Michelle Rhee's StudentsFirst Beefing Up in Tennessee



Michelle Rhee's efforts to shape Tennessee's education policy are well-documented. In particular, her organization StudentsFirst has made it rain on state politicians and local school board members.

But you can't just buy your way to the policy outcomes you prefer. (We're feeling idealistic — just go with it.) You have to give it that personal touch.

And so today, StudentsFirst announces several new additions to its operation in Tennessee. The full press release is after the jump, with our emphasis added to make sure it's clear that Michelle Rhee's grassroots organization, StudentsFirst, is a grassroots organization doing work at the grassroots level in Tennessee.

StudentsFirst, a bipartisan grassroots education reform movement, announced three new hires today as the organization expands grassroots momentum in Tennessee. The new additions include Carter Maxwell, who will serve as the State Outreach Director and Mario King, the Shelby County Field Coordinator. They join Paige Donaldson, who was brought on in February to serve as Field Coordinator for Middle Tennessee.

"We’re lucky to have three passionate individuals who know and love the state leading our grassroots efforts in Tennessee,” said Kellen Arno, VP of Membership at StudentsFirst. “As we continue to grow our movement and build momentum in the Volunteer state, we’re bringing together an incredibly strong team to help elevate the stories of parents and teachers on the local level.”

Tennessee State Director Brent Easley added, “Recent progress proves that meaningful education reforms resonate with Tennesseans. We surveyed Tennesseans this year and 93% said that our education system needs change. Parents and teachers recognize the work that needs to be done, and we must keep the pedal to the floor. Our new team members are well positioned to continue advancing education policies that are in the best interests of kids and ensuring the voices of parents and teachers are heard.”

Carter Maxwell joins StudentsFirst as State Outreach Director, responsible for coordinating membership events and building momentum for education reform across the state. Prior to joining StudentsFirst, Carter served as Legislative Liaison and Public Information Officer for the Tennessee Department of Tourist Development. In this capacity, she served as legislative spokesperson for the department and liaison between Governor Haslam’s legislative team and the General Assembly. Carter has Tennessee campaign experience as well, successfully managing the 2010 campaign of State Representative Terri Lyn Weaver. A resident of Nashville, Carter is a graduate of East Tennessee State University.

Mario King joins StudentsFirst as a Field Coordinator for Shelby County. Mario has an extensive background in Human Resource management, but his passion lies within education. During his undergraduate studies at the University of Southern Mississippi, Mario founded the Golden Eagle Consultant Group, which created an apprenticeship pipeline between college students and local small business owners in Hattiesburg, Mississippi. A member of Kappa Alpha Psi Fraternity, Inc., Mario lives in Memphis.

Paige Donaldson joined StudentsFirst in February, filling in the role of Field Coordinator in Middle Tennessee. Prior to StudentsFirst, Paige was a Sales Representative for Service Source, Inc., where she produced and increased recurring revenue for industry-leading companies. Paige also spent time in her hometown for the City of Johnson City, gaining practical experience with city operations, planning and code enforcement. Paige received her B.A. at the University of Tennessee at Knoxville, and a M.P.A. from East Tennessee State University.

To read more about Rhee's grassroots education work, check out a long read from The New Republic on her presence in Tennessee, from which we get this gem:

"They've become like the gun lobby in Tennessee," a former aide to a top Nashville politician told me. "Everybody is scared of the NRA. It's the same way with these education reform people."

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