Educators Recognized for Completing AASA’s Urban Superintendents Academy Programs at National Conference on Education

February 17, 2023


James Minichello

San Antonio, Texas – Feb. 17, 2023 – With the ongoing commitment to increase the number of effective school district leaders in America’s urban communities, AASA, The School Superintendents Association, is pleased to announce the names of the outstanding educators who have completed the organization’s Urban Superintendents Academy programs. The announcement was made at the organization’s 2023 National Conference on Education in San Antonio, Texas.  

AASA’s partnerships with Howard University and the University of Southern California were created to bolster the effectiveness of school district leadership in our nation’s urban areas. The academy offers a dynamic approach to urban superintendent preparation and certification.

“The outstanding men and women we are honoring are part of a very successful program that we started more than eight years ago in a joint effort with Howard University and the University of Southern California,” said Daniel A. Domenech, executive director, AASA. “Our 2023 graduates play a key role when it comes to the future of American education. They will be among the next generation of superintendents with thorough and visionary ideas designed for the benefit of school children, particularly in our urban settings.”

The Urban Superintendents Academy is recognized as one of the premier programs in the country. Drawing on the strengths of its members and partners, AASA brings the most effective and inspiring thought leader practitioners to serve as instructors, mentors and presenters. 

The AASA/Howard University Urban Superintendents Academy 2023 cohort graduates are:

  • Abdullahi Ahmed, co-principal, Portland Public Schools, Maine
  • Patricia Aigner, district technology director, Rutland City Public Schools, Rutland, Vt.
  • Tauheedah Baker-Jones, chief equity and social justice officer, Atlanta Public Schools, Atlanta, Ga.
  • Sonja Bloetner, PreK-12 ESOL supervisor, Montgomery County Public Schools, Rockville, Md.
  • Felicia Burkhalter, director of school quality, Fredericksburg City Public Schools, Fredericksburg, Va.
  • Laura Collins-Williams, assistant superintendent, Beverly Hills Unified School District, Beverly Hills, Calif.
  • Floyd Cobb, associate commissioner of student learning, Colorado Department of Education, Denver, Colo.
  • Ashley Cowger, executive director of strategy and integration; chief information officer, Indianapolis Public Schools, Indianapolis, Ind.
  • JuDonn DeShields, chief program and strategy officer, PowerMyLearning, New York, N.Y.
  • Patrick Duffy, director of teaching, learning and leadership, St. Louis Park Public Schools, St. Louis Park, Minn.
  • Bren Elliott, chief of school improvement and supports, District of Columbia Public Schools, Washington, D.C.
  • Charlie Frazier, principal, Glynn County Schools, Brunswick, Ga.
  • Kimberley Graves, chief of school support, Arlington Public Schools, Arlington, Va.
  • Nathalie Henderson, chief schools officer, Indianapolis Public Schools, Indianapolis, Ind.
  • Shontae Higginbottom, chief of schools, Chicago Public Schools, Chicago, Ill.
  • Christine Hill, associate superintendent, Northampton County Public Schools, Machipongo, Va.
  • Autumm Jeter, superintendent, Bessemer City Schools, Bessemer, Ala.
  • Luther Johnson, area superintendent, Columbus City Schools, Columbus, Ohio
  • Rebecca Kaye, senior advisor to the superintendent, Guilford County Schools, Greensboro, N.C.
  • April Kuhn, chief talent and equity officer, Rowan-Salisbury School System, Salisbury, N.C.
  • Cherie Labat, Columbus, Miss.
  • Barbara Patrick-Lashley, assistant superintendent, Rome City Schools, Rome, Ga.
  • Rachel Ledezma, director of pupil services, Greendale Schools, Greendale, Wis.
  • Monica Manns, chief equity, diversity and opportunity officer, Henrico County Public Schools, Henrico, Va.
  • Kimberly Martin, instructional superintendent, District of Columbia Public Schools, Washington, D.C.
  • Afie Mirshah-Nayar, principal, Montgomery County Public Schools, Rockville, Md.
  • Nikī’ Newman-Brown, instructional director for elementary schools, Prince George’s County Public Schools, Upper Marlboro, Md.
  • Victor Powell, principal, Fairfax County Public Schools, Falls Church, Va.
  • Nelson Render, executive officer of secondary schools, Bibb County School District, Macon, Ga.
  • Patrick Rice, superintendent, Cairo School District #1, Cairo, Ill.
  • Sharmayne Rutledge, chief impact strategy officer, New Schools for Baton Rouge, Baton Rouge, La.
  • Ed Ryans, instructional director, Prince George’s County Public Schools, Upper Marlboro, Md.
  • Malika Savoy-Brooks, assistant superintendent, The School District of Philadelphia, Philadelphia, Pa.
  • Noel Schmidt, superintendent, Rock Ridge Public Schools, Virginia, Minn.
  • Christopher Spence, assistant superintendent, Rochester City School District, Rochester, N.Y.
  • Michael Stewart, assistant superintendent, Maricopa County Regional School District, Phoenix, Ariz.
  • Ava Tasker-Mitchell, instructional director, Prince George’s County Public Schools, Upper Marlboro, Md.
  • Nikkita Warfield, chief academic officer, Purpose Built Schools Atlanta, Atlanta, Ga.
  • Jillian Whatley, director of professional learning, International Center for Leadership in Education, Atlanta, Ga.
  • Pamela Williams, cluster superintendent, Gwinnett County Public Schools, Suwanee, Ga.
  • Whitney Williams, principal, Christina School District, Newark, Del.
  • Da’Ron Wilson, executive director of school engagement, Poughkeepsie City School District, Poughkeepsie, N.Y.
  • Melissa Wilson, instructional supervisor of school leadership programs, Prince George’s County Public Schools, Upper Marlboro, Md.
  • Shernise Wilson, assistant superintendent, Columbus Municipal School District, Columbus, Miss.

