The West Michigan Leadership Academy, a program designed to cultivate school leaders’ capacity and commitment to culturally responsive, antiracist leadership, will launch its fourth cohort of School Leader Fellows tomorrow. Twenty school leaders from nine districts and two charter schools across the Kent ISD will participate.

The West Michigan Leadership Academy School Leader Fellowship is a three-year program of professional learning and leadership coaching for high-potential and high-performing school leaders. The program builds and strengthens leaders’ ability to confront systemic inequities and engage and inspire their school communities in envisioning and enacting the structures, systems and practices required to achieve equitable outcomes for all students. In the first year of the Fellowship, Fellows engage in a year-long professional learning series alongside peers selected from across the region. Each Fellow is matched with an expert leadership coach who works alongside them for all three years of the Fellowship, providing individualized, job-embedded thought partnership and coaching.

“We’ve had the opportunity to build something really special here in West Michigan and are continuously inspired by the passion and commitment that our Fellows bring to the work of creating more equitable schools,” West Michigan Leadership Academy Director Abbie Groff-Blaszak said. “We’re honored to be supporting a generation of school leaders who have the ability to make West Michigan a national leader in racially equitable, culturally responsive schooling.”

The West Michigan Leadership Academy, a program of The Leadership Academy, was launched in 2018 in partnership with the Doug and Maria DeVos Foundation and the Steelcase Foundation. The program has supported and developed 43 school leaders in its first three years.

“As a WMLA Fellow, you are challenged in a good way – it pushes you to be the best you,” Assistant Principal Veola McFerrin-Nelson of Godwin Heights Middle School and WMLA Cohort 3 Fellow said. “My coach pushes me to think deeply about what students and staff really need. Equity is central.”

“My priorities as a leader have certainly shifted, and I know that is a direct result of WMLA,” said Danielle Hendry, Human Resources Director at Kent ISD and a WMLA Cohort 2 Fellow. “My biggest realization has been that being antiracist isn’t just about my own thoughts and feelings – it’s about challenging inequities and leading the charge to make policies antiracist. It’s the system.”

The new WMLA Fellows are

  • Kelli Arnold-Wegner, Principal of Thornapple Kellogg Middle School in Thornapple Kellogg Schools
  • Angelia Coleman, Assistant Principal of Endeavor Elementary School in Kentwood Public Schools
  • Carol Franz, Principal of Cedar View Elementary School in Cedar Springs Public Schools
  • Aquan Grant, Principal and Director of School Quality of Michigan Prep Virtual School
  • Jonathan Haga, Assistant Principal of Burton Elementary School in Grand Rapids Public Schools
  • Lisa Nuyens Heyne, Principal and Executive Director of Grand Rapids Child Discovery Center
  • Jim Jensen, Principal of Lee Middle School in Godfrey-Lee Public Schools
  • Duane Kiley, Principal of Kent Transition Center in Kent ISD
  • Jodi LaFeldt, Preschool and Special Education Director of Greenridge Early Childhood Center in Comstock Park Public Schools
  • Sara Larkin, Supervisor of Special Education at Hamilton Early Childhood Center in Kentwood Public Schools
  • Abbie Marr, Principal of Ken-O-Sha Park Elementary School in Grand Rapids Public Schools
  • Amarena Nelson, School Improvement Facilitator at Alger Middle School in Grand Rapids Public Schools
  • Nicholas Orlowski, Director of Professional Learning and Early Warning Systems at Grand Rapids Public Schools
  • Andrew Semanson, Assistant Principal of North Park Montessori in Grand Rapids Public Schools
  • April Stevens, Assistant Director of Student Services in Cedar Springs Public Schools
  • Jordan Stuhan, Principal of Kent City Middle and High Schools in Kent City Community Schools
  • Sara Van, Supervisor of Special Education in Grand Rapids Public Schools
  • Rhonda Varney, Assistant Principal of Burton Middle School in Grand Rapids Public Schools
  • Abby Wiseman, Principal of Kenowa Hills Middle School in Kenowa Hills Public Schools
  • Allison Woodside, Principal of Burton Elementary School in Grand Rapids Public Schools

About The Leadership Academy

The Leadership Academy is a nationally recognized nonprofit organization that builds the capacity of educational leaders at every level of the system to confront inequities and create the conditions necessary for all students to thrive. Since 2003, The Leadership Academy has worked with more than 8,000 education leaders in 210 school systems across 37 states, impacting more than 7 million students.