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Partnerships to Uplift Communities
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About PUC


Jacqueline Elliot and Dr. Ref Rodriguez, the founders and co-CEO's of Partnerships To Uplift Communities, have been working in collaboration with each other for the past eight years. They met in 1998 when each of them independently authored charter school planning grants that were funded by the California Department Of Education. Ms. Elliot was committed to increasing the high school and college graduation rate among students who lived in the Northeast San Fernando Valley, where she had served as an educator for thirteen years. Dr. Rodriguez had the same vision for the students residing in Northeast Los Angeles, where Ref had grown up, attended school and worked. The two visionaries were introduced to each other by the late Sue Bragato, the founder and Executive Director of the California Network of Educational Charter Schools (CANEC), following the announcement of the grant awards.
During their first conversation, Jacqueline and Ref were amazed to discover that their visions were identical in a number of ways including class size, overall school size, calendar, schedule, school culture, college and community partnerships, parent engagement, curriculum, and much more. Until that time, nobody had started a charter middle school in Los Angeles. However, at the same time and independent of each other, both Ref and Jacqueline had developed an identical vision of an ideal middle school for students who lived in communities within LAUSD, where students were failing and dropping out of school. They immediately realized that their skill sets were a match to make their visions become realities. Jacqueline had an extensive background working in LAUSD and in the field of education. Ref had an extensive business background and had also worked in the field of education in private Catholic schools.
From April 1998 though August 1999, Ref worked closely with Jacqueline to develop and open Community Charter Middle School. Together, they met challenges, overcame obstacles and convinced LAUSD to allow them to open the first charter middle school in Los Angeles. They fought and won battles too numerous to mention. Following the successful opening of Community Charter Middle School, Ref focused intently on opening the middle school in Northeast Los Angeles. With Jacqueline's support and lessons learned from the founding of the first school, Ref triumphantly opened the doors to the California Academy for Liberal Studies Middle School (CALS), in fall 2000.
As soon as the first two middle schools opened, they were inundated with requests for seats from parents in the two respective communities. Extensive waiting lists were developed by the sixth month of operation in both schools. In response to those community requests Jacqueline and Ref developed and opened a high school for the CALS graduates and a second middle school for the Northeast San Fernando Valley, maintaining the same level of collaboration that had begun in 1998.
Two years ago, the two charter school founders realized that to have significant impact in a community, a cluster of charter schools needed to be created within the community, rather than just one or two. They also realized that formalizing their professional partnership to create a charter school development and management corporation would result in a multitude of benefits for all the schools, their stakeholders and the communities they chose to serve.
Following these realizations Jacqueline and Ref developed and founded Partnerships To Uplift Communities (PUC). A total of seven schools have now been developed and founded by PUC. Jacqueline and Ref serve as co-CEO's of the organization and also serve on the Board of Trustees. In addition, the two have become very active in the charter school movement on a state and national level. CALS Early College High School has become a national model for the early college initiative, Ms. Elliot serves as an elected member on the California Charter School Association's Membership Council and Dr. Rodriguez serves on the Association's Board of Trustees. They continue to work passionately towards the achievement of their vison; the revitalization of communities through the creation of high quality charter schools whose students will graduate from high school prepared for college success.
Jacqueline Elliot
Co-Chief Executive Officer and Co-Founder
Ms. Elliot has been dedicated to public school reform since 1986 when she first became a teacher in Pacoima. She holds a B.A. in Anthropology, a Multiple Subjects Teaching Credential, an Administrative Credential and a Master's degree in Educational Administration. She is currently completing her doctorate in Educational Leadership and Change at Fielding Graduate University. As a former LAUSD employee, Jacqueline Elliot was driven by an intense desire to improve the state of public education. She first became acquainted with the charter school movement in 1994 while serving as a teacher leader at Montague Elementary when she co-authored the school’s petition that converted Montague to charter
status. Dedicated to creating high quality charter schools for the students in Pacoima, she founded Community Charter Middle School (CCMS) in 1999. The school was the first charter middle school to serve students in Los Angeles and was so successful and well received by the community, that Ms. Elliot subsequently founded two more schools to serve the same geographic area. Ms. Elliot began collaborating with Dr. Ref Rodriguez in 1998. Together they have collaborated and supported each other's efforts while co-founding and operating Partnerships to Uplift Communities (PUC) and a total of seven schools. Ms. Elliot currently serves as an elected representative to the California Charter Schools Association Membership Council.
Ref Rodriguez
Co-Chief Executive Officer and Co-Founder
Ref Rodriguez is the founder and co-chief executive officer of Partnerships to Uplift Communities (PUC Schools), a charter school management organization serving communities in the Northeast San Fernando Valley and Northeast Los Angeles. Ref's original inspiration for starting a charter school was to offer high quality learning experiences for middle school students residing in Cypress Park, the working class community northeast of downtown Los Angeles where he grew up. Prior to venturing into the charter school movement, Ref worked in the business sector and as a teacher and administrator in parochial schools. He is one of five children of Mexican immigrants. He is the first (but not the last) in his
family to graduate from college.
Ref is the Vice Chair of the Board of the California Charter Schools Association and serves on the boards of the Boys and Girls Club of Los Angeles and the Small School Alliance. In 2005, he was appointed, by the Mayor of the City of Los Angeles, as a City Commissioner in the area of affordable housing.
Ref holds a Doctorate in Educational Leadership from the Fielding Graduate University in Santa Barbara, California. He recently began studies on a second doctoral degree as a student in the inaugural class of the Executive Work-Based Learning Program offered jointly by the Wharton School of Business and Graduate School of Education at the University of Pennsylvania. His research interests include teacher leadership and charter schools that are closing the achievement gap for Latino students.
Ref is a native Angelino.