Board of Directors

The NEA Foundation Board of Directors is made up of savvy and strategic leaders from a diverse set of fields. Each member offers a unique perspective on public education, drawn from his or her own experiences and relationships within the public, private, nonprofit and government sectors. The Foundation benefits greatly from the Board’s leadership, thinking and commitment to public education.

  • Valeria Lassiter

    Founder and CEO, Lassiter & Associates, LLC
    Chevy Chase, MD

    Endorsed by clients as a top strategist, Valeria Lassiter brings expert analysis and unmatched energy to guide executives and leadership boards in organizational planning, revenue growth, and stakeholder communications. In 2003, she formed her management consulting firm, Lassiter & Associates, LLC, to provide mission-driven organizations with smart strategic planning, fundraising, tailored coaching, and creative training solutions.

    Valeria has forged a career in public affairs, community-based organizations, and corporate philanthropy. As an adjunct faculty member with the Georgetown University Center for Public and Nonprofit Leadership Program, she has trained more than 1,000 nonprofit executives in resource development. Valeria is a sought-after trainer and coach and has shared her experience and insight in such programs as Building High Impact Nonprofits of Color, an initiative sponsored by JP Morgan Chase Foundation and Prosperity Now; and the SPARK Program to build an inclusive social entrepreneurship ecosystem, sponsored by the Case Foundation and the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation.

    Valeria holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in communications from East Carolina University, a Master of Divinity degree from Colgate Rochester Divinity School, and a Master of Business Administration degree from Babson College. She is currently Chair of the NEA Foundation and has served as a member of the East Carolina University Foundation Board of Directors and as the chair of the Women’s Philanthropy Roundtable at East Carolina University. Valeria is a graduate of Leadership Montgomery County, Maryland, and a judge for the 2020 and 2021 .ORG Impact Awards.

    She is the co-author of “Exploring the Experiences of Leaders of Color and Philanthropy” (March 2020) and “5 Things Nonprofits Can Control During Hyper Change” (April 2020).

  • Nick Archuleta

    Vice Chair
    President, North Dakota United, and Representative, National Council of State Education Associations (NCSEA)
    Bismarck, ND

    Nick Archuleta currently serves as the first President of North Dakota United (NDU) (formerly the North Dakota Education Association), which is an affiliate of both the National Education Association and the American Federation of Teachers. He was elected in 2013.

    Born in San Francisco and raised in New Mexico, Colorado, and North Dakota, Archuleta began his teaching career in Minnesota where he was very involved in his local. Upon returning to North Dakota, Archuleta remained involved in his union, serving in many capacities at the state and local level.

    In addition, Archuleta serves on the NEA MLT/WLT planning team as well as the NEA Human and Civil Rights committee. As an enrolled member of the Three Affiliated Tribes, he is especially proud to serve on these two important councils.

    Archuleta also served on the NDEA Board of Directors and is former Vice Chairman of the Education Standards and Practices Board having been appointed by former Governor John Hoeven as well as by Governor Jack Dalrymple.

    Archuleta is devoted to Mary Pat Archuleta, the Director of choral music at Century High School in Bismarck. They are the proud parents of three talented daughters and one outstanding son.

  • Joy Whitlow

    NEAF Board of Directors
    Alexandria, VA

    Joy Whitlow is the Chief Financial Officer (CFO) of DIA, founded as the Drug Information Association. As CFO, she guides the business performance and strategic risk processes of the organization, which provides the largest neutral, multidisciplinary forum for life science professionals to engage with key stakeholders and each other, ultimately resulting in faster, better patient outcomes worldwide.

    Prior to joining DIA, Joy served as CFO of the American Association of Motor Vehicle Administrators (AAMVA), where she oversaw all financial operations with federal agencies, financial partners, and member jurisdictions. Before AAMVA, Joy spent eight years as CFO at the National Association of Broadcasters (NAB), and prior to that, served in various finance roles in public radio and television, including at WGBH in Boston, the largest public broadcasting station in the country. She is a licensed CPA, who holds a Master’s Degree from The Johns Hopkins University and an undergraduate degree from Brown University. Joy resides with her husband and two youngest children in Alexandria, Va.

  • Kevin A. Anderson

    Immediate Past Chair
    NEAF Board of Directors
    Washington, DC

    Kevin A. Anderson is a former Senior Vice President of National Partnerships at EverFi, Inc., the nation’s leading educational software company for life skills education. Anderson worked in government relations and business development and secured public and corporate partnerships to support digital innovation in cities and school districts across America.

    Before joining EverFi, Anderson was appointed President and Chief Executive Officer of City First Homes, Inc.—a community land trust created to support workforce housing and ensure ongoing affordability for working families in the District of Columbia. Launched in 2008 as the District’s most aggressive affordable housing initiative, CFHomes navigated the financial crisis stabilizing mixed income development and created over 100 units of affordable housing during Anderson’s tenure.

    Prior to his appointment at CFHomes, Anderson was Chief Financial Officer and Vice President for Equity Capital at the Jair Lynch Companies, Inc., a for-profit residential and community development firm in Washington, DC, where he was responsible for the financial management of JLC’s corporate and real estate ventures. He helped establish JLC’s initial investment fund, a $120 million facility for commercial and housing development in the DC region.

