Alexandra Pardo Assumes Executive Director Role

Alexandra Pardo, who served as the school’s Academic Director for five years, took over as Executive Director of Thurgood Marshall Academy on August 1, 2011. Ms. Pardo takes the place of Joshua Kern, Executive Director and Co-Founder of Thurgood Marshall Academy, who stepped down after 10 years of building and shaping the school. Ms. Pardo spearheaded the school-wide movement towards using student data.
Below is the text of a letter from Chair of the Board of Directors George Brown sent to grantors, donors, and supporters of the school.

Read an interview with Joshua Kern and Alexandra Pardo in the latest issue of The TMA Advocate

Dear Friends of Thurgood Marshall Academy:

I write to introduce you to Alexandra Pardo, Thurgood Marshall Academy’s new Executive Director, chosen to succeed Josh Kern by the Board of Trustees. Alexandra Pardo has been the school’s Academic Director since 2006 leading the school’s academic and day-to-day operations. Ms. Pardo assumed full responsibility for all the school’s operations on August 1, 2011.

It has been said that the only thing more difficult than creating a successful charter school is to identify and empower the second generation of school leadership. The Board began its succession plans with two clear goals: to replicate the vision, energy and ideals of our school’s founders and to find the best-qualified leader in the country to preserve and extend TMA’s values. So you can imagine the Board’s satisfaction in being able to say that, after conducting two full national searches, we are convinced that the best candidate is right here at Thurgood Marshall Academy.

Alexandra was brought in to lead Thurgood Marshall Academy’s instructional programs at a critical moment in the school’s development. After four years of start-up and another two years of developing and harmonizing the core curriculum, Alexandra was given responsibility for expanding both the reach and depth of our academic programs. A key responsibility was the creation of accurate, real-time mechanisms to evaluate teaching and learning in our classrooms. She devised an assessment system that regularly measures student comprehension and immediately feeds the data back to teachers to shape their teaching plans. The benchmark testing program Alexandra created became the final piece in the puzzle of Thurgood Marshall Academy’s academic reforms—and an enduring contribution to our students’ success. Since she joined the administration, student scores on mandated tests have risen five years in a row, cementing TMA’s rank as the District’s top-performing, open-enrollment high school. In addition, our students’ average SAT scores increased by more than 150 points and the percentage of students passing advanced placement tests went up 42 percent. As a result, Thurgood Marshall Academy’s system is now the national model for ongoing assessment featured in the U.S. Department of Education’s “Best Practices” online resources.

Alexandra has also pushed our school’s intellectual boundaries during her tenure as Academic Director. TMA has added four advanced placement classes and 10 honors classes under her leadership, as well as adding core courses (Introduction to Law,
Calculus and third- and fourth-year Spanish classes), eight electives and advanced classes in music and computers. Staff stability has also increased. Less than 10 percent of faculty has left TMA over the past four years and the average tenure of faculty members has now climbed above four years. In addition, every faculty member has completed advanced certification as Highly Qualified Teachers.

These accomplishments have drawn attention within the wider education community. In 2010, Alexandra served on the committee of six experts charged with shaping the design of the District’s application for a $4.35 billion funding grant under the Obama Administration’s Race to the Top program for educational reform. She continues to serve on the committee as it creates the policies and practices that will implement sweeping reforms in all of the District’s schools. As she did five years ago at TMA, Alexandra will oversee development of a system to assess student performance and then utilize that information to drive classroom instruction throughout the District.

In the months since the Board concluded its search, Alexandra has been groomed in financial, legal and strategic leadership skills working alongside one of the country’s most outstanding charter school executives, Josh Kern. She could not have had a better teacher. We are confident that Alexandra is fully prepared to continue building the remarkable institution he helped bring to life. The Board is grateful to Josh for this last gift to the school.

But there is another factor that excites the Board about Alexandra’s appointment: Over the last five years, we have watched with growing admiration and appreciation as she daily passed on to students her fierce thirst for excellence. We know that Alexandra’s commitment to achievement is an inspiration to every Thurgood Marshall Academy student. We are confident that the entire TMA community will come to appreciate her unique qualities in her new role as Executive Director.