Steering Committee

We are pleased to intro­duce the mem­bers of the Ten­nessee Edu­ca­tion­al Equi­ty Coali­tion Steer­ing Com­mit­tee. They rep­re­sent a diverse set of com­mu­ni­ties from across the entire state of Ten­nessee, and bring excep­tion­al exper­tise and tal­ents. Togeth­er, they cast a vision for the Coali­tion and how it can best serve stu­dents and fam­i­lies of col­or across the state. The Steer­ing Com­mit­tee plays an impor­tant role in the imple­men­ta­tion of the Every Stu­dent Suc­ceeds Act (ESSA), pro­vides a local con­text for edu­ca­tion pol­i­cy and brings a diverse set of voic­es and pri­or­i­ties to con­ver­sa­tions cen­tered on edu­ca­tion equi­ty.

Meet the mem­bers of the Ten­nessee Edu­ca­tion­al Equi­ty Coali­tion Steer­ing Com­mit­tee:

Claudio Caballeron
claudia caballero
Executive director
Centro hispano de east tennessee

Clau­dia Caballero is the Exec­u­tive Direc­tor at Cen­tro His­pano de East Ten­nessee. She was born in the west­ern moun­tains of Hon­duras and earned her Bach­e­lors in Busi­ness Admin­is­tra­tion from the Catholic Uni­ver­si­ty of Hon­duras. She spent most of her ear­ly child­hood and teen life mov­ing between Hon­duras and the Unit­ed States. Now that she has made Ten­nessee her home she has ded­i­cat­ed her time to find­ing and open­ing oppor­tu­ni­ties for immi­grants in her com­mu­ni­ty to become thriv­ing, healthy, pros­per­ous indi­vid­u­als.

Since tak­ing the posi­tion at Cen­tro His­pano, Clau­dia has steered the organization’s pri­or­i­ties to work­ing with school-aged chil­dren. It is her belief that to cre­ate sus­tain­able health and pros­per­i­ty in our emerg­ing Lati­no com­mu­ni­ty in East Ten­nessee, we must work tire­less­ly to strength­en the oppor­tu­ni­ties avail­able to our youth.

Clau­dia has also helped Cen­tro His­pano to make great pro­gress in its effort to provide edu­ca­tion, resources and com­mu­ni­ty sup­port to the adult immi­grant pop­u­la­tion of Knoxville. Clau­dia and the staff at Cen­tro His­pano have suc­ceed­ed in turn­ing Cen­tro into a place that is a true com­mu­ni­ty cen­ter; not only a place to learn but a place to con­nect.


Tosha Downey is direc­tor of advo­ca­cy for the Mem­phis Edu­ca­tion Fund, a part­ner orga­ni­za­tion in the city’s effort to trans­form chron­i­cal­ly under­per­form­ing schools. Pri­or to join­ing the Mem­phis Edu­ca­tion Fund, Tosha served as direc­tor of gov­ern­ment affairs a the Noble Net­work of Char­ter Schools in Chicago, Illi­nois. Tosha has spent more than 15 years lead­ing and sup­port­ing non-prof­it teams in char­ter school man­age­ment, col­lege access, stu­dent recruit­ment, com­mu­ni­ty engage­ment and tal­ent acqui­si­tion.

A native of Mem­phis, Tosha com­plet­ed her Bach­e­lor of Arts degree in edu­ca­tion at Clark Atlanta Uni­ver­si­ty. She holds a master’s degree in pub­lic pol­i­cy from the Uni­ver­si­ty of Michi­gan and a juris doc­tor­ate from the Uni­ver­si­ty of North Car­oli­na School of Law. She is the only child of William and Geraldine Downey, who still reside in the Soulsville com­mu­ni­ty in Mem­phis. Tosha has one step­daugh­ter, Dana, a col­lege senior at Cor­nell Col­lege, and one god­daugh­ter, Ebony, a recent grad­u­ate of Kala­ma­zoo Col­lege and cur­rent biol­o­gy teacher.


Ter­ri Free­man was appoint­ed pres­i­dent of the Nation­al Civil Rights Muse­um in Novem­ber 2014. As pres­i­dent, Free­man is respon­si­ble for pro­vid­ing strate­gic lead­er­ship in fur­ther­ing the museum’s mis­sion as an edu­ca­tion­al and cul­tur­al insti­tu­tion. For 18 years, Ms. Free­man served as pres­i­dent of the Com­mu­ni­ty Foun­da­tion for the Nation­al Cap­i­tal Region, the largest fun­der of non­prof­it orga­ni­za­tions in the Wash­ing­ton, D.C. met­ro­pol­i­tan area. Pri­or to the Com­mu­ni­ty Foun­da­tion, Ms. Free­man was found­ing exec­u­tive direc­tor of the Fred­die Mac Foun­da­tion. A grad­u­ate of the 2016 class of Lead­er­ship Mem­phis, Ms. Free­man has served on sev­er­al boards. Free­man received her bachelor’s degree in journalism/communication arts from the Uni­ver­si­ty of Day­ton and her master’s degree from Howard Uni­ver­si­ty. She is mar­ried to Dr. Bowyer G. Free­man and is the proud moth­er of three daugh­ters.

