Strong Leaders Take the Helm at Green Dot Schools Across the Country

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As we begin a new school year, Green Dot Public Schools is proud to introduce a number of new school leaders. While not all are new faces at their schools, they are all new to the helm. These educators will drive the direction of our schools, embody our mission to serve all students, and inspire their teachers, families and communities to commit to excellence in public education.

With the opening of two new schools--Ánimo Compton Charter School in Los Angeles and Rainier Valley Leadership Academy High School in Seattle--Green Dot now serves nearly 15,000 students, taught by over 1,300 inspiring educators and staff.

Meet a few of the new school leaders this year:

Excel Public Charter School: Andra Maughan

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Andra Maughan comes to Excel Public Charter School with 15 years of teaching and leadership experience and is excited to join the team at Excel. She graduated from Central Washington University with a bachelor’s degree in education and economics, and earned her Masters of Education from the University of Washington. As a teacher, Maughan taught students with special needs, with a focus on social/emotional and behavioral disabilities.

She values building strong relationships with students and families and believes that when schools partner with families, students are more successful. After teaching and working as a special education consulting teacher for Seattle Public Schools central office, Maughan went back to the University of Washington’s Danforth Educational Leadership Program where she earned her principal’s credential. As a school leader, Maughan was the assistant principal at Chief Sealth International High School, principal at Beacon Hill International School, and principal at the Original Van Asselt Early Learning Center--all within Seattle Public Schools.

In her experiences as a school leader, she has demonstrated a commitment to equity and opportunity for all students and is committed to closing the opportunity gap and ensuring that all students are prepared with the skills necessary to graduate ready for the future of their choice.

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Kirby Middle School: Marian Williams

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Before becoming the principal at Kirby Middle School, Marian Williams began her career as a sixth grade math teacher with Teach For America in a Memphis City School. She then went on to teach two more years at a charter school where her students’ scores landed in the highest possible growth category both years, earning her the recognition of a level 5 math teacher. During that time, she also gained experience in operations as a summer logistics intern. Prior to joining Green Dot as an Administrator in Residence (AIR), she grew her capacity for teacher leadership and coaching as a Manager of Teacher Leadership and Development at Teach For America.

Williams is no stranger to the Kirby community. She served at Kirby while she was in the AIR program, and ended up being promoted to Assistant Principal. “I’m both excited and incredibly grateful for the opportunity to serve as the Principal of Kirby Middle School,” said Williams. “While school turnaround can be challenging, it is also extremely rewarding and I know I have an amazing team and a great deal of support to reach all of the goals we’ve set this year.”

She is known as passionate, resilient, and consistent among all stakeholders; and she’s excited to continue working colleagues of a similar mindset. “Due to the skillset of our teachers and staff as well as our commitment to fully integrate restorative practices, it is my hope and belief that our students will reach unprecedented levels of growth,” said Williams. She plans to maintain strong ties to parents and the community at large while ensuring all students are being prepared for success in college, leadership, and life.

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Hillcrest High School: Christina Austin

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Hillcrest High School Principal Christina Austin began her career in education as a seventh grade math teacher in Memphis City Schools. She taught middle and high school math for eight years, and transitioned to Green Dot as an Algebra 2 teacher at Fairley High School in 2014.

Wanting to “grow her dot,” Austin then became a math curriculum specialist, coaching math teachers across all of the Green Dot schools in Memphis. After a year of coaching, she became the Assistant Principal at Hillcrest, where she’s served for the past two years. Last year, she was selected as Green Dot’s Assistant Principal of the Year at the Sixth Annual Golden Dot Awards. “Ms. Austin’s belief in all students is paralleled by her passion for excellence and deep sense of personal responsibility,” said one of her anonymous nominators for the award.

“I am really excited to continue the foundation we have built at Hillcrest High School,’ said Austin. “I look forward to a great year working with our students, staff, parents and our community. Go Vikings!”

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Ánimo City of Champions Charter High School: Cen’Cere Cooks

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As the new Principal at Ánimo City of Champions Charter High School, Cen’Cere Cooks is excited to continue building a foundation for the new school: “I am eager to begin the work that will impact Inglewood families for many years to come.”

Her passion for education and supporting the success of all students has been shaped over the past 14 years as a former English and English Language Development (ELD) teacher, ELD program coordinator, Administrator in Residence, and as the Assistant Principal at Ánimo City of Champions.

“In each of my roles, I have sought to ensure the success of each student and the school, by providing the best instructional opportunities and crafting a capacity of excellence,” said Cooks. It is her number one priority to lead with equity, ensuring that every student is prepared for college, leadership, and life.

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Ánimo Compton Charter School: Chaleese Norman

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For Ánimo Compton Charter School Principal Chaleese Norman, one of the most exciting elements of leading a new school is that the opportunity to rethink how “school” is done: “We have a chance to use the most recent research and best practices to create a place that will not defer another dream but push every single scholar closer to reaching any positive goals they aspire to achieve.”

Norman grew up in Chesapeake, Virginia. She attended Howard University in Washington, D.C., where she majored in Health Management, although her long-term goal was to become a teacher. Fortunately, it was at Howard where she learned about Teach For America, which ultimately brought her to Los Angeles and trained her to become a teacher. Norman worked at a middle school for five years in numerous capacities: teaching, coordinating, and then moving into administrative roles. Eventually she became the principal at the elementary school where two of her children currently attend.

She is looking forward to sharing many positive experiences with the Ánimo Compton family. “As we go into our inaugural year at Ánimo Compton,” said Norman, “I bring a quote that has carried me over my career: ‘Never tell a child what they cannot do. God may have been waiting thousands of years for one uninfluenced mind to do what others thought was impossible.’”

Norman has a master’s degree in Special Education and Administration, and is currently pursuing her doctorate at Cal State Long Beach. “The irony of [pursuing both graduate degrees] is that I have been in grad school since before some of my students were born,” joked Norman.

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As we continue to grow our Green Dot student family, we also continue to grow our team of passionate leaders. We never stop searching for talented educators to join us in our work, and we continue to develop both our school leader training program as well as our accelerated teaching credential program in California.

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