redefinED atlanta Announces Emily Castillo Leon as its New Senior Director of Schools

redefinED atlanta Announces Emily Castillo Leon as its New Senior Director of SchoolsredefinED atlanta, a nonprofit that engages communities, advocates for equity, and funds critical work to drive systemic level improvement in K-12 public education for students and families is pleased to announce that Emily Castillo Leon has joined the staff. 

“Our staff is committed to working with parents, educators, community leaders and philanthropists to ensure students have opportunity, well-being and self-determination,” said Ed Chang, executive director, redefinED atlanta. “Emily’s background as a school leader will help propel redefinED atlanta’s vision to transform Atlanta into a place where every student in every community receives a great K-12 public education.”

Emily Castillo León was the Founder and Head of School of Ethos Classical. As the Founder and Head of School, she led Ethos from concept inception to execution, with Ethos now serving over 450 scholars in southwest Atlanta.  She has a proven track record of transformative academic outcomes for scholars in district and charter schools. As the founding assistant principal of KIPP Nashville Collegiate High School, she led the humanities team to the highest scores in KIPP network history on the NWEA MAP Reading Assessment and scholars demonstrating growth in the 99th percentile on the Tennessee English I End of Course Exam.

Emily began her career in education as a high school English teacher in Charlotte, North Carolina. As Lead English II Teacher, she led her scholars, and her team to a 92% overall pass rate on the state writing assessment, positioning her school as the third-highest achieving of 21 high schools in the district. Emily has also served as Manager and then Director of Teacher Leadership Development with Teach For America where she modeled best practices with managers and teachers and led a cohort of first-year English teachers to “significantly exceed growth” on Common Core-aligned state assessments. Before founding Ethos, she was a fellow with the highly selective Building Excellent Schools Fellowship. Emily received a bachelor’s degree in English and communications from Wake Forest University.

In her new role, Emily will support the execution of redefinED atlanta’s school growth strategy. This position will play a vital role in the start-up of new schools, and school expansion and provide resources and guidance to school and district leaders and governance entities. As the senior director of schools, she will foster collaboration and accountability and stand with the community to hold the bar for quality and excellence.

About redefinED atlanta:

Every student in Atlanta needs access to a great K-12 public education. Together with parents, educators, community leaders, and philanthropists, redefinED atlanta is transforming Atlanta into a place where every student in every community has opportunity, well-being and self-determination. For more information, please visit

June 2022 Newsletter

The best school leaders and teachers understand their students’ and communities’ unique needs. They work best when given the trust, freedom, flexibility, and support to serve those needs. Active parent and community engagement are essential to establish levers of support for every student.

To aid schools in serving all students, we are launching our Family and Community Engagement Grant (FACE). We believe parent and community engagement is one factor that will help advance our mission of every child in every community receiving a great K-12 public education.

Click the link to read the full June newsletter and learn more about the FACE grant!

Reimagining and Redesigning Education Through School Autonomy

Last month we focused on the pressing need for more school autonomy in public schools–or as we like to call it, freedom and flexibility. We understand communities have different needs. Covid uncovered and amplified existing inequities and forced schools to rethink the delivery system for children in weeks and months instead of years. It also showcased the need to reinvent and reimagine how we think about schools and how they can meet the specific needs of their students and community. 

As a part of the campaign, we sat down with Emily Castillo Leon, founder and head of Ethos Classical, to share how Ethos’ school leaders have exercised freedom and flexibility to rise to the challenges of a pandemic and endemic world.

More than ever, we feel that increasing schools’ autonomy and flexibility will enable schools to develop and implement approaches to teaching and learning that better build on our strengths and address the needs of students than if policymakers or others outside schools made those decisions.

Every child is different, and we get to see where they soar and when they need support firsthand because teachers and school leaders are in schools and classrooms with them nearly half of every calendar year. School leaders and educators can best do their work when they can adjust and tailor learning to students’ needs in real-time or adjust the next day’s lesson based on what happens in a school day. 