    In 2000, Anderson served in Mayor Anthony Williams’ administration as Special Assistant to the City Administrator and Chief of Staff at the D.C. Department of Transportation. He helped usher an era of accountability and transparency in city operations and managed the restructuring of DDOT to a cabinet-level agency. Anderson led the hiring of over 100 new employees, the establishment of a local trust fund for street and infrastructure maintenance and implementation of performance metrics to meet citizen needs. Mayor Anthony A. Williams proclaimed March 31, 2004 “Kevin Anderson Day” in the District of Columbia.

    Anderson began his professional career at the investment banking firm of Pryor, McClendon, Counts & Co., Inc. in Philadelphia, PA as an Institutional Bond Salesman where he served pension funds, insurance companies, investment advisers, and money center banks. He provided coverage for PMC’s landmark financings as lead manager for the $320 million Atlanta Hartsfield Airport financing and the $390 million Denver Airport financing.

    In addition to being a member of the NEA Foundation’s Board of Directors, Anderson serves on the Board of Trustees of Lawrence Academy (Groton, MA) and on the Board of Directors of City First Homes, Inc. Kevin is a member of Leadership Greater Washington’s Class of 2006 and Leadership Prince George’s Class of 2008.

    A native of Washington, DC, Anderson received his BA in Economics from Stanford University and has completed finance, leadership, and executive programs with the National Development Council and at the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University.

    He lives in Upper Marlboro, MD with his wife, The Honorable Tiffany H. Anderson, daughter, Kendall, and twin sons, Kennedy and Kolby.

  • Aaro Jean Bell

    Kensington, MD

    Retired finance executive with achievements in the corporate and not-for-profit sectors; successful as a senior administrator in higher education who focused on financial management to achieve strategic objectives; extensive corporate experience in finance, business planning, new product assessment, marketing and information systems; effective communicator with highly developed analytical and organizing abilities.

    Extensive experience early in career with information technology, particularly programming and systems engineering that was invaluable in recommending and developing IT solutions for IBM’s largest customers.  Switched career path to finance within IBM after attending the Wharton School and worked in several locations and finance positions before retiring from IBM.  Accepted a position at Howard University heading up a new Financial Analysis department and shortly thereafter was appointed University Budget Director.  In that role, converted all university departments from a typewritten paper form-based budget system to a computer-based system, improving productivity and accuracy.  Initiated and chaired the Budget Task Force, involving students, deans, and senior administrators in the development process for the university budget.    Oversaw significant improvements in the quality of financial information provided to the Board of Directors, especially the Finance Committee.  Tasked with achieving a number of strategic programs, including construction projects.

    Ms. Bell served on the Board of Easterseals DC-MD-VA (Finance Committee) and remains a President’s Council Donor.  She also served on the Boards of the Austin Ballet Theatre, Scandrett Disabilities Scholarship Fund and the Greater Washington Urban League Guild.  She has received numerous awards for leadership and volunteer roles with many organizations that serve women and children.  She is a member Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc., which is dedicated to service, and a Leadership Greater Washington alumna.

  • Dáaiyah Bilal-Threats

    Special Assistant to the Executive Director and Senior Advisor for Strategic Initiatives, National Education Association (NEA)
    Washington, DC

    Daaiyah Bilal-Threats directs NEA’s domestic and international alliance building and serves as special assistant to the NEA Executive Director. She oversees NEA’s philanthropic giving and cultivates relationships for the organization across a broad-spectrum of issues.

    She has worked in large-scale social change her entire career beginning with the World Wildlife Fund, American Red Cross, and Health Information Network. Daaiyah joined the National Education Association in 2000 as a policy analyst focusing on public health and education policies. She has wide-ranging experience on national campaigns supporting social justice and pro-public education candidates and issues.

    She serves in leadership positions with numerous progressive political and civic organizations. She currently represents NEA with the Democracy Alliance, Neighborhood Funders Group-Labor Advisory, and FCCP. She also serves on the boards of The American Prospect magazine, State Voices, Committee on States, New Media Ventures, and the Partnership for the Future of Learning.

  • Bret A. Conklin


    In April 2017, Horace Mann, the largest national multiline insurance and financial services company focusing on educators, announced the promotion of Bret A. Conklin to Executive Vice President and Chief Financial Officer. He previously served in the role in an interim capacity.

    Bret is a seasoned corporate finance executive with a passion for the education sector. He has been with Horace Mann since 2002, holding roles such as Senior Vice President, Controller and Chief Accounting Officer.

    In his current capacity, Conklin oversees finance, accounting, treasury, investments, investor relations, procurement, P&C reserving, enterprise risk management and internal audit functions.

    Conklin has more than 30 years of experience in the insurance and financial services industry. Conklin previously served as Vice President of Kemper Insurance from 2000 through 2002, where he was responsible for all corporate financial reporting and accounting operations. Before that, he was Vice President and Controller of Horace Mann from 1998 through 2000, and Vice President and Controller of Pekin Insurance from 1992 through 1998. He has seven years of public accounting experience with KPMG Peat Marwick from 1985 to 1992, specializing in its insurance industry practice.

  • Bertis Downs

    Entertainment Lawyer & Advisor
    Athens, GA

    Since graduating from Davidson College in 1978, Bertis Downs has lived in Athens, Georgia, where he received his law degree in 1981 from the University of Georgia’s School of Law. He represented the band R.E.M. throughout the band’s career and has remained an advisor to their various endeavors since disbandment. In 1988, Downs originated the Entertainment Law course at the University School of Law. Since then, he has regularly nourished his interest in teaching by speaking at various continuing legal education, law schools and music industry conferences. His main civic and charitable interest emphasizes advocacy for our nation’s public schools. He is a member of the boards of Network for Public Education and People For the American Way. His chief concern is the growing corporatization of public schools to the detriment of the teaching and learning.

