Square Pizza Podcast

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The Square Pizza podcast focuses on the intersection of education, innovation, and diversity. We host and interview leaders doing incredible work around the country to ensure all students have access to an equitable education. The Square Pizza podcast is hosted by SchermCo, a social-impact implementation firm that offers strategic implementation and project management services to schools and education-focused organizations across the country.

We are excited to bring you this episode of the #squarepizzapod. This week, Greg is in conversation with Lagra Newman, Founder and Head of School at Purpose Prep in Nashville, Tennessee. Purpose Prep opened its doors to an inaugural class of 90 Kindergarteners in fall 2013.

In this episode:

  • Policies revolving around equitable initiatives in education
  • Accountability requirements for Charters
  •  Dynamics between Charter and District Schools
  • TN reward school
  • Why education is important based upon her childhood
  • Advice to aspiring school founders and current school leaders


Lagra Newman is the Founder and Head of School of Purpose Preparatory Academy, one of the highest performing elementary schools in Tennessee. Purpose Prep, a public, non-selective charter school, educates children predominately within the North Nashville community and focuses on strong literacy acquisition. In 2017, Purpose Prep earned Reward status for being among the top 5% of schools in the state of Tennessee for academic performance. In 2018, Purpose Prep earned Reward School status for the second consecutive year.

A staunch advocate for underserved communities, Ms. Newman is deeply committed to ensuring that all children have access to quality education. Lagra began her career as an inner-city teacher for Teach for America where she taught fifth grade at 109th Street Elementary School in the Watts community of Los Angeles, California. She then recruited teachers for Teach For America in Atlanta, GA, and then served as an instructional coach at an elementary school in Washington, DC.

Undergoing a competitive fellowship with Boston-based nonprofit Building Excellent Schools in 2011 led Lagra back to Nashville to take on the challenge of opening Purpose Prep, which is her brainchild, as she designed, developed, and currently leads the high-performing model. In her current work as the Head of School for Purpose Prep, Ms. Newman oversees the instructional, operational, and financial aspects of the school, bringing strong leadership to the educational reform movement in Tennessee.

In her personal time, Lagra loves to travel and create meaningful experiences with loved ones. Over the past few years, she has traveled to Israel, South Africa, Morocco, Cuba, France, Egypt, Ghana, Spain, Haiti, and the UAE. Lagra is also a published author, creating children’s books with her mother that is focused on educational excellence, pride for one’s identity, and black empowerment.

Lagra earned a Bachelor of Arts in Communication Studies and Spanish at Vanderbilt University, a Masters in Teaching at Loyola Marymount University, and a Masters in Education Leadership from Teachers College of Columbia University.