Statistics have shown an increase in freedom and flexibility in the most-needed high-risk school systems can enable schools to develop and implement approaches to teaching and learning that better build on their strengths and address the needs of their students than if policymakers or others outside schools made those decisions.

School empowerment can show up by allowing a school leader to adjust a school’s schedule, make changes to the staff, allocate their entire budget and select curricula that provides every student in their school excellent public education. 

Giving school leaders room to redesign their neighborhood school in partnership with their community or even allowing for new schools to open in response to students’ needs is a way to ensure every child can attend the school that’s a right fit for their unique needs. 

Like our children, schools are different too, which calls for our school leaders to be able to employ teacher autonomy to support and help design the best programs that meet the needs of all children, regardless of their zip code.

Collectively, the support and trust from our community, civic leaders and educational collaborators are needed more than ever so that we can have the freedom and flexibility to create solutions and make the best decisions based on the needs of our students. We can only achieve this mission by working together.

redefinED recognizes that to ensure every student in every community has opportunity, well-being, and self-determination, there must be resources for organizations to work and thrive. Watch the video to learn more about school freedom and flexibility!

mass shooting response

A Message From redefinED atlanta About the Uvalde Mass Shooting

mass shooting response

Dear Friends and Family,

We are devastated and heartbroken by the mass murder that occurred at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, TX. While thoughts and prayers aren’t enough for the families in New York, California or Texas, it’s all we have to offer.

Tuesday’s incident took the lives of 19 children and two educators, and it marks at least the 30th shooting at a K-12 school in 2022. We understand the aftermath of a massacre can leave families, educators and school leaders feeling stressed, helpless, angry, scared and grieving.

In this moment of solidarity, we’re sharing a few resources to help you navigate these difficult times and find ways for you to communicate with educators and families in your community. 

Resources for Families, Educators and School Leaders:

If you need an immediate thought partner as you work through the day, please reach out to Adah Pittman-DeLancey, vice president of impact and external relations, at

We hope our country will be spared from further mass shootings sometime soon. In the absence of immediate policy actions to address gun violence, we are working to create space to offer support, share resources and unite for collective efforts.

Yours in service,

redefinED atlanta

May 2022 Newsletter

Every child deserves a great public education regardless of where they live. When parents, school leaders, and educators partner to understand the unique needs of their students, children can learn and thrive in school and beyond. To support positive student outcomes in schools, educators and school leaders need our trust to develop and implement approaches that build on students’ strengths and address every student’s learning needs in the classroom.

This month, we’re raising awareness about freedom and flexibility-also known as autonomy-and how it impacts students, families and schools. We invite you to learn more about practices in Atlanta public schools and together, Atlanta can reimagine and innovate for schools everywhere.

Click here to read the full May newsletter!

Mental Health Awareness Month – A Q&A with a Rachelle Clay, former APS teacher

Mental Health Awareness Month - A Q&A with a Rachelle Clay, former APS teacher

May is Mental Health Awareness Month. As public schools are still navigating through a pandemic, we wanted to take a moment to share how the pressures of teaching during these difficult times can impact school talent’s mental health. We sat down with Rachelle Clay, a former teacher, for a candid Q&A about how she managed the challenges of teaching during a global pandemic. 

redefinED atlanta: Teachers have been the unsung heroes for many years. What was your teaching experience like prior to the pandemic?

Clay: Teaching is already a stressful profession and became more stressful during the pandemic. Prior to the pandemic, my worries were, “am I doing enough; am I providing enough differentiation, remediation and extensions in my lessons to keep my students engaged and growing?” 

In addition to making sure my students were academically stimulated, I wanted to make sure they were socially and emotionally well. By March of 2020, the worst had yet to come. Enter the pandemic, and the uncertainty of what teaching and education would look like. What was supposed to be a 2-week virtual learning experience, stretched to a year and a half. 

redefinED atlanta: What was it like being in the classroom when school districts had to make critical decisions and shift to virtual learning?

