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School Boards Must Lead

School districts are the most effective place to direct education reform at scale.  Our program encourages schools boards and superintendents to lead for transformational change designed to improve student achievement and close achievement gaps.

CRSS training covers topics and builds skills that are often overlooked in traditional board training where the focus is on compliance, not transformation.

Using the Reform Governance® in Action (RGA) framework as the curriculum, our library includes more than 50 Harvard-style case studies about real school boards and the challenges they face.  Team members can debate, rehash and explore how others have handled their responsibilities.

Our Theory of Action for Change is training school board-superintendent teams in Reform Governance® in Action to create and empower more effective and productive governance teams.  This improvement will lead the transformations needed to drive student achievement gains and close achievement gaps.

The mission of the Center for Reform of School Systems is to teach school board members and superintendents how to transform their districts for high student achievement, because every community deserves a great school district.

CRSS practices what it preaches.  We believe that every transformational organization must have core beliefs and make commitments to turn those beliefs into action.  CRSS believes firmly that:

  • All children can and must learn at grade level or above.
  • All children should reach their learning potential.
  • The achievement gap can and must be eliminated.
  • Schools alone do not educate children, but the school effect is huge.
  • School districts can be high-performing organizations.
  • School boards are responsible for district performance and should commit themselves to achieving these goals.

The Center for Reform School Systems (CRSS) was created in June 2001 by Don McAdams, who had been a 12-year veteran of the Houston Independent School District (HISD) board, a former professor, a college president, and a quality management consultant.  McAdams’ primary focus was to train school boards, using Reform Governance®, the powerful model described in his book, What School Boards Can Do.

In the early years, CRSS focused on training newly elected board members but later expanded to also work with entire board-superintendent leadership teams throughout the country.  The goal has been to teach school boards how to govern effectively and become forceful agents for change.

In January 2011, McAdams was replaced as president and CEO by Cathy Mincberg, a longtime education reformer who has worked as a high-level administrator in two urban school districts and served alongside McAdams on the HISD board.  McAdams remains as president of the CRSS Board of Directors.  Today, CRSS offers a comprehensive set of programs that all share the same objective: to transform American school districts for high performance.

CRSS provides a comprehensive, engaging curriculum that includes case studies modeled after those developed by the Harvard Business School.  We also provide copies of policies and practices that RGA-trained districts have adopted to raise student achievement and improve district operations.  Our in-depth training is designed to get results.

Meet Our Team

Cathy Mincberg, President and CEO

Cathy Mincberg is the president and chief executive officer of the Center for Reform of School Systems.  She has worked at the forefront of public education reform both as a long-term school board member in the Houston Independent School District and as a high-level administrator in two urban districts. Mincberg served four years as the chief operations officer for Portland (Oregon) Public Schools, where she led a massive reconfiguration of the district’s schools designed to improve student achievement and deal with budget constraints.  

She also completed four years as chief business officer of the Houston ISD, transforming the business operations of the country’s seventh largest school system into a high-performing operation.  In addition, Mincberg has worked as the chief academic officer and vice president of KC Distance Learning in Portland, as founder and president of the Center for School District Effectiveness, and as a biology teacher in Houston.

Mincberg was a member of the Houston ISD Board of Education from 1982-1995, serving as president in 1987 and 1990.  During her tenure, she co-authored the board’s A Declaration of Beliefs and Visions, with fellow board members Don McAdams and Rod Paige.  The reforms defined in this policy document led to Houston ISD’s winning the first Broad Prize in 2002.

Over the years, Mincberg has served on the boards of various organizations, including the Boys and Girls Clubs of Greater Houston and Portland, the American Leadership Forum, Communities in Schools—Houston, the American Jewish Committee, and the SPARK city-school district collaborative for parks.

Mincberg earned her Doctor of Education in educational leadership from the University of Houston.

Meet Cathy Personally

Cathy, the mother of four and step-mother of three, spends much of her free time with family – cooking, traveling, planning and just plain hanging out.  She also keeps an ever-changing garden which feeds her artistic needs.  When the garden won’t suffice, Cathy is a watercolorist and tinkerer.  Cathy’s husband Scott is a general contractor so they often spend their weekends on home improvement projects – from art projects for the walls to redoing light fixtures to create a craftsman ambiance.  An avid reader of history, biker of no real skill, pianist for family only and board game enthusiast, Cathy likes to try new and challenging things every day.

Faith Edwards, Director of Programs and Development

Faith Edwards joined the CRSS staff in 2005.  She leads program design, communications, and development, including CRSS’ major training programs—Reform Governance ® in Action for large and mid-urban school districts and the Texas Institute for School Boards. Prior to assuming her current position, Edwards served CRSS as a communications and event manager and as a research and project coordinator.

She managed event planning and logistics for training events in Texas and nationally and she supported

program and curriculum development with case study and district research.  Before joining our team, Edwards worked as a reporter for Village News and Southwest News, where she covered local government, education, and other current events in southwest Houston.  She is a member of the Association of Fundraising Professionals and the National Association of Professional Women.

Edwards holds a Bachelor of Arts in public relations and advertising from the University of Houston.

Meet Faith Personally

Faith enjoys writing short stories, reading, and traveling to visit family, friends, and new places.  She and her husband Marquis spend most of their free time keeping up with two young sons who are a daily reminder to do their part to close the achievement gaps.

Melanie Markley, Curriculum Director

Melanie Markley manages curriculum and case study development for all CRSS governance training programs and conferences.  She has more than 30 years of experience in newspaper journalism.  Before joining CRSS, she was a reporter for more than 18 years at the Houston Chronicle, spending 13 of those years covering K-12 education in Houston and surrounding school districts.

Previously, Markley covered education and special projects for the Shreveport Times in Louisiana and

was also a reporter at the Corpus Christi-Caller Times and the Brazosport Facts in Texas.  She is a member of the Education Writers Association.

Markley holds a Bachelor of Science in journalism from the University of Wyoming.

Meet Melanie Personally

Melanie’s idea of a perfect day is to curl up with a good book and a couple of contented cats napping nearby.  She also cherishes her time with family and good friends.

April McIntosh_Professional

April McIntosh, Director of Finance and Administration

April McIntosh manages accounting, financial reporting, human resources, and day-to-day operations for the Center for Reform of School Systems. With more than 20 years of management experience in customer service, bookkeeping, and accounting, McIntosh most recently served as vice president of finance and human resources for a multimillion-dollar wholesale security hardware distribution company.  She is a volunteer for Make-A-Wish Gulf Coast and Louisiana, and for 13 years, she has coordinated a large-scale charity event that has raised more than $850,000.  Also as a

volunteer and member of the Houston Area Women’s Center Young Professionals group, she has donated time and much-needed items for the shelter and special events held for the clients.

McIntosh holds an Associate of Arts in business administration and is currently pursuing a Bachelor of Business Administration in management from the University of Houston-Downtown.

Meet April Personally

As the mother of two school-aged children, April understands the need for reform in school systems across the country and looks forward to contributing to this change through her work at CRSS. She also enjoys traveling with her family, is addicted to Pinterest, and loves planning parties for close friends and family.