Colette Owens, an educational leader from St. Louis, will be the new executive director of Hiawatha Academies, the charter school network’s board announced Friday.
Owens, an educator and administrator for 15 years, will succeed Eli Kramer, who will step down from the position on June 15 — six years after leading one of Minneapolis’ most successful charter school networks.
“We are excited to welcome Ms. Owens to the Hiawatha family,” said board chair Margarita Dimas Cultu.
Owens began her career as a special education teacher and held several senior positions for Teach for America-St. Louis, where she focused on teacher leadership development, strategic planning and aligning the organization’s priorities and structures, a news release said.
She was then interim director of curriculum and director of strategy and special projects for St. Louis Public Schools before being named executive director for Hiawatha Academies.
“I’m looking forward to building on Hiawatha’s strengths and working on improving our areas of growth,” she said.
“Addressing the opportunity gaps that exist for students in Minneapolis will be my biggest challenge.”
Hiawatha Academies is a network of high-performing K-12 college preparatory charter schools in south Minneapolis. The network doubled from two schools to four in the last six years, and during its 10-year anniversary this year will be creating a new high school, opening a second middle school and preparing to see the first graduating class cross the stage in 2019.
Last year, the Star Tribune named two of its schools, Morris Park and Northrop, to its annual “beating the odds” list of high-poverty schools performing better than expected for their achievements in math.
The search committee consulted over the last six months with staff, families and partners before selecting Owens.
“I look forward to [seeing] how her energy, passion, vision and her leadership style are going to make a good impact on Hiawatha Academies,” Cultu said of the incoming educator. “She has managed, coached and developed a lot of teams of education leaders and teachers. She has a strong commitment to diversity and equity and that fits well with Hiawatha’s constituents.”
Kramer, the outgoing executive director, joined the network in 2011 as a consultant and became executive director in 2012. In his time at the schools, Hiawatha grew from 40 full-time staff to roughly 240, quadrupled its student enrollment and partnered with the Minneapolis Public Schools, according to the school release.