Staff

Lagra Newman, Founder and Head of School

Lagra Newman is the Founder and Head of School at Purpose Prep. Ms. Newman has a proven track record of transformative academic outcomes for students in district and charter schools. Ms. Newman began her career in education as a Teach For America corps member in Los Angeles, where she received the highest rating for the academic performance of her students in both math and reading. She then served as a Recruitment Director for TFA’s Atlanta Region. As a charter leader in Washington, DC, Ms. Newman is the recipient of the Transformer Award as the highest performing teacher in her charter network of over 400 teachers, which marked student academic gains of over two years and the highest percentage of students meeting and exceeding grade level benchmarks. After Ms. Newman served as Director of Instruction, her school was recognized for achieving the highest percentage of student achievement results within her charter network of 13 schools and for being within the top five charter schools in Washington, DC for academic growth on state assessments. Ms. Newman completed the Fellowship with the highly selective Building Excellent Schools, which enabled her to study over 30 of the highest performing charter schools in the nation. Ms. Newman earned a BA at Vanderbilt University, a MA in Teaching at Loyola Marymount University, and a M.Ed in Public School Leadership from Teachers College of Columbia University.

Shauna Russell, Director of Academics

Shauna Russell is the Director of Academics at Purpose Preparatory Academy. Ms. Russell was awarded the Blue Ribbon Teacher Award by Metro Nashville Public Schools in 2014 and 2016, and was the recipient of the Tennessee Charter School Center's honor of 2015 Elementary Charter School Teacher of the Year: Nashville/Chattanooga region. She was a founding teacher at Purpose Prep and developed the literacy curriculum for the Kindergarten, first, and second grades, serving as an Instructional Lead before transitioning out of the classroom in 2016 to support 2nd – 3rd grade teachers as Dean of Curriculum and Instruction. In the 2016-17 academic year, the school was recognized as a Tennessee Reward School for academic achievement, ranking within the top 5% of schools in the state of Tennessee. Purpose Prep is the first elementary school in North Nashville to ever have earned this distinction in the history of Nashville. Ms. Russell graduated with honors from the University of Michigan, where she received her B.A. in Linguistics. She completed Relay's National Principals Academy Fellowship in 2017 with distinction.

Katherine Nelligan, Content Specialist

Katherine Nelligan is the Content Specialist at Purpose Prep Academy. Ms. Nelligan was a founding-lead teacher in the second, third and fourth grades at Purpose Prep, serving as Instructional Lead for the fourth-grade team before transitioning out of the classroom this year to support teachers in her role as Content Specialist. Working alongside the leadership team, Ms. Nelligan developed the third and fourth-grade ELA curriculum, pioneering the school’s Close Reading framework. Prior to Purpose Prep, Ms. Nelligan attended Franklin & Marshall College in Lancaster, PA, where she received her B.A. in International Relations with a minor in Japanese. She also earned her M.Ed. in Curriculum & Instruction from Lipscomb University, is a proud Teach for America alumna and a member of Nashville’s Teacher Cabinet. This past year, Ms. Nelligan woefully said “so-long” to Purpose Prep’s founding class, a class with whom she’d taught for three consecutive years. She is grateful to be a part of the Purpose Prep community and is looking forward to another phenomenal school-year!

Tikoya Tipton, Dean of Scholars

Tikoya Tipton is the Dean of Scholars at Purpose Prep. Originally from Covington, Tn, Ms. Tipton has lived in Nashville for 10 years. She went to Tennessee State University where she earned her Bachelor's in Family and Consumer Science with a minor in Child Development. She also earned her Master's in Elementary Education. Prior to Purpose Prep, she was a preschool teacher for 4 years. She has a passion for working with children and is excited to be a part of a great learning community. Ms. Tipton is looking forward to watching all of the scholars grow this year.  

Jason Matthews, Operations Manager

Jason D. Matthews is the Operations Manager at Purpose Prep. Originally from Nashville, TN, Mr. Matthews has lived in Missouri for half of his life, and he moved back to Nashville in 2016. He attended Lincoln University where he earned her Bachelor's in Education with an emphasis in Physical Education and a minor in History. Mr. Matthews is also working towards a Master’s in Sociology. Prior to Purpose Prep, he attained 10 years of operational experience in package and freight shipping industries. Mr. Matthews is proud to be part of the team and he looks forward to contributing to the success of Purpose Prep.  

