Sean Gallagher

Founder, Akili Academy of New Orleans
New Orleans, LA

“This is something in our society that isn’t right, and I’d like to be a part of fixing it.”

It was as simple as that for Philadelphia native Sean Gallagher, when he read the news about the terrible quality of public education in his hometown and decided to become a teacher.

A call center manager at the investment management company The Vanguard Group, Gallagher was content in his corporate job—yet, he was compelled to get involved and help turn things around. So he tried his hand in the classroom, substitute teaching in the city’s lowest income neighborhoods.

Gallagher spent seven years in district schools before entering the charter sector, in which he founded the Independence Charter School middle school program, among other accomplishments. But he felt he was still capable of more, so he completed the BES Fellowship, which was then recruiting leaders to found schools in Hurricane Katrina-ravaged New Orleans.

In 2008, Gallagher opened Akili (Swahili for “knowledge and wisdom”) Academy of New Orleans, a K-8 public charter school currently serving 305 scholars in kindergarten through 4th grade. It is the highest performing school in the city, with its scholars surpassing district, parish, and state averages on the state assessment exam in 2011.

Gallagher is currently the Chief Turn Around Officer at The Education Innovation Laboratory (EdLabs) at Harvard University, which is committed to transforming education through the power of the scientific method.

Gallagher earned a bachelor’s degree from Villanova University, a master’s in instruction from Drexel University, and a master’s in educational administration from Gwynedd-Mercy College.