With over 20 years of experience teaching students at all grade levels, leading and starting schools, coaching and developing staff and reforming educational organizations, Rajeshri Gandhi Bhatia is prepared to offer expertise in all areas of school leadership, management and growth. Building upon her Bachelors of Science degree from The University of Michigan and Master’s Degree in School Leadership with Principal Certification from Harvard University, Rajeshri has spent her entire career helping students and schools succeed in challenging environments. Working in the public, charter and private environments, much of Rajeshri’s leadership style and vision are influenced by her own private school education at Detroit Country Day School, where she also taught after graduating from college. Her experience starting a charter school in Chicago served as the springboard for her evolving career in school leadership and change management.
Characterized by a smart, strategic, data-driven, personalized approach, school improvements spearheaded and directed by Rajeshri have all had lasting success in challenging and changing environments. Her ability to lead teams and provide guidance for all members of the school organization have been key elements to her success in helping schools, students, teachers and administrators achieve their potential. Her excellent communication skills and ability to retain a big picture focus while still understanding the impact of day-to-day operations allow her to provide leadership and guidance at all levels of a school organization to great levels of success. Her sense of humor, ability to hold up the mirror and supportive nature create a safe environment for individuals to accept the need for change and exert the necessary trust and risk to accomplish set goals.
She became involved in the areas of hybrid/blended learning, presenting as an expert in this field at several conferences and has established herself in the world of international education, helping to recruit and integrate students from all over the world. She has traveled extensively and has personally recruited students and counseled parents in Korea and China. She has created and led enrollment management efforts and presents as an expert in the area of new student admission and existing student retention. Her experiences in human capital management, including recruiting and developing foreign teachers, allow her to help organizations create more effective recruiting and hiring practices. Her counsel has also been sought at policy and legislative levels to help shape ideas and provide insight on implementation. Her business acumen coupled with her intimate knowledge of successful school leadership has allowed her to help educational organizations expand, both within the US and internationally.
She served as the chief architect of the professional development program and leadership development program for the Michigan Association of Public School Academies’ (MAPSA’s) 25 million dollar Federal Teacher Incentive Fund (TIF3) grant. In that capacity, she evaluated the professional development needs for the 800+ teachers in the 20 schools involved in the grant to determine key areas of need. Using that information, she designed a robust professional development program for both teachers and leaders, served as a leadership coach for current and aspiring leaders and created systems and processes to engage participants in these programs. As a part of this work, she established partnerships with several high profile organizations such as The Harvard Graduate School of Education, UM Ross School of Business, and Zing Train!, a subsidiary of Zingerman’s Bakery, engaging them in the work of developing school leaders. For all of these groups, this work was their first official foray into the Detroit educational scene and they quickly realized how much they had to offer. She pioneered a new type of leadership development program that brought together principles of instructional, personal and organizational leadership, changing the paradigm of what school leadership looks like. She designed a leadership development program for school principals and a separate program to identify and develop aspiring leaders, bringing together a highly qualified team of coaches to serve as mentors to participants. Both of these programs had a great impact on participants over their 3-year-experience. As a part of these programs, she designed learning tours and led groups of 30-40 school leaders and personnel on trips to Boston, Washington DC, Newark/NYC and New Orleans to visit communities of high performing schools.
A well-known educational leader in Michigan, Rajeshri maintains a large network of contacts in and outside of education across the country and serves as a connector. She has helped organizations with high level recruiting and networking projects, helped groups begin the process of starting schools and worked to improve processes and outcomes in a variety of organizations. She currently works as the Director of Detroit Operations for Grand Valley State Univeristy’s Charter Schools Office, serving as the administrative lead for all the Detroit based schools, working with boards of charter schools and as a reviewer of new school applications. She provides insight and guidance to parents and the community at large as a regular writer for The Indian Scene and for the City of Detroit as the lead blog author for the Community Education Commission. As schools across the world struggled to manage operations during the Covid-19 pandemic, Rajeshri was an active participant in efforts to support schools in Michigan. She was also asked to serve on Governor Gretchen Whitmer’s COVID-19 Task Force on Education Return to School Advisory Council Subcommittee on Operations and Facilities and was a contributing member of the MI Safe Schools: Michigan’s 2020-21 Return to School Roadmap. During this time, she also founded KidSmarts to help parents, schools, non-profits and companies support students as they transition to a virtual school environment.
In this changing environment of education and school accountability, schools must adjust and enact change to adapt to the needs of changing student populations and demographics. There exists significant opportunity for schools to reorganize and run in more efficient manners, while still meeting and exceeding the expectations of demanding clientele. As public schools struggle to meet increasingly higher expectations with fewer resources, more families are exploring the many choices available to them. In the current economic context, expectations are high and parents are searching for ultimate value. Key elements to school success include a highly personalized approach, high quality faculty and staff, effective leadership and an awareness of parent expectations.