Ana Tilton to Guide Grantmakers to Increased Impact

Ana Tillton is taking over Grantmakers for Education, the membership organization for foundations that invest in U.S. education. We’ve been on parallel paths for 20 years; like me, she’s been a district administrator, as well as nonprofit, for-profit and foundation executive–perfect background to take GFE to the next level.

Tilton was a teacher and a school administrator in Southern California. She ran the western region for Edison where she worked with Jim Shelton. For AIR, she supported Superintendent Alan Bersin’s Blueprint in San Diego. She spent a couple years learning the grantmaking business at NewSchools Venture Fund and then joined John Fitzpatrick at the Texas High School Project (now Educate Texas). She spent a couple years as Boasberg’s CAO in Denver and then went back to the private sector spending the last three years at GEMS. This Cliff Notes history indicate that Ana knows schools and has spent 20 years thinking about improvement initiatives from inside and outside school systems.

“As a superintendent, you realize you can’t do it by yourself,” said Tilton.  “When I was in Chula Vista with LIbby Gil, we pulled people in to help us with reform.” Of her hard won perspective Tilton said, “There are few of us that have been a superintendent, run nonprofits, run for-profits, and a grantmaker–I’m finally at an organization where I could maximize all of my experiences.”

Bill Porter was Executive Director a decade ago when I was on the board.  He moved the organization to Portland. Like living in Portland, running a membership organization will be a new adventure for Tilton. She’s looking forward to “balancing member services with strategic efforts to improve education.”

Having seen so many superficial change efforts and revolving door leadership, Tilton is particularly interested in the “sustainability of impact initiatives.”

I’m hoping that she’ll reengage the national funders and create programming as compelling as Philanthropy Roundtable.  She’ll hit the ground running next week and is looking forward to helping member foundations “do the right kind of diligence to invest in the right places.”

For more see the GFE press release below.

Grantmakers for Education Appoints Dr. Ana Tilton as New Executive Director

PORTLAND, Ore., June 4, 2013 — Grantmakers for Education (GFE) is pleased to announce the appointment of Dr. Ana Tilton as its new executive director. Dr. Tilton brings 25 years of experience from across the educational spectrum, including serving as a superintendent, principal, director of curriculum assessment, researcher, and as chief academic officer for Denver Public Schools.

In addition, Dr. Tilton has more than 10 years of experience working on school reform in partnership with many organizations – nonprofits and for-profits as well as foundations across the country, including as chief program officer for the Communities Foundation of Texas.

“Ana brings the right leadership experience to take the work of GFE to the next level,” said GFE board chair Anne Stanton, youth program director of The James Irvine Foundation. “Her diverse experience and background as an educator, grantmaker and a grant seeker gives her a unique perspective that will inform and enhance the field and extend the impact of GFE and its members. It’s an exciting day for GFE and I look forward to working with and learning from Ana.”

Grantmakers for Education is a national membership organization, composed of close to 300 private and public grantmakers, that supports education from early childhood through higher education. Its mission is to strengthen philanthropy’s capacity to improve educational outcomes and opportunities for all learners.

“I believe that Grantmakers for Education is uniquely positioned to improve services for underserved students across the nation,” Dr. Tilton said. “I have been very focused on that same goal in my life and work, so it’s a gift to lead an organization made of hundreds of members who share that goal.”

The GFE board was unanimous in its decision to appoint Dr. Tilton.

“The board prioritized demonstrated success as a strategic executive leader, deep education experience, and an understanding of education philanthropy,” said Wynn Rosser, vice chair of the GFE board and president and CEO of Greater Texas Foundation. “Dr. Tilton’s work as a superintendent, an early advocate for innovative educational approaches, and an experienced grantmaker exemplify the qualities that are necessary to best serve the field of education philanthropy.”

In addition to her educational expertise, Dr. Tilton’s personal background informs her commitment to equity and diversity in education. A Latina, she is known for her inclusive leadership style, and for challenging assumptions.

“As a Latina with a background of inner city urban education, I am particularly sensitive to the challenges faced by English Language Learners,” Dr. Tilton said. “All of my grandparents only spoke Spanish and my parents were bilingual. My mother grew up in poverty and shared several early education challenges because Spanish was her first language.”

She added, “Early in my education career, I vowed to assure all students are valued for who they are and the culture they bring to expanding their education as well as the education of others. This pursuit has been the compass guiding my journey.”

“Ana was a key leader in our statewide effort to dramatically increase college readiness for low-income, first generation Texas students,” added Brent Christopher, president and chief executive officer at Community Foundation of Texas. “Ana led a team that created the largest public-private network of early college high school and STEM campuses in the U.S. She is the perfect choice to lead GFE and help catalyze philanthropy to scale promising education practices nationwide.”

Dr. Tilton also brings a unique perspective as an education reformer, having worked on a broad range of strategies, from charters and public-private partnerships, to for-profit interventions. In her most recent role, Dr. Tilton has been actively involved in launching the first GEMS World Academy K-12 School in the United States, bringing an international perspective to education. Opening in 2014, Lakeshore East School in Chicago will provide students with the opportunity to interact with their peers in other cities and around the worked from more than 150 countries.

“Ana has immersed herself in all manner of education reform strategies—public-private, hybrid, charters—and brings a seasoned understanding of the true equity issues facing America’s children,” said GFE board member Lisa Villareal of the San Francisco Foundation.

“Ana’s experience with for-profit companies gives her an insider’s view of the limitations and risks of for-profit interventions,” said Barbara Reisman, executive director of the New Jersey-based Schumann Fund. “Her profound dedication to improving public education and ensuring that all children have the opportunity and resources to succeed, her on-the-ground knowledge of teaching and learning, and her commitment to and respect for community engagement make her the right leader for GFE.”

Dr. Tilton expressed her enthusiasm for the position, which she begins June 17, and the organization’s potential.

“One of my goals,” she said, “is to expand GFE’s reach by engaging even more organizations, going both deeper and broader within education reform. When we talk about collective impact, I am thinking big. Everyone who wants to change education and improve student outcomes is welcome in our big tent.”


About Grantmakers for Education

Founded in 1995, Grantmakers for Education is a membership organization of more than 280 private and public philanthropies working to improve outcomes and expand opportunities for learners across the education spectrum, from early learning through postsecondary and workforce development. We deepen the impact of education grantmakers by enhancing their knowledge about effective education strategies and high-impact grantmaking strategies. To impact all learners, we are committed to strong and vibrant public education system.


Tom Vander Ark

Tom Vander Ark is the CEO of Getting Smart. He has written or co-authored more than 50 books and papers including Getting Smart, Smart Cities, Smart Parents, Better Together, The Power of Place and Difference Making. He served as a public school superintendent and the first Executive Director of Education for the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

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