NASHVILLE, Tenn. – On Thursday, Mayor John Cooper announced new administration hires focused on advancing his education agenda for Nashville families and neighborhoods, which will focus on continuing to invest in public education, youth workforce development and digital inclusion.
Dr. Robert N. Wallace, Jr. will serve as Mayor Cooper’s Senior Education Advisor. Wallace will be responsible for working with Metro Nashville Public Schools (MNPS) and with business, nonprofit, and community groups to improve outcomes for Nashville’s children.
La’Kishia Harris, a Fuse Executive Fellow with Mayor John Cooper’s office, will now serve as Associate Director of Youth Workforce Economic Opportunity and Community Development. Harris will be responsible for coordination and management of programs designed to provide mentoring, leadership development, educational support, and supervision to youth and young adults.
“We are building a strong culture of educational excellence and prioritizing young people that must remain deeply embedded in our policy choices and budget priorities,” said Mayor Cooper. “That’s why I’m so excited to have La’Kishia and Robert on board helping drive these efforts. La’Kishia has done exceptional work in the workforce development space since joining our office as a fellow last fall, and Dr. Wallace has a proven track record in education and understands the complexities involved in building student-focused partnerships as Chief Operating Officer of PENCIL, as a school administrator and as a middle school teacher. Together, we will provide our young people with the tools and resources they need to become the most successful generation in Nashville’s history.”
Additionally, Pearl Amanfu has been named Metro’s first-ever Digital Inclusion Officer. Amanfu will drive Metro’s efforts to cultivate a community-centered model that leverages Nashville’s growing digital inclusion network to connect opportunities with needs.
“As Metro’s first Digital Inclusion Officer, Pearl will be instrumental to ensuring children across Nashville have equitable access to affordable, high-quality internet, digital skills training, and culturally relevant social supports to help them effectively use technology resources and contribute to Nashville’s growing economy,” said Cooper. “The city is lucky to have her leading this effort.”
Amanfu, formerly a project manager with the Information Technology Services (ITS) department of Metro Government, has been promoted to the new role and will report to Keith Durbin, Metro’s Chief Information Officer and Director of Information Technology.
In 2020, Mayor Cooper authorized $19M for laptops and hotspots $5M for additional digital curriculum and at-home school supplies for Metro Nashville Public School students to support online learning during the pandemic.
“Metro’s digital inclusion work is not new,” Durbin said. “Years ago, we launched Anytime Access for All with MNPS and the Digital Inclusion Fund at the Community Foundation of Middle Tennessee. All of this is built upon the great work done historically by Nashville Public Library, Metro Social Services, and Metro Action Commission. However, Metro has never had anyone in a central role to pull organizations together to drive the work forward. That’s what this office provides – a force multiplier and connector of opportunities.”
Wallace, a Nashville native and MNPS graduate, has served as the PENCIL Foundation’s Chief Operating Officer since January. Before that, he worked as an elementary school administrator and has taught middle school since. Dr. Wallace earned his Bachelor of Business Administration from Belmont University, Master of Education from Lipscomb University, and Doctor of Education from Vanderbilt University.
Harris joined Mayor Cooper’s office in November 2021 as an Executive Fellow for FUSE, a national non-profit focused on racial equity in city government. As part of her work, she created the first-ever city-wide out-of-school locator for families across Nashville to gain access to out-of-school opportunities. She previously worked as the Magnet School of America Site Coordinator at MNPS and has spent the past decade working in the education and youth policy space. Harris earned her Master of Education and undergraduate degree at Tennessee State University.
Amanfu has led digital inclusion efforts for the department since 2016, most recently the 2021 countywide digital equity study, designed with Vanderbilt Peabody College in collaboration with the Digital Inclusion and Access Taskforce.