Patrick Dobard is the CEO of New Schools for New Orleans (NSNO), a nonprofit organization committed to delivery on the promise of excellent public schools for every child in New Orleans. NSNO serves the city as a strategic leader, accelerates the development of high-quality schools, and provides financial and advisory support to grow, connect, and sustain school support organizations.
Dobard served as the Superintendent of the Louisiana Recovery School District (RSD) from 2012 to 2017. In 2014, the New Orleans RSD became the nation’s first school district comprised entirely of charter schools. Under his leadership, the RSD made significant progress in transforming the most chronically low performing schools in Louisiana—nearly eliminating failing schools in New Orleans. Patrick helped design EnrollNOLA, the centralized enrollment system for New Orleans that provides families with equitable, transparent access to schools. Under his leadership, the RSD reduced expulsions through a common hearing office, passed an equitable school funding policy that takes the unique needs of each student into account, and progressed through the largest school construction project in the nation’s history. Dobard also led efforts to develop New Orleans Youth Opportunity Center to serve high-needs students at risk of dropping out and the Therapeutic Day Program, which serves students with severe behavioral health disabilities. Prior to leaving the RSD, Dobard, in collaboration with the Orleans Parish School Board, managed the process to unify New Orleans two school districts (RSD and OPSB).
Patrick is a native New Orleanian and career educator. He began his teaching career in his hometown after graduating from Southern University of New Orleans.
Nash serves as the Chief Operating Officer at New Schools for New Orleans. Most recently she was the Chief of Strategic Advancement for Collegiate Academies, a high school charter network in New Orleans. Previously, Nash was Chief of Staff at the Recovery School District working with then Superintendent Patrick Dobard. Prior to that, she helped found the Cowen Institute and served as the Associate Director of Policy. Before Nash moved to New Orleans in 2006, she was the Health and Legislative Assistant to Senator Mary Landrieu in Washington, DC. Nash holds a M.A. in Southern Studies from the University of Mississippi and a B.A. in English from Furman University.
Jen, a lifelong resident of Greater New Orleans, joined NSNO in 2012. As NSNO’s Chief Financial Officer, she oversees the Finance and Operations team. She is a licensed CPA with a B.S. in Accounting from the University of New Orleans. Jen has worked in private, public and non-profit accounting since 1996.
Dr. Jawan Brown-Alexander serves as the Chief of Schools for New Schools for New Orleans. Prior to joining NSNO, Jawan’s experiences as a school leader included her work as Director of Curriculum and Instruction at Lake Forest Charter School, Interim Director of K-8 Instructional Strategies for ACSA, Director of Curriculum and Instruction for Recovery School District, and Assistant Head of School for Accountability and School Performance at Lafayette Charter School. Jawan also helped found Collab Lab, an organization committed to providing guidance and support to school leaders. She credits her passion for teaching as well as her master teacher and middle school teaching experiences as the catalysts for her work as a leader, mentor, and advisor. Dr. Alexander is a New Orleans native who graduated from Eleanor McMain Magnet School, went on to earn a B.A. in English Education from Southern University, a Master’s in Educational Leadership from Xavier University, and a Doctorate (Ed.D.) in Educational Leadership from Xavier University as well.
Prior to joining NSNO, Holly served as the Executive Director of Policy for the Louisiana Recovery School District for six years. In this role, Holly directed a wide range of state and local policy initiatives focused on improving educational outcomes for children through promoting autonomy, accountability, and equity in New Orleans charter schools. Holly is a former Teach for America Corps Member (Rio Grande Valley ’06) and holds a B.A. in Political Science from Baylor University and a J.D. from Tulane University.
Alex is the Chief Innovation Officer at New Schools for New Orleans. Previously, Alex was the Principal at KIPP Central City Academy, consistently the top performing middle school in the New Orleans Recovery School District. While leading KCCA, he also founded KIPP Booker T. Washington High School, working with Booker T. Washington alumni to bring back the historic New Orleans high school. Before becoming Principal, Alex taught 6th grade English. In 2011, his students achieved the highest English scores of any open enrollment school in New Orleans on the Louisiana state exam. Alex received a B.A. in History from Northwestern University, Phi Beta Kappa, and a M.S.Ed. in Education Entrepreneurship from the University of Pennsylvania.
