Building the Private Sector “Bench”

July 27th, 2012

Category: News

Whether from The Byrds or The Bible we’ve come to understand, “To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose….”

I have thought a lot about these words recently as I’ve considered eight fulfilling years at the Rodel Foundation of Delaware and why I’ve decided to chart a path to something new.  After all, it’s been a stimulating, compelling, intensive, and incredibly gratifying experience.  By collaborating with colleagues at Rodel, throughout Delaware, and across the country on a campaign for excellent schools we have gained a lot of traction and are starting to see real results with students in the classroom.  And that’s what really matters.

As we all know, however, the reason we are engaged in this work will outlast us all.  New classes of children arrive every year, each with talents that must be nurtured and needs that must be addressed.  Generations don’t stop, children comprise the future, and all our students merit the very best education.  As hopeful as we are that we will finally “get it right,” we have to know that times change, needs evolve, and solutions must as well.

This suggests that we in private and philanthropic sectors who support, shepherd and advocate for this work also need to replenish ourselves.  We spend a lot of time thinking about renewing the pipeline of teachers, principals, superintendents, and school board members who serve our children.  Less often we talk about replenishing ourselves.  When our own seasons change, who will be prepared to keep up the essential, good fight?

In this vein, I am struck by the foresight of Delaware’s business community in initiating an educational leadership “bench strength” plan of its own.  Earlier this year, the Delaware Business Roundtable, Delaware State Chamber, and Rodel convened 73 rising and veteran business executives from throughout the state as the first step in the process of building the next generation of private sector leaders to advocate for excellence in our schools.  Intentional succession planning is what companies routinely do.  Foundations, advocacy organizations, and other stakeholder groups do so a lot less often.

My point is we must keep our eyes on the horizon, assess how the educational landscape is changing, and do all we can to ensure that the private sector’s energy and commitment remain strong.  When things are going well, and especially when there are not, it’s easy to step away from the hard work at hand.  We can’t let that happen.  So building a private sector “bench” to sustain the momentum, deepen collaborations, and increase our effectiveness is essential.

In leaving Rodel, the concept of “season” holds comfort.  Otherwise I’d find it unsettling to leave such an extraordinary experience.  Yet, there is a time to every purpose.  And a new season awaits.  My thanks for an extraordinary eight years go to all my colleagues and especially to Paul Herdman, Rodel’s president, and our exceptionally supportive board and advisory council.

Dori Jacobson served as Rodel’s Senior Vice President for National and State Partnerships, was a Steering Committee member of Delaware’s Vision 2015, a founding member of the Education Funders Strategy Group, and co-founded and co-chaired Grantmakers for Education’s Education Policy Working Group.  She can be reached at

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Dori Jacobson



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