go for the gold

Olympian gold medalist offers inspiration for Memphis students

PHOTO: Laura Faith Kebede
Olympic gold medalist and Memphis native Rochelle Stevens shows one of her medals to students at newly reopened Memphis Scholars Raleigh-Egypt.

Retired track star and Memphis native Rochelle Stevens won her Olympic gold medal before today’s middle schoolers were even born, but that didn’t stop students at one hometown school from listening to her inspirational message with rapt attention.

“Some dream of success. And others wake up and work hard at it,” Stevens told an assembly Wednesday at Memphis Scholars Raleigh-Egypt.

Stevens is a graduate of Memphis Melrose High School and went on to win gold in the women’s 4×400-meter relay during the 1996 Olympic Games in Atlanta. Today, she’s a local entrepreneur, philanthropist and author.

She told students about her journey to lift her family out of poverty, an invaluable testimonial for students at Raleigh-Egypt.

“It’s a big deal. They’re fascinated that someone is standing in front of them from Memphis holding up gold medals,” said school director Jerry Sanders.

Students at Memphis Scholars Raleigh-Egypt "wake up" and yell as they finish a phrase from retired track star Rochelle Stevens: "Some dream of success. And others wake up and work hard at it."
PHOTO: Laura Faith Kebede
Students at Memphis Scholars Raleigh-Egypt respond to Stevens’ message.”

Raleigh-Egypt is among the state’s lowest-performing schools, prompting the state to take control of the middle school and convert it to a charter school this fall under Tennessee’s Achievement School District. Like most ASD schools, Raleigh-Egypt serves a high concentration of students from low-income families. Based on the latest data, about 96 percent of the state-run district’s students are considered economically disadvantaged, compared with 79 percent in Shelby County Schools.

Stevens, 50, described her journey to gold, beginning with the inspiration provided by fellow Tennessean Wilma Rudolph, who in 1960 became the first African-American woman to win three gold medals in track and field in one Olympics.

Stevens began racing other children in her Orange Mound neighborhood, until her mother enrolled her in a neighborhood track club. There, she competed and climbed the ranks to garner 20 full college track scholarships.

But there were major disappointments along the way.

She lost her first bid to qualify for a U.S. Olympic team “by a blink.” After a six-month bout of self-doubt, she began training six hours daily, including five-mile runs in Shelby Farms Park.

Stevens signs copies of her new autobiography for students to win for good behavior.
PHOTO: Laura Faith Kebede
Stevens signs copies of her new autobiography for students to win for good behavior.

“If tears didn’t come out of my eyes, I didn’t put in my 110 percent. If I was able to walk to the car, I didn’t put in my 110 percent. I crawled to the car,” she said. “You may not accomplish that dream the first time … but I can get up and work harder.”

She went on to make the U.S. team, winning a silver medal in the Barcelona games and culminating with her gold medal in 1996.

Today, Stevens operates Rochelle’s Health & Wellness Day Spa in Collierville, where she also coordinates the Rochelle Stevens Invitational for youth, adults and elite athletes to connect with college coaches and recruiters. Her recent autobiography is titled “Travel the World by Foot.”

principal pipeline

Here are 26 assistant principals being groomed to lead Tennessee schools

Assistant principals engage with Gov. Bill Haslam and Education Commissioner Candice McQueen as part of the Governor's Academy for School Leadership.

Twenty-six assistant principals will participate in a one-year fellowship program as part of Tennessee’s drive to cultivate school leaders for the future.

Gov. Bill Haslam on Friday announced educators chosen for his 2018 Governor’s Academy for School Leadership, as well as the 26 principals who will mentor them.

The initiative is in response to the growing body of research showing the significance of principals in developing effective teachers — and therefore improving student outcomes.

“You can walk into a school and tell right away if there is a great principal who is leading effectively,” Haslam said in his announcement. “Great principals attract and keep great teachers, and great teachers lead to student success.”

This will be the third class of the Governor’s Academy, which launched in 2016 as a partnership of the state, local school districts, and Vanderbilt’s Peabody College of education and human development.

Fellows were nominated by their superintendents and selected by the partnership through an application and interview process.

Each fellow is paired with an experienced principal mentor, must attend monthly group training sessions and a week-long summer institute at Vanderbilt, and intern three days a month at his or her mentor’s school. Upon completion, they are expected to pursue placement as a school principal in their districts or regions. (At least 18 have been promoted so far.)

