Rodriguez Brings Decades of Experience in Improving Public School Education to the Role
NYC Outward Bound Schools welcomed Vanessa Rodriguez as the organization’s new CEO this month. Rodriguez succeeds the organization’s founding CEO Richard Stopol who led NYC Outward Bound Schools for over 34 years, and continues to act as an advisor to the organization.
“We are thrilled to welcome Vanessa to our community, and believe deeply that she has the right values and experience to lead our organization to new heights,” said Jennifer Stredler, head of the CEO Search Committee and Vice Chair of the NYC Outward Bound Schools Board of Directors. “Vanessa comes to us with years of experience and has a demonstrated track record of student-centered leadership in education. Her vision for the future of education is driven by a call for equity and inclusion, which deeply aligns with the work we do at NYC Outward Bound Schools.”
“My life’s work is to ensure that each and every child in our country and in the great city of New York has access to an engaging and rigorous learning environment that will help them thrive and fulfill their dreams,” said Vanessa. “I’ve had the pleasure of building high performing teams in small, medium and large systems for nearly 20 years — and I am the most passionate about supporting networks of schools and school leaders. I’m thrilled to take the helm of such a mission-driven, student centered organization that is focused on impact — and prepares young people to lead in a complex global society.”
Hear From Vanessa About What Drives Her Passion for Education:
My life’s work is to ensure that each and every child in our country and in the great city of New York has access to an engaging and rigorous learning environment that will help them thrive and fulfill their dreams.
Rodriguez comes to NYC Outward Bound Schools from her role leading Citizens of the World Charter Schools (CWCS), a network of schools committed to serving diverse communities in Los Angeles, CA, Kansas City, MO and Cincinnati, OH. The organization shares NYC Outward Bound Schools’ focus on marrying academic rigor and social/emotional learning, and on bringing practices from their network of schools to other schools more broadly.
Rodriguez has extensive experience in building strong organizations through strategic talent acquisition, having served as Chief of Talent for both CWCS and the Newark Public School system, and as New York Executive Director at New Leaders. Rodriguez started her career as a classroom teacher in NYC schools and spent 18 years working in schools from the South Bronx to Rikers Island. She led NYC Department of Education’s District 79, which serves more than 65,000 disengaged, over-aged, and under-credited students through alternative schools and programs. She holds a bachelor of arts in education/sociology from Boston College and is a moderator for the Pahara-Aspen Institute.
NYC Outward Bound Schools partnered with executive search and talent strategy firm Axis Talent Partners to identify and recruit the organization’s next leader. Founded and led by women of color, Axis partners with social impact organizations to provide talent solutions that are grounded in relationship building and centered in equity and inclusivity.
Rodriguez takes the helm from Richard Stopol, the founding CEO, who grew the organization from a small collection of outdoor adventure programs into a highly successful citywide network of public schools, operated in partnership with the NYC Department of Education. The four-year graduation rate of NYC Outward Bound schools consistently outpaces the city average by more than 10 percentage points (90% vs 77%). In addition, Stopol oversaw NYC Outward Bound Schools’ creation and expansion to bring best practices from its network schools to other schools throughout the city annually reaching thousands of students and teachers beyond the network. All told, since its founding in 1987, NYC Outward Bound Schools has touched the lives of nearly 200,000 students, preparing them for success in college, careers and citizenship.
“On behalf of the Board of Directors, I would like to thank Richard for his compassion, his tenacity, and his vision over the past 34 years,” said Board Chair Gifford Miller. “He truly keeps our students at the center of every conversation, and NYC Outward Bound Schools’ positive impacts on our city’s educational systems are the direct result of that. We will miss him tremendously, but know that he will always be an indelible part of our Crew.”
“Working at NYC Outward Bound Schools has been one of the greatest joys of my life,” Stopol said. “Thanks to the dedication and compassion of our educators, staff and board, I have witnessed the powerful effects that high-quality education can have on students. Over the past 34 years, I have seen this network of schools empower and equip more than 200,000 young people with the skills and mindsets they need to reach their highest potential. Vanessa brings what I consider to be just the right mix of experience and skills to the CEO role. I am truly excited to be handing the baton to her.”