Press Release: February 17, 2017

Pahara Institute Announces New Class of Leaders for NextGen Network

SAN FRANCISCO (February 17, 2017) – The Pahara Institute announced today the Spring 2017 cohort of its NextGen Network leaders. These 25 leaders have been selected to join a Pahara network designed to recognize and support outstanding emerging senior leaders who can amplify the voices of underrepresented communities that are currently not well served by our public schools.

“It has never been more important for our leaders to be able to bridge across historical divides and to be able to synthesize effective solutions that combine the best ideas while managing competing values and priorities,” said Kim Smith, Pahara Institute Founder and CEO. “We are thrilled to welcome to Pahara these NextGen leaders, who bring powerful visions for how to better connect communities and education, and personal insights about how to broaden and strengthen our collective efforts to make sure all of our children are prepared to thrive in college, life, work, and our democracy.”

The NextGen Network is a 12 month leadership development program that aims to identify and develop a diverse group of extraordinary emerging senior leaders with the potential to strengthen and shape the future of the educational excellence and equity movement. The movement for excellence and equity in American education is at a critical juncture. As this work evolves, it is important to cultivate and support leaders who bring diverse voices and perspectives to the movement, particularly those who represent communities that are currently not well served by our public schools. By identifying individuals who can amplify underrepresented voices, and providing them with high-level leadership development and networking opportunities, this program encourages and supports those who will become senior leaders in the field and helps strengthen the educational equity and excellence movement by engaging more diverse perspectives. The Spring 2017 NextGen Network leaders are:

  • Isabel Acosta, Director of Operations, Great Public Schools Now
  • Cheyenne Batista São Roque, Founding Principal & Managing Director, East Harlem Scholars Academies
  • Lizzie Choi, Chief Program Officer, Summit Public Schools
  • Mohammed Choudhury, Incoming Chief of Innovation, San Antonio Independent School District
  • George Deveney, Vice President of New Site Development, City Year
  • Jose Fuentes, Principal, First Avenue School
  • Vanessa Gonzalez, Vice President of Operations and Strategy, Education Forward DC
  • Tremaine Johnson, Deputy Director, JerseyCAN
  • Jeff Kang, State Engagement Manager, EducationSuperHighway
  • Stephanie Lo, Director of Programs, TED-Ed, TED
  • Andrea Lopez Fernandez, Principal, IDEA College Preparatory San Juan
  • Jennie Magiera, Chief Innovation Officer, Des Plaines School District 62
  • Dr. Artesius Miller, Founder & Executive Director, Utopian Academy for the Arts
  • Colleston Morgan, Jr., Chief Strategy Officer, Orleans Parish School Board
  • Dr. Icela Pelayo, Bilingual Multicultural Education Director, New Mexico Public Education Department
  • Betsy Peterson, Managing Director, STRIVE Prep
  • Jamilah Prince-Stewart, Founding Executive Director, FaithActs for Education
  • Steven Purcell, Director of College Partnerships, KIPP Foundation
  • Tracy Session, Oakland Community Team Lead, Teach For America – Bay Area
  • MaryJane Skjellerup, Managing Director, GO Public Schools
  • Steven Toledo, Deputy Director, National Latina Institute for Reproductive Health
  • Laina Vlasnik Yip, Director of the Charter Network Accelerator, Achievement First
  • Jason Weeby, Senior Fellow, Bellwether Education Partners
  • Shawna Wells, Director of The Network, Building Excellent Schools
  • Juliana Worrell, Associate Managing Director, Uncommon Schools

To access bios and photos of these NextGen Network leaders, click here.

For More Information: Idrissa Simmonds-Nastili, NextGen Director, Pahara Institute,

About the Pahara Institute

The Pahara Institute is a national nonprofit organization focused on supporting the sustainability, diversity, and quality of leadership for the educational excellence and equity movement. The guiding principle of the Pahara Institute is that bold improvements are needed to our public schools so that every child in America has access to the tools and skills he or she needs to be successful in life. Pahara’s programs are designed to identify leaders in education innovation, and through a time-tested dialogue approach, strengthen and sustain their efforts to bring about critical improvements to our public schools. For more information, please visit

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