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Staff

Executive Officer

Susan Shaffer

Susan Shaffer

President and Co-Founder

Proud and happy grandparent of three, passionate and seasoned equity advocate working for the civil rights of all people to achieve social justice. Susan's pronouns are she/her/hers. Read More »

Susan has been a nationally recognized expert for more than four decades. Her transformational work in public schools has centered on the development of comprehensive technical assistance for system-wide change, training on educational equity and culturally responsive pedagogy and practice, school climate and culture, family, school, and community engagement, and multicultural gender-related issues. 

Susan has led MAEC for nearly 30 years. She is the Co-Founder of the National Association for Family, School, and Community Engagement, a national member of the Continuous Improvement for Equity Design team with the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, and the author or co-author of several books, articles and publications. Her publications include How to Connect with your iTeen: A Parenting Road MapEquity-Centered Capacity Building: Essential Approaches for Excellence & Sustainable School System Transformation; and “Using Social-Emotional Learning & Literacy Tools to Bridge the Gap During & Beyond COVID-19.” 

Susan holds a B.A. in History and an M.A. in education from the University of California, Berkeley. She serves on several boards, including NAFSCE (Chair); Bowie State University School of Education (2012-2019); Harmony through Education, an NGO, India, a school for special needs children (since 2006); Family Math Roadmap; State Consortium on Family Engagement with the Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO); Pre-Service Consortium on Family Engagement; the Maryland Committee of Title I Practitioners; and the Maryland Superintendent’s Family Engagement Advisory Council. She is the recipient of numerous awards for her service, leadership, and significant contribution to curricular materials on women. 

Susan is passionate about family, friends, building and sustaining relationships, and writing. She is a California girl, surfs up! 

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Karmen Rouland

Vice President

Petersburg, VA native; wife and mother of small children; passionate about ensuring that our schools meet the needs of all students. Karmen's pronouns are she/her/hers. Read More »

Karmen Rouland, PhD serves as the Vice President at MAEC. In this role, she provides leadership, supervision, oversight, and management of MAEC’s programs and services, as well as, collaborating with senior leadership to develop future business for MAEC. Karmen also manages technical assistance and training services to state departments of education, school districts, and schools on civil rights and educational equity issues. Specifically, she provides training on issues related to cultural competence, family engagement, equitable access to education, implicit bias, privilege, and structural inequality. Karmen has published several peer-reviewed journal articles and technical papers on issues related to family engagement and equity. Prior to joining MAEC, Karmen worked at the intersection of education policy and data at the District of Columbia Office of the State Superintendent of Education (OSSE).

Karmen has extensive experience in educational research and youth development programs. Karmen also served as School Liaison for the Gaining Early Awareness and Readiness for Undergraduate Programs (GEAR UP) and as a Co-Site Director for It’s Great to Be a Girl Mentoring Program. Before working for the government of the District of Columbia, Karmen worked at Howard University as a Postdoctoral Research Fellow studying the role of HBCUs in diversifying the K-12 teacher pipeline. She has also provided research consultation for several non-profit organizations and school districts.

For more than 15 years, Karmen has taught undergraduate and graduate-level education courses for pre-service and in-service teachers at Howard University, George Washington University, the University of Michigan, and Washington Adventist University. She graduated summa cum laude from Howard University in Washington, DC with a B.S. in psychology. She received her Master’s degree and Ph.D. from the Combined Program in Education and Psychology from the University of Michigan. Karmen is a 2021 Leadership Montgomery CORE participant, a board member of Girls Prep, Inc and a Co-Troop Leader with her daughter’s Girl Scout troop.

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Staff

Nyla Bell

Nyla Bell

Senior Education Equity Specialist

Native Philadelphian and fourth generation Black educator with over 20 years of experience working at the intersections of equity, social justice, and public education. Nyla's pronouns are she/her/hers. Read More »

As MAEC’s Senior Education Equity Specialist, Nyla provides consultation, training, evaluation services, and technical assistance to educators and policy-makers in schools, districts, and state departments of education seeking to advance racial, gender, cultural, and socioeconomic equity in their schools. Her work involves conducting district needs assessments/evaluations focused on equity; presenting at education conferences; serving on advisory committees related to equity; organizing and hosting webinars; facilitating trainings; and serving as a Community of Practice (CoP) host and organizer. 

With over 20 years of experience working at the intersections of equity, social justice, and public education, Nyla has devoted her life and career to educational justice as an adult educator, technical assistance provider, advocate, English teacher, scholar, and youth organizer. Her recent experiences working to advance equity and justice in education include teaching graduate courses on race and critical pedagogy to pre-service teachers; developing social justice curricula as a classroom teacher; and providing professional development on culturally responsive and sustaining pedagogy to in-service teachers. Her early experiences with equity work include testifying before Philadelphia’s superintendent on the poor condition of textbooks; serving as editor of a youth newsletter that covered topics like racial disproportionality in AP and honors classes; co-leading the work of establishing Penn State University’s first and only Africana Research Center; and organizing a first-of-its-kind Black Women Studies conference. Nyla is an alumna of and board member with the Philadelphia Student Union, and is a longtime member of the Free Minds, Free People (FMFP) Leadership Committee. She holds a Masters of Science in Education from the University of Pennsylvania, and a Bachelor of Philosophy degree with an interdisciplinary focus on social inequality, with honors in African and African American Studies and Women’s Studies, from Pennsylvania State University, University Park.  

