Every student within the boundaries of the Kansas City Public School district deserves the opportunity to achieve success.

Our Mission

ELIMINATING THE ACHIEVEMENT GAP

TOO MANY SCHOOLS ARE FAILING.

Youth lack opportunity when 30% of our schools are performing in the bottom 5% of the state.

BUT THERE IS REAL HOPE.

More than 30% of schools of all types – District neighborhood, signature and charter schools – are performing near or even significantly above the state average.

LET’S WORK TOGETHER.

It’s time to build a future where our kids are prepared to succeed in school and life and ensure the long term vitality of Kansas City.

  • By 2026, our goal is for at least 65% of all public schools in the Kansas City Public School district boundaries to be outperforming or within 10% of statewide averages.

Key Strategies

A FOUNDATION FOR SCHOOL SUCCESS

SchoolSmartKC works with our schools, resource providers and other key stakeholders on three key strategies to empower families, expand the number of quality schools and foster a policy environment for improvement.

STARTING SMART

SchoolSmartKC supports the sustainable foundation for any quality school system: a robust, “SchoolSmart” constituency of families that are informed about school quality and empowered to take action.

INVESTING FOR SUCCESS

SchoolSmartKC makes substantial, data-driven, coordinated investments to expand and fortify quality school offerings, while also supporting the improvement of schools that can and should do better.

DEMANDING QUALITY

SchoolSmartKC serves as an unyielding voice for quality education by nurturing practical, system-wide policy changes for sustained improvement.

Within ten years, we seek to more than double the percentage of schools that perform on par with the state.

OUR TEAM

MEET THE TEAM

Noah Devine

Director of Educational Investments

Noah Devine

Director of Educational Investments

Noah Devine is the Director of Educational Investments at SchoolSmartKC, where he leads the analytic efforts, strategy, planning, due diligence, support and monitoring efforts for expanding and fortifying quality school options for students in the Kansas City Public School System.  Prior to joining SSKC, Noah was an independent consultant with local districts, state agencies, philanthropies and schools to improve the access and quality of educational options for students, including with the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation. Before that, Noah  worked for the Louisiana Department of Education as the director of Accountability Policy where he led data, analytics and stakeholder engagement to drive policy and decision-making across teacher, leader, school and district evaluation and accountability systems. Noah Devine holds a B.S. in political science from the Truman State University, an M.S. in political science from the University of Missouri, and an Ed.M. from the Harvard Graduate School of Education.

Jessica Easter

Administrative Coordinator

Jessica Easter

Administrative Coordinator

Jessica Easter is the Administrative Coordinator for SchoolSmartKC, providing critical day-to-day support to the SchoolSmartKC team. Jessica’s work is grounded in her exceptional ability to streamline processes, maximize efficiency and cultivate important relationships within organizations and communities. Jessica has over 10 years of experience of senior-level executive support, identifying organizational requirements, correlating programs and coordinating events. Prior to joining SchoolSmartKC, Jessica provided high-level administrative support to managers and executives in the areas of Human Resources, Finance, Environmental Health, Maternal Child Health and Community Engagement with the City of Kansas City, Missouri.

As a native of Kansas City, Jessica deeply understands the importance of helping Kansas City schools find solutions to closing the achievement gap. She is excited to be a part of an organization that impacts the community she grew up in and enjoys being apart of such a dynamic team.

Jessica holds a B.A. from the University of Missouri-Kansas City.

Cokethea Hill

Director of Community and Family Engagement

Cokethea Hill

Director of Community and Family Engagement

Cokethea Hill is Director of Community and Family Engagement at SchoolSmartKC, where she leads efforts to build robust, parent-school-community partnerships linked to student achievement and better access to information on local schools. Prior to her work with SchoolSmartKC, Cokethea was Vice President for Diversity and Special Initiatives at United Way of Greater Kansas City, focusing on building partnerships and growing philanthropic support in communities of color. Previously, she served as Community Development Specialist for the Mid America Regional Council’s Green Impact Zone and College Coach for the Kauffman Scholars program. Cokethea brings to SchoolSmartKC extensive grassroots experience in community organizing and development, a passion for equity and education, and an ability to build partnerships across political, civic, and business communities. She has served as a school board member for Kansas City Public Schools and as a councilmember for the City of Kansas City. Cokethea is pursuing her Doctorate in Education from the University of Kansas, earned a Masters in Psychology from Avila University, and holds a Bachelors from the University of Central Missouri.

