Krystal Payne

Leadership Coach


Krystal (Muldrow) Payne returns to the Network for College Success as Leadership Coach. In this role, she supports high school principals and school-based leadership teams in continuously improving all students’ educational experiences and achievement. She brings to this role over 20 years of learning as a teacher, school leader, coach, and consultant.

Krystal’s roots with NCS run deep. She joined the team as its Freshman Success Coach in 2009 after serving as the principal of the Choir Academy Charter School of Chicago. As the Freshman Success coach, she launched and led NCS’s Freshman Success Collaborative. This cross-school collegial learning space focused on effectively helping freshmen transition to and through high school. She also created the Freshman Success Framework and coached grade-level teams in implementing it within their unique contexts. Krystal subsequently served as a Leadership Coach, Transformation Lead, and facilitator of leadership learning experiences grounded in the principles of Critical Friendship.

Prior to rejoining NCS, Krystal served for nearly 4 years as Assistant Director with the Illinois Center for School Improvement at the American Institutes for Research. In this role, she led a team providing comprehensive school improvement coaching in 15 Chicago public and elementary schools. She also delivered technical assistance in the design and implementation of supports to streamline and improve the quality of service delivery statewide.

Krystal holds a B.A. in Biology from Trinity Christian College, an M.Ed. in Educational Administration from National Louis University, an Illinois certification in General Administration. She is also a loving wife, “bonus mom” to two handsome young men, a dedicated consumer of chocolate and coffee, and a proud product of Chicago Public Schools.