How Richmond is building bridges between the schools and community

Name: Shadae Harris

Title: Chief Engagement Officer for Richmond Public Schools

City: Richmond, Va.

As Chief Engagement Officer for the Richmond Public Schools, Shadae Harris’ first order of business has been to build trust between the community and the schools. “A big part of my role is to be accessible,” she said. “That’s why you’ll usually find me in the community, taking meetings, and increasing Richmond Public Schools’ visibility.” She’s not joking: Harris hosted 170 community meetings in 2018 alone. Of all the voices she wants to make sure are heard, she puts students first. In December, Harris helped students organize a march on the state capitol to advocate for more statewide funding for public schools. It was with that focus on students in mind that Harris joined colleagues from the local government, nonprofit, and philanthropy sectors last month for a four-day Bloomberg Harvard City Leadership Initiative session on collaborative problem solving. The Richmond team is working together to improve the quality and quantity of after-school programming. “Students are the most important people to include in this conversation — but their voices are often not in the mix,” she said. “My role on the cross-boundary collaboration team is an amazing opportunity to shift the dynamic to focus on them.”

“Continue to create opportunities where the people closest to the pain are in positions of power.”

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