Announcing Our COVID Response Fellowship Cohort

Nine months into the pandemic, schools continue to face unprecedented challenges in equitably serving students and families. 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.

In response to this ongoing educational crisis, EP is proud to announce our COVID Response Fellowship cohort — a diverse group of 24 senior leaders who will add 12 months of critical leadership and management capacity at school districts, charter school networks, and other education agencies on the front lines of education’s pandemic challenges.

A new program announced this summer, the COVID Response Fellowship places senior leaders as chiefs of staff to superintendents and senior administrators in school systems, organizing and coordinating essential work as schools implement, learn from, and adapt their pandemic plans.

With the generous support of philanthropic supporters, most Partner organizations benefit from this COVID-specific capacity at no costs to themselves. EP has raised $3.7M to place our 24 Fellows at 23 organizations across 13 states and Washington, DC. Together, Fellows and Partners will serve more than 7 million students nationwide.

Diverse Leaders Utilizing Expertise to Aid COVID Response

Chosen from a competitive pool of 280 applicants and 60 finalists, our 24 COVID Response Fellows bring an average 12 years of professional experience to their new roles. They will utilize expertise developed from a compelling variety of collective experience: our cohort includes district and charter administrators, business consultants, chiefs of staff for local government officials, and more. Eight Fellows are returning EP Alumni.

Knowing that the pandemic is also disproportionately affecting students of color, low-income communities, and other vulnerable populations, we prioritized building a representative cohort of leaders. 45% of COVID Response Fellows self-identify as Black or Latinx, with 50% overall identifying as leaders of color.

There is no comparison to the frontline medical teams leading the pandemic response efforts, but in a small way, behind the scenes, behind computers and alongside an eager community of other driven leaders, I am humbled to have this opportunity to transition my career in direct support of COVID response efforts within education. It is an immense challenge and honor to serve in this role.  

– Jessica Post, COVID Response Fellow at Yakima School District

Partner Organizations Serving 7 Million+ Students

The COVID Response Fellowship specifically serves school districts, charter school networks, state education agencies, and other education nonprofits on the front lines of education’s pandemic challenges. With philanthropic support, we’re pleased to serve 23 Partners across 13 states and Washington, DC who in total impacting 7 million students nationwide. COVID Response Partners include ten school districts (including the US’ three largest districts), nine charter networks, two state education agencies, and two other education organizations.

COVID Response Fellows are providing chief of staff-level support to superintendents and senior administrators at their placement organization. Each Fellow is taking on a critical role to organize and coordinate essential work as schools implement, learn from, and adapt their pandemic plans — with an eye not just on the immediate crisis, but also on long-term opportunities to increase educational equity.

Working with Los Angeles Unified School District’s Chief of Staff, Caitlin Paul is managing the training, performance, and operations for a multi-site COVID testing protocol that serve 75,000 staff in the nation’s second largest school district of 650,000 students.
Working for Chicago Public Schools’ Deputy Chief of Staff in the Office of the CEO, Danielle Moehrke is supporting stakeholder engagement around district reopening plans, so 350,000 students and their families know what to expect. .
At Boston Public Schools, Kenneth Walk is working with the Deputy Chief of Equity & Strategy to prioritize equity and coherence across the district’s COVID response plan for 125 schools, driving critical internal and external communications.
Christopher Hill is working with Shelby County Schools’ Associate Superintendent of Charter Schools to develop and monitor learning plans and COVID data for the district’s 50 charter schools, identifying actionable trends and learnings that could impact 16,000 charter school students.
At New Paradigm for Education charter network in Detroit, Caitlin Gallagher is coordinating systems and processes to ensure that all students, families, and teachers all have the technology and connectivity they need during this school year.
Etna Tiburcio is driving Excel Academy Charter Schools’ reopening plan, facilitating cross-team meetings, and implementing processes and technologies to enable safe operations for four schools and 1,400 students.
Damon Hoyle is working directly with Texas Education Agency’s Chief of Staff to coordinate cross-agency COVID data collection across the state’s 1,200 school districts and charters.

For a full list of COVID Response Fellows and the Partners
for whom they’re working, click here

“Our Education Pioneers COVID Response Fellow will help ensure that our COVID plans center health, safety, and equity for our students. Without Education Pioneers, we would not have access to this dedicated capacity to address COVID-19 challenges.”

– Roblin Webb, Founder and CEO of Freedom Preparatory Academy Charter Schools

Collective Learning to Accelerate Response

Alongside their placements, COVID Response Fellows will regularly convene as a leadership cohort  — leveraging the benefits of peers doing similar work across the country. Through structured programming and organic best practice sharing, Fellows will not only increase their individual leadership and management capacity, they’ll be able to accelerate collective reflection and learning across school systems nationwide.

Curriculum will focus on project management, systems thinking, people-centered practices, and inclusive leadership — pillars that can help COVID Response Fellows develop the skills, mindsets, and orientations to lead during complex current times. Fellows have access to bi-monthly virtual convenings, 1:1 coaching, and other high-quality resources to help them meet this unique moment.

Thank You to Our Philanthropic Supporters

In addition to EP’s general supporters, we are grateful to the national and local funders who specifically contributed to the costs of COVID Response Fellows’ stipend, benefits, and programmatic support.

Anonymous  ♦ Barr Foundation  ♦ Jim and Nancy Bildner  ♦ Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation  ♦ Charles and Lynn Schusterman Family Foundation ♦ The Charlotte Foundation  ♦ Charter School Growth Fund ♦ County of Marin ♦ Crown Family Philanthropies  ♦ Education Forward DC ♦ HA Vance Foundation ♦ Koshland Foundation ♦ OSSE’s Office of Public Charter School Financing & Support ♦ Rainwater Charitable Foundation ♦ The Ralph M. Parsons Foundation

“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. EP recruited a diverse group of talented leaders who can help us and other school systems meet this moment. We are grateful to EP and their philanthropic supporters for their help to rebuild K-12 more equitably.”

– Dr. Kyla Johnson-Trammell, Superintendent of Oakland Unified School District

2020-2021 Education Pioneers COVID Response Fellows

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