Delvis Hargrove, Office Manager

Delvis Hargrove is the Office Manager at Purpose Prep. She is originally from West Tennessee and recently moved to Nashville.  Ms. Hargrove has more than 15 years of administrative assistant experience with 11 of those years in education.  Ms. Hargrove chooses to work in the educational environment because she enjoys supporting the process of helping students obtain the education they deserve.  Ms. Hargrove graduated from Argosy University with a B.A. in Psychology.

Onya Parker, Family Engagement Coordinator

Onya Parker is the Family Engagement Coordinator at Purpose Prep. Mrs. Parker is a graduate of Bethune-Cookman College, with a Bachelor of Science in Elementary Education. Mrs. Parker has been a certified teacher for 24 years.  Prior to moving to Nashville, Mrs. Parker taught kindergarten, second grade, third grade and fourth grade in Florida and Virginia. As Family Engagement coordinator, Mrs. Parker will continue to pursue her passion for education by ensuring all Purpose Prep fourth graders advance to high performing, college prep middle schools on their path to college.

Khayla Clark, Operations Coordinator

Khayla Clark is the Operations Coordinator at Purpose Preparatory Academy. Leader, entrepreneur, and go-getter are all words that could be used to describe her, yet Ms. Clark simply describes herself as an aspiring millennial driven by empowering others. Born and raised in Nashville, TN, Ms. Clark is a Class of 2014 graduate of East Nashville Magnet School. Ms. Clark graduated from the illustrious Fisk University with a B.S. in Business Administration. As founder and CEO of The Khay Renee Brand, her motto is “Be You. Be Empowered.” She uses her platform to remind others that as long as you stay true to yourself, dream big, and do what you love, your purpose will be revealed to you.

Phi’Neisha Simmons, Office Assistant

Phi’Neisha Simmons is the Office Assistant at Purpose Preparatory Academy.  Ms. Simmons was born and raised in Nashville, TN.  She received a Bachelor’s degree in Business Administration from Mississippi Valley State and has a Master’s degree in Servant Leadership from Grand Canyon University.  Ms. Simmons is currently pursuing a second Master’s in Elementary Education.  She enjoys serving youth and families at her church, Mt. Zion Baptist Church, where she is a mentor for college students and a leader for the young adult ministry and youth ministry.  


Faculty

Melinda Bascom-Harvey, Kindergarten Teacher

Melinda Bascom-Harvey is a kindergarten teacher at Purpose Prep. She received her Master of Business Management from San Diego State University but returned to school to pursue a degree in Education. She will be graduating from Lipscomb University this summer 2018 with her Masters of Education as well as a Certified English Language Learner Specialist. Prior to working at Purpose Prep, Mrs. Bascom-Harvey was in a hybrid role as a second-grade Literacy Teacher and EL Specialist at a charter elementary school in Nashville.  Mrs. Bascom-Harvey is originally from Guyana, South America and has two beautiful daughters Charli and Gabby. She loves to read, walk, and spent time with her family. She looks forward to challenging students through the school year. 

Courtney Brooks, First Grade Teacher

Courtney Brooks is a first grade teacher at Purpose Prep. Ms. Brooks graduated from the HBCU Tennessee State University where she obtained her Bachelor’s in Psychology as well as a Master’s in Education. Prior to joining Purpose Prep, Ms. Brooks subbed for Metro schools, and she taught Reading for K-2 scholars at Nashville Freedom Schools over the summer. Ms. Brooks is a published author who enjoys reading in her past time. As a Reading Mastery teacher, she uses her knowledge on the subject to help grow the brains of every scholar within her reach. Courtney is very passionate about teaching! She believes education is the gift that keeps on giving, and she plans to utilize that gift to help guide her students on their path to college and to prepare their minds for a bright, and bold future.

Jordaun Brooks, Third Grade Teacher

Jordaun Brooks is a third grade teacher at Purpose Preparatory Academy. Ms. Brooks is originally from Louisville, Ky. She graduated from Berea College where she obtained her Bachelor’s in Child and Family Studies focusing on Interdisciplinary Early Childhood Education.  Prior to moving to Nashville, she worked at the Child Development Laboratory of her alma mater as well as took on the role of middle school girls’ basketball coach at Berea Community School. She is grateful to be continuing her journey with such an invested group of vibrant teachers here at Purpose Prep! She plans to provide students with a motivating, yet challenging, learning environment to instill in them the ability utilize the tools they have obtained in order to succeed. 

