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.

Sherra Bennett, Director of Operations

Sherra Bennett is joining Purpose Prep as the Director of Operations. In partnership with the hardworking Operations team, Ms. Bennett directs the day to day management of the organization from finance to student enrollment. Her main priority is to ensure that every instructional minute is valued and protected through efficient and streamlined processes. Ms. Bennett deeply believes in the mission of serving high talent children as they rise to reach their full potential. She gained her initial passion for servant leadership and communities, while serving as a Field Organizer for President Barack Obama’s Campaign for Change in Detroit. While working as a Field Organizer, she leveraged grass root partnerships that led to transformative mobilization across communities. She gained her dedication for children, working with Emotionally Impaired Youth for the Salvation Army. Ms. Bennett’s passion for education is lifelong, growing up in a family full of educators and strengthened through her work in Metro Detroit schools. She founded and directed a nonprofit program, created to assist students with leadership development and college to career pathways. With her direction and vision, the organization garnered over $100,000 in support and was recognized by several social innovation agencies. Directly before joining the Purpose Prep team, Ms. Bennett worked as a Project Manager and International Consultant in Cape Town, South Africa for a public benefit organization. Throughout her mission focused career, she’s engaged communities in Detroit, Amsterdam, Berlin and Cape Town. She’s a two-time graduate of the University of Michigan, receiving her Master’s Degree in Social Work with a concentration in Social Policy, Evaluation Methods, and Management. Ms. Bennett also completed full qualifications for School Social Work.

Michelle Bancroft, Dean of Curriculum and Instruction – Lower Academy

Michelle Bancroft was a founding teacher at Purpose Prep and enters into her fifth year. She is the Dean of Curriculum and Instruction for K-1 and the Special Education Coordinator. Ms. Bancroft has studied and implemented research-based approaches to provide individualized instruction to all K-12 students in both general education and support classroom settings, and she has implemented remediation services to developing readers in grades K-5.  Prior to joining Purpose Prep, Ms. Bancroft taught first grade in Oakton, Virginia. From these experiences, Ms. Bancroft believes that every child is capable of learning at the highest level.  She obtained her Bachelor's Degree in Elementary, Special, and Early Childhood Education from Mansfield University of Pennsylvania and holds a Master’s Degree in Literacy from SUNY Binghamton.  She is currently enrolled in the Relay National Principals Academy Fellowship (NPAF).  Ms. Bancroft was a 2015 Blue Ribbon Teacher for Metro Nashville Schools and was a 2015 Tennessee Charter School Center Elementary Teacher of the Year finalist. 

Shauna Russell, Dean of Curriculum and Instruction – Upper Academy

Shauna Russell was a founding teacher in Kindergarten, first, and second grade at Purpose Prep, serving as Instructional Lead for the second grade team before transitioning out of the classroom last year to support teachers in her role as Dean of Curriculum and Instruction for the upper academy. Ms. Russell graduated with honors from the University of Michigan, where she received her B.A. in Linguistics. She then moved to Nashville to teach through the Nashville Teaching Fellows program in 2011. Prior to Purpose Prep, she taught Kindergarten in a blended English Learner/General Education classroom for two years at Glengarry Elementary School. 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 completed Relay's National Principals Academy Fellowship in 2017 with distinction. Shauna is honored to have the privilege of educating children and putting them on the path to college. Go Blue!

Kayla Case, Dean of Scholars

Mrs. Kayla Case is entering her fifth year at Purpose Prep as the Dean of Scholars. Mrs. Case leads the school’s efforts to sustain the achievement-oriented, disciplined, and joyful culture. She works to ensure that all students are successful within Purpose Prep’s rigorous academic and character education program. She previously served as first grade’s Instructional Lead, guiding her grade level to meet Purpose Prep’s high academic expectations. Mrs. Case spent three years teaching first grade in the Tennessee State University classroom. In Purpose Prep’s inaugural year, Mrs. Case was the Skills Teacher, providing scholars with additional instruction to meet the rigorous learning goals. Mrs. Case is passionate about educating children and honored to be a part of a high performing school. Kayla earned her Bachelor’s Degree in Interdisciplinary Studies/Elementary Education from Middle Tennessee State University, graduating Magna Cum Laude. She also obtained her Master’s Degree from Middle Tennessee State University in Curriculum and Instruction, graduating Summa Cum Laude