Angelique Nedved

Director of School Quality

Angelique Nedved

Director of School Quality

As Director of School Quality at SchoolSmartKC, Angelique Nedved leads in depth reviews of schools for investment and the structuring of investment support to ensure quality schooling for local youth. She also drives SchoolSmartKC’s broader efforts to coordinate leadership, instruction and other supports needed for all schools in our local system to thrive. Angelique brings comprehensive experience in school improvement and organizational change focused on the adoption of modern and engaging learning environments. Her recent work in Lawrence Public Schools has earned her national recognition as one of the country’s Top 30 Technologists, Transformers and Trailblazers in 2016. Prior to joining SchoolSmartKC, Angelique served in the public education sector teaching grades kindergarten through high school, including five years as a building principal. She joined district level administration in Lawrence as Director of Instruction and Curriculum before accepting the position of Assistant Superintendent of Teaching and Learning. Angelique earned her Doctorate in Educational Leadership and Policy Studies from the University of Kansas, and holds a Masters in Education Administration and a Bachelors in Secondary and Elementary Education from Fort Hays State University.

Awais Sufi

President and Chief Executive Officer

Awais Sufi

President and Chief Executive Officer

Awais Sufi serves as Chief Executive Officer of SchoolSmartKC, having spent one year in the design of this effort as Entrepreneur in Residence at the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation. Prior to his work in Kansas City, Awais served as Chief Operating Officer and Executive Vice President of Programs at the International Youth Foundation (IYF). At IYF, Awais led the organization’s development efforts for public-private partnerships between development agencies, the private sector and philanthropy to promote greater opportunity for disadvantaged youth in over 50 countries worldwide.

Before his tenure at IYF, Awais served as the startup Managing Director of the Education for Employment Foundation, which uses business validated training and education to provide economic opportunity to young people across the Middle East. Prior to this work, he served as a corporate and securities attorney at Arnold & Porter, a Washington, D.C. law firm, and as Law Clerk to the Honorable Judge John Sprizzo of the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York.  Raised in Topeka, Kansas, Awais is a graduate of the University Of Texas School Of Law and the University of Chicago.

Chrystal Truss

Manager of Operations

Chrystal Truss

Manager of Operations

Chrystal Truss is the Manager of Operations at SchoolSmartKC, managing the organization’s operational tasks such as office and space management, information technology, human resources, and finance and expense management.  Prior to her employment with SchoolSmartKC, Chrystal was a Scholarship Coordinator for Kauffman Scholars where she maintained partnerships with 76 colleges and managed approximately $3.5 million in scholarship expenses for over 400 college students. Prior to joining Kauffman Scholars, Chrystal worked as a Program Assistant for the Kansas City Freedom School Initiative.

Chrystal is excited to lend her operations experience and talent SchoolSmartKC and continue her career in the education arena.

She is involved in her community through volunteer and financial support of organizations like Communities Creating Opportunities, R.U.B.I.E.S. (Realizing Your Best In Every Situation), and Newhouse Shelter.

Chrystal is currently pursuing her bachelor’s degree in Business Management at Webster University in Kansas City, Missouri.

OUR BOARD

BOARD OF DIRECTORS

Joe Allen

Board Member

Joe Allen

Board Member

Joseph Allen is the Executive Director of the Sherman Family Foundation; an organization whose principal mission is to improve Kansas City area schools, and whose work is based on the conviction that education is singular in its ability to address society’s inequalities.

