DCPS Principals Selected as Cahn Distinguished Principal Fellows


The prestigious Cahn Fellowship has selected four (4) DCPS Principals to serve as Distinguished Principal Fellows during School Year 2024-2025. Since 2002, Cahn has been providing advanced leadership development and recognition to talented school leaders in large metropolitan areas to improve education. DCPS was asked to join the Cahn network this year for its commitment to students. 

The four Distinguished Principal Fellows from DCPS include: 

  • Dr. Kristie Edwards, Randle Highlands Elementary School 
  • Shelly Gray, LaSalle-Backus Elementary School
  • Kerry Richardson, Brookland Middle School 
  • Kortni Stafford, McKinley Tech High School and McKinley Middle School 

Distinguished Principal Fellows will spend a weekend each month learning from faculty at Teachers College, Columbia University and with educational leaders from across the country. Fellows will also work closely with an aspiring leader from their school community to develop an action project to support outcomes for DCPS students and staff. 

The Cahn Fellowship selection process was rigorous: Instructional Superintendents nominated principals with at least five (5) years of experience in the principalship and a demonstrated record of student and school-wide success. Nominees were then asked to complete a multi-part application and provide three (3) years of data and analysis. Twelve semi-finalists were selected for site-visits and four (4) finalists were chosen. 

The Distinguished Principal Fellowship will kick off in New York City in October 2024 with Cahn’s Annual Leadership Symposium, bringing together educational leaders from across the country. 

Congratulations to our Distinguished Principal Fellows! You can find more information about each of the fellows below.

Dr. Kristie Edwards, Randle Highlands Elementary School 

As principal of Randle Highlands Elementary School, Dr. Edwards leads a group of dedicated teachers and 368 students towards professional and academic success. Being an adamant advocate for equity, she believes that all students can succeed. Dr. Edwards has created afterschool, tutoring, and volunteer opportunities for students and provides a forum for social justice issues at Randle Highlands.

Dr. Edwards’s career spans more than 24 years in education. She began her career in education as a teacher for Wake County Public Schools, while completing her certification in special education. She has held positions as a special education teacher, teacher mentor, instructional coach, and so much more. In addition to being a principal, she serves as an adjunct professor for the University of the District of Columbia. 

Dr. Edwards holds a B.A. in International Studies with a concentration in Foreign Policies from Shaw University, a M.A. in Education from the University of Phoenix, and a Doctorate in Educational Leadership. Dr. Edwards also belongs to the National Association of Elementary School Principals (NAESP).

In her spare time, she enjoys volunteering around the DC Metro area, spending time with family, traveling, and being an active member of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc,.

Shelly Gray, LaSalle-Backus Elementary School

Shelly Gray is the proud principal of LaSalle-Backus Elementary School. Principal Gray began her career in Maryland before her journey took her to Tampa, Florida, and ultimately coming back to the area and landing in DC Public Schools in 2013. Over her career, Principal Gray has served as a teacher, ELA Instructional Coach, Manager of Elementary Literacy Curriculum and Professional Development, assistant principal, and now principal. 

Principal Gray believes in creating a community that is built on trust, respect, integrity, love, and excellence. She is passionate about preparing all children to be successful in navigating a 21st century global community. In doing so, she established LaSalle as a computer science education school in 2022 to empower her students to be creators and consumers of technology. By creating a strong foundation in computer science education, LaSalle students will be prepared to bring their voices and experiences to the modern workforce. 

Principal Gray holds degrees from University of Maryland-College Park and the University of Maryland-University College. She is a part of the inaugural Leadership and Innovation Program and received an Executive Leadership Certification for Assistant Principals through a DCPS partnership with Georgetown University McDonough School of Business. 

Kerry Richardson Jr., Brookland Middle School 

Kerry Richardson, Jr.’s passion for education was ignited during his graduate studies at the University of Georgia (UGA). Observing the need for more support for black males on campus, he founded the Black Male Leadership Society (BMLS) in 2006, dedicated to the recruitment and retention of black males at the UGA.

Principal Richardson began his teaching career in 2007 as a high school English teacher in Nashville. He joined DCPS in 2012 as a teacher, then instructional coach, before becoming an assistant principal at Kelly Miller Middle School. In 2016, he became principal of Brookland Middle School where he currently leads. He describes Brookland as a transformative place where young people can develop as leaders and artists. As a leader, he remains focused on achievement and equity, creating an environment that celebrates students, fosters positive relationships, and equips them with the skills necessary for college and career readiness.

Principal Richardson is originally from Nashville, Tennessee. He holds a bachelor’s degree in English from Fisk University and a master’s degree in journalism and mass communication from the University of Georgia. 

Kortni Stafford, McKinley Tech High School and McKinley Middle School 

Kortni Stafford is the principal of McKinley Technology Education Campus. Before becoming principal of McKinley Tech in 2022, she was the principal of Kelly Miller Middle School from 2015-2022, assistant principal at McKinley Tech High School from 2014-2015, and assistant principal at Ballou Senior High School from 2011-2013.

Principal Stafford completed the Mary Jane Patterson Fellowship, an intensive 18-month program to build DCPS leaders into extraordinary principals. As a fellow she attended executive leadership sessions at the Georgetown University McDonough School of Business, received personal leadership coaching, was mentored by two high-performing DCPS principals, and completed principal residences at West Education Campus and Columbia Heights Education Campus during the 2013-2014 School year.  

Principal Stafford is a former science teacher of 7 years in Prince Georges County, Maryland and San Diego, California. She earned her undergraduate degree in Animal Science and Biology from the University of Maryland, holds an Executive Masters in Leadership degree from McDonough School of Business at Georgetown University, and a masters degree in Education Administration and Supervision from Bowie State University.

When she isn’t working, Principal Stafford enjoys spending time with her friends and family, riding bikes, and running. Her passion in DC Public Schools is based on her desire to provide every student with a high-quality education that is thoughtfully geared to their individual learning needs.