Nyla is a lover of science fiction drama, and is currently enjoying The Expanse and Star Trek Discovery.  

Nyla’s pronouns are she/her/hers.

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photo of Mira Best

Mira Best

Senior Evaluation Associate

Raised in Richmond, VA and passionate about the use of data to amplify voices, promote social justice, and inform meaningful change from the micro- to the macro-level. Mira’s pronouns are she/her/hers. Read More »

As a Senior Evaluation Associate, Mira’s primary responsibilities include: working with the Evaluation Team to develop and implement MAEC’s evaluations and reporting; leading qualitative research at MAEC including focus group and interview recruitment, data collection, and analysis; and writing reports on qualitative and quantitative data analyses. She works across projects at MAEC including the Center for Education Equity (CEE), and has played an integral role in other projects including the statewide needs assessment of Maryland’s Maternal, Infant, and Early Childhood Home Visiting program (MIECHV), an antiracist audit of one of the largest school districts in the United States, and an evaluation of Girls on the Run through the lens of equity.

Mira received her Bachelor of Social Work from Virginia Commonwealth University in 2018 and her Master of Arts in Social Service Administration (equivalent to a Master of Social Work) from the University of Chicago in 2019. Throughout her undergraduate education, she worked as an intern at three nonprofits and observed the impactful role data had on their service provision and the clients they served. This led her to the University of Chicago’s School of Social Work, Policy, and Practice, where she gained further experience working with data to inform practice. Before coming to MAEC Mira evaluated an array of social services delivered by a large Chicago-based nonprofit, with an emphasis on early childhood programs.

Mira is immensely fond of her dog Lukka, hazelnut coffee, and the serial comma. In her spare time, she enjoys doing puzzles while listening to podcasts and making expansive cities in the city-building simulator Cities: Skylines.

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Kailanya Brailey

Senior Education Equity Specialist

Livingston, SC native who believes in aspiring to be greater, honoring the story, and finding and using your voice in pursuit of learning and boldly impacting change. Kailanya’s pronouns are she/her/hers. Read More »

As a Senior Education Equity Specialist, Kailanya Brailey develops and delivers professional development to state departments of education, school districts, and schools on civil rights and educational equity issues. In addition to addressing educational equity, she provides technical assistance and customized trainings related to school improvement and/or teaching and learning that are relevant to State Education Agencies (SEAs) and Local Education Agencies (LEAs) in an effort to ensure equitable access to instruction, resources, and opportunities for all learners.

Kailanya has over seventeen years of experience as a secondary educator in public school settings in South Carolina, including eight years as an English Language Arts teacher, five years as a middle school assistant principal, and four years as a middle school principal. She received National Board Certification in English Language Arts Early Adolescence in 2009 and was selected as a school-level Teacher of the Year in 2011. Kailanya holds a Master’s in Educational Administration from the University of South Carolina, a Master’s in Education from Walden University (with a specialization in Curriculum, Instruction, and Assessment), and a Bachelor of Arts degree in English and Secondary Education from Winthrop University. She has consistently held memberships with the National Association of Secondary School Principals, the South Carolina Association of School Administrators, and the Palmetto State Teachers Association. Through her work as a school leader, she has had the privilege and responsibility of ensuring that students have equitable access to high-level coursework, advocacy, social and emotional supports, and resources.

In addition to her service as an educator, Kailanya is also a children’s book author (Mia Learns to Soar and Mia Finds Her Voice) and speaker. She has presented at local, district, and state-level conferences and professional learning events on a variety of topics including bias, building community, empowering students, leadership, and the power of one’s story.

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Kate Farbry

Kate Farbry

Director of Communications and Engagement

DC-area native, lover of sharp wit and vegan junk food, believes that empathy makes the world go round. Kate's pronouns are she/her/hers. Read More »

As the Director of Communications and Engagement, Kate develops and executes MAEC’s communication strategy. She is the Project Manager for the Continuous Improvement for Equity (CI4E) Resource website and serves on both the leadership and strategic planning teams. In recent history, Kate spearheaded the development of MAEC’s universal services in response to COVID-19, supporting the production of a series of webinars, newsletters, and web-based resources to assist educators and families as they transitioned to at-home learning.

With a focus on maximizing engagement and user experience design, Kate’s background is in front and back-end website development and branding, print publication production, and email outreach. She has over 20 years of experience working in digital communications for non-profit organizations, understanding the multifaceted needs of diverse audiences with varying capabilities and access. Prior to joining MAEC, Kate served as the Website and Outreach Specialist for a national advocacy nonprofit and as an independent consultant developing websites and marketing materials. She holds a B.A. in Writing from the University of Evansville, IN. 

Kate enjoys long commutes where she can catch up on missed podcasts and pints of iced coffee. She also spends time taking art classes that highlight her inability to draw.

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Rachel Farrell

Finance Specialist

Lover of kids, dogs, and spreadsheets, who believes all young people deserve a chance to realize their potential. Rachel's pronouns are she/her/hers. Read More »

As Finance Specialist, Rachel assists with financial reporting, budgeting, grant writing, contract management, and copyright filing.

