Mary Searcy Bixby is the founder, President and CEO of the first charter school authorized by the San Diego Unified School District. The Charter School of San Diego, formally chartered in 1993, was the result of pioneering efforts to offer students viable educational alternatives within the public school setting. Her innovative work in the creation of a city-wide charter school, which has a unique collaboration with the business community, was acknowledged by the California Network of Educational Charter Schools with its first Senator Gary Hart Vision Award in 1995.
Bixby recognizes that many students need an alternative to the traditional education model. Passionate about school reform, Bixby founded the Audeo Charter School in 2001 and the Mirus Secondary School in 2007. Continuing her vision for educational reform, Bixby developed the Altus Institute, a parent organization for the network of charter schools. Altus Institute acts as a resource to the network schools and supports its educators in acquiring the skills necessary to become leaders in improving education.
With the development of multiple school sites, including storefront classrooms, the charter network incorporates intervention programs that target at-risk students with individualized independent study education plans. The staff is committed to positively impacting students and their families.
Bixby’s charter school model is based on the practice of using business principles to guide school operations, specifically improvement through accountability and data-driven decision making. The successful implementation of these key concepts has brought the Altus schools recognition as Malcolm Baldrige Schools. In 2005 and 2007, the Charter School of San Diego received the Baldrige-California Award for Performance Excellence. In 2009, Audeo Charter School received the Baldrige-California Award for Performance Excellence.
A leader in the design of education programs for at-risk students, Bixby was the first individual to receive the Inspirational School Leader Award from the Charter Schools Development Center in 2006. Bixby is a recipient of the University of San Diego Alumni Association’s Bishop Charles Francis Buddy Humanitarian Award and the Cross Pro Ecclesia from Pope John Paul II for service through education. The California State Assembly, the County of San Diego and the San Diego Commission for the Prevention of Juvenile Delinquency have recognized her service to youth and community. In 2009, Bixby received the 2009 “Women Who Mean Business” Award from the San Diego Business Journal. Recently, she has been named a Woman of the Year 2010 finalist by San Diego Magazine. Bixby’s influence and determination has touched the lives of more than 12,000 students.
Bixby earned an undergraduate degree from the University of San Diego as well as a master’s degree in curriculum and instruction. She has a background in teaching elementary, secondary and adult students and has served as adjunct faculty at Southwestern College and the University of San Diego. She is committed to developing systematic educational change to improve students’ lives.