Founding Partner and Chief Programs Officer, E3 Foundation
LaTisha Vaughn grew up in Kansas City attending a top-tier private school. “My single mom was determined to make sure I had the best education available,” she said.
Vaughn studied collegiately to be an accountant, and she spent a short time in that profession. She realized, however, her heart lay elsewhere. That’s when she took a job as a fourth-grade teacher in new territory – a public school.
“It was a Title 1 school in Kansas City with a majority of families below the poverty level,” said Vaughn. “I had 31 students, mostly English as a Second Language children brought in from various parts of town. They all spoke different languages, and I only spoke English. That first year, in 1995, was a baptism by fire.”
Looking back, Vaughn wouldn’t change a thing.
“My experiences in public and private education have given me a unique perspective on how schools really are … and how they can be,” she said.
Vaughn resolutely advanced in her career, serving as a school principal and in other administrative posts. She blended those experiences with consulting stints to help schools focus on reducing racial inequities. She taught at two start-up charter schools, one in Kansas City, another in Atlanta.
Special value came with the Atlanta charter post at East Lake, part of a heralded project by developer Tom Cousins that rehabbed a faded historic neighborhood as a Purpose-Built Community. Vaughn joined the project’s first teaching team.
“That experience was very influential,” said Vaughn. “It was one of the few times in education I’ve been with a team of people all rowing in the same direction. It wasn’t perfect, but the planning of that school and how it was made the center of community revitalization changed my mindset about what can happen in education.”
In 2018, Vaughn brought that enlightenment to the mission of Tri-County Cradle to Career Collaborative (TCCC), representing Berkeley, Charleston, and Dorchester Counties, and to another organization she co-founded, E3: Educate. Empower. Elevate. With both organizations, she seeks to transform South Carolina education by changing systems, so Black and Brown children can achieve life goals.
TCCC emphasizes early education but works to close equity gaps “at every stage along the cradle to career educational journey,” according to Vaughn.
“And through E3, we’re out to build an ecosystem more tenable for the improvement of education. It involves everything from bringing in more Black and Brown educators to creating authentic community engagement … and making parents more knowledgeable about how to be better advocates for their children.”
To Vaughn, teaching talent matters significantly. That’s why she has been a vocal advocate for Teach For America South Carolina (TFASC) as a board member and in its teacher selection.
“I clearly see the value TFASC brings to the community, starting with educator preparation,” said Vaughn.
“The level of support TFASC offers to their first- through third-year teachers – coaching, classroom visits, and ongoing professional development – is really commendable. I honestly see it as a model we could use to rethink teacher preparation because many teachers coming into our South Carolina classrooms right now are simply not ready for the classroom reality they face.”
Vaughn senses a greater willingness in South Carolina education today to consider fresh ideas like those from TFASC.
“I see more people coming together now around the issues and barriers that have long impacted children and their families,” said Vaughn. “I hear more conversations and alignment in certain circles. There’s still a divide, but I see people mobilizing. It makes me hopeful.”