Dannelle F. Walker, Esq.

Education Lawyer and Policy-Maker, Speaker, Leader, and Encourager. Here is where my fabulous education musings are shared! All things begin and end with believing!

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Loop21.com: Leaders of the New School- Lagra Newman

Lagra Newman explains why education is a civil rights issue in Loop21’s 3-part education series, “Leaders of the New School.”

Posted by Dannelle F. Walker, Loop21.com Contributor

Throughout the country there are countless people dedicating their lives to shaping the African American community for the better. Lagra Newman is one of those people.

Founder of Purpose Preparatory Academy in Nashville, Tennessee, Lagra’s commitment to educating children in the black community has lead the former Teach for America member to taking her dissatisfaction for the current state of education in her own hands.

The K-4 charter school recently opened its doors to the historic North Nashville community and Loop21 had an opportunity to discuss  Newman’s thoughts on charter schools and what it means to be an African American leader in education.

Loop21: What was the most exciting thing about your first day at Purpose Prep?
Lagra Newman: When we opened those doors at 7:20 and started to welcome students. We waited so long for this day. Purpose Prep had been in the making for two years.

Loop21: How did you know that a career in education was what you wanted to do?
This is the most important work that I could ever do. [Serving] children in underserved communities has been my passion because I recognize the achievement gap in low income communities, which largely impacts communities of color. Children do not receive the quality education that will set them up to be successful in life. To have the opportunity to set children on the path to education starting in kindergarten is amazing.

Loop21: The majority of charter schools and charter management organizations serve predominately minority children, yet are led by the racial majority. Did that factor play into your decision to start a charter school?
Diversity in the education reform movement is critical. We need people of all different backgrounds contributing to the work that needs to take place in education. There is an added value for children to see leaders who look like them in the movement as well. I’m personally passionate about education as an African American woman because I see that so many African American children don’t receive a great education. So it gives me joy when I walk into classes and I see African American children learning and excelling and being a part of a high-performing environment.

Read more on Loop21.com

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Leading From Behind


I thought this was a wonderfully inspiring post from a friend, Kimberlee McTorry. Just because you’re leading from behind doesn’t mean you’re not a leader. I can attest to the fact that I have learned my dearest lessons while leading from behind, which was a real blessings when I made mistakes. Thankfully, leading from behind means your mistakes aren’t blasted in the spotlight. And those mistakes prepare you for your eventual spotlight. Thanks Kimberlee for that insight!

Originally posted on The Law Launch Project:

My three year old son, Ace,  loves to help out with his little sister, Clarke. To the detriment of my toes, he especially loves to help push Clarke in her stroller.  He stands behind her stroller, which is twice as tall as he is, and uses all of his strength to push her forward. Although he’s not directly in front of her, he is pushing and leading her in the right direction.

Typically when people think of a leader they think of the one in front of the crowd, but I’ve found that the most effective leaders are those that lead from behind. The people that have had the greatest influence in my life have been those that have stood behind me and pushed me in the right direction. They unselfishly used their strength to push my weight when I felt like I couldn’t go any further. Each push led has…

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Loop21.com Leaders of the New School: Dr. Art McCoy

Dr. Art McCoy talks educating black children in Loop21’s 3-part series, “Leaders of the New School.” Photo Credit: The St. Louis American

Posted by Dannelle F. Walker, Loop21.com Contributor

Dr. Art McCoy is no stranger to excellence.

Before he was appointed as Superintendent of Ferguson-Florissant School District in Florissant, Mo. in 2011, the Harris Stowe State University graduate completed college at the age of 19, and went on to become one of the youngest certified teachers in the state of Missouri.

Now, with just two years as a superintendent under his belt, Dr. McCoy’s district has seen a nine-point increase in achievement according to the state’s accountability system, and has one of the highest graduation rates in the state. Educating 13,000 students, with 82 percent minority and 70 percent on free and reduced lunch, Dr. McCoy is proving that all kids can learn and that demographics is not destiny.

Loop21: You’re at the forefront of the transforming education for today’s black children. Does that ever become daunting?
Dr. Art McCoy:
I feel an immense sense of responsibility and debt to those who have come before me because clearly I stand on their shoulders. It is important to know who those trailblazers were and to try to emulate, recreate, and expand those systems in a way that meets needs. I’m humbled to be a servant leader. It’s all about service to the least among us–our children and our community that has the greatest need.

Loop21: How do you feel about the education system’s focus on testing?
I agree that testing cannot be the end-all and be-all of education. Education goes so far beyond what can be tested. Education has to be holistic and one that brings passion, arts, and sciences to life. On the other side, once you’ve brought those things to life, children should be able to take any test that anybody could give them and not just pass it, but go beyond it and thrive.

