Education Pioneers is uniquely positioned to find and support the talent needed to respond to this crisis and create a better future for students and communities.

Navigating Challenging Times

School systems faced unprecedented challenges in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. The work to re-open schools safely, recover learning, and reimagine a more equitable future for education was — and continues to be — complex, capacity-intensive, and budget-constrained. The average student was estimated to lose more than 7 months of learning due to COVID-19, with students of color and low-income students losing up to a year, widening existing achievement gaps by 15-20%.

School systems needed adaptive, inclusive leaders to respond to the crisis and seize an opportunity to grapple with long-standing inequities. 

The EP COVID Response Fellowship

Education Pioneers helped the sector respond to COVID-19 by meeting this moment with what we’re uniquely positioned to offer: adaptive, inclusive, talented leaders equipped to transform the sector. 

For this 12-month program in 2020-2021, we connected Alumni of prominent education leadership development programs with a district, charter school, or state education agency where they provided Chief of Staff-level support to senior leaders as they planed and implemented adaptive approaches to evolving public health policies, operational processes, and academic practices while ensuring that schools are providing equitable student learning experiences.

COVID Response Fellowship at a Glance

Who were COVID Response Fellows?

Mid-senior Level Education Leaders

Proven Collaborators & Problem-solvers

Adaptive, Inclusive, Equity-oriented People

  • 10-15 years of overall work experience 
  • 3-7 years of relevant chief of staff, project management, and/or strategy experience
  • Comfortable working directly with senior and executive leaders at an education organization or school
  • They can navigate diverse groups of stakeholders. 
  • They can diagnose problems and find creative solutions. 
  • They have experience leading through organizational and operational change. 
  • They persevere and persist through challenging and high-stakes work.
  • They grasp the nuances and complexities facing the education sector right now. 
  • They’re conversant in DEI issues, including how race, identity, power and oppression influence the system. 
  • They’ve practiced adaptive leadership and are committed to equity & inclusion.



2020-2021 Education Pioneers COVID Response Fellows

Tirza Buelto

Providence Public Schools

Elizabeth Dill

Hartford Public Schools

Caitlin Gallagher

New Paradigm for Education

Martrice Gandy

ReGeneration Schools

Julie Gopalan

Rocketship Public Schools

Johntel Greene

New York City Department of Education

Karmin-Tia Greer

The SEED Foundation

Amanda Harless

Freedom Preparatory Academy Charter Schools

Nile Harris

Clarksdale Collegiate Public Charter School

Christopher Hill

Shelby County Schools

Carissa Godwin Holsted

Shelby County Schools

Damon Hoyle

Texas Education Agency

Gaines Johnson

Inglewood Unified School District

Jean Liu

Oakland Unified School District

Vin Menon

VISTA College Prep

Danielle Moehrke

Chicago Public Schools

Charlotte Nugent

Office of the State Superintendent of Education

Caitlin Paul

Los Angeles Unified School District

Jessica Post

Yakima School District

Abbie Ridenour

Marin Promise Partnership

Aeriell Robinson

The Surge Institute

Frances Spencer

KIPP Metro Atlanta

Etna Tiburcio

Excel Academy Charter Schools

Kenneth Walk

Boston Public Schools





Learn more about our Fellows >>
Read the Press Release >>


Over the course of 12-month work placements from 2020-2021, our 24 COVID Response Fellows had outsized impact on education’s COVID response, providing critical COVID-specific capacity to 20+ school systems serving 7M+ students nationwide. Fellows’ day-to-day work varied, but a common theme rang true: they pushed systems to meet the moment. Their legacy includes:

  • 7 Fellows who drove COVID vaccination or testing efforts;
  • 5 Fellows who ensured systems had the technology, PPE, and other supplies needed to reopen;
  • 5 Fellows who supported effective teaching and learning;
  • 4 Fellows who led efforts to secure or allocate ESSER funding; and
  • 4 Fellows who led the creation or implementation of long-term strategic plans.

Download the full report  or view online >>


[Our] education challenges didn’t begin with the pandemic, but it exacerbated inequities in our educational system. These inequities will endure and prevent the potential of this great country unless tackled head on.

Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona

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