PUC Network


About the Founders

Dr. Jacqueline Elliot and Dr. Ref Rodriguez, the co-founders of Partnerships To Uplift Communities, have been working in collaboration with each other since 1998 when each of them independently authored charter school planning grants that were funded by the California Department of Education.

Dr. Elliot was committed to increasing the high school and college graduation rate among students who lived in the Northeast San Fernando Valley, where she had served as an educator since 1986. Dr. Rodriguez had the same vision for the students residing in Northeast Los Angeles, where he had grown up, attended school and worked.

The two visionaries were introduced to each other by the late Sue Bragato, founder and Executive Director of the California Network of Educational Charter Schools (CANEC) following the announcement of the grant awards.

During their first conversation, Jacqueline and Ref were amazed to discover that their visions were identical in a number of ways including class size, overall school size, calendar, schedule, school culture, college and community partnerships, parent engagement, curriculum, and much more.

Until that time, nobody had started a charter middle school in Los Angeles. However, at the same time and independent of each other, both Ref and Jacqueline had developed an identical vision of an ideal middle school for students who lived in the two Los Angeles communities where students were failing and dropping out of school.

Ref and Jacqueline immediately realized that their skill sets were a match to make their visions become a reality. Jacqueline had an extensive background working in public education in LAUSD. Ref had an extensive business background and had also worked in the field of education in private Catholic schools.

From April 1998 until September 1999, Ref supported Jacqueline in her efforts to develop and open Community Charter Middle School for the families in the Northeast San Fernando Valley.

Together, they met challenges, overcame obstacles and convinced LAUSD to allow them to open the first charter middle school in Los Angeles. They fought and won battles too numerous to mention.

Following the successful opening of Community Charter Middle School on September 7, 1999 Ref focused intently on opening the middle school in Northeast Los Angeles. With Jacqueline’s support and lessons learned from the founding of the first school, Ref triumphantly opened the doors to the California Academy for Liberal Studies Middle School (CALS), in fall 2000.

As soon as each of the first two middle schools opened, they were inundated with requests for seats from parents in the two respective communities. Extensive waiting lists were developed by the sixth month of operation in both schools. In response to those community requests Ref and Jacqueline developed and opened a high school for the CALS graduates in Northeast Los Angeles and a second middle school for the Northeast San Fernando Valley, maintaining the same level of collaboration that had begun in 1998.

The two charter school founders realized that to have significant impact in a community, a cluster of charter schools needed to be created within each community, rather than just one or two. They also realized that formalizing their professional partnership and creating one 501c3 corporation, would result in a multitude of benefits for all the schools, their stakeholders and the communities they chose to serve. As a result of these realizations Jacqueline and Ref co-founded Partnerships To Uplift Communities in 2004.

Together, Dr. Elliot and Dr. Rodriguez have founded and developed a total 16 successful public charter schools located in the Northeast San Fernando Valley and Northeast Los Angeles. In addition, at the request of the community in Rochester, New York, they founded PUC Achieve Charter School in 2014, the first of what is intended to become another PUC network of schools for the City of Rochester.

With several California Distinguished Schools in the network, the PUC high schools have a graduation rate that exceeds 90% every year and almost 100% of the students are accepted to colleges and universities by the time of graduation.

The PUC network employs well over 100 alumni in a variety of roles and several are now serving as credentialed teachers in a number of PUC schools.

Dr. Elliot now serves as CEO of PUC National and also serves on the Board of the California Charter School Association. Dr. Rodriguez was elected to the School Board of the Los Angeles Unified School District in 2015, representing Board District 5.

Both continue to work passionately towards the achievement of their vision; an exemplary public education accessible to all children in all communities.


Jacqueline Elliot, Ed.D, Co-Founder

Dr. Jacqueline Elliot has been dedicated to public school reform since 1986 when she first became a teacher in Pacoima, California. She holds a B.A. in Anthropology, a Multiple Subjects Teaching Credential, and a Master’s degree in Educational Administration earned at CA State University, Northridge. She also holds a Doctorate in Educational Leadership and Change earned at Fielding Graduate University. As a former LAUSD teacher, Jacqueline Elliot was driven by an intense desire to improve the state of public education. She first became acquainted with the charter school movement in 1994 while serving as a teacher leader at Montague Elementary when she co-authored the school’s petition that converted Montague to charter status. Dedicated to creating high quality charter schools for the students in Pacoima, she founded Community Charter Middle School (CCMS) in 1999. The school was the first charter middle school to serve students in Los Angeles and was so successful and well received by the community, that Dr. Elliot subsequently founded several more schools to serve the same geographic area. Dr. Elliot began collaborating with Dr. Ref Rodriguez in 1998. Together they have collaborated and supported each other’s efforts while co-founding Partnerships to Uplift Communities (PUC Schools), which resulted in the creation of 15 highly successful public charter schools located in NE Los Angeles and the NE San Fernando Valley. In 2013, she co-founded PUC National with Dr. Rodriguez, at which she now serves as President & CEO. She is a fellow of the Pahara-Aspen Institute’s Entrepreneurial Leaders for Public Education and also serves on the 501c4 board of the California Charter Schools Association and on the board of Fenton Public Charter Schools, located in the NE San Fernando Valley. Dr. Elliot is also an adjunct professor in the Education Department at Loyola Marymount University. In 2013, Dr. Elliot was the recipient of the Hart Vision Award from the California Charter Schools Association, as Leader of the Year.

ref-rodriguez-foundersRef Rodriguez, Ed.D, Co-Founder

Ref Rodriguez is co-founder of Partnerships to Uplift Communities (PUC Schools), a network of charter schools serving students in Northeast Los Angeles and the Northeast San Fernando Valley. Ref’s original inspiration for starting a charter school was to offer high-quality learning experiences for youth in the predominantly Latino working-class community where he grew up. His outrage for being considered “fortunate” for having graduated from college because of his socio-economic background is what drives him to create and support schools where college graduation is an expectation for all. Before joining the charter schools movement, Ref worked in the business sector and as a teacher and administrator in Catholic parochial schools. He is the first of five children of Mexican immigrants to graduate from college. Ref is an adjunct professor in the School of Education at his alma mater, Loyola Marymount University, where he developed a master’s and administrative credential program for aspiring leaders in charter schools. He was appointed to the California Commission for Teacher Credentialing by Governor Jerry Brown in 2013. He is a Fellow of the inaugural class of the Pahara-Aspen Education Fellowship and a member of the Aspen Global Leadership Network.. Ref is proud to represent the diverse communities in Board District 5 as a member of the Los Angeles Unified School District Board of Education.