The New Jersey Charter Schools Association (NJCSA) today announced that it has named Carlos Pérez as its Chief Executive Officer.

Pérez will be introduced as the new CEO during a reception tomorrow at the National Charter School Conference in Chicago, where he is scheduled to present on two important topics: "From Charter Parent to Charter Champion" and "Expanding the Charter School Model Statewide."

"After an exhaustive national search, we are confident that we have found the right individual to lead our association at this crucial point," said NJCSA Board Chair Carlos Lejnieks. "Carlos has the bold vision and ability required to meet the future needs of our organization."

"The NJCSA is quickly evolving into an organization that will meet the changing needs of the growing education reform movement and which improves educational options for New Jersey's kids," Lejnieks added.

Pérez joins the NJCSA from the Illinois Network of Charter Schools (INCS) in Chicago, where he led the organization's advocacy and outreach team as Director of Public Policy. He spearheaded a full range of programs, including legislative policy, statewide constituency growth and regulatory advocacy.

Pérez is known in the charter movement for developing initiatives for the recruitment and training of advocates on policy, civic engagement and leadership issues, Lejnieks noted.

"I look forward to working with charter school operators, parents, advocates and lawmakers to ensure that New Jersey regains its foothold as a leader of the charter school movement," Pérez said. "By transforming the way we educate students in public schools, we can make it possible for every child to control his or her destiny.

"Charter schools, for the most part, have proven to be an extremely effective way to close the achievement gap between white and minority students," Pérez added. "With more than 20,000 students on waiting lists, demand for charter schools in New Jersey is strong. Though the number of schools has grown to 67 since the charter model was first authorized by the Legislature in 1996, the rate of growth has slowed in recent years."

In his new role, Pérez intends to focus the organization's efforts on closing the quality gap between low and high performing charter schools, increasing the growth of charter schools, and protecting and equalizing charter school funding levels.

At INCS, he worked closely with grassroots advocates and charter school leadership to educate and work with state decision-makers to support Illinois' charter schools.

Perez is especially proud of recent state legislation doubling the number of charter schools in Illinois from 60 to 120. The success of this advocacy work has become a national model for constituency-building by various charter school advocacy groups.

He joined INCS in 2005 as the Community Outreach Manager charged with building a network of school leaders, parents, students and constituent groups to advocate on behalf of charter schools.

Prior to joining INCS, Pérez worked for several years coordinating political campaigns. He has organized new immigrant and Latino communities in Virginia, Minnesota and Missouri. His political work also took him to Louisiana and has mobilized voters in his home state of Illinois.

A graduate of Truman State University, Pérez will complete his master's degree in public services from DePaul University this summer. He will be joined in New Jersey by his wife, Lindsey.

Pérez succeeds Jessani Gordon, who left the NJCSA in January and who now works for the state Department of Education. Rick Pressler served as the NJCSA's Interim Executive Director.