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The PLAN Team

Since PLAN's beginning in 2001, its faculty has consisted of two groups: the faculty of Vanderbilt University's Peabody College, the voice of research presenting informed change; and of practitioners, highly successful school principals providing the voice of reality and mentorship. The blend of research and practice make the model very strong.

Current PLAN Team

David Laird, Ed.D - Director (

David Laird is an Assistant Professor of Practice of the Department of Leadership, Policy and Organizations at Peabody. He teaches in the doctoral program in Educational Leadership and Policy, the master's degree program in International Education Policy and Management, and in the Human and Organizational Development undergraduate major.

David holds an Ed.D from the Department of Leadership, Policy, and Organizations at Peabody. Prior to joining the faculty, he was the Director of State and Federal Evaluation for the New York City Department of Education. His emerging academic interests are leadership development and leveraging district information technology to support engaging classroom instruction. He teaches classes in school accountability, adult learning, and leadership theory.

Zaia Thombre, M.P.P.  - Coordinator

Zaia Thombre has worked with the PLAN program for the past two years as the graduate assistant. She has supported the program logistically and participated in the ELLE program in China. Zaia holds a Master's Degree in Education Policy from the Department of Leadership, Policy, and Organizations at Peabody. Prior to attending Vanderbilt, she taught math int he Mississippi Delta and worked with nonprofits in the Mid-Ohio Valley. She is excited to be back in the classroom teaching 7th grade math this year and working with PLAN in a new capacity.

Jessica Schumacher, M.P.P. Candidate - Graduate Assistant 

Jessica Schumacher is in her first year of the Master's program in Education Policy at Peabody. Prior to going back to school to pursue an M.P.P., Jessica worked at 50CAN: the 50-State Campaign for Achievement Now where she helped coordinate the organization's leadership development efforts and managed various data and research initiatives. Jessica is a graduate from the College of Wooster and originally hails from Lexington, KY.

2015-16 Mentor Principals

Lori Donahue

Mrs. Donahue was a long-time principal at Granbery Elementary in Nashville. She retired from her post of 15 years and is continuing her career by supporting and mentoring administrators in the PLAN program. For many years as a principal, Mrs. Donahue shepherded a neighborhood school to great achievement. On the latest Academic Performance Framework, Granbery earned very high marks in every category, including school climate as determined by teacher and student surveys. She welcomed and valued every member of the school community and worked diligently to foster parental involvement and community support during her tenure as principal. In her final year as an administrator, Mrs. Donahue was named Elementary Principal of the Year for Metropolitan Nashville Public Schools. 

Kevin Armstrong

Dr. Kevin Armstrong, in his fifth year as Executive Principal of DuPont Hadley Middle Prep, began his 20-year career teaching Algebra I and Pre-Algebra at Neely's Bend Middle School. He later taught the same subjects at DuPont Hadley for six years before moving into the assistant principal ranks for six years.

Kevin has earned the honor of being awarded the 2002-03 Teacher of the Year Award at DuPont Hadley Middle School. In 2007, he was selected to participate in the Principals' Leadership Academy of Nashville where he was awarded the Exemplary Project Award. That same year, he was also selected for the ELLE China Exchange Program and traveled to Guangzhou, China with twelve other MNPS administrators for a two-week stint to study the educational system in China. He later returned to Guangzhou in March of 2014 as part of the ELLE program.

A Nashville native, Dr. Armstrong is a proud product of the Metropolitan Nashville Public School System. A graduate of John Overton High School, he earned a bachelor's degree in Education from Trevecca Nazarene University, and a doctoral degree in Leadership and Professional Practice at Trevecca Nazarene University.

Carmon Brown

Mr. Carmon Brown is in his fourth year as the Executive Principal of the Academy at Opry Mills. He began his career teaching at Brentwood Academy then two years at Maplewood High School. He also coached college baseball at Lipscomb University while earning his master's in Administration/Supervision. He taught for one more year Hunters Lane High School before becoming an assistant principal at Hillsboro High School.

Carmon then became the assistant principal at Antioch High School one year before becoming the principal at The Academy at Opry Mills. Carmon had the honor of hosting the ELLE principals from China in October 2014 to discuss the role of non-traditional schools in education. In March 2015, he traveled with the other MNPS participants in the PLAN program to Guangzhou for an eleven-day trip to study and learn about the educational system in China.

A Nashville native, Mr. Brown is a proud product of the Metropolitan Nashville Public School System. A Graduate of McGavock High School, he earned his bachelor's degree in Social Studies Education from Lipscomb University, a master's degree from Lipscomb University, and is currently in his second year of his doctoral program at Carson-Newman University.