At CarolinaCAN, I get to partner with wise leaders and great organizations in my own state to bring [my] experience home.
Born and raised in the Tar Heel State, Julie Kowal is a national education policy expert on teacher and leader quality, charter schools and school turnarounds. She comes to CarolinaCAN from the North Carolina-based education policy and management consulting firm Public Impact, where she led project teams on many of the most promising education reforms in the nation. Prior to Public Impact, Julie served as a research assistant at the UNC Center for Civil Rights and the UNC School of Government. She also directed an after-school writing program in 23 Washington, D.C. public elementary schools.
Julie has dedicated her career to confronting achievement gaps and educational inequity with research-based solutions. She advised the state of Tennessee when it created its Achievement School District, helped the Colorado Department of Education develop a system to address chronically failing schools, guided the development of a statewide agenda for improving teacher quality in Indiana and served as an expert panelist for a national initiative to retain Generation Y teachers.
Julie has authored widely published articles on topics ranging from school turnaround strategy to effective educator evaluation to innovative teacher compensation systems. She is a featured expert on school turnarounds for the U.S. Department of Education’s Doing What Works website, and she has led workshops with school, district, state and federal leaders on fostering successful turnarounds.
An alumna of AmeriCorps NCCC and Public Allies DC, Julie earned her bachelor’s degree with honors from the University of North Carolina at Asheville and her law degree with honors from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
I aspire to be like Frances Perkins. Here’s why:
Frances Perkins was the first woman appointed to the U.S. cabinet, and she served as secretary of labor for 12 years under Franklin D. Roosevelt. Frances was a key leader behind the New Deal legislation, helping to establish many of the programs—minimum wage, overtime laws and unemployment benefits, for instance—that still serve as a foundation of our country’s commitment to equality and opportunity. Beyond the programs she helped to establish, I admire her drive (she pursued policies based on results, rather than political ideology), her contributions to women's equality (she opened professional doors for women when many didn't graduate from high school, let alone college) and her balance (managing a complex family life alongside a career dedicated to public service).
Why I love my job:
I’ve spent nearly the past decade working with some of the most successful nonprofit, government and school leaders across the country and learning from the nation’s best thinkers on the challenge of improving public schools. At CarolinaCAN, I get to partner with wise leaders and great organizations in my own state to bring that experience home.
My connection to public schools:
I’m the granddaughter, daughter and cousin of public school teachers, and I’m the product of a North Carolina public education—from grade school through grad school.
I was fortunate to attend one of the best public high schools in the state (Cougar pride!) but even there, nearly 20 years ago, I saw huge gaps in achievement, opportunity and engagement. My amazing teachers helped me graduate from high school incredibly well-prepared for college and a meaningful career—yet that wasn’t the case for many of my peers. I’m at CarolinaCAN to break the inequity I have seen first-hand—as a public school student, then as a professional advocate—and which still persists across North Carolina.
What I'm bad at:
Telling jokes. I’m always laughing before I get to the punch line.
The image that represents why I work at 50CAN:
I took this photo in Tarboro, N.C., just after Hurricane Floyd, and it reminds me that strong teams have the power to bring about positive change. This particular team—part of my AmeriCorps NCCC service—was about as diverse as you can get, with folks from different economic, racial and political backgrounds, hailing from all over the country. Yet we shared something integral in common: a commitment to do good. In just two months wearing these steel-toed boots, we finished 12 homes for local residents displaced by the hurricane flooding.
At CarolinaCAN, I’m working again with diverse people and groups to fulfill another common goal: to create the conditions for more great schools in North Carolina.