Jennifer Cox, Second Grade Teacher

Jennifer Cox is a second grade teacher at Purpose Preparatory Academy. Ms. Cox graduated from Tennessee State University where she earned her B.A. in Interdisciplinary studies with a focus on Psychology and Sociology.  She has received her Masters’ degree in Education and is excited about her journey in being a second year Purpose Preparatory teacher.  Ms. Cox is dedicated and ecstatic to teach in a rigorous environment where she can provide scholars’ with the tools they need to achieve academic success and set them on their path to college!

Sean Cox, Physical Education Enrichment Teacher

Sean Cox is the physical education teacher at Purpose Prep. He is from the small town of Lakeville in northern Indiana. In 2012 Sean graduated from Ball State University with a B.S. in Geography. Sean loves spending his free time with his wife and daughter, going to parks and traveling. He is very proud to be a member of Purpose Prep and can’t wait to challenge his students.

Chris Degler, Music Enrichment Teacher

Chris Degler is a music enrichment teacher at Purpose Prep. Originally from Lexington, KY, Mr. Degler moved to the Nashville area a few years ago. This is Mr. Degler’s third year at Purpose Prep. Mr. Degler, graduated with a Bachelor’s Degree in Music Education from Morehead State University in 2014. With an emphasis in percussion, Mr. Degler has performed with several different groups and most notably performed with a percussion group in China. Last year the Clarinets with Purpose program was started and lead by Mr. Degler and continues to improve and expand this year. Mr. Degler has a passion about teaching in such a rigorous environment that pursues student excellence.

Laura Dunsmore, Fourth Grade Teacher

Laura Dunsmore is a fourth grade teacher at Purpose Prep. Mrs. Dunsmore graduated from Texas A&M University in December of 2017. Prior to coming to Purpose Prep, Mrs. Dunsmore taught 5th grade at Cornerstone Christian Academy in Bryan, Texas. Laura is excited to be on board at Purpose Prep and to share her love of learning with her students as well as working alongside wonderful teachers and excellent administrative support.  

Makenzie Fox, Kindergarten Teacher

Mackenzie Fox is a kindergarten teacher at Purpose Prep. Ms. Fox is a Nashville native, who grew up in the Bellevue area. She completed her undergrad degree at Middle Tennessee State University in Child Development & Family Studies. Ms. Fox is currently completing her Master’s degree in Education with a major in Curriculum and Instruction at Tennessee State University. In her free time, Ms. Fox loves to visit the Farmer’s Market, go to concerts, cook, and spend time with friends. She also enjoys trying out new and fun restaurants around town. This is Ms. Fox’s first year as an elementary school teacher and she is so excited and proud to represent Purpose Prep.  

Myleah Gallagher, Fourth Grade Teacher

Myleah Gallagher is a fourth grade teacher at Purpose Prep Academy. She received her BS in Elementary Education from Austin Peay State University in 2013. The following year, she earned her secondary English endorsement in May of 2014. She has taught 4th grade for 3 years in Cheatham County Schools. She went on to complete the MAED Reading Specialist program at APSU and graduated with her master’s as of August 2017. Myleah is so proud and honored to work with the university-bound scholars at Purpose Prep and is looking forward to a rigorous and joyful year at Purpose Prep Academy.  

Rebeccah Glick, Fourth Grade Teacher

Rebeccah Glick is a fourth grade teacher at Purpose Prep. Ms. Glick graduated from the University of Wisconsin Oshkosh with a dual major in elementary and special education. She has taught special education in Wisconsin and was a founding second grade teacher at Purpose Prep. Ms. Glick is excited to be returning to the Purpose Prep community and continue to help her scholars prepare for their bright futures!

Hannah Goins, Kindergarten Teacher

Hannah Goins is a fourth grade teacher at Purpose Prep. Ms. Goins has always had a passion for working with children. She decided in kindergarten that she would one day be a teacher. She went to Union University where she studied Elementary Education. She graduated in May 2017 with a degree in Elementary Education and an endorsement in Early Childhood Education, graduating Magna Cum Laude. Ms. Goins is a first year teacher at Purpose Prep and she is excited to welcome her scholars!

Emma Gonsalves, First Grade Teacher

Emma Gonsalves is a first grade teacher at Purpose Prep. Ms. Gonsalves graduated from Brown University in 2015 with a master's degree in Arts and Teaching. This July, Ms. Gonsalves embarked on a 17-hour journey from Connecticut to Tennessee to pursue her dream of living in Nashville and being a Purpose Prep educator. With an immense love for learning, Ms. Gonsalves loves to challenge her students to become the powerful scholars they are intended to become. As a brand new teacher here at Purpose Prep, she is so excited to spread love, creativity and joy to her school community, and fulfill her purpose of molding lifelong learners!

