Krystal Payne

Executive Director


Krystal (Muldrow) Payne serves as the Executive Director at the UChicago Network for College Success (NCS). She leads a staff of talented and committed leaders toward truly transforming educational and life outcomes for students in Chicago and across the nation by building the capacity of educators to use research and evidence-based practices that are the most predictive indicators for graduation from high school and success in college. She brings with her leadership nearly 30 years of experience as a teacher, school leader, team and school leadership coach, and consultant.
Krystal’s roots with NCS span over a decade. As the first freshman success coach, she authored and implemented NCS’s Freshman Success Framework. Subsequently, as a leadership coach and transformation lead, she coached principals, senior leadership teams, and instructional leadership teams toward creating and sustaining school communities where young people thrive and grow in their agency, integrated identities, and competencies to live successful lives beyond high school.
Between roles at NCS, Krystal served for nearly four 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 fifteen Chicago public and elementary schools. She also delivered technical assistance in the design and implementation of statewide systems of support to streamline and improve the quality of service delivery to districts across Illinois.
Krystal holds a B.A. in Biology from Trinity Christian College, an M.Ed. in Educational Administration from National Louis University, and an Illinois certification in school administration. She is also a loving wife and minister, “bonus mom” to two brilliant Black young men, a dedicated consumer of chocolate and coffee, and a proud graduate of Chicago Public Schools.