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Episode #14 - The strategic role of the Chief of Staff with Dan Soleimani, Chief of Staff at Aspire Public Schools

Episode #14 - The strategic role of the Chief of Staff with Dan Soleimani, Chief of Staff at Aspire Public Schools






Episode Guest: Daniel Soleimani, Chief of Staff at Aspire Public Schools

Connect with Daniel on LinkedIn 

School / Organization: Aspire Public Schools

Website: https://aspirepublicschools.org/



In this conversation, Dan Soleimani, Chief of Staff at Aspire Public Schools, discusses the role of a chief of staff and the challenges and responsibilities that come with it. He shares insights on when to hire a chief of staff and the day-to-day activities involved in the role. Dan also talks about a major project at Aspire, the restructuring of the organization, and his role in driving it forward. In this conversation, Dan Soleimani, Chief of Staff at Aspire Public Schools, discusses the importance of communication and cadence with the CEO in managing projects. He also shares insights into implementing an ERP solution to streamline processes and reduce manual work.



  • A chief of staff provides direct support to the CEO, leads strategic planning, coordinates special projects, and acts as the glue that keeps the team together.
  • Organizations should consider hiring a chief of staff when they are growing in complexity, the CEO feels strapped for capacity, there is a lack of strategic planning and organization alignment, or decision-making is unclear.
  • The day-to-day activities of a chief of staff include attending meetings, preparing for and facilitating key meetings, managing projects, providing thought partnership, and supporting the CEO.
  • The challenges of the chief of staff role include the lack of clear boundaries, the absence of repetition in issues, and the need to build strong relationships and gain trust.
  • In the restructuring project at Aspire, the chief of staff plays a role in aligning decision-making, resources, and accountability, and ensuring transparency and engagement throughout the process. Regular communication and check-ins with the CEO are crucial for project management.
  • Implementing an ERP solution can help streamline processes and reduce manual work.
  • Change management and resource allocation are important considerations when taking on large projects.
  • Finding communities and networks of other chiefs of staff can provide valuable support and resources.



RAPID Framework: https://www.bridgespan.org/getmedia/8fae47da-221b-4c3b-ae39-941447fe1112/the-rapid-decision-making-tool-for-nonprofits.pdf?ext=.pdf

The Case for a Chief of Staff (HBR): https://hbr.org/2020/05/the-case-for-a-chief-of-staff

Fair Process Decision-Making: https://www.managementcenter.org/resources/using-fair-process-to-make-better-decisions-a-quick-start-guide/#:~:text=Practicing%20fair%20process%20means%20being,a%20decision%20has%20b




00:00 Introduction and Technical Housekeeping

08:16 Background and Preparation for Chief of Staff Role

11:14 Size and Scale of Aspire Public Schools

13:31 Vision and Expectations for Chief of Staff Role

18:27 When to Hire a Chief of Staff

23:38 Day-to-Day Responsibilities of a Chief of Staff

27:37 Challenges of the Chief of Staff Role

31:59 Advice for Becoming a Chief of Staff

34:09 Large Projects: Restructuring the Organization

38:38 Status and Role in the Restructuring Project

42:16 Communication and Cadence with the CEO

45:17 Implementing an ERP Solution




Prior to joining Aspire as Chief of Staff, Dan built and led the School Management Office for Success Academy Charter Schools in New York. In that role, he led a team of 25+ individuals to scale school supports effectively and efficiently during the organization’s rapid growth to 45 schools. Additionally, he supported superintendents and school teams with data reporting and analytics, enrollment matters, policy development, special education, crisis management, and conflict resolution. Prior to heading up its School Management Office, Dan served as Assistant General Counsel and Chief of Staff to Success Academy's Chief Legal Officer for over 5 years. Prior to entering the charter school space, Dan worked in the Juvenile Rights Practice for the Legal Aid Society, representing youth in juvenile justice and child protection matters. 

Dan does this work because he believes that education is the most effective lever for achieving personal and societal progress. Both of Dan’s parents are Jewish-Iranian refugees, who fled to the U.S. in 1979 just prior to the Iranian revolution. He is keenly aware of the opportunities that were afforded to him and his family by accessing a high-quality public education, and is committed to ensuring access and opportunity to underserved communities.

Dan is a proud graduate of UCLA and Georgetown, where he earned his law degree. Dan lives in the San Francisco Bay Area with his wife, their two young children (ages 3 and 4), and their mini-Golden Doodle..


You can listen to Charter School Insider: Lessons from the Nation's Top Charter School Operators on your favorite podcasting platform...

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