Michelle Gore, Art Enrichment Teacher

Michelle Gore is a Visual Arts enrichment teacher at Purpose Preparatory Academy. Before moving to Nashville in July 2017, Michelle taught in a Positive Behavior Intervention Support satellite class in Knox County Schools while teaching K-5 for the University of Tennessee Community Schools. Michelle graduated with a B.A. in Studio Art with a minor in Teacher Education in 2013, a M.A.E.D. and Curriculum Instruction in 2017, and completed the summer session of the Tennessee Arts Academy in 2018.  

Jasmine Gregg, Third Grade Teacher

Jasmine Gregg is a third grade teacher at Purpose Prep. In 2016, Ms. Gregg joined Nashville Teaching Fellows to pursue her passion in education. Prior to joining, she worked at Kroger as a manager. Ms. Gregg is a graduate of Georgetown College with a B.A. in English and a Minor in Asian Studies.  Ms. Gregg is extremely proud to be a part of the fabulous Purpose Prep community, and is looking forward to creating an environment for students to achieve great things!

Whitley Gregory, Third Grade Teacher

Whitley Gregory is a third grade teacher at Purpose Prep. Her hometown is Nicholasville, KY and she attended Western Kentucky University to pursue an Elementary Education degree. Whitley moved to Nashville right after school to pursue her degree. After being a fellow last year at Purpose Prep, she is excited to work alongside her co-teacher for her first-year in the classroom!Sarah Guest, Fourth Grade Teacher

Sarah Guest, Fourth Grade Teacher

Sarah Guest is a fourth grade teacher at Purpose Prep. Ms. Guest graduated with a B.S. from Peabody College at Vanderbilt University, majoring in Education Studies and Economics.  Prior to joining the Purpose Prep team, she worked in the financial services industry, and completed the Nashville Teaching Fellows program through TNTP.  As a passionate advocate for educational equity, Ms. Guest is excited to share the learning process with her school leaders this year! 

Dania Henry, Second Grade Teacher

Dania Henry is a second grade teacher at Purpose Prep. Ms. Henry is a 2016 Teach for America corps member, who joined in order to become an active advocate for educational equity. On May 26, 2016, Ms. Henry moved to Nashville from Daytona Beach, Florida where she attended Bethune-Cookman University, and received her B.A. in Psychology. Ms. Henry is adamant and passionate about every student receiving a learning experience that inevitably prepares them for success in the future.

Lauren Jones, Fourth Grade Teacher

Lauren Jones is a fourth grade teacher at Purpose Prep. She is from San Diego, California, and recently moved to Nashville from Memphis, where she spent two years with Teach for America. Prior to teaching, Mrs. Jones graduated from Texas Christian University with her Bachelor’s in Political Science. She is eager to see her scholars grow in their passion for learning and apply that passion to change the world around them!

Hannah Logsdon, Fourth Grade Teacher

Hannah Logsdon is a fourth grade teacher at Purpose Prep. Ms. Logsdon can’t wait to see all the Purpose Prep 4th graders finish out their elementary careers strong and continue to rise toward college! Ms. Logsdon graduated from Transylvania University with a major in Studio Art, and is a 2017 Teach for America corps member. She is excited to see her scholars grow personally and academically with such a results-driven team to support them.

Maggie McGahren, Third Grade Teacher

Maggie McGahren is a third grade teacher at Purpose Prep. She graduated in May 2018 and received a Bachelor’s degree from Samford University in Birmingham, AL. She has the unique experience of getting certified in Early Childhood, Elementary Education, as well as Early Childhood and Elementary Special Education. She is a Nashville native and is excited to teach at a school that is close to home. She believes that every scholar can learn by working hard and persevering. She can’t wait to meet and grow with them this school year!

Rikkia McGill, First Grade Teacher

Rikkia McGill is a first grade teacher at Purpose Prep. She graduated from Howard University in Washington D.C. with a Bachelor’s in Strategic Legal Management and Communication and a minor in Speech-Language Pathology. Ms. McGill is a current Teach for America corps member here in Nashville. Previously, Ms. McGill was a teaching fellow with Uncommon Schools in New York where her love for classroom instruction developed. Ms. McGill is new to the Nashville area but has expressed great excitement in creating a home here at Purpose Preparatory Academy. She looks forward to helping students grow both in character and academics over the course of the school year.

