AKEISH FORSYTHE, SENIOR PROJECT DIRECTOR
Akeish Forsythe is an accomplished education leader, change management professional, and organizational development expert. With over 15 years of experience, she excels in strategic visioning, program analysis, and leadership coaching.
Akeish's expertise extends to assisting national and international governments, non-profit agencies, and educational institutions in succession planning, strategic implementation, and data management.
Akeish is recognized as an international thought-partner, supporting transformation in over 500 cities across North and South America, Europe, and Asia. With her ability to forge relationships and connect stakeholders across sectors, she contributes to the design and implementation of global, high-impact programs.
Her academic achievements, including a M.Ed from Johns Hopkins University, provide a solid foundation for her expertise in organizational development and education research.
SCOTT GUGGENHEIMER, CHIEF OF PROGRAMS
Before his current role, Scott 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 his current role, Scott collaborates with faculty from the Darden School of Business and public school practitioners from across the country to design and deliver high-quality learning experiences and leadership development for central office staff, district leadership, teachers, and school administrators.
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 in Psychology at Washington and Lee University.
LATOYA HARRISON, DISTRICT SUPPORT CHIEF
Before joining the PLE, LaToya served as the Chief Academic Officer in Chesapeake Public Schools. In this role, she oversaw all areas of teaching and learning, including curriculum and instruction, assessment, college and career readiness, academic support, and exceptional education for the division’s 47 schools. She also served as the Assistant Superintendent of Curriculum and Instruction and as Interim Superintendent in Suffolk Public Schools, where she led the division in increasing student achievement, improving graduation rates, and achieving full accreditation.
LaToya has also served as an Executive Director in Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools (CMS), where she helped pioneer the Central Elementary Zone, which provided strategic leadership and support to 49 Title I Elementary Schools. During her time in CMS, she supported various strategic staffing and talent management initiatives.
LaToya began her career journey in Washington, DC, serving as an elementary teacher and principal. She also founded SOAR Education, Inc., a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization that provided academic and social support to students from disadvantaged communities. LaToya holds an Ed.D. from the Urban Superintendents Program at Harvard University, an Ed.M. in Education Policy and Management from Harvard, an M.Ed. from Regent University, and a B.A. in Sociology from the College of William and Mary.
BIAZE HOUSTON, DISTRICT SUPPORT CHIEF
Biaze Houston previously served as a director in Aurora Public Schools, where she led the development support for curriculum and instruction in all core and electives content areas. 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
As a veteran PLE District Support Chief, Tonya Kales serves as the lead for core partnership districts committed to changes necessary to deliver on the promise of a free high quality public education for all our scholars. She has partnered with districts that represent rural, suburban, and urban communities from Texas, Oklahoma, Florida, Arizona, and Pennsylvania to name a few. Several of her partner districts, Gallup, New Mexico, Fulton Georgia, and Aurora Colorado have been highlighted in research articles for their tremendous academic gains through establishing the conditions at the district level while building leadership capacity at the school level. Her executive education sessions provide engaging, hands-on adult learning focused on school organizational design, district instructional infrastructure and principal supervision.
Prior to joining the PLE, Tonya served over 20 years in the Charlotte Mecklenburg School District, Charlotte NC, as teacher, literacy coach, strategic staffing school leader and district Learning Community Superintendent. She was recognized for the academic gains of her scholars in every role she was assigned. In addition, she has been awarded National Board Certification, a NC Principal Fellow, and CMS District Principal of the Year. Through her partnerships with Teach for America, New Leaders, Educational Resource Strategies and Public Impact alongside her work at UVA PLE, Tonya continues to align herself with organizations focused on addressing the needs in the most under resourced communities across the country.
A native of Charlotte, NC, she holds a bachelor’s degree in Elementary Education and master’s degrees in School Administration as well as Curriculum and Instruction from the University of North Carolina-Charlotte.
RANDI LAUDISIO, ASSOCIATE DIRECTOR of PROGRAMS & OPERATIONS
Randi Laudisio joined the UVA-PLE Operations Team in 2017, leveraging her skills in planning to execute transformational learning experiences for district partners. Her role includes designing and implementing strategies that bolster organizational efficiency and collaboration. Randi's expertise in planning was honed through her previous experiences, which span from work in the music industry to international program coordination for educational institutions. A James Madison University graduate, she has a deep-rooted commitment to public education, influenced by her family's educational background. Randi's knack for meticulous organization ensures that PLE programs and visits empower leaders to implement impactful changes in their respective systems.
LEIGHANN LENTI, CHIEF OF PARTNERSHIP
Leighann Lenti joined the UVA-PLE as chief of partnership in 2018. Before 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.
Lenti has over 20 years of experience working on education policy at the federal and state levels, including in the U.S. Senate, U.S. Department of Education, the New Mexico Public Education Department, and the 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 and a B.A. in integrative and liberal studies for education from George Mason University in Fairfax, Virginia.
VIVIAN LUNDY, CLIENT OPERATIONS MANAGER
Vivian joined the University of Virginia’s Partnership for Leaders in Education team as the Client Operations Manager in the summer of 2023. Vivian helps support and manage executive education programs like the virtual Thought Partnership Process and the Supervisor and Shepherd Summit by organizing schedules, logistics, communication, and materials while optimizing workflows along the way. She works in conjunction with the UVA-PLE operations team and field team to ensure successful delivery of in-district support and off-site engagement with the goal of providing extraordinary customer service and world-class programming.
Prior to joining UVA-PLE, Vivian worked in various education and research institutes, including the UVA Office of Undergraduate Admission, the UVA Institute for Advanced Studies in Culture and the Advanced Studies in Culture Foundation, Clayborne Education, and Germanna Community College Tutoring Services. Her 7+ years of administrative and client relations experience helps her thrive in fast-paced, high-pressure environments that require a proactive, detail-oriented, organized, and collaborative team member.
Vivian earned her Bachelor of Arts in Psychology from the University of Virginia, which inspires her work in education, especially at her alma mater.
COBY MEYERS, CHIEF OF RESEARCH
In addition to his role with the UVA-PLE, Coby Meyers is an associate professor of education at UVA’s School of Education and Human Development. Before 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 doctorate in education leadership, policy, and organizations at Vanderbilt University.
SHASHWANTA (Shashie) MORTON, ASSOCIATE DIRECTOR of PROGRAMS & OPERATIONS
Shashwanta (Shashie) Morton has been in her current position with the organization for 17 years. Applying meticulous attention to detail, Shashie provides high-quality experiences for our partners during programs and site visits. She actively collaborates with various stakeholders, internally and externally, to ensure that PLE stays organized, achieves its goals, and remains a leader in the field of education. In her free time, Shashie loves to plan celebratory events, travel, and spend time with her friends and family.
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. Before 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.