The Broad Academy, the nation’s most prominent professional-development program for current and aspiring urban school-system leaders, welcomes a new cohort of exceptional and diverse K-12 education leaders.
The two-year Broad Academy program — which is operated by The Broad Center — supports passionate, proven leaders who are deeply focused on excellence and equity for every student and family they serve. The cohort is comprised of aspiring urban and state superintendents as well as leaders already running high-performing public-school systems as they work to grow their organizations’ effectiveness and increase their impact.
Throughout its 17 years, The Broad Academy has developed a diverse network of alumni working towards the day that every student graduates ready for college, careers and life. While nearly half of all Academy fellows are women and over half identify as leaders of color, the Academy continues to work towards building a network of leaders that better represents the students and families they serve. This year’s cohort is 58 percent female and 74 percent leaders of color. The strong network includes 154 leaders who have served as superintendents or chief executives of local and state school systems; 74 are currently serving in these leadership roles.
“The Broad Academy fellows were selected based on many factors, one of the most important being the progress they have made in advancing educational equity for the students they serve.” said Hoa Truong, managing director of The Broad Academy. “Through the program, we hope to inspire our fellows to do more than what they previously thought was possible to further that progress, because we believe that it is not possible to achieve educational excellence without equity.”
Learn more about each of the new Broad Academy fellows:
As Louisiana’s assistant state superintendent of assessment, accountability, analytics and early childhood, Jessica Baghian is committed to ensuring increased access and academic success for every child in Louisiana, particularly children with a history of academic struggles. Jessica leads Louisiana’s early childhood to grade 12 assessment and accountability systems, as well as its early childhood strategy and the data functions supporting the agency. During her tenure, Louisiana students have achieved record-high college enrollment rates, graduation rates, Advanced Placement access and passage rates, and ACT scores.
Akeshia Craven-Howell, Charlotte Mecklenburg Schools’ associate superintendent for student assignment and school choice, is increasing equitable access to high-quality schools districtwide. She helped lead the district’s comprehensive student assignment review, which made socioeconomic status a priority in the CMS school choice lottery, paired affluent and high poverty schools to create diverse schools, and redefined school attendance boundaries with socioeconomic diversity in mind. Akeshia has almost doubled the district’s magnet portfolio and dramatically improved career and technical education outcomes for students districtwide.
With her dad unable to read or write and her mom having only a 6th grade education, Yolie Flores learned early on that education was the way out of poverty and the key to a fulfilling life. The first in her family to graduate from college, Yolie has dedicated her life to addressing inequities so that all children succeed. Today, Yolie is the chief program officer with the Campaign for Grade-Level Reading, where she is working nationally to remove barriers, lift up parents, and ensure that more low-income kids read proficiently by third grade.
Nella García Urban is the chief program officer at YES Prep Public Schools where her passion is increasing educational attainment for all students, regardless of background. Nella joined YES Prep in 2004 and has served in a variety of campus leadership roles before transitioning to lead the Teaching Excellence Program, which became the first charter school certifying agent for new teachers in Texas. Her work in preparing teachers prepared her to later lead talent, focusing on diversity and teacher retention. In her current role, she is responsible for leading excellence in teaching and learning with the goal of college readiness for all YES Prep students.
As executive director, Kelly Garrett spearheaded and oversees the growth of KIPP St. Louis Public Schools which has launched six schools and aims to serve over 3,000 amazing scholars who will change the trajectory of the city’s future. With a focus on school leadership and a commitment to implementing a strong foundation for human capital development, the KIPP St. Louis team is creating pathways to ensure students have the tools, skills, and character traits needed to pursue choice-filled lives in college, career, and beyond.
A highly effective teacher in every classroom preparing all students for college, leadership and life is at the core of the work for Annette Gonzalez, chief academic officer for Green Dot Public Schools California. Annette and her team have developed a comprehensive system of supports for teachers and administrators including professional development, coaching services and a multiple measure evaluation system. She believes in leading with support to ensure that students have a joyful, rigorous learning experience in every classroom, every day.
Dr. Theodis Lamar Goree is the superintendent of Caddo Parish Public Schools in Shreveport, Louisiana. In his five years of service, Dr. Goree has worked to turn the tide for the district amid an academic and equity crisis. When faced early on with the threat of a state takeover of 10 chronically failing schools, he established the Transformation Zone – a nationally recognized model designed to turn around underperforming, high-poverty schools. Dr. Goree was recently named the 2019 Louisiana State Superintendent of the Year.
Under her motto “Better Together,” Dr. Tawana Grover, superintendent of Grand Island Public Schools, rallied the district to adopt a five-year strategic plan with one unified vision: Students Who Thrive. GIPS is focused on personalized learning and has increased the number of students taking AP classes. Dr. Grover led the securing of a grant marking a $13.6 million impact for first-generation college students. As Grand Island Public School’s first female superintendent and Nebraska’s first African-American superintendent, Dr. Grover believes in breaking down barriers and opening doors of equity for all students.
