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Executive Officer

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

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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Mira Best

Data and Evaluation Specialist

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 Data and Evaluation Specialist, Mira’s primary responsibilities include: leading qualitative research at MAEC, including focus group and interview recruitment, data collection, and analysis; writing reports on qualitative and quantitative data analyses; and working with the Evaluation Team to develop and implement MAEC’s evaluations and reporting. 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

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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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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Hebest Jemberu

Senior Finance Specialist

Experienced nonprofit finance professional, wife, and mother of two who loves trying out cuisines from around the world. Read More »

As Senior Finance Specialist, Hebest Jemberu holds various roles and responsibilities ranging from daily accounting tasks to the financial management of MAEC, alongside the Director of Finance and Administration.

Originally from Ethiopia, Hebest currently lives with her two teenage children in Alexandria, Virginia. She holds a Bachelor’s degree in Business Education form Addis Ababa University and has 20 years of work experience in the field of accounting.

Prior to joining MAEC, Hebest worked for the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) in Ethiopia in different capacities in the finance unit before taking the position of Finance and Administration Manager. She worked more than 20 years providing support to ICRC projects that focused on the protection and assistance of conflict victims with food and essential items, helped to establish livelihoods and incomes, built and maintained water-supply systems, provided health structures with medical supplies, visited detainees, reunited separated families due to conflict, provided physical rehabilitation and promoted International Humanitarian Law.

Her experience includes the preparation and implementation of annual budget for projects, ensuring proper financial management comprising cash flow and bank management, accounting, monthly and yearly closing, producing financial reports, analyzing expenses, and ensuring the compliance of financial rules in line with internal policy and local regulation.

In her spare time, Hebest enjoys walking and hiking with family and friends. She also likes reading and sharing thoughts with her book club mates.

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Allegra Kogan

Senior Communications Associate

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

In her role as a Senior Communications Associate, Allegra is the communications liaison for the Collaborative Action for Family Engagement (CAFE) division at MAEC. She oversees MAEC’s social media, managing written copy, graphic images, and analytics. Allegra is also responsible for promoting, editing, and maintaining webinars and podcasts on both the MAEC and CAFE websites, all while actively contributing to the growth of the communications team.

Allegra earned her M.E.d in Educational Leadership from Winthrop University, and 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. Allegra believes that every child deserves equitable opportunities for educational and social-emotional growth and 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 and science fiction.

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Jenny McCann

Senior Administration and Program 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 Senior Administration and Program 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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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 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

Project Director for CAFE & 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 »

Rita is a Project Director with the Mid-Atlantic Equity Consortium’s Collaborative Action for Family Engagement (CAFE) and Senior Educational Equity Specialist Center for Education Equity (CEE).  In her role as the Project Director for CAFE, she provides staff management, budget oversight, and liaisons with the Maryland State Department of Education and the Pennsylvania Department of Education. Her work with CEE includes providing 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 on the areas of systemic school improvement, 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 school 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 Acting Deputy Secretary of the Office of Elementary and Secondary Education and Director of the Bureau of Curriculum, Assessment, and Instruction. 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-Nacu

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

Associate Director of Family and Community Engagement

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 the Associate Director of Family and Community Engagement. She provides staff management, budget oversight, and liaisons with the Maine Department of Education, local education agencies, and external consultants on systemic family engagement practices. Mariela works with educators and families to build effective partnerships for supporting student learning and well-being, and supports school leaders to develop skills and strategies for equitable and effective family engagement practices. She has led training and technical assistance on culturally responsive and equitable family, school, and community engagement for community school coordinators across Maryland. In 2020 and 2021, Mariela organized the annual Maryland Family Engagement Summit and presented at various conferences on equitable family engagement. Most recently, she presented on bridging opportunity gaps via family engagement at the 2022 National Community Schools and Family Engagement Conference.

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

Senior 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 Senior 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

Senior Data and Evaluation Associate

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 a Senior Data and Evaluation Associate on the MAEC Evaluation Team, Ian supports qualitative and quantitative data collection and analysis, report writing, and program evaluation. He currently co-leads evaluation for the Consortium for Engaging Families Across Maine (CEFAM), and assists with evaluation projects for the Early Childhood Education and Center for Education Equity (CEE) teams. While at MAEC, Ian has also been involved in several successful grant-writing processes, an antiracist audit of one of the largest districts in the country, and 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

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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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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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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Jessica 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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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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