Panel Discussion Participants

Thomas H. Beatty, Ed.D.

Thomas Beatty headshot.
Thomas H. Beatty, Ed.D.

Beatty is the director of the VCU Child Development Center (CDC), which is part of the VCU School of Education. He works with other units on campus to integrate additional services into the CDC to establish a more robust program. He is also working with Andrew P. Daire, Ph.D., dean of the School of Education, to expand the CDC. Beatty previously served as an assistant professor in the Department of Educational Leadership, where he taught courses that prepared individuals for leadership roles within schools and provided teachers with a better understanding of the teaching-learning process. He subsequently served as executive director of secondary education in Richmond Public Schools, where he helped principals build capacity among their faculty and staff to facilitate a quality school environment. He worked with local universities to forge partnerships that enriched students’ experiences, and he implemented several new initiatives, including the Middle School Renaissance, a collaboration between the Richmond-area business community and the middle schools. Beatty also served as a high school and middle school principal, as well as a high school English teacher. Beatty earned a bachelor's degree in English from VCU, as well as master’s and doctoral degrees from The College of William & Mary.

Rashard J. Wright (M.T./E’01)

Headshot of Rashard Wright.
Rashard J. Wright (M.T./E’01)

Wright has provided empowering educational leadership for almost two decades. Proven and recognized for building successful academic settings quickly and efficiently, Wright’s name is acknowledged throughout the state of Virginia and beyond as an accomplished academic, public speaker, teacher leader, and mentor for principal supervisors, principals and assistant principals. He is currently the chief of staff for Newport News Public Schools, appointed in July 2018. He previously served as the chief schools officer with Virginia Beach City Public Schools. An accomplished academic leader, Wright is known for inspiring leaders and championing rigorous school support plans which result in full accreditation for all schools. He has also designed leadership development and succession planning models for aspiring and existing school administrators. He is the recipient of the 2014 Marcus Foster National Distinguished Educator Award for his vison work in the area of change leadership and leadership succession planning. In September 2020, Wright was also selected to serve as the chairman of the African American Superintendent's Advisory Council, which is charged with advising, informing, and providing professional insight on policy development and accountability for public education in Virginia.

Nakisha D. Whittington, Ph.D.

Nakisha Whittington headshot.
Nakisha D. Whittington, Ph.D.

Whittington joined the VCU School of Education in August 2021 as assistant professor in elementary education in the Department of Teaching and Learning. She earned her doctoral degree in curriculum and instruction from Penn State University, her master’s degree in elementary education and teaching from Xavier University of Louisiana, and her bachelor’s degree in political science and government from University of Louisiana at Lafayette. Whittington was named Holmes Scholar of the Month for June 2021 by the American Association of Colleges for Teacher Education. She credits her academic and professional success partly to her involvement in the Holmes Program. She served as the historian on the AACTE Holmes Council 2020-21. Whittington’s research interests include digital literacy practices of urban youth. She has published several articles on effective instructional practices to meet the needs of diverse learners. She also served as a co-director for Penn State’s Summer Research Opportunities Program, Upward Bound instructor, reading specialist and editorial assistant for an educational research journal. Whittington previously served as an early literacy specialist during the 2015-2016 academic school year at Children’s Literacy Initiative (CLI).