Hrag Manuel Hamalian believes that schools should be community hubs providing holistic, inclusive support for all students to achieve academic excellence and grow their unique talents. As chief executive officer of Bright Star Schools, he has strategically grown the organization from four to nine schools, creating community-based school clusters that provide TK-12 education for 3,400 students in three unique neighborhoods of Los Angeles. Under Hrag’s leadership, the BSS team has built professional development, created wellness and sustainability initiatives for teachers resulting in over 85 percent retention year over year, increased alumni college persistence rates in two- and four-year colleges to 86 percent, and built numerous partnerships within the communities they serve.
As the senior executive director for school design and charter partnerships, Melissa Harris oversees a portfolio, which affects the lives of 1.1 million New York City public school students. Melissa is a senior leader within the NYC Department of Education managing New York City’s new school pipeline; overseeing charter school authorization, policy, operations and finance, as well as leading the Department’s school redesign strategy. Under Melissa’s leadership, New York City is engaged in a monumental district-charter partnership program, which fosters meaningful collaboration between district and charter schools aimed at improving teaching and learning for all New York City students.
Dr. Shelton Jefferies believes that education is a vehicle for empowerment. As the superintendent of Nash-Rocky Mount Public Schools, he passionately advocates for both equity and excellence in all district initiatives. At NRMPS he focused on broadening integrated student supports to help schools identify risk factors early and implement appropriate interventions to address chronic absenteeism. Dr. Jefferies is best known for redesigning traditional settings such as CITI high school, the Center for Industry Technology and Innovation, which focuses on providing industry certifications or an Associate Degree in Automotive Systems Technology.
Currently Cindy Lesinski is the director, financial management and comptroller (chief financial officer) for the Headquarters Air Force Global Strike Command at Barksdale Air Force Base, Louisiana. She is responsible for the planning, prioritization, allocation, and accounting of a $6.2 billion budget. She also has oversight of the pay services for more than 33,000 professionals, operating at nine wings that control the nation’s nuclear inventory and bomber aircraft.
Roberto Padilla is the superintendent of the Newburgh Enlarged City School District in New York. From humble beginnings as a child, Padilla learned early on the true meaning of resiliency and grit. He is a lifelong educator having been a teacher, assistant principal, principal, coach, and leadership consultant. Even today, he considers himself a teacher who just happens to be a superintendent. He is widely recognized for his leadership in turning around failing schools and supporting school district leaders both nationally and internationally on change leadership.
Heather G. Peske is the senior associate commissioner for instructional support at the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education. Her role combines her experiences as a teacher, policymaker and researcher to ensure nearly one million students have access to rigorous standards, rich and meaningful instructional materials and effective educators. To set rigorous expectations for Massachusetts students, she managed the revision of student standards in ELA-literacy, math, and history and social science. She led the implementation of the Educator Evaluation Framework, impacting 79,000 educators across the state and increasing meaningful feedback.
Stephanie Soliven of Brevard Public Schools is focused on providing each student high quality educational experiences. As assistant superintendent for secondary leading and learning, she has increased opportunities for students in career and technical education, academic acceleration programs, and dual enrollment. Stephanie believes that all educational improvements happen at the classroom level. She works closely with her team of district leaders and school principals to analyze content, student engagement, and school support systems to ensure all students are met with high expectations and equitable resources.
Dr. Soner Tarim is a founder and former chief executive officer of Harmony Public Schools, one of the largest K-12 charter school networks in Texas with a strong focus on STEM education in underserved communities. His leadership philosophy recognizes the need to develop meaningful partnerships, maintain open collaborative lines of communication, and leverage relationships with high-level corporate, business, civic, and legislative leadership to advance the mission of choice in public education. Currently Soner is developing a new national public charter school program, Royal Public Schools, that incorporates STEM with fine arts, reading and writing, and social emotional learning.
Dr. Bobby White is the founder and chief executive officer of Frayser Community Schools, an organization designed to positively transform schools with the support of the community. He leads and operates authentic neighborhood, zone enrolled, application-free schools that embody and personify a culture that focuses on college, career, and community while developing new traditions and building pride. He is looked to for his experience in developing innovative ways to create positive school culture and for transforming low-performing schools.
As the national superintendent of Learn4Life Schools, Dr. Caprice Young serves 40,000 secondary school students in more than 80 learning centers in California, Ohio, and Michigan. Learn4Life re-engages students with learning needs exceeding the scope of traditional schools, achieving an 86 percent success rate. Raised in a foster family, Dr. Young brings her own family experience to her work re-engaging students who have experienced trauma prior to changing their story at Learn4Life. Her students graduate to be lifelong learners, economic participants, and civically engaged.