Darden/Curry Partnership for Leaders in Education

Darden/Curry PLE - People

PLE Leadership Team


William Robinson is the executive director of the University of Virginia's Darden/Curry Partnership for Leaders in Education (UVA-PLE). Robinson has been with the UVA-PLE since 2010, initially overseeing efforts to transform how the partnership supports district partners and builds executive education programs focused on systemic change. 

Robinson is a graduate of Harvard Business School and an Education Pioneers alumnus. Prior to joining the UVA-PLE, he completed consulting work for various education organizations, including the D.C. Public Education Fund, the Center for Better Schools and Stand for Children. Robinson began his career at McMaster-Carr Supply Co., where he helped manage its supply chain operations in Atlanta. Robinson earned his B.A. in economics from Princeton University. 


Scott Guggenheimer is the chief of programs of the Darden/Curry PLE. Prior to his current role, Guggenheimer served as director of leadership development for District of Columbia Public Schools (DCPS) and, prior to that, as the executive director of African-American Teaching Fellows. 

In these roles, he has designed and delivered high-quality programming for college students, teachers, school administrators, and central office staff and senior leadership. At DCPS, he helped shape the leadership journey of aspiring principals, with the goal of providing the most powerful learning experience of their lives, thereby empowering new principals to work for transformative change in their schools.  

Scott's background is as an English teacher and administrator in a Title I high school in Washington, D.C. He earned his B.A at Washington and Lee University 


Dallas Hambrick Hitt, PhD, is a research scientist for the Darden-Curry Partnership for Leaders in Education and faculty for the Curry School of Education at the University of Virginia.  Through partnerships with the Center on School Turnaround at WestEd and the Wallace Foundation, Dallas pursues her research interests within the fields of school turnaround and leadership, including sustained school turnaround, identification of a model for turnaround principal competencies, and effective turnaround leadership. 

Dallas's cutting edge work on school turnaround and leadership is intended for both scholars and practitioners, and is published as peer reviewed journal articles, book chapters, and technical assistance instruments. Prior to her career in research, Dallas served as a teacher, program coordinator, and associate principal for school improvement as well as curriculum and instruction in urban San Antonio after earning masters degrees in both teaching and school leadership from Trinity University.  Dallas earned her PhD at the University of Virginia. 


Prior to joining the UVA-PLE team, Tonya Kales served as a learning community superintendent in Charlotte, North Carolina. She was responsible for 25 schools (23,000 students) ranging from pre-K–middle college. She partnered with leading education reform organizations to create new teacher roles in her schools without using additional funding. The changes have led to academic success through increasing proficiency rates and exceeding growth standards set by the state.  

Kales brings extensive academic and administrative experience to her current role. Named Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools Principal of the Year in 2012, Kales spent much of her career as a school principal and administrator. She was a strategically staffed principal at Ashley Park pre-K–8 School from 2009–12. Prior to her tenure at Ashley Park, she was principal at McAlpine Elementary and an assistant principal at Smithfield Elementary. She was chosen as a North Carolina Principal Fellow in 2000. She earned her National Board certification as a teacher in 1999.

A native of Charlotte, she holds a bachelor’s degree in elementary education and a master’s degree in administration, curriculum and instruction from the University of North Carolina-Charlotte, where she is pursuing a doctoral degree in educational leadership.


David Kutas has been with the PLE since 2014, initially serving as a project-focused alumnus of Education Pioneers. Through his experience in the private, nonprofit and public sectors, David provides leadership on how the UVA-PLE can continue to meet partner needs as they strive to meet the needs of their students. His professional focuses include leveraging statistics and feedback to optimize service delivery. 

David earned an MBA from the University of North Carolina at Greensboro and is finishing his Masters of Curriculum & Instruction at the Curry School of Education at The University of Virginia. Prior to joining the UVA-PLE, he was a marketing and business manager for The Mailbox Books, and completed consulting and research-driven work for various education organizations, including Communities in Schools, The Center for Creative Leadership and the Curry School of Education.  


Leighann Lenti joined the UVA-PLE as chief of partnership in 2018. Prior to joining the UVA-PLE, she spent nearly three years at the College Board and five years at the New Mexico Public Education Department. While serving as the deputy secretary for policy and program in New Mexico, Lenti oversaw the state’s implementation of standards and assessments, school accountability, teacher evaluation, options for parents, pre-K and early literacy, college and career readiness, and school turnaround — including working with New Mexico school districts while they were PLE partners.

In total, Lenti has over 15 years of experience working on education policy at the federal and state levels, including the U.S. Senate, U.S. Department of Education, the New Mexico Public Education Department and Office of California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger. 

