TDOE Announces Members of Student- and Parent-Focused Funding Review Subcommittees

Tuesday, October 19, 2021 | 07:14pm


Tennesseans Engaged in Discussions on Student-Based Investment Strategy 


Nashville, TN - In the next phase of announcements on Tennessee’s review of a student-based public education funding strategy, today the Tennessee Department of Education announced the members of the Student Engagement Subcommittee, the Students with Disabilities and Gifted Students Subcommittee, the English Learner Subcommittee, the Economically Disadvantaged and Highly Mobile Students Subcommittee, and the Parent Choice and Voice Subcommittee. 

On Friday, October 8, Governor Lee called for a full review of the state’s funding formula for public education to focus on a student investment strategy that emphasizes all students rather than systems, empowers parents to engage in their child’s education and outcomes, ensures all students are prepared for postsecondary success, and reflects Tennesseans’ values. In total, eighteen subcommittees will convene twice per month to hold conversations on how to create a student-focused investment strategy from the lens of their subcommittee’s respective stakeholder group.

"As we review and discuss the funding strategy for Tennessee’s public school students, I am thrilled to have formal subcommittees that will focus specifically on our students and their direct needs,” said Commissioner Penny Schwinn. “Each of Tennessee’s public school students are wonderfully unique, and often require unique supports and resources. Bringing parent voice and representation to the table is essential and the department is excited to begin these conversations, engage folks from across the state and discuss how to best serve and fund our students in our state’s public schools.”

The 70 members of the student- and parent-focused funding review subcommittees are: 

Student Engagement Subcommittee

  • Chair: Elizabeth Brown, State President, Future Business Leaders of America – Tennessee; Senior, Coffee County High School
  • Tetteybea Addo, 2021-22 President-Elect, HOSA; South Gibson County High School 
  • Hadley Brown, President, Tennessee DECA; Beech High School 
  • Harrison Falcofsky, 2021 President, Tennessee FFA; Stewarts Creek High School
  • Samuel Howard, President, Tennessee Family, Career, and Community Leaders of America (FCCLA); Wartburg Central High School
  • Kevin Hu, 2021-22 President, Tennessee SkillsUSA; Lawrence County High School 
  • Mansi Patel, Vice President, West Tennessee DECA; Waverly Central High School 
  • Zoe Tripp, President, Technology Student Association; Middle College High School
  • Cali VanCleve, Student Council President, Volunteer Girls State; Wilson Central High School
  • Comfort Markwei, Student Council President, Central Magnet High School 
  • Ella Paligo, Student Representative of Sumner County Board of Education; Beech High School
  • Garren Hamby, Tennessee Technological University; Member of State Board of Education
  • Michele Carringer, Representative, Tennessee General Assembly 
  • Becky Massey, Senator, Tennessee General Assembly

Students with Disabilities and Gifted Students Subcommittee

  • Chair: Commissioner Brad Turner, Tennessee Department of Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities
  • Jennifer Aprea, Director of Family Engagement in Special Education, The Arc TN
  • Sandra Edwards, Superintendent, Tennessee School for the Deaf
  • Mandy Fisher, Academic Dean, Bethel University
  • David Martin, Superintendent, Tennessee School for the Blind 
  • Lynette Porter, Deputy Director, Tennessee Council on Developmental Disabilities
  • LeAnn Simmerman, Co-President, Tennessee Association for the Gifted
  • Lori Smith, President, Decoding Dyslexia 
  • Stephen Smith, Director, TENNCare 
  • Anna Thorsen, Metro Nashville Public School Parent and Dyslexia Advocate
  • Wendy Tucker, Senior Director of Policy, Center for Learner Equity; Member, Tennessee Public Charter School Commission
  • Carol Westlake, Executive Director, Tennessee Disability Coalition
  • Bill Powers, Senator, Tennessee General Assembly
  • Sam Whitson, Representative, Tennessee General Assembly

English Learner Subcommittee

  • Chair: Raul Lopez, Executive Director, Latinos for Tennessee 
  • Megan Barolet-Fogarty, Director of Youth & Family Engagement, Centro Hispano de East TN 
  • Claudia Caballero, President & CEO, Centro Hispano de East TN
  • Mauricio Calvo, Executive Director, Latino Memphis
  • Dr. Laura Clark, Director, ELL Collaborative, Middle Tennessee State University 
  • Tara Lentz, Co-Executive Director, Conexión Américas
  • Luis Parodi, Vice President, Senior Regional CRA & Community Development Officer, Republic Bank 
  • Meghan Vigil, ESL Instructor & Tennessee Teachers of English Speakers of Other Languages Teacher of the Year, Smyrna Middle School
  • Dr. Jeanne Barker, Director of Schools, Lenoir City Schools
  • Todd Gardenhire, Senator, Tennessee General Assembly
  • Harold M. Love, Representative, Tennessee General Assembly