The AASA/USC Urban Superintendents Academy® 2023 cohort graduates are:

  • Rebeca Andrade, superintendent, Salinas City Elementary School District, Salinas, Calif.
  • Kimberlee Armstrong, assistant superintendent, Tamalpais Union High School District, Larkspur, Calif.
  • Natashia Baxter, principal, Bloomfield School District, Bloomfield, N.J.
  • Erik Burmeister, retired superintendent; founder and partner, Solutionary Advisors, Menlo Park, Calif.
  • Char-Shenda Covington, principal, DeKalb County School District, Stone Mountain, Ga.
  • Michael Essien, chief executive officer, Essien Education Group, Alameda, Calif.
  • Mark Gabrylczyk, director of performance and accountability, Midland Independent School District, Midland, Texas
  • Linsey Gotanda, deputy superintendent, Palos Verdes Peninsula Unified School District, Palos Verdes Estates, Calif.
  • Alana Hughes-Hunter, executive director, Ontario-Montclair School District, Ontario, Calif.
  • Miranda Kogon, associate chief of student equity and opportunity, Denver Public Schools, Denver, Colo.
  • Jake Konrath, assistant superintendent, Sheboygan Area School District, Sheboygan, Wis.
  • Wendie Lewis, principal, Jalen Rose Leadership Academy, Detroit, Mich.
  • Mary Libby, principal, The School District of Philadelphia, Philadelphia, Pa.
  • John Magas, superintendent, Duluth Public Schools, Duluth, Minn.
  • Stanley Munro, assistant superintendent, Santa Barbara Unified School District, Santa Barbara, Calif.
  • Dani Portillo, superintendent, Roosevelt School District, Phoenix, Ariz.
  • Cassandra Ziskind, director of student services, Carmel Unified School District, Carmel, Calif.

For more information about the AASA Urban Superintendents Academy, visit the AASA website. For questions, contact Mort Sherman, AASA senior associate executive director, Leadership Network, at

Regarded as the most comprehensive professional learning and networking event for school superintendents and administrators, AASA’s National Conference on Education addresses the most critical issues affecting public education today, including leading through the COVID-19 pandemic, health and wellness, equity in education, social and emotional learning, personalizing education, technology and school safety. 

For more information about the conference, access AASA’s Conference Daily Online.


About AASA
AASA, The School Superintendents Association
, founded in 1865, is the professional organization for more than 13,000 educational leaders in the United States and throughout the world. AASA’s mission is to support and develop effective school system leaders who are dedicated to equitable access for all students to the highest quality public education. For more information, visit