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Staff

Mary Jean RyanMary Jean Ryan, Executive Director
Mary Jean Ryan is the founding director of CCER. Previously, she served as the director of the City of Seattle’s Office of Policy and Management. Prior to that, she was Seattle’s economic development director, having established that office in 1992 for then Mayor Norman B. Rice. Mary Jean also served in the Clinton Administration in Washington, D.C., as the associate deputy administrator for economic development for the U.S. Small Business Administration.

In 2009, Mary Jean was awarded the Wales Foundation Passionate Citizenship Honoree Award and was named by Seattle Magazine to its 2009 Most Influential People List. She has a long-standing interest in education and workforce development. She chaired the State Board of Education during its reconstitution phase and served on the Board and on the Quality Education Council. Mary Jean has a B.A. from Georgetown University and a M.P.A. from the University of Southern California. She is a member of the Georgetown University Athletic Hall of Fame. She has one daughter.

 

Photo of Kirsten "Avery" Avery Kirsten “Avery” Avery, College & Career Success Director
Kirsten Avery, or “Avery” as she is known, joined CCER in 2011 and leads the Road Map Project’s work to strengthen systems of support for students from high school through college completion. She has over 10 years of education experience from middle school to postsecondary education, including as a college admissions counselor, youth program coordinator and research associate with clients such as the U.S. Department of Education and Chicago Public Schools. Avery holds a Master’s degree in Public Administration from the University of Washington’s Daniel J. Evans School of Public Policy and Governance. She believes students and families are critical partners in improving education, and is committed to building student-ready institutions. When she isn’t at work, Avery can often be found taking in live music at the Crocodile, playing soccer with her team the Painkillers or walking her 11-year old dog Cash.

 

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Carlina Brown-Banks, Family Engagement Manager
Carlina has been working to support parent engagement for more than 20 years. She first began by serving on the policy council of the largest Head Start Grant west of the Mississippi River in Denver. Carlina has since been recognized by the Obama administration as a Champion for Change by the White House through her work with the Rainier Beach High School PTSA. She continues to be deeply committed to building equity in education systems in her work at CCