness, wholeness, consistency between values and actions, and connectedness. From integration comes meaning. Older adults seek meaning in their lives. They are asking the question, “Have I lived a meaningful life?” and “How can I make a positive difference in the time I have left?”

Older adults have perspective, see connections and draw conclusions from the disparate bits of information more readily than younger adults. They see patterns and networks younger workers often do not see.

Imagine engaging experiences employees as one company did.

Sam, a long time employee at a mid-sized international engineering firm, had become marginally productive and difficult to work with. He was isolated at work, both physically and interpersonally. At 65 years old, he was as sharp as ever mentally, showed no signs of wanting to retire, but had lost his ability and willingness to work effectively with others. As a result, he was given tasks that reinforced his isolation and that were not at the cutting edge of the business. His new supervisor, Tony, realized that Sam’s talents were wasted in his current job. Taking advantage of Sam’s years of experience and solid customer relationships, Tony created a Customer Quality Assurance role for Sam, representing projects holistically to the customer rather than contributing as one of the project engineers.

Because of his years of experience, Sam is able to evaluate project quality and integration as a whole and able to be the go-between with customers. Tony also moved Sam to the front of the office area in a prominent and visible space. He paid attention to him. He honored Sam’s experience. He supported Sam’s job activities. Sam completely turned around his performance. Where previously Sam was a troubled, even dysfunctional employee, he is now highly valued and respected by his peers and contributing to his company’s bottom line.

This is an example of adding integration opportunities to talent management practices. Not everyone can be a “Sam,” but how many “Sams” are pushed prematurely out the door with a gold watch, or relegated to trivial work at the margin of the company? Sustainable careers engage the “Sams” of the world in ways that are appropriate to their stage in life, building on and using their need for integration.

The Business Case for Sustainable Careers

The aging Baby Boomer Generation presents an opportunity to reinvent personal and organization career strategies. For 40 years, society has made only incremental changes around the edges of traditional career practices in response to more women in the workplace, advances in information technology, and the rise of knowledge-based work. Vestiges of old assumptions remain – employment policies that punish or prohibit flexible work; promotion patterns that punish child-bearing and child-rearing; job descriptions that require face-to- face work when not necessary; and retirement plans that push people out the door based on age rather than engagement and value.

The time for change is long overdue. As has happened so often in the last 40 years, it may be the large Baby Boomer Generation that triggers significant and lasting change in the way society engages people in work throughout life. Sustainable careers can help companies in at least five ways.

Knowledge Management

Knowledge retention and knowledge transfer, huge issues now for companies, can be enhanced with continued engagement of more experienced people who have stayed current, who have not burned out, and who possess unique knowledge. As work in the U.S. becomes more knowledge-based, the need to manage knowledge will increase.

Global Leaders in Education Convene in Downtown Denver

Colorado Business Roundtable and ICOSA Media were pleased to be part of the GlobalMindED conference on Access, Equity and Opportunity as panelists and media service sponsors, respectively. The event was held on June 9-10, 2016 in downtown Denver. Educational leaders from 20+countries, eight national foundations, ten college presidents, and thirty five non-profit/government partners were featured. The theme of the conference was Collective Impact: Who Will Magnify Your Work and Results? 

Featured speakers were from industry-leading companies including Intel Corporation, Google, Microsoft and Gallup as well is innovators like Uncharted Play and University Ventures and educational organizations like Institute for Global and Online Education in the College of Education at University of Oregon and American Indian College Fund.

COBRT Founder Gayle Dendinger was a panelist for "Policies that Promote Innovation and Entrepreneurship: Examples from Colorado that Can Scale Nationally, Internationally" on June 10. Speaking on this topic is a natural fit for Dendinger whose work in leadership and best practices has led to several companies starting with transportation and logistics (CAP Logistics in Denver 34 years ago) to media services including a radio show and weekly news subscription service. 

COBRT President Jeff Wasden was a panelist at "Higher Education's Role in Promoting Workforce Skills: Producing Capable, Practical, Professional Graduates" on June 9, continuing to speak on behalf of Education and Workforce as one of COBRT's Key Issues. COBRT radio host Stephanie Veck of Colorado Workforce Development Council and COBRT contributor Scott Laband of Colorado Succeeds were also among the distinguished speakers.

Colorado First to Launch New Career Pathway Tool for Students and Working Adults

Coloradans are pioneers at heart. Some of us not only grew up here but have families who were among its early settlers. It is no surprise then but always still a coup when our state achieves a number one ranking or is selected to pilot a program. Being the first state in the nation to utilize a unique career pathway tool is not only a testament to our current robust education and business climate but also to our commitment to future generations. Launch My Career Colorado will help students, working adults and businesses connect in novel ways for a sustainably-thriving workforce and economy.

