podcastED: Drexel Fund leader: Help is here for ed entrepreneurs

On this episode, senior writer Lisa Buie talks with Eric Oglesbee, director of the Founders Program for the Drexel Fund. A Founders Program alumni, Oglesbee co-founded River Montessori High School in South Bend, Indiana, during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Oglesbee describes the application process, which has multiple, rigorous rounds that are beneficial regardless of whether an applicant is accepted.

“Just getting out of the first round of the Founders Program, a person should really feel good about themselves. Just applying for the program I felt moved me forward in the process of thinking about my school because just the questions they asked made me go, ‘Oh, I need to think about that’…I feel like the Drexel Fund very seldom says ‘no’ to people; more often it’s ‘not yet’ and you can learn what to do next.”

Launched in 2015, the Drexel Fund is a national nonprofit venture philanthropy fund that seeds new school models and scales networks of existing schools with a track record of academic and operational excellence. It also strengthens the educational ecosystems needed to create market conditions necessary for new private schools serving low-income students to thrive.

The Founders Program provides a salary and support to entrepreneurs so they can start successful new schools.

The application deadline for this year’s Founders Program is Feb. 15. However, it will be extended to Feb. 22 for those attending an in-person informational session in Tampa on Feb. 16. . To register for it and other upcoming sessions, go here.

Episode Details:

  • How Oglesbee transitioned from tenured college professor to education choice entrepreneur
  • The benefits of a Montessori high school experience
  • How Oglesbee found the Founders Program and the role that it played in his school’s success
  • Advice to other “eduprenuers” seeking opportunities
  • The biggest challenge school founders face before the doors open
  • The most valuable things he learned as part of the Founders Program and how the program can benefit those working to start news schools

Relevant links:




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BY Lisa Buie

Lisa Buie is senior reporter for NextSteps. The daughter of a public school superintendent, she spent more than a dozen years as a reporter and bureau chief at the Tampa Bay Times before joining Shriners Hospitals for Children — Tampa, where she served for nearly five years as marketing and communications manager. She lives with her husband and their teenage son, who has benefited from education choice.