Jena Milliken, Second Grade Teacher

Jena Milliken is a second grade teacher at Purpose Prep. Ms. Milliken is a 2018 Teach for America corps member from Casper, Wyoming. Prior to moving to Nashville, Ms. Milliken graduated from Gonzaga University with her degree in Public Relations and Marketing. She seeks to ignite the spark that lies within each child and is thrilled to embark on her journey here at Purpose Prep as a first year teacher.

Ri'an Murphy, Kindergarten Teacher

Ri’an Murphy is a kindergarten teacher at Purpose Prep. Ms. Murphy is a Nashville native who is entering her second year. Ms. Murphy graduated with her English degree from Tennessee State University. She is currently pursuing her Master’s Degree in Elementary Education. Ms. Murphy is a soccer mom to her toddler and Pinterest chef in her spare time. She is excited to be able to support the scholars that give her the purpose she has to teach.

Maria Peerenboom, Skills Teacher

Maria Peerenboom is a special education teacher at Purpose Preparatory Academy. Ms. Peerenboom graduated from SUNY Plattsburgh where she received her Bachelor's degree in Early Childhood and Childhood Education. She then went on to receive her Master's degree in Special Education from SUNY Plattsburgh. Maria is a 2017 Teach for America corps member. Ms.Peerenboom is excited to be a part of such a positive team that strives towards academic and personal achievement for all scholars. She is passionate about teaching and is excited to work with the Purpose Prep community in her new role as the special education coordinator!

Tanjarae Porter, Movement Enrichment Teacher

Tanjarae Porter is the creative movement teacher and reading interventionist at Purpose Prep. She has also taught Kindergarten for two years at Purpose Prep prior to her new role. Mrs. Porter has graduated from University of Memphis where she obtained her Bachelors in Dance Education, as well as obtaining her Master's in Education with the concentration of Reading Specialist. Prior to joining Purpose Prep, Mrs. Porter has taught sixth grade science and social studies as well as creative movement in a middle school in her hometown.  Mrs. Porter looks forward to exposing scholars to the arts through dance as well as integrating the arts through academia. She also looks forward to assisting scholars with meeting their reading goals and growing their brains. Mrs. Portere believes that all students can and will learn!!!  

Brandy Putman, First Grade Teacher

Brandy Putman is a first grade teacher at Purpose Prep. Ms. Putman is in her third year. Originally from Adams TN, she attended Austin Peay State University. Ms. Putman graduated with a degree in Early Childhood Education in May 2016. She then moved to Nashville to pursue her dream of teaching in an amazing city. She's excited to work with other teachers dedicated to the cause of preparing our scholars for college.Lindsey Stowell, First Grade Teacher

Hannah Serling, Second Grade Teacher

Hannah Serling is a second grade teacher at Purpose Prep. She is a graduate of Franklin & Marshall College and earned her Bachelor’s Degree in Sociology. Hannah is a 2018 Teach for America corps member. Ms. Serling is very excited to join the Purpose Prep team and to watch her second graders grow as scholars and as individuals!

Joy Van Est, Skills Teacher

Joy Van Est is a skills teacher at Purpose Prep. Joy graduated from Purdue University, West Lafayette with an B.S. in Education as well as a M.S. in Curriculum & Instruction with a specialization in Adult Education. She has taught at residential and public schools. She has also Directed a non-for-profit childcare facility under Community Action of Greater Indianapolis. She has worked for Purdue University teaching college coursework as well as community-based education.  Joy is currently a 2018 Teach for America Corps member. Joy joined the Purpose Preparatory team in 2017 and is enthused to continue working with scholars to reach their potential. Fulfilling the role of Response to Intervention (RTI) coordinator will enable her to support educators to help scaffold their student's understanding and provide equitable access to skills, process, and content.  

Colby Way, Kindergarten Teacher

Colby Way is a kindergarten teacher at Purpose Prep. Prior to joining the Purpose Prep team, Ms. Way taught Ga Pre-K for one year in Atlanta, Ga. Ms. Way found her way to Nashville after joining TFA (Teach for America) summer 2018. Ms. Way is a recent graduate of Ashford University with an M.A.Ed. in Early Childhood Education and is now pursuing another Master’s in Teaching. Ms. Way is thrilled about her upcoming kindergarteners as she is ready to help mold these young learners into mathematicians, scientists, historians, and reading masters.