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Dr. Ian Buchanan is president and CEO of Nia Education Group, an executive coaching firm that primarily supports Black and Brown education leaders. His 30 years in education includes working as an assistant superintendent in the School District of University City, a managing director at Teach For America, a high school math teacher and an administrator in St. Louis Public Schools, Ferguson-Florissant and Normandy. The Opportunity Trust is a financial supporter of Nia.  

What is Nia? 

Nia Education Group is committed to helping great leaders be their best leadership selves. We focus on two strategies, starting with gold standard executive leadership coaching. For many reasons, including budget constraints, many middle level managers and district leaders don’t get leadership coaching. It can make a measurable difference in their impact. Nia Education group also does consulting work. I’ve served students and families at every level of education and have had a measurable impact. The grant from The Opportunity Trust allows me to offer this service to school districts at no cost to them. 

After spending 30 years in various education leadership roles, what drew you to coaching? 

Throughout my career, I have been a capacity builder. I was naturally drawn to coaching because its fundamental purpose is to help individuals grow and make improvements. Unfortunately, far too often, Black and Brown leaders, especially Black and Brown men, don’t get the coaching support that they need. They need this kind of support because of the unique challenges they face. I want to be a person who provides that support and sets them up to be impactful leaders in our region’s education ecosystem. I’m trying to nurture and cultivate their greatness so they can have a greater impact on student outcomes. After 30 years in education, I’m reaching the downside in my career and one of the things we’d say growing up was, ‘Who got next?’ What that means is, ‘Who’s next in the queue?’ My job as a leader is to cultivate those leaders who ‘have next.’ 

Where do you see this going from here?

Over the course of the next four years, I want to formally coach 50 Black male leaders in the St. Louis region. I want to touch the region’s current and soon-to-be principals, executive directors, and superintendents. I also want to continue with the antiracism work we’re doing in partnership with Sherita Love and the Education Equity Center of St. Louis

How does your work align with The Opportunity Trust? 

The Opportunity Trust aims to get more high-quality seats in schools. Two leverage points are teachers and principals. If I’m supporting a dozen or so principals in the St. Louis region, then my mission and The Opportunity Trust’s mission are directly aligned. The Opportunity Trust wants to build principal capacity. Me too. We have the same mission to make leaders great for the sole benefit of ensuring our kids have high quality schools on both sides of the river. 

Think about the reach you have if you’re coaching 11 principals in St. Louis. If those principals each support 300 kids and 50 staff members, that’s a pretty big impact. Coaching makes people better, and stronger education leaders lead to better student outcomes. We’re talking about positively impacting several thousand kids in this region.

What should someone do if they’re interested in Nia, or would like to get coaching?

We can be reached on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and LinkedIn. You can access us through our website, To catch me directly, I’m at

Dr. Buchanan is currently coaching 15 education leaders in the St. Louis metro area.