Aug 30, 2019

Thirty Educators Selected to Participate in Inaugural Louisiana Early Leaders Academy

BATON ROUGE, La. --The Louisiana Department of Education today announced 30 early childhood educators from six pilot parishes have been selected to participate in the first cohort of the Louisiana Early Leaders Academy. The 10-month, executive-level program for directors of highly rated, publicly funded early learning centers will help expand access to quality early childhood care and education by strengthening leaders in the field.

Pilot parishes include Jefferson, Orleans, St. Bernard, St. Charles, St. John the Baptist, and St. Tammany.

Each participating educator, known as a fellow and listed below, was selected through a competitive application process for directors aiming for excellence in their daily leadership of their early learning centers. They were required to lead a highly-rated early learning center, be fluent in the state's classroom observation tools, and articulate their vision for growth through the program.

"Early childhood is a critical part of a child's life, with 90 percent of brain development taking place before the age of five. Just like principals for schools, early learning directors need professional development and fellowship to best serve our kids," said State Superintendent John White. "We look forward to watching the fellows grow in their profession over the course of the next 10 months, to learning from their leadership, and to supporting them as they build a brighter future for early childhood education in Louisiana."

The Academy, which will hold its first in-person training on Sept.16 in New Orleans, will offer fellows: 

  • 13 days of in-person training, including exclusive opportunities to meet national and state leaders in early childhood education;
  • Job-embedded coaching to support areas of need; and
  • Virtual communities of practice to enhance instructional leadership and quality in early learning programs. 

Over the course of the program, fellows will learn about managing systems changes, building strong teams, and improving program operations, among other content areas. At a culminating event in May 2020, fellows will present how they have used knowledge gained through the Academy to implement change.

The Academy was developed by the Department's early childhood education staff, who live-pitched the concept at the Harvard Zaentz Innovation Challenge in June 2018. The team placed in the national competition and won $10,000. The two-year pilot program is fully funded thanks to generous funding of the W.K. Kellogg Foundation and a private family foundation.

Additional communities will be identified for the second year of the pilot, which will serve another 60 leaders and launch in the fall of 2020. The Academy will scale statewide in 2021. 

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Fellows participating in the inaugural Louisiana Early Leaders Academy include:


Early Childhood Education Center


Helen Dumas

Candyland Kinder Kollege and Candyland Kinder Kollege II


Colleen Eddington

Beary Cherry Tree of Jefferson, Inc.


Carrie Henry

Creative Kidz and Creative Kidz East


Arielle Hughes

Carousel Preschool


Rita Kirton

Kid's University Learning Center


Darnester Nora

Spring Ridge Academy


Monique Rouege

Carlie Care Kids


Niki Da'Jon

Sentino Early Childhood Academy Too and SEA 3 Academy


Dawn Franklin

Thunder Mountain Child Development Center


Kristi Givens

Kids of Excellence and Kids of Excellence Learning Center


Michelle M. Hubbard

St Mary of the Angels Head Start


Laura Kinkton

Abeona House Child Discovery Center


Niquelle Lackings

Angels Haven Daycare and Preschool, LLC


Joy Mitchell

Children's Palace Learning Academy North and Children's Palace Learning Academy South


Lynette Rivers

Kid's Kingdom Academy and Daycare, LLC


Ashley Smallwood

Open Minds Open Hearts Daycare


Lekenja Smothers

The Preschool Learning Center Inc.


Tiffany Spears

Toddler's University, Inc.


Olivette Temple

Temple's Preschool Education Foundation


Rochelle Wilcox

Wilcox's Academy of Early Learning and Wilcox Academy of Early Learning Too


Ashley Jolly

Jolly Kids

St. Bernard

Amie Knuppel

Four Stars Childcare Facility, LLC

St. Charles

Rita Perilloux

Riverlands DBA Little Leaders Learning

St. John the Baptist

Kiana Alexander

Little Prince & Princess Academy

St. Tammany

Diane Coburn

Northminster Montessori Preschool and Kindergarten

St. Tammany

Mirranda Dunn

Fontainebleau Children's Academy

St. Tammany

Sonya Johnson

East St. Tammany Rainbow Child Care Center

St. Tammany

Janet Lewis

Bethany Lutheran Open Arms Child Development Center

St. Tammany

Jamie Woodruff

Kidz Karousel Academy East

St. Tammany

Lisa McCollum

Appletree Academy, Inc.

St. Tammany


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