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Children's Aid taps charter booster to replace de Blasio aide

A longtime charter school backer will take over Children’s Aid Society as the social services provider’s next CEO and president, the organization announced Tuesday.

Children’s Aid picked Phoebe Boyer after a five-month search to replace Richard Buery, who was CEO from 2009 through 2014. In February, Mayor Bill de Blasio chose Buery to be one of the mayor’s top aides at City Hall.

Boyer comes to Children’s Aid at a time of change for the 160-year-old organization, which provides early education services, after-school programs, and works to turn schools into full-service community hubs. Under Buery, Children’s Aid began developing a new system to track the performance of its programs, putting an emphasis on measuring student outcomes. And in 2012, it opened its first charter school, College Prep Charter School, an elementary school in the South Bronx.

Boyer’s tenure, which starts Oct. 1, coincides with a period in which Children’s Aid is poised to play a big role in enacting two of de Blasio’s top education priorities: expanding both prekindergarten and the number of community schools. Children’s Aid is preparing to expand its pre-K offerings, and was also tapped by Buery to provide training and technical support for the city’s community schools initiative.

William Moree Photographs

Boyer is well-known in the New York City charter school community as both a fundraiser and as a leader of the movement to expand the sector under the Bloomberg administration.

In 2004, Boyer helped found the New York City Charter School Center, a nonprofit advocacy group that has been a vocal force during battles with the United Federation of Teachers over the charter school sector’s rapid expansion. She has been board chair since 2007.

Boyer has also spent the last 12 years heading two foundations started by former hedge fund manager Julian Robertson, who has focused much of his philanthropy on charter schools. The Robertson Foundation, for instance, has given more than $22 million to the Charter Center, according to the foundation’s tax forms and figures provided by Children’s Aid. The foundation has given another $13 million to charter school operators.

The charter sector has a complicated relationship with de Blasio, who promised to curtail their growth during his mayoral campaign. But Boyer’s appointment is a signal that Children’s Aid is unconcerned that its leaders ties to charter schools will be an issue with the administration.

“Phoebe has long embraced the kind of mission-driven, results-oriented thinking that is a cornerstone of what we’re doing at Children’s Aid,” board chair Mark Edmiston said in a statement.

The hire also received an endorsement from Buery, who tweeted that Boyer was a “great choice.”

In an interview, Boyer said that the charter school debate is often stoked by “rhetoric and divisiveness” and said her philanthropic work was always focused on improving academic results for students.

“My work at Tiger and at Robertson was driven by providing support to highly effective schools, regardless of its governance structure,” Boyer said.

She also noted that that she helped steer money toward Communities in Schools, a national organization that is working to establish more community schools. Since 2002, the foundation has given the group more than $14 million.

“K-12 education comes in all sorts of different forms,” she said.

A previous version of this story incorrectly stated the first name of the person who founded the Tiger and Robertson Foundations.

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