Next year, seven phenomenal new principals will form the first class of NSNO’s Novice Leader Academy (NLA). All seven are Black women, and over half were born in New Orleans. They average over 14 years in education, having served as teachers, interventionists, paraprofessionals, deans, assistant principals, and more. They work at smaller single-site schools and large CMOs alike. 

Among them are a Louisiana Department of Education Teacher of the Year nominee,  TNTP Fishman Prize Honor Roll recipient, and a member of the Alliance for Diversity in Excellence Cohort. 

Each of these leaders is very ready for the role they are stepping into. But the demands of the work are significant, and being a principal can be both overwhelming and isolating. 

Nationally and locally, around 20% of principals leave their role each year.

A few years ago, we connected with New Orleans school leaders about how we could support them. Over 90% of those we spoke to said that having formal leadership development in their first two years of the role would make a difference. We launched the NLA to provide that development.

The NLA is a cohort of first-time New Orleans principals or soon-to-be principals.

The cohort experience:

  • Includes five workshops led by high-performing local principals, site visits to successful schools, and individualized coaching with a highly-effective, veteran New Orleans principal.
  • Fosters a strong community, provides strategic development around key skills and mindsets, and offers celebration, support, and encouragement. The NLA provides a rare opportunity for leaders to connect across schools and networks

Today, we are proud to announce the first class of NLA Fellows. These seven leaders were chosen for their record as educators, the recommendations of their colleagues, and their vision in interviews. 

LaKeysha C. Arthur

Principal, Paul Habans Charter School

  • Graduate of McDonogh 35 Senior High School, B.S. and M.S. from Southern University at New Orleans
  • 9 years in education (after 13 years in administration at Xavier University of Louisiana)
Jasmine Graves Black-Clemons

Principal, Akili Academy of New Orleans

  • B.A. from Ohio State University, J.D. from Loyola University New Orleans College of Law, M.Ed. expected Fall ‘21 from Louisiana State University
  • 19 years in education
Amy Henley

Principal, Sherwood Forest Elementary School

  • B.A. from University of New Orleans, M.Ed. from Jackson State University 
  • 12 years in education
Xaviera Leon Ingram

Principal, Young Audiences Charter Schools at Lawrence D. Crocker

  • Graduate of Riverdale High School, B.A. from Louisiana State University, M.Ed. from Xavier University of Louisiana
  • 11 years in education
Jasmine J. Jones

Principal, Lafayette Academy Lower Elementary

  • Graduate of McDonogh #35 Senior High School, B.S. and M.Ed. from Xavier University of Louisiana
  • 12 years in education
Nichelle Logan Jones

Principal, Benjamin Franklin Elementary

  • Graduate of Eleanor McMain Magnet High School, B.A. from University of New Orleans, M.Ed. from Xavier University of Louisiana
  • 21 years in education
Latoya Marshall

Principal, Foundation Preparatory Academy

  • Graduate of Higgins High School, B.A. from Southern University at New Orleans, M.Ed. from Ashford University
  • 17 years in education

Two experienced New Orleans educators will mentor the group – Amanda Aiken and Alexina Medley.

Alexina Medley recently retired after 40 years in education. She worked as a special education teacher and an administrator, and most recently was the beloved principal of Warren Easton Charter High School for over a decade.

Amanda Aiken is a former New Orleans principal, a NOLA-PS administrator, a doctoral student at Harvard University and the Principal Consultant of A.Leigh Solutions, an educational consulting group. She will be serving as a mentor to the cohort.

Ms. Aiken says that, in education, “sometimes we forget about the principal. We’re really focused on kids, and we’re really focused on teachers, as we should be. But if we don’t support principals, then teachers won’t be supported and they can’t thrive, and students won’t be supported, and they can’t thrive.”

She told us why she is particularly excited to work with this group of new and future principals.

“I love principals, and I want to make sure they succeed. I also think it’s really awesome that this group of new leaders are all women and black women, like myself. I think that we will never achieve an equitable school system if we don’t have more equity and representation in school leadership…I think more children of all colors need to see women and women of color leading.”

She hopes that her work as a mentor, and the connection amongst their cohort, will help them stay in their work.

We are confident it will, and we are thrilled to welcome these leaders as the first NLA fellows. We cannot wait to see how their schools and students continue to thrive.

If you have questions about the Novice Leader Academy or would like to get involved, please email Alex Jarrell (

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