Brittany Ractliffe, Content Specialist

Brittany Ractliffe is entering a new role as a content specialist in her fourth year at Purpose Prep. She will be now supporting Math instruction, Reading Mastery instruction, and writing the Math curriculum for fourth grade. Mrs. Ractliffe has written Math curriculum for founding grade levels for three years.  Before moving to Nashville in 2014, Mrs. Ractliffe taught third grade in Memphis for three years. An alumna of Teach for America, she was a member of the 2011 Memphis Corps. She is passionate about educating children and ensuring that they are on a path to a college education. Mrs. Ractliffe attended University of Tennessee and University of Memphis. She earned a degree in Elementary Education from University of Memphis graduating Magna Cum Laude. Mrs. Ractliffe studied the importance of small group instruction and the impact on student achievement in her Master's program.  She graduated Summa Cum Laude with a Master’s in Education from Christian Brothers University.

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.

Kramer Deans, Operations Assistant

Kramer Deans is the Operations Assistant at Purpose Prep.  He is from Decatur, Ga and in 2010 moved to Nashville to attend Belmont where he graduated in 2015 with a B.S in Social Entrepreneurship.  Mr. Deans has been involved with education since a young age with his mother who runs a non-profit for African American families and educators.  Mr. Deans decided to work in the educational world because he believes in quality education for every child.

Katy Payne, Office Assistant

Katy Payne is an office assistant at Purpose Prep.  She is recently relocated to Nashville from the Inland Pacific Northwest: Spokane, Washington.  In 2012, Ms. Payne graduated with a B.A. in Business Management from Eastern Washington University and has since worked in the areas of administrative assistant and marketing.  Ms. Payne is excited to support Purpose Prep’s front office while scholars prepare for their futures.


Alison Atwood, Special Education Teacher

Alison Atwood is a special education teacher at Purpose Prep.  She received her Bachelors from Tennessee State University and her Masters of Arts in Special Education (MASE) from Belmont University. Prior to working at Purpose Prep, Alison was the teacher in a self-contained life skills classroom here in Nashville; as well as a teacher that went into other rooms to work with that population of scholars. Alison is a native of Nashville and is very proud of her town! She loves NashVegas! For fun outside of her amazingly fun job at Purpose she makes jewelry, she makes picture books, she plays with her 73 pound Bassett Hound who thinks he is a lapdog!  Teaching is her passion she knew she wanted to be a teacher when she was in kindergarten and there is work of hers that her mother kept that says it! The thing that keeps Alison in the game is the moment that the scholar “gets it” they will look up at you with a smile that is indescribable.  It’s called the light bulb moment and she loves it!

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.

Meghan Choice, Third Grade Teacher

Meghan Choice is entering her second year as a third grade teacher at Purpose Prep. Before moving to Nashville, Meghan taught middle and high school special education in South Carolina for two years as a 2014 corps member of Teach For America. Ms. Choice earned a degree in Elementary Special Education and a Spanish minor from Indiana University, graduating Magna Cum Laude. She enjoys being part of such a supportive community where the teachers and staff share a deep commitment to the academic and character development of each and every scholar.

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 second 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. Mr. Degler has a passion about teaching in such a rigorous environment that pursues student excellence.  

Jillian Doherty, Third Grade Teacher

Jillian Doherty is a third grade teacher at Purpose Preparatory Academy. Ms. Doherty is originally from Reading, MA. She earned her B.S. from Vanderbilt University in May of 2017. She majored in Human and Organizational Development with a focus in Leadership and Organizational Effectiveness. Upon graduation, she joined Teach For America to pursue her passion for educational equity. Ms. Doherty is excited to join the Purpose Prep team and begin fostering a joyful, yet rigorous classroom environment that will prepare her students for their future academic endeavors!

