#MNPSVoices – Chris Echegaray, Community Achieves Site Manager
Before his introduction to Metro Nashville Public Schools, Chris Echegaray was an award winning journalist with a focus on immigration and gangs in middle Tennessee. When he decided to make a career move, he knew he wanted to use his communication skills in support of a mission-focused organization. So, in 2013, he found his way to the MNPS Communications team where he served for two years.
“Because I’m a mission centered person, I couldn’t leave journalism and go into the corporate world. I had to be able to believe in what I would be doing and public education is definitely worthy of mission centered people,” Echegaray said.
Echegaray currently serves as the Community Achieves Manager for Whitsitt Elementary School where he has worked for the past four years. Along with his principal, Justin Uppinghouse, a strategic plan was created to help ensure resources are provided daily for students in their building.
“Every school has different needs but one of the first things we have to do to meet those needs is to create a positive culture for students; and we do that by putting the best teachers in front of them,” he said.
In addition to great teachers, Echegaray believes the community plays a major role in the success of the students. Whitsitt Elementary has an amazing turnaround story rising from priority status to a STEAM magnet school with an emphasis on environmental engineering.
“We would not have been able to turn our school around without the help of families and our community partners,” he said. “They have played a major role.”
Every third Monday, the school hosts Power Mondays, a collaborative effort with staff and community partners to better engage with students. Power Mondays encompass programming specifically designed to meet the needs of students and consists of everything from yoga to writing clubs to robotics and classical music training, to name a few.
“This has become a popular model program around the district and attendance at Whitsitt is up on those days,” he said.
A self-proclaimed education advocate, Echegaray takes his mission work for students seriously. His role with Community Achieves has provided other opportunities and responsibilities that allow him to delve further into his advocacy, including serving on various panels and committees that discuss race and equity for students.
One organization in particular is the Tennessee Educational Equity Coalition, a group of civil rights and education advocates who designed a policy to amplify the voice and presence of educators of color while remaining student-centered and solutions-oriented. Echegaray was named one of the group’s 2018-19 Mosaic Fellows, a network of 14 leaders from diverse backgrounds across the state of Tennessee who play a major role in K-12 education.
In addition, Echegaray currently serves on Nashville Mayor David Briley’s Education Kitchen Cabinet which addresses MNPS priority schools.
“I take this as a serious charge because I would love to see other Metro Schools turn their schools around as we have done here at Whitsitt,” he said.
When Echegaray is not working hard for children in his school and community, he enjoys playing basketball with a group of like-minded guys, coaching travel baseball and spending time with his family.