Rachel earned a J.D. at the University of Michigan Law School and a B.A. in Economics at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor. She also holds a CPA license. Prior to joining MAEC, Rachel practiced as a Corporate Tax Attorney at Baker McKenzie and PwC. She currently resides in McLean with her husband, two children, and rescue pup, Ginger.

When she’s not working, you can find Rachel reading, knitting, and driving her kids to a seemingly endless amount of activities.

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Carol Gant

Carol Gant

Associate Director of Early Childhood Programs

Dedicated advocate for equity with over 25 years of experience in the field of Early Childhood and Special Education. Carol's pronouns are she/her/hers. Read More »

As Associate Director of Early Childhood Programs, Carol provides leadership and vision in the establishment of policy and procedures to effectively deliver comprehensive services, technical assistance, and training to assist state departments of education and local education agencies in improving education services and educational outcomes. These projects address all children’s needs with a focus on equity for vulnerable or underserved children. Carol represents MAEC in key education policy and advocacy stakeholder networks and serves as a liaison with community-based organizations and coalitions. She also serves as a leadership team member on the MAEC Strategic Planning team.

After starting her career as a special education teacher at Prince George’s County Public Schools, Carol served as the Early Head Start and Head Start Special Education Program Coordinator for Johns Hopkins Hospital/Department of Pediatrics and Educare of Washington DC. She has also worked at Bowie State University as Assistant Professor of Early Childhood Special Education and Bethany College as Assistant Professor of Special Education. Carol joined The National Center on Quality Teaching and Learning (NCQTL) in 2013, where she served as a Regional Field Specialist in the Migrant and Seasonal Program Branch of the Federal Office of Head Start (OHS) and transitioned to the same position at the National Center for Early Childhood Development, Teaching and Learning (NCECDTL) in 2015. In this position, Carol supported the OHS staff by delivering training and technical assistance, providing consultation on data collection and analysis, and overseeing grantees to assess program performance.

Carol holds a BS in Interpersonal Communication from Ohio University and a Masters of Education from Bowie State University with a concentration in Special Education. Carol completed her doctoral coursework in Early Childhood Special Education at the University of Maryland and is currently completing her Ph.D. in Non-Profit Organizational Leadership at Columbia International University.

Carol was born and raised in rural Ohio in a harness horse racing and farming family and always had a garden. Her garden is her lab; she feels that she learns something from every garden and season that she can pass along to others.

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Jessica Grotevant Webster

Senior Family Engagement Specialist

Experienced educational leader who is dedicated to creating inclusive school communities where all children thrive. Jessica's pronouns are she/her/hers. Read More »

Jessica serves as a Senior Family Engagement Specialist working primarily for Collaborative Action for Family Engagement (CAFE). She works with families and educators in building and sustaining effective partnerships focused on student learning and growth.

Jessica is a Pennsylvania native with over twenty years of classroom and leadership experience in both public and private education. In addition to classroom teaching, Jessica has served as a District Inclusion Specialist, supporting family engagement practices and providing technical assistance and training to district staff. During her tenure as an Assistant Middle School Principal, she focused her leadership on equitable disciplinary practices, mental health programming, STEAM, and student engagement practices. Prior to joining the MAEC team, Jessica led a university laboratory school through a strategic plan and realignment focused on literacy, culturally responsive and equitable practices, staff and student diversification, student supports, family engagement, and community partnerships. Throughout her career, Jessica has served on local, regional, and state task forces, as well as committees focused on equity in education. She has taught literacy, principal certification, and special education courses as an adjunct professor.

Jessica completed her Ed.D in Educational Leadership at the University of Pittsburgh. Her dissertation focused on engaging families through the transition to middle school. She earned an M.Ed in Educational Leadership with K-12 Principal Certification from Edinboro University of Pennsylvania, and an M.Ed in Literacy from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Jessica is a proud mom of three who loves Harry Potter, music and theater, yoga, reading, and cooking.

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Lynne Hall

Senior Early Childhood Equity Specialist

Experienced early childhood practitioner, trainer, coach, and researcher; passionate advocate for all young children; and proud mother and grandmother. Lynne's pronouns are she/her/hers. Read More »

As Senior Early Childhood Equity Specialist, Lynne provides consultation, training, evaluation services, and technical assistance to educators and policy-makers in early childhood programs, schools, districts, and state departments of education seeking to advance racial, gender, cultural, and socioeconomic equity in their early childhood services. Her work includes providing presentations and workshops, delivering training, engaging in coaching partnerships, guiding systemic reform, facilitating Communities of Practice (CoP), and conducting evaluation and needs assessments.  

Over 25 years of experience in multiple early childhood roles (including home childcare owner and operator, licensed early childhood classroom practitioner serving Title I, and research associate) have equipped Lynne with a broad understanding of early childhood systems and in-depth expertise of best practices. Her passion is to ensure that all children receive an equitable early education. She seeks to support leaders and practitioners to recognize and effectively address individual and systemic barriers to providing all children access to equitable opportunities in ways that lead to sustainable change and high outcomes for all.    

