The below list reflects the current positions for alumni of the fifth Leadership Institute, not necessarily where they were employed when they participated. Have an alumni update to share? Email Eric. You can find a complete list of Leadership Institute alumni here.
Amanda Aragon, Executive Director, NewMexicoKidsCAN
Amanda Aragon was born and raised in Albuquerque, NM and grew up surrounded by a large and close-knit extended family. Upon graduation from Rio Rancho High School, Amanda left New Mexico to attend the University of Tulsa. There she obtained a degree in international business and Spanish, becoming the first person in her family to graduate from college. After college, Amanda began a corporate career working as a supply chain coordinator for ConocoPhillips in Houston, TX. After working in Houston, Amanda returned to New Mexico to continue her career with ConocoPhillips as a supply chain lead and eventually as director of stakeholder relations for New Mexico. While working in Farmington, Amanda completed the Leadership New Mexico Connect Program and was named Albuquerque Business First’s top business professional under 30. After six successful years in the energy sector, Amanda pursued public service as the director of strategic outreach at the New Mexico Public Education Department. Her experience with the New Mexico Public Education Department affirmed her passion for education and motivated her to engage more stakeholders in working to improve New Mexico’s education system, which led to the development and creation of NewMexicoKidsCAN.
Andréa Comer, Chief External Affairs Officer, CT Paid Leave
Andréa is Chief External Affairs Officer at CT Paid Leave. Most recently, the Executive Director of Educators for Excellence-Connecticut, Andréa Comer oversaw strategic and operational responsibility for programs, growth, and execution of the organization’s mission to improve student outcomes and elevate the voices of teachers in state and local education policy. Previously, Andréa served as executive director and vice president of workforce strategies for the CT Business & Industry Association, where she led the organization’s efforts to develop a skilled workforce for high-growth industries. Andréa has spent more than two decades working to strengthen and empower communities through strategic programming and policymaking. A former member of the Hartford and State Boards of Education, she has held various roles in communications, community outreach, development, and organizational change, as well as provided issue-based consulting for various entities. Andréa currently serves on the boards of Five Frogs and the Hartford Public Library and is a trustee for the University of St. Joseph. Her work has been recognized by the 100 New England Women of Color, CT Commission on Children, the YMCA, the Urban League of Greater Hartford and the CT NAACP. Andréa and her husband Brad have a daughter, Ashlye, who teaches second grade in Brooklyn, NY.
Mark Dixon, President, A+ Education Partnership
Mark Dixon returned to Alabama as the new president of A+ Education Partnership on February 1, 2019. He earned his Bachelor of Arts degree in Political Science from Wake Forest University. He spent five years as education policy advisor to former Alabama Governor Bob Riley and later as policy director. With an expressed desire to learn more about nonprofit management, Dixon moved to Washington, D.C. to pursue his MBA in Strategic Management and Public Policy from The George Washington University School of Business. While in school, Dixon held an Education Pioneers Fellowship with Teach for America. Following business school, Dixon joined General Electric (GE) where for the past seven years he held both corporate and business roles. A graduate of GE’s Experienced Commercial Leadership Program, Dixon helped build a global commercial consulting organization, and led teams on strategic projects for senior leaders on five continents. Most recently, Dixon led market development efforts for GE Power’s steam unit in North and South America to develop projects and drive value creation for customers.
Kristen Forbriger, Communications Director, The City Fund
Kristen Forbriger is Communications Director at The City Fund. Previously, Kristen was Vice President of External Relations for the National Association of Charter School Authorizers (NACSA), where she oversaw NACSA’s communications and policy strategy, including the release of major reports and all efforts to inform external stakeholders of the importance of quality authorizing. She was formerly the Public Affairs Director at the Philadelphia School Partnership, a citywide education reform organization that invests in the creation and expansion of quality schools. She led their communications strategy and worked to empower families with information about school options. She began her work in education at YouthBuild Philadelphia Charter School, a second chance program for high school dropouts, which taught her that every young person is capable of thriving if given the right educational opportunities to meet their unique needs. She believes all children can have this opportunity if we address the broken systems that have failed far too many families. She is a graduate of Villanova University and the University of Pennsylvania’s Fels Institute of Government. Her past experience includes public relations consulting, fundraising, and working on political campaigns. She lives in her hometown of Columbus, Ohio with her son Miles and their dog Ping Pong.