  • Laura Engel

    Associate Professor of International Education and International Affairs at the George Washington University (GW), Director of the International Education Program, and co-chair of the GW UNESCO Chair in International Education for Development
    Alexandria, VA

    Dr. Laura Engel is an Associate Professor of International Education and International Affairs at the George Washington University (GW), Director of the International Education Program, and co-chair of the GW UNESCO Chair in International Education for Development. She was recently appointed by the US Department of State and World Learning as a Fulbright Specialist (2019-2022). Prior to coming to GW, she served as a research fellow at the University of Nottingham (UK), working on two European Union funded projects on education and social policy to advance social cohesion and enhance the well-being of individuals and communities of marginalized and minoritized backgrounds.

    Engel has been actively involved in interdisciplinary and international projects related to education policy. She specializes in international comparisons in education policy, including education policy uses of international large-scale assessments, and internationalization of education. She is the author of two books and over 50 articles, book chapters, and policy briefs. Her current research, funded by the American Educational Research Association and the National Geographic Society, examines student outcomes associated with the DC Public Schools Study Abroad program and issues of equity in global educational opportunities. She also is a member of the National Science Foundation funded Arctic PIRE team.

    She is recipient of several teaching awards, including the 2013 GSEHD Excellence in Teaching Award and the 2017 DEL Award in Teaching Excellence, and has led a series of Fulbright Commission sponsored seminars. She is the former Comparative and International Education Society (CIES) co-Chair for the Large Scale Cross National Studies in Education Special Interest Group and serves on the editorial board of International Studies in Sociology of Education.

  • Oleta Garrett Fitzgerald

    Jackson, MS

    Oleta Garrett Fitzgerald is Director of the Children’s Defense Fund’s Southern Regional Office (CDF-SRO), and also serves as the Regional Administrator for the Southern Rural Black Women’s Initiative for Economic & Social Justice (SRBWI). SRBWI operates in 77 counties across the Black Belts of Alabama, Southwest Georgia and Delta Mississippi. CDF-SRO also serves as the lead for the W.K. Kellogg funded Supporting Partnerships to Assure Ready Kids (SPARK) Initiative.

    In 1970 she was employed by the Atlanta-based Southeastern Public Education Program of the American Friends Service Committee. In this position she participated in the Children’s Defense Fund’s Children Out of School in America, a national study of exclusion of children from public elementary and secondary schools; and monitored Title I of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act. In 1976, she was hired as southern director for the Children’s Foundation, which educated citizens and members of Congress about the need for expanded access to federal food programs.

    In 1982 Ms. Fitzgerald became a project director for the Southern Regional Council working with rural electric power customers in 12 southern states to increase minority representation on rural electric cooperative boards. Moving back to her native Mississippi, she served as former Congressman Mike Espy’s District Director from the beginning of his first term in 1987 until she joined the Clinton for President Campaign in 1992.

    Before joining the Children’s Defense Fund, Ms. Fitzgerald was appointed White House Liaison and Executive Assistant to then Secretary of Agriculture Mike Espy by President Bill Clinton in January 1993. Shortly thereafter, she was named the Department’s Director of Intergovernmental Affairs, where she worked with local, state and tribal governments; coordinated the Administration’s long-term recovery of midwestern states affected by The Great Flood of 1993; and was a member of USDA’s executive review panel selecting rural Empowerment Zones and Enterprise Communities.

    Ms. Fitzgerald serves as a board member for the Mississippi Head Start Association, the Mississippi Children’s Museum, the advisory committee for the Stennis Institute of Government at Mississippi State University, and is a member of the State Children’s Welfare Coalition and the Global Women’s Action Network for Children.

    She also received honorary membership to Pi Alpha Alpha, the National Honor Society for Public Affairs & Administration from Mississippi State University in 1999. Ms. Fitzgerald holds a B.A. in sociology from Tougaloo College in Jackson, Mississippi. She is the proud mother of four children, Rashida, Yusef, Layla and Joi.

  • Stacey A. Herndon

    Senior Vice President and Senior Institutional Client Advisor, PNC Institutional Asset Management
    Washington, DC

    Stacey Herndon is a seasoned investment professional with over 20 years working in the financial markets. Currently, Herndon is a Vice President and Senior Institutional Client Advisor with PNC Institutional Asset Management. Her client practice consists mostly of nonprofits, endowments, and foundations in the Metropolitan DC Area. She works closely with her clients to create diversified portfolios to enable increased returns and lower volatility in a manner consistent with the client goals. On an ongoing basis, she communicates with clients about their portfolios and the capital markets. She works closely with her clients’ senior management and boards of directors on a daily basis.

    Previously, Herndon worked in an institutional sales capacity for Salomon Brothers, Citigroup, and Friedman Billings and Ramsey. Herndon has served as Treasurer on Board of Court Appointed Special Advocates and worked briefly in a fundraising capacity with Management Leadership for Tomorrow.

    She attended Princeton University and received her MBA in Finance from the Wharton School of Pennsylvania. Currently, she resides in Washington, DC.