Laura Hawkins serves as the Chief of Strategic Advancement for New Schools for New Orleans. Prior to joining NSNO, Laura’s most recent role was as interim Assistant Superintendent of District Planning and Portfolio for the Louisiana Department of Education. She led the team responsible for the development of the state’s Super App System Planning Process federal funding and ESSA school improvement dollars as well as the creation of LDOE’s systems for charter school authorization, oversight, and accountability. As Deputy Chief of Staff and later Chief of Staff of the Recovery School District, Laura was responsible for managing RSD’s transformation to an all charter district and the eventual reunification process with the Orleans Parish School Board. She also previously served as the Research Manager at the Cowen Institute for Public Education Initiatives, writing their annual State of Public Education in New Orleans report, among other publications. Laura is a New Orleans-area native who earned a B.A. in Sociology from Tulane University, and a Master’s in Urban Studies from the University of New Orleans.
Libby Bain is the Executive Director of Teacher Pipelines. Previously, she served as the Director of Talent at KIPP New Orleans Schools for eight years. She was responsible for leading KIPP’s recruitment efforts and working on their broader talent strategy. During that time, she oversaw a 140% increase in hiring for the network while helping to start their teacher evaluation program and launch a teacher residency. Prior to her role at KIPP, Libby spent four years working on recruitment, staffing, and new teacher training. Libby was originally a high-school special education teacher in St. Louis, Missouri. She holds a B.A. in Psychology from the University of Virginia.
Before joining NSNO, Nan served as the Chief Academic Officer of New Beginnings Schools Foundation, a charter school community of two elementary schools and one high school in the Gentilly neighborhood of New Orleans, and as the principal of an elementary school in Jefferson Parish. She also formerly worked with the Recovery School District, assisting district-run schools transfer to charter operators. Nan got her teaching start as an English Language Arts teacher in the Richardson Independent School District, a suburb of Dallas, Texas, where 90% of her students mastered Texas’s reading and writing assessments. Before entering the world of education, Nan was an auditor with Ernst and Young in Houston, Texas. Nan earned a B.S. in Accounting from Southern University in her hometown of Baton Rouge, and holds a Master in Education Administration from Grand Canyon University of Arizona. Nan further obtained certificates from the following institutions: Texas Teaching Fellows of The New Teacher Project, New Leaders for New Schools, National Institute for School Leadership, and STAND Educational Leadership.
Keisha grew up in Florida and attended Emory University. After graduation, she worked as an Investment Fund Auditor for PricewaterhouseCoopers and is a licensed Certified Public Accountant. Dance has always been a strong passion in her life, so eventually her career path led back into the arts. Keisha worked as an administrator and teaching artist for several small dance companies and outreach programs in New York before attending Florida State University to complete a M.F.A in Dance and Choreography. While in Florida she served as the Director of The Tallahassee Ballet School and launched a side business to help small business owners with their accounting and bookkeeping needs. She moved to New Orleans in 2014 to teach dance and art at a primary school.
Herneshia is the Executive Director of School Leadership for NSNO. Prior to joining NSNO, Herneshia served as the school leader of KIPP Leadership Academy in New Orleans for four years. In her first year as principal of a turnaround campus, the school improved 23 SPS points – making it one of the top growing schools in the region. Under her leadership, KLA received a letter grade of an “A” for student growth three years in a row. Before taking on the school leader role, Herneshia served as assistant principal, grade level chair and founding teacher of the same school site.
In addition to school leadership, Herneshia has also worked extensively with the KIPP Foundation, training and developing current and aspiring school leaders across the country. Herneshia is a graduate of Florida State University and in 2015 received FSU’s prestigious Ruebin D. Askew Award. She currently serves as the President of the Young Alumni Association, assisting her university with developing strategic initiatives to engage recent graduates.
Prior to joining NSNO, Julie served as Director of Development at the Foundation for Science and Mathematics Education where she was responsible for the day-to-day operations of the foundation, as well as all fundraising effects. Prior to that role, Julie served as the Southeast Regional Executive Director of Leading Educators, a non-profit with the mission of preparing effective teachers to become effective middle leaders. In this role, she was responsible for program quality, fiscal health and team management across three cities. Before advancing to that position, Julie was Leading Educators’ founding Program Manager responsible for the development, planning, and execution of program learning experiences and the successful launch of new program sites in Kansas City, MO and Memphis, TN. Her diverse background includes teaching young students with Autism Spectrum Disorder; leadership coaching; and consultancy in the areas of organizational growth, strategic planning, fundraising, and the implementation of services for special needs students throughout Louisiana. Julie graduated from Georgia State University and holds an M.S.W. from Tulane University.