Chosen for the 2018 academy are:

Merissa Baldwin Aspire Hanley Elementary School Achievement School District
Jeni Irwin Anderson County High School Anderson County
Heather Byrd Eagleton Elementary School Blount County
Melissa Brock H Y Livesay Middle School Claiborne County
Milton Nettles Cumberland Elementary School Davidson County
Noelle Taylor West End Middle School Davidson County
Andrea Beaubien Dickson Elementary School Dickson County
Josh Rogers Dyersburg Intermediate School Dyersburg
Noelle Smith Greeneville High School Greeneville
Travis Miller Orchard Knob Middle School Hamilton County
Heather Harris Middleton Middle-High School Hardeman County
Jacob Bellissimo Jefferson Middle School Jefferson County
Beth Cohen Dobyns-Bennett High School Kingsport
Jamey Romeg Halls Elementary School Knox County
Sharonda Rose Lakeland Elementary School Lakeland
Vanessa Spoon Ripley Middle School Lauderdale County
Rachel Wasserman Loudon Elementary School Loudon County
Amanda Brabham Thelma Barker Elementary School Madison County
Chris Winningham Algood Middle School Putnam County
Larry Staggs Springfield High School Robertson County
Chris George Christiana Middle School Rutherford County
Clint Dowda Bluff City Elementary School Sullivan County
Stephen Walker Rucker Stewart Middle School Sumner County
Latoya Avery Drummonds Elementary School Tipton County
Jordan Hughes Boones Creek Elementary School Washington County
Joshua Johnston Mt. Juliet High School Wilson County

Here are this year’s principal mentors:

Monique Cincore Aspire East Academy Achievement School District
Andrea Russell Central office Anderson County
April Herron Middlesettlements Elementary School Blount County
Suzanne Anders Tazewell-New Tazewell Primary School Claiborne County
Renita Perkins Stratton Elementary School Davidson County
Kevin Armstrong Dupont-Hadley Middle School Davidson County
Malissa Johnson Charlotte Elementary School Dickson County
Cal Johnson Dyersburg Middle School Dyersburg
Pat Donaldson Central office Greeneville
Chrissy Easterly Ooltewah Middle School Hamilton County
Chris Cranford Toone Elementary School Hardeman County
Scott Walker Jefferson County High School Jefferson County
Holly Flora John Sevier Middle School Kingsport
Keith Cotrell Cedar Bluff Elementary School Knox County
Kasandra Berry Bon Lin Elementary School Lakeland
Susan Farris Central office Lauderdale County
Christie Amburn Fort Loudoun Middle School Loudon County
Melinda Harris Community Montessori School Madison County
Trey Upchurch Prescott South Middle School Putnam County
Katie Osborne Greenbrier High School Robertson County
Kim Stoecker Siegel Middle School Rutherford County
Robin McClellan Central office Sullivan County
Brian Smith Station Camp Middle School Sumner County
Brooke Shipley Brighton Elementary School Tipton County
Kelley Harrell Ridgeview Elementary School Washington County
Travis Mayfield Wilson Central High School Wilson County


Movers and shakers

Denver Scholarship Foundation hires new CEO

PHOTO: Seth McConnell, The Denver Post

The Denver Scholarship Foundation has named a new CEO: Lorii Rabinowitz, who currently heads a startup venture in the city that counts among its goals improving high school graduation rates by engaging at-risk students in arts education.

The nonprofit Denver Scholarship Foundation provides needs-based college scholarships to Denver Public Schools graduates. Over the past 11 years, it’s given $36 million to more than 6,300 low-income graduates. It also runs “Future Centers” for 21 Denver high schools, where advisers help students apply to college and figure out how to pay for it.

Former CEO Nate Easley left the organization to serve as the inaugural leader of a new education-focused philanthropic collaborative called Blue School Partners.

Rabinowitz previously worked at Denver-based consulting firm Rebound Solutions and for 9News, where she helped develop strategic partnerships and new initiatives. Her most recent position was as executive director for the startup Denver Center for Arts and Technology, which is projected to open to the public in 2018, according to its website.

“I am grateful for this amazing opportunity to lead an organization I have long admired,” Rabinowitz said in a statement. “The Denver Scholarship Foundation has engineered tremendous gains in access to education and sustainable careers for thousands of Denver’s students. It will be my great honor to work alongside the board, professional staff, and community partners to build on this important legacy for Denver’s future.”

Rabinowitz is scheduled to start as CEO on Dec. 1.