New CEO of Navigator charter schools takes control of ship

The organization that runs charter schools in Gilroy and Hollister has a new chief executive officer.
Kevin Sved started June 1 as the new CEO of Navigator Schools, which operates the Gilroy Prep and Hollister Prep charter schools.
The Los Angeles native brings to his new role years of experience with charter schools and has worked as a consultant to school districts, with an emphasis on business and management practices.
Navigator Schools board chairman Brett Mosher announced Sved’s appointment in a letter to parents. It reads, in part:
“Our search process included reaching out to and evaluating hundreds of potential candidates, scores of interviews, dozens of reference interviews, as well as several on campus visits and town hall type meetings. At the end of the process, the search committee and the board feel confident that we have found in Kevin a great leader to bring us forward to the next chapter of Navigator’s success.”
Sved said Tuesday that he’s “super excited” to join Navigator and was moved to do so by the organization’s dedication to students and to returning to his roots in the charter school community.
That dedication meshes with what he has spent a career doing, he said.
“What I was looking for more than anything has been to make a contribution and make a difference in doing something meaningful to serve students and the community,” said Sved, 49, the married father of four children.
The cover letter sent with his application spoke to how drawn Sved was to the Gilroy post; although he said this week he was perfectly happy at the time with his successful consulting business.
It read, in part, “I am compelled to share my credentials with you for consideration as Chief Executive Officer because of Navigator’s successful track record in eliminating the achievement gap, the magic of its instructional model, and an understanding that my background uniquely prepares me to meaningfully contribute to Navigator’s continued growth and success.”
Sved, who will earn $155,000 a year, was impressed by Navigator’s methodology, some of which he had not seen before. It was seemingly simple things, many from the past, such as having a student repeat key parts of a question before giving a response, or stretching their arms to simulate a clock’s hands to learn how to count by fives.
“It just made sense,” he said.
When he saw the schools’ test scores, some of the best in the state and far above those of non-charter schools in each district, he was intrigued and thought, “This is working.” But, he went on: “What really got me was the story of the founders, in particular [then CEO] James Dent,” he said. “And the story that he is moving from being executive director to chief academics officer so he can focus on what he is most passionate about, focus on his strengths.”
That mirrored what Sved had himself done some years ago.
After earning a bachelor’s degree in political science and a masters of education at UCLA, Sved in 1991 went right into classroom teaching in the third grade in the Los Angeles Unified School District’s 99th Street Elementary School, on the border of the Watts district of South Central L.A.
He was not happy with what he saw and was an early proponent of the charter school concept.
In 1994, Sved co-founded what would become the very successful K-12 LAUSD charter called The Accelerated Schools. He refers to it as “A granddaddy in the charter school movement.”
It was there that he began to hone his skills outside the classroom to become an expert in the business of running schools, focusing on facilities planning, management and finances.
Accelerated opened with fewer than 50 students; by the time Sved left in 2009 it had 1,300 students and had graduated two classes of high school seniors on to college.
Navigator schools in Gilroy and Hollister resume classes on Aug. 17. The operation is headquartered in an old school building on the campus of South Valley Junior High School off I.O.O.F. Avenue in Gilroy, home of Gilroy Prep School.
The K-7 Gilroy prep this year introduces its first seventh grade and will have 480 students. Dent and Gilroy teachers Sharon Waller and Karen Humber founded the charter in 2011, not long after one run by MASCA, the Mexican American Community Services Agency, relinquished its charter to the Gilroy Unified School District Board of Trustees following years of management problems and low student performance.
A few years later, the new Gilroy group opened Hollister Prep School, which adds a fifth grade this year and is up to 360 students. Humber has since retired from teaching. Waller is Navigator’s director of student services and was on the CEO search committee along with Navigator board member Caitrin Wright.
“The Navigator board was thrilled to hire Kevin Sved as the CEO of Navigator Schools,” Wright said. in an email.
“Kevin brings a decades-long commitment to delivering a high quality education for all students and also has significant experience managing school organizations toward excellence. Kevin is the right leader to build on Navigator’s amazing student achievement results to date and push the organization forward,” she said.
After leaving Southern California, Sved moved north and held key positions in education, including with a private boarding school in the Sunnyvale-Redwood City area that was started by an entrepreneur but did not last.
After a stint with the city of Millbrae recreation department, helping to coordinate after-school programs with the public school system, he became a full-time consultant and worked closely with the Ravenswood School District in East Palo Alto.
Sved, who lives in Foster City, said Navigator put applicants for the CEO job “through the wringer” but he knew from the start that “this is an organization where I think I can make a difference, I know exactly where they are.”
On the lighter side, Sved sought to quash any misgivings about his sports loyalties, noting that while he grew up in L.A., he is not a Dodger fan.
He said his focus at Navigator initially will be to provide strategic management oversight and financial skills.
“I know from experience that it’s important not to try to change things, just to be nimble and build on the strengths,” he said.
Of his experience so far at Navigator, he said, “I’ve connected with people, I feel like I have found my home,” Sved said. “Kind of like I have found my tribe.”

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