Education Pioneers Selects New Cohort of Senior Leaders to Support Education Sector's COVID-19 Response

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National nonprofit names 24 senior leaders to provide essential capacity for school systems as they address pandemic-related challenges

COVID Response Fellows will provide chief of staff-type capacity at 23 organizations who together serve more than 7 million students across 13 states and the District of Columbia.

Education Pioneers (EP), a national nonprofit that builds the leadership and management capacity of the K-12 public education sector, today announced 24 senior leaders chosen for their new program focused on COVID-19 response in the education sector.

The EP COVID Response Fellowship provides school districts, charter school networks, state education agencies, and other organizations with chief of staff-type support for senior education administrative leaders managing COVID plans and priorities. COVID Response Fellows will work at 23 organizations who together serve more than 7 million students across 13 states and the District of Columbia.

As the 2020-2021 academic year continues, school systems nationwide continue to face unprecedented challenges in serving students and families due to the coronavirus pandemic. Recent analysis from the NWEA shows that student achievement in math has dropped 5 to 10 percentage points, with even larger declines for students of color. With half of students missing year-over-year testing, researchers fear that results may be even worse. Nationwide, more than 3 million vulnerable children are estimated to be displaced from school.

“The evidence is clearer every day that COVID-19 is exacerbating existing inequities in education. Responding to a crisis as vast and traumatic as the coronavirus requires adaptive, inclusive, and equity-oriented leadership,” said Melissa Wu, CEO of Education Pioneers. “Education Pioneers is proud to increase this type of leadership capacity at school systems during the COVID crisis. Our 24 COVID Response Fellows will help the K-12 sector address urgent challenges now and lay the foundations for a better, more equitable future.”

Most host organizations received COVID Response Fellowship capacity at no cost to themselves. Education Pioneers raised more than $3.7 million in philanthropic support to recruit and pay COVID Response Fellows directly as they serve 12-month work placements and participate in cohort-based leadership development. In addition to work placements, COVID Response Fellows will participate in a national cohort, which provides leadership development and knowledge-sharing opportunities among a group of peers doing similar work.

“COVID-19 is an unprecedented disruption to our community district, and we urgently needed additional capacity to tackle new challenges while also addressing existing inequities,” said Dr. Kyla Johnson-Trammell, Superintendent of Oakland Unified School District in Oakland, CA. “Education Pioneers recruited a diverse group of talented leaders who can help us and other school systems meet this moment. We are grateful to Education Pioneers and their philanthropic supporters for their help to rebuild K-12 more equitably.”

Education Pioneers has more than 15 years of experience recruiting and developing talent for the education sector, with more than 4,500 Alumni across the nation. Chosen from a competitive pool of 280 applicants, the 24 new COVID Response Fellows were selected for their management and execution skills, their orientation towards equity and inclusion, and their desire to help the K-12 sector respond to the ongoing pandemic. Fifty percent of COVID Response Fellows self-identify as leaders of color; Fellows have an average of 12 years of professional experience.

The 24 senior leaders who will complete the COVID Response Fellowship are:

Tirza Buelto, Providence Public Schools
Elizabeth Dill, Hartford Public Schools
Caitlin Gallagher, New Paradigm for Education
Martrice Gandy, ReGeneration Schools
Julie Gopalan, Rocketship Public Schools
Johntel Greene, New York City Department of Education
Karmin-Tia Greer, The SEED Foundation
Amanda Harless, Freedom Preparatory Academy Charter Schools
Nile Harris, Clarksdale Collegiate Public Charter School
Christopher Hill, Shelby County Schools
Carissa Godwin Holsted, Shelby County Schools
Damon Hoyle, Texas Education Agency
Gaines Johnson, Inglewood Unified School District
Jean Liu, Oakland Unified School District
Vin Menon, VISTA College Prep
Danielle Moehrke, Chicago Public Schools
Charlotte Nugent, Office of the State Superintendent of Education
Caitlin Paul, Los Angeles Unified School District
Jessica Post, Yakima School District
Abbie Ridenour, Marin Promise Partnership
Aeriell Robinson, The Surge Institute
Frances Spencer, KIPP Metro Atlanta
Etna Tiburcio, Excel Academy Charter Schools
Kenneth Walk, Boston Public Schools

"Our Education Pioneers COVID Response Fellow will help ensure that our COVID plans center health, safety, and equity for our students,” said Roblin Webb, Founder and CEO of Freedom Preparatory Academy Charter Schools in Memphis, TN, a charter network serving 2,350 students in grades PreK-12. “Without Education Pioneers, we would not have access to this dedicated capacity to address COVID-19 challenges."

To learn more about the COVID Response Fellowship, visit To invest in the COVID Response Fellowship or Education Pioneers’ work, contact Terrence Kneisel at terrence.kneisel [at]

About Education Pioneers

Education Pioneers builds the pipeline of leaders outside the classroom who enable teachers and students to be successful inside the classroom. Since 2003, Education Pioneers has recruited and trained over 4,500 leaders in partnership with more than 900 education organizations nationwide.

Of the organization’s Alumni in the workforce, more than 70% serve in education and lead or contribute to work that impacts public school students in major cities across the nation, most of whom are students of color and growing up in underserved areas. Learn more at

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Terrence Kneisel
since: 10/2009
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