Lynne is originally from Louisville, KY where she earned a B.A. in English from the University of Louisville. She completed her Master of Science in Education at Indiana University. Lynne resides in Bloomington, IN. with her husband Eric and is the proud mother of 5 adult children and a doting Gigi to one adorable grandson, which has delightfully given her a reason to sing nursery rhymes and make funny faces again. She enjoys spending time with her family and friends, playing board games, watching movies, going for walks, and the occasional neighborhood golf cart ride. As a self-proclaimed foodie, weekends also include either trying new restaurants or cooking new recipes. She’ll get around to writing that book one day. 

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Lily Klam

CAFE Equity Intern

University of Maryland graduate student passionate about learning how to shape policies to create equitable outcomes for students. Lily’s pronouns are she/her/hers. Read More »

As a CAFE Equity Intern, Lily works on publications, workshops, and webinars that promote an equitable approach to family engagement.

Lily is a Master of Public Policy student at the University of Maryland, College Park, focusing on education policy and nonprofit leadership. She became passionate about education activism after volunteering as a tutor for DC public schools. In this position, Lily learned about the negative impact of the pandemic on underserved student groups and the existing inequities in our educational system. Her experience inspired her to volunteer as an assistant director for the Education Equity Initiative where she worked to minimize the negative impact of the pandemic by making learning pods more accessible to all students. Recently, she worked as an intern for the Maryland State Department of Education under the Director of Community Schools. Lily has also interned for a member of the Maryland General Assembly who is a public school teacher and passionate about education reform.

When she’s not working or studying, Lily likes spending time outdoors, doing artwork, engaging in political activism, and trying different restaurants.

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Allegra Kogan

Communications Associate

Bronx native, former Teach for America teacher, and lifelong advocate for educational access and equity. Allegra’s pronouns are she/hers. Read More »

As a Communications Associate, Allegra develops interdisciplinary learning modules and supports the communications team’s growth.

Allegra is completing her MEd in Educational Leadership from Winthrop University in Rock Hill, South Carolina. Allegra earned her BA in English with a minor in Gender and Sexuality Studies as a QuestBridge Scholar from Davidson College. After her undergraduate studies, Allegra became a middle grades English Language Arts teacher through Teach for America in Charlotte, North Carolina where she taught for 3.5 years. Allegra believes that every child deserves equitable opportunities for educational and social-emotional growth. Allegra strives to ensure that the work she does aligns with this goal.

In her free time, Allegra enjoys spending time with family and friends, working out, and reading historical fiction and science fiction.

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Jenny McCann

Administrative Associate

Former VA teacher and DC-area native, passionate about the cross section of immigration and education justice, house plants, and her dog, Bernie. Jenny's pronouns are she/her/hers. Read More »

As Administrative Associate, Jenny assists with the preparation of documents, welcomes new employees, and facilitates communication with partners and clients, along with managing other organizational and administrative tasks.

Prior to joining MAEC, Jenny was an English for Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL) Teacher in Virginia public schools. While teaching in Stafford County Public Schools, she also served as an assistant to the Director of Equity. She brings her love of language and engaging families with her to MAEC, as well as her commitment to promoting equity in all aspects of education. Jenny graduated from the College of William and Mary in 2019 with her B.A. in Latin American Studies and Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages. During her time at William and Mary, she captained the Division I Women’s Field Hockey team and facilitated various service learning opportunities through the Office of Community Engagement, including one with the East Coast Migrant Head Start Project in central Florida, and one at a community learning center in Jinotega, Nicaragua.

In her free time, Jenny enjoys going for long walks with her dog, Bernie, doing crossword puzzles, caring for her many house plants, and spending time with family and friends. Jenny’s pronouns are she/her/hers.

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Tia McCoy

Early Childhood Equity Specialist

Educator born and raised in Arlington, Virginia, who has 15 years of experience in developing practices in EC settings and enjoys spending time with her partner, son, and their dogs. Tia's pronouns are she/her/hers. Read More »

In her role as Early Childhood Equity Specialist, Tia provides technical assistance and training to local education agencies and state departments of education seeking to advance racial, gender, cultural, and socioeconomic equity.

Born and raised in Arlington, Virginia, Tia brings over 15 years of experience in the development of age-appropriate practices in early childhood settings. As a devoted advocate for social justice, Tia focused her career on educating students and assisting families of diverse backgrounds. In her previous role as an Inclusion Teacher, Tia created age-appropriate curriculum and content to improve learning skills and provided professional development for the implementation of EdTech software and Learning Management Systems (LMS) to staff, administrators, and students of all ages. As an EL Teacher, Tia actively served as a stakeholder for the Arlington Public School Homework & Grading Policy Committee, ensuring policies related to student records were biased-resistant, accurate, and equitable. She has a diverse skill set in design and project management experience.

As a Nevada resident for nearly 10 years, Tia received her undergraduate degree in Public Administration and a Masters Degree in Early Childhood Education from the University of Nevada, Las Vegas. She is currently receiving a 2nd Masters Degree in Project Management from The George Washington University. Tia is an active member of the NAACP, Arlington Chapter, and volunteered for the Nevada Partnership of Homeless Youth (NPHY) as a Youth Counselor. In her spare time, Tia loves spending time with her family: her partner, son Ashton, and their dogs, Georgia and Jameson. She also loves to travel, read, and visit museums around the world.

