KIPP Texas Chief External Officer Mark Larson
KIPP Texas Chief External Officer Mark Larson Credit: Scott Ball / San Antonio Report

Mark Larson, KIPP Texas’ Chief External Officer and KIPP San Antonio Public Schools founder, will leave the charter school network at the end of June to join City Education Partners as executive director in July.

City Education Partners, or CEP, is a nonprofit that funds and helps coordinate education programs throughout the city including educator recruiting program Educate 210, Relay Graduate School of Education’s lab schools, KIPP, IDEA Public Schools, and Advanced Learning Academy.

CEP’s current Executive Director Joel Harris announced he would leave the organization earlier this year to pursue faith-based nonprofit work. Larson was extended a job offer less than two weeks ago and said he has already begun transitioning into the new role.

“It feels like I’m doing the same work I’ve been doing for 15 years but from a different chair,” Larson said. “For the last 15 years, while I’ve been building and working to lead KIPP, I’ve also been working to develop the education landscape in San Antonio whether that is drawing talent, or helping or encouraging organizations to come.”

Larson told the Rivard Report that he felt comfortable leaving his post with a new leader transitioning this summer to head KIPP San Antonio and school performance on the rise. Allen Smith will start as the area’s regional superintendent at the end of June. He previously worked as the senior deputy superintendent of equity and engagement in Denver Public Schools.

The draw of working on citywide problems at CEP also lured Larson to his new role.

“We have 17 school districts [in Bexar County], and along with that we have a number of charter groups that have become district-sized,” Larson said. “Nobody in San Antonio has a geographic overview of the whole city. Nobody is accountable for rural kids, suburban kids, and urban kids.

“Nobody is working on [such big problems as] ‘How do we as a city draw more teaching talent?’ Well, CEP has stepped forth and said, ‘We will take that on and start to work on that.’”

Larson started working at KIPP in San Antonio in 2002 when he began a planning year to open KIPP Aspire, a middle school and the first KIPP school in the city. From there, he served as KIPP Aspire’s principal before leading all KIPP schools as the CEO. Last year, when KIPP San Antonio merged with other KIPP branches in Dallas, Austin, and Houston, Larson took on a statewide role related to marketing, public advocacy, and engagement.

The soon-to-be-former KIPP leader plans to embark on a several-month planning process with community stakeholders to decide how best to maximize CEP’s resources.

CEP is supported by local organizations including the San Antonio Area Foundation and 80/20 Foundation, as well as national groups including The City Fund, a group that has raised at least $200 million “to expand charter schools and district schools with charter-like autonomy,” according to reports from Chalkbeat.

Emily Donaldson reports on education for the San Antonio Report.