Now Hiring: Director of Programs

Are you looking for a role where you can make a difference? Are you interested in helping to bridge the educational opportunity gap for Chicago Public School students by providing them with an after-school program that supports their academic, career, and leadership success? If so, consider joining the Chicago Debates team. For over twenty years, Chicago Debates has partnered with Chicago Public Schools to provide debate programming across its district. Through the transformational activity of debate, students are empowered to find their voice, succeed in college and career, and become community leaders. Chicago Debates administers and supports debate programming in over 90 middle and high schools across the city. As the largest of the 22 urban policy debate leagues in the country, we will support nearly 1800 CPS students in the 2019-2020 school year.

Position Overview

The Director of Programs is a manager for all of our academic debate activities and a motivational leader, who inspires junior staff, coaches, and partners to embrace debate and to collaborate to better students’ lives through our debate programs. The Director of Programs plays an essential role in the daily management of our relationship with Chicago Public Schools, individual schools, and in the delivery of our core programs. The Director of Programs reports to the Executive Director, and manages 6-7 full-time staff (including Program Officers and a Volunteer Manager), as well as part-time program contractors.

Core Responsibilities

Program Strategy, Curricula Design & Evaluation

  • Stay apprised of best practices in the fields of urban debate and college access & success.
  • Monitor our debate curricula to ensure it remains current with industry standards along with assessing its effectiveness.
  • In collaboration with the National Association of Urban Debate Leagues, develop, manage, and modify program curricula, including the development and production of instructional resources like the Core Files.
  • Manage our work with coach advisory councils on league and tournament processes and improvements.
  • In alignment with organizational annual goals, establish annual program team goals and strategies to achieve them.

Coaching & Management

  • Manage and coach a team of 6-7 direct reports, including hiring, onboarding, and annual reviews.
  • Provide strategic direction to ensure team members achieve all duties and goals assigned, including regular check-in meetings.
  • Build a cohesive team that works well collaboratively and can excel individually.
  • Manage and coach Program Officers to effectively support a caseload of schools/coaches/debate teams (i.e. site visits/technical assistance, email, phone and other communications, etc.).
  • Empower and encourage team members to pursue professional development opportunities to improve and enhance their contribution to the team and themselves.

Data Collection, Analysis, Quality and Evaluation, & Reporting

  • Identify and recommend key programmatic indicators and outcomes.
  • Manage the collection and organization of data to evaluate and measure program outcomes and impact (e.g. tournament reporting, technical assistance tracking, surveys, stakeholder feedback, etc.).
  • Utilize and interpret data for program and process evaluation and decision making so as to make recommendations for continuous improvements.
  • Translate findings from outcomes, survey data, and stakeholder feedback into actionable insights.

Project Management

  • In collaboration with the Finance Team, set and manage program budgets.
  • Work with CPS staff on finances and funding for debate, including management of vendor relationship and program expenditures by CPS.
  • Oversee and support the recruitment, training, experience, and retention of all program stakeholders, including students, coaches, and volunteers.
  • Oversee the planning and delivery of the annual Chicago Debate Summer Institute (CDSI).
  • Oversee the planning and effective delivery of all tournaments, including structural and operational (i.e. tabulation, scheduling, sites, meals, tournament registration, preparation of materials, training of students, coaches and judges, use of Tabroom website, etc.).


  • Maintain principal responsibility for our partner relationship with CPS staff, including Academic Competitions and Principals.
  • Recruit and onboard new schools and teachers to the debate league.
  • Community outreach efforts to explore program partnership opportunities and relationships with university debate teams, urban debate leagues (including NAUDL), and other partners for support and involvement.
  • Ensure that program outcomes and information requests are disseminated to internal and external organizational partners (e.g. CPS, NAUDL, Development Team, etc.).
  • Participate in the development of grant proposals and reports, as needed.
  • Participate in Development meetings and/or events, as needed (e.g. Tournament Tours, Donor Site Visits, etc.).
  • Prepare Program reports and participate in quarterly board meetings.

Core Competencies

  • Demonstrated ability to work at a rigorous pace, prioritize multiple assignments, communicate about challenges, plan, and most importantly, follow through to meet deadlines and objectives.
  • Ability to remain flexible and adapt to changing needs and priorities.
  • Problem Solving and Critical Thinking: Ability to break down tasks into manageable sections in order to make informed decisions to tackle a larger problem.
  • In depth knowledge and understanding on how to lead a team of young professionals in mainly entry level roles.
  • Ability to perceive and resolve a gap between a present situation and a desired goal.
  • Ability to track and interpret data for decision making and program and process evaluation.
  • Strong interpersonal skills with an ability to work independently and collaboratively in a diverse team environment.
  • Exceptional organizational skills with close attention to detail.
  • Must have the utmost integrity and an ability to process, protect and exercise discretion in handling confidential information and materials.

Hiring Process

The position will begin as soon as late April/early May 2020, pending candidate’s availability. Qualified candidates must be available for:

A Round 1 group interview on March 31, 2020.
Candidates who advance to a Round 2 interview should be available on April 7th, 2020.
Candidates who advance to a Round 3 interview should be available on April 14, 2020.

Chicago Debates is an equal opportunity employer.


  • Bachelor’s degree required. Master’s or higher preferred.
  • Previous debate experience not required.
  • A minimum of 5-10 years of relevant professional work experience in debate, college access or success, teaching, or other related educational areas.
  • Experience with case management techniques desirable.
  • A minimum of 3-5 years of management experience with direct reports.
  • Strong experience using data to achieve programmatic outcomes and demonstrate impact, including survey design and analysis.
  • Experience as a teacher or direct experience working with teachers, curriculum, and public school districts.
  • Chicago Public School or Urban public school experience is a plus.
  • Experience with curriculum design also a plus.
  • Extensive computer skills, including Microsoft & Google Suite products.


  • A strong work ethic and commitment to Chicago Debates’ mission.
  • Enterprising, outgoing communication style that draws people to our mission.
  • Leadership and motivational skills.
  • An evaluative approach and lens to ensure continuous program quality controls.
  • Positive, solution-oriented approach in a team working toward common goals.
  • Strong cultural competency operating in a diverse population with a variety of needs and challenges and communication styles.
  • Entrepreneurial minded, a self-starter, creative, and forward thinker.


Additional Salary Information: Salary to be determined based on experience and skills. Full-time employees are eligible for health, dental, and vision insurance, Retirement, PTO, Professional Development Allowance, Sick Days, and Holidays. Chicago Debates is seeking a commitment of at least two years.
Internal Number: 3123003445