Kedra Herbert, Jocelyn Alter, and Terri Knox, DeKalb Brilliance Academy

Wednesday, June 15, 2022

This interview is a part of TARA's Visionary School Founder Series where we highlight the vision, innovation & strides that school founders have made in education.

Founding Principals:
Kedra Herbert, Jocelyn Alter, & Terri Knox 

School: DeKalb Brilliance Academy

Location: Atlanta, GA

Co-founder & Principal, Kendra Herbert - Born and raised in Orlando, Fl, Kedra Herbert has committed the last decade of her life dedicated to closing the opportunity and equity gaps in education for BIPOC children and their communities by challenging institutions to rethink, reinvent and execute equitable policies, procedures, and practices in education. She holds a BA in Anthropology with a minor in communication and educational studies from the University of Florida and a Masters of Arts in Teaching from Relay GSE. 

Co-founder & Head of School, Jocelyn Alter - Jocelyn has a strongly-held belief in the brilliance of each child, a deep commitment to partnering with families and the community, and 15 years of educational leadership experience. Ms. Alter has served as a teacher,  instructional coach, chief of staff, chief academic officer, and more. Jocelyn received her Master’s in Public Administration from New York University and holds a Bachelor’s degree from the State University of New York at Brockport.

Co-founder & Director of Operations, Terri Knox - Originally from Miami, Florida, Mrs. Knox attended Florida A&M University, earning her undergraduate degree in Education, and is attending Georgia State University for her Master’s in Education. Mrs. Knox holds the unwavering belief that all children deserve a school experience beyond their wildest dreams and that providing this experience coupled with a revolutionary education will inspire the leaders of tomorrow to create a more just world.

Dekalb Brilliance Academy is a tuition-free, public Kindergarten - 8th grade South Dekalb charter school enrolling grades K-2 in 2022 (adding a grade each year). With an unwavering commitment to exceptional academics, leadership development, and community collaboration, DBA prepares all K - 8th students to thrive in high school and college, have fulfilling careers, and become impactful leaders in our communities. Learn more about enrolling your child today!

What is your unique approach to K-12 education? What makes your school different in terms of method?

“Our vision is that our young people will know and leverage their unique brilliance to design a better and more equitable future. To achieve this, our school will empower students to be leaders by combining rigorous & relevant academics with social-emotional learning. We put all of this together through semester-long real-world projects, where students learn not only from their teachers and peers, but also directly from scientists, lawyers, engineers, and designers.

We heard from families, again and again, this idea that they wanted their children to learn from real-world experiences, that they wanted them to understand how their own skills and interests lined up with the careers they could lead, with the problems they could solve in the world.

Real-world projects are something people are used to seeing in college or high school, not elementary school. But because this was what our community asked for, we studied schools across the country and found out this is possible with young children too.

DeKalb Brilliance Academy teachers partner with community experts to create projects that give students relevant experience connected to high-demand careers. The same experts coach teams of students and be in the audience to celebrate students' work at the end of the semester.

For example, Kindergarteners working with an urban planner or architect on a park design project - visiting and measuring the site to make a site plan, interviewing people to understand what they want in the park, and working through their different ideas for the park to figure out a final design. At every stage, that same urban planner or architect is working with the teacher to coach teams of students directly.”

Watch the interview here!

What lesson(s) have you learned from the founding process? Looking back, is there anything you would've done differently?

“We are most proud of how we've co-designed the school with families, educators, and community leaders. When we asked over 1,000 community members “what should the purpose of school be?” we heard:

1) help my child understand their unique gifts, talents, and interests

2) help my child understand the paths for impact (e.g. careers or social issues) that are the best matches for them.

Our reflection on the founding process is when you ask families why they want in a school, they push schools beyond preparing students for college and careers. They push schools to focus on how to prepare students for impact and legacy.”

Why would a teacher want to work at your charter school vs others? What types of support will you provide teachers to cultivate a position culture?

“We want to ensure that each person feels belonging within our community - through:

- celebrating and honoring each other’s multifaceted identities, strengths, and personal and collective achievements.

- creating an environment where autonomy and collective action co-exist because we empower each other to make values-aligned decisions as stakeholders in our community

- sharing radical feedback and creating brave spaces for self-reflection and growth to push ourselves and each other to meet our fullest potential

- leveraging our core skill of collaboration to utilize each other’s strengths needed for the collective action necessary to meet our ambitious goals for our scholars and families.”

Interested in joining this talented team of educators? Apply today!

What is your school's biggest need today?

“Real-world project coach volunteers. DeKalb Brilliance Academy is currently recruiting partners in entrepreneurship, tech, and production/logistics (and related fields for each), but will be recruiting in new fields each semester.” Learn more about volunteering at DBA here.

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