Independent Consultant
C. Johnson Consulting

Can­dy is cur­rent­ly employed by the Nashville Area Cham­ber of Com­merce where she leads edu­ca­tion pol­i­cy ini­tia­tives such as the Acad­e­mies of Nashville stake­hold­er groups, the Cham­ber Edu­ca­tion Report Card and the report card sub-com­mit­tee. Pri­or to her posi­tion with the Nashville Cham­ber, she was employed for the major­i­ty of her career by the Clarksville-Mont­gomery Coun­ty School Sys­tem, where she served as the foun­da­tion and com­mu­ni­ty engage­ment direc­tor. Can­dy John­son is a Ten­nessee native and she is mar­ried to Dr. Bryan John­son who is chief aca­d­e­mic offi­cer for the Clarksville-Mont­gomery Coun­ty School Sys­tem. They have two chil­dren. Mrs. John­son received a bach­e­lor of sci­ence degree in pub­lic man­age­ment with a minor in lead­er­ship stud­ies from Austin Peay State Uni­ver­si­ty and a master’s degree in pub­lic admin­is­tra­tion from Mur­ray State Uni­ver­si­ty. She is also a grad­u­ate of both Lead­er­ship Clarksville and Lead­er­ship Mid­dle Ten­nessee.

stacy lightfoot
vice-president, College & Career Success
Chattanooga Public Education Foundation

In her role at PEF, Ms. Light­foot is the coor­di­na­tor for PEF’s Camp Col­lege and the Pass­port Schol­ars pro­grams. Before com­ing to PEF, she was the direc­tor of Out­reach at the Col­lege Access Cen­ter, a col­lege coun­selor at Brain­erd High, Chat­tanooga High Cen­ter for Cre­ative Arts and Howard High, and the direc­tor of Career Devel­op­ment at Girls, Inc.  She is a Hamil­ton Coun­ty pub­lic school alum­nus, grad­u­at­ing from Chat­tanooga School for the Arts and Sci­ences. She has a B.A. from DePauw Uni­ver­si­ty and an M.A. from Uni­ver­si­ty of Roe­hamp­ton, in Lon­don, Eng­land.

Ms. Light­foot has been named a Chat­tanooga Wom­an of Dis­tinc­tion, received the Girls, Inc. Chat­tanooga “Unbought & Unbossed” Award, and the nation­al “Coun­selors That Change Lives” award.  She is a mem­ber of a num­ber of net­works and asso­ci­a­tions includ­ing the Ten­nessee Col­lege Access and Suc­cess Net­work, the South­ern Asso­ci­a­tion for Col­lege Admis­sion Coun­sel­ing, and the Nation­al Col­lege Access Net­work.

Cardell Orrin
cardell orrin
stand for children

Cardell Orrin cur­rent­ly serves as the Mem­phis City Direc­tor for Stand for Chil­dren. Pri­or to this, Cardell was the founder and prin­ci­pal of Linx Con­sult­ing. For over 10 years, Cardell was involved in projects that stretched across a wide breadth of areas that includ­ed strate­gic plan­ning, com­mu­ni­ty devel­op­ment, com­mu­ni­ca­tions, com­mu­ni­ty engage­ment, polit­i­cal cam­paigns, and tech­nol­o­gy ser­vices. Before found­ing Linx Con­sult­ing, Cardell worked as the Chief Infor­ma­tion Offi­cer (CIO) at LeMoyne-Owen Col­lege in Mem­phis. Cardell co-found­ed New Path, a local polit­i­cal action com­mit­tee focused on engag­ing young peo­ple in the polit­i­cal process and elect­ing solu­tions-ori­ent­ed can­di­dates to local office. He cur­rent­ly serves on the boards of Free­dom Prepara­to­ry Acad­e­my, Hat­tiloo The­atre, and Whole Child Strate­gies. He is a grad­u­ate of Lead­er­ship Mem­phis and the New Mem­phis Insti­tute Fel­lows Pro­gram, has received a Top 40 Under 40 Award from the Mem­phis Busi­ness Jour­nal, and was rec­og­nized by The April 4th Foun­da­tion with their Trail­blaz­er Award. Cardell grad­u­at­ed from the Uni­ver­si­ty of Penn­syl­va­nia with a Bach­e­lor of Sci­ence and Engi­neer­ing in Com­put­er Sci­ence and Engi­neer­ing with addi­tion­al stud­ies in African Amer­i­can Stud­ies and Entre­pre­neuri­al Man­age­ment.