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Hugo Nájera

Communications Specialist

Focused on amplifying voices from oppressed communities, empowerment, and building community in his work from advising BIPOC students at college campuses to performing for the Smithsonian Folklife Festival. Hugo's pronouns are he/him/his. Read More »

Hugo is responsible for editing MAEC publications; building social media, email, and website capacity; and contributing to the development of an upcoming resource hub. Since joining MAEC in May 2021, he has edited two major publications, produced new organization-wide writing guidelines, and co-authored press release statements. 

Hugo began his career as a Program Coordinator for Diversity and Inclusion at two universities, where he advocated for resources and programming in support of students from oppressed communities. He then moved to the policy field, promoting institutional diversity practices in higher education and building two national membership networks. His latest work experiences include professional writing and social media outreach for a Fortune 500 company and an international film festival.  

Hugo’s advocacy for social justice extends to his community work as a culture creator, writer, and DJ. He has coordinated festivals, produced performances on the Salvadoran diaspora, and hosted two radio shows on Latinx and Soul music. 

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Michelle Nutter

Michelle Gwinn Nutter

Senior Educational Equity Consultant

Passionate civil rights advocate and dedicated educator who is committed to helping create and maintain safe, respectful learning environments for all students. Michelle's pronouns are she/her/hers. Read More »

Michelle is a Senior Educational Equity Consultant for the Center for Education Equity at MAEC, a Pennsylvania-certified teacher, and former Civil Rights Investigator for the PA Office of Attorney General. With over 30 years of experience in education and civil rights law, she provides training and technical assistance to schools and communities on a wide array of issues that disrupt the educational process.

Michelle is a nationally recognized speaker and frequently serves as a facilitator for the SPIRIT Program coordinated by the U.S. Department of Justice’s Community Relations Service. She is a certified Olweus Bullying Prevention Program trainer and a certified Partners Against Hate trainer. She assists schools in the prevention of and effective response to bullying, cyberbullying and bias-related tension incidents.

Michelle holds a B.A. in English Education and an M.S. in Education Law. She participated in the 2016 White House Bullying Prevention Summit and the 2016 Federal Bullying Prevention Summit.

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Rita Perez

Senior Education Equity Specialist

First American citizen in her family; wife; passionate educator who believes in creating classroom and school environments that provide a sense of belonging, access, and opportunity for all students. Rita's pronouns are she/her/hers. Read More »

As a Senior Education Equity Specialist, Rita supports the work of MAEC and the Center for Education Equity (CEE). She provides technical assistance and training for state departments of education, districts, and schools to improve educational opportunities for all learners. Rita’s lifelong commitment to educational equity focuses in the areas of professional development, teacher and principal effectiveness, instructional and school climate practices, and teacher leadership. She has served diverse learners, families, and communities throughout her career.

Rita has almost three decades of experience in Pennsylvania public education as a teacher, elementary and secondary school principal, and district office cabinet member. She has experience working in large and medium sized schools districts of various contexts including urban, urban characteristic, and suburban. Rita had the honor and privilege of serving in cabinet level positions at the Pennsylvania Department of Education, including as Deputy Secretary of the Office of Elementary and Secondary Education and Director of the Bureau of Teaching and Learning. She holds an Ed.D. from Immaculata University in Education Administration, an M.Ed. from Lehigh University in Educational Leadership, and a B.A. in Psychology from Cedar Crest College.

Rita balances her life by cooking, gardening, traveling, and spending time with her husband watching movies.

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Jenny Portillo

Senior Education Equity Specialist

A first-generation college graduate and proud daughter of immigrants, passionate about supporting educators in building equitable learning communities that foster student and community agency. Jenny's pronouns are she/her/hers. Read More »

As a Senior Education Equity Specialist, Jenny supports the work of the Center for Education Equity.  Jenny provides technical assistance and trainings for state departments of education, districts, and schools to improve instructional practices, student engagement, and family and community engagement to create supportive learning environments for all learners. Previously, Jenny served as an equity intern for MAEC and developed the publication, 21st Century Learning at Home: A guide for families and caregivers of English Learners, to support project-based, deeper learning at home. Jenny also supported MAEC teams with gathering data and reviewing materials related to culturally responsive curricula and instructional practices.  

Jenny has over ten years of experience as an elementary school educator in both traditional public school and charter school settings in Texas and New York City. Jenny has extensive experience in working with English Learners and developing curricula to support learners from diverse backgrounds. Throughout her career, she has worked as a dual language and general education teacher, teacher evaluator, instructional coach, professional development facilitator and curriculum designer. Jenny holds an Ed.M in School Leadership from the Harvard Graduate School of Education. While at Harvard, Jenny was awarded the Equity and Inclusion Fellowship and the Intellectual Contribution Award for School Leadership. Jenny also holds an M.A. in Curriculum and Teaching from Teachers College, Columbia University, and a B.A. in English and History from Fordham University.   

Jenny enjoys traveling and spending time with her family and two dogs. 

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Mariela Puentes

Senior Education Equity Specialist

First generation college graduate who is passionate about educational equity and creating educational systems where all children and families can have access and opportunity. Mariela's pronouns are she/her/hers. Read More »

Mariela serves as Program Manager for the Collaborative Action for Family Engagement Center (CAFE) and as a Senior Education Equity Specialist for MAEC. She works with educators and families to help them build effective partnerships for supporting student learning and well-being. Mariela has helped school leaders across several states develop skills and strategies for equitable and effective family engagement practices. She has led professional development on culturally responsive and equitable family, school, and community engagement for community school coordinators across the state of Maryland.  

