In 25 Words or Less
That’s it. Leaders and influencers, who are usually given the floor for as long as they like, are limited here to condensed responses (no more than 25 words) that get straight to the point.
Know yourself, your power and your gifts, then get used to giving them all away as doing so is the only way they will grow.
Name: Derek Mitchell
Place of Birth: Chicago, IL • Place Raised: Chicago, IL
With a career that spans the entertainment industry, software, and education, Derek brings a unique and sometimes controversial perspective on what it takes for our most challenged schools to achieve academic excellence for each child. Currently CEO of Partners in School Innovation, a nonprofit dedicated to working hand-in-hand with teachers and leaders to strengthen teaching, learning and achievement in under-performing public schools and districts, Derek has led the organization to dramatic growth while improving the quality and consistency of the organization’s supports to teachers and leaders.
Job(s) held that is most unlike what I currently do now: I sold water rights in California for the summer between high school and college. Wrote feature film publicity at Warner Bros after college and designed 3D video games for a new console system called the 3D0 during a break from graduate school.
What achievement or position are you most known for? Designed the first data driven decision making system for school leaders called the Quality School Portfolio (QSP). This tool vested school leaders with the ability to tell their own data story and respond powerfully to accountability pressure. It was eventually distributed to all title one schools free of charge.
Significant Challenge: Closing the achievement gap in a way that ensures excellence for all students is a passion of mine as it involves changing mindset, heartset and the adoption of new strategies and tools.
Significant Mistake/Regret: I had a book offer from a publisher who wanted me to write a book based on my dissertation and I was ‘too busy’ to take that on. I should have taken the time to do it.
Significant Accomplishment: Winning the CECP 2013 Directors Award at Partners in School Innovation for our work in the South Bay was a wonderful accomplishment of which I am very proud.
Biggest Strength(s): Excellent eye for and ability to develop talented leaders. Relentlessness when focusing on achieving shared goals.
Biggest Weakness(es): I trust early and believe that eventually my trust will be earned. This has not always borne out.
Career Advice: Know yourself, your power and your gifts, then get used to giving them all away as doing so is the only way they will grow.
Significant Challenge: Living a life with balance and perspective. When much of your life is about the good of other people, it is difficult to prioritize what is good for you.
Significant Accomplishment: Achieving a Ph.D. in educational psychology. Not bad for a kid a teacher once told, “you will live and die on the streets of Chicago, where you belong!’
Life Advice: If you keep your friends close enough, you won’t have to bother worrying about where your enemies are.
Trait(s) most admired in others: The ability to give others your complete attention. I’ve only experienced this a few times and it is really powerful when folks can do that.
Acknowledging that there are a number of global issues requiring significant attention and resources, which one(s) tends to interest/bother you more than others: Women’s rights, domestically and worldwide. Poverty domestically. Social justice and racism everywhere.
Some causes/organizations I support: Black male education; women’s efficacy; Equal Justice Society – Amazing work. Oakland Education Fund – Because it is my home and they do great work, and Partners in School Innovation.
Some of my most-admired people (excluding parents): Nelson Mandela, Elie Wiesel and Mother Theresa because they each taught me something about suffering and compassion and how hard it is to make one lessen the other.
Favorite activity(s) in my personal downtime: Playing videogames, reading fantasy novels or watching a movie from my 1000s of Blueray/DVDs.
Some of my favorite local hangouts: Lake Merritt in Oakland. There are days it looks like a resort. Visiting natural hot spring locations. And old movie theaters like the Paramount in Oakland.
Some of my favorite TV shows: Game of Thrones, 24 and Key & Peele.
What news outlets or media sources do you most rely on?: CNN is a regular. I loved Aljazeera America and miss it. And I love the show Vice. Last two because they just showed what is happening without commentary.
Favorite Vacation Spot(s): Las Vegas (Why? Well, what happens in vegas…). Singapore: Because it is a completely planned and executed place. Miami: So much fun.
Place(s) I would like to visit: Tokyo Japan to spend a year. The Vatican to spend a month. The Himalayans to hike for a week. Paris for a day.
Favorite Pastime/Hobby(s): Martial arts, writing short stories and poetry and reading pretty much anything and everything.
Favorite Book(s): Illusions by Richard Bach (because it opened my mind). Anything by Paolo Bacigalupi (beautiful works about dying worlds). Anything by Dan Simmons (combines fantasy and history).
Something about me that may surprise you: I spent a short time as a dancer. Ballet, modern and jazz.