Chief of Tennessee education group SCORE to step down and pass baton to colleague

The longtime leader of one of Tennessee’s most influential education advocacy organizations is stepping down and will be succeeded by her chief lieutenant.

Jamie Woodson will leave her job as CEO of the State Collaborative on Reforming Education, also known as SCORE, to become the group’s senior adviser.

David Mansouri, SCORE’s president for the past three years, will take over as both president and CEO with the new year.

The transition was announced Thursday in an email to SCORE’s supporters from former U.S. Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, chairman of the nonprofit, nonpartisan advocacy and research institution that he founded in 2009.

Frist said Woodson requested the change after eight years at the helm. He credited the former state lawmaker, who championed public education during her 12 years in Tennessee’s General Assembly, for helping SCORE to become “one of the nation’s best-in-class, policy-focused nonprofits” advocating for students, families, and communities.

Earlier this week, the group’s board of directors voted unanimously to name Mansouri as SCORE’s new leader.

Mansouri joined the organization in 2010 and has had roles in communications, outreach, management, policy, and research, stepping increasingly into the limelight on SCORE’s advocacy work in recent years.

“He is uniquely positioned to lead SCORE as we support the transition of so many state and local leaders,” Frist wrote supporters, “and he will also launch and lead SCORE’s new strategic planning process to quickly set the course for where our organization will lead moving forward.”

Frist founded SCORE the year before a massive overhaul of Tennessee’s public education system in conjunction with the state’s $500 million federal award in 2010 from the Obama-era Race to the Top competition. At the time, Tennessee ranked near the bottom on national tests and was considered a laggard in public education.

SCORE produced a roadmap for improvement and convened state, local, and national partners to promote policies and practices aimed at greater student success. Since that time, Tennessee has become one of the nation’s fastest-improving states in student achievement.

Woodson, 46, recently was appointed by Gov. Bill Haslam to the board of trustees at the University of Tennessee, her alma mater, and also serves as national co-chair of the Knight Commission on Trust, Media and Democracy, which seeks to restore civic discourse and public trust in leading democratic institutions.

She has been mentioned as possible state education commissioner under gov.-elect Bill Lee, but told Chalkbeat that she’s not a candidate for that job. She said the timing of the handoff at SCORE is “purely coincidence.”

“My goal right now,” Woodson said, “is to make sure that the next governor and the next commissioner get off to a great start and continue the momentum that’s been created by partners all across Tennessee and the nation to help Tennessee students achieve their full promise and potential.”

Mansouri, 34, previously worked in political consulting and public relations and once was an aide to the late U.S. Sen. Fred Thompson of Tennessee. He attended Tennessee public schools and earned degrees from Rice University and Vanderbilt University’s Owen Graduate School of Management and also is a founding board member of Nashville Classical Charter School.

He told Chalkbeat that he comes into the CEO job at a “unique moment,” as SCORE approaches its 10th year and as a new governor and General Assembly take office.

“Our No. 1 priority over the next six months will be making sure that the new administration and new members of the legislature and new leaders in public office have the right support, knowledge, and context about how we have made so much improvement in Tennessee, “ he said.

SCORE, which has a 20-member staff and offices in Nashville, is funded by private donations from foundations, corporations, and individuals. Among its supporters in Tennessee are the Hyde Family Foundation, the Ayers Foundation, and the Benwood Foundation. National supporters include the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the W.K. Kellogg Foundation, and the Walton Family Foundation. (Chalkbeat, which is an independent and nonprofit news organization, also receives funding from some of these groups. You can find our full list of supporters here.)

The group’s engagement work includes the SCORE Prize to celebrate high-performing schools and districts and the Tennessee Educator Fellowship, which has developed more than 185 teacher-leaders across the state.