new venture

Alyssa Whitehead-Bust, former top Denver schools administrator, launches new consulting firm

PHOTO: Denver Public Schools
Alyssa Whitehead-Bust, former chief academic and innovation officer for Denver Public Schools.

A former top Denver Public Schools administrator who left the district earlier this year is teaming up with the former CEO of an East Coast charter school network to start a consulting firm.

Alyssa Whitehead-Bust was DPS’s chief academic and innovation officer until January. Before serving as a district administrator, she was the founding principal of Highline Academy, a successful DPS charter school that opened in 2004. And before that, she worked as a consultant, helping to start more than 15 charter schools across the country.

In announcing her departure from DPS, Whitehead-Bust said she concluded the district had “a lot of good work underway” that she trusted would continue.

“It inspires me to want to go make a difference in a new system,” she said last December. She has been mentioned as a possible candidate for open superintendent jobs around the country.

Whitehead-Bust, who still lives in Denver with her family, said that since leaving DPS, she has worked with districts including Boston Public Schools, Tulsa Public Schools and the Cleveland Metropolitan School District.

She said she’s also worked with organizations such as the Washington-based Center on Reinventing Public Education and charter management organizations such as Aspire Public Schools, which has schools in California and Tennessee.

Her partner in her newest venture is Evan Rudall, a former teacher and charter school founder who subsequently served as CEO of the Uncommon Schools charter network, which has schools in New York, New Jersey and Massachusetts. He was also the founding CEO of Zearn, a nonprofit that creates digital math lessons.

In her time at DPS, Whitehead-Bust led the team that authorizes the district’s charter and innovation schools. Her team had several other duties as well, including designing and choosing curriculum and tests used by DPS schools, and putting in place training for teachers. She also created the Imaginarium, DPS’s research and development lab.

New Hire

Corporate leader tapped to handle facilities, business for Memphis schools

PHOTO: Daarel Burnette
Administrative offices for Tennessee's largest school district

Shelby County Schools has hired a corporate executive in Memphis to oversee its business operations.

PHOTO: Shelby County Schools
Beth Phalen

In her new role with Tennessee’s largest district, Beth Phalen will oversee facilities planning and maintenance, nutrition services, district purchases and contracts, transportation and risk management.

She was most recently executive vice president of strategy and operations for ISS Facility Services and before that served as vice president of business operations at Memphis-based ServiceMaster.

Phalen fills a vacancy open since mid-2015 and rounds out Superintendent Dorsey Hopson’s leadership team. Hopson took the helm in 2013 as the district’s first chief after the former Memphis City Schools merged with legacy Shelby County Schools.

The hire comes as Shelby County Schools is reshaping its facilities footprint and seeking to maintain a large number of aging buildings. The district also is seeking to diversify its business contracts to include more minority- and women-owned businesses.

Phalen replaces Hitesh Haria, now with Oakland Unified School District in California. Cerita Butler, the district’s director of business operations and procurement, has served as interim chief.

Movers & shakers

McQueen selects new chief of staff from State Board team

Candice McQueen is introduced in December 2014 as Tennessee's new education commissioner by Gov. Bill Haslam.

Laura Encalade is the new chief of staff for the Tennessee Department of Education, Commissioner Candice McQueen announced Monday.

Laura Encalade

Encalade isn’t moving far. The director of policy and research for the State Board of Education since 2015, she led projects including the state’s standards review process for math, English, science and social studies and the redesign of Tennessee’s teacher prep report card.

A native of Memphis, Encalade previously worked at the Department of Education as deputy director for the state’s $500 million Race to the Top grant and the director of educator talent. Prior to living in Nashville, she taught seventh- and eighth-grade social studies in St. Louis.

Encalade begins her new job on Feb. 27 and replaces Jayme Place Simmons, now Gov. Bill Haslam’s special assistant for strategy and policy.