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Redefining America’s Education Agenda:

What About the National Teacher Shortage?

A Look at This Topic Through an Equity Lens

As most narratives suggest, America is suffering from a national teacher shortage. In fact researchers have found that the national k-12 labor market shrank from about 9 percent from March to May of 2020. During the next event in Push Excel’s Critical Thinking Series Entitled Redefining America’s Education Agenda, a group of highly distinguished panelists will engage in spirited dialogue in an effort to accomplish the objectives:

**Examine the factors that have significantly contributed to the national teacher shortage from a historical perspective.

**Discuss what we know about teacher shortages nationally and in specific locations and academic subjects.

**Identify barriers to preparing, recruiting and retaining strong and racially diverse teachers.

**Outline what is referred to as the root causes and underlying conditions that ensure that teachers of color remain in the profession.

**Suggest more comprehensive and equitable ways of addressing the shortages.

**Provide policy considerations related to accomplishing equity based objectives relevant to resolving issues around this topic.

Come and serve as an active participant in this national discussion as Dr. Sonya Whitaker, National Education Policy Director for PUSH for Excellence moderates this Critical Thinking Series panel.

Virtual Panel Discussion
Thursday, Oct 6, 2022
6:30 – 8:30 pm CST

Meet the Moderator, Speakers, & Panelists

Moderator: Dr. Sonya Whitaker

Dr. Sonya Whitaker, the National Education Policy Director for PUSH Excel, will be the moderator of our upcoming virtual town hall discussion. Dr. Whitaker is a national speaker and highly regarded educator who started as a classroom teacher and has since served as Superintendent of Schools in two different school districts in Illinois. She also has served as Deputy Superintendent of Schools and as a central office administrator for the largest elementary school district in the state.

Dr. Whitaker is the founder of Whitaker Educational Consulting, Inc., the author of Is There Anybody That Can Teach Me How to Read?, and the host of the national radio show and podcast: What’s Really Going On??, a spotlight on solutions for improving student achievement in America’s schools.

Speaker: Rev. Jesse L. Jackson, Sr.

Rev. Jackson is one of America’s foremost civil rights, religious and political figures and the Founder and President of Rainbow PUSH Coalition, which focuses on civil rights work through economic parity, equal educational opportunities, and international social justice and peace.

Over the past 40 years, he has played a pivotal role in virtually every movement for empowerment, peace, civil rights, gender equality, and economic and social justice and was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the nation’s highest civilian honor, by President Clinton. A hallmark of Rev. Jackson’s work has been his commitment to youth. He has visited thousands of high schools, colleges, universities and correctional facilities encouraging excellence and inspiring hope in  young people.

Devin Del Palacio

Chairman – National Black Council of School Board Members

Tolleson Union High School District’s first Black American Board President, Del Palacio, has dedicated his board tenure to advancing equity. Del Palacio helped draft and pass a non-discrimination policy that includes protection for gender identity and gender expression; assisted the district in passing the Indigenous Peoples Day Resolution; and collaborated with board members to produce an anti-hate speech resolution, among other important board actions.

Del Palacio began working as a community organizer in 2012 and is currently the Advocacy and Strategic Initiatives Consultant for the Arizona School Board Association. The Cesar Chavez Foundation, the City of Phoenix, and the Greater Phoenix Urban League have recognized Del Palacio for his commitment to securing equitable learning environments for all students. In 2019, Devin was recognized as the National School Board Member of the Year by the National Alliance of Black School Educators. Currently, Devin serves as the Chairman of the National Black Council of School Board Members. In addition, Devin has served as a member of the Board of Directors for the Arizona School Board Association and the National School Board Association.

Shaun Nelms, EdD

Superintendent of Educational Partnership Organization

In 2015, Dr. Shaun Nelms was asked to create and implement a school transformation model for the lowest performing school, in the lowest performing district, in New York State.  A school where the graduation rate, the year prior was 29%.  In 6 years, the school increased its graduation rate to 85%. 

Shaun is the superintendent of East Upper and Lower Schools, formerly East High School in Rochester, N.Y., a new position created through a unique partnership between the New York State Education Department, Rochester City School District, and the University of Rochester. As the Educational Partnership Organization (EPO) superintendent for East, Nelms has been charged with creating a school reform model that can be replicated in urban settings throughout the United States. 

