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Introducing two new, monthly Boardhawk columnists

As we begin a new year, I am pleased to announce two new op-ed columnists, Alexis Menocal Harrigan and Aaron Massey, each of whom will be contributing monthly to Boardhawk.

These individuals bring a distinct perspective; different from one another and from me, Boardhawk’s editor. This diversity of viewpoint will enrich Boardhawk, and will provide thought-provoking content.

I asked Alexis and Aaron to write a bit about themselves and the topics they are particularly interested in exploring.Here is what they produced:

Alexis Menocal Harrigan’s public service career has spanned local, state, and national government. She has advised governors, members of Congress, and other key policymakers in policy and politics. 

Portrait of Alexis Menocal Harrigan
Alexis Menocal Harrigan

She served as the Education Policy Advisor to former Governor John Hickenlooper and was a constituent Advocate to U.S. Senator Michael Bennet where she worked in the areas of education, immigration, and Latino community engagement. She was the Senior Political Advisor on Governor Jared Polis’ 2022 re-election campaign. She has also worked as a Denver City Council aide. 

Alexis believes in the transformational power of high-quality education and has spent most of her career focused on how to improve educational experiences and outcomes for students. She served in public affairs roles for Denver Public Schools and has spent the last six years working for national education nonprofits. 

She is a first-generation Mexican-American raised in Denver and Adams County. She is a recipient of the prestigious Daniels Fund Scholarship, is a graduate of the University of Denver, and holds a Master of Public Administration from the University of Colorado Denver. 

Alexis has strong ties to Denver Public Schools, having experienced the institution as a student, parent, staffer, and eventually a 2019 school board candidate. She has been both a fierce advocate and critic of DPS’s leadership over the last decade. 

As a new columnist for Boardhawk, she looks forward to writing on the topics of leadership, intersectionality, choice, and governance.

Aaron Massey is an education scholar, leadership coach, and equity practitioner/facilitator. In his current role as Managing Director of Leadership Development at Teach For America, he is focused on preparing early career teachers to be effective leaders in the classroom and in communities. 

Portrait of Boardhawk columnist Aaron Massey
Aaron Massey

His responsibilities extend to serving as a researcher for the Colorado Department of Education and board member for the Colorado Juvenile Defender Center. Previously, he coached principals across the State of Colorado while working to pass legislation for youth involved with the justice system, worked as a high school principal in Denver, Colorado at Strive Prep RISE, and served as the founding principal of an arts-integrated elementary school in St. Louis, Mo., and a preparatory middle school in Baton Rouge, La. 

He earned his Bachelors of Arts in Sociology from Illinois Wesleyan University, his Master’s of Arts in Urban Education Policy from Brown University, and is currently completing his doctorate in Education Leadership and Policy from Peabody at Vanderbilt University.

Aaron writes: In writing for Boardhawk, I want to explore issues of structural inequities and how our day-to-day decisions, both in and outside of the school building, uphold ineffective, antiquated practices that ultimately lead to disproportionate outcomes for our most marginalized youth. These customs, practices, and routines often go unseen but have sizable impacts on children and the adults that work with them. 

What about the education system are students rejecting/accepting? What could we be learning from our most vulnerable youth? What are the unintended consequences of how we structure learning? How do we uncover the vision youth have for themselves in our current structures? 

I also want to explore leadership in education and its impacts on the systems children navigate (namely Black and Brown children). Leadership has a way of Influencing people to do revolutionary acts that improve outcomes for students and adults alike. But it also has a way of undermining improvement efforts. Both are important to analyze with a critical eye. 

Finally, I want to connect the moments we experience (COVID-19, banned books, Critical Race Theory critiques) with history, politics, and theory. All of these issues (and more) determine the reality our children navigate, their future possibilities, and even the tools they have to solve future problems. I am the product of a mom and dad who saw more for me and my sisters than what they could physically see. This work is personal.

I am  interested in being a regular contributor to Boardhawk because I have the pleasure of interacting with teachers, principals, students, parents, researchers, professors, local gatekeepers, education experts, elected officials, business leaders, data stewards, etc. All of them have a unique understanding of what is happening in education.

I want to help bring those voices to the forefront. I want to uncover what conversations are actually occurring in teacher lounges, in cafeterias, in boardrooms, at the dinner table, and in community spaces. 

For Boardhawk, I want to facilitate a conversation among folks that wouldn’t traditionally talk to each other. Within those diverse and possibly difficult conversations are growth, inspiration, and truth.