Kenneth Polite was born to teenage parents and reared in the Lower Ninth Ward by a single mother. Despite his humble beginnings, Polite excelled academically during his formative years at Epiphany Elementary School before enrolling at De La Salle High School in New Orleans, where each year, he won a competitively awarded full academic scholarship. Among his numerous distinctions and awards, Polite was named Student Body President, Louisiana Boys State Governor, and Class Valedictorian, the first African American to attain that distinction in the school’s history.
Mr. Polite is a graduate of Harvard University (B.A., Government) and Georgetown University Law Center (J.D., cum laude). While in law school, he served as Editor-in-Chief of the American Criminal Law Review’s Fifteen Survey of White Collar Crime.
On June 27, 2013, President Barack Obama nominated Mr. Polite as the U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Louisiana. On September 17, 2013, the U.S. Senate unanimously confirmed Mr. Polite’s nomination, and he was sworn in on September 20, 2013. He served in that position until March 10, 2017.
Mr. Polite recently returned to the private sector, where he serves as Vice President, Ethics and Compliance for Entergy Corporation. He is married to Dr. Florencia Greer Polite, and together, they have two beautiful daughters, Gabrielle and Lena.
Scott Benson has served as a Managing Partner at NewSchools Venture Fund since February 2015. Driven by a mission to transform public education to ensure that all children – and especially those in underserved communities – have the opportunity to succeed, his team invests in a diverse and dynamic community of innovative schools across the United States.
Previously, Scott served as Sr. Program Officer at the Gates Foundation where he led its personalized and blended school strategy from 2010 to early 2015. Scott also served as Director of Strategic Academic Initiatives and a Broad Resident at D.C. Public Schools. He has an MBA from Harvard Business School and a BSBA from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
Stephen has practiced pediatrics in New Orleans for over thirty years. He is a member of the clinical faculty of the Louisiana State University School of Medicine, where he teaches a first-year course in medical ethics. Stephen has served on and chaired the boards of New Orleans’ Children’s Hospital, the Louisiana Philharmonic Orchestra, St. George’s Episcopal School, Metairie Park Country Day School, and the New Orleans Regional Alliance of Not-for-Profit Hospitals. He also serves on the boards of the Parenting Center, the Research Institute for Children, the Pro Bono Publico Foundation, and the Good Shepherd School, a Nativity Mission School serving inner city children. He is the Director and serves on the Executive Committee of Fidelity Homestead Savings Bank.
Walter Isaacson is the president and CEO of the Aspen Institute, a nonpartisan educational and policy studies institute based in Washington, DC. Isaacson was born on May 20, 1952, in New Orleans. He is a graduate of Harvard College and of Pembroke College of Oxford University, where he was a Rhodes Scholar. He began his career at The Sunday Times of London and then the New Orleans Times- Picayune/States-Item. He joined TIME in 1978 and served as a political correspondent, national editor, and editor of new media before becoming the magazine’s 14th editor in 1996. He became chairman and CEO of CNN in 2001, and then president and CEO of the Aspen Institute in 2003.
From 2005 to 2007, he was the vice-chair of the Louisiana Recovery Authority, which oversaw the rebuilding after Hurricane Katrina. He is chair emeritus of Teach for America, which recruits recent college graduates to teach in underserved communities. He is on the board of United Airlines, Tulane University, the New Orleans Tricentennial Commission, Bloomberg Philanthropies, the Society of American Historians, the Carnegie Institution for Science, and My Brother’s Keeper Alliance.
He has honorary degrees from Tufts University, Cooper Union, Franklin College in Switzerland, University of New Orleans, University of South Carolina, City University of New York (Hunter College), Pomona College, Lehigh University, and Duke University.
Christine Jordan is a Senior Lead Analyst in Corporate Social Responsibility at Entergy Corporation and has twelve years experience in the CSR field. She is a member of Grantmakers for Education, the co-founder and treasurer of Zawadi giving circle, and a graduate of the New Orleans Regional Leadership Institute (NORLI). Christine holds a masters in Fine Arts from Northwestern University in Illinois. With roots four generations deep in New Orleans, Christine was born in South Florida shortly after her parents (both teachers) left the city in search of better educational and career opportunities for their children and themselves. As an adult, Christine moved back to New Orleans, and part of her personal mission is to help make sure that all New Orleanians can get an excellent education in their hometown.
Erika McConduit, Esq. is the Vice President of Diversity and Inclusion at Centene Corporation. Her specific areas of expertise include policy, government affairs, diversity and inclusion, strategic planning, education, economic and business development, communications, organizational strategies and continuous process improvement. In her role, Erika develops Diversity & Inclusion strategies within target markets around the country, enhances talent and policy development, activates the supplier diversity strategy, and enhances engagement with external partners.
Erika has previously served as President and CEO of the Urban League of Louisiana, and Louisiana Director for the Education Trust. Erika is an avid supporter of education reform, advocating for quality early learning through post-secondary. In this capacity, she has served on numerous boards and committees including the Louisiana Community and Technical College System Board of Supervisors, Mayor Landrieu’s Education Task Force, Louisiana State Superintendent of Education John White’s Student Task Force, and the National Urban League’s Education Task Force. She is a New Orleans native, a Louisiana licensed attorney, and a mother of three children.
