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System-Level Leadership Community of Learning and Practice

Navigating the Complexity of School System Transformation



About Education Partnerships

Working with leaders to navigate the complexity of school system transformation and improve teaching and learning through a social justice lens.

System-level public education leaders have tremendous responsibilities and face numerous, complex challenges. Leadership turnover at the top makes it difficult to sustain practices and positive change. School system leaders often feel very isolated in their practice. Internal leadership and management capacity building is often lacking at multiple levels.

Leaders of school systems seek to learn about and to implement adaptive change, with the goal of equity and excellence. And educators, families, and partners are looking to bridge the gaps that exist between schools, district offices, and communities. These are just some of the challenges facing system-level leaders.

PDK Education Partnerships does not offer one-size-fits-all solutions. Rather, we see ourselves as partners in the process of identifying complex challenges and designing and implementing sustainable, equity-minded, systems-level solutions that create lasting change and allow students, schools and communities to thrive.

Our Approach

Our framework for change management rests on the following six elements, organized around a set of guiding and adaptive questions. Working with the school system’s leadership team and other relevant stakeholders, we perform a deep analysis of these six elements and then develop solutions based on each school system’s unique needs.


What do we believe about students, families, and communities and why?


How do we make decisions? Who’s involved, both formally and informally, and why?


How do we allocate time, people, and money according to our needs and vision?


What do children need to know and be able to do, and what do adults need to know and be able to do in service of children?


Who is doing the work and what are the systems and practices that ensure that people are continuously growing?


How do we interact with each other and our community in service of our goals?

We believe that system leaders need to learn how to engage those most affected in the definition of the problems and the design of solutions, and implement solutions through an adaptive approach with an equity lens. Our approach and actions are based on PDK’s core values: social justice, engagement, excellence, and results.

We do not offer one-size-fits-all solutions; rather, we work with the leadership team and others to ensure that they have a comprehensive understanding of their challenges and the necessary elements of success and an adaptive approach to make these changes.

Who We Are

Joshua P. Starr, Ed.D.

PDK International, Chief Executive Officer

Dr. Joshua P. Starr has been the Chief Executive Officer of PDK International since July 2015. Dr. Starr has worked in public education since 1993, as a teacher, central office leader and Superintendent of Schools. Dr. Starr is a passionate champion for all students and is committed to ensuring that PDK International continues to serve as a unique and trusted voice that supports the teaching profession.

Read Josh’s Blog

Gislaine Ngounou, Ed.L.D.

PDK International, Chief Program Officer

Dr. Gislaine Ngounou joined PDK in August 2016 as Chief Program Officer. Dr. Ngounou brings experience as an educator, consultant, coach and system leader with a deep focus on issues of equity, instruction, family and community engagement, and leadership development. Dr. Ngounou is passionate about improving opportunities and outcomes for young people and communities, especially those that have been marginalized and underserved.

Albert Chen, M.E.

PDK International, Chief Operating Officer

With over 20 years of experience in the for-profit and non-profit education space, Albert Chen is an experienced operations and strategy officer with a proven record of revenue growth, business planning, and organizational transformation; he became the chief operating officer of PDK International on February 22, 2016 after a stint in operations and strategy consulting.

Nicole David, M.A.

PDK International, Executive Associate

Nicole David joined PDK International in June 2016 as Executive Associate. Nicole has a Bachelor’s degree in History from Roger Williams University. Her dissertation was on Genocide in International Law. Upon graduating, she moved to the DC area and recently graduated with a Masters Certificate in Genocide and Holocaust Studies from Seton Hill University.


Josh and Gislaine provided much needed leadership and thought partnership during my transition process. Their work was excellent and has provided us with an essential tool in moving our work forward.

Dr. James Lane

Superintendent, Chesterfield County Public Schools

Chesterfield County Public Schools

The Challenge

In July 2016, James F. Lane started as the Superintendent of Chesterfield County Public Schools, a high-performing school division in Virginia with a long history of success. During his first six months, Dr. Lane met with hundreds of stakeholders to learn more about the school division and then engaged PDK Education Partnerships to help him create a transition plan.

The Solution

PDK Education Partnerships provided support to Dr. Lane with his transition into the superintendency. Through a three-month process, we examined existing documents and data and facilitated transition team engagement meetings, interviews, and focus groups. This led to the creation of a transition report with our insights into the issues identified by the superintendent and the culture of the district; our suggestions about short, near, and long-term priorities for the system; and questions and recommendations for the district to consider going forward.

Josh and Gislaine are helping us prioritize, guide our systemic work, and engage in continuous improvement. The work can be all consuming, but it makes such a difference to have partners on the journey.

Dr. Jessica Huizenga

Receiver/Superintendent, Southbridge Public Schools

Southbridge Public Schools

The Challenge

In May 2016, Dr. Jessica Huizenga was appointed as the Receiver/Superintendent of the Southbridge Public Schools (SPS), a school district in receivership in Massachusetts with four schools and approximately 2,200 students. As Dr. Huizenga seeks to transform SPS, she is beholden to state law and the requirement to successfully implement a turnaround plan, while also building a system for scalable, sustained excellence and equity for every child.

The Solution

PDK Education Partnerships has partnered with SPS to support Dr. Huizenga and her leadership team. Not only does Dr. Huizenga need to implement the turnaround plan, she also needs to create a new culture and institute new practices designed to ensure that all students graduate ready to successfully explore and exercise viable post-secondary options. Our work with SPS engages the team in the diagnosis and definition of the challenges and the design of solutions, with a particular focus on leadership coaching and development, system-wide professional development, and community engagement.

We are finding that school and system improvement are essential components as we engage schools and communities in honest conversations that are about changing the experiences and outcomes for Black boys. PDK provides a critical lens and supports in our efforts.

Jenny Goldstock Wright

CEO, Driving Force Group

Huddle Up

The Challenge

Huddle Up seeks to tackle factors that perpetuate institutional racism and achievement gaps so that the experiences and outcomes of black boys in grades K-3 – in and out of school – are radically improved.

The Solution

PDK Education Partnerships partnered with Driving Force Group, recipient of a W.K. Kellogg Foundation grant, for the design and implementation of Huddle Up. The Huddle Up Initiative is being piloted in three cities: Kansas City, Missouri; Baltimore, Maryland; and a third site that is currently under determination. This partnership demonstrates PDK Education Partnerships’ commitment to four core values: social justice, engagement, excellence, and results.

Get In Touch

Interested in partnering with us? Want to learn more?

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By Phone:

(571) 335-1728

By Email:

By Mail:

1820 N Fort Myer Dr., Suite 320

Arlington, VA 22209

About PDK International

Established in 1906, PDK International supports teachers and school leaders by strengthening their interest in the profession through the entire arc of their career. We honor educators as professionals who learn daily from their work and want to share their knowledge with others to transform the lives of their students and their own specialized work. As a social sector organization, we elevate the discourse around teaching and learning with the goal of transforming the student experience to ensure that every child has access to a high-quality education.

1820 N Fort Myer Dr., Suite 320,

Arlington, VA 22209

(571) 335-1728

(800) 766-1156

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