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!

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, Teacher Fellow

Whitley Gregory is a Teacher Fellow at Purpose Prep. Whitley recently moved to Nashville from Kentucky.  Her hometown is Nicholasville, KY and she attended Western Kentucky University to pursue an Elementary Education degree.  This is her first year in the classroom after graduating and she is so excited to be starting her teaching career at such a great school!

Sarah Guest, Fourth Grade Teacher

Sarah Guest is excited to be returning to Purpose Prep on the final founding year Fourth grade team.  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.  Sarah calls Nashville "home" after spending 12 years living in various parts of the eclectic Nashville community.  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.

Nyleve Lillard, Spanish Enrichment Teacher

Nyleve Lillard is the Spanish teacher at Purpose Preparatory Academy.   With Nashville as her hometown, she studied this Romance Language as her major at the University of North Carolina – Greensboro.  With energy and joy she shares the love of Latin culture with the students here in North Nashville to continue their pursuit to be global citizens.

Hannah Logsdon, Fourth Grade Teacher

Hannah Logsdon is excited to join the Purpose Prep team in adding 4th Grade this year. Ms. Logsdon graduated from Transylvania University with a major in Studio Art, and is a 2017 Teach for America corps member. She can’t wait to see all the Purpose Prep 4th graders finish out their elementary careers strong and continue to rise toward college!

Kelly MacLachlan, Third Grade Teacher

Kelly MacLachlan is a second year teacher at Purpose Prep. She previously taught second grade and is currently a third grade teacher. Ms. MacLachlan has lived in the Nashville area since she was three years old. She worked at a local preschool in Brentwood and discovered her passion for working with children. She attended Auburn University and received a degree in Early Childhood Education in May of 2016. Ms. MacLachlan is grateful to be continuing her journey with such an invested group of teachers who strive to provide students with a joyful, challenging learning environment.

Rikkia McGill, First Grade Teacher

Ms. Rikkia McGill is a first grade teacher and is entering her first year with 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.

Nicole Morris, Music Enrichment Teacher

Nicole Morris is the founding Music Enrichment teacher at Purpose Prep. She studied Vocal Music and Pedagogy and earned a B.A. in Vocal Performance from Fisk University. In 2007, Ms. Morris had the opportunity to visit Ghana, Africa with the Fisk Jubilee Singers. She has sang with artists from many different genres, including Kid Rock and Mandisa Hundley. Most recently, she was featured on John Carter - Cash's (son of music legend Johnny Cash) album. Miss Morris believes music is the greatest language and that everyone should learn to speak it. With this belief in mind, she has begun to teach music theory and the theory of Vocal music. "I was born with music inside me. Music is one of my parts….. no different than my lungs, feet, or my heart. It is just as necessary to me as food and water and was a force already within me. Music isn’t just what I do - it’s who I am.” This statement is solidified by her many endeavors concerning the world of music. At Purpose Prep, she is fostering our scholars' appreciation and love for music.

Nathan Mount, Third Grade Teacher

Nathan Mount is a third grade teacher and entering his third year at Purpose Prep. He currently serves as third grade’s Instructional Lead, guiding his grade level to meet high academic expectations. Prior to moving to Nashville, Mr. Mount graduated from Gonzaga University with degrees in History and Psychology. Mr. Mount moved to Nashville to teach through the Nashville Teaching Fellows Program in 2015 and is passionate about working at a high performing school and pushing scholars to reach the highest standards. 

Ri'an Murphy, Fourth Grade Teacher

Ri'an Murphy is a Nashville native who is entering her first year at Purpose Prep as a fourth grade teacher.  Ms. Murphy graduated with her English degree from Tennessee State University.  She is currently working on her Master's Degree for Elementary Education.  Ms. Murphy is a soccer mom and Pinterest chef in her spare time.  She is excited on her new journey at Purpose Prep and shows her dedication to the work.