  • Joanne Krell

    Founder & Managing Partner, Defy Communications
    Ann Arbor, MI

    Joanne Krell is a senior executive in communications with deep experience in both the social and corporate sectors. In late 2017, she co-founded and launched Defy Communications, a strategic communications firm dedicated to working with great people and organizations to help society get the outcomes it deserves.

    Before launching Defy, Joanne served as executive director of corporate communications for General Motors, a senior leadership role responsible for reputation management; executive, internal and external communications; and the GM brand. Earlier in her career, she spent a dozen years at GM in a wide range of communications roles including as director of communications for Cadillac and Saab, for GM’s financial services division and as communications lead for GM’s global issues. She has worked on countless product, reputation and issue-based campaigns as well as through multiple high-profile crises.

    Prior to her return to GM, Joanne was the vice president of communications for the W.K. Kellogg Foundation, among the nation’s largest philanthropic foundations. While there, she implemented a strategic communications approach and structure to improve its organizational communications, an identity process to clarify the organization’s “golden why” writ large, and to propel efforts to amplify the grant-making and mission-driven investing work of the organization and its grantees, which focuses on social change toward better life outcomes for vulnerable children.

    Joanne began her career in Washington, D.C., working for the American Federation of Teachers and the Air Line Pilots Association before spending several years with Widmeyer Communications (now Finn Partners) on issues ranging from education reform to health care and reproductive rights to energy policy. She later managed communications for the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards, helping introduce and seed board certification for teachers as a way to improve both learning and the teaching profession.

    Joanne has been active in community service and local initiatives and was a board member of the Communications Network, the national organization for foundation and nonprofit communications professionals, serving as its vice chair from 2013 to 2015. She holds a bachelor’s degree in government and politics from the University of Maryland and a master’s degree in marketing and advertising from Michigan State University. She has completed executive education at Oxford University and studied abroad as an undergraduate at Hebrew University in Jerusalem, Israel.

  • Brent McKim

    Louisville, KY
  • Pedro Noguera

    Los Angeles, CA
  • Jane Quinn

    New York, NY

    Jane Quinn is a social worker and youth worker with over four decades of experience that includes direct service with children and families, program development, fundraising, grant-making, research and advocacy. She stepped down in 2018 from her post as the Vice President for Community Schools at The Children’s Aid Society (CAS) in New York City, where she directed the National Center for Community Schools and contributed strategic planning and sustainability expertise to The Children’s Aid Society’s 16 local community schools in New York City. Jane came to CAS from the Wallace-Reader’s Digest Funds, where she served as Program Director for seven years. She has a Master’s in social work from the University of Chicago and has done post-graduate studies at the University of Hawaii, New York University and Columbia University.

    Jane Quinn, the vice president for community schools at the Children’s Aid in New York City and director of its National Center for Community Schools, is leaving her post and putting her nearly 50-year social work career on hold to pursue her lifelong professional goal of earning a doctorate degree. Considered to be one of the architects of the community schools movement, Quinn’s long and accomplished career includes work in research, direct service, philanthropy, program development and non-profit executive positions. It began after completing her undergraduate work at the College of New Rochelle in New York, where she earned a bachelor of arts in economics in 1966. She soon got a job as a caseworker at Catholic Charities and discovered her love of helping youth in need. This led to her applying to the University of Chicago’s School of Social Services Administration for her graduate degree. She would earn a master’s in social work and quickly get a job post-graduation as a caseworker once again, but at the Juvenile Protective Association of Chicago, assisting and investigating families accused of child maltreatment. Soon she would meet her husband, Terry, and move to Washington, D.C. with him in 1971.

    In D.C. she got a job in social work at the District of Columbia Health Department. Her passion being in direct service, she would pass up numerous offers in administration to continue working closely with those in need. After nearly seven years working in this capacity, Ms. Quinn would move on to a position at the Center for Population Options (now Advocates for Youth), an organization focused on helping young people make informed decisions about reproductive and sexual health. While there she would work with numerous youth organizations to coordinate and develop educational programs on adolescent sexuality. This job would serve as a jumping-off point as she would be recruited by one of the organizations she worked with,
    Girls Clubs of America. Quinn would become its national program director, pushing her into the national arena.

    Her first year in this position had her traveling the country, visiting sites that served low-income children in 38 states. Based on her experience and these travels, she would spearhead the launch of numerous programs, many of which still operate today. Some focused on getting
    young girls interested in STEM careers while others would help girls to pursue sports and recreational activities traditionally for boys. While at Girls Clubs of America, Quinn also served on a national commission led by the Carnegie Corporation of New York to determine the best reforms for middle grade education. Her specific focus while on this commission was the importance of outside-of-school learning. This focus would lead to a follow-up study and report titled “A Matter of Time: Risk and Opportunity in the Non-school Hours”, which would become a nationally-recognized piece of research leading to numerous changes in after-school and out-of-school time programs across the country. Quinn’s next career move would take her to the Wallace Foundation where she served as its program director for about seven years. It was after this that she arrived at Children’s Aid in New York, overseeing more than 20 community schools and providing technical assistance to others outside her purview. The models developed under her leadership there would spread both domestically and internationally to hundreds of districts and thousands of schools. Quinn has directly or indirectly impacted the lives of millions of children across the world during her nearly-50 year career and now she is taking the time to finally complete her own education and pursue doctoral studies in urban education.