Economically Disadvantaged and Highly Mobile Students Subcommittee

  • Chair: Victor Evans, Executive Director, TennesseeCAN
  • Cherrell Campbell-Street, Assistant Commissioner, Tennessee Department of Human Services 
  • Diarese George, Executive Director, Tennessee Educators of Color Alliance 
  • Mary Graham, President, United Ways of Tennessee 
  • Elissa Kim, Member, State Board of Education 
  • Courtney Mott, Director of State & Electoral Campaigns, Save the Children Action Network
  • Jennifer Nichols, Commissioner, Tennessee Department of Children’s Services 
  • Gloria Sweet-Love, President, NAACP of TN
  • Dwayne Tucker, Chief Executive Officer, LEAD Public Schools
  • Sam Wigand, Chief Executive Officer, Communities in Schools
  • Brenda Gilmore, Senator, Tennessee General Assembly
  • Chris Hurt, Representative, Tennessee General Assembly

Parent Choice and Voice Subcommittee

  • Chair: Dr. Derwin Sisnett, Commissioner, Tennessee Public Charter School Commission
  • Melanie Allen, Parent, Knox County 
  • Dr. Maya Bugg, CEO, Charter School Center
  • Sarah Carpenter, Executive Director, Memphis Lift
  • Denny Darnell, Parent, Kingsport City 
  • Sherry Hage, Founder and CEO, Noble Education Initiative 
  • Christy Carroll Highfill, Parent, Hamilton County 
  • Dwight Hunter, President, Tennessee PTA 
  • Wendy Jarvis, Parent, Putnam County 
  • Tom Marino, Executive Director, The Poplar Foundation
  • Nate Morrow, Member, State Board of Education 
  • Bob Nardo, Executive Director, Libertas School of Memphis 
  • Latoya Robinson, Parent, Shelby County 
  • Dr. Sonia Stewart, Community Superintendent, Midtown Learning Community, Hamilton County
  • Blair Taylor, President and CEO, Tennesseans for Quality Early Education 
  • Kevin Tennant, Parent, Bedford County 
  • Josh Thomas, Regional Advocacy Director, ExcelinEd
  • Jennings Wilson, Parent, Weakley County
  • April Garza-Wright, Parent, Williamson County 
  • Dr. Berthena Nabaa-McKinney, CEO, Nabaa Consulting
  • Mark Pody, Senator, Tennessee General Assembly
  • Sabi Kumar, Representative, Tennessee General Assembly

“As a current high school student, I am honored to represent my classmates and provide a student’s voice on how our education is funded and how to best meet our needs,” said Kevin Hu, 2021-22 President, Tennessee SkillsUSA; Lawrence County High School. “With a funding strategy focused on students, funds can be better allocated for resources and tools that students need.”

“As a person with disabilities myself and the parent of two children with IEPs, one who is gifted and the other who is Twice Exceptional gifted with dyslexia and complex medical issues, I am proud to provide a parent’s voice to the Students with Disabilities and Gifted Students Subcommittee. Too often, the over 110,000 Tennessee students with disabilities are misunderstood in our schools and they are not provided with the tools they need to thrive,” said Anna Thorsen, Metro Nashville Public School Parent and Dyslexia Advocate. “We not only need to give more training to our general education teachers so they can better meet the needs of students already identified with disabilities, but our districts need funds to identify underrepresented categories like dyslexia, giftedness and children who are Twice Exceptional - meaning they are gifted but also have a learning disability or autism. I am ready to dive into this long-overdue, important work to redesign how we fund our public schools to support students.”

“Focusing on the future of our babies and making sure all their needs are met must be our focus and these are important conversations about how to fund their futures and the future of Tennessee,” said Sarah Carpenter, Executive Director, Memphis Lift. “I am excited to engage with people representing all walks of life to make sure our kids have access to what they need and are able to have access to the best education possible.”

The state’s approach for public engagement includes the central steering committee and 18 subcommittees, in addition to a committee of national experts, regional meetings of county commissioners and school board members, public engagement representatives, and an opportunity for public comment through a formal survey later in the fall. Each of the 18 subcommittees are led by a chair who is tasked with capturing ideas and feedback based in the unique perspective of the stakeholder group or respective topic area they serve.

The subcommittees will meet twice a month, either in person or virtually. The central steering committee will convene monthly and review finalized feedback provided by the subcommittees. All associated committee meeting materials, including recordings, transcripts, and minutes, will be posted here. Additional subcommittee members will be released in the coming days.

Over 1,000 Tennesseans have already submitted their interest in engaging in discussions and receiving updates related to a student-centered investment strategy. Members of the public are encouraged to continue to submit their interest via this form.

Visit this webpage for more information and learn how to get involved: For funding related inquiries, contact

For Tennessee Department of Education media inquiries, contact