Jessica Peña is a Partner with the City Fund. She is a former Partner at Education Cities, a national nonprofit that supported and advised city-based education organizations on their efforts to grow great public schools. Previously, she was a founding member of Philadelphia School Partnership (PSP). Jessica has a BA from Trinity College and a JD from New York University School of Law.
Hunter is an investment manager at Goldman, Sachs & Co. He is responsible for managing the assets of foundations, endowments, and wealthy families across the Southeast. Prior to Goldman, he served as the Executive Director of Teach for America – Northern California. Hunter began his career as a public middle school teacher in Oakland, CA. A native New Orleanian, he earned both his AB and MBA at Harvard University. Currently, he serves on the boards of Teach for America – Atlanta and the New Orleans Start-Up Fund.
Stephen is owner and CEO of Strategic Comp, a workers compensation insurer. A New Orleans native, Stephen graduated from Amherst College and received his MBA from The Wharton School. Stephen has been actively involved in New Orleans public education for more than 20 years and is a strong advocate of charter schools. He was a founding board member with NSNO and served as Board President of the New Orleans Charter Middle School and S. J. Green Charter School. He is also a founding board member of KIPP New Orleans. Stephen was named Volunteer of the Year by the National Association of Partners in Education and was selected as the 1990 Business/Education Leader by the University of New Orleans.
Sarah Newell Usdin was elected to the Orleans Parish School Board in November 2012. She is the Founder and past- CEO of New Schools for New Orleans (NSNO). In the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, Sarah formed NSNO to support and develop the people, resources, and environment necessary to achieve excellent public schools for every child in New Orleans.
In 1992, after teaching in Germany on a Fulbright Scholarship, she joined Teach For America and taught 5th grade for three years in Baton Rouge before becoming Teach for America’s Executive Director in Louisiana. She went on to serve as a partner with The New Teacher Project (TNTP), working to recruit, train, and alternatively certify thousands of high-quality public school teachers.
Sarah majored in religion and German at Colgate University. She holds a master’s degree in curriculum and instruction from Louisiana State University. Sarah was a 2008 Aspen-NewSchools Education Fellow and currently serves as a moderator for the program. She is a member of the Aspen Global Leadership Network and was a recipient of The Peter Jennings Award for Civic Leadership. She is married to Tommy Usdin. They have two children, Lyle and Cecile.
Tyronne B. Walker serves as the Chief Administrative Officer for the Orleans Parish District Attorney. Prior to this role, Walker served as Vice President of Communications and Public Affairs for the Greater New Orleans Foundation and Senior Advisor and Communication Director in the office of former New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu.
As Vice President at GNOF, Walker led all communications, government relations and strategic initiatives such as GiveNOLA Day that raised record giving in support of nonprofits in Southeast Louisiana. During his tenure with the Landrieu Administration, Walker also served the community in a variety of roles including Senior Advisor for Local Government Affairs, Special Assistant to the Mayor, Faith-Based Advisor, Project Manager on the Mayor’s Innovation Delivery Team and Director of CeaseFire New Orleans. He assisted in writing and leading the city’s NOLA for Life Murder Reduction Strategy.
Outside of working in public service, Walker has demonstrated success in the private sector as Chief Operating Officer of the Law Office of Wayne E. Woods and Alpha Title Company and owner of Walker Strategic Solutions, LLC, a full service consulting firm he started in 2015 that specializes in strategy development, project management and political campaigns. Walker served as National Deputy Director for African American Outreach on the Bloomberg 2020 Presidential Campaign and led recent local campaigns of District Attorney Jason Williams, Judge Omar Mason, and School Board Member John Brown. Walker served as Deputy Field Director and Political Director on former Mayor Mitch Landrieu’s 2010 and 2014 campaigns respectively.
Walker is a native of the New Orleans’ 9th Ward and is a proud graduate of Brother Martin High School and Saint Michael’s College in Colchester, Vermont where he earned his Bachelor of Arts Degree in Political Science.
Walker is active in civic leadership serving on a number of boards in founding roles including Miller-McCoy Academy for Mathematics and Business and Son of a Saint Foundation. Currently, his board memberships include Split Second Foundation and New Schools for New Orleans. Walker serves as Chief of Staff of Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Inc. and previously served as President of the Sigma Lambda Chapter of Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Inc. in New Orleans. Walker is a member of the Franklin Avenue Baptist Church.
Operator of the city’s first charter school, Tony is a psychologist whose nontraditional school experience allows him to approach school design from a different perspective. A graduate of Walter L. Cohen High School, Tulane University and Loyola University, Tony (known throughout his schools as “Doc”), was trained as a child psychologist, and specialized in working with kids and their families. He left his post as a psychology faculty member and administrator at Loyola University to become Director of James Lewis Extension in 1994; he and Jay Altman founded New Orleans Charter Middle School (now called Arthur Ashe Charter School) together in 1998; and he founded Samuel J. Green Charter School which opened in July, 2005. Under Tony’s leadership, these schools have received national support and recognition for their innovative educational practices. In 2008, Tony cofounded FirstLine Schools, to create and inspire great public schools in New Orleans not only by directly operating schools but also by supporting education across the city with training programs for teachers and school leaders in open-admission public schools. Tony currently serves as the CEO of Agenda For Children and is active in charitable and educational organizations in New Orleans and nationwide, serving on the governing boards of Teach For America, Children’s Hospital and the Greater New Orleans Foundation.
Subscribe to our Newsletter