Lenti earned an M.A. in politics and education from Teacher’s College at Columbia University in New York City, as well as a B.A. in integrative studies, liberal studies for education, from George Mason University in Fairfax, Virginia.


In addition to his role with the UVA-PLE, Coby Meyers is associate professor of education at UVA’s Curry School of Education. Prior to joining the UVA-PLE in 2015, Meyers was the senior researcher at American Institutes for Research (AIR), where he managed AIR’s work in the Regional Educational Laboratory (REL) Northeast and Islands. Meyers also led a beating-the-odds study for REL Midwest, working to identify schools achieving at higher levels than expected and analyzing organizational factors that might be related to those achievement levels.  
Meyers has played integral roles in various school turnaround initiatives, an area in which he has presented and published, including co-authoring the book Turning Around Failing Schools: Lessons from the Organizational Sciences and multiple journal articles. He was recognized in 2012 with the Emerging Scholar Award by the American Educational Research Association special-interest group School Turnaround and Reform. 
After working as a middle and high school literature teacher, Meyers attained a master’s degree in secondary education at the University of Kentucky and earned his doctoral degree in education leadership, policy and organizations at Vanderbilt University. 


Denise Watts most recently served as the leader of Project L.I.F.T., a semi-autonomous learning community within Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools (CMS). The L.I.F.T. initiative focuses on talent, time, technology, and community/parent engagement and policy change.  Embedded in this role, she also served as principal supervisor for the nine L.I.F.T. schools as well as 19 other Title I schools in the school district. Under the leadership of Dr. Watts, Project L.I.F.T. schools were among the first in the nation to implement Opportunity Culture, a model that leverages district support systems to re-design career pathways and compensation to extend the reach of excellent teachers to more students within budget.  

In her 20-year career trajectory, Dr. Watts has been recognized for her leadership as the North Carolina’s NASSP Middle Level Principal of the Year in 2008.  She was also tapped for Strategic Staffing, CMS’s nationally recognized turnaround initiative that placed top leaders and teachers in its most challenged schools. In addition to completing the Relay Graduate School of Education Principal Supervisor Fellowship in 2017, Denise also recently finished a doctorate in educational leadership at Wingate University in 2014, authoring a dissertation on the partnership cultivation between philanthropy and school district leadership in school reform efforts. 


Dara Wilson is a leader in education, committed to maximizing student success for every student. She joined the UVA-PLE in June 2018, after participating in the program for three years in her district role as area superintendent. Prior to joining the UVA-PLE, she had a 32-year tenure in public schools, where she served as a special education teacher, curriculum support teacher, principal, area executive director, assistant superintendent, achievement zone officer and area superintendent. Throughout her tenure, she was charged with leading schools to dramatic academic outcomes for students, often serving the most economically disadvantaged and underserved populations in the school district. She has extensive experience in working with Title I, special education and ESOL populations and a proven track record of positive results. As a principal for 16 years, she lead each of the three elementary schools where she served as principal to award-winning status at the local, state and national level and received numerous personal recognitions and awards, including being named the recipient of the Jo Richardson Principal of the Year award.   

In her last role as area superintendent, she lead extensive efforts to turnaround the lowest performing schools across the district, while supervising 30 principals and over 30,000 students, and ultimately ignited the district to create a strategic support model to provide differentiated support to schools based on student needs and performance across a district serving over 100 schools. Wilson earned a bachelor's in special education from the University of Georgia and a master's and specialist degree in educational leadership from Georgia State University.

Faculty Lead Community


Catherine P. Bradshaw

Associate Dean for Research for Research and Faculty Development; Professor of Ed.


Robert L. Carraway

Strategic Data Analytics for Leaders; Associate Professor of BA


Martin N. Davidson

Senior Associate Dean and Chief Diversity Officer; Johnson and Higgins Professor of BA


Jim R. Detert

Associate Dean for Executive Degree Programs & Leadership Initiatives; Henry E. McWane Professor of BA


Gregory B. Fairchild

Associate Dean for Washington, D.C., Area Initiatives; Academic Director of Public Policy and Entrepreneurship; Isidore Horween Research Associate Professor of BA


Morela Hernandez

Donald and Lauren Morel Emerging Scholar; Associate Professor of BA


Tonya R. Moon

Chair of UVA IRB-SBS; Professor of Ed.


June A. West

State Education Agency Leadership Program; Associate Professor of BA


Andrew C. Wicks

Director, Olsson Center for Applied Ethics; Director, Doctoral Program; Ruffin Professor of BA