CEO and Founder
Michelle began her career as a Teach for America corps member in Baltimore. Through her own trial and error in the classroom, she gained a tremendous respect for the hard work that teachers do every day. In 1997, Michelle founded and led The New Teacher Project, which recruits and trains teachers to work in urban schools. More recently, from 2007 to 2010, Michelle served as chancellor of District of Columbia Public Schools. Under her stewardship, D.C. schools experienced increases in student achievement, a rise in graduation rates and an upswing — for the first time in decades — in enrollment.
Working in education over the past twenty years, time after time I saw obstacles keeping kids from getting what they needed from their schools. Yes, there were challenges that were going to be difficult to overcome no matter what, but so many practices just didn't make sense and were completely within our power to change. When I tried to change them, I found out why the status quo had persisted for so long.
Groups that put the interests of adults in the system first were driving the conversation, and they were backed by big dollars and political power. What we needed was a collective voice solely representing kids' best interests, because the sense of balance was completely gone. I started StudentsFirst to change that. Schools exist to give kids the skills and knowledge necessary to succeed, and EVERY decision has to revolve around that.
Kahlil guides StudentsFirst's long-term strategy, working with the CEO, Board of Directors, and senior staff to oversee the organization's operations, budget, and overall growth. He supports Founder and CEO Michelle Rhee, as well as a national team of more than 100 staff in 17 states, to put state-level policies in place that promote innovation in public schools, empower parents, and elevate teaching across the country. Kahlil has extensive experience guiding complex national organizations, implementing strategic communications, and navigating politics.
Prior to joining StudentsFirst, Kahlil served as CEO of Americans Elect, a national political organization that set out to put a bipartisan presidential ticket on the ballot in all 50 states. In two years, Americans Elect raised over $40 million; built a network of 3.5 million supporters; recruited 8,000 employees, contractors and volunteers to the cause; and won numerous awards for web and social media excellence. Before leading Americans Elect, Kahlil worked on political campaigns supporting state-level candidates from across the political spectrum -- Republicans, Democrats and Independents. Kahlil earned his bachelor's degree from Morehouse College and his master's from the Harvard Kennedy School.
In order to focus on what's best for America's children, we need to push partisan politics aside, overcome the barriers that maintain the status quo, and encourage innovative and creative ideas in public education. StudentsFirst is more than just an organization -- it represents a movement, whose goals are common sense to parents, teachers and anyone concerned with the quality of education in our country. My goal in helping to lead StudentsFirst is to create an environment in which the best ideas are shared and implemented, where the most talented people across the country are driving those ideas, and to ensure we maintain a laser-like focus on what's most important: the students.
Angelia brings a unique set of experiences to her StudentsFirst legal work. Prior to coming to StudentsFirst, she worked in the in-house counsel's office for the American Civil Liberties Union and practiced corporate law for a large New York City law firm. She also teaches Non-Profit Organizations at Fordham Law School and is a member of the Government Relations Committee of the Non-Profit Coordinating Committee of New York. Angelia received her law degree from Columbia Law School and her undergraduate degree from Georgetown University.
Education equality is the civil rights issue of our time. I am proud, honored and excited to be a part of the movement to transform and improve education outcomes for all students regardless of race, class and neighborhood.
Vice President of National Policy
Eric has been working on public education reform issues for the past decade. He served most recently as Chief of Staff to the Deputy Mayor for Education for the District of Columbia, playing a lead role in school reform efforts, including the mayoral takeover of the school system and the successful Race to the Top application. A 2003 graduate of the Washington College of Law, Eric has served as the Legislative Counsel to the Committee on Education, Libraries, and Recreation of the D.C. Council and as a policy analyst for the DC Board of Education. Eric developed his interests in public education and youth justice while in law school, where he served as a Fellow in the Marshall-Brennan Constitutional Literacy Project and taught constitutional literacy to high school students. Eric grew up in Ohio and attended The Ohio State University.
I approach this from a civil rights perspective, seeing the achievement gap as the greatest injustice of our time. For me, the only education reform is meaningful, aggressive education reform that reflects the urgency of the situation in our classrooms. We have to disrupt the interests behind the status quo — the status quo has no urgency. StudentsFirst aims to push, to innovate...to be unafraid of making students the priority. The achievement gap can be conquered — we can do this.
