TIAA-CREF, Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools
Announce Winners of Leaders in Learning & Liberty
Seven honored for commitment to education
November 11, 2002, Charlotte, N.C. — A public pre-school teacher who goes door-to-door to find
children who would benefit from her program. A PTA leader and grandmother who is helping a third
generation of kids in a troubled neighborhood learn to read. A spit-shined high school student dreaming of
commanding a unit at West Point while already leading his classmates.
These are just a few of the winners of the nation’s first Leaders in Learning & Liberty Awards, presented
by TIAA-CREF (Teachers Insurance and Annuity Association - College Retirement Equities Fund) and the
Public education’s role in producing new leaders who will preserve America’s strength and freedom has
never been greater, and the first winners of the Leaders in Learning & Liberty Awards exemplify the
commitment to molding a new generation of visionaries.
Carlenia Ivory, a preschool supervisor at Double Oaks Pre-Kindergarten Center in Charlotte, has been a
key figure in the creation and expansion of CMS’ nationally recognized Bright Beginnings Program, but
that hasn’t stopped her from pounding the pavement in a grassroots effort to attract four-year-olds who,
without the program, would likely start kindergarten already behind their peers.
“When Double Oaks was first opened, few parents participated in the (organizational) meetings,” says
Barb Pellin, assistant superintendent for student, family and community services for CMS. “Carlenia
walked door to door in the community encouraging families to come to parent conferences, PTA meetings
and parent club meetings. She worked with teachers, school staff and community police to build trust with
Now, at least 150 parents attend involvement activities, and a recent curriculum event had to be spread
over two nights because there was not enough room for all of the parents on the first night.
Highland Renaissance Academy PTA leader Hattie Watkins has been a living connection between a school
in which 92 percent of students are from low-income families, and the surrounding neighborhood, where
residents often need help when they are without heat, electricity, food, or essential services. In a school
system committed to providing equity for all students, Watkins’ contributions are invaluable.
“We often don’t have what other schools have because we can’t raise funds like they can,” says Nancy
Galleher, a social worker at Highland. “Hattie is determined that our children will have equal opportunities.
Children and their families have been connected to services; more parents are visiting and volunteering at
the school on a regular basis; and community leaders and school board members are well aware of the
school’s needs due to her continual communication.”
Army ROTC Cadet Kristopher Cottle created a history club at his school, Olympic High, not just because he
was interested in the subject, but as a way to help tutor other students. And, under Cottle’s leadership,
enrollment in Olympic’s Cadet Corps jumped an astounding 63 percent. However, Cottle’s involvement has
not hindered his studies or pulled down his 4.39 grade point average.
“Kris’ level of leadership and professionalism is developed well beyond what one would expect to see in
even the strongest high school student,” says Pamela Espinosa, principal at Olympic High School. “Those
strengths are supported by Kris’ unquestionable sense of honor, integrity and positive moral values. “
In receiving the first-ever awards on Veteran’s Day, winners will be reminded that contributions to a free
and prosperous nation of opportunity come in many forms.
“Strong schools make strong communities,” says Barbara Perry, TIAA-CREF vice president for public
retirement plans. “We believe that organizations, particularly large ones like TIAA-CREF, should make it a
priority to ensure that our schools are successful. These awards are our way of thanking a few of the
many individuals who work to make that happen.”
A total of 125 nominees were considered for the awards, and there could have been far more, says Dr.
James L. Pughsley, CMS superintendent of schools.
"Providing the best education possible for every child requires a team effort," Pughsley says. "In CMS,
we're fortunate to have more than 13,000 employees and 37,000 volunteers who serve our students
every day. The TIAA-CREF Leaders in Learning & Liberty Awards offer an opportunity for this community
to salute these outstanding professionals for their tireless efforts."
A committee of CMS teachers, parents, students, support staff and administrators, along with business
and community leaders, selected the award winners.
"This awards program demonstrates TIAA-CREF's commitment to education and its importance to our
community, our state and our nation," says Arthur Griffin, chairman of the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Board
of Education. "Through these awards, this community can express appreciation to the individuals who are
truly making a difference for our youth."
Winners will receive a specially commissioned TIAA-CREF Leaders in Learning & Liberty Award, a “Learning
& Liberty” flag from the National School Public Relations Association* and a $2,000 cash stipend. In
addition, a $1,000 award will be given in each winner’s name to the CMS school of his or her choice.
Winners will be recognized at an awards banquet at the TIAA-CREF Southern Service Center in Charlotte
Monday, Nov. 11, and will be featured in national TIAA-CREF publications.
The winners and their categories are:
Kristopher Cottle, student — Olympic High School
Tracey Harrill, principal — Northeast Middle School
Sue Hunady, art teacher — East Mecklenburg High
Carlenia Ivory, support staff — supervisor at Double Oaks Resource Center
Dr. Carol Newman, administrative staff — CMS director of grant development
Hattie Watkins, parent/volunteer — Highland Renaissance Academy
Kristen Williams, first grade teacher — Matthews Elementary
TIAA-CREF, with approximately $249 billion in assets under management, is the premier pension system
for people employed in education and research in the U.S., serving approximately 2.5 million participants
at more than 15,000 institutions. In addition to providing pensions, the TIAA-CREF group of companies
offers after-tax annuities, mutual funds, insurance products and trust services to the general public. TIAA-
CREF and TIAA-CREF Tuition Financing, Inc., a subsidiary of TIAA, together manage 13 state-sponsored
college savings plans, more than any other company.
TIAA-CREF Individual and Institutional Services, Inc. and Teachers Personal Investors Services, Inc.
distribute securities products. For more complete information on securities products, please call 1-800-
223-1200 for prospectuses. Read them carefully before you invest. TIAA (Teachers Insurance and Annuity
Association), New York, N.Y., and TIAA-CREF Life Insurance Co., New York, N.Y., issue insurance and
annuities. TIAA-CREF Trust Company, FSB provides trust services. Investment products are not FDIC
insured, may lose value and are not bank guaranteed.