    Quinn has been a regular contributor to Youth Today since 2000, writing more than 30 opinion pieces on several topics within her expertise. Her absence from the sector will be felt by everyone she has worked with throughout her long career. Quinn leaves Children’s Aid at the end of June 2018 and will take a short sabbatical over the summer before beginning her doctoral studies at the City University of New York.

  • Jerome S. Paige Ph.D.

    Washington, DC
  • Roger Pollak

    Member, Bredhoff & Kaiser, PLLC
    District of Columbia

    Roger Pollak is a member of the Bredhoof ^ Kaiser, PLLC firm. His practice focuses on assisting non-profit organizations, including unions, in managing a wide variety of organizational matters.

    He is outside general counsel of Union Privilege, a non-profit organization that develops and promotes member benefits for unions affiliated with the AFL-CIO. In this capacity, he handles all of Union Privilege’s legal matters, including its business, tax, HR, privacy and information security, and governance issues.

    For Union Privilege, Roger negotiates arrangements with banks, insurance companies, telecommunications companies, and numerous other product and service providers pursuant to which the services of these businesses are made available by Union Privilege to more than ten million union members. Most notably, Roger is responsible for managing both legal and business aspects of Union Privilege’s affinity credit card program, which – with more than one million cardholders – stands as one of the largest such programs in the world.

    Roger also has responsibility for significant business-to-business contracting undertaken by the AFL-CIO itself – a $100 million year organization – including Internet, software, telecommunications, data management, and other business relationships. Roger handles similar responsibilities for numerous other firm clients.

    Roger helped establish and is outside general counsel for Vital HealthCare Capital, a national charitable loan fund that provides financing and development services to support quality healthcare and good healthcare jobs in low-income communities, and the BlueGreen Alliance, a partnership of unions and environmental organizations that focuses on developing commonsense solutions to environmental challenges in a way that creates and maintains quality jobs.

    Roger has assisted with the creation of many other non-profits, some that have involved the creation of sister 501(c)(3) and 501(c)(4) arrangements or for-profit subsidiaries. And Roger provides ongoing legal support for board and committee functions and other governance activities for many of these organizations.

    Roger assists clients with trademark and copyright issues. He has negotiated numerous trademark licensing agreements, helping clients obtain fair royalties, comply with IRS requirements for ensuring the tax exempt treatment of such royalties, and protect the ownership of their marks. He also assists non-profits more generally in protecting intellectual property assets and dealing with trademark and copyright issues.

    Roger addresses novel legal and managerial issues related to efforts of clients to make effective use of the Internet. He helps clients negotiate contracts for website development, hosting and other web-related services. He assists clients in crafting appropriate privacy policies, user agreements, and community guidelines for their websites and acceptable policies for use of email and the Internet by their employees. He also counsels clients on information security issues.

    In addition to his work with non-profits, Roger has also represented clients in complex arbitrations, including interest arbitrations in the steel, postal, and airline sectors and airline pilot seniority list integrations. He has also assisted in major renegotiations of pilot and flight attendant collective bargaining agreements.
    In approaching commercial contracting situations, Roger draws on his legal and business experience and skills to assist his clients with conceptualizing how best to structure a business relationship, how to reduce oral agreements to effective contract language, and, frequently, how to manage such relationships on a continuing basis.

    Roger obtained his J.D. at Yale University, where he also received an M.B.A. from the Yale School of Management. Roger received his B.S. from the University of California at Berkeley, College of Natural Resources and was Valedictorian of his class. Prior to graduate school, Roger was executive director of a non-profit environmental group in Connecticut. During graduate school, he worked as a consultant for the firm of Brody & Weiser, providing financial and organizational consulting services to non-profits.

    Roger helped found and is President Emeritus of The Rosedale Conservancy, a Washington, D.C. land trust that owns and manages a small urban historic landscape and park.

  • Becky Pringle

    District of Columbia

    NEA president Becky Pringle is a fierce social justice warrior, defender of educator rights, an unrelenting advocate for all students and communities of color, and a valued and respected voice in the education arena. A middle school science teacher with 31 years of classroom experience, Becky is singularly focused on using her intellect, passion, and purpose to unite the members of the largest labor union with the entire nation, and using that collective power to fulfill the promise of public education.

    Although she often describes herself as “just a Black girl from North Philly,” Becky is a strategic, dedicated and tireless union leader who is—at her core—an educator who has been and continues to be motivated by what is best for students. Her passion for students and educators, combined with her first-hand classroom experience, equip her to lead the movement to reclaim public education as a common good. Becky was elected in 2020 as COVID-19 ravaged Black, Brown, and indigenous communities nationwide. When the pandemic shuttered the nation’s schools, Becky helped to focus the nation’s attention on ways in which the crisis laid bare and exacerbated inequities that have for generations existed in schools, colleges, and communities nationwide—inequities that Becky herself encountered as a student, and has fought against for her entire career as an educator. Yet, Becky isn’t merely focused on shining the light on these inequities, she has a sturdy track record built upon years of work that has focused on transforming public education into a racial and socially just and equitable system designed to prepare every student to succeed in a diverse and interdependent world.

    Before assuming NEA’s top post, Becky served as NEA vice president and before that as NEA secretary-treasurer. She directed NEA’s work to combat institutional racism, and spotlight systemic patterns of racism and educational injustice that impact students. Under Becky’s guidance, NEA works to widen access and opportunity by demanding changes to policies, programs, and practices. The Association’s goal is to ensure the systemic, fair treatment of people of all races so that equitable opportunities and outcomes are within reach for every student. This is why Becky is a staunch advocate for students who have disabilities, identify as LGBTQ+, are immigrants, or English Language Learners.

