Kathy Ridge, the former banker who has led MeckEd for a little more than two years, has told the group's board she's ready to try something new.
Ridge says she's starting to scout her own options -- something related to education, which could include running for office, writing, producing documentaries or working for another nonprofit -- while harboring high hopes for the public-schools advocacy group.
"I am not grabbing the beers and going out the emergency chute," she said, referring to the fabled farewell of an angry flight attendant.
MeckEd, also known as Mecklenburg Citizens for Public Education, evolved out of public angst over Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools leadership five years ago. Business and political leaders created a task force to recommend changes in CMS. Afterward, the task force merged with the Charlotte Chamber's education arm and an existing education-advocacy foundation to create MeckEd. Its goal: To serve as a critical friend to CMS, providing advice and support.
The group got off to a rocky start, with a huge board and a first director who didn't last long. A streamlined board chaired by Krista Tillman of Queens University of Charlotte hired Ridge in May 2008.
Since then MeckEd has raised $3 million for CMS leadership and staffing initiatives, held training sessions for prospective advocates and board candidates, held book clubs and brought speakers to town to get community leaders talking about a vision for education.
Ridge says she's hoping for an unhurried transition, one that gives her time to scout new possibilities and allows the board time to find a strong successor.
Changes in leadership tend to spark new thinking about a group's vision and strategy. It'll be interesting to see how the corporate and advocacy community sees its role in public education evolving.
Tillman, who says she has "an extremely heavy heart" over Ridge's departure, expects to start a search next month.