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:
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.
Communities in Schools of Tennessee
Hank has supported the Communities In Schools of Tennessee team statewide since becoming CEO in July 2017. Hank was drawn to the mission of CIS of Tennessee because he believes that when combined with excellent teachers and a solid curriculum, CISTN has generations-changing impact on students. A Georgia native, Hank graduated with Master’s degrees in both Public Administration and Social Work from the University of Georgia where he also earned undergraduate degrees in International Affairs and Social Work. Prior to joining CISTN, he began his career in the Office of Tennessee Controller of the Treasury and later joined the Tennessee Department of Education. Most recently, Hank worked for the Director of Schools of Metro Nashville Public Schools (MNPS) where he led the district’s government relations. Hank has worked with Tennessee’s Governor, Legislators, and Tennessee Department of Education to advocate for policies, resources, and legislation MNPS needed to serve its 88,000 students. In his previous role he also worked with Nashville’s Mayor, Vice Mayor, and Metro Council to pass the district’s annual operating and capital budgets.
Hank lives in Nashville with his wife, Dr. Hayley Clay and they have a toddler who is eager to make friends with everyone she meets. He is passionate about serving the needs of Tennessee’s students. As CEO of CISTN, Hank is excited to lead an incredible team to ensure that the physical and mental health needs of the state’s most vulnerable students are met so that they attend school every day able to focus on learning.
DIRECTOR OF ADVOCACY
MEMPHIS EDUCATION FUND
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.
NATIONAL CIVIL RIGHTS MUSEUM
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.
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.
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.
Dr. Kenyatta Lovett serves as the Executive Director of Complete Tennessee, where he is responsible for developing and executing the strategic vision to augment Tennessee’s goal to significantly increase postsecondary attainment by 2025. He also leads Complete Tennessee’s research initiatives to better inform higher education policy and practice in Tennessee.
Most recently, Dr. Lovett served as an assistant vice chancellor at the Tennessee Board of Regents. Dr. Lovett led statewide initiatives to enhance Tennessee’s community college system and played a critical role in the implementation of statewide higher education reforms, including the Complete College Tennessee Act of 2010 and Governor Haslam’s Drive to 55 initiative. The Tennessean recognized Dr. Lovett as one of five key people integral to the successful launch of the Tennessee Promise, the state’s initiative to cover tuition for high school graduates attending a community college.
Prior to joining the Tennessee Board of Regents, Dr. Lovett spent nearly a decade working at Volunteer State Community College, where he served in a variety of demanding roles, including director of public relations and, ultimately, chief of staff for the institution’s president.
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.
PRESIDENT AND CEO
KNOXVILLE AREA URBAN LEAGUE
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.
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.
Director of International Community Outreach
Chattanooga State Community College
Gladys Pineda-Loher has spent the past 17 years focused on workforce development and educational opportunities that support the Hispanic and international communities.
Gladys began her work at the Knoxville’s Hispanic Chamber of Commerce of East Tennessee in 2002. She moved to Chattanooga in 2009 to serve as the Business Diversity Coordinator for the Chattanooga Area Chamber of Commerce where she founded the International Business Council. She became the Director of International Community Outreach at Chattanooga State in 2013, and the college received the 2014 Urban League’s Inclusion by Design Award for her program “Cultural Ambassadors and International Achievers.”
Gladys was recognized as one of the top 10 Most Valuable Players who impacted Chattanooga in 2017 by the Edge magazine, a monthly business publication published by the Times Free Press. Each year they recognize individuals who have been influential in the past year in shaping business and our local community. She was added to the list for her work in promoting diversity and organizing a number of Latino and multicultural events locally.
Gladys was chosen as the 2017 Latino Community Champion during the Leadership Awards from La Paz Chattanooga, where she was recognized for championing services and for making a significant impact on Chattanooga’s Latino population.
Gladys is active in the community, serving on a number of leadership roles including a member of the City of Chattanooga Office of Multicultural Affairs Advisory Board, and board member for the Chattanooga Convention & Visitors Bureau, Community Foundation of Greater Chattanooga, and YMCA Metropolitan Chattanooga, among others.
Gladys is a native from Colombia, South America where she graduated from the University of Manizales with a B.A. in Accounting and a Master’s degree in Health Care Administration from the University Javeriana of Cali. She is a graduate of Leadership Chattanooga 2012 and 2017 Chatt-LEAD Program at Chattanooga State. Currently, she is part of the Mosaic Fellowship-an initiative of Conexión Américas that convenes education leaders of color across Tennessee. Gladys lives in Chattanooga with her husband and four children.
SENIOR DIRECTOR OF EDUCATION POLICY AND programs
Gini Pupo-Walker is a native Nashvillian and Cuban-American and has been an educator for over twenty years. Through her role at Conexión Américas, Gini builds upon their strong reputation as a respected convener and collaborator, and will continue to accelerate their trajectory of growth in the education arena. Her tasks include identifying, convening, and building partnerships, locally and statewide, to develop a common education policy agenda that improves outcomes students of color across Tennessee. Prior to taking this position she was the Executive Director of Family and Community Partnerships for Metro Nashville Public Schools where she worked with families, community organizations, governmental entities and foundations in order to improve education in Nashville. She also worked as a teacher at the high school and college level for over 10 years, in Seattle, San Diego and Nashville. Ms. Pupo-Walker serves on the Executive Board of Trust of the Memorial Foundation, and on the board of FUTURO. She is a Master Fellow for NCLR’s National Institute for Latino School Leaders and she enjoys spending time with her husband and two children, volunteering, traveling, gardening, and dancing salsa. You can follow her on Twitter @ginipupo
PRESIDENT AND DIRECTOR
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.
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.