Cohort 1

Our first cohort of Entrepreneurs-In-Residence are currently preparing to launch schools for the 2021-2022 school year.

Kimberly Townsend

The Leadership School
K-8 school within the boundaries of the Normandy School Collaborative

About Kimberly
Kimberly began her teaching career as a middle school mathematics teacher with Teach For America in St. Louis. With over 16 years of experience teaching and leading school teams in public and private schools, Kimberly is a flexible leader with an entrepreneurial spirit and unwavering focus on student learning and leadership. Kimberly earned a Bachelor of Science in Human Development and Family Studies from The University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and a Master of Arts in Teaching – Multidisciplinary Studies from Webster University. She is pursuing a Doctor of Education in K-12 Educational Leadership and Policy from Vanderbilt University.

The Leadership School’s Mission
The Leadership School exists to grow our students’ leadership capacity through earnest engagement in an academically rigorous, culturally relevant, and relationship-oriented environment.

The Leadership School’s Vision
Students will lead transformational change for their communities and our world. They will be thoughtful citizens who understand the responsibility of leaders to shape and create equitable spaces.

Read more about The Leadership School:

Colby Heckdorn & Genevieve Backer

Atlas Public Schools
K-5 school in St. Louis City’s Central Corridor

About Colby
Colby Heckendorn was the school leader of Patrick Henry, a neighborhood elementary school in the St. Louis Public School District for five years. At the time of Colby’s promotion to school leader, Patrick Henry scored in the bottom 5% of all schools the state. While at Henry, Colby led a diverse team of nearly 50 teachers and support staff. By taking a “whole-child” approach, Colby and his team exceeded the goals set by DESE in all three core subject areas by more than 20 points. Attendance increased by nearly ten percent, and enrollment grew by 18 percent. In addition, suspensions were essentially eliminated as a consequence. Colby’s teacher retention rate is one of the highest in the St. Louis Public School District at 93%. Colby has a B.A. in Education from the University of Missouri and a Master’s in Educational Leadership and Administration from the University of Missouri, St. Louis.

About Genevieve
Genevieve Backer, a native to St. Louis, began her career in education as a 2013 TFA corps member in New Orleans, LA. She taught 5th grade at a traditional public school and ranked in the top 1% of most effective teachers, determined by the Louisiana Department of Education Compass Final Evaluation. After three years at George Cox Elementary, Backer was a founding lead teacher at KIPP East Community Primary. Her second-grade students consistently outperformed other network schools on interim tests. She spent a year at Lafayette Preparatory Academy in St. Louis as a founding middle school Investigations teacher, where she created and led a project-based curriculum for 4th-6th grade. Backer has a B.A. in Social Entrepreneurship from Creighton University and a Master’s in Education from Johns Hopkins University.

Atlas Public Schools’ Mission
The mission of Atlas Public Schools is to educate the whole child by combining a rigorous academic program with authentic, real-world experiences so all students thrive in middle school, high school, and beyond.

Atlas Public Schools’ Vision
Atlas envisions a time when all students in St. Louis have the skills and habits needed to be successful in the 21st century, and where St. Louis is heralded as a model of a flourishing, diverse, and empowered community. We believe that high-quality public schools will be the catalyst for community transformation that will result in a thriving city.

Read more about Atlas Public Schools:


Cohort 2

Our second cohort is currently incubating their school models through a rigorous research, coaching, and community collaboration process. They aim to launch their schools for the 2022-2023 school year.

Hollie Russell-West

We LEAD Academy
K-8 Innovation School 

About Hollie
Hollie Russell-West, EdD is a native of St. Louis, MO. For over two decades, she has been working with families in St. Louis Public Schools. She started her journey as a substitute teacher, not knowing this is where the path would lead. Her passion for helping and uplifting families through education evolved from the love and support she received from her teachers. They inspired, challenged, and pushed her, all while providing nurturing and support. That is who Dr. Russell-West has always wanted to be for her students. As a teacher, school leader, and member of various committees, the needs, and desires of students are always front and center. After graduating from St. Louis Public Schools, Hollie earned a BA from the University of Missouri-St. Louis, MA in Education from Fontbonne University, MA in Educational Leadership from Lindenwood University, EdS from the University of Missouri – Columbia, and EdD in Educational Leadership from Maryville University. 

We LEAD Academy’s Mission
We LEAD Academy prepares students to lead successful lives by developing their agency through robust academics, personal development, and mass media.

We Lead Academy’s Vision
We LEAD Academy will prepare a generation of students who author their own futures and contribute meaningfully to their communities and our world.

Vanessa Hopkins

Muse STEAM Service Academy
6-8 STEAM school

About Vanessa
Born and raised on the Northside of St. Louis City, Vanessa attended school in the Pattonville School District as one of the early families to take part in the desegregation program. Vanessa worked as a case manager for the MO Dept. of Social Services until she decided to change careers and residency by relocating to Atlanta, GA and becoming an educator. Vanessa relocated to Memphis, TN in 2011 when she was selected for the New Leaders Aspiring Principals Program. After completing her residency, Vanessa served as a Vice-Principal and District Literacy Coach in the Shelby County Schools. Most recently, Vanessa worked in Syracuse, NY, lending her talents to the effort of turning around a struggling school, which received 11 awards during her tenure for decreased attrition of teachers, family and community involvement, meeting NY State DIIR targets year 1, improved teacher attendance, rigorous restorative practices, and decreased recidivism (including serious incidents, OSS & ISS). Vanessa holds a BS in Public Administration from Southwest Missouri State University and MA in Education and EdS in Educational Administration from Central Michigan University. 

Muse STEAM  Service Academy’s Mission

Muse STEAM Service Academy combines the power of STEAM education with an enduring commitment to self and advocacy for our community, equipping every student to be future-ready.

Muse STEAM Service Academy’s Vision
Muse STEAM Service Academy will be an innovative STEAM middle school. Steeped in connections across the disciplines and student agency, Muse STEAM Service Academy will serve the whole child while setting high expectations around academic success.

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