A native of the Mississippi Gulf Coast, Shana completed her bachelor’s degree at Seattle University, where she studied International Business. She then went on to work in operations and fundraising at a Waldorf School in the Seattle area, where she worked for four years. Recalling fond memories of family trips to New Orleans, Shana was compelled to return to her roots and join the movement to ensure that every student receives a high-quality education.
A native of Georgia, DeaRonda joined NSNO with over 10 years of federal experience and 7 of those years as a grant professional. She has obtained and managed federal awards for organizations in both Georgia and D.C. to include housing, healthcare, workforce development and K-12 education. She is a member of Grant Professionals Association where she served as Chapter President for 2 years. DeaRonda obtained her Master in Business Administration from Ashford University and her Bachelor of Science from the illustrious Tuskegee University.
A native of New Orleans, Grant joins NSNO following more than five years in public accounting, including substantial experience auditing charter schools and non-profit organizations in the Greater New Orleans area. Grant is a licensed CPA and holds a BSM in Finance and a Master of Accounting from Tulane University.
Qasim previously was the Director of Playworks Louisiana, leading a regional team in delivering social-emotional play to over 15,000 elementary aged students across Orleans, Jefferson and St. Bernard Parish. Before Playworks, he designed and managed programming for youth of color (ages 15-22) who work together to address a specific issue related to educational equity, food and land sovereignty, mass incarceration, youth employment, and community organizing. Qasim is a graduate of Urban League’s Urban Leaders for Equity and Diversity (ULEAD), was part of the inaugural cohort of Emerging Leaders as well as Financial Leadership with Greater New Orleans Foundation (GNOF), and member of the 2018 Propeller’s Growth Accelerator cohort. Qasim is also a Community Leader for the second class of Tulane Universities Mellon Graduate Program in Community Engagement Scholarship.
Shelley serves as the Director of School Talent Grants, working on NSNO’s federal Teacher Incentive Fund and Charter Schools Program grants. She earned a bachelor’s degree from Texas Tech University before completing a M.Ed. in Higher Education Administration from Loyola University Chicago. Prior to moving to New Orleans in 2003 she worked in a wide variety of campus life capacities at Cornell University and Louisiana State University. As a member of the 2005 University of New Orleans’ Teach Greater New Orleans program she served on the Special Education staff of Nelson UNO Charter School before joining Partnership for Youth Development in the summer of 2006. Over an eight year tenure with PYD, Shelley provided a strong operations infrastructure and grant management for the organization while delivering diverse supports to partner non-profits. She and her husband David are the proud parents of Jakob and Levi.
Katie began her career as a prekindergarten teacher in the Greater New Orleans area. Her passion for improving public education for every child in New Orleans led her to transition into system-level work, first at the Recovery School District and later at the Orleans Parish School Board. In these positions, Katie was involved with data analysis, policy initiatives, and strategic projects, with a focus on portfolio management and citywide challenges such as special education and chronic absenteeism. In addition, Katie has worked at a charter network and other education non-profits, serving in roles related to early childhood education, charter school compliance, and school operations. She holds a B.A. in Government and Economics from the University of Virginia and a Master in Public Policy from the Harvard Kennedy School of Government.
Hazel began her career as a classroom teacher in New Jersey. While teaching first grade, she developed an interest in reading development and instruction and continued that passion after moving to New Orleans. Hazel’s 21 years as a New Orleanian has strengthened her knowledge about culture, community and collaboration. She has worked in a variety of educational settings with young children, adult learners and college students. Her experiences with non-profits, K-12 systems and universities will support Hazel’s work as Director of University Pipelines. She will continue to build relationships with people and create partnerships with organizations involved in the teacher preparation and recruitment process. Hazel holds a B.S. in Early Childhood Education, an M.Ed. in Developmental Reading and a Ph.D. in Curriculum and Instruction with a minor in Urban Studies.