    Becky co-chaired NEA’s Task Force on School Discipline and the School to Prison Pipeline. In that role, she guided the development of a school-to-prison pipeline policy statement that calls attention to and compels NEA’s 3 million members to address the inequitable and unfair policies and practices that push many students out of public schools and into the criminal justice system. Through this work, NEA is challenging zero-tolerance discipline policies, increased police presence in classrooms, and rising class sizes.

    Becky has also led NEA’s work to transform the education professions and improve student learning. Most notably, she led the work group that produced the Association’s groundbreaking “Policy Statement on Teacher Evaluation and Accountability”—NEA’s first broad endorsement of the need to develop a compelling vision of a system of accountability that relies on quality, capacity, and trust, and embraces inspiration, innovation, shared responsibility, investment, authentic assessment, and continuous improvement. This led to the development of two seminal frameworks, “Transforming Teaching: Connecting Professional Responsibility With Student Learning” and the “ Professional Growth Continuum for Education Support Professionals,” which focused on how we can improve educators’ professional practice to make an even greater impact on the health, safety, well-being, learning, and development of their students.

    Becky also led the Association’s development of a policy statement on Community Schools to guide NEA’s work to transform and create an educational system worthy of our students, their families, and our members. Becky has a long and notable record of Association advocacy at the national, state, and local levels. She began her leadership journey as a local president, and then went on to serve on the Board of Directors for NEA and the Pennsylvania State Education Association. She also served two terms as a member of NEA’s Executive Committee where she distinguished herself as a thoughtful and passionate advocate for the nation’s public school educators and students. As NEA secretary-treasurer, Becky skillfully led the union through one of the worst economic periods in recent history. Her efforts enabled the Association to emerge on strong financial footing with more power to advance its mission.

    The impact of Becky’s leadership is far reaching, and includes serving as finance chair of the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards; treasurer of the Council for the Accreditation of Educator Preparation; and on the Institute for Educational Leadership Task Force. She is a recipient of the National Peace Medal for Leader of Educational Excellence, a recipient of the Black Women’s Roundtable Education Innovation & Social Justice Leadership Award from the National Coalition on Black Civic Participation; the Woman of Power Award from the National Action Network; and she was named Community Woman of the Year by the American Association of University Women. She is also a lifetime member of the NAACP. Becky served with distinction on President Barack Obama’s Commission on Educational Excellence for African Americans. Her work included addressing issues on teacher recruitment and retention, STEM access and opportunities, and college preparation and completion.

    Those who know Becky best know that she is also a passionate Philadelphia Eagles fan, loves anything purple, and for two special someones holds the coveted title of “Best Nana B” in the world.

  • Marcy Singer-Gabella

    Nashville, TN

    Marcy Singer-Gabella is a professor of education and Associate Chair in the Department of Teaching and Learning at Vanderbilt University. Her work has focused on efforts designed to build the capacity of schools, teachers, and leaders to promote ambitious teaching and deeper learning, and to address social and economic barriers to K-12 and postsecondary success.

    At Vanderbilt, Marcy has served on the provost’s staff to foster partnerships with K-12 and higher education institutions, and led degree and non-degree programs in curriculum, teacher education, and leadership development. In 2018-19 she served as Chief of Staff of Metropolitan Nashville Public Schools while on leave from the university. In this role she guided implementation of District’s strategic agenda, and oversaw the Departments of Communications, Research and Evaluation, Board Relations, and Government Relations. Since returning to Vanderbilt, she has continued to support partnership initiatives between Vanderbilt and local school districts.

    Marcy’s current scholarship starts from the assumption that addressing profound disparities in youth outcomes, especially those tied to economic disadvantage and race, will require the collective investment and sustained collaboration of educators, families, researchers, health and social service providers, civic leaders, and policymakers. She thus seeks to design contexts that bring together diverse stakeholders to investigate and act on pressing problems contributing to inequality. As part of this work, she is a co-investigator on the NIJ-funded Nashville Longitudinal Study of Youth Safety and Wellbeing, led by Professor Maury Nation.

  • Tammy Smith

    Tammy works as an elementary teacher in Fairbanks, Alaska. Over the years I have taught students in kindergarten through middle school, both in the general and special education classrooms. I hold two Masters degrees in the field of education and have a wide range of experience in education policy and practice. As an NEA member, I have served as the local president representing over 1000 educators. Currently, I represent NEA-Alaska on the NEA Board of Directors. I enjoy spending time with my two daughters and wonderful grandchildren.

  • Sara A. Sneed

    President and CEO
    The NEA Foundation
    Washington, DC

    Sara Sneed is the President and CEO of the NEA Foundation in Washington, D.C. Sara joined the NEA Foundation in February 2019, after almost 20 years with the Hartford Foundation for Public Giving, one of the nation’s largest community foundations. While with the Hartford Foundation, Sara served as director of education investments, promoting educational equity and excellence with partners at the local, state and national levels. Sara also led the development of strategy and policy advocacy to close persistent educational opportunity gaps and improve student outcomes across some of Connecticut’s highest need school districts. She is credited with developing dynamic new learning opportunities both for and with educators and students; successful advocacy for equity-focused fiscal practices among schools and school districts; and effective grants programs, policy advocacy, and cross sector collaboration supporting English Learners, whole child development and increased family, school and community partnership. Her efforts resulted in the development of new infrastructures for teaching and learning in Connecticut, strengthened communities of practice, a growing cadre of regional leaders committed to educational and racial equity, and co-creation of several successful community schools alongside partners from the public, private and independent sectors.