Will Fullerton, Executive Director, Texas Aspires
Will Fullerton is the Executive Director of Texas Aspires. He manages the organization’s operations and development, external relations, and overall strategy. Before joining Texas Aspires, Will served as chief of staff at the Texas Education Agency, leading the agency through multiple legislative sessions and focusing on strategic reviews of the agency’s budget, policy implementation, and stakeholder engagement. Will worked with sister agencies and stakeholders toward aligning Texas’ K-12, higher education, and workforce needs and goals. Leaving the agency in 2016, Will began advocating on behalf of various educational service providers and professional associations whose interests ranged from early childhood education to college, career, and military readiness. As a member of Texas Star Alliance, Will worked with organizations to assist them with strategic communications, lobbying, political strategy, and business development. He attended the University of Texas where he received a BA in Government and a BBA in Management. He and his wife Christian are the proud parents of two young, redheaded boys.
Subira Gordon, Executive Director, ConnCAN
Subira Gordon, Executive Director at ConnCAN, was born and raised in Jamaica, in a small rural community with a 2 percent literacy rate. Her mother was one of the few people who could read, and Subira quickly realized the value of schooling, as her mother was often asked to assist neighbors with undertakings that required more than a first-grade education. Upon graduation from high school, Subira attended Bates College where she earned a bachelor’s degree in history, and spent years afterward organizing workers in Connecticut to advocate for their rights. This was her passageway to to political mobilization, policy change, and the ins-and-outs of the legislative process, eventually leading her to the Connecticut General Assembly’s Commission on Equity and Opportunity. At the Capitol, Subira worked closely with grassroots advocates and legislators to create equitable solutions for communities of color. With a focus on education, criminal justice and housing, Subira created a space for honest conversations around equity and inclusion for those underrepresented or marginalized in the Constitution State. Issues that she championed include a diverse educator pipeline, affordable housing options, and comprehensive criminal justice reform.
Emily Anne Gullickson is the Founder and CEO of A for Arizona, bringing a unique background of executive, advocacy, legal, and teaching experience to the organization. Prior to launching A for Arizona as a stand alone 501(c)(3), Emily Anne served as the Chief Executive Officer at the Arizona Chamber Foundation and Executive Director of the A for Arizona initiative. Emily Anne played a leading role in growing the two-person research shop into a thriving foundation with three major initiatives including A for Arizona, Chamber Business News, and the Arizona Industry Fellows. Under her direction, the Foundation published critical policy briefs and research on topics dedicated to expanding economic opportunity in Arizona such as K-12 education reform, water and the Drought Contingency Plan, and trade with a focus on the USMCA and its impact on Arizona. At A for Arizona, Emily Anne designed, implemented, and facilitated first-of-their-kind initiatives and solutions to rapidly increase the number of low-income students attending Arizona’s top-performing public schools. Emily Anne was recently recognized by the Arizona Capitol Times as an Inaugural Women Achievers of Arizona – Nonprofit Leader and 2019 Breakdown Breakout, recognition for being one of the sharpest political minds in Arizona under 40. She was identified in 2018 by The Arizona Republic as an educator to watch that’s shaping Arizona’s next generation and was a Greater Phoenix Chamber 2017 ATHENA Young Professional Award Nominee.
Melissa Henderson, Associate Commissioner for Development for the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board
Melissa Henderson is the Associate Commissioner for Development for the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board and the Executive Director for the Texas Higher Education Foundation. In this dual role, she serves on the Commissioner’s executive team and leads the Foundation’s work to identify resources and build partnerships with the philanthropic community to achieve the strategic priorities and goals of the agency. She brings to the Foundation nearly a decade of working closely with philanthropic partners from across Texas and the nation to build coalitions aimed at streamlining pathways for students into, through and beyond postsecondary education into the workforce. Immediately prior to the Coordinating Board and the Foundation, she launched and led the postsecondary policy portfolio for Educate Texas, a public/private initiative of the Communities Foundation of Texas. In this capacity, she developed and executed the organization’s strategy to educate and inform policymakers about key issues shaping the higher education policy dialogue in Texas. She also previously served as legislative director for a member of the Texas House of Representatives, responsible for advising him on P-12 and postsecondary education in his capacity as a House Higher Education Committee member. She holds a bachelor’s degree in psychology from Texas A&M University and a master’s of public affairs from the LBJ School of Public Affairs at the University of Texas at Austin.
