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Cross-Boundary Leader: Alan Richard (DC EPFP '00-01)

Posted By Shaina Cook, Wednesday, February 11, 2015


Cross-Boundary Leader: Alan Richard
(DC EPFP '00-01)

Alan Richard has had a long career in communications, writing, and journalism in the education sector. Before his current role as Chair of the Rural School and Community Trust, Richard spent the past three years at public relations and communications agencies in Washington and was the Communications Director at the Southern Regional Education Board (SREB) in Atlanta. He has also worked as a journalist at Education Week and The State newspaper in Columbia, SC. We asked him about his EPFP experience, challenges he’s faced during his career, and cross-boundary leadership.

EPFP Experience

I participated in EPFP while worked at Education Week and was the first working journalist to go through the program. I was new in town some colleagues encouraged me to apply to the program to learn more about how Washington and federal policy worked. Some other Fellows in my cohort worked at the U.S. Department of Education, and others were teachers and principals, and I felt their responses to our discussions were very powerful. It was great for me, as a journalist, to learn about the importance of policy and guiding educational practices and opportunities and “lifted the veil” of how Washington works to help me better understand ESEA, what the U.S. Department of Education actually did, and the importance of policymaking. I was also able to meet some interesting people and I’m still in touch with a few Fellows today.

My year in EPFP (2000-2001) was exciting because that was when No Child Left Behind was taking place, and we actually had advisors to Sen. Joe Lieberman and the White House come in and debate some of the points discussed in Congress at the time. I was especially interested to learn about the development of NCLB because it represented a united front between President Bush and Sen. Ted Kennedy, although Kennedy later became a critic of the implementation.

Not long after my year in EPFP, Hunter Moorman, who was the DC site coordinator at the time, and I drove from DC to Columbia, SC, and brought the idea of starting an EPFP site to several education organizations there. We were able to meet with the SEA, school board, education oversight committee, and other groups, and these conversations eventually led to the launch of the South Carolina EPFP site, which was an exciting thing to be a part of.

Cross-Boundary Leadership

Cross-boundary leadership is at the heart of what I do and have done in my career. As a journalist, you have to really try to set aside biases because you are telling other people’s stories. Issues can be quite complex and have lots of nuances, so working with a wide variety of sources and getting the right information is important. At SREB, we worked with political stakeholders from all sides, including governors, higher education officials, superintendents, and legislators on both sides of the aisle. Now, as a communications consultant, I’ve realized that no one has a monopoly on good ideas—everyone has a role.


One of the most challenging things I’ve had to do is to stay above the fray. At times I fear that a lot of education policy debates happening now are not particularly useful. The biggest challenges that remain to improve education are important because they affect students, such as preparing students for learning and work after high school, and they deserve great attention from all of us regardless of political views. We should be working to solve these challenges together, such as making school more appealing to all students and providing quality early education that all students deserve.

Lessons Learned

The biggest lesson I’ve learned is to figure out what matters most to you and to the debate and take focus off of the most immediate political argument. Take Common Core for example. The main issue there is the need to work together to agree on the proper role of education and raising academic standards, but many people are stuck on the political aspect of the issue. Instead, we should be focusing on implementing standards the right way and creating more opportunities for students to attend postsecondary education and be successful in college and technical training. That’s what will make a difference.

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