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McCarthy, Jack

President and CEO, AppleTree Institute


Jack McCarthy is President and CEO of AppleTree Institute for Education Innovation and AppleTree Early Learning Public Charter School. Through Jack’s leadership, AppleTree’s impact on policy and practice has increased each year. Jack has influenced education innovation through social entrepreneurship since 1993, combining his experience and interest in business and politics with a citizen’s sense of urgency about the degree to which public schools fail to educate our most vulnerable children.

After working in government and politics early in his career, Jack worked at Boston Bay Capital, Inc. a provider of equity for historic properties. This experience led him to the education reform field as a co-founder of Boston Renaissance Charter School, where he led the innovative $14 million financing and renovation of the school’s urban facility. As he witnessed the reaction of the 1,000 parents whose children did not win the charter school’s initial lottery, Jack was deeply moved to find ways of increasing the number of effective schools for traditionally underserved children.

With Alexis C. “Lex” Towle, an entrepreneurial colleague from that first venture, Jack co-founded AppleTree Institute in 1996, created a charter school incubator, and supported the creation of Washington Mathematics Science Technology PCS, Cesar Chavez Public Policy PCS, and Paul PCS. Jack saw the number of children entering high school reading at a 5th grade level and concluded that the place where he could make the greatest impact was in creating preschools that could erase the achievement gap before children even entered kindergarten.
In 2001, they created a tuition-free, privately funded laboratory preschool in Southwest DC. Working with leading researchers, Jack implemented a scientifically based reading research program with encouraging results. In 2005, with the involvement of another social entrepreneur Russ Williams, Jack wrote a successful charter application and AppleTree Early Learning PCS was born. Later that year, Jack recruited Mary Anne Lesiak to join AppleTree, which led to a series of Early Reading First grants from the US Department of Education that fueled the acceleration of research, development, implementation and continuous improvement of AppleTree’s evidence-based instructional program.
Under Jack’s leadership, AppleTree has grown to a $14 million enterprise with 175 staff and a growing impact on policy and practice. AppleTree Institute won a $5 million US Department of Education Investing in Innovation (‘i3”) development grant for Every Child Ready in 2010. Today, AppleTree Early Learning educates 640 children at seven sites throughout Washington, DC.

Jack is a graduate of The American University in Washington, DC and has a certificate in strategic management and governance of charter schools from the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University. He is married to Elaine McCarthy and has two sons, Liam and Christian.