SCOTT GUGGENHEIMER, CHIEF OF PROGRAMS
Scott Guggenheimer is the chief of programs of the UVA-PLE. Prior to his current role, Guggenheimer served as director of leadership development for District of Columbia Public Schools (DCPS) and, prior to that, as the executive director of African-American Teaching Fellows.
In these roles, he has designed and delivered high-quality programming for college students, teachers, school administrators, and central office staff and senior leadership. At DCPS, he helped shape the leadership journey of aspiring principals, with the goal of providing the most powerful learning experience of their lives, thereby empowering new principals to work for transformative change in their schools.
Scott's background is as an English teacher and administrator in a Title I high school in Washington, D.C. He earned his B.A at Washington and Lee University.
BIAZE HOUSTON, DISTRICT SUPPORT CHIEF
Biaze Houston joined the PLE team in Summer of 2021 and previously served as a director in Aurora Public Schools, where she led the development support for curriculum and instruction in Math, ELA, Health, Science, Social Studies, and electives. Dr. Houston also led the system-wide scaling of the district's assessment strategy through the execution of the Data-Driven Instructional practices model, the programming, identification, and advanced learning plan development and implementation by the Gifted and Talented district team, and the planning & execution of associated professional learning for school-based and central office educators across the district.
Biaze has over a decade of school-level experience as a teacher, teacher leader, assistant principal, and principal. As a middle school principal and PLE participant, Biaze and her staff earned the Center of Excellence Award from the Colorado Department of Education for the level of growth achieved as a Title I school in 2017 and 2019, moving off the state accountability clock to the highest state performance rating.
Biaze holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in English from Colorado State University, a Master of Arts degree in Teaching from the University of Phoenix, and a Doctor of Philosophy in Curriculum and Instruction from the University of Denver. In her spare time, Biaze enjoys spending time with her husband and two daughters.
TONYA KALES, DISTRICT SUPPORT CHIEF
Prior to joining the UVA-PLE team, Tonya Kales served as a learning community superintendent in Charlotte, North Carolina. She was responsible for 25 schools (23,000 students) ranging from pre-K–middle college. She partnered with leading education reform organizations to create new teacher roles in her schools without using additional funding. The changes have led to academic success through increasing proficiency rates and exceeding growth standards set by the state.
Kales brings extensive academic and administrative experience to her current role. Named Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools Principal of the Year in 2012, Kales spent much of her career as a school principal and administrator. She was a strategically staffed principal at Ashley Park pre-K–8 School from 2009–12. Prior to her tenure at Ashley Park, she was principal at McAlpine Elementary and an assistant principal at Smithfield Elementary. She was chosen as a North Carolina Principal Fellow in 2000. She earned her National Board certification as a teacher in 1999.
A native of Charlotte, she holds a bachelor’s degree in elementary education and a master’s degree in administration, curriculum and instruction from the University of North Carolina-Charlotte, where she is pursuing a doctoral degree in educational leadership.
DAVID KUTAS, SENIOR PROJECT DIRECTOR
David Kutas started with the PLE in 2014, initially serving as a project-focused alumnus of Education Pioneers. Through his experience in the private, nonprofit and public sectors, David provides leadership on how the UVA-PLE can continue to meet partner needs as they strive to meet the needs of their students. His professional focuses include leveraging statistics and feedback to optimize service delivery, leveraging competency frameworks to unlock greater performance, and designing needs-analyses that lead to initial partnership design decisions. David champions the initial work with school districts through the Design Year of our Core Partnership.
David earned an MBA from the University of North Carolina at Greensboro, a M.Ed. of Curriculum & Instruction from the School of Education and Human Development at The University of Virginia, a Six Sigma Black Belt, and possesses a range of certifications and training in effective project management.
LEIGHANN LENTI, CHIEF OF PARTNERSHIP
Leighann Lenti joined the UVA-PLE as chief of partnership in 2018. Prior to joining the UVA-PLE, she spent nearly three years at the College Board and five years at the New Mexico Public Education Department. While serving as the deputy secretary for policy and program in New Mexico, Lenti oversaw the state’s implementation of standards and assessments, school accountability, teacher evaluation, options for parents, pre-K and early literacy, college and career readiness, and school turnaround — including working with New Mexico school districts while they were PLE partners.