Anthony Holter, President, Empower Illinois
Anthony Holter, Ph.D., joined Empower Illinois as President in February 2018 to provide high-quality, operational leadership across the scholarship granting, advocacy, government affairs, fundraising, policy and research, and communications units of the organization. Anthony also coordinates compliance with Empower’s partner organization One Chance Illinois—Action. Anthony brings nearly two decades of teaching, program evaluation, and non-profit leadership experience to his role as Executive Director. Anthony previously served as executive director of the Fulcrum Foundation (Seattle, WA), and Director of Program Evaluation and Research in the Alliance for Catholic Education at the University of Notre Dame (South Bend, IN). Anthony received his Bachelor of Arts from Saint Mary’s University in Winona, MN, his Master of Education from the University of Notre Dame, and his Doctor of Philosophy from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Anthony and his wife, Caroline, live in Glen Ellyn, IL, and are proud of their three wonderful children: Anna (12), Julia (10), and Will (5).
Irene Holtzman was most recently Chief of Staff at Parents Amplifying Voices in Education (PAVE), a non-profit that is dedicated to creating an environment where the vision for education in Washington, D.C. is created with children and families, not for them. Prior to joining PAVE, Irene was Executive Director at Friends of Choice in Urban Schools (FOCUS), and policy director and senior advisor at KIPP DC. Previous to her work in KIPP DC’s central office, Irene was a sixth-grade teacher at Gage-Eckington Elementary School in DCPS and a fifth-grade science teacher at KIPP DC KEY Academy. She holds a B.A. in Psychology from the University of Maryland, College Park, was a 2015 Education Policy Fellow and 2016 Senior Education Policy Fellow through the Institute for Educational Leadership, and is a member of the Leadership of Greater Washington Class of 2018.
Ashley Lautzenhiser, Director of Communications & Strategy, Parent Revolution
Ashley Lautzenhiser came to the Parent Revolution team in 2017 with an extensive background in policy advocacy and grassroots campaign management. At Parent Revolution, she crafts strategy, works on policy development, leads the organization’s work on state and local advocacy, and manages parent-led voter engagement campaigns. Ashley joined Parent Revolution from the consulting sector, where she worked for public, private, and nonprofit clients as the executive vice president of the Los Angeles public affairs firm Rodriguez Strategies. Prior to Rodriguez Strategies, Ashley worked in Dewey Square Group’s grassroots practice, where she participated in building and implementing statewide issue advocacy campaigns. Ashley is experienced at executing successful voter contact programs and has built broad-based coalitions for local, state, and federal issues. Ashley earned her Master’s Degree in Public Policy from the Sol Price School of Public Policy at the University of Southern California. Ashley began her career working for United States Senator Evan Bayh in Washington, D.C. She holds a BA in Political Science from Indiana University.
Adam Lister, President, Tennesseans for Student Success
Adam Lister serves as president of Tennesseans for Student Success, a nonprofit issue advocacy organization committed to improving student achievement in the Volunteer State. Prior to his role at Tennesseans for Student Success, Lister was vice president of policy at the Nashville Area Chamber of Commerce where he directed public policy and government relations initiatives and led the Chamber’s political action committees and independent expenditure work to advance and support critical business advocacy priorities at the state, local, and federal level. Lister is a Nashville native and graduate of Metropolitan Nashville Public Schools. Earlier, Lister worked as an analyst with the Tennessee General Assembly and on a number of political campaigns including for U.S. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell. Adam received a bachelor of science from Kentucky Wesleyan College and is married to Dr. Amanda Lister, a public school teacher in Williamson County.
David Miyashiro, Executive Director, HawaiiKidsCAN
David Miyashiro is founding executive director of HawaiiKidsCAN, a Hawaii nonprofit organization that is part of the national 50CAN network. He works with a wide range of policymakers, educators, students, and community partners to promote an equitable education system that ensures every Hawaii student has access to a high-quality education that prepares them for a life of success and global and local leadership. Raised in Hawaii, he returned to the islands after graduating from Brandeis University to teach middle school special education English through Teach For America-Hawaii, also earning his master’s degree in in special education from the University of Hawaii at Manoa. After earning a master’s in education policy at the Harvard Graduate School of Education, he worked in politics and government as press secretary for U.S. Senator Mazie Hirono in Washington, D.C. and communications director for the Ann Callis for Congress campaign in Illinois. He returned to Hawaii and Teach For America in 2015 to manage communications, media, and public relations for the region. David also serves as an elected member of the Kailua Neighborhood Board and is a board member of Common Cause Hawaii and James Campbell High School’s Academy of Public and Human Services.
