Leaders matter

Memphis educator named Tennessee’s principal of the year

PHOTO: Shelby County Schools
From left: Docia Generette-Walker receives Tennessee's principal of the year honor from Education Commissioner Candice McQueen. Generette-Walker leads Middle College High School in Memphis.

A Shelby County Schools high school principal is Tennessee’s 2016-17 principal of the year.

Docia Generette-Walker, who leads Middle College High School in Memphis, received the honor Monday evening in Nashville at a statewide conference for educators. A popular selective school, Middle College High was recognized as a Tennessee reward school for academic performance and progress in 2015, as well as a National Blue Ribbon School.

“Under her five years of leadership at the school, expectations were raised across the board and now all students participate and succeed in high-level courses,” according to a news release from the State Department of Education.

That leadership also included embracing the push to give teachers in Memphis more frequent feedback. “If you needed a coach, it used to have a negative connotation,” she told Chalkbeat earlier this year. “Now, the teachers are getting used to having someone observing them every week. It’s a break in the isolation. We all need that support.”

The state also announced that a Middle Tennessee educator has been named Tennessee’s supervisor of the year.

Jennifer Brown, assistant director of instruction in Sumner County Schools, has led the district’s teacher leader work. Under her leadership, the school system achieved its highest graduation rate and is among 10 Tennessee districts recognized by the College Board on the National AP Honor Roll.

Generette-Walker and Brown were selected from a field of nine principals and nine district supervisors, respectively, after being nominated by their peers.

“Leaders matter. They have been critical to our children’s success in Tennessee, and both of these women represent excellence in how they lead our schools,” Education Commissioner Candice McQueen said.

The winners for Tennessee’s three grand divisions were also recognized Monday. In additional to Generette-Walker, principal-of-the-year honors for Middle Tennessee went to Robin Newell of Mitchell-Neilson Schools in Murfreesboro City Schools. For East Tennessee, the winner was Susan Trent of Surgoinsville Elementary School in Hawkins County.

For supervisor of the year, the winner for West Tennessee went to Michelle Elliott in the Trenton Special School District, while Phillip Swanson, supervisor for McMinn County Schools, won for East Tennessee.

big gig

Former Denver schools administrator tapped to be D.C. schools chancellor

PHOTO: Denver Post file
Antwan Wilson when he was principal of Denver's Montbello High School.

Former Denver principal and assistant superintendent Antwan Wilson has been nominated to lead the high-profile Washington, D.C. school district.

“This is a tremendous opportunity,” Wilson told the Washington Post. “It is the premier job leading a district in the entire country.”

Washington, D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser, who nominated Wilson, praised him in a statement, referencing the fact that Wilson, 44, grew up in poverty.

“In his 20 plus years in education, Antwan Wilson has been a teacher, a principal, an assistant superintendent and a superintendent, and at every level, he has been successful,” she said. “Not only is he an experienced leader, Mr. Wilson is role model for our students. His success proves that with hard work, they can achieve what they set out to do.”

For the past two and a half years, Wilson has been superintendent of the Oakland, Calif. school district. Prior to that, he served for five years as assistant superintendent in Denver Public Schools, supervising DPS’ middle, high and alternative schools. He was previously an instructional superintendent in Denver and principal of the now-closed Montbello High School.

While in a leadership role in Denver, Wilson oversaw the turnaround of struggling Montbello High, which was shuttered and replaced with three smaller schools. He also helped with several other secondary-school initiatives.

“If you said five years ago ‘here’s what I’m going to do in Denver: cut the dropout rate in half, increase on time graduation rate by 20 points, and cut suspensions and expulsions by more than half,’ a lot of people would have said ‘be serious.’ He led those initiatives and he did it,” DPS Superintendent Tom Boasberg told the East Bay Times in 2014.

Mike Vaughn, who was chief communications officer for DPS during part of Wilson’s tenure, remembers him as a champion for all students, regardless of their background.

“Everything he did was focused on getting every kid a chance to get through high school and do well,” Vaughn said Tuesday. A lot of people talk about educational equity, Vaughn said, but “Antwan talks about it, lives it, breathes it and acts on it. He’s an inspiring person.”

The D.C. Council will have to approve Wilson’s nomination, according to the mayor’s statement. Wilson is expected to start Feb. 1 with a salary of $280,000.

Wilson will face several challenges as head of D.C. schools, the Washington Post reported, including increasing test scores and graduation rates for black male students, narrowing achievement gaps between the gentrifying city’s poor and affluent children, and negotiating a new contract with the teachers union.

Movers and shakers

Colorado League of Charter Schools president Nora Flood leaving to lead new Walton Family Foundation program

PHOTO: Nicholas Garcia
Nora Flood addresses an audience at a school board forum in Jefferson County.

The leader of the Colorado League of Charter Schools is leaving next year to help start a new program of the Walton Family Foundation, the league announced Friday.

Nora Flood has worked for the league for more than eight years and became president in 2013.

“I leave the organization humbled, honored, and excited to start a new chapter in my life,” Flood wrote in a letter to the organization’s schools and supporters. “I hope that you continue to support our team and the League’s ever-so-important work. And I look forward to seeing you all as we cross paths going forward.”

Flood said she felt comfortable leaving because of the strength of the association, which will celebrate its 25th anniversary in 2018.

“I believe that the League is in great hands with its talented staff and dedicated board,” she wrote. “The organization is incredibly healthy and sustainable.”

The league exists to support charter schools during their start-up phase, train school leaders and staff, and advocate for charters at the legislature. Charter schools are publicly funded but run independently.

Flood will become education director for the James Walton Fund, a program of the Walton Family Foundation. The foundation is among the largest proponents and fiscal supporters of charter schools in the nation. (The Walton Family Foundation is also a financial supporter of Chalkbeat).

In her new role, Flood will be responsible for identifying and growing successful nontraditional education models in the charter sector, especially the Montessori model, that encourages students to direct their learning.

Flood previously ran Montessori schools before joining the league. James Walton, an engineer who lives in the Denver area, has spent time volunteering at Montessori charters, and he previously started a Montessori teacher-training center.

The league’s board will begin a search for a new president after the Thanksgiving holiday.