participants in BRIGHT Fellowship sitting around a table.

They’d known each other for less than 30 minutes, but when Mark Bobo and Tai Cornute sat down for lunch, any unfamiliarity melted away instantly. By the time the meal was over, Bobo and Cornute had embraced a mantra that will serve them well over the next 18 months:

Iron sharpens iron.

Bobo and Cornute were among 70 professionals gathered for the BRIGHT New Leaders for Ohio Schools “Legacy Partners” kick-off event at the Ohio Union. The event represented a significant milestone for the innovative program, which identifies, trains and connects leaders from all walks of life with opportunities to work as turnaround leaders of low-performing Ohio public schools. For the first time, the inaugural cohort of BRIGHT graduates met the second cohort of BRIGHT fellows, and BRIGHT Fellow Legacy Partner matches were announced.

Two men pose inside the Ohio Union.
Mark Bobo, left, and Tai Cornute

Bobo, a Fellow in BRIGHT Cohort 1 (’16) and assistant principal at Whitehall-Yearling High School in Columbus, had been paired with Cornute, a new Fellow in BRIGHT Cohort 2 (’18).

“I’m excited to work with another thought leader,” Bobo said. “We’ve already begun to refine each other. There’s going to be battles and discussions, but as Tai says ‘Iron sharpens iron.’ To have that type of camaraderie, comfort, sharing of ideas and feedback, that’s important. This program brings together people who allow for that freedom and expression.”

The Legacy Partners is just one key aspect of an 18-month BRIGHT Fellowship that is identifying demonstrated leaders from all backgrounds, providing them with a leadership-intensive MBA education and equipping them to make an impact in the lives of children in underperforming school districts across Ohio. Their MBA education includes a focus on K-12 education in partnership with Ohio State’s College of Education and Human Ecology. The BRIGHT program is an innovative collaboration between Fisher, the Ohio Department of Education and the Ohio Business Roundtable.

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“The first BRIGHT cohort are our grizzled veterans, so to speak,” said John Rensink, associate director of Executive Education at Fisher. “This group of men and women were the BRIGHT pioneers who went through the program as our inaugural class. Their experiences, insights, candor and feedback helped us refine BRIGHT, its structure and curriculum into an even more impactful program for our second cohort of fellows.

“Members of the first cohort will join business and educational leaders as mentors for those in the second cohort. Just as it was for me and the other administrators of BRIGHT, the engagement of our inaugural cohort will be instrumental to the success of the second group of BRIGHT fellows — and to that of the entire program for years to come.”

A man and two women connect  inside a classroom.
BRIGHT participants and graduates network at a recent kick-off event.

Jeff Greenley left his position as Ohio assistant attorney general in 2015 to pursue a career in education through the BRIGHT program. After his fellowship and a tenure as the director of human resources for the Switzerland of Ohio Local School District, Greenley was named superintendent of the district in January 2017.

“Interestingly, BRIGHT has taught me more about myself than anything,” he said. “It taught me how to persevere through challenges and that I can solve problems. It gave me the confidence to know that, although I may not immediately know the answer or the way, I can find a way to move forward to improve our organization.”

Greenley will serve as the Legacy Partner to Tim Ryan, a CPA and a lawyer in Columbus who has tried more than 100 civil and criminal cases in the past 20 years. He previously served as assistant county prosecutor in the Franklin County Prosecutor’s Office.

“Jeff’s experience will be an invaluable source for insight into the real challenges ahead,” Ryan said. “He spoke of some frustrations he has had, but he was optimistic about the process and grateful for the chance to be involved. When Jeff spoke of his experiences — including those that presented challenges — he did so with a sense of humor.

“I am really looking forward to working with Jeff, not just because of his experience, but he also seems to have captured the mindset for keeping that sense of humor and a long-term perspective — even when things are not going as one would reasonably expect.”

In all, 30 men and women compose BRIGHT Cohort 2. They will be individually placed in a high-poverty Ohio public school during the 18-month, full-time fellowship period, working and learning under the mentorship of an accomplished school principal, executive-level business leader and their Legacy Partners. All the while, they will earn a fully funded MBA from Fisher and an Ohio K-12 administrative license.

A group of men and women smiling and enjoying a kickoff speaker.
Members of the first cohort of BRIGHT students take part in a discussion kicking off the program's Legacy Partners event.

“I’m bursting at the seams, but I’m also nervous,” said Cornute, an administrator at the Todd Anthony Bell National Resource Center on the African American Male in the Office of Diversity and Inclusion at Ohio State. “We’re talking about impacting lives. This isn’t a thing, this is people’s lives, their well-being and their futures. There’s such a gravity that goes along with this program.

“BRIGHT’s leadership mission is what inspired me to want to become a part of this program. I have a passion for children and education. I truly believe that the right people, who care and have the right training, can make a phenomenal impact.”

BRIGHT By The Numbers

  • 1,500: Applications for 60 BRIGHT Fellowships in Cohort 1 and 2
  • 38: Average age of BRIGHT Fellows
  • 100: Percent placement rate of Cohort 1 Fellows serving in school districts throughout Ohio
  • 66: Percent of BRIGHT’s first two Cohorts that come from fields other than education