Boldly Raising the Bar: Greg Klein

26 Feb, 2024

Boldly Raising the Bar: Greg Klein

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

February 26, 2024

Written by Rhonnel Sotelo, Chief Executive Officer 

Building a talented, cohesive team and unleashing them with the flexibility and freedom to own and lead their work is one of the Rogers Family Foundation’s core values. Throughout the remainder of our timeline, we will share our appreciations and reflections on the distinct qualities, accomplishments, and contributions of each Rogers Family Foundation team member. This piece celebrates Greg Klein who joined the Foundation in 2012.

On my first day at the Rogers Family Foundation back in April 2013, I found Greg Klein working at the small conference table in my office. Because he spent most of his time in the field with our Oakland school partners, there weren’t many open spaces in the office where he could work. Over those first few months working so closely together, I quickly learned that Greg – our resident sci-fi nerd – practiced education philanthropy the way they play chess on Star Trek, one of his favorite TV series. He operates on multiple planes, balancing system-wide policies with day-to-day learning at schools. He makes moves with the long-game in mind, recognizing that incremental change is one step toward transformation. He executes and stays on strategy, but willingly fails fast to adapt new tactics if doing so will ultimately lead to better results for Oakland’s students.

After working a decade with Greg, I hold the unshakeable belief that he is one of the most knowledgeable, meticulous, and strategic practitioners committed to students and families in education philanthropy. His passion and dedication to pushing for quality schools with an equity and justice lens drives the Foundation’s direct investments in support of students. “Greg is the type of support every school leader dreams of,” declares Karla Gandiaga, the dynamic Head of School for ARISE High School in Oakland’s Fruitvale neighborhood. “He understands the intricacies of running a school, and that is unheard of in consultants and funders. He respects the process, the changing needs based on the time of year, and the complexities that can come up at any given moment. He shows up to events, gets to know the community, and cares deeply about the communities he takes on as a funder.”

As a former school leader and classroom teacher, Greg goes beyond the traditional “program officer” role as our Senior Director for Innovation and Learning. “What I appreciate most about Greg is his forthright approach to work and philanthropy,” states Envision Education CEO Jillian Juman. “He understands the many layers that are involved in the work, the need for flexibility and innovation, and has moved with me as needs change and the work adjusts. I have found that I can call him and simply say, ‘this is working and this is not…’ and he is immediately interested in supporting my next steps.” Across the board, Greg’s grantee partners testify to openness and approachability, and his unwavering commitment to student engagement, learning, and success. Using the tools of philanthropy – grant funding, convening and connecting, and partnership building – Greg has been at the vanguard of the Foundation’s efforts for school innovation and learning, first with the execution of the Next Generation Learning Challenge in Oakland initiative (2014-2019) and then through a cadre of deep, long-term investments in schools and nonprofits.

Throughout his time at Rogers, Greg has been a tremendous and generous colleague, growing into our go-to source for local, statewide, and national education policy. He is a respected collaborator and always ready to partner with and mentor team members. “Greg lifts up everyone around him,” says former colleague Sara Levine, the Foundation’s Senior Program Officer of seven years. “When I first started at the Foundation he brought me to every meeting, introduced me to everyone, had endless patience for my questions. [He’s] always excited to talk about the work and conspire to do good.” Sara’s reflections are shared across the RFF team. Greg is our sounding board, a willing listener and collaborative problem solver who helps us gain clarity, solutions, or peace with issues in front of us. A common refrain across our team when we’re stuck or trying to remove a barrier is What Would Greg Do?

Greg has been an essential and uplifting member of the Rogers Family Foundation and to the greater Oakland education ecosystem. We don’t know what’s next for Greg, but we do know he’ll boldly go at his next challenge with a singular dedication to supporting students, families, and their communities. We look forward to his continued contributions to the field of public education.