Joe’s life has closely revolved around public education. After graduating from a north St. Louis public high school, and then the University of Missouri – St. Louis, Joe spent 31 years working in four St. Louis area public school districts as a classroom teacher or school administrator. During this time, he also served more than 10 years as an adjunct instructor at several area universities. Nearly five years ago, Joe relocated to the Kansas City area and, wanting to stay active in the educational community, worked for two Kansas City area high schools.

Dan Cranshaw

Board Member

Dan Cranshaw

Board Member

Dan Cranshaw is a litigator at Polsinelli PC, a national law firm headquartered in Kansas City, Missouri. A former educator, marketing professional and legislative aide to the late U.S. Senator Edward M. Kennedy (D-MA), Dan has been included in Missouri/Kansas Super Lawyers “Rising Stars” for the past three years. He has also been selected for Benchmark Litigation, The Guide to America’s Leading Litigation Firms and Attorneys.

Prior to his legal career, Mr. Cranshaw served as a Director of The Steppingstone Scholars Program and Associated Director of Admissions at both the Belmont High School and Deerfield Academy, with a focus on recruiting and supporting students of color to achieve success in school. In addition to his law practice, Cranshaw is active in the community, serving on several nonprofit boards including Swope Community Enterprises, Swope Health Services, The Salvation Army, and the Urban Neighborhood Initiative.

Carol Hallquist

Board Chair

Carol Hallquist

Board Chair

Carol Hallquist is Founder of PrincipalsConnect, which provides volunteers to urban schools by matching retired professionals with school principals. She created the nonprofit during her year-long fellowship at Harvard’s 2016 Advanced Leadership Initiative. Carol recently retired as President of the Hallmark Corporate Foundation at Hallmark Cards, a role she held for eight years. As Foundation President, Carol provided leadership for Hallmark’s community involvement programs and corporate social responsibility efforts, including sustainability and diversity. Carol began her career at Hallmark in 1984 and held a variety of senior leadership positions including general manager of gift wrap and season cards, leadership of the 5000 store Gold Crown retail network and Vice President of New Ventures.

Carol’s community involvement focuses on education, diversity and women’s leadership. She is currently regional board chair of Teach for America, a Trustee of William Jewell College and a mayoral appointee on the Turn The Page literacy board. Carol served on the boards of the Alliance for Childhood Education, Operation Breakthrough, the Kansas City Chamber’s Executive Women’s Council, UMKC’s Starr Women’s Leadership Council and the Central Exchange. She was the senior leadership sponsor for Hallmark’s Latino employee group for seven years. Carol is a co-founder of the Women’s Capital Connection, an all-women angel investing group. In 2008, she was named one of Kansas City’s most influential women by KC Magazine.

Colleen Hernandez

Board Member

Colleen Hernandez

Board Member

Colleen Hernandez previously led the Homeownership Preservation Foundation (HPF), a national non-profit whose mission is to guide consumers on the path to sustainable homeownership and financial stability.  She left that position in 2014, having served at the request of both Presidents Bush and Obama as the national hotline for foreclosure prevention.

Prior to HPF, Colleen was the Executive Director of the Kansas City Neighborhood Alliance (KCNA) for 18 years where she worked with neighborhood leaders to ensure their communities were safe, strong and stable places where people were proud to live. In addition to her executive leadership, Ms. Colleen has also served on the Tenth District Federal Reserve Bank board and the national Fannie Mae Foundation board.

After stepping down from HPF, Colleen opened her own consulting firm and serves clients in the areas of leadership development, housing counseling and affordable housing development.

Colleen received both bachelors and master’s degrees from the University of Alaska Fairbanks.

Mark R. Larrabee

Board Member

Mark R. Larrabee

Board Member

Mark Larrabee has been President and CEO of Arvest Bank in Kansas City since 2009. He has held leadership positions in various community and regional banks in the Kansas City area dating back to 1984.

