The Principal Pathway Residency Program exists to build a bench of high-performing, authentic leaders who serve to fulfill the YES Prep mission and vision as a potential principals.
Resident principals are selected for one to two years of paid, full-time positions that offer individualized development and coaching under the guidance of a campus lead principal and the Leadership Development team.
To date, resident principal alumni are leading eighteen YES Prep campuses across the city of Houston.
After a highly competitive selection process, YES Prep is excited to announce the fifth cohort of resident principals for the 2022-2023 school year.
Lilian Macias – Resident principal, YES Prep North Central Secondary
Lilian Macias is a Houston “native,” who immigrated from Guatemala at the age of four. As the daughter of immigrants, she has always been taught to value her education. She attended the University of Texas at Austin, graduating with a Bachelor of Journalism and a Bachelor of Arts in Spanish. Macias also received a Master of Arts in Teaching from Relay Graduate School of Education.
As a first-generation high school and college graduate, she is passionate about providing opportunities for students who come from the same underserved communities and believes that it takes a village to raise a child. Macias started her journey at YES Prep in 2007 at YES Prep North Central Secondary as a YES Corps member. After receiving her bachelor’s, she moved to YES Prep Brays Oaks Secondary where she taught middle school English, and served as the grade level chair and middle school dean of students. She transitioned to the director of student support role at YES Prep North Central Secondary for three years. Macias also served three years as the school director for the Credit Recovery program and has been a co-lead for the Latinx Leadership Summits for YES Prep Public Schools for six years. Most recently, Macias was the director of the Thrive program.
While Macias began her work on the Principal Pathway in 2021-2022 during her time as director of Thrive, she will officially have the resident principal title starting in July and will be placed at North Central Secondary with Jeff Osborne, lead principal.
Matt McMahan – Resident principal, YES Prep Southeast Elementary
Before moving to Houston, Matt McMahan called New York City home for eight years. He received his Bachelor of Music from Oklahoma City University in musical theater and during his time in New York worked for Disney, toured North America and performed on Broadway. Matt began volunteering at a school in the South Bronx in 2014 and found his true calling in education. He joined the 2015 Teach for America New York City Corps and was able to stay at the school where he had volunteered. He first taught second and third grade and received his Master of Science degree in special education from Brooklyn College.
In 2017, McMahan moved to Houston to take over a first-grade classroom after Hurricane Harvey. He started at YES Prep Brays Oaks Secondary in 2019 as the literacy specialist and in 2020 transitioned to the role of director of campus operations. In 2020, McMahan was part of the Rice University Urban Leaders cohort and is a certified principal in the state of Texas. McMahan joined the Principal Pathway as a resident principal in January 2022 at Southeast Elementary and will continue there for school year 2022-2023 with Diana Rios, lead principal.
Nicci Cole – Resident principal, YES Prep Northside Secondary
Nicci Cole is one of four children born and raised in Lansing, Michigan. She received her Bachelor of Arts in Psychology in 2011 from the University of Michigan. After graduation, Nicci relocated to Houston as a TFA corps member where she quickly fell in love with teaching.
Cole taught middle school science at Sharpstown International School in HISD for five years. During her time at Sharpstown International, she realized that her passion for education extended beyond the classroom and decided to earn a Master of Business Administration at Rice University as part of the Rice Education Entrepreneurship Program. Cole also earned her principal’s certification at that time in hopes of one day becoming a principal and leading a school.
Cole continued her work in education at KIPP Academy West and became the year 2 founding assistant principal. As a founding assistant principal, she had an opportunity to help build the academic and cultural systems of the campus.
After three years with KIPP, Cole joined the YES Prep team as director of academics at North Forest Secondary and then continued in that same role at Northside Secondary where she has remained for the last two years. Cole is thrilled with the opportunity to further her impact on the Northside community in her role as resident principal again this year.
Cole joined the Principal Pathway as a resident principal in January 2022 at Northside Secondary and will continue there for the 2022-2023 school year with Stephanie Gounder, executive principal.
Kaitlan Peterson – Resident principal, YES Prep White Oak Secondary
Kaitlan Peterson was born and raised in Houston where she was profoundly inspired by her grandparents, two lifelong educators with a deep belief that all students deserve access to an excellent education. While studying abroad in college, Peterson taught English in an underserved community in Madrid, Spain. This sparked her interest in the power of education in international development, and ultimately, in education reform in the United States.
