May 21, 2024 Press Release

Robin Hood Announces Building Stronger Schools, Brighter Futures Initiative

In partnership with the Relay Graduate School of Education, the three-year initiative strengthens leadership skills for principals and superintendents, ultimately leading to improved student learning outcomes in reading and math.

NEW YORK, NYRobin Hood, New York City’s largest local poverty-fighting philanthropy, in collaboration with the Relay Graduate School of Education, (“Relay”) announced a three-year commitment to scale an evidence-based, field-tested school leadership development model that elevates student achievement in literacy and math, especially in low-performing, low-income schools. The initiative, Stronger Schools, Brighter Futures, marks the first time every New York City public school superintendent and principal will have access to a rigorous training program tied to student outcomes. The Bezos Family Foundation is the lead supporter of the Stronger Schools, Brighter Futures initiative. Inaugural major supporters include Sarahmay and Larry Robbins and Sara Zion and Tushar Shah.

This $15 million initiative is slated to begin next school year and continue through 2028 potentially benefiting 45 superintendents and 1,500 principals. The initiative was launched last week during Robin Hood’s annual benefit at the Javits Center.

Relay will operate a one-year leadership program comprised of an 8-day summer intensive session, followed by three multi-day intersessions throughout the year; the program will be differentiated for superintendents and principals. Programming will also be layered with customized coaching for superintendents to support principals to become more effective instructional leaders.

“The simple truth is leadership matters,” said Mike Bezos, Co-Founder of the Bezos Family Foundation. “Ensuring school leaders are supported with research-driven training and approaches is essential for unlocking the potential of every student. Relay brings the knowledge and track record to help create impactful school communities and that’s why we’re investing in the Stronger Schools, Better Futures model.”

John Deasy, President of the Bezos Family Foundation added, “As a former superintendent, I’ve seen firsthand the irrefutable correlation between school leaders and student success. You simply cannot hope to have a successful school without a well-supported and well-resourced principal.”

A key challenge to student achievement has always been identifying and retaining teachers with the necessary skills and an asset-based mindset to help children excel academically, especially those from low-income households.

To address this unmet need, in 2007, Robin Hood partnered with Achievement First, KIPP, and Uncommon Schools to seed and launch Teacher U at Hunter College which became the Relay Graduate School of Education now located in Lower Manhattan. Over 17 years, Relay has trained and prepared nearly 10,000 New York City teachers to cultivate and foster a culture of achievement among students and within classrooms. Relay’s programs are available nationally.

“Through nearly two decades of collaboration, investment and continuous improvement, Relay Graduate School of Education has become the single most effective program to prepare teachers and school leaders to best accelerate their students’ achievement,” said Larry Robbins, CEO of Glenview Capital Management and former Board Chair of both Robin Hood and Relay. “The superintendents and principals across NYC public schools have an enormous opportunity and responsibility to create school environments filled with joy and rigor, and this leadership training will meaningfully elevate outcomes for kids and families throughout the city.”

Four years out from the onset of the pandemic, the New York City’s public school students continue to face significant setbacks and challenges, including: a third of students who are chronically absent and half of the city’s elementary school students who are not reading or able to perform math problems proficiently.

Expanding Relay’s transformative leadership model to every superintendent and principal ensures that this and succeeding generations of children attend school and engage in learning environments that allow them to reach their fullest potential.

“Leadership is a key ingredient in any thriving school,” said New York City Public Schools Chancellor David C. Banks. “As the largest school system in the country, it is tremendously important that our school leaders are equipped with the skills needed to support the thousands of students in each of our districts. This partnership has the potential to create a ripple effect, building stronger school communities and uplifting our entire city.”

The Stronger Schools, Brighter Futures model is grounded in research that confirms a highly effective principal’s impact is roughly equal to that of a highly effective classroom teacher, with one key difference; principals influence all students in a school, not just a single classroom. A strong principal drives higher teacher satisfaction and retention, better student attendance, and improved learning outcomes in math and reading.

“Education is an important poverty-fighting tool. A great teacher helps kids find their joy, curiosity, and future and that is fighting poverty at its core,” said Mayme Hostetter, President of the Relay Graduate School of Education. “We’ve refined and adapted our approach to training in response to evolving research in the field and feedback from faculty and students. Today, the impact of our training is not just limited to the classroom but impacts the entire school environment. We are helping schools to build an educational matrix of excellence at every level of a kid’s experience in school, irrespective of where a child comes from or the challenges their economic circumstances present and that is what we intend to do through the Stronger Schools, Brighter Futures initiative.”

Relay’s impact is best understood through the testimonials of Relay-trained Superintendent Celeste Terry from District 18 in Brooklyn and principal Rick Romain who leads PS 268, a Brooklyn elementary school with the highest number of students who live in temporary housing and the highest concentration of students from families living in poverty within the district. Working together, and drawing upon their leadership training at Relay, Superintendent Terry and Principal Romain increased the percentage of students at P.S. 268 who scored proficient in reading by 26 percentage points – compared to a 3-percentage point increase citywide – and boosted math proficiency by 24 percentage points – double the gains in math scores realized citywide.

“At Robin Hood, our mission to ensure that New York City – the greatest City in the world – can become the greatest city for everyone. For New York City to truly become a city of opportunity, where the zip code of your birth does not define your destiny, we need the greatest schools in the world. But a great school doesn’t just happen. It takes great leaders – principals and superintendents who set culture, coach teachers, and inspire students. The Stronger Schools, Brighter Futures Initiative, is an opportunity to ensure that every school in New York City is led by a highly effective principal who is supported by a strong superintendent,” said Richard R. Buery, Jr. CEO of Robin Hood. “Education has always been central to our mission, and Robin Hood is proud of our long history of investing in New York City schools – including our work to seed what would become the Relay Graduate School of Education 17 years ago. We believe our investment in the partnership between Relay and New York City Public Schools can be transformative for our entire school system.”

Last year, 42 percent of Robin Hood’s total grantmaking investments targeted educational interventions or improvements. Overall, since 1988, Robin Hood has invested more than $700 million in high quality education, including helping to launch or build 177 schools in New York City.


About Robin Hood:

Robin Hood is New York’s largest local poverty-fighting philanthropy. Last year, Robin Hood celebrated its 35th year of funding, supporting, and connecting New York’s most impactful community organizations at the forefront in the battle against poverty. We are NYC’s largest local poverty-fighting philanthropy and since 1988, we have invested nearly $3 billion to elevate and fuel New Yorkers’ permanent escapes from poverty. In 2023, through grantmaking with 250+ community partners, we created pathways to opportunities out of poverty through our strategic partnerships on child care, child poverty, jobs, living wages and more. We are scaling impact at a population level for the nearly 2 million New Yorkers living in poverty. At Robin Hood, we believe your starting point in life should not define where you end up. To learn more about our work and impact, follow us on X  @RobinHoodNYC or go to


Crystal Cooper, Deputy Director of Communications