A native of Baton Rouge, Jené attended Loyola University New Orleans, earning a Bachelor of Business Administration in Management, with a Minor in Music (Vocal Performance). Subsequently, she earned her Juris Doctor from Loyola University New Orleans College of Law. Jené’s career path has included litigation, intergovernmental relations, case management, and public policy. In 2014, she pivoted her career to education at Harriet Tubman Charter School. As Operations Manager at Tubman, Jené focused on logistics, project management, development and implementation of systems, transportation, testing, building relocation, facilities maintenance, compliance/auditing, preventive maintenance contracts, and several other areas. Jené has also served as Program Manager at summer programming offered by Generation Success NOLA, fostering an efficient learning environment that promoted social-emotional learning and minimized summer learning loss. Jené wholeheartedly believes in public education and she values the role it has played in her life. She is proud to contribute her professional insight and individual perspective to the development of policies that guide and govern the operations and impact of our unique educational ecosystem.
Prior to joining NSNO, Rachna has held numerous education-related roles. She has taught at KIPP Philadelphia Elementary Academy, Collegiate Academies, and Atlanta Public Schools. She has also served as a special education administrator at Mastery-Shoemaker and Collegiate Academies. Most recently she was the Manager of Special Projects at the Philadelphia School Partnership.
Rachna has served as an Urban Leader Fellow (ULF-Denver), a Leadership for Educational Equity (LEE) fellow with Georgia’s Governor’s Office of Student Achievement, an Urban Education Leadership Intern (UELIP) in DCPS, a Teach for America corps member in Atlanta Public Schools and an Americorps fellow with SAALT and Casa de Maryland.
Rachna holds a B.A. in Political Science and American Studies from the University of Virginia and an M.S.Ed. from Johns Hopkins University.
Rebecca serves as the Director of Communications at New Schools for New Orleans. Most recently, she was the Director of Communications and Operations for New Orleans College Prep, a local charter management organization. Previously, she worked for Google in San Francisco, Chicago, and London, led product marketing for a Google Ventures startup in Los Angeles, and was on the Global Product Partnerships Team for Yahoo. Rebecca is a proud New Orleans native and LSU Tiger.
Kathleen is the Leadership Director at New Schools for New Orleans. Kathleen joined NSNO after 12 years serving students in NOLA charter schools. During that time, Kathleen’s experiences include Academy Principal of Andrew Wilson Charter School, Network Content Specialist in English Language Arts at InspireNOLA Charter Schools, and Instructional Coach and teacher at Alice Harte Charter School. A New Orleans native and product of high-quality public education, Kathleen graduated from Andrew Jackson High School, went on to earn a B.S. in Education from L.S.U. and a M.ED. in Educational Leadership from University of Holy Cross.
Daniel Meekins is the Director of Leadership Programming at New Schools for New Orleans. Prior to joining NSNO, Daniel served as a Director of School Support and Improvement at NOLA Public Schools. In this role, he worked extensively with network and school leaders across the city to identify and pilot solutions related to systemic barriers and challenges aligned to individual school-level goals and needs. During this time he also created and led a city-wide School Culture Collaborative to increase tools and opportunities for school-level administrators.
A native of Richmond, Virginia, Daniel moved to Louisiana in 2012 as a graduate of Christopher Newport University. After jumpstarting his career in Gonzales as a special education teacher, Daniel transitioned to New Orleans to teach Social Studies at KIPP Central City Academy where his students outpaced state and district averages on standardized end of year tests by over 20 points. In 2017, Daniel became the founding Dean of Students at Booker T. Washington High School where he was charged with creating and executing the vision for student culture and operated as the building leader for external affairs.
A native of Southwest Virginia, Alex moved to New Orleans in 2017 after graduating from the University of Virginia, where he received his B.S.Ed. in Youth & Social Innovation and Government. Prior to joining NSNO, he worked or interned with several political organizations and campaigns, the office of a U.S. Senator, and a New Orleans law firm. He is thrilled to be working alongside a great team of people dedicated to delivering on the promise of excellent public schools for every child in New Orleans.
April attended the University of New Orleans. After graduating from UNO, she worked as an intern and later as an Administrative Assistant for the Recovery School District in the Curriculum Department. She was responsible for logistics, data disaggregation and assisting with the development of teacher training modules. Most recently, April worked for Choice Foundation Schools at Lafayette Academy Charter. Over the last 4 years, her work there focused on logistics, assessment data reporting, grading systems, and strategic planning.
Michelle works as the Office Coordinator. Before joining NSNO, she taught 5th grade math and science at Bricolage Academy. Previously, she lived in Brooklyn and worked at Brooklyn Prospect Charter Schools as a 6th grade science teacher. She received both her undergraduate degree and her master’s in teaching at New York University. Michelle is deeply interested in equity in education and is excited to work towards excellence in public schools in New Orleans.
Subscribe to our Newsletter