Dr. David Christiansen is chief of schools for Charter Schools USA (CSUSA), managing a network of 83 schools across six states that proudly serves over 70,000 students and nearly 10,000 CSUSA team members. Dr. Christiansen is committed to the CSUSA vision to have a dramatic impact on the world’s next generation – changing lives and leaving a legacy.
For the past 28 years, Dr. Christiansen served as a classroom teacher, principal and district leader in large, complex, urban school systems in Florida and California (Orange, Fresno, Lake and Palm Beach Counties). His experience and background in raising the bar and closing the achievement gap for all students show a deep commitment and passion that each child has a right to a high-quality, excellent education. Christiansen was raised by a pastor father and a hospice nurse mother to pursue a purpose-driven life. His father and mother taught him that life’s essential question is “how do you serve others?”
For the past three years, Dr. Christiansen served as deputy superintendent and chief of schools for the School District of Palm Beach County (SDPBC), the 11th largest district in the country with a student enrollment of nearly 195,000 students, an annual budget of nearly $2.4 billion and the largest employer in Palm Beach County with over 24,000 employees, including 13,000 teachers. In this role, he oversaw the day-to-day operations, academic performance and accountability for 187 schools, helped create a district strategic plan with stakeholder input and led a re-organization of the school district to focus on equity and access, choice and innovation and global education.
During his tenure, Palm Beach led the state of Florida’s large, urban school districts in Schools of Excellence and finished the 2017 school year with no traditional F-rated schools. Graduation rates for district-operated schools improved to 90 percent with a ten-point and nine-point increase for African-American and Hispanic students respectively over a three-year period. Christiansen played a key role in the successful passage of a penny sales tax referendum to raise $1.35 billion for capital repairs and he helped devise a $5.5 million shift in resources back to schools to directly support classrooms while also being highly responsive to unique school and student needs.
He is actively involved on a local, state and national level, serving on the Advisory Board of the Florida Organization of Instructional Leaders (FOIL), a national staff developer for Advancement Via Individual Determination (AVID), a 2017 graduate of Leadership Palm Beach County (LPBC), a 2016 graduate of the National Superintendents’ Academy (NSA) and a previous board member of the Junior Achievement of Palm Beach and Glades Career Readiness Roundtable.
Prior to Palm Beach, Christiansen served as the chief academic officer in Lake County, Florida where he directly supervised school principals and led the academic division for 42,000 students across 50 schools. During his tenure, Lake earned national recognition by the College Board for closing the achievement gap on Advanced Placement (AP) courses and earned state recognition for improving student performance on End of Course (EOC) tests. Lake was also recognized nationally for resource optimization work by School Business Affairs for re-allocating $13 million to instructional priorities through a strategic finance plan.
Prior to Lake, Christiansen served as associate superintendent for Fresno Unified School District in Fresno, California, the second highest poverty city in the United States. In this role, Christiansen worked with principals, teachers, parents, school board members and community stakeholders to improve outcomes for 75,000 students across 106 schools with an 87 percent free and reduced lunch rate. Through listening to the needs of schools and students, the district was able to build systems of support to meet the unique needs of a high second-language learner population. On the 2013 National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) report, Fresno was ranked in the top three districts in the nation in improvement in reading and math for fourth and eighth grade students.
In 2007, the Orange County superintendent tapped him to become principal at Evans High School. Evans was a triple-F rated school with a 45 percent graduation rate which was described by a local pastor as a “menace to African-American males.” Through a focus on culture, systems, instruction and resource optimization, Evans High School moved from an F grade to a B grade and the graduation rate improved from 45 percent to 80 percent over a five year period. A new state-of-the art campus was designed and built in the heart of the Pine Hills Community resulting in a 40 percent increase in enrollment and most importantly, pride was restored in being an Evans Trojan. For his efforts, Christiansen was recognized by the Parent-Teacher Association (PTA), Multi-Lingual Services Department and the Fine Arts association as Orange County Principal of the Year and was a top five finalist for Central Floridian of the Year by the Orlando Sentinel.
Christiansen started his educational career as a classroom teacher in a high-poverty school in Orlando, Florida helping high school students learn how to read and write. One of his proudest moments as an educator was an editorial one of his former students had written for their local paper about the power of the written word. He learned from one of his students who said, “Never stop learning because life never stops teaching.”
Christiansen holds a bachelor’s degree in journalism from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, a Master of Arts degree in educational leadership from Nova Southeastern University and a Doctorate in educational leadership degree from the University of Central Florida. He enjoys spending time with his wife, Kim, who is also an educator and his three boys.
Address: 800 Corporate Drive, Suite 700, Fort Lauderdale, FL 33334