Launch My Career Colorado, launchmycareercolorado.org, is a project of U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation's Center for Education and Workforce; Gallup, Inc.; and the American Institutes of Research College Measures partnership. Colorado Association of Commerce and Industry (CACI) is leading the charge in Colorado. CACI hosted the launch event held June 9, 2016 at History Colorado.

Carol D'Amico, Executive Vice President of National Engagement & Philanthropy, USA Funds, made opening remarks about helping consumers make good decisions about investment in higher education. Keith Pearson, Chair-Elect on CACI’s Board of Directors & President of McLane Western, discussed the demonstration of value from said investment in higher education in its variety of formats from a traditional Bachelor’s degree to an Associate’s degree to certificates and industry certifications.

Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper then took to the podium and noted how this tool aligns the wide variety of interests represented among the crowd of more than 125, from businesses to policy advocacy organizations to education administrators to workforce development specialists. This kind of alignment across the board focusing on a strong workforce can get Colorado through the turbulence that other states may face. Furthermore, the Launch My Career Colorado webtool itself will reveal to its users the economic reality of our decisions over the course of entire careers.

The webtool’s lead researcher, Mark Schneider, President of College Measures division of American Institutes of Research, then gave an overview of the tool and how it will cultivate more successful graduates through three main components: connecting to “hot jobs” as tailored to our state, emphasizing “hot skills” that companies around here want in its employees, and illustrating the return on investment (ROI) that can be expected in relation to the lives that users want, respectively. The system, which has components for students as well as currently-working adults, asks some specific and thought-provoking questions about lifestyle expectations and compares those expectations to career pathway projections. Schneider will speak about the tool in depth on Connect and Collaborate Radio at 1690 AM on Tuesday, June 14, 2016 from 4-5 p.m.

There was then a roundtable discussion moderated by Brandon Busteed, Executive Director, Education & Workforce Development, Gallup, Inc. Participants on the roundtable included Scott Laband, President, Colorado Succeeds; Matthew Gianneschi, Chief Operating Officer and Chief of Staff, Colorado Mountain College; Ray Johnson, Citizenship & Corporate Affairs Manager, IBM; and Jennifer Sobanet, Acting Executive Director and Chief Operating Officer, Colorado Department of Higher Education.

Robin Wise, President and CEO of Junior Achievement-Rocky Mountain, Inc., concluded the webtool launch luncheon by sharing powerful stories of some of their 136,000 students who have already tried Launch My Career Colorado. It provides inspiration and “practical hope” so that students and their families can make the most advantageous investments in higher education.

Colorado Springs Regional Business Alliance and Colorado Business Roundtable (COBRT) applied for and were chosen as grant recipients to ensure that our members and more utilize this valuable tool. COBRT is invested in education and workforce development as a Key Issue in our commitment to a business-friendly Colorado. Our vision for implementing a feasible, COBRT-led communications strategy to educate Coloradans on the need for better career pathways to in-demand jobs through the use of College Measures webtool is a vision which unites our existing initiatives as well as future strategic goals. 

The webtool is available right now, and we encourage all of our members to check it out whether from the perspective of employers, parents, job-seekers or life-long learners. Please remember that being pioneers in this effort also means that we will be the first to discover if certain improvements need to be made. If you have any specific feedback, be sure to use this form to inform the developers. 

Be sure to tune in on Tuesday, June 14, 2016 from 4-5 p.m. at 1690 AM for COBRT’s Connect and Collaborate Radio, with Launch My Career Colorado’s lead researcher Mark Schneider as our special guest.


Colorado Governor Signs Career and Technical Training Bill

(TALLAHASSEE, Fla.) –- Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper signed on May 27, 2016 HB 1289 into law establishing incentives for high schools to offer career and technical education opportunities to students in high-demand fields. Schools will be rewarded for each student who earns an industry-recognized credential. If funds allow, schools will also be rewarded if a student successfully completes an internship, residency, construction pre-apprenticeship, apprenticeship program or earns a qualifying score on an Advanced Placement Computer Science exam. HB 1289 was sponsored by House Majority Leader Crisanta Duran, Representative Daneya Esgar, Senator Leroy Garcia and Senator Larry Crowder.
“Colorado has thousands of good, high-paying jobs that require applicants who are well educated and trained. By rewarding schools for students who earn an industry-recognized credential, and possibly for completing internships and apprenticeships as well, Colorado is creating opportunities for its students while laying the groundwork for a more competitive workforce in the future,” said Foundation for Excellence in Education (ExcelinEd) CEO Patricia Levesque.


Learn more about HB 1289:

  • The bill establishes a $1 million annual appropriation that begins in fiscal year 2017-2018.
  • The pilot will operate for 2 years and will be evaluated upon the conclusion for continuance.
  • The participating school district or charter school will receive $1,000 per student in the program.
  • Funding provided to schools is tiered and tied to performance. The first funding tier will be students who earn industry certifications in high-demand fields. The second funding tier, if there is remaining funding, will be for students who complete a qualified internship, residency, or construction pre-apprenticeship or apprenticeship program tied to high-demand fields. The third and final tier, if there is funding remaining, will be for students who earn a qualifying score on AP computer science.
  • The Department of Education will be required to submit an annual report on program participation and performance.
  • The Workforce Development Council, in collaboration with education and workforce agencies, will determine qualifying industry certifications, internships, residency programs, and construction apprenticeship and pre-apprenticeship programs based on job market demand.