    Sara previously served as senior program manager with the Foundation for the Mid-South, where she was responsible for the Families and Children, Public Policy, and Faculty Fellows (leadership development) programs. As director of maternal and child health with the Medical Foundation in Boston, her leadership resulted in significant expansion of public health partnerships and strategic initiatives throughout the surrounding region. Previously, she served as special projects manager with the Massachusetts Department of Social Services, leading program and systems innovations in several areas, including the Department’s contributions to the education, health and human service components of Blueprint 2000, a comprehensive long-range and statewide strategic planning initiative.

    Sara began her career as director of the Southern New England Network for Black Families and Children, a tri-state advocacy initiative launched by the Urban League of Eastern Massachusetts. Directly out of college, she was appointed area manager of the Roxbury, Massachusetts Office for Children, using mediations and the court system to obtain services for children while supporting parents’ self-advocacy in pursuit of children’s entitlements.

    Among her national leadership roles, Sara currently serves as Vice Chair of the Board of the Institute for Educational Leadership in Washington D.C.; on the Grantmakers for Education Equity Impact Group; and on the steering committees of the Education Funders’ Strategy Group and Community Schools’ Funders Group. She is the former co-chair of the Coalition of Community Foundations for Youth (now CFLeads), representing more than 300 community foundations nationwide, and a former executive board member of Grantmakers for Children, Youth and Families.

    An ordained clergywoman, Sara is a former chair of the Board of the Connecticut Conference of the United Church of Christ.  She is a graduate of Mount Holyoke College and holds an M.Div. from Yale Divinity School (Yale University) where she was named a William and Lucille Nickerson Scholar and winner of both the prestigious Walcott and Charles S. Mersick preaching prizes.

  • Monica Washington

    Manager of Inclusive and Responsive Educational Practices and Instructional Coach BetterLesson
    Linden, TX

    Monica Washington is an instructional coach for BetterLesson supporting teachers and other instructional coaches across the country as they make positive shifts in instruction and leadership. A decorated educator, Monica served 19 years as an English teacher and began coaching teachers in 2017. She has received honors and awards from a wide variety of organizations for her leadership, advocacy, and classroom instruction. She is a 2015 Milken Unsung Hero Fellow and a 2015 NEA Foundation Global Fellow. Monica has served on advisory boards for TeachingPartners and the Educational Testing Service. In addition to instructional coaching, Monica supports teachers through workshops, speaking engagements, and blogging for Education Week and Education Post. Her, “4 Things Great Principals Don’t Do,” was the most read and shared Education Week opinion post of 2017. She is passionate about creating equitable and inclusive school environments that celebrate teacher and student voice, and she serves as Leading Educator Ambassador for Equity for the Education Civil Rights Alliance. Monica is the 2014 Texas Teacher of the Year and an active member of the National Network of State Teachers of the Year.

  • Jerry D. Weast

    Founder and CEO Partnership for Deliberate Excellence, LLC
    Lebanon, TN

    Jerry D. Weast is a 35-year veteran of education leadership. Dr. Weast led Montgomery County Public Schools—16th largest school district in the nation—to achieve both the highest graduation rate among the nation’s largest school districts for four consecutive years and the highest academic performance ever in MCPS at a time when the non-English speaking student population more than doubled and enrollment tipped toward low socioeconomic demographics. Montgomery County’s high schools consistently ranked among the nation’s best according to US News and World Report, the Washington Post, and Newsweek, based variously on student participation and success in Advanced Placement courses and exams and on the particular success of African American, Hispanic, and economically disadvantaged students on state mandated assessments. Additionally, MCPS high schools comprised nearly three percent of those schools nationally ranked by US News and World Report for the excellence of their STEM education programs (Classes of 2009, 2010, and 2011).

    Students enrolled in the primary grades at the beginning of Dr. Weast’s tenure in Montgomery County set district—and even national—records as they benefited from the curriculum alignment and high academic standards institutionalized during those 12 years. The Schott Foundation finds that the African American male graduation rate (2009) was highest in Montgomery County (74 percent) among the nation’s large school districts, 22 percentage points higher than the national average; and highest, too, among large districts for White students at 91 percent.

    During Dr. Weast’s leadership in Montgomery County, students set district records on the SAT. The average score of 1651 set by students in the Class of 2012, who were kindergarteners in 1999 when Dr. Weast became superintendent, is 153 points higher than the national average. Students in this class also set enrollment and performance records in Advanced Placement and International Baccalaureate classes. Fifty percent of MCPS graduates in 2011 received at least one college-ready score of 3 or better on an AP exam, compared to only 18 percent of graduates nationwide. In 2012, 76.7 percent of students who took AP exams scored a 3 or better on at least one exam. These scores are significant in and of themselves, but even more when considering that “Montgomery graduates earning a score of at least 1650 on the SAT or a 24 on the ACT went from 37.6 percent in 2008 to 51.9 percent in 2012” [Washington Post, 1/22/13], remarkable by any standard.

    Dr. Weast has published in professional journals including Phi Delta Kappan and has authored a chapter on the Achievement Gap for the book Improving the Odds for America’s Children: Future Directions for Policy and Practice. (2014, Harvard Education Press) acknowledging the 40th anniversary of the Children’s Defense Fund.

