NAESP and District of Columbia Public Schools Honor Pre-K–3 Leadership Academy Cohort

These educators represent the second Washington, D.C., cohort to participate in NAESP’s award-winning professional learning program.

Alexandria, VA—May 9, 2024—With a commitment to preparing school leaders to help provide high-quality and aligned early learning, the National Association of Elementary School Principals (NAESP) and District of Columbia Public Schools (DCPS) are pleased to announce 16 school leaders have recently completed the NAESP Pre-K–3 Leadership Academy®. The participants represent the second Washington, D.C., cohort to participate in the award-winning professional learning program that provides principals and other school leaders with a job-embedded experience in developmentally appropriate leadership practices.

“NAESP takes great pride in partnering with District of Columbia Public Schools for early childhood education training,” said NAESP Executive Director L. Earl Franks, Ed.D., CAE. “We understand the significance of a cohesive learning journey from pre-K to grade 3 for children aged 3 to 8, and this academy equips educators with the essential skills to achieve that. Heartfelt congratulations to the graduates, whose tireless efforts and unwavering commitment to their profession will undoubtedly yield remarkable results in student learning and progress during the early school years.”

The academy has directly supported Washington, D.C., school leaders in deepening their knowledge of the needs of young children and sharpening their skills as instructional leaders of early learning, a critical missing component in aligned early learning systems. NAESP’s foundational competency guide, Leading Learning Communities: A Principal’s Guide to Early Learning and the Early Grades (Pre-K−3rd Grade), provides the framework for the NAESP Pre-K-3 Leadership Academy.

The DCPS cohort focused on competencies such as developing and fostering partnerships with families and communities, ensuring equitable learning opportunities, promoting a culture of continuous improvement, and building professional capacity across the learning community. In addition to coursework, cohort members participated in a culminating Capstone Project that allowed them to apply their learning to a problem of practice within their school or district. 

“Children who attend high-quality pre-K programs are better prepared for elementary school, and some research has even shown better life outcomes in terms of graduation, college, and employment.” said DCPS Chancellor Lewis D. Ferebee. “Our partnership with the NAESP leadership program empowers our school leaders to dive deeper into the science of how young children learn so they can apply that understanding across their instructional practice.”

NAESP and our partners at DCPS congratulate these Pre-K–3Leadership Academy participants, who received their certification as a Pre-K–3 Credentialed Leader:

  • Maquita Alexander, Principal, Van Ness Elementary School
  • Sara Arranz, Assistant Principal, Stevens ELC & Military Road ELC
  • Elke Chen, Assistant Principal, Hearst Elementary
  • Brandon Clayton, Principal, Takoma Elementary School
  • Shawna Dix, Principal, Browne Elementary School
  • Kristie Edwards, Principal, Randle Highlands Elementary School
  • Merlyne Graves, Assistant Principal, Moten Elementary School
  • Shelly Gray, Principal, LaSalle Backus Elementary School
  • Natalie Hubbard, Principal, Raymond Elementary School
  • LaTarsha James, Assistant Principal, Peabody Elementary School
  • Ashley Lawson, Assistant Principal, Takoma Elementary School
  • Laena Lee, Principal, Nalle Elementary School
  • Okiyyah Lyons-Lucas, Principal, Powell Elementary School
  • Chunita Pilgrim, Principal, Burrville Elementary School
  • Veronica Torres, Principal, Seaton Elementary School
  • Clinton Turner, Principal, Walker Jones Elementary School

The leadership academy advisors are:

  • Amanda Delabar, Principal, Tubman Elementary School
  • Gwendolyn Payton, Cluster I, Instructional Superintendent, DCPS
  • Tenia Pritchard, Cluster III, Instructional Superintendent, DCPS

For more information about the NAESP academy contact NAESP Associate Executive Director, Professional Learning, Gracie Branch, Ph.D., at