Mariela has spent her career working with educators, families, and communities to promote equitable learning outcomes for all students. Prior to her role at MAEC, she hired and supervised staff, and directed the summer program at a public charter school in Washington, D.C., and managed enrichment programs for educational nonprofits in New York City. Mariela holds an M.Ed. in Curriculum and Instruction from the Lynch School of Education at Boston College, where she was also a Donovan Scholar with a focus on urban education, and a B.A. in Educational Psychology from Swarthmore College in Pennsylvania. 

Mariela enjoys gardening and practicing yoga in her spare time.  

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Vo Ram Yoon

Data and Evaluation Consultant

Third culture kid with roots in Bolivia and South Korea who uses mixed methods research infused with abolitionist values to promote equity and social justice. Vo's pronouns are he/him/his. Read More »

As a Data and Evaluation Consultant, Vo assists the Evaluation team with data collection, quantitative and qualitative analysis, literature reviews, and communication of findings to stakeholders. Vo played a key role in the process and equity evaluation of the Baltimore Summer Funding Collaborative by analyzing data sets, interviews, and focus groups to develop recommendations on how philanthropy could be more equitable in expanding high quality summer learning opportunities for youths in the Baltimore area.

Vo has been passionate about education at various levels of practice from driving systems-wide reform through policy to developing the potential of marginalized youths in classrooms. His first job after college was in curriculum development and college admissions consulting in Tokyo, Japan, where he learned how to implement effective and inclusive learning strategies for youths of all ages while deepening his knowledge of international education policy. In that role, he researched evidence-based practices to inform his pedagogy and appreciated how data could drive improvement in education, which led him to graduate school to pivot to analyst roles. In graduate school, he consulted for the Ministry of Education in Costa Rica in the area of student mental health and published his findings as a chapter in the book: An educational calamity: Learning and teaching during the Covid-19 pandemic. Vo holds a B.A. in Public Policy Studies with general and departmental honors from the University of Chicago and an Ed.M. in Education Policy and Management from the Harvard Graduate School of Education, where he was recognized as the 2020 Class Marshal for his program.

Having lived and worked in Bolivia, the United States, South Korea, and Japan, Vo consumes media in multiple languages, from podcasts in Spanish to J-Pop and the occasional Korean drama. He also has a penchant for reading poetry and drinking green tea.

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Ian Rashleigh McNally

Data and Evaluation Intern

Excited to expand his passion for illuminating critical issues in inequitable systems and giving voice to underserved populations, while abiding by the axiom that the perfect number of daily coffees is always n+1. Ian's pronouns are he/him/his.  Read More »

As an intern on the MAEC Evaluation Team, Ian supports qualitative and quantitative data collection and analysis across needs assessments, focus groups, and disproportionality analyses. He has been involved in background assistance for numerous grant writing processes as well as maintenance of the CEE survey database.

With a degree in Biology from Bates College, Ian leverages research and data analysis skills to support MAEC’s mission to provide access to high quality education to culturally, linguistically, and economically diverse learners. Prior to his time at MAEC, Ian worked as a multilingual early childhood and youth outdoor educator, tutor, and oyster farmer.

Off the clock, Ian can be found frequenting local farmers markets, experimenting in the kitchen, and identifying birds and trees on local woodland walks.

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Kasia Razynska

Kasia Razynska

Director of Evaluation and Continuous Improvement

First generation immigrant who is passionate about languages, ballroom dancing, evaluation, and ensuring access to education for all children, especially English Learners. Kasia's pronouns are she/her/hers. Read More »

Having moved to the U.S. from Gdansk, Poland at the age of 14, Kasia is deeply passionate about ensuring access to education for all children, especially English Learners and immigrants. Kasia has over two decades of experience working on projects requiring evaluation, research design, statistical programming and data management. At MAEC, she oversees the Division of Evaluation and Continuous Improvement and serves as a part of the leadership team. She manages MAEC’s needs assessments, equity audits, and other evaluation projects across MAEC’s portfolio. Past projects she has led include MAEC’s needs assessment of Maryland’s Early Childcare System in partnership with the Maryland State Department of Education, and the needs assessment of Maryland’s Maternal, Infant and Early Childcare Home Visiting Programs in partnership with the Maryland Department of Health. She also co-led a recent update of MAEC’s Equity Audit tool. She has presented about MAEC’s work at national conferences of organizations such as the American Evaluation Association and the American Educational Research Association.

Prior to joining MAEC, Kasia worked for ICF, where she served on the internal evaluation team for the Capacity Building Center for States funded through the Children’s Bureau. She also played an integral role with the Regional Education Laboratory (REL) Mid-Atlantic. As the REL Mid-Atlantic Maryland State Coordinator, she leveraged her understanding of education policy and knowledge of the state to ensure that Maryland’s needs are well represented in REL activities. In her role as Coordinator of the REL Mid-Atlantic Longitudinal Data Use Research Alliance, she advised stakeholders on implementing new data processes. She has also worked with the Puerto Rico Department of Education on numerous research and technical assistance projects. She is fluent in Polish, Spanish and French. Kasia graduated from the Harvard Graduate School of Education with a degree in International Education Policy with a focus on quantitative research methods, and holds a graduate certificate in Teaching Polish as a Foreign Language from Uniwersytet Marii Curie Sklodowskiej in Lublin Poland. 

