Krystal Payne

Deputy Director, Partner School Network


Krystal (Muldrow) Payne serves as the Deputy Director of the Partner School Network at the Network for College Success (NCS). In her role, she develops and supports systems, conditions, and capacity for coaching partner schools in using research and evidence-based practices that are the most predictive indicators for graduation from high school and success in college. She brings over 25 years of experience as a teacher, school leader, team and school leadership coach, and consultant.

Krystal’s roots with NCS span over eight years. 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 around creating 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 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, 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 graduate of Chicago Public Schools.