Sarad Davenport, the first executive director of Charlottesville’s City of Promise initiative, will leave the community for a new job next week.
Davenport will become associate director for culture and connections at Communities in Schools, a national organization based in Arlington that coordinates with community partners to bring resources into schools.
“The focus of my new job will be, in a lot of ways, supporting people who do what I do now [for City of Promise],” Davenport said. “I will be helping emerging leaders around country to improve their practices and work in an exemplary way.”
City of Promise connects young people in Charlottesville’s Westhaven, Starr Hill and 10th and Page neighborhoods to mentors, tutors, afterschool programs and service providers. It was inspired by conversations from Charlottesville’s Dialogue on Race and was launched in 2011 with a $470,000 Promise Neighborhood grant from the U.S. Department of Education.
“Neighborhoods, organizations and systems are coming together,” Davenport said. “The future looks bright ... because of how these groups came together.”
Davenport, a Charlottesville native, became the inaugural director of City of Promise after working at CFA Institute in Charlottesville and a Knowledge Is Power Program charter school in Washington, D.C. He earned a Master of Divinity degree from Virginia Union University in 2009.
Davenport said he was proud to see the high school graduation rate in the City of Promise neighborhoods stabilize during his tenure. He said 61 percent of graduating students have pursued postsecondary education.
“A lot of the gains have yet to come,” he said. “I think the return on investment will play itself out over time.”
Davenport said continued investment in early childhood education was critical for City of Promise to succeed.
“We need to make that sure students in [Charlottesville] and the region are coming to school with an understanding of basic concepts so they can be ready to thrive in kindergarten,” he said.
Charlottesville City School Board member Leah Puryear shared the news of Davenport’s departure at the board’s meeting last week.
“We’ve seen tremendous growth in the students that are in the [City of Promise] footprint,” Puryear said.
School Board Chairman Juandiego Wade lamented the loss of Davenport’s “tremendous leadership.”
Cathy Smith Train, president of the United Way-Thomas Jefferson Area, said her organization would miss working with Davenport.
“I think Sarad has really brought attention to a community of people,” Train said. “He helped families draw on their strengths, and really focused on children’s success in school. I am hopeful that we will find someone else that families will trust and work with in the same way.” (Train also serves on the board of directors of Charlottesville Tomorrow.)
Charlottesville Assistant City Manager Mike Murphy said the City of Promise Steering Committee would discuss its search for a new executive director at its May 15 meeting.
“It’s going to be a challenge for us to fill the position with another great candidate,” Murphy said. “We will be looking for somebody who can solidify the position in the neighborhoods, look towards growth in the future and help the initiative establish independence as its own nonprofit.”
Murphy said that current City of Promise staff would assume the responsibilities of executive director until Davenport’s replacement is hired.