As a community banker, Mark has held board and leadership positions with many community organizations which currently include Boys & Girls Clubs, Urban Neighborhood Initiative, Greater Kansas City Chamber of Commerce, University of Kansas Medical Center Advancement Board, Metropolitan Community College Foundation, and Midwest Women’s Business Enterprise Council.

Mark earned his undergraduate degree in business from the University of Kansas and an MBA from the University of Missouri.

Tracey Lewis

Board Member

Tracey Lewis

Board Member

Tracey is a Senior Vice President at The Commerce Trust Company leading the institutional client development team.  His team helps create strategies that strengthen the Trust Company’s relationships in areas of investment consulting, retirement consulting, and asset management for corporations, unions, public entities, foundations and endowments.  Nearly two decades ago, Tracey started his investment career on Morgan Stanley's trading desk.  Eventually, he relocated to Kansas City with Waddell and Reed in asset management sales and then after five years moved to Commerce Bank.

Tracey's current community affiliations include board service as the Investment Committee Chair with both Truman Medical and the Diocese of Kansas City – St. Joseph.  He has prior board service with the Toigo Foundation Alumni Endowment, ArtsTech, Academie Lafayette, and the NFL 101 Steering Committee in Kansas City.

Tracey earned his bachelor’s degree in marketing and communication at Babson College and his MBA concentrating in finance at Cornell University’s Johnson School.

OUR INVESTMENTS

BELIEVING IN THE FUTURE

SchoolSmartKC focuses its energy and financial support to develop, expand and fortify schools and programs that demonstrate tangible improvement within the Kansas City Public School district boundaries.

Our Partners

COMMUNITY SUPPORT

We have engaged the Kansas City community for the last year to solicit input and build common purpose with the district, charter schools, resource providers and other key stakeholders. SchoolSmartKC is grateful for the partnership from our core investors.

We would also like to recognize additional partners and supporters.

By working together, our community can close the achievement gap.

NEWS TO KNOW

STAY UP TO DATE

Read more about efforts to eliminate the achievement gap in Kansas City schools.

Show Me KC Schools receives support to help parents and families navigate school environment

SchoolSmartKC announced a three-year grant for $750,000 to Show Me KC Schools (SMKCS) to help parents and families become better informed about local schools and find the best schooling option for their child.

SchoolSmartKC and Kansas City Public Schools Have Partnered on a Strategic Growth Program

SchoolSmartKC anticipates providing at least $1.5 million to enable district schools that are showing regular academic improvement to reach statewide performance levels. In collaboration with Kansas City Public Schools, SchoolSmartKC has invited 8 schools to

SchoolSmartKC Has Launched a New Kansas City Family and Community Engagement (KC-FCE) Fellowship

SchoolSmartKC has partnered with local educators, non-profits, and faith based leaders to launch a new Kansas City Family and Community Engagement ( KC-FCE) Fellowship.

STEAM charter school picks up $500,000 from KC nonprofit

Kansas City Neighborhood Academy, a STEAM school focused on science, technology, engineering, arts and math, will serve 154 more students, pre-K through fourth grade, in the Wendell Phillips neighborhood with a two-year, $500,000 investment from SchoolSmartKC.

Philanthropists tap the village to raise student performance in Kansas City schools

There’s a new nonprofit in town, and it’s going after public schools in Kansas City with more than $50 million to help improve student performance within the next decade.

Small Enough to Manage, Big Enough to Matter: Kansas City’s Latest Attempt at School Reform

Some education reform efforts in America’s larger cities struggle to go to scale. Think Los Angeles and laptops, New York City and school turnarounds, or Detroit and school choice.

Stay up to date on SchoolSmartKC investments, opportunities and news.


By submitting this form, you are granting: School Smart KC, Inc., 4801 Rockhill Rd., Kansas City, MO, 64110, permission to email you. You may unsubscribe via the link found at the bottom of every email. (See our Email Privacy Policy (http://constantcontact.com/legal/privacy-statement) for details.) Emails are serviced by Constant Contact.
SchoolSmartKC would like to thank the students from schools all over the district who participated in our photo shoot.