In total, Lenti has over 15 years of experience working on education policy at the federal and state levels, including the U.S. Senate, U.S. Department of Education, the New Mexico Public Education Department and Office of California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger. Lenti earned an M.A. in politics and education from Teacher’s College at Columbia University in New York City, as well as a B.A. in integrative studies, liberal studies for education, from George Mason University in Fairfax, Virginia.
COBY MEYERS, CHIEF OF RESEARCH
In addition to his role with the UVA-PLE, Coby Meyers is associate professor of education at UVA’s School of Education and Human Development. Prior to joining the UVA-PLE in 2015, Meyers was the senior researcher at American Institutes for Research (AIR), where he managed AIR’s work in the Regional Educational Laboratory (REL) Northeast and Islands. Meyers also led a beating-the-odds study for REL Midwest, working to identify schools achieving at higher levels than expected and analyzing organizational factors that might be related to those achievement levels.
Meyers has played integral roles in various school turnaround initiatives, an area in which he has presented and published, including co-authoring the book Turning Around Failing Schools: Lessons from the Organizational Sciences and multiple journal articles. He was recognized in 2012 with the Emerging Scholar Award by the American Educational Research Association special-interest group School Turnaround and Reform.
After working as a middle and high school literature teacher, Meyers attained a master’s degree in secondary education at the University of Kentucky and earned his doctoral degree in education leadership, policy and organizations at Vanderbilt University.
WILLIAM ROBINSON, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR
William Robinson is the executive director of the University of Virginia's Partnership for Leaders in Education (UVA-PLE). Robinson has been with the UVA-PLE since 2010, initially overseeing efforts to transform how the partnership supports district partners and builds executive education programs focused on systemic change.
Robinson is a graduate of Harvard Business School and an Education Pioneers alumnus. Prior to joining the UVA-PLE, he completed consulting work for various education organizations, including the D.C. Public Education Fund, the Center for Better Schools and Stand for Children. Robinson began his career at McMaster-Carr Supply Co., where he helped manage its supply chain operations in Atlanta. Robinson earned his B.A. in economics from Princeton University.
DENISE WATTS, DISTRICT SUPPORT CHIEF
Denise Watts most recently served as the leader of Project L.I.F.T., a semi-autonomous learning community within Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools (CMS). The L.I.F.T. initiative focuses on talent, time, technology, and community/parent engagement and policy change. Embedded in this role, she also served as principal supervisor for the nine L.I.F.T. schools as well as 19 other Title I schools in the school district. Under the leadership of Dr. Watts, Project L.I.F.T. schools were among the first in the nation to implement Opportunity Culture, a model that leverages district support systems to re-design career pathways and compensation to extend the reach of excellent teachers to more students within budget.
In her 20-year career trajectory, Dr. Watts has been recognized for her leadership as the North Carolina’s NASSP Middle Level Principal of the Year in 2008. She was also tapped for Strategic Staffing, CMS’s nationally recognized turnaround initiative that placed top leaders and teachers in its most challenged schools. In addition to completing the Relay Graduate School of Education Principal Supervisor Fellowship in 2017, Denise also recently finished a doctorate in educational leadership at Wingate University in 2014, authoring a dissertation on the partnership cultivation between philanthropy and school district leadership in school reform efforts.
DARA WILSON, DISTRICT SUPPORT CHIEF
Dara Wilson is a leader in education, committed to maximizing student success for every student. She joined the UVA-PLE in June 2018, after participating in the program for three years in her district role as area superintendent. Prior to joining the UVA-PLE, she had a 32-year tenure in public schools, where she served as a special education teacher, curriculum support teacher, principal, area executive director, assistant superintendent, achievement zone officer and area superintendent. Throughout her tenure, she was charged with leading schools to dramatic academic outcomes for students, often serving the most economically disadvantaged and underserved populations in the school district. She has extensive experience in working with Title I, special education and ESOL populations and a proven track record of positive results. As a principal for 16 years, she lead each of the three elementary schools where she served as principal to award-winning status at the local, state and national level and received numerous personal recognitions and awards, including being named the recipient of the Jo Richardson Principal of the Year award.
In her last role as area superintendent, she lead extensive efforts to turnaround the lowest performing schools across the district, while supervising 30 principals and over 30,000 students, and ultimately ignited the district to create a strategic support model to provide differentiated support to schools based on student needs and performance across a district serving over 100 schools. Wilson earned a bachelor's in special education from the University of Georgia and a master's and specialist degree in educational leadership from Georgia State University.