Best in Class Coalition

The Best in Class staff includes team members employed by The Commit Partnership and The Communities Foundation of Texas. They, along with the teams at Commit and The Communities Foundation of Texas, work to support the partners attracting, preparing, and developing teachers and school leaders in Dallas-Fort Worth.

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Managing Director

Dottie Smith

Education has the potential to change lives for the better. To provide opportunity. To eradicate injustices. My mission is to ensure what’s possible becomes reality so that every school is strong, every classroom excellent and every kid gets a fair shot at life.

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Director

Elizabeth Dodson

I believe that public eduction is one of the most fundamental ways that we live into the American value of opportunity for all.  But with access to critical educational resources still being too often dependent on a child’s zip code, that is not yet our American reality.  I am honored to be part of an effort to create a more equitable public education system, starting with the most essential part of the equation: the teachers and school leaders who do this work every day. 

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Deputy Director at Communities Foundation of Texas

Betsy Cook

I’ve felt the difference one effective teacher makes for a student or a classroom.  I’ve also seen the weight the students carry when they don’t have that strong teacher.  I was lucky to be born into a family that valued education, a family full of educators themselves, a family that sought out learning environments that were diverse and where strong educators were plentiful. I am humbled that as a part of Best in Class team, my job is to amplify the number of students who have access to those strong, effective, diverse teachers and school leaders. 

Biography

Dottie Smith started her career teaching early elementary school in Compton, CA and quickly grew a love for reading instruction and a deep belief in what young people are capable of when given the resources, instruction, and support. She then became an instructional coach with the Teach for America – Los Angeles region, supporting the region’s secondary corps members, then worked on the national Teach for America team to help design a teacher coaching model and support teacher coaches around the country. Before moving into school leadership, Dottie co-led the Los Angeles Teach for America program team and helped ensure the region’s programmatic success. She completed the prestigious Principals’ Leadership Institute (PLI) at UCLA during this time.

Dottie also worked as an intervention coordinator at a bilingual charter school in downtown Los Angeles, then became the principal of a charter high school once moving to Las Vegas. Through a lot of hard work alongside a talented team of teachers, students and parents, under Dottie’s leadership, every student in the school’s first graduating class earned a high school diploma and admission to a two- or four-year college.

Dottie became a Partner at TNTP (formerly The New Teacher Project) in 2010, overseeing several teacher prep programs across the country and helping co-lead the re-design of TNTP’s Teaching Fellows model. In 2013, Dottie was promoted to Vice President, leading the organization’s teacher development strategy and expanding the organization’s reach in Nevada, California and Florida. Dottie was appointed by the Nevada State Superintendent to sit on the Nevada Teachers and Leaders Council, a group charged with the implementation of a state-wide, multiple measure educator evaluation model. She was a member of the inaugural board of Nevada’s first charter harbor master, Opportunity 180 and an inaugural member of the Leaders in Training board, a college-access program for first-generation college students. 

Dottie earned her BA from American University, a master’s in Education from Loyola Marymount, and a master’s in Education – School Administration from UCLA. Dottie lives in Oak Cliff with her husband of 10 years and fellow educator, Chris Smith, their daughter, Ashby, and dog, Lucky.

Biography

Elizabeth has been working with Best in Class since late 2016, when she served as a consultant focused on helping to refine the Best in Class strategy, design its infrastructure, and build the partnership between Commit and the Communities Foundation of Texas to power Best in Class. As Director, Elizabeth currently focuses on Best in Class efforts related to school leadership and on data-informed continuous improvement of the Best in Class strategy.

Prior to working with Best in Class, Elizabeth served as the Director of Grantmaking & Grantee Impact at the Silicon Valley Social Venture Fund (SV2) in California.  There she managed SV2’s grant-making program and capacity-building support for grantees in the fields of education, the environment, and international development, along with leading the implementation of several strategic initiatives within SV2.  Before joining SV2, Elizabeth was a consultant at The Bridgespan Group in San Francisco, where she worked with nonprofit organizations pursuing objectives such as increased program effectiveness, organizational growth, and talent development in sectors including public education and philanthropy.

