Kamrani moved to Nashville with her husband, Chris Barbic, superintendent of the Achievement School District for the state of Tennessee. They have two children, both of whom are Metropolitan Nashville Public School students.
Margaret Dolan, chairwoman of the Foundation, explained the appointment:
“When we began the search for the leader of the Foundation, we had no idea that someone of Natasha’s ability would be available, much less have recently moved to Nashville.
“She knows the work of education at the classroom level, at the school board level and at the national foundation level. And she’s been a leader at each of those levels. We are extremely fortunate to have her join the Foundation as president.”
Kamrani is an alumnus of Miami University, having collected a Bachelor of Arts degree in history and a minor in political science in 1990. She then went one to work for Teach For America (TFA), teaching English as a second language to recent immigrants in Houston’s public school system. After this she then went on to become the executive director of Teach For America’s Houston office. In 2000, she received a Doctor of Jurisprudence degree from the University of Houston Law Center and was later elected to the Houston Independent School District Board of Education.
During her time at the District board she helped enact several important policies concerning teacher effectiveness. Later, she served as the executive director of the Arnold Family Foundation, based in Houston, with a national focus on reform of the public school system.
Metro Schools Director Dr. Jesse Register said:
“Natasha Kamrani has a great combination of skills and experience in both education and philanthropy.
“We are working to make Metro Schools the first choice for Nashville’s families and we look forward to working with her as we accelerate student achievement.”
Kamrani spoke about her appointment:
“I could not possibly be more excited to be in Nashville at a time when there is such an incredible amount of energy, enthusiasm and commitment from the community focused on positive change in our city’s public education system. Nashville already feels like home, and I am very much looking forward to tackling the challenges and embracing the opportunities ahead as I work with my community to ensure a quality education for all Nashville’s children.”
In an interview with Heidi Hall at the Tennessean, Kamrani discussed what she believes is the most important need in Metro schools.
“You have energy and commitment, new organizations — you have the setting now to bring those together and create a plan for how to go forward and where we want to be five years down the road. We will tackle various pieces of that puzzle. But the biggest need is a question I’m going to be answering in the first few months. There are a million needs, and I have to find out the priorities.”
Kamrani’s husband, Chris Barbic, heads the state’s Achievement School District.
“My husband and I are incredibly fortunate people to have found our passion early and dedicated our lives to pursuing it. We would not be here if we didn’t feel that Tennessee was the place to be. If Tennessee can’t be successful at education reform, I don’t know who can, and Nashville is a great size to create sustainable change.”
This comes after the Metro Nashville school board granted Gaylord Entertainment Co. exclusive naming rights to McGavock High School’s hospitality academy for $100,000 the first year and $50,000 thereafter in in-kind services, writes Nancy DeVille at the Tennessean.
These ‘in-kind’ services are thought to include speakers, professional development for teachers and equipment.
There are currently four similar deals in the Metro Nashville district. And this is a national trend too. School districts across the country are turning to donors and corporations to finance building projects in exchange for naming rights.
Metro officials are keen to see more partnerships between academies and schools to keep students interested.
Lisa Bonelli, principal of the academies at McGavock High, said:
“The students are learning the importance of networking and social skills for the business world.
“It’s really giving them a real experience that, without the partners, our students wouldn’t be able to experience.”