Through the faith and academic example illustrated by her parents, Constance Jones Brewer claimed her seat at the table as the new president of the Noble Network of Charter Schools.
The North Carolina native said both of her parents were the first in their respective families to attend college. Her mother is a retired public school teacher who taught for nearly thee decades. Her late father was a “math whiz” who would go on to become a statistician, according to Brewer. He loved numbers so much so that Brewer’s very name is a reference to a mathematical term, she said.
“For [my parents] education was very important; they did great things in their respective fields and so they really pushed us, their kids, to take advantage of every educational opportunity,” said Brewer. “I’ve been blessed.”
Although Brewer’s achievements in education have garnered great acclaim, her business background is every bit as impressive. Prior to assuming the role as president, she was hired as Noble’s chief external affairs officer in January 2015 where she contributed to community engagement, advocacy, public relations, and more. She previously held management positions at Hyatt Hotels and Johnson & Johnson. She is an alumna of University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill, where she earned her undergraduate degree in business and also earned her MBA from Harvard University’s business school.
“I’ve had tremendous opportunities in corporate America before I had what I would describe as a calling to go into education,” said Brewer. “While I was doing all the things in the business field, I was mentoring kids, I was going to underserved communities, working in underserved communities all the time outside of my 9-5.”
Chicago has become home for Brewer. She said she has lived in the city for 10 years. Serving Chicago was part of the reason Brewer wanted to truly move forward at Noble.
“The more I lived here, the more I was like we have some great things happening in education but there’s more we could be doing and I felt more motivated to be a part of what’s happening here in my own backyard,” said Brewer. “I’m really blessed to be here. Timing is everything and the timing worked out so I could join Noble.”
For a brief moment during the interview process for Noble’s chief of external affairs position Brewer said she dropped out of consideration. Her father had cancer and she wanted to be with him, the family. She described him as her “biggest fan”. She said for a time she traveled back and forth to North Carolina to make sure her he and the family had all the support he needed.
Ultimately, it was Brewer’s father who gave her the words of encouragement to finish what she started.
“He said, ‘Constance I have worked too hard for you to have a seat at the table, it’s time for you to take your seat’,” said Brewer. “He was like you’re going to get back in the interview process and you’re going to get that chief’s role and you’ll be the first person of color to serve in that capacity and you’re going to make me proud and so many people of color in Chicago proud.”
Brewer said he was alive to witness her become the chief external affairs officer.
“He was very proud and I think he would be very proud of me today as well,” said Brewer. “I can kind of feel him shining down on me from Heaven.”
Growing up she recalls seeing people who looked like her in various fields serve as her motivation. Now it is her turn to be an example for the next generation of African Americans; she said she doesn’t want to let them down.
“I think it’s really important for our kids to see themselves in other people so I’m really excited to be the first African-American president, the first female president, the first African American, actually the first person of color, to serve on the leadership team, that’s something I hold near and dear to my heart as someone who is a proud Black woman,” said Brewer.
In light of Chicago Public Schools Acting CEO Dr. Janice Jackson’s recent promotion to her latest position, Brewer called the last few weeks an “exciting time” in Chicago. She said seeing Dr. Jackson ascend has been a personal inspiration.
“I was like ‘wow’ this is what success looks like for our kids,” said Brewer. “[Jackson] grew up in CPS, she was a leader in CPS and now she is accountable for hundreds of thousands of students– some who look like her, some who do not.”
Continuing Noble’s network wide trend of sending “the vast majority” of Noble students to four year universities and colleges is high on Brewer’s agenda. She said too that listening in general to her teachers, families, and students will only continue to improve strong results.
Additionally, battling the perception Noble charter schools are not a part of CPS is an issue Brewer is more than ready to take on. She explained there are misconceptions about charter schools
“Charter schools are public schools, they’re free, anyone can attend a charter school,” said Brewer. “There’s a lot of people who just don’t know what charter schools are and that they’re a part of Chicago Public Schools.”
Noble serves 12,000 students at 18 campuses in Chicago and in 2015 was awarded the Broad Prize for best charter school network in the nation.
For more information about Noble Network of Charter Schools, visit noblenetwork.org/.