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Local Leader Spotlight: Thuy Wong, CharterSAFE

CharterSAFE is a nonprofit solely dedicated to protecting California charter schools by providing expertise in group insurance, safety, risk management and human resource consulting. Founded in 2004 and owned by their charter school members, CharterSAFE is the hands-on insurance and safety expert enabling leaders to focus on what they do best—running excellent schools. Joined by their team of dedicated experts, CharterSAFE partners with more than 275 members in keeping over 890 school facilities safe and sustainable.

Blue Garnet has worked  with CharterSAFE since 2014, when Thuy Wong was Managing Director of Operations and Insurance at CharterSAFE. Now Thuy Wong has been CEO of CharterSAFE for 8+ months, and she shares about her journey and insights in this Local Leader Spotlight.  From an environmental chemistry major in college, to a Master’s in Public Health focused in Education and Promotion, to working at the insurance broker Gallagher, Thuy brings a breadth of experience to her current role as CEO of CharterSAFE.

Thuy inspires us that we can support causes we are passionate about in creative ways, using our unique strengths and skills. Sofia Van Cleve from Blue Garnet chatted with Thuy to learn more about this unsung hero…

Blue Garnet: What’s your WHY? What makes you get up in the morning and go to work?

Thuy: “I want to give back to the community that made a huge impact on me, having gone to a supportive and academically rigorous charter school for 7 years as a kid… I also have a Master’s in public health, and I see school safety as a public health issue. We want to treat the actual problem, not just the symptoms. I get up in the morning knowing I’m making an impact on the lives of students, even though I don’t have the patience and skills to be a teacher myself. I want to give teachers the resources to focus fully on educating. I believe this is the spirit of CharterSAFE and our staff.”

 

Thuy shares that CharterSAFE is not your typical insurance provider. CharterSAFE equips schools with the unique tools needed to have safe environments physically and mentally, so that teachers can focus on teaching and students can focus on learning.  CharterSAFE helps schools thrive in challenges, as seen in their response to the November wildfires in California. When devastated members schools reached out to CharterSAFE for support, CharterSAFE rose to the occasion, going above and beyond to walk with communities through the pain. 

Blue Garnet: How did the November 2018 wildfires impact CharterSAFE members, and how did CharterSAFE respond?

Thuy: “The Camp Fire devastated entire communities, and multiple member schools were damaged with impact ranging from smoke damage to a school that was completely destroyed. CharterSAFE knew this was not going to be a normal claim; it was a humanitarian crisis, and our whole team responded with emotional support, listening to what these schools told us they needed and responding as much as we could. We went up to Butte County to give hugs and bring food, gift baskets, and holiday gift cards for amazing school leaders who were working hard to reopen schools despite personally reconciling with the loss of a home. We also established a Wildfire Emergency Fund to pay for safety-related costs not covered by insurance. Meanwhile, we advocated for our members to push claims through quickly and painlessly. (At the time of this interview in January 2019) all the schools we work with are back up and running, at least in temporary spaces. We continue to stay in close communication with these members as they, and their communities, rebuild over the next years.”

 

In her first eight months as CEO of CharterSAFE, Thuy has learned to be ready for the unexpected, like the November wildfires. Knowing and relying on your strengths allows you to be flexible and more effective in your response to challenging moments. Thuy as a leader brings a growth mindset to her role, continually learning how to best support members. Now looking to the future of the charter movement, Thuy maintains CharterSAFE’s commitment to members.

Blue Garnet: What should the charter movement be looking forward to in CharterSAFE’s future? What’s on the horizon?

Thuy: “First, we recognize that the landscape for charter schools is changing and will actively listen to charter school needs during this time of change. Second, members can rely on CharterSAFE to be up-to-speed in insurance and safety trends, both at the California and national level. We want to keep members informed and advocate on their behalf.”

 

As we continue to watch the evolution of the broader educational reform movement, Blue Garnet is thrilled to have Thuy Wong and CharterSAFE as partners and trailblazers in supporting charter schools. We hope that learning about Thuy’s background and passion for education equity motivates you to pursue your passions for social change using your specific skillset.  

 


To get in touch with Thuy directly, please email twong@chartersafe.org