Vice President of Legislative Affairs
Tim is a former three-term, Democratic state representative in the Michigan legislature. During his time there, Tim served in leadership roles, including Assistant Majority Floor Leader, Chair of the Caucus Campaign and Chair of the House Education Committee. As Chair of the House Committee on Education, Tim successfully pushed through many bi-partisan educational reforms that included merit pay, take over of failing schools, smart cap charter school legislation and creating an effective principal/teacher evaluation using student data. He's brought his commitment to progressive reform and skills in forging coalitions for change to lead the Legislative team at StudentsFirst. Working with our members, his team helped change over 50 polices in 7 states affecting 8.7 million children in StudentsFirst's first year.
I never thought I would be in the middle of a national fight for our country's future but I realized right away once elected to the State House in Michigan that the only way our state and country can survive is by making sure that all kids have access to a high quality education. I also realized right away that many people and groups lobbying on behalf of public education weren’t focusing on the students but on their own self-interest. This is a battle worth fighting and I’m glad to be a part on a movement that is putting the interests of students ahead of adult interests at all costs.
George Parker is a 30-year veteran math teacher of the DC public school system. He is the former president of the Washington Teachers Union, elected to that post in 2005. In 2010, Parker worked with Michelle Rhee to negotiate a ground-breaking collective bargaining agreement that featured innovations in teacher compensation, professional development and evaluations. The agreement was rooted in the shared belief that DCPS leaders must raise academic and teaching standards while also treating teachers fairly and giving them the tools and conditions to work effectively with children.
As the former president of the Washington Teachers' Union, I know firsthand how difficult it is to step outside our "homogeneous union box," embrace reform and support educational policy changes that truly put our children first. However, too many of our public schools across the country are in educational crisis. It is time for our teachers and teachers unions to stand up and become active advocates and committed leaders in the education reform movement. We can no longer afford to sit back and allow our differences to take priority over the urgent need to work collectively on behalf of educating our children.
Chief Financial Officer
As CFO, Rebecca coordinates teams dedicated to ensuring the long-term success of StudentsFirst. In addition, Rebecca runs the Fiscal Strategy department at StudentsFirst, which studies and makes policy recommendations to states and districts on how to use scarce education resources for the benefit of students rather than bureaucracies. Before joining StudentsFirst, Rebecca served as the Chief Financial Officer for the D.C. Office of the State Superintendent of Education, where she was appointed to mitigate the agency's "high-risk" designation, and oversaw the financial and compliance operation for education resources totaling more than $1 billion. Rebecca previously worked on contract with the New Schools Venture Fund and also held positions as Budget Director for Economic Development and Education and Special Assistant for Education Finance to the Mayor of the District of Columbia.
"We're always going to be fighting to make education a high budget priority, but in the meantime, I was worried about what we could do to help kids now. I knew that through policy changes we could take scarce dollars currently being spent on bloated bureacracy and red tape, and move them into to the classroom to help teachers and their students. I'm honored to be a part of an organization that is committed to leveraging non-profit funds to create the conditions for reform and helping states and districts equalize the playing field for all students."
Vice President of Operations
Enoch Woodhouse provides oversight and coordination of strategic and administrative operations at StudentsFirst. In this role, Enoch manages the human resource, compliance and information technology functions of the organization. Enoch joined StudentsFirst from the District of Columbia Public Schools, where he worked in the District's Office of Data and Accountability and led the District's effort to deliver increased information about DCPS schools to the public. Enoch previously worked for City Year and a Manhattan-based hedge fund. He earned his bachelor's degree from Harvard College, is the former President of the Harvard Black Alumni Society of New York and serves on the Harvard Alumni Association Board of Directors.
In public education, we have been talking about scalable solutions for a long time and the only scalable solution that we've found for too many students, and particularly Black and Hispanic students, is jail. Overwhelmingly, we know what works. Now we need to create the conditions to support these proven solutions. That's exactly what StudentsFirst sets out to do — to create the conditions for success that guarantee a great teacher for every student; that guarantee quality education options for parents and students; and that guarantee our dollars are not being put toward building more prisons but toward the things that work for kids.