Empowering Black student success

The governor’s January budget renewed conversations on improving outcomes for Black students, who have long scored the lowest of any student racial or ethnic group on state achievement tests.

This roundtable discussion features educators, advocates, and a student as they explore programs and student-centered initiatives that are countering the historic impact of segregation, a lack of resources and lower expectations of Black students.

Read more about this roundtable.

Scroll down to learn more about our panelists


Lindsey Weatherspoon

Junior | Venice High School

Lindsey Weatherspoon is a junior at Venice High School, where she participates in the Magnet Engineering program. Lindsey works with the ACLU Youth Liberty Squad and the LA Commons Climate Change and Sustainability Arts Program. Participation in these groups allow Weatherspoon to combine her passion of social issues, art and architecture. Through school based art programs Lindsey fostered her love for playing the guitar and the piano. Although she participated in school based programs she recognized the disadvantage and inequities of art programs in public education.

Her desire is to further expand the Art Hours outreach and community connections. In her free time Lindsey enjoys gardening with family, sketching, playing music and researching real estate.

Christopher Nellum

Executive Director | The Education Trust–West

Dr. Christopher J. Nellum (he/him/his) is the Executive Director of The Education Trust–West, a nonprofit research and advocacy organization that works toward racial equity in California educational systems – preschool through college – by closing opportunity gaps and removing barriers that disproportionately affect students of color, especially those experiencing poverty.

He has led successful advocacy efforts to ensure equity in the K-12 accountability system, create a statewide cradle-to-career data system, address food insecurity for college students, ensure that every high school senior completes a financial aid application before they graduate, and defend fairness in college admissions. Before joining Ed Trust–West, Nellum was at the National Center for Institutional Diversity, Young Invincibles, and the American Council on Education. Chris serves on several statewide committees, including a recent gubernatorial appointment, the advisory board of GENup, and the boards of Swipe Out Hunger and Open Avenues Foundation. Nellum completed his undergraduate degree at UC Santa Barbara, master’s degree at CSU Long Beach, and Ph.D. at the University of Michigan.

You can follow him on Twitter at @chrisnellum.

Ramona R. Wilder

President and CEO | Wilder Preparatory Academy in Inglewood

Ramona R. Wilder is the President and Chief Executive Officer of the Wilder Foundation. Operating two independent public charter schools in Inglewood, California. Wilder’s Preparatory Academy Charter School K-5 (WPACS), and Wilder’s Preparatory Academy Charter Middle School, 6-8 (WPACMS).

WPACS and WPACMS are noted for closing the academic achievement gap among students of color. Each school has been the recipient of several prestigious awards: 2023 California Distinguished School Award, 2022 Pivotal Practice Award, 2021 National Blue-Ribbon School Award, 2019 USC Innovative Public Schools Award; ranked the Wilder Schools #1 and #2 of all Los Angeles County Public Schools in English and Math State Test Scores.

Wilder attended Pepperdine University in Malibu, CA and holds a BS Degree in Business Management and a Master’s Degree in Education.

Wendy McCulley

Chief Engagement and External Partnerships Officer | Fresno Unified School District

Driven to close the achievement gap for low-income students, Wendy R. McCulley leverages her extensive business and academic experience to increase access points to high-quality education for our most vulnerable students.

With graduate degrees in both Education Policy and Business from the University of Pennsylvania and a B.A. in History from Harvard University, Wendy brings a results-oriented approach to her work advocating for social change in public education. Wendy is the Founding Executive Director of the Office of African American Academic Acceleration (A4) for the Fresno Unified School District which has led measurable growth in academic outcomes for African American students.

Wendy is currently building new initiatives and the Foundation for Fresno Unified Schools as the Chief of Engagement and External Partnerships. Wendy and her team launched the Foundation in October of 2022 with a $20MM donation from philanthropist MacKenzie Bezos Scott. In addition to her Chief role, Wendy is Executive Director and President of the Board of the Foundation for Fresno Unified Schools.

A4 was the first office Wendy started and built from the ground up for Fresno Unified, the Foundation is the second and the Partnerships office will be the 3rd.

Darryl White Sr.

Chairperson | Black Parallel School Board

Darryl White Sr. has been a teacher, curriculum specialist, race/human relations/equity trainer, and inner-city elementary, middle, and high school administrator. As a middle school principal, he provided the leadership to move Vallejo’s lowest achieving middle school to cities best (includes charter schools) in only three years while improving the school’s Academic Performance Index (API) over 100 points.  As a high school principal, at the district’s most disruptive campus, (in only three years) Mr. White provided the leadership to improve the academic fortunes of all students while making the school the safest with the lowest calls for police intervention in the district.

Believing education is a civil right, Mr. White currently advocates for parents seeking educational equity for their children as chair of the Black Parallel School Board. The Black Parallel School Board (BPSB) is a community organization developed to work parallel to Sacramento area school district boards. Its primary focus is to unapologetically support the educational growth and achievement of African American students. The organization sincerely believes that if they can improve the success indicators for African American students they can support and assist all students in being successful in our schools.

Noaveyar Lee

Coordinator, K-12 school counseling services | Orange County Department of Education

Dr. Noaveyar Lee is a diligent leader in her personal and professional circles. She serves as the Coordinator of K-12 School Counseling Services in the Orange County Department of Education.  In this role she is instrumental in supporting the counselors to advise students in the domains of academia, college and career as well as social development. Noaveyar has a breadth of experience in direct and indirect service to students in aiding and guiding them as they endeavor to reach their post-secondary goals. She is adept in creating and maintaining innovative systems of equity for all students.

Through her corporation, Speakeasy The Noaveyar Way, LLC she has offered consulting services to SBCSS (San Bernardino County Superintendent of Schools) to enhance their College and Career focused professional learning, workshops, and training programs. She is a Certified Google educator who enjoys leveraging technology in connecting with students, families and educational partners.

Emma Gallegos

Panel moderator; Reporter | EdSource

Emma Gallegos covers equity in education and is based in the Central Valley. Emma has spent more than a decade in journalism, having worked at the Pasadena Star-News, LAist and Gothamist before returning to the Central Valley, where she grew up. Emma also spent a few valuable years in the classroom as a substitute teacher in the Bakersfield City School District. She also comes from a family of educators: her mom is a retired district administrator and her father was a superintendent and professor. Most recently, Emma worked at her hometown paper, The Bakersfield Californian, covering the Kern County education beat. She lives in Bakersfield.

Anne Vasquez

CEO | EdSource

Anne Vasquez took the helm as EdSource’s Executive Director in May 2021. Previously, she served as Director of Content and Strategic Initiatives at EdSource. In that role, she helped shape editorial strategy, grow partnerships and expand the organization’s footprint throughout California. Prior to joining EdSource, Anne was an executive at Tribune Publishing, where she most recently served as Senior Vice President of Strategic Initiatives and Chief Digital Officer. She previously was the Managing Editor of the South Florida Sun Sentinel. Anne began her career at The Miami Herald and the San Jose Mercury News, where she was an education reporter and later an editor.