National Alliance Celebrates Black History Month

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Recognizing four Black education leaders making an impact in the charter school community

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Today, the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools announces a month-long celebration of Black History Month highlighted by sharing the inspiring stories of four education leaders who are making an impact in the charter school community.  Each week throughout the month of February, the National Alliance will feature Black advocates, teachers and school leaders across its website and social channels, as part of the “Making Black History in the Moment” campaign. The campaign is designed to showcase leaders who are making Black History right now and touching the lives of thousands of students.

“Throughout the year, and especially during Black History Month, it’s important to acknowledge the tremendous contributions of Black Americans to our nation,” said Nina Rees, president and CEO, National Alliance for Public Charter Schools. “However, not all of these great leaders are found in history books. Some are making history in real time by changing the world around them and making our country better today. It’s our honor to highlight the accomplishments of four of these outstanding leaders who have chosen education as the field to make an impact,” added Rees.

Featured Leaders include:

Lenny McAllister, CEO
Pennsylvania Coalition of Public Charter Schools

Pennsylvania native Lenny McAllister has been a champion for education equity, civil rights, and policy reforms as a leading voice on local, statewide, and national platforms throughout his decades-long career in Pennsylvania and nationally. The growth of public charter schools in the state is at an all-time high due in part to the agility charter schools have been able to exercise in the face of the pandemic.

“I welcome the opportunity each day to be an advocate for charter students and their families as we work together to ensure these children have the academic opportunity they deserve,” said Mr. McAllister. “I believe education is the great equalizer and I am honored to support our network of charter schools, which serve students in every corner of the state,” says Mr. McAllister.

 

Genel Fowler, Instructional Guide
Detroit Achievement Academy 

A Detroit native, Genel Fowler has been a dedicated educator for more than five years in the city that raised her. Ms. Fowler was featured on the Today Show earlier this year for her remarkable dedication to students throughout the COVID-19 pandemic. Her boundless energy and enthusiasm are infectious, bringing joy to both students and fellow staffers. A born educator, Ms. Fowler says she decided on her profession when she was in elementary school. She prides herself on never giving up on a student and always seeing the best in each one.

“This is the reason I get up every day,” said Ms. Fowler. “I look at the young people in our school, and I see myself. I grew up in this community and I know I would never have made it through without teachers who believed in me. I want to be that person for someone else. When one of my students had to move and said he would no longer be able to attend our school, I made it my business to change that. Now, I pick him up on my way to school, and drop him off afterwards. I’m going to do whatever it takes.”

 

Khadijah Williams, Senior Education Organizer
Rocketship Public Schools 

Khadijah Williams is a nationally recognized advocate for homeless youth and a survivor of homelessness herself. After nearly 20 years of living without a permanent home — including time spent in Los Angeles’ infamous Skid Row— Ms. Williams was accepted into Harvard University, where she graduated in 2013.  Today she leads parent engagement work at Rocketship Public Schools, a charter school network based in the Bay area, Milwaukee, Nashville and Washington, D.C.

“I believe it is incumbent on a coalition of diverse leaders to seek opportunities to identify, challenge, and change prevailing narratives about educating vulnerable youth, while ensuring there is a place for marginalized voices within both the affected community and within positions of power,” says Ms. Williams. “All lives have value and we can’t afford to overlook talent and potential in anyone. Diverse leaders thrive when organizations prioritize the perspectives of all marginalized voices across departments, positions, and decision-making. I am committed to making sure everyone understands that.”

 

Lagra Newman, Founder and Head of School
Purpose Preparatory Academy Charter School 

Lagra Newman has a proven track record of transformative academic outcomes for students. Ms. Newman founded Purpose Prep in an economically-underserved area of Nashville. In 2017, Purpose Prep was recognized as a Tennessee Reward School for academic achievement, ranking within the top 5% of schools in the state of Tennessee. Purpose Prep is the first elementary school in North Nashville to ever have earned this distinction. It was also recognized as one of the top academic performing schools that accelerates the achievement of economically-underserved students.

“I believe in the power of a high-quality education and I know it can change the trajectory of a child’s life. As an education advocate and leader of color, I am devoted to educational equity. I want all children to have access to high-quality public schools. As the Founder of Purpose Preparatory Academy Charter School, I am a part of the solution to realize this vision for my community,” says Ms. Newman.

 

From the landmark Supreme Court decision, Brown v. Board of Education in 1954, to the sweeping impact of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 on schools, to the hyper-local work of school leaders, teachers and advocates, education and Black History have long been tied. To ensure all students have access to an outstanding public education that nurtures their unique brilliance we salute generations of educators and freedom fighters -- symbols of the role education has always had in the ongoing fight for equality.

“I am humbled by the work of the four leaders we are honored to recognize this month,” said National Alliance President and CEO Nina Rees. “Mr. McAlister, Ms. Fowler, Ms. Williams and Ms. Newman are making history right now as they work alongside thousands of charter school educators to close the opportunity gap and deliver an excellent education to every student they reach.” 

For media interested in interviewing any of the “Making Black History in the Moment” featured leaders, please reach out to Reed Mitchell at reed@publiccharters.org.