Elizabeth began her career in law, working for four years in the Exempt Organizations group at Simpson Thacher & Bartlett LLC.  Her practice included forming and facilitating the ongoing governance of diverse nonprofit organizations and advising clients regarding a variety of legal, regulatory, and organizational concerns.  Elizabeth is a graduate of New York University and Harvard Law School.

Biography

Betsy joins Best in Class (through Communities Foundation of Texas) with over thirteen years of human capital experience and expertise in both public and private schools.  She most recently worked with Dallas ISD where she worked to support the design and implementation of the Teacher Excellence Initiative.

Betsy began her career as a consultant with Accenture in New York City and Washington, DC.  Betsy is a native Texan and grew up attending Richardson ISD.  She received her Bachelor of Arts in Economics from Barnard College.

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Strategic Advisor

Garrett Landry

A quality, public education is the great equalizer in life, and is one of the most important factors in breaking the cycle of generational poverty. Unfortunately, too many of our students, especially those facing the daily challenges of poverty, are not afforded this opportunity, as through no fault of their own, the school systems they attend are inequitable and systemically flawed; this is simply unacceptable. I work every day to create school systems that provide equitable outcomes for ALL students, so that they each can realize their full potential in life.

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Manager

Ana Luz Hernández

As a brown kid who grew up in poverty and attended public schools, my life trajectory was undoubtedly influenced by teachers who believed in my potential and challenged me to grow. I believe it’s possible to design an equitable public education system that is inclusive, and capable of addressing the needs of a whole child, one that helps communities flourish and thrive.

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Associate at Communities Foundation of Texas

Ernestine Key

“Education is the most powerful weapon we can use to change the world.” – Nelson Mandela

Biography

Garrett spends his days working to ensure that each child is provided an equitable opportunity to obtain the highest quality of education in Texas public schools as the Senior Officer of Education Strategies for the Williams Family Foundation (of Todd Williams, Executive Director of the Commit Partnership and Education Advisor to Dallas Mayor Mike Rawlings). Prior to joining the Foundation, Garrett was the Director of Special Projects and Special Assistant to Superintendent Mike Miles in Dallas ISD, and Policy Program Coordinator for Teaching Trust, working with teachers to develop their advocacy and education policy skills. Before his career took him into public education, Garrett was the Chief of Staff for the Justice of the Peace in Irving, Director of Legislative Policy for a Texas House of Representatives campaign, worked for the Inspector General’s Office for the US Department of Health and Human Services, spent four years with the National Student Leadership Conference as Program Director for the policy program in Washington D.C., and was the Regional Director of North Texas for Student’s for Barack Obama on the President’s 2008 campaign. Garrett attended Southern Methodist University, graduating Phi Beta Kappa and magna cum laude, with a Bachelor of Arts Degree in Political Science. He is from New Orleans and he and his wife, Loretta, along with their two sons, live in Irving’s Historic Hospital District.

Biography

As a brown girl born and raised in East Austin, Ana Luz quickly realized that the American Dream was not accessible to kids that looked and sounded like her. Ana Luz’s early exposure to community organizing and education advocacy through her immigrant mom undoubtedly influenced her decision to explore work that spoke to her values and convictions. Although she launched her career engaged in advocacy work, she soon realized she had a knack for details and found cross-functional projects rewarding. She particularly enjoys building trust and relationships through the work. In her most recent role she helped Dallas ISD launch a new headquarters, executed a relocation strategy, and managed the renovation of 72,000 square feet of office space. Ana Luz holds a Master of Public Administration from New Mexico State University, a B.A. in Political Science, and a B.A. in Anthropology from Southwestern University.

Biography

Ernestine was born and raised in Chicago and recently joined the Educate Texas team in January 2019. She believes, like Former First Lady Michelle Obama, that, “with an education, you have everything you need to rise above the noise and fulfill every last one of your dreams.”  Ernestine has spent the last 20 years advocating for young people to have the confidence, opportunity and capacity to fulfill their life dreams through her work in school reform efforts and policy change initiatives where she has served in roles that range from citywide strategist for dropout prevention with Chicago Public Schools, to her most recent work with the Steans Family Foundation as their senior program associate designing a plan to support young people from disinvested communities to successfully transition out of college and into meaningful careers.

Ernestine received a Bachelors degree in English from Bradley University and a Masters degree in Instructional Design, Development & Evaluation from Syracuse University.