Benjamin Bates Data News Weekly Contributor
The newly seated board, voted into office by the at-large membership of the Dryades YMCA, recently named Erika Mann, Chief Executive Officer of the Dryades YMCA. This is an historic marker as Ms. Mann is the first female to serve as the CEO of this century old institution. Operating since 1905, this Central City Legacy Institution has been an integral part of New Orleans and the greater metropolitan area, which has historically provided educational, recreational, and social services to meet the needs of the African American community during segregation.
Erika Mann is a native New Orleanian, with roots growing up in the 7th Ward. She earned her bachelor’s from Loyola University in Mass Communications, and then pursued a master’s in Education and Certification in School Administration. She is a mother of two daughters and a proud member of Zeta Phi Beta Sorority.
Erika Mann is no stranger to the Dryades “Y,” as she previously served as the Head of School for the James Singleton Charter School. Upon her arrival at the Dryades YMCA in 2017, the school was faced with the looming threat of a revocation of its Charter. Mann was tapped to lead the school out of this peril, given her track record as a turnaround leader, earning this reputation from her work in Jefferson Parish schools. Her accomplishments made Mann ripe for the job at “the Y” where now she is charged with leading the over a century old organization.
Ms. Mann now gets to try her hand at turning around the parent organization as she did with Singleton Charter School. “It was a no brainer to name Erika as the CEO, she has a wealth of experience with turnaround management, and she has demonstrated it by what she was able to accomplish in her short tenure steering the school to stability,” said Board Chair Bishop Tom Watson.
Prior to earning this appointment as the first female CEO of “the Dryades Y,” Ms. Mann served in an interim capacity. Again, in this short period as interim CEO, “the Y” has seen constant progress under her leadership with its Early Childhood Program. Immediately, Mann made notable upgrades to the facilities, curriculum, and advanced the professional development of the entire staff. This has created unprecedented demand for childcare placements that’s resulted in an ever-growing waitlist. Moreover, she has been instrumental in facilitating a strategic partnership between the City of New Orleans Office of Job 1 and the Dryades YMCA, which will bring Job 1’s operations to the Dryades Y Myrtle Banks Building on Oretha Castle Haley Blvd.
“I’m happy to see a female at the helm of this community institution for the first time. The Office of Workforce Development JOB 1 looks forward to furthering our partnership with Dryades YMCA in becoming a training provider for Central City where there is great demand. The organization has existing infrastructure and community reach to meet this need,” said Sunae Vilavaso, who heads this city’s department.
“I have never seen someone as tenacious and motivated as Mann, who is up for the task. Mann has formed an excellent working partnership with board members who are committed to transparency and operational excellence for the “Y,” said Alex Dunn, board member. It is this working spirit that won unanimous support from the board, elevating her to this permanent role.
When asked her leadership approach, Mann believes that strong leadership is needed at this transformational period. “As the leader, I want to give power to staff and the community to reimagine the YMCA’s potential. When power is placed with them, the return on investment is organizational growth and commitment to the vision of this mainstay institution,” said Mann.