Director of Policy & Strategy

TennesseeCAN 541 941 0111 charlie.bufalino@tn-can.org

Charlie joins TennesseeCAN as the Director of Policy & Strategy, eager to develop and advocate for effective policies that make positive contributions for students throughout Tennessee.

Charlie has spent the past six years working in education reform. As a start-up employee of Rocketship Education, he helped drive overall national expansion efforts by leading growth strategy, policy development, legislative advocacy and writing successful charter school applications. Last year, Charlie served as a graduate policy fellow at SCORE, conducting bill analysis during the legislative session and providing policy research in school funding and teacher leadership.

He joins TennesseeCAN with a commitment to eliminating the achievement gap and the systemic effects of poverty on society. Charlie graduated from Pomona College with a bachelor’s degree in history, and is currently completing his master’s degree in public policy from Vanderbilt University. When not at TennesseeCAN, Charlie moonlights as a recreational hockey player, desperately clinging to the hope of an NHL call-up.

I aspire to be like my grandfather, Gino Marconi. Here’s why:

My grandfather (or “Nonno”) was the son of Italian immigrants who came to this country in search of a better life. He was educated in public schools and then became the first in his family to attend college under the GI Bill. He ran a small family market that helped sustain his family and afford even greater opportunities for his children.

What truly inspired me about Nonno was his commitment to public service. He was intimately aware that the opportunities he received required him to do all he could to offer those same advantages to others. He was always engaged in his local community, serving on the City Council and as Mayor of Mt. Shasta, California for over 25 years.

Nonno focused all his efforts on practical solutions that directly benefited people’s daily lives. He set an example for me that I can only hope to emulate.

Why I love my job:

I care deeply about how we as a country improve opportunities for historically disadvantaged students. The most effective way to do this is through high-quality education, and I feel privileged to work toward providing those opportunities for the children of Tennessee each and every day.

My role is particularly exciting because it requires me to be at the intersection of sound public policy development and political advocacy for reforms we know can improve outcomes for children.

My connection to public schools:

I attended public schools throughout my entire K-12 experience and was fortunate that they afforded me the opportunity to go to a great college. There are certainly elements that we need to change about public schooling—particularly for students in historically impoverished and failing schools—but our commitment to public education must be unwavering.

What I’m bad at:

Umm…It was my understanding that there would be no math. In all seriousness, I often find myself impatient with the pace of change. Anyone who has worked in public policy can tell you that the speed of improvement can be incremental and two steps forward followed by one step back.

This is frustrating to me because our most disadvantaged children need change right now. Learning to patiently engage with the policymaking process while maintaining a sense of urgency about our mission is something I have to work on every day.

The image that represents why I work at 50CAN:

I began my career working with a charter management organization whose mission was to eliminate the achievement gap within our lifetimes. This is an image of “Launch,” when every morning our students, faculty and parents came together to reaffirm the high expectations for our students and to stress that they could achieve their dreams (notice the college banners in the background).

Most of our students were low-income and English-language learners, and I was always reminded of my own family history and how education and good fortune changed our trajectory. Fighting to provide that same opportunity for these students and families is why I do this work.