As a result of his success, he was named the first William and Sheila Konar Director for the Center for Urban Education Success (CUES) at the University of Rochester’s, Warner School of Education and Human Development (Warner). In this role, Nelms leads the center’s efforts to support the success of K-12 urban schools both locally and nationally through a combination of research, relationship building, and a commitment to pursue and share best practices.

Nelms is supporting leaders across the nation through his consulting firm. As CEO of the Nelms Consulting Group, he has been a frequent speaker on topics related to the creation of equitable school systems and executive leadership. He is also a professor at Warner, where he teaches courses in human resource management, school governance, and leadership for school transformation. 

Dr. Tony Sanders

Superintendent, Elgin School District U46

Superintendent Dr. Tony Sanders runs the day-to-day operations of School District U-46. Dr. Sanders oversees the implementation of all Board and District policies and procedures as well as the alignment of resources to all District initiatives and improvement plans for the state’s second-largest school district. He works in close collaboration with an administrative staff that manages a balanced District budget of $600 million, and he helped lead a successful state-wide effort to pass equitable state education funding. 

Under Dr. Sanders’ tenure, U-46 has implemented universal full-day kindergarten, expanded Dual Language and Gifted programming, provided additions to three elementary schools, implemented several new comprehensive curriculum resources in a district where every child now has a device. The District has also implemented a trauma-informed care approach to responding to behavioral issues and supporting students.

He brings more than two decades of leadership experience to his current post, having served as Acting Director for Governmental Relations and Public Information for the Illinois State Board of Education and other top posts at the Department of Professional Regulation and the Illinois Department of Public Health.

Dr. Sanders earned his doctorate in education from Aurora University, his Master of Business Administration degree from New York Institute of Technology – Ellis College, and his undergraduate degree from the University of Illinois at Springfield. In 2020, he was awarded the honorary degree of doctor of laws from Judson University.

Dr. Donna Leak

Superintendent, CCSD 168

Vice Chair, Illinois State Board of Education

Dr. Donna Leak is the Superintendent of Community Consolidated Schools District 168 in Sauk Village, IL and serves as the Vice Chair of the Illinois State Board of Education.  As Vice Chair of the State Board, she has been instrumental in updates to the mission, vision, goals, equity statement and updated strategic plan for the state of Illinois.  She serves as a strong voice for those educators in the field of education at the state and national level.  Under her tenure in District 168, the district has made major facility updates including addressing water issues for children. The district has seen considerable improvements in academics, technology and social emotional needs for children. She was awarded the 2021 Superintendent of the Year for the State of Illinois is recognition of her work with the district and State.   

Previously, she served as the Superintendent of Rich Township High School District 227, in Matteson, IL, where her schools were named multiple time to the US News and World Report’s Best High Schools in America Bronze Award as well as being accepted to the A.P. College Board.   Dr. Leak has worked with the Department of Defense and American Community Schools in Western Europe, Asia, and South America. She has provided professional learning for thousands of teachers across the world and has spoken at more than 200 conferences worldwide.  Her passion for insuring equity for all children has been a driving force behind her work.  This passion has led her to leading professional learning on topics such as Culturally Responsive Teaching and Leading as well as “What’s Race Got to Do with It?”  It is her mission to provide opportunities for students and adults to connect, respect and learn from each other’s experiences to create transformed living conditions for today and for generations to come.

DR. Leak holds a BS in Mathematics, MS in Educational Administration, and PhD in Leadership and Policy Studies.  She is a member of Trinity United Church of Christ, Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc., The Links, Inc., Jack and Jill of America, Top Ladies of Distinction, Inc. and national Coalition of 100 Black Women.  Her passion for giving back to the community is exemplified in all that she doesincluding serving on the PUSH Excel National Board of Directors.   Dr. Leak’s philosophy in life is that “you do not follow your dreams; you chase them with intensity, passion and purpose!”

About Redefining America’s Education Agenda Series

We need an education agenda that makes equity a priority for schools and organizations serving our country’s most vulnerable children and their families. The ultimate goal of this series of events is to bring policy makers and members of the education community together to discuss shaping our educational agenda and pushing it to the front of public policy at local, state, and federal levels.