In 2010, Peterson began teaching at Marshall Middle School in HISD where she taught eighth-grade science and served as the science department chair. As a teacher, Peterson was struck by the need for more support for first-year teachers and transitioned to YES Prep to be an instructional coach with the Teaching Excellence teacher alternative certification program. For the past eight years, she has been a proud Marvel at West Secondary, serving as a dean of instruction, yoga elective teacher, and most recently, the director of academics.
Peterson will be placed as a resident principal at West Secondary to lead the team during current principal Sara Kaveeshwar’s leave. She will then transition to White Oak Secondary with Jennifer Greene, lead principal.
Kenya Pinkard – Resident principal, YES Prep Fifth Ward Secondary
Kenya Pinkard is a first-generation college graduate and proud daughter of an immigrant, entrepreneur, Korean woman and a Dallas, ex-military, Black man. She is committed to advocating for educational equity due to her personal challenges and opportunities that came by way of mentorship, community and access to knowledge. Her multicultural travel and background fueled her passion to serve diverse and marginalized communities by way of education and becoming a teacher with HISD in 2005.
Currently, Pinkard is in her 17th year of service and has a range of experience that includes English language arts teacher for multiple grade levels, interventionist, literacy specialist, LPAC coordinator, RIT committee chair, operations manager, dean of instruction, and assistant principal. She has both ISD and charter experience, formerly working at YES Prep Southwest Secondary, YES Prep Fifth Ward Secondary, and being a founding member of YES Prep Hoffman Middle.
For the past three years, Pinkard has served as assistant principal with KIPP Sunnyside High School. As a lifelong learner herself, Pinkard has a Bachelor of Business Administration with a marketing focus from the University of Texas at Arlington, a Master of Science in both Educational Management and Reading Specialist from the University of Houston, Clear-Lake campus, and is currently enrolled in a doctoral program in Ethical Leadership at the University of St. Thomas.
Pinkard will start the Principal Pathway as a resident principal at Fifth Ward Secondary with Tony Castillo, executive principal.
Veronica Leah – Resident principal, YES Prep Southside Elementary
Veronica Leah's leadership style can best be described as one that creates a culture of trust, empathy and collaboration. Leah is originally from McAllen, Texas in the Rio Grande Valley. She currently holds a Bachelor of Science in Criminal Justice from the University of Texas-Pan American and a Master’s Degree in Education Administration with Principal Certification from Concordia University-Texas. Leah is currently a student at the University of Houston-Main Campus where she is pursuing a Doctorate Degree in Professional Leadership K-12.
Leah taught first and third grade bilingual for 16 years and began her leadership career with HISD in 2017 as a teacher specialist at Petersen Elementary. She served as a teacher specialist for two years before transitioning to the role of assistant principal in 2019 at Petersen Elementary and Rodriguez Elementary. Leah’s roles as a campus leader included campus testing coordinator, Intervention Assistance Team/504 chair, LPAC administrator, and appraiser. Leah enjoys supporting teachers in curriculum instruction, community activities and providing a caring and inclusive school environment. Leah will start the Principal Pathway as a resident principal at Southside Elementary with Andrea Citchen, lead principal.
Zicuria Ussery – Resident principal, YES Prep Northline Secondary
Zicuria Ussery is a native of Atlanta, Georgia, and a proud alumna of Spelman College, where she graduated Magna Cum Laude in 2015. She also holds a Master of Arts in Public School Building Leadership from Columbia University’s Summer Principals Academy.
Her love for learning sparked an interest in education at an early age. Ussery’s dream of being an educator became a career goal after completing a summer teaching internship in 2014 with Uncommon Schools. During this internship, she realized that education is a key driver for social advancement and closing opportunity gaps.
From 2015-2017, Ussery served as an eighth-grade teacher and grade level chair at YES Prep Hoffman Middle. In 2017, she joined YES Prep Southside Secondary where she has served as a teacher, grade level chair, dean of instruction, and now director of academics.
Ussery will join the Principal Pathway as a resident principal at Northline Secondary with Brittany McGruder, lead principal.
All seven resident principals will be under the guidance of Brittany Anderson, director of leadership development, and Eileen Galligan, managing director of leadership development. Additionally, residents will be mentored by the executive principals and lead principals listed above.
To learn more about our Principal Pathway Residency Program, including requirements, please click here.