Clay: Educators scrambled to shift to virtual learning, trying to make sense of what it meant, and how to deliver quality instruction via Zoom, Microsoft Teams or Google Meet. An extremely daunting task, in addition to all of the other stressors of teaching.

redefinED atlanta: What were some of the stressors that kept you up at night when you were teaching during the pandemic?

Clay: During the pandemic my stress level increased significantly. There were unrealistic expectations from school administration to operate under “business as usual,” when there were greater concerns such as the educational inequities that some families would endure as a result of not having access to the technology or the internet service that would help in making their students successful in a virtual educational setting. 

Then there was the compounded stress I placed on myself to try and maintain the same level of rigor I provided my students in person. Coupled with the fact that there was no escape from work, as it was now in my home, I felt as if I was perpetually working. In order to regain my peace and some resemblance of normalcy, I had to learn to extend grace to myself, while being intentional about setting boundaries and practicing self-care.

redefinED atlanta: What were some of the ways you managed your stresses while teaching virtually?

Clay: During this time, I learned to be okay with not being okay and to accept things that were out of my control. In doing so, I learned to surrender to my feelings, to sit in them and to try to best understand the root cause of the feeling. 

I began to meditate, which helped me to identify triggers for my stress. I became intentional about taking breaks, closing my computer and walking away. I learned to ask for and accept help, and most importantly I worked on being kind, gentle, compassionate and loving to myself. I spoke words of affirmation to build myself up, instead of breaking myself down, because I am my own worst critic.

redefinED atlanta: Even through all the challenges, what were some of your personal successes?

Clay: Despite the difficulties of the pandemic, I feel as though I met the challenges presented and grew in the process. I developed a self-care routine of mindfulness and introspection that I may not have otherwise done, had it not been for the stress associated with the pandemic. 

Amid the growth, I chose not to return to the classroom at the start of the most recent school year. I am not sure if I will return to the classroom, but I do see myself working with students in some capacity, in the future, as it is my passion and my gift. 

redefinED atlanta: As you look back at your teaching experience, what’s a major takeaway you want readers to remember when thinking about teachers and other school talent?

Clay: As I reflect on my time in the classroom, pre and post-pandemic, it is my hope that society will become more empathetic and compassionate toward educators. Education is often a thankless job where the professionals are highly criticized, while being undervalued and underappreciated. Moving forward, I would implore society to try and be a little more understanding of educators, to show a little kindness and to extend a little more grace, because grace is something that we all can be afforded.  

redefinED atlanta understands that great schools have great teachers. And while teacher burnout is becoming more common, here are some resources educators can use to help manage stresses in and outside of the classroom: 


To read similar stories or other announcements, please visit our newsroom!

Inside Philanthropy – Q&A with Executive Director Dena Kimball

Inside Philanthropy Q&A with Dena Kimball
Dena Kimball, Executive Director, Kendeda Fund; Immediate Past Chair, redefinED atlanta

Our board member and immediate past chair, Dena Kimball, recently sat down for a rare interview with Inside Philanthropy to discuss the sunsetting of the Kendeda Fund, which was set up by her mother, Diana Blank. Click the link to download the PDF version of the story and read more about what she’s learned on the journey to spending it all.

April 2022 Newsletter

On May 24, Georgians will vote in the primary elections to determine which candidate will represent each political party in advance of a general election. In Georgia, primary elections are open to all voters regardless of their partisan affiliation. Unlike other states, Georgians only have to be registered voters and not registered to a specific political party. Primary elections give you, the voter, the opportunity to decide who from a pool of candidates should ultimately be nominated by your political party to run in the general election. The last day to register as a voter in Georgia is April 25, 2022. 