Patricia Morgan, Executive Director, JerseyCAN
Patricia Morgan is a Jersey Girl, hailing from Exit 114 on the Garden State Parkway. Staying true to her Jersey roots, she earned her bachelor’s degree from Drew University. After graduation, she joined Teach For America in New York, where she discovered the importance of advocating for her students with disabilities. She returned to the Garden State to attend Seton Hall School of Law, where she honed her advocacy skills at night and refined her pedagogical techniques by day as an education consultant. Following a judicial clerkship with Chief Justice Rabner of the New Jersey Supreme Court and the Honorable Peter G. Sheridan of the U.S. District Court for New Jersey, Patricia pursued private practice at several law firms. In 2013, Patricia joined Governor Chris Christie’s administration, serving as an assistant counsel in the Governor’s Counsel’s Office, advising on K-12 and higher education legislation, regulations, and strategic litigation. The next year, she became the chief legal and external affairs officer for the New Jersey Department of Education, overseeing implementation of key policy initiatives, communications and legislative and legal affairs. During her time at the Department, she was named an assistant commissioner and oversaw the offices of Charter Schools and Interdistrict School Choice. Recognizing that there is still much work to be done to ensure a high-quality education for all students, Patricia returned to educational advocacy to serve as JerseyCAN’s executive director.
Cardell Orrin, Memphis City Director, Stand for Children
Cardell Orrin currently serves as the Memphis City Director for Stand for Children Tennessee. Prior to this, Cardell was the founder and principal of Linx Consulting. Over 10 years, Cardell was involved in projects that stretched across a wide breadth of areas including strategic planning, community development, communications, community engagement, political campaigns, and technology services. Before founding Linx Consulting, Cardell worked as the Chief Information Officer (CIO) at LeMoyne-Owen College in Memphis. Cardell co-founded New Path, a local political action committee, focused on engaging young people in the political process and electing solutions-oriented candidates to local office. He has been a founding board member of Hattiloo Theatre, Memphis Urban League Young Professionals, and the Benjamin Hooks Institute for Social Change Advisory Board. He is also Chair of the Board for Freedom Preparatory Academy, a Memphis charter school. He graduated from the Leadership Academy Fellows Program, has received a Top 40 Under 40 Award from the Memphis Business Journal, and was a member of the 2007 class of Leadership Memphis. Cardell graduated from the University of Pennsylvania with a Bachelor of Science and Engineering in Computer Science and Engineering with additional studies in African American Studies and Entrepreneurial Management.
Deena Reppen, Chief Operating Officer, Foundation for Excellence in Education
Deena Reppen is the Foundation for Excellence in Education’s Chief Operating Officer. She has more than 15 years of executive leadership experience, having served in the roles of chief of staff, deputy executive director, legislative director and communications director for state agencies, associations and non-profit organizations. Her public service experience also includes serving as press secretary to Florida Governor Jeb Bush. She is a graduate of King’s College London and lives in Tallahassee, Florida with her husband, two children, and their greyhound.
Tyler Sandberg, Vice President, Ready Colorado
Tyler Sandberg is the co-founder and Vice President of Ready Colorado, the state’s leading center-right education reform advocacy group. Prior to ReadyCO, Tyler was a senior project manager at EIS Solutions, where he managed political efforts for corporate, non-profit and candidate clients. He ran Congressman Mike Coffman’s re-election campaigns in 2018 and 2014, and was recognized by Roll Call in 2014 for running one of the best campaigns in the country. Before moving to Colorado in 2010, Tyler worked on elections in Malaysia, East Timor, and India. Tyler lives with his wife Kelsie and dogs Gili and River in Aurora, CO.
Scott Sargrad, Deputy Chief of Staff for Policy and Programs, Office of the Secretary, U.S. Department of Education
Scott Sargrad is the Deputy Chief of Staff for Policy and Programs for the U.S. Department of Education. Scott was formerly the vice president of K-12 Education Policy at the Center for American Progress. Prior to joining CAP, Sargrad served as deputy assistant secretary for elementary and secondary education at the U.S. Department of Education under then-Education Secretary Arne Duncan, as well as the acting director of the Office of School Turnaround. He joined the Education Department in 2009 as a presidential management fellow in the Office of Special Education and Rehabilitative Services and also worked as a senior policy adviser in the Office of Planning, Evaluation, and Policy Development. Previously, Sargrad taught mathematics; coached cross country and track and field; and was a special education instructional assistant. He also worked on disability policy and taught English in Hanoi, Vietnam. Sargrad received his bachelor’s degree in mathematics with a minor in philosophy from Haverford College and a master’s degree in education policy and management from the Harvard Graduate School of Education.
