In 2001, Amy Slothower was doing independent consulting work and was hired to write the business plan for a school. That project brought her face to face with the challenges confronting Colorado K-12 public education, and she hasn’t looked back.
Slothower saw a school system that tended to treat everyone the same way, allowing the best to rise to the top but too often leaving the rest behind.
To give those kids a shot at success, educators and administrators were needed who had a different mindset. Slothower decided to start Get Smart Schools to cultivate that mindset.
“We created the Get Smart Schools Fellowship to seek out the brightest and most talented educational entrepreneurs from across the nation,” said Slothower. “[We] give them intensive instruction in a wide range of practical skills and then demand that they put those skills to use launching and leading schools that give our neediest students the world class education they deserve.”
Slothower knows about changing mindsets from personal experience as an El Pomar fellow.
“I honestly don’t think I would have ended up working in the nonprofit sector were it not for the Fellowship,” Slothower said.
From El Pomar, she got an MBA at Northwestern University, then did management consulting in New York, and came back to Colorado to help start an internet company. All the while, the lessons from the Fellowship kept tugging.
“When I left the Fellowship and worked in the private sector, I longed for the sense of purpose that I had felt doing mission-driven work,” Slothower said. “And, because of the Fellowship, I knew it was possible to have a high-octane career and do something meaningful.”
Slothower’s approach has gathered tremendous momentum in less than four years. The George W. Bush Institute has lauded the program’s work and helped promote Slothower’s thinking. Graduates of the Get Smart Schools Fellowship have started 15 new schools serving more than 4,000 mostly low-income students. And Get Smart Schools is just getting started.
Amy and the Fellowship
Favorite memory or funny story?
“Heather Carroll and I made a video for Mr. Tutt’s investment training program. We were dressed as the characters from Wayne’s World and were explaining how derivative investments work. I really hope the tape has been destroyed!”