Mary Cypress Metz
Vice President of programs
State collaborative on reforming education

Mary Cypress Metz serves as the Chief of Staff for the State Col­lab­o­ra­tive on Reform­ing Edu­ca­tion (SCORE), where she coor­di­nates the work across SCORE’s pro­grams and leads spe­cial projects for the orga­ni­za­tion. In her pre­vi­ous role as SCORE’s Direc­tor of Out­reach, she led the organization’s efforts in out­reach and engage­ment, coali­tion build­ing, and advo­ca­cy. Before join­ing SCORE, Mary Cypress taught sev­en­th-grade math as a Teach For Amer­i­ca corps mem­ber in Nashville. Orig­i­nal­ly from Mis­sis­sip­pi, she earned a bachelor’s degree in jour­nal­ism and his­to­ry from the Uni­ver­si­ty of Alaba­ma and her master’s in edu­ca­tion from Lip­scomb Uni­ver­si­ty.


Phyl­lis Young Nichols is pres­i­dent and chief exec­u­tive office of the Knoxville Area Urban League. As chief exec­u­tive since 2000, she has expand­ed the Urban League to be rec­og­nized as one of Knoxville’s pre­mier orga­ni­za­tions. The Knoxville Area Urban League serves over 9,000 indi­vid­u­als and fam­i­lies each year through its 24 pro­grams to provide a skilled diverse work­force, to increase and retain home own­er­ship, to sup­port eco­nom­ic and small busi­ness devel­op­ment, and to advo­cate and enhance edu­ca­tion efforts for stu­dents of col­or. Phyl­lis is a grad­u­ate of ETSU and the Uni­ver­si­ty of Ten­nessee, Knoxville. Mrs. Nichols has com­plet­ed edu­ca­tion and lead­er­ship cours­es at the Uni­ver­si­ty of Ten­nessee, Whit­ney M. Young, Jr. Cen­ter for Urban Lead­er­ship, the Tex­a­co Man­age­ment Insti­tute for Lead­er­ship Train­ing, and the Duke Uni­ver­si­ty Cen­ter for Exec­u­tive Lead­er­ship. She is a 2003 grad­u­ate of the Lead­er­ship Knoxville and the FBI’s Cit­i­zens Acad­e­my.


Glo­ria Jean Sweet-Love is pres­i­dent and direc­tor of the Ten­nessee State Con­fer­ence of the Nation­al Asso­ci­a­tion for the Advance­ment of Col­ored Peo­ple (NAACP). Glo­ria is a life­long advo­cate of edu­ca­tion. She served for two decades as a mem­ber of the Hay­ward Coun­ty Board of Edu­ca­tion, serv­ing as vice-chair. She also served as dis­trict direc­tor of South­west School Board, a mem­ber of the Ten­nessee School Board Asso­ci­a­tion (TSBA) and was the first African Amer­i­can wom­an to be elect­ed as pres­i­dent of the TSBA. She cur­rent­ly serves as a mem­ber of the NAACP Nation­al Board of Direc­tors and also serves as a mem­ber of the NAACP Nation­al Edu­ca­tion Com­mit­tee. Glo­ria is a grad­u­ate of Ten­nessee State Uni­ver­si­ty and has done post grad­u­ate stud­ies in busi­ness man­age­ment.

derek voiles
Tennessee 2017 teacher of the year
hamblen county schools

Derek Voiles is a sev­en­th grade lan­guage arts teacher at Lin­coln Heights Mid­dle School in Mor­ris­town, Ten­nessee. He is pas­sion­ate about lit­er­a­cy, stu­dent advo­ca­cy, and ongo­ing pro­fes­sion­al devel­op­ment. He has a Bachelor’s Degree in Eng­lish-Lit­er­a­ture and a Master’s Degree in Teach­ing Eng­lish as a Sec­ond Lan­guage from Car­son-New­man Uni­ver­si­ty, an Edu­ca­tion Spe­cial­ist Degree in Instruc­tion­al Lead­er­ship from Lin­coln Memo­ri­al Uni­ver­si­ty, and a Doc­tor­ate in Edu­ca­tion­al Lead­er­ship from East Ten­nessee State Uni­ver­si­ty. In addi­tion to class­room teach­ing, Derek has served as a mem­ber of Com­mis­sion­er McQueen’s Teacher Advi­so­ry Coun­cil, a Region­al Con­tent Coach for the Ten­nessee Depart­ment of Edu­ca­tion, a State Col­lab­o­ra­tive on Reform­ing Edu­ca­tion Fel­low, as well as a No Kid Hun­gry School Break­fast Fel­low with NNSTOY. Derek has been rec­og­nized as Tennessee’s 2017 Teacher of the Year.