MERC Executive Development Program



Dunleith Historic Inn

84 Homochitto Street

Natchez, Mississippi  39120

The MERC Executive Development Program is designed to provide district Superintendents with an intensive, two-day education program that expands their knowledge and skills on matters germane to the leadership of a complex organization with multiple constituents.


Sessions and Speakers

Curriculum Development, Design and Academic Planning


Establishing an academic footprint through curriculum development, design, and academic planning with special emphasis on digital pedagogy and balancing the focus on assessment with student work. 


Facilitated by Joseph P. McDonald, Professor, New York University 


Joseph McDonald is Professor of Teaching and Learning at the Steinhardt School of Culture, Education, and Human Development, New York University, where he teaches in the English Education program, chairs the cross-school teacher education faculty committee, and contributes to the faculty committee creating a new online Master of Arts in Teaching at NYU. He is also a faculty affiliate of the Metropolitan Center for Research on Equity and the Transformation of Schools (Metro Center).


McDonald is the author or co-author of nine books about teaching and schooling. The latest is American School Reform: What Works, What Fails, and Why (University of Chicago Press, 2014), winner of the 2015 PROSE Award in Education Practice from the Association of American Publishing. It examines twenty years of school reform in New York, Chicago, Philadelphia, and the Bay Area. Other books include The Power of Protocols (Teachers College Press, third edition, 2013), Going Online with Protocols: New Tools for Teaching and Learning (Teachers College Press, 2012), and Going to Scale with New School Designs: Reinventing High School (Teachers College Press, 2009).


McDonald's current research (funded by the Spencer Foundation under the auspices of the Research Alliance for New York City) is a study of teachers' use of data in nine New York schools. His writing in general is both scholarly and practical - for example, a fall 2013 contribution with colleagues to the Peabody Journal of Education's special issue on school-university partnerships, and a fall 2014 contribution with former student Daniel Hudder to a Phi Delta Kappan issue on classroom management. McDonald has also been co-editor of the Series on School Reform at Teachers College Press since 1994 - a series that has produced 64 books to date by a rich collection of educational scholars and practitioners.

McDonald is the co-founder of the NYU Partnership Schools program, a collaboration in teacher education among NYU and 24 schools located mostly in poverty-impacted neighborhoods of Manhattan, the Bronx, and Brooklyn. The Partnership's latest initiative involves the support of community schools in the Lower East Side and the South Bronx. McDonald also sits on the board of the Great Oaks Charter School on the Lower East Side.

Joseph McDonald

LaTasha Gentry Holmes

Talent Management


A highly effective education is dependent upon the skills and talents of the personnel responsible for the delivery of content, support, and operations.  Getting and retaining the right people in the right positions is essential to the growth and achievement of students and schools.  An introduction to cutting edge strategies and tactics used by executives to sustain growth and continuous improvement. 


Facilitated by LaTasha Gentry Holmes


LaTasha Gentry Holmes is a creative and strategic visionary human capital professional with a track record of success in recruitment, training, and development. She is also adept at managing process improvement and organizational improvement. Tasha’s rich career in the airline industry and public education is highlighted by designing and delivering large-scale, complex organization development programs and human resource transformation projects for greater work efficiency and cost savings. Tasha thrives on opportunities to transform organizations through strategic development of human resource functions that improve effectiveness, quality, and the expense of human capital delivery. Currently, Tasha is the Director of Leadership Recruitment and Strategic Partnerships for New Leaders. She holds an endorsement by SHRM, a B.A. from Philander Smith College and an M.Ed. from Freed-Handernan University.

Strategic Communications for Education Executives


The use of strategic communications as a primary tool to garner constituent support for academic rigor, college and career readiness for all students, innovation in curriculum and instructional practices and the introduction of digital delivery systems of content. 


Facilitated by David Hampton, Jackson State University and P3 Strategies, LLC


A veteran journalist who has spent 37 years in various writing and editing positions at Mississippi newspapers, Hampton is a native of Tennessee and received his BA in journalism from The University of Memphis in 1975. While in college he worked for The Commercial Appeal and, upon graduation, came to Mississippi as a reporter for The Daily Sentinel Star in Grenada. He joined the Jackson newspapers in 1976 as a government and political writer. He was assigned to The Clarion-Ledger/Jackson Daily News Washington, D.C., bureau in 1982 and came back to Mississippi as city editor for the Daily News and then The Clarion-Ledger. He became editorial director in 1986 and oversaw the The Clarion-Ledger's opinion pages for 26 years before his retirement from the newspaper in April 2012.

He has won numerous awards for his editorial and column writing, including being a three-time recipient of the J. Oliver Emmerich Award for Excellence, the highest award given by the Mississippi Press Association. In June, he was inducted into the Mississippi Press Association Hall of Fame for his contributions to Mississippi journalism.

David Hampton

Isabella Wilson

Budgeting and Forecasting for Non-Financial Executives


How to control, manage, and project the performance of the district by building budgets and forecasts that reflect priorities for curriculum and instruction and accelerating student and school achievement and growth via fund accounting. 


Facilitated by Ms. Isabella Wilson, Chief Finanical Officer, TN Achievement School District


Isabella Wilson is a financial engineer with extant experience in the private and public sectors.  At F&F Foods, Inc., she served as Chief Financial Officer.  Seeking a venue to effect social change, Isabella Wilson became a fellow at The Broad Institute (class of 2010-2012) where her focus was organizational development.  After the rigorous program of study and development at The Broad Institute, she fulfilled her residency requirement in Memphis City Schools.  After becoming expert at fund accounting she agreed to serve as the Chief Financial Officer for the Achievement School District for the State of Tennessee where she has become adept at managing federal funds and developing infrastructure for a state agency operating local schools.  The parent of two boys, Isabella holds a B.A. degree from DePauw University and an M.B.A. in finance from the University of Chicago Booth School of Business.