Van Schoales, President, A+ Colorado
Van Schoales is the President of A+ Colorado. He has thirty years’ experience leading education reform efforts from the classroom to the statehouse. Van has led or helped found a number of non-profits, including the Odyssey School, Denver School of Science and Technology, Democrats for Education Reform Colorado, and Bay Area Coalition of Equitable Schools. He was an award-winning high school science teacher in the Bay Area and has authored a variety of papers on school choice, charter schools, school accountability, student achievement, science education, school design, state policy, and other education improvement topics. He is regularly quoted in education news stories from The Denver Post, NBC, National Public Radio, Christian Science Monitor, The New York Times, Education Week, Univision and Fox News. He is also a Denver Commissioner of Cultural Affairs. Van earned a B.S. from the University of California – Santa Cruz (Earth Sciences), M.S. from Brown University (Geological Sciences), M.A. from San Francisco State University (Education Administration), and an M.A. from Stanford University (Education).
Molly Sears, Chief Financial Officer, National Institute for Excellence in Teaching
Molly Sears serves as the chief financial officer for NIET. In this role, Molly will provide leadership, management, and oversight for all fiscal activities related to the operations of NIET. Prior to joining NIET Molly served as the vice president of finance and operations at the Tennessee State Collaborative on Reforming Education where she was the strategic leader of and responsible for all aspects of the organization’s critical infrastructure, including financial management, business operations, HR, and IT. Additionally, Molly oversaw the organization’s grant management, impact monitoring and events management. Previously, Molly served as director of finance and operations for the Division of Curriculum and Instruction at the Tennessee Department of Education where she managed the division’s federal, state and private funding to further its work. Molly began her career as a financial and officer manager for Civic Enterprises, a public policy research firm located in Washington, D.C. Molly earned bachelor’s and master’s degrees in business administration at the University of Arkansas.
Peri Lynn Turnbull, Founder and CEO, PLT Strategies Group
Prior to founding PLT Strategies Group, Peri Lynn served as the Chief of External Relations and Strategy at the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools. Peri Lynn led the effort to design a proactive narrative to reframe the conversation about public education and to challenge the misinformation about public charter schools driven by supporters of the status quo. Prior to this role, she was senior vice president of communications and knowledge management at the California Charter Schools Association. Her commitment to public education and community building began with executive level positions at the Fresno Unified School District and San Diego Unified School District as well as the American Red Cross. Before moving to the United States, Peri Lynn worked for The Conference Board of Canada, led a non-profit arts organization, and held a variety of positions with Federal Cabinet Ministers within the Canadian Government. Peri Lynn is chair of the Thrive Education Foundation and a volunteer with Angels Foster Family Network. She holds a Bachelor of Commerce (Honors) degree from Carleton University and a Masters of Science in Executive Leadership (MSEL) from University of San Diego in addition to her Accreditation in Public Relations (APR) from the Universal Accreditation Board. She and her husband, Jeff Wiemann, are raising four children in La Mesa California, all of whom attend public schools.D
Daniel Walker, Chief of Staff, Wilmington City Council
Daniel Walker is the Cheif of Staff for the Wilmington City Council. He most recently was the Executive Director for the Delaware Campaign for Achievement Now (DelawareCAN). DelawareCAN launched in January 2017 and is part of the national 50-State Campaign for Achievement Now and works to collaborate, empower, and mobilize everyday Delawareans to advocate for a high-quality education system for all students. Daniel started in politics as an intern during Senator Coons’ 2014 reelection campaign. Prior to joining CAN, Daniel was the special assistant for Congresswoman Lisa Blunt Rochester’s congressional campaign, leading the team’s community engagement and voter contact efforts. Daniel worked for the Delaware General Assembly Majority Caucus as a legislative aide assigned to the Vice-Chair of the Education Committee and chair of the Labor Committee. He served as the founding chair of the Delaware Young Democrats before being elected as Vice-President in 2017. He has served as a board member for various nonprofits including the Newark Jaycees (JCI). He holds a BA in political science from the University of Delaware and a Masters of Science in Management with a concentration in public administration from Wilmington University. Daniel is a native Delawarean born in Kent County and moved to Wilmington after graduating from college.
Shirline Wilson, State Director, Democrats for Education Reform Washington
After spending the first part of her professional career working as a change leader in public, private and start-up enterprises, Shirline Wilson joined the state leadership team at Education Reform Now and Democrats for Education Reform Washington to chart the next chapter of the organization’s work that prioritizes improving education outcomes for underserved communities across Washington state. Shirline has experienced first hand the disparities in public education and believes strongly that an equity-focused agenda, authentic policymaker education, political will, and innovation can transform public education so that it serves everyone well.