The Foundation for Excellence in Education is transforming education for the 21st century economy by working with lawmakers, policymakers, educators and parents to advance education reform across America. Learn more at ExcelinEd.org.


Latino Leadership Institute Announces 2016 Fellows

It is an honor and privilege to announce the 20 extraordinary leaders who have been selected for the Latino Leadership Institute Fellowship. The Summer 2016 Cohort, who average 14 years of professional experience, represents an accomplished group of professionals across the private, public, non-profit, and education sectors in Colorado.





Jeb Bush to Serve as Chairman of the Foundation for Excellence in Education

(TALLAHASSEE, Fla.) -- The Foundation for Excellence in Education (ExcelinEd) announced on May 24, 2016 the election of former Florida Governor Jeb Bush as Chairman and President of its Board of Directors. Governor Bush replaces Dr. Condoleezza Rice, who has served as Chair since January 2015 and remains a member of the Board of Directors. 

“One of the greatest challenges and opportunities we have in America today is to create a 21st century education system that ensures all students have the skills, teachers and educational options they need to succeed in life,” said Governor Bush. “Too many children right now are failed by a deeply flawed bureaucratic system, but I’m optimistic about the future because I’ve seen the great results produced by states across the country. It is an honor to rejoin ExcelinEd as we continue to support states in bringing choice, innovation and accountability to the classroom. I am thankful to Dr. Rice and this exceptional board for their leadership over the past year.” 

Since 2008, ExcelinEd has worked in 48 states across the country to champion state-driven, proven transformational education reform policies that lead to rising student achievement. Because of these reforms and hard work by state leaders and educators, students have achieved remarkable academic success. Last year, as a result of active engagement by ExcelinEd and ExcelinEd in Action, 43 education laws were adopted in 15 states to improve or enact new reform policies.  

Governor Bush also has been elected to the Board of Directors of Excellence in Educationin Action (ExcelinEd in Action). The sister 501(c)(4) organization to the Foundation for Excellence in Education, ExcelinEd in Action helps advance legislation at the state level to improve the quality of education for every child. Governor Bush launched ExcelinEd in Action in 2014 and will serve as the organization’s Chairman and President.

For more on the ExcelinEd Board of Directors, visit www.ExcelinEd.org/board-corner/board-of-directors/. For more on ExcelinEd in Action, visit www.ExcelinEdInAction.org.


BIOGRAPHY: Governor Jeb Bush

Jeb Bush was elected the 43rd governor of the state of Florida on November 3, 1998, and was re-elected by a wide margin in 2002. His second term as governor ended in January 2007.

Jeb earned a bachelor’s degree in Latin American Studies from the University of Texas at Austin and moved to Florida in 1981. With partner Armando Codina, he started a small real estate development company, which grew to become the largest, full-service commercial real estate company in South Florida.

Jeb served as Florida’s Secretary of Commerce under Bob Martinez, Florida’s 40th governor. As Secretary of Commerce, he promoted Florida's business climate worldwide. Following an unsuccessful bid for governor in 1994, Jeb founded the nonprofit Foundation for Florida’s Future, which joined forces with the Urban League of Greater Miami to establish one of the state’s first charter schools. He also co-authored Profiles in Character, a book profiling 14 of Florida’s civic heroes–people making a difference without claiming a single news headline.

After his election in 1998, Governor Bush focused on reforming education. Florida students have made the greatest gains in achievement, and Florida is one of a handful of states that have narrowed the achievement gap. In addition, he cut taxes every year during his tenure as governor, and Florida led the nation in job growth seven out of eight years. Governor Bush put Florida on the forefront of consumer healthcare advances by signing Medicaid reform legislation “Empowered Care” in June 2006.

Before launching a run for the Republican presidential nomination in June of 2015, Governor Bush led his own successful consulting business, Jeb Bush and Associates, whose clients ranged from small technology start-ups to well-known Fortune 500 companies. He also served as the chairman of the Foundation for Excellence in Education; co-chairman of the Barbara Bush Foundation for Family Literacy; and chair of the National Constitution Center. 

He is the co-author of Immigration Wars: Forging an American Solution (2013) and author of Reply All (2015).

Governor Bush is the son of former President George H.W. Bush and Barbara Bush. He lives in Miami with his wife, Columba. They have three children and four grandchildren.


The Foundation for Excellence in Education is transforming education for the 21st century economy by working with lawmakers, policymakers, educators and parents to advance education reform across America. Learn more at ExcelinEd.org.