Loop21: You were the youngest superintendent in Missouri and the first African American superintendent of your district. Describe your journey to this point.
I come to the role with an energy that allows tireless work, and also commitment. Even though I’m superintendent, I understand that we’re students first and souls second. I make sure that I see the soul in each of my children. As a 19-year-old high school math teacher, I had five students in my class who were older than me. It caused an instant relationship and understanding between myself and my pupils, who were also my peers. I carry that with me every day in this role.

Read More on Loop21.com!

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Loop21.com- Leaders of the New School: David Johns

White House Initiative on Educational Excellence for African Americans Executive Director David Johns talks race and his new high-profile position.

Posted by Dannelle F. Walker, Loop21.com Contributor

When President Barack Obama needed to appoint an Executive Director to head the newly launched White House Initiative on Educational Excellence for African Americans last year, he turned to David Johns to lead the way. The former Senior Education Policy Adviser to the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions tells Loop21 his views on the current state of education and his role as a next-generation educational leader as part of our “Leaders of the New School” 3-part series.

Loop21: How did it feel to be tapped by the Obama Administration to serve as Executive Director of this new initiative?
David Johns: Humbled. To say that I had been preparing for this job for my entire life is a gross understatement. I feel privileged to have been entrusted by the President and the Secretary of Education to assume this role and to contribute to closing the achievement gap.

Loop21: What brought you to this point in your career?
Faith. In hindsight, I am clear about how things are connected. I can see now what it meant to be a child taking a bus an hour each way to attend a better school although I didn’t understand what that meant at the time. I now have a deep appreciation for the fact that my mother was, and continues to be, my first and most important educator. Everything I’ve done over my lifetime has prepared me for this opportunity and to do this work.

More on Loop21.com

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What Is the Difference Between Special Education & Exceptional Education?

Under the Individuals With Disabilities Education Act, schools are required to provide education services to students with disabilities.

Under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, schools are required to provide education services to students with disabilities. For decades, that provision of services has been known as “special education.” Many school districts have moved to referring to the provision of services as “exceptional education.”

Political Correctness

Language that describes individuals with disabilities has come a long way in the United States. In 2010, Congress voted to stop using the word “retarded” in describing the disabled. The term “handicapped” has been replaced by the more politically-correct term “disabled.” The same is true for “Exceptional Education.” This has become the more politically-correct term for “Special Education.” “Special Education” and “Exceptional Education” are typically used interchangeably. In fact, a search for “exceptional education” in a search engine will result in several posts with “special education” in the title.

Special Education Stigma

“Special Education” is a loaded term that describes the education of students with special needs. However, the stigma associated with the term “special education” often leads to the over-identification of students needing special education services and the inability of students to be treated equally within the classroom.

Exceptional Education

Exceptional Education” refers to the education of students with special needs as well. Author W.L. Heward believes that the term “special education” negatively implies that it only concerns students with disabilities. He cites that the term “exceptional education” is more inclusive of gifted and talented children, stating, “Exceptional children are more like other children than they are different.”

Either, Or

Whether or not a school district’s provision of special education services is termed “special education” or “exceptional education,” the legal obligation to help students access a “free and appropriate public education” still exists. The differing terminology does not change a student’s rights to receive services.


Post on GlobalPost Education

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My Takeaways from Two Awards in Two Weeks!

Recap: 40 Under 40 in Miami!

Recap: 40 Under 40 in Miami!

It has been a whirlwind couple of weeks for me! On July 27th, I was recognized by the National Bar Association and IMPACT as one of the Nation’s Best Advocates: Top 40 Lawyers Under 40 in Miami, FL! (Click here to see the video) Better than the award itself was the opportunity to meet the 39 other individuals receiving recognition—they are doing some fantastic things with their legal careers! I was humbled to be among them.


Recap: NELAs in Nashville!

Then last night, I won the Nashville Emerging Leader Award in the Education category! I was a finalist among 4 other super talented individuals. It was like a night at the Oscars waiting on them to announce the winner. I can honestly say that it was such a thrilling moment.

I’m posting this to say a few things:

1. God is truly awesome. I’m not naive to think that all of this is happening on my own merit. Everything that I accomplish is on the strength that God gives me.

2. I have great family and friends who fly, pay money, call, text, leave FB/twitter messages, etc., to support and encourage me. It means the WORLD!

3. When there is something that you love, a purpose you have to fulfill, an assignment you’ve been given- when you honor that and give it your all, you will achieve it! Hands down, no question, point-blank-period. Having someone else take notice is just the icing on the cake. The cake itself is in knowing you’re fulfilling your assignment.

That’s all folks!




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