Click the link to read the full April newsletter!

redefinED atlanta Welcomes Two New Board Members

On the left: Perri D. Chandler; On the right: Patrice Johnson

redefinED atlanta, an education nonprofit dedicated to ensuring that every student in Atlanta has the opportunity to attend a great public school, is pleased to announce that Perri D. Chandler and Patrice Johnson will both serve on its board of directors. Chandler and Johnson were a part of redefinED atlanta’s Board Development Program, an opportunity designed to create a pathway for parents and caregivers, APS alumni and other community advocates to join redefinED atlanta’s Board of Directors. 

redefinEd atlanta sought individuals interested in sharing their experiences to help shape advocacy decisions and grantmaking that impacts students and schools in Atlanta Public Schools, and who are interested in stepping into a multi-year volunteer board position at the end of our six-month preparation program.

Perri strives to create communities of respect in schools and neighborhoods through educational workshops with students, teachers and staff, parents and caregivers and community members. The goal of the work is to create inclusive, diverse, and brave environments by naming our intersecting identities, exploring and taking ownership of our explicit and implicit biases, dismantling positive and negative stereotypes, and acknowledging all levels of power and privilege.

She is an Atlanta Public Schools graduate, a graduate of American University, an anti-bias facilitator with the Anti-Defamation League, an ACTivator with ACT Consulting group, a member of VOX Teen Communications’ board of directors and a pop-culture enthusiast.

“The redefinED atlanta Board Development Program was a uniquely empowering experience. As a parent in APS, with limited board experience with other organizations, it was very helpful to have a facilitator lead us through a very detailed explanation of board culture and responsibilities at each level,” said Perri. “ As a member of the cohort, I enjoyed engaging in conversations about personal investments and individual strengths in our common interest of equity in, and access to, quality education.”

Johnson is the Founding MOM and CEO of Inspired MOM. The mission of her organization is to inspire moms on their parenting journey to create the life they love and deserve. For more than 10 years, she’s helped moms press the reset button by hosting mom-only events, which include MOMS NIGHT OUT and an annual MOTHERS APPRECIATION DINNER.     

Patrice has more than 15 years of experience working with youth  in roles as a  pre-K paraprofessional, homeschool teacher and nanny. Her previous roles in education and childcare fuel her passion to be a member of the redefinED atlanta board.

Johnson is proud to be a Georgia native, born at Grady Hospital and an APS graduate. Most important, she’s a mother of two amazing girls who are students in Atlanta Public Schools. She enjoys event planning, DIY projects and her new hobby of skyline touring. 

“I’m excited to be on the right side of history with the present state of reconstruction and the future bearing quality education for all students,” said Patrice. 

Chandler and Johnson join redefinED atlanta’s board, a collective of community leaders who will help advance the organization’s mission of every student in every community attending a great public school, and understand the challenges and shared experiences faced by students from systematically underserved communities.

Lastly, redefinED atlanta is excited to share two new additions to its 2022 Membership Committee. Katrina Rucker will serve on the external relations committee and Sandi Stallings will serve on the investment committee. 

Click here to learn more about our board of directors and team!

redefinED atlanta welcomes Sarah Hall as its new executive assistant

Sarah Hall, Executive Assistant
redefinED atlanta, an education nonprofit dedicated to ensuring that every student in Atlanta has the opportunity to attend a great public school, is pleased to announce that Sarah Hall has joined the team to serve as its executive assistant. Sarah has nearly a decade of experience in the nonprofit sector. Much of her career has centered on working with youth and families in education based community organizations. Most recently she worked on the administrative and operations team at a nonprofit organization supporting young people experiencing the foster care system. She is excited to join the redefinED atlanta team and return to her passion of supporting education based nonprofits. In her role as the Executive Assistant at redefinED atlanta, Hall will serve as the administrative point of contact for the organization. She earned a Bachelor of Science in Human Development and Family Studies from The Pennsylvania State University and a Master of Science in Psychology from Southern New Hampshire University.