Goodbyes are never easy, and often impossible to put into words. For me, the term that comes to mind is the one I often used growing up: poyyosthaanu. In Telugu, it literally translates to “I am leaving, and I will come back.”
This month, after a decade building friendships and supporting access to great schools in West Contra Costa, I will be leaving my role at Chamberlin Education Foundation. I plan to take some time off to be with my children, and, soon enough, reflect and identify the most fulfilling path for the coming decade.
My Richmond colleagues, partners and friends have become an extended family to me. While these relationships have often started in classrooms and coffee shops, without fail, they go much deeper — to family trees and roots, to dreams and aspirations. I thank you for sharing your full selves with me, and, in return, I hope that I have done the same.
While here, the one thing that has remained indelibly true is the brilliance of our children. Their right to a free, high quality education — one that is dynamic, joyous, compelling and clever as they are — is the enduring constant that’s driven my work. As a mother of two spirited small children, this work feels more personal than ever before. All families deserve access to great schools.
As I look back on my time with the Chamberlin team, I am most proud of supporting the vision and leadership of others as agents of change. I’ve supported educators creating new high-quality schools, nonprofit leaders redefining college pathways for young people, and parent organizers working to amplify student and family voice. In each of these cases, folks believed that public education could be better for students, and collaborated with courage, faith, and resilience to advance a new reality. The true leaders in this community are each of you who dream and act for a better tomorrow on behalf of students who deserve a top-tier, tuition-free education.
In my time here, I’ve forged relationships that will continue to inspire me in my next steps. I will continue to root for each of you and the work you do. I am thrilled that Chamberlin Education Foundation is pursuing an exciting path anchored in authentic partnership and strengthened community engagement. The longer I live, the more I see that it’s relationships and people that matter the most. Work comes and goes, but our connections last forever.
My deep gratitude goes out to Julie Wright, who took a chance on me as a bright-eyed school leader and believed in my potential. To Stefanie Phillips, I give thanks for showing me a new blueprint for authentic leadership. To the CEF team: It has been so much fun working together and seeing the ways your beautiful minds work. And finally, I will always have deep respect and admiration for Susan and Steve Chamberlin, whose vision for what’s possible remains constant. Your courage, clarity, and sense of purpose will always inspire me.
One of the most beautiful things about the word poyyosthaanu is the sentiment it captures beyond the literal meaning. It’s the idea that we really never “leave” because we have left something of ourselves in each other. So, even as I say goodbye, you will always be with me. And as you share hotdogs in Nicholl Park, walk through the hallways of your schools, and voice your perspective at school board meetings, may my poyyosthaanu be there with you.
Minnie Bhattacharyya (neé Setty) served as Senior Program Officer at Chamberlin Family Foundation (2012-2020) and Chief Program Officer at Chamberlin Education Foundation.
About the Chamberlin Education Foundation
The Chamberlin Education Foundation supports initiatives that advance education equity and academic excellence in West Contra Costa public schools. CEF’s grants and programs support effective education leadership, high-quality curriculum and instruction, restorative student interventions, and help create and sustain a student-centered public education ecosystem.
Click here for more about our team, our vision, and our foundation’s guiding principles.