    During Dr. Weast’s tenure Montgomery County Public Schools was a 2010 winner of the Malcolm Baldrige National Quality Award for management excellence and a 2010 finalist for the Broad Prize in Urban Education. His groundbreaking approaches to improving public education are the subjects of case studies by the Harvard Business School, The Pew Foundation, the Foundation for Child Development, the David and Lucile Packard Foundation, Panasonic Foundation, and the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching.

    In the book, Leading for Equity: The Pursuit of Excellence in Montgomery County Public Schools (Childress, Doyle and Thomas, 2009), Harvard educators describe the process Dr. Weast led to ensure opportunity for every MCPS student. The systemic approach to ensuring equitable opportunity for every student by differentiating funding and resource allocation and researching the academic pathways to college of successful MCPS graduates is highlighted in the book, Equity Visits: A New Approach to Supporting Equity-Focused School and District Leadership (Roegman, Allen, Leverett, Thompson; 2019). The successful strategies undertaken in Montgomery County to close the achievement gap and provide equitable access to advanced courses are discussed in Governor Martin O’Malley’s book, Smarter Government: How to Govern for Results in the Information Age (2019), as well as in David Kirp’s book, Improbable Scholars (2013). Dr. Weast’s leadership is analyzed in the book Team Turnarounds: A Playbook for Transforming Underperforming Teams (Frontiera and Leidl, 2012); the difficult but essential redirection of resources to establish a foundation of equity as a basis for equality is described in Debby Irving’s book, Waking Up White: And Finding Myself in the Story of Race (2014); and the success Montgomery County Public Schools achieved during Dr. Weast’s tenure is held as a model in the book Renewal: Remaking America’s Schools for the 21st Century (Kwalwasser, 2012). The comprehensive early childhood program developed in MCPS during Dr. Weast’s tenure is discussed in Gene Maerhoff’s book, Building Blocks (2006).

    Dr. Weast was named superintendent of the year in two states. He has twice been awarded North Carolina’s highest honor, the Order of the Long Leaf Pine, for his work on behalf of the state’s children, received an award from the Yale School of Child Development for his support of initiatives in early learning, the C. Jackson Grayson Award for managerial excellence, has been named a Washingtonian of the Year, and received awards from the Schott Foundation and the American Educational Research Association acknowledging his leadership in developing strategies leading to improved student achievement across all racial and socioeconomic groups. In addition, Dr. Weast is a recipient of the 2018 Distinguished Service Award from the American Association of School Administrators, the organization’s highest honor.

    Dr. Weast has served on the boards of policy, educational, business, and community organizations including the Peabody College (Vanderbilt University) National Ed.D. Advisory Board and the Junior Achievement Worldwide Education Group; as a trustee of the Committee for Economic Development; as a member of the NEA Senior Fellows Advisory Group; and as a board member of the Institute for Educational Leadership. Currently he is Board President of Editorial Projects in Education (Education Week); member of the Opportunity to Learn Advisory Board (Schott Foundation for Public Education); and of the advisory boards of America Achieves, the Principal’s Exchange through its partnership with THINK Together, and of TeachersConnect. In furtherance of his work in educational leadership development, Dr. Weast is founder and president of the Partnership for Deliberate Excellence, LLC, through which he is working with school districts and foundations across the country to improve the quality of public education.

    Dr. Weast is engaged as a national consultant to improve public education, including advising (Consortium for Educational Change) on implementation of the Every Student Succeeds Act, on bettering student outcomes in inner city schools (Yale University), improving early childhood education (Harvard University, Princeton University), and developing effective district leaders (U Illinois/Chicago). Dr. Weast has presented extensively in the U.S. and internationally, including at the European Council of International Schools and through Fulbright-funded travel to Northern Ireland to consult on school integration. He has twice been invited to the People’s Republic of China, has spoken to educators in Near and Middle Eastern countries, and was a guest of Japan’s Ministry of Education, speaking on the topic of school reform. He has addressed audiences at the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, international audiences convened by the US Department of State, the National Governors’ Association, education journalists meeting at Columbia University, professional negotiators, and dozens of other groups on topics as various as leadership, early childhood education, systemic change, and union/management relations. He holds an Ed.D. in Educational Administration from Oklahoma State University, where he was named to the College of Education Hall of Fame.

  • Ross Wiener

    Washington, DC

    Ross Wiener is a vice president at the Aspen Institute and executive director of the Education and Society Program. In this
    role Ross leads professional learning networks for urban school district leaders and senior Congressional Education staffers. In
    addition to facilitating networks, the Education & Society Program hosts public conversations as well as off-the-record workshops, and publishes original research and commentary to improve policy and practice in public education with an emphasis on improving outcomes for low income students and students of color.

    From 2002 to 2009, Ross worked at the Education Trust, a national, non-profit organization dedicated to closing gaps in opportunity and achievement gaps. As policy director and then as vice president for program and policy, Ross managed the Education Trust’s research/data analysis, policy development, and technical assistance to educators and policymakers in both K12 and higher education.

    Prior to Education Trust, Ross served for five years as a trial attorney in the U.S. Department of Justice, Civil Rights Division, Educational Opportunities Section and also clerked for the United States Court of Appeals for the First Circuit.

    Ross is a graduate of the University of Wisconsin-Madison and received a law degree with high honors from the George Washington University Law School.

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