Katherine Nelligan, Fourth Grade Teacher

Katie Nelligan is a 4th grade teacher and Instructional Lead. Ms. Nelligan has also taught both 2nd and 3rdgrades at Purpose Prep. As a repeat founding-year teacher, Ms. Nelligan enjoys further developing Purpose Prep’s Reading Curriculum, and this year is looking forward to helping guide her team to success in all content areas. She is a Teach for America alumna and earned her M.Ed. in Curriculum & Instruction from Lipscomb University. Ms. Nelligan earned her B.A. in International Relations from Franklin & Marshall College in Lancaster, PA. She is extremely proud to be a part of the Purpose Prep community and feels bittersweet about watching her scholars grow from intelligent 2nd graders to impressive middle schoolers! 

Onya Parker, College Bound Coordinator

Onya Parker is the College Bound 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 college bound 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.

Maria Peerenboom, Skills Teacher

Maria Peerenboom is a skills 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 can't wait to work with the Purpose Prep community! 

Tanjarae Porter, Kindergarten Teacher

Tanjarae Porter is a kindergarten teacher at Purpose Prep. Prior to joining the Purpose Prep team, Mrs. Porter taught 6th grade science and social studies after moving to Nashville in 2014. Upon graduating from college in 2012 with a Bachelor's in Dance Education, Mrs. Porter was granted the opportunity to pilot a dance program at a middle school in her home town of Memphis, TN. Mrs. Porter is currently pursuing her Master’s in Curriculum and Instruction with concentration as a Reading Specialist. Mrs. Porter is excited about her incoming kindergartens as she is ready to help them grow into reading masters, mathematicians, scientists and historians.

Brandy Putman, First Grade Teacher

Ms. Putman is a first grade teacher and in her second year at here at Purpose Prep. 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

Lindsey Stowell is a first grade teacher at Purpose Preparatory Academy. Originally from Pulaski, TN, she went to the University of Tennessee, Knoxville where she earned her undergraduate degree in Kinesiology. Then, she was brought back to the Nashville area to complete her Masters in Exercise and Nutrition Science at Lipscomb University. Mrs. Stowell started at Purpose Prep as a fellow teacher in March 2016. She is very excited and proud to be a part of Purpose Prep team as a lead first grade teacher for her second year, 2017 - 2018!

Alita Terry, Second Grade Teacher

Alita Terry is a second grade teacher at Purpose Preparatory Academy. In 2015, Ms. Terry joined Teach for America to actualize her dream of being an educator.  Prior to joining Teach for America, Ms. Terry worked as an administrator in the Pediatric Department at Meharry Medical College. Ms. Terry is a graduate of Florida State University and holds a Master’s degree in Public Administration from American University in Washington, D.C. Ms. Terry is extremely honored to be a part of the Purpose Prep family, and is looking forward to cultivating college bound scholars!

Tikoya Tipton, Second Grade Teacher

Tikoya Tipton is a second grade teacher at Purpose Prep. Originally from Covington, TN, Ms. Tipton has lived in Nashville for 9 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 is currently seeking her Master's in Elementary Education. Prior to Purpose Prep, she was a preschool teacher for 4 years. She has a passion for teaching and is excited to be a part of a great learning community. Ms. Tipton is looking forward to watching her scholars grow this year.

Kimberly Thomas, Third Grade Teacher

Kimberly Thomas is excited to be a Third grade teacher for the 2017-2018 school year. Kimberly is originally from Memphis, TN and moved to Nashville, TN 6 years ago. She received her Bachelor's in Social Work from Middle Tennessee State University. Kimberly is excited to see the scholars grow in their academics this year.

Margie Todd, Kindergarten Teacher

Margie Todd is a Kindergarten teacher at Purpose Preparatory Academy. She recently moved to Nashville, TN from a small town called Jacksboro, TN to join the Purpose Prep team. In 2015, Ms. Todd graduated from East Tennessee State University with a Bachelor's Degree in Social Work. It was through her work tutoring for the America Reads program during college that she discovered a new love of education. Shortly after graduating, she enrolled in the Master's program at South College for Elementary Education K-5 Initial License which she completed in February 2017. She is eager to begin her teaching career in a school community that shares a passion and commitment to ensure scholar success.