CCS is proud to have Monica Landry serving as its current Board Chair. A New Orleans native who lived throughout the United States as a military wife, Monica now devotes her life to giving back to the New Orleans community through her work with various non-profits. She previously served on the finance committee of the CCS board and is excited to take on a greater leadership role as its Board Chair. Click the link below to read our Q&A with Monica and learn more about her past, her work, and her goals for the CCS board.
Can you tell me a bit about yourself and your full-time job?
I’m currently a Partner with Innovative Strategic Partners. With Innovative Strategic Partners, I work mostly on what people consider “back office” functions, which consists of doing financials, human resources, and payroll for non-profit organizations. Before that, I co-founded Floss, a non-profit organization created by myself, and another co-founder, Belinda Gaily Fly, four years ago. I also work at Friends of WWOZ, where I’ve been for more than ten years.
I’m also looking to start another non-profit, Enhance Equity Institute, which will be part of Innovative Strategic Partners. It will be a branch off of what we do here to help young minority entrepreneurs facing economic disparity. Since the pandemic, we’ve run across quite a few entrepreneurs who have decided to do things independently, but they just don’t quite understand all of the financial aspects. They have the capital but they just aren’t sure what the next steps are for getting a loan, etc.
How did you get involved with CCS?
I went through a six-month course to serve on a charter school board because I know it is often hard to find individuals with finance backgrounds. Given my work, I figured I could bring something to the table. I later connected with Kate Mehok, the CEO of Crescent City Schools, and I was thrilled to join the board. I didn’t realize how much work being on a school board is, but it is good for me because serving New Orleans students in this way is one of my passions.
As CCS Board Chair, what is your main goal?
One of the main goals of the Crescent City Schools Board this year is focused on putting together a Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) initiative. My main goal is to see that initiative grow and improve. I want to keep the fire going under this initiative, keep board members engaged and make sure the initiative continues for the long-term. I hope that, by continuing this initiative, CCS can make it a permanent feature and perhaps encourage other charter schools or networks to do similar work.
Speaking of diversity, how does it feel to be both the first woman and the first person of color to serve as the CCS board chair?
It feels good! When Kate and the previous board chair offered me this position, I jumped at the opportunity. I am glad that I served on the board previously (before being elected chair). When I was going through the school board development course, I didn’t think about race and gender, or consider the fact that the board of a charter network may never have had a woman, or a woman of color, as its chair. I hope that my holding this role will inspire others like me, either board members who come after me here at CCS, or someone who took the same board member course that I was in, to consider themselves for leadership roles. Now, they can see someone like themselves in a board leadership position and know that it’s possible for them, too.
I know you grew up in New Orleans, but have you been here your whole life?
I grew up in the 17th Ward, mostly in Gert Town, for the first 13 years of my life. I later moved to Mid City, which exposed me to more of New Orleans. It was interesting because, when you live in a particular neighborhood, you think that’s all that exists until you move elsewhere. Moving to a different neighborhood exposed me to so many different things.
After finishing high school, I went to University of New Orleans, where I met my husband. He was in the military, and his service soon took us both out of Louisiana. I traveled with him for 15 years, and lived overseas for four of those years, which was an eye-opening experience for me. It changed everything in my life, including my perspective on where I was from. Living abroad also changed my perspective on what I can and cannot do and made me focus on everything I could accomplish.
What was your favorite place that you lived while your husband was in the military?
While living throughout the United States and overseas impacted me a lot, my favorite part of living in different areas was the people I met. I have friendships with people in Arkansas, Nebraska, Georgia, and Washington. I’ve stayed connected with them for nearly 20 years, and they have become like family. We all still visit each other to this day. More than just traveling or seeing new places, the friendships were the best part, for me, of my husband’s service.
What brought you back to New Orleans?
We were stationed to go to Hawaii, but I had my young son, so I wanted to come home and be near family. I knew my mom and stepdad would be helpful with my son, and I wanted to go back to school for my Master’s degree. As a military wife, you need to move frequently, and sometimes, your career is not the top priority. So I decided it was time to make a change. I went back for my Master’s degree, and my husband joined the New Orleans Police Department. I’m happy about my choice because it allowed my son to grow up near his extended family.
Is there anything else that you would like to share?
I am incredibly passionate about the work that I do, and it’s one of the things that fulfills me. The work doesn’t feel like work, and I am happy to continue doing it. I always feel like I’m giving something back and helping others. I want people to pass the word on to those who might think their dreams are not possible because of where they come from, or because of the color of their skin. My mission is to keep teaching and showing people what they can achieve.