December 7, 2020 20th Anniversary, Blog

Brianne Dotson Is Deeply Committed to Achieving Educational Justice

Brianne Dotson has served on the forefront of the fight for educational justice for 20 years. From classroom teacher, to school administrator, to nonprofit leader, her various roles have all focused on utilizing leadership to support students of color from low-income communities to achieve greatness. 

But Dotson still remembers the very moment she knew she wanted to dedicate her career to this mission.

“I had the opportunity to study at Howard University, which is a historically Black university, my junior year of college through a domestic exchange program. I remember sitting in a multicultural education class learning about people and events I had never learned about before and I realized that much of the education I received, and that most students receive, is incomplete in a variety of ways. Sitting in that class it all became clear—the fight for equality was not over and I had to do my part to contribute to the solution.”

Ever since, Dotson knew she wanted to be on the front end of change and has dedicated her efforts to fighting for educational justice.

In 2002, she began her journey through Teach For America as an English-Language Arts teacher in the Compton Unified School District in California.

“I wasn’t familiar with the Compton community before I taught there,” Dotson said. “I knew the negative images and narratives in the media were not accurate and I was excited to authentically get to know my students and their families.”

Dotson loved the experience and appreciated being a real part of the community. She recalled, “My students were brilliant and amazing. They soaked up every piece of information I put in front of them. And they taught me so much, too. We learned from each other.”

Despite her great experience as a teacher, Dotson recognized the education system’s flaws and went back to school to learn more about becoming a part of broader change. 

Expanding her impact, Dotson spent four years working in different nonprofit organizations that focused on supplementing the educational experience of Black and Latinx students from low-income backgrounds. Through this experience, she learned about the power of strong school leadership in shaping students’ academic success.

Dotson was eager to put her learnings into practice. Her genuine love for working directly with students drove her to return to schools in 2010. She became the assistant principal of a KIPP middle school in Houston, Texas, and two years later, the principal of Bronzeville Lighthouse Academy Elementary in Chicago, both of which serve a predominantly Black or Latinx population. 

“I missed kids. Even though I interacted with students through my work in nonprofits, the touch points were less frequent than when I was in a school setting. I wanted the opportunity to form deeper bonds and stronger relationships with students and their families again.”

“I’m really proud of the culture of excellence I created as principal. We painted a huge poster that said the path to college starts here and hung it over the hallway of the lower school. It was just a poster—but it was a tangible sign of the high expectations we had for and the strong belief we had in our students.”

As a school leader, Dotson realized she was just as passionate about coaching adults as students. She recognized how the fight for justice lives on through a “myriad of avenues” and began to look for opportunities to help develop strong school leaders.

In 2014, one of the avenues even took her to The Fund, where she worked as a consultant and made investment recommendations for different projects that supported principal development and retention. 

Immediately after, Dotson became a Program Director at Leading Educators where she helped lead a nationwide initiative of leadership development and learned about the power of leveraging different forms of leadership in order to make change possible. 

“My work at LE was about empowering effective teachers to become leaders, with the idea that leveraging a distributed leadership model in a school will accelerate meeting their goals for students.”

Dotson knows that strong leadership is what helps schools achieve success: “Through my career, I’ve continued to use leadership as my lever. As a school leader or leader of a nonprofit organization, I’ve focused on training and developing other leaders to clear a path for educational justice for students.” 

Brianne now has her eyes set on effecting change at the systems level. She is also pursuing her doctorate in educational leadership and has founded her own consulting group, BMD Education Consulting Group, where she supports educational leaders in reimagining, revising and rebuilding systems and structures that facilitate meaningful learning opportunities and sustainable, equitable outcomes in their schools, districts and communities. Drawing on her experiences as a school and nonprofit leader, Brianne continues to use leadership as a lever and push forward thinking to ensure that anti-racism and equity are always at the center of her work—today as an education consultant, and beyond.

Dotson encourages all educational leaders to do the same with a single charge: “As leaders, we are responsible for envisioning a world where Black and brown children thrive and are equitably successful in life and it is our duty to leverage our positions to make this vision a reality.”