Dr. Jenai Ali Emmel is the founder and chief learning officer at School Architects LLC, a boutique organizational design firm focused on transforming public school systems by centering people in the change process, making continuous improvement routine, surfacing systemic successes and challenges and creating the conditions for candid and transparent dialogue. Since 2012, School Architects has supported large-scale improvement efforts in school systems across the nation collectively serving more than 8 million students. For two decades, she has worked at the intersection of change management, strategic human resources and school transformation in many of the nation’s most vulnerable school communities including Atlanta, Baltimore, Boston, Chicago, Dallas, Denver, Los Angeles, Memphis, New York City, Salt Lake City and Washington D.C. She has reported on school and district quality for a decade and published original research on the nature of education news in 2022.
Prior to launching School Architects, Jenai supported the redesign of the Division of Human Resources at the NYC Department of Education, designed a state-approved teacher credentialing system at the Inner City Education Foundation, led charter school evaluations for Chicago and DC Public School at School Works, led a national and cross-sector learning program for Schools that Can and provided professional development to teachers that led to the most significant academic growth for students in the KIPP network at the time.
Jenai was a 2000 Teach for America charter corps member in Atlanta and was selected as the Georgia Teacher of the Year by Junior Achievement in 2003. She has held board positions to strengthen governance, quality and community engagement for charter schools, universities and non-profits including being a class Trustee at the University of Virginia and a founding board member for Equitas Charter Schools, one of the highest performing schools in California. She was also a fellow at the New Memphis Institute and the president of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority at the University of Virginia. She has a BA in English Literature and Language from the University of Virginia (’00), an M.Ed. in Administration, Planning, and Social Policy from the Harvard Graduate School of Education (04’) and an Ed.D. in Organizational Change and Leadership from the University of Southern California (’22). She lives in New Mexico with her dog, Luca, and enjoys world travel, sailing, skiing and tennis with family and friends in her free time.