In her spare time Kasia enjoys spending time with her husband and two kids, and raising them in a tri-lingual (English-Polish-Spanish) and tri-cultural household (American-Polish-Colombian). She loves foraging for mushrooms in the woods, and in her youth was a competitive ballroom dancer.

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Claire Ruhlman

Data and Evaluation Associate

Recent college graduate excited to offer data insight to a field of enormous importance and relevance to the current political and social climate. Claire's pronouns are she/her/hers. Read More »

As a Data and Evaluation Associate, Claire supports MAEC’s data collection and analysis procedures by updating and maintaining the project database; compiling mid-year and annual reports each grant cycle; designing and implementing MAEC’s data collection instruments; and providing program support to the Director of Evaluation and Continuous Improvement. She has been heavily involved in several major grant reports (CAFE and CEE) and the design of a train the trainer series for MSDE.

Claire is a graduate of Bates College and current graduate student at Northeastern University’s Roux Institute. During undergrad, she double majored in Classical Studies and Mathematics and is currently pursuing a Master’s in Data Analytics. Throughout her life, she has been heavily involved in non-profit work. Before joining MAEC, Claire worked for a non-profit investigative journalism organization. Claire also interned at MAEC for several summers before joining the staff full-time.

In her spare time, Claire enjoys exploring Maine with roommates and friends, attending classes, and training for half-marathons.

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Phoebe Schlanger

Phoebe Schlanger

Director of Finance and Administration

Former New Yorker and unabashed grammar geek, passionate about the beauty of words and their power to affect change, who has recently acquired an admiration of numbers. Phoebe's pronouns are she/her/hers. Read More »

As Director of Finance and Administration, Phoebe is responsible for overseeing operations at MAEC. She serves on the leadership team and reports as necessary to the Board of Directors. Phoebe successfully upgraded MAEC’s financial procedures as MAEC grew both in number of staff and in revenue.  

Phoebe earned a J.D. at the American University Washington College of Law and a B.A. in English and Philosophy at the University of Rochester. She has been admitted to the bars of New York, Maryland, and the District of Columbia. Prior to joining MAEC, Phoebe was an editor, lawyer, and policy analyst. She served on several non-profit boards as president, treasurer, and secretary, including a nonprofit bilingual daycare.  

Phoebe loves words, puzzles, and baking sourdough bread. She occasionally lets her alter ego Julie the Cruise Director sit in on staff meetings. 

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Paul Smith

Paul Smith

Project Manager

Busy dad trying to keep up with two teenagers, who believes in all the gifts young people have to offer. Paul's pronouns are he/him/his. Read More »

At MAEC, Paul manages non-federal technical assistance contracts, attains prospective grant and funding opportunities, and collaborates with the evaluation team as a senior consultant. Paul works with all staff to enhance MAEC’s internal systems and recently co-presented on MAEC’s out of school time program at the Maryland Out of School Time (MOST) network’s Maryland 4 Youth annual conference. He also co-authored Addressing Student Reengagement in the time COVID-19 and played a leading role with the Student Reengagement Project for the National League of Cities, which MAEC continues to serve in an advisory role.

For the past ten years, Paul has operated a consulting practice focused on dropout prevention and youth development initiatives for national and local clients including Reading is Fundamental and the Maryland Business Roundtable for Education. In addition, he provided technical assistance for the US Department of Education’s High School Graduation Initiative and the Department of Labor’s Persistently Dangerous Schools grant, each of which significantly increased the graduation rates of at-risk youth. Paul also leads the Reconnecting Youth Campaign for Baltimore, which advocates for pathways to education, training, national service and employment opportunities for 16 to 24-year-olds. Paul earned an MA in Teaching from Trinity University and a Masters of Liberal Arts from Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore. He currently resides in Baltimore with his wife and two children.

Paul grew up just outside of St. Louis and is a loyal Cardinals baseball fan, which tends to cause some friction with local DC fans.

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Marianna Stepniak

Content Specialist

Lifelong learner passionate about dismantling inequitable systems, making complex topics accessible, and exploring new places. Marianna's pronouns are she/her/hers. Read More »

As Content Specialist, Marianna develops and implements cohesive organizational messaging to share the amazing work that MAEC does. She also engages in content development as the Content Lead for the Continuous Improvement for Equity (CI4E) Resource website. Marianna specializes in culturally responsive issues related to gender and gender identity, Title IX compliance, social and emotional learning, and continuous improvement for equity practices. She has led and co-authored multiple publications from MAEC, including the Title IX Regulations Series and the Managing Mental Wellness toolkit.

