Building a Legacy of Transformational Leadership

This spring, over 50 New Leaders alumni and current New Leaders participants gathered in Memphis, Tennessee. Learn how one district and local foundations are supporting the development of leaders at every level.
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5/23/23
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“If your goal is to become an equity-focused instructional leader with the ability to create the conditions within educational settings for all children and adults to learn their power and value,” explains Jeffrey Monroe, “that's what the Fellowship will do.” Monroe, chemistry teacher at Hollis F. Price Middle College High School in Memphis-Shelby County Schools (MSCS), recently completed our National Aspiring Principals Fellowship. An online principal certification program, the Fellowship creates a clear pathway for full-time teachers to move into school leadership. 

“If your goal is to become an equity-focused instructional leader with the ability to create the conditions within educational settings for all children and adults to learn their power and value, that's what the Fellowship will do.”
Jeffrey Monroe, Fellow & Teacher, Hollis F. Price Middle College High School 

Celebrating our alumni impact

As a future school principal, Monroe stands on the shoulders of over 700 school and district leaders in MSCS who have engaged in New Leaders leadership development programs. Since 2004, when our district partnership began, the leaders we developed have consistently moved into and excelled in leadership roles at every level: teacher leaders, assistant principals, principals, assistant superintendents and other senior district leader roles. For almost two decades, our alumni continue to drive outsized student gains and accelerate equity and excellence across MSCS schools. 

“New Leaders is a servant leadership model for us,” notes Dr. Angela Whitelaw, Deputy Superintendent of Schools and Academic Support. “They are humble enough to listen to us but we need courageous conversations, and that’s what I value most about our partnership with New Leaders.”

This spring, over 50 alumni—alongside current New Leaders participants, community members, our Memphis Advisory Board and key philanthropic partners—gathered to celebrate their collective impact and honor individuals who help to support and advance transformational leadership. The 2023 honorees include: 

Tameka Townes, Professional Learning Community (PLC) Coach, Sherwood Middle School

LaTonya Woods, Professional Learning Community (PLC) Coach, Sheffield Elementary School

Jeremy Park, President, Memphis Advisory Board & CEO, cityCurrent

Delores Brown, Associate Director, Program Operations & Production, New Leaders

Dr. Kendra Hightower, Principal, Ridgeway Early Learning Center

Investing in leadership development

One of the most significant champions of New Leaders in Memphis has been the Hyde Family Foundation, led by Barbara and J.R. “Pitt” Hyde. After a successful career in business as the founders of AutoZone, the Hydes have become leading philanthropists in the city, bringing New Leaders to Memphis in 2004. Barbara Hyde currently serves as a Board Member and former Board Chair at New Leaders and she is a passionate advocate of education reform both nationally and locally.

“One of the great benefits of our partnership is that it really created a pipeline of leaders year after year."
Holly Coleman, Program Director for High-Quality Education, Hyde Family Foundation 

One of the main focus areas of the foundation is high-quality education, and they have been dedicated partners of New Leaders in Memphis, giving over $11 million of support over the past 19 years. “There is nothing more important than investing in people. Just like corporate America, we have to remember that in education, it’s about investing in people, investing in strong leadership development, and then continuing to support leaders over time,” explains Holly Coleman, Program Director for High-Quality Education at the Hyde Family Foundation. 

She adds, “One of the great benefits of our partnership is that it really created a pipeline of leaders year after year, with alumni spread across many different schools, many different leadership roles, and in many cases in the highest-need schools. That continuous support made them into really strong leaders, many of whom went on to take on leadership roles in the central office where they are supporting other school leaders.” 

This school year, New Leaders provided leadership coaching to school and district leaders who are working to transform the lowest-performing schools in the district. Job-embedded leadership coaching provides expert guidance and actionable feedback to lead school improvement and drive measurable gains. We are also supporting two cohorts of professional learning coaches, like Townes and Woods, who are using their new instructional leadership skills to improve student learning outcomes across multiple classrooms—and amplifying their impact. 

Developing leaders across the leadership continuum is another aspect of the partnership that the foundation endorses. “New Leaders is continuous support, it’s not a one-and-done kind of leadership development,” reflects Coleman. “What gives the pipeline strength is that they’re training the emerging leaders too—teacher leaders, coaches, and assistant principals—who are going to be moving into leadership roles one day.” Tapping that next generation of leaders is a key investment and retention strategy. 

“New Leaders is continuous support, it’s not a one-and-done kind of leadership development. What gives the pipeline strength is that they’re training the emerging leaders too—teacher leaders, coaches, and assistant principals—who are going to be moving into leadership roles one day.”
Holly Coleman, Program Director for High-Quality Education, Hyde Family Foundation 

Preparing more teachers to step into the principal role

Looking ahead, MSCS is also partnering with New Leaders, the Hyde Family Foundation, and the Memphis Education Fund to ensure more future principals can enroll in our National Aspiring Principals Fellowship. Designed in partnership with two preeminent minority serving institutions—Morehouse College and Clark Atlanta University—the Fellowship honors the experiences and identities of educators of color and develops leaders who remove barriers to student success. For districts like MSCS, the Fellowship not only builds a pipeline of well-prepared principal candidates, it increases teacher retention via pathways for career advancement and reduces recruitment costs.

“There is a constant need for great school leaders, and New Leaders has an eye for people who are really committed,” adds Coleman. “New Leaders alumni have a heart for this work. They are still evolving and leading 15 and 20 years later.” 

Advancing a quality education for all

LaWanda Hill illuminated the lasting power of that commitment. Born in Jackson, Tennessee, Hill has lived in Memphis for over 35 years. She is a New Leaders alum and a member of the inaugural Memphis cohort. A former principal, she now serves as Executive Director, Program Implementation at New Leaders. “If you are a New Leaders alum, you always go back to your why to ensure a quality education for all,” she explained in her closing remarks. 

“The expectations for what I would do in school were not very high—according to some. I came from an environment where formal education in a schoolhouse setting was limited. But because I was touched by some special people on the inside of the school building, that went along with what I was getting at home, it drove me to do great—and greater—things.”

“If you are a New Leaders alum, you always go back to your why to ensure a quality education for all.”
LaWanda Hill, New Leaders alum and Executive Director, Program Implementation

“Doing great—and greater—things” for students is the end goal. At New Leaders, we believe that all children are capable of extraordinary things and that educational leaders, in partnership with the communities they serve, have unparalleled impact on the academic success and well-being of their students. The legacy of our alumni in Memphis attest to both—and the power of transformational school and district leadership.

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