New Cohort of Exceptional K-12 Education Leaders Joins The Broad Academy

A new cohort of 15 exceptional leaders in public education has joined The Broad Academy, the nation’s most prominent development program for urban school system superintendents.


The Broad Academy prepares passionate, proven leaders to transform America’s urban school systems so every student receives a world-class education. In 2012, the program was revamped, expanding its scope, nearly doubling in length and placing greater emphasis on leadership development and helping system leaders grow high-performing organizations focused on the twin goals of excellence and equity for all students.


The third Academy cohort to participate in the new program is comprised of 15 educators from across the country who are focused on improving the learning outcomes and life opportunities of the students they serve.


  • Mary Elizabeth Davis, chief academic officer of Georgia’s Cobb County School District, has shifted the district’s leadership strategy to better support teaching and learning. She organized the central office to position financial resources and professional expertise closer to schools. She developed innovative learning models that address underperformance while strengthening literacy instruction to ensure every child reads on grade level. And after decades of one-size-fits-all models of learning resources, she established a process to delivering content that relies on locally developed, open-source and customized publisher content.


  • As founder and chief executive officer of Citizens of the World Charter Schools, Kriste Dragon is driven to broaden the definition of what excellence in public education contains, requires and accomplishes. She believes that children grow into strong critical thinkers when they have the opportunity to learn alongside others with different backgrounds and perspectives. The first intentionally diverse national school network, CWC places importance on teaching emotional well-being as well as academic well-being and includes some of the highest performing schools in the state of California.


  • In the South Learning Community of Fulton County Public Schools, where he serves as senior area superintendent, Donald Fennoy has led initiatives to increase the graduation rate by double digits, boost access and pass rates on the SAT and Advanced Placement exams and dramatically decrease student suspension rates. His effort to create a “best in class” learning experience for all students in the district’s largest and most economically disadvantaged learning community is driving more families to choose their neighborhood school as the first choice for educating their children.


  • Scott Given, founder and CEO of UP Education Network in Massachusetts, is dedicated to rapidly transforming persistently struggling schools into extraordinary schools that sustain high achievement over time. Each UP school incorporates innovations in instructional practice, time, resources and technology from the highest-performing schools, creating a new, high-quality public school model where schools remain part of their respective districts. At UP’s first restart school, students have had the highest median growth percentile in middle-school mathematics statewide in each of its three years of operation.


  • A former National Teacher of the Year, Jason Kamras currently serves as chief of instructional practice for District of Columbia Public Schools. In this role, he leads the district’s efforts to accelerate growth in teacher and principal practice to ensure outstanding instruction in every classroom across the city. In his earlier work as head of the system’s human capital team, he led the design and implementation of several key initiatives that have helped DCPS become the fastest improving urban public school system in the country.


  • Widely considered one of the nation’s premier open-enrollment STEM-focused schools, DSST Public Schools is committed to transforming public education in Denver — not just on its own campuses. Under the leadership of Bill Kurtz, DSST has partnered with Denver Public Schools to support educator growth and capacity building. DSST recently built an innovative Teacher Career Pathway as a resource for teacher growth and development and trained principals for DPS alongside its own with the goal of creating a districtwide pipeline of strong school leaders.


  • Aurora Lora, Oklahoma City Public Schools’ associate superintendent of student achievement and accountability, focuses on providing the right kinds of supports from central office so that educators and students can focus on teaching and learning. She has grown the district curriculum department from five to 35 employees, providing more support to principals and teachers. Aurora also implemented a 90-minute reading block in all elementary schools as well as secondary math strategies which produced district-wide double-digit math gains across multiple grade levels in just one year.


  • An immigrant and English learner herself, Ana Ponce is forging a path to successfully educate English-language learners to aim for college and thrive in today’s workforce. As the chief executive officer of Camino Nuevo Charter Academy, Ana has grown the organization to serve nearly 3,500 students in learning environments that embrace and leverage the unique cultural assets of the local community. More than 95 percent of their students graduate from high school and more than 80 percent of those are accepted at four-year colleges.


  • #AllSchoolsRise is more than a hashtag for Paymon Rouhanifard, superintendent of Camden Public Schools in New Jersey. It’s the goal of the district’s improvement plan — developed in partnership with the community — to advance safety, facilities, learning, parent friendliness and central-office effectiveness, all with the ultimate goal of ensuring every student has the opportunity to earn an excellent public education. In the last year alone, Camden’s graduation rate rose six points, more students attended preschool than ever before and students, staff and families all reported feeling safer.


  • Using comprehensive, transparent progress measures is critical to improving student achievement. As assistant superintendent in Sacramento City Unified School District, Penny Schwinn developed the region’s first multiple-measure accountability framework as well as its first school choice calculator, making it easier for families to find best-fit schools for their children. To increase the pipeline of strong school leaders, she also created a three-tiered principal development program. Penny now brings that same drive for excellence as chief of assessment, accountability, turnaround and performance for the Delaware Department of Education.


  • Derwin Sisnett, co-founder and chief executive officer of Gestalt Community Schools, believes that strong schools catalyze the development of distressed communities. For him, it is more than just education plus community; it’s about ensuring deep relationships between the two. As the head of a local community development corporation, Derwin established Gestalt’s first public charter in Memphis. Its schools are now among the highest performing in the state and anchor over 40 acres of neighborhood revitalization efforts that include housing, health & wellness and the arts.


  • To enable students to drive their own learning, Diane Tavenner founded Summit Preparatory Charter High School in 2003, which quickly earned a reputation as one of the nation’s top public high schools. Today, she is founder and chief executive officer of Summit Public Schools, serving grades 6-12 in California and Washington State. Summit seeks to leverage its work for broader impact on public education through innovative partnerships like the Summit Basecamp, a partnership program supporting public schools nationwide that are exploring or expanding personalized learning.


  • Under the leadership of founder and CEO Tom Torkelson, IDEA Public Schools was launched in Texas’ Rio Grande Valley with the vision of “college for all children.” Since then, IDEA has grown to 44 campuses across the state that are making that vision a reality — for nine straight years, every IDEA senior has defied the odds and been accepted to college. What’s more, IDEA alumni, most of whom are first-generation college goers, graduate from college at a rate five times higher than the national average among low-income students.


  • LEARN Charter School Network has received national recognition for providing low-income students in the Chicagoland region with the academic foundation and support to earn a college degree. President and CEO Gregory White firmly believes the seeds for college success must be sown and cultivated early in a child’s education. As a network of college-prep elementary schools, LEARN is closing historic achievement gaps. By eighth grade, students are meeting proficiency standards on the Illinois state assessment at rates comparable to or better than statewide averages.


  • As chief executive officer of The Chicago Public Education Fund, Heather Young Anichini recently raised $20 million to identify, seed and scale solutions to challenges facing the country’s third largest public-school system. These investments will double the number of high-performing principals in Chicago by 2018, impacting one in every three Chicago students. To magnify the impact of the city’s best principals, Anichini helped launch Breakthrough Schools: Chicago, a local-national partnership designed to enable top educators to lead the transformation to 21st-century schools.


“Each of these Fellows brings a unique set of experiences to the cohort. What is common among them is an undaunted drive for social justice and a deep-seated belief in the potential for public education to become the great equalizer for all of our nation’s young people. To our Fellows, ‘all’ truly does mean ‘all,’” said Christina Heitz, managing director of The Broad Academy, a program of The Broad Center for the Management of School Systems.

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