Prior to joining MAEC, Marianna served as an AmeriCorps Member in a 2nd/3rd grade classroom with City Year Sacramento, and as Chief of Staff for a gubernatorial campaign in Maryland. These experiences sparked her decision to address systemic inequities in the US education system, pursuing work at the intersection of education, politics, and social justice. Marianna earned her Ed.M in Education Policy & Management from the Harvard Graduate School of Education in 2020, and graduated Summa Cum Laude with her B.A. in English and Gender, Sexuality, and Women’s Studies from the College of William & Mary in 2017. She also serves on the board of Diverstories, a nonprofit dedicated to increasing public access to books written by BIPOC authors.

When she’s not at work, you can find Marianna hiking, trying local restaurants, or finding a sunny spot to read a book.

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Nikevia Thomas

Nikevia Thomas

Senior Education Equity Specialist

A vegan foodie who is dedicated to promoting excellence in education. Read More »

Nikevia manages MAEC’s youth development initiatives, most notably the ALIVE afterschool program, a 21st Century Community Learning Center. In addition to youth development work, she is responsible for liaising MAEC’s webinar planning. Nikevia is the recipient of MOMIE’s TLC’s “Ella Baker Changemaker” Award. 

For 17 years, Nikevia has been dedicated to enriching the lives of children and families. Prior to joining MAEC, she served as the program director or coordinator of enrichment and educational programs in nonprofits throughout Washington, DC and Long Beach, California. She holds a Bachelor of Arts in Early Childhood Education from Western Governors University and Master of Business Administration from Trinity Washington University.  

Nikevia has seen every episode of “The Golden Girls.”

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Daryl Williams

Daryl Williams

Associate Director of the Center for Education Equity

Daryl returns to MAEC as the Associate Director of the Center for Education Equity, providing managerial day-to-day operations and monitoring program alignment with CEE's goals and objectives. Read More »

Dr. Daryl V. Williams serves as the Associate Director of the Center for Education Equity (CEE), the Region I Equity Assistance Center. Daryl is responsible for CEE’s managerial day-to-day operations and monitors program alignment with CEE’s goals and objectives. He provides technical assistance and professional development training to schools and school districts to ensure that students are given access to an equitable education regardless of race, gender, national origin (English Learners), sexual orientation, socioeconomic status or religious beliefs. Daryl recently led the development and implementation of an Anti-Racism and Equity Project in one of the largest school districts in the US.

An experienced educator of over 40 years, Daryl brings a diverse background of leadership to support equity in teaching and learning for all students. His work experiences include positions as a classroom teacher, school-building administrator, central office director, Associate Superintendent, staff specialist with the Maryland State Department of Education, and doctoral chair and faculty with the College of Doctoral Studies at the University of Phoenix.

Daryl and his wife Patricia have a blended family of five adult children. Although they do not currently have any grandchildren, he and Patricia enjoy raising their Yorkie-poo, Major.
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Jennifer Wu-Pope

Data and Evaluation Consultant

Experienced educator who is passionate about making high quality public education available to all. Jennifer's pronouns are she/her/hers. Read More »

As a Data and Evaluation Consultant at MAEC, Jennifer supports the Evaluation team with qualitative data analyses, including data in languages other than English.

She holds an Ed.M. from the Education Policy and Analysis Program at the Harvard Graduate School of Education, with a concentration in Global, International, and Comparative Education. While in graduate school, she worked on a consulting project for the Joint Committee on Education of the Massachusetts State Legislature, as well as on a second consulting project for the South Africa National Education Collaboration Trust. Prior to joining MAEC, she was a research assistant for the Democratic Knowledge Project at the Harvard University Edmond J. Safra Center for Ethics. In that role, she worked with the design-based implementation team in curriculum mapping and lesson improvement. She also held a second position with the Teacher Education Research Collaborative at Harvard Graduate School of Education. There, she facilitated research sessions and coded qualitative data.

She has over a decade of teaching experience in public schools and is an alumna of the Fulbright Distinguished Awards in Teaching Semester Research Program. Her research focused on Singapore’s Character and Citizenship Education Curriculum and the applicability of its approaches for teaching global competence within the U.S. world language education context.

In her free time, Jennifer enjoys hiking, running, traveling, and reading. She also likes spending time with her partner and their rescued cats.

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Hwa Pyung Yoo

Data and Evaluation Intern

Korean American master’s student of International Development at Sciences Po Paris, researching global citizenship education and advocating abolitionist pedagogy. Hwa's pronouns are he/him/his. Read More »

Hwa Pyung supports the evaluation of both quantitative and qualitative data, drawing from his teaching experiences to extract critical insights for equity-oriented education reform. Hwa specializes in evaluation & monitoring of international education programs. He has presented and published on global citizenship education, the IB diploma programme, youth activism, and multicultural education.

Graduating Phi Beta Kappa from Villanova University in 2019 with a double major in Cognitive Behavioral Neuroscience and Political Science, Hwa is currently pursuing his Master’s of International Development at Sciences Po Paris. Prior to MAEC, Hwa worked as a researcher for Samuel Hall, analyzing data and writing reports for clients including Mastercard Foundation, UNHCR, UNESCO, and Education Commission. He has also served as a teacher in Spain, South Korea, and the U.S. where he specialized in English Foreign Language for immigrant students. In 2019, Hwa co-founded Enspire Korea, a non-profit organization providing free, arts-based English education for students from disadvantaged backgrounds in Seoul.

Aside from education research, Hwa enjoys photography in his spare time and has contributed to publications including Bloomberg and Are We Europe.

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