ISD Team

Dr. James C. Ellerbe


In July 2019, James C. Ellerbe, EdD, rejoined the North Carolina Department of Public Instruction (NCDPI) as the Superintendent of the Innovative School District (ISD). As ISD Superintendent, Dr. Ellerbe leverages his professional work experiences and successes in improving student achievement to provide quality educational opportunities for students. He is charged with setting and supporting annual goals for ISD schools and collaborating with stakeholders—i.e., State Board of Education, State and Deputy State Superintendents, ISD team members, school operators, local communities and others—to ensure the development, execution and management of plans and processes that drive improvement in student growth and achievement at low-performing schools.

Prior to returning to NCDPI, Dr. Ellerbe served as Director of Administration and Strategy for the Center for Responsive Schools in Turners Falls, MA. Throughout his educational career, he has served in a variety of capacities, from teacher assistant and bus driver to middle school educator, school administrator and program leader for state educational initiatives. In Dr. Ellerbe’s most-recent position at NCDPI before being named ISD Superintendent, he led the state’s district and regional support teams. In this role, he planned, developed and implemented a tiered regional support structure that provided school districts across North Carolina access to a comprehensive set of academic services and supports geared toward improving student academic outcomes.

Dr. Ellerbe has a track record of success working in both high-poverty and affluent school districts in North Carolina. Through this work, he has earned a reputation from North Carolina’s Turnaround Program as an “inspiring and strategic educational leader.” To acknowledge his success in working with school districts to improve school performance and his leadership in administrator preparation programs, in 2015 he was presented with The Excellence in Educational Leadership Award from the University Council for Education Administration.

Dr. Ellerbe earned his doctorate in Educational Leadership and Supervision from North Carolina State University. He also holds a master’s degree in School Administration and bachelor’s degree in middle grades education, both earned from Fayetteville State University.

DeShawna Gooch

Chief Operating Officer

DeShawna Gooch joined the Innovative School District (ISD) team as Chief Operating Officer (COO) in November 2018. In this role, she collaborates extensively with school operators and local school districts to develop and deploy innovative strategies to create conditions for improving student growth and achievement in ISD’s portfolio of schools.

DeShawna has over 18 years of experience as a public-school educator; included are 13 years in leadership positions at both the school and district levels. She’s had increasing level of responsibility, first as a teacher, then as an assistant principal, principal and district director. She knows that education is the pathway to success and works with a sense of urgency to ensure every student reaches their potential.

During her most recent tenure in Durham Public Schools, DeShawna partnered with low-performing schools to develop and implement various programs to address student success. The programs included a principal coaching model, a high school intervention initiative called DPS Back on Track Senior Graduation, and various summer credit-recovery initiatives that helped students catch up and prepare for the next steps in their lives.

During the 2017-18 school year, DeShawna provided operational support to five schools that received School Improvement Grants to help improve student grade-level proficiency in reading and math. Under her direction, all five schools met or exceeded expected growth in these areas and student proficiency rates increased by two to 14 points. Additionally, for two consecutive years, 100% of the high school students enrolled in a summer school program facilitated by DeShawna graduated with a diploma.

DeShawna holds Bachelor of Arts degrees in Psychology and Middle Grades Mathematics from North Carolina Central University and a Masters of School Administration degree from North Carolina State University. She is currently pursuing her doctorate in Educational Leadership at High Point University.

Debbie Brown

Human Resources Manager

Debbie joined the Innovative School District (ISD) team in April 2018. Educators and support staff at schools transferred into the ISD are employees of the ISD, so she fills a critical role in building a qualified and talented school staff that is driven to maximize student achievement and success.

Debbie was born and raised in Monroe, NC. As a child, she enjoyed playing school and watching her friends learn and grow. This started a life-long interest in education.

After high school, Debbie enrolled at East Carolina University majoring in music education. While there, she discovered that teaching was a natural fit for her and she loved working with young people.

After spending a decade teaching music in the public school system, Debbie was driven to expand her role in education, so she enrolled at Pembroke State University and obtained a Master of Arts in Education degree. This enabled her to move into Assistant Principal and Principal roles that she held for 12 years. After that, Debbie spent eight years serving employees in Hoke and Cumberland County Schools through the Human Resources Department, including five years as the Director of Human Resources with Cumberland County Schools.

Just prior to joining the ISD team, Debbie worked in the Cumberland County community assisting with efforts to decrease the homeless population. Throughout her career, she has dedicated her time and talent to serving others. Debbie continues that pursuit in her newest role with the ISD.

Angeline Pearson

Operations/Finance Specialist

In March 2019, the Innovative School District (ISD) welcomed Angeline to the team as an Operations and Finance Specialist.  In this role, she processes payroll, manages employee benefits and provides support in the areas of financial management and project coordination.

Prior to joining the ISD, Angeline was a staffing consultant for an employment and staff firm where she developed and nurtured relationships with clients, interviewed and evaluated applicants, processed payroll and provided administrative and technical support. She also managed strategic partnerships and communications for the Student Program for Academic & Athletic Transitioning (SPAAT) based in Oakland, CA. SPAAT, a non-profit organization that empowers disadvantaged middle and high school student-athletes to be prepared for success in college, careers and life after sports, still holds special significance to her having been a student-athlete herself as she continues her professional relationship with the organization.

Angeline’s work experience also includes managing administrative and customer service responsibilities for companies within the construction and healthcare industries. She holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in Mass Communications from Bennet College for Women in Greensboro, NC.


David Prickett

Communications & External Affairs

David has over 30 years of experience successfully leading communications, marketing and change management efforts in various industries, including manufacturing, engineering, healthcare, education and state and federal government. He joined the Innovative School District (ISD) in October 2016. In this role, he is responsible for developing and implementing communications and stakeholder outreach strategies to support the ISD’s mission to partner with local communities to improve student academic growth and achievement in low-performing schools in North Carolina.

Prior to joining the ISD, David was the Communications Director for the North Carolina Office of State Human Resources. While there, he led agency-wide communications efforts, including change management initiatives, stakeholder outreach and awareness-building campaigns, collateral development and dissemination, media relations, employee recognition programs, events, website content, video production, and social media channels.

Additionally, David has over 10 years of experience working for a government consulting firm providing communications, project management and technical assistance expertise to numerous state and federal agencies, including the U.S. Department of Labor (Office of Apprenticeship, Office of National Response, Business Relations Group, Job Corps), U.S. Department of Defense, U.S. Department of Energy, NC Department of Public Instruction and North Carolina Partnership for Children.

David holds a bachelor’s degree in Art from East Tennessee State University in Johnson City, TN. In 2015, David conceptualized, designed and published an award-winning statewide employee newsletter entitled The Resource. In 2016, this publication won the Eva N. Santos Communications Award for excellence in HR communications from the National Association of State Personnel Executives (NASPE) and an Excellence in Communications Award from the North Carolina Association of Government Information Officers (NCAGIO).

Born in Kentucky and raised in Ohio, David has called North Carolina home for the past 35 years. He currently resides with his wife and son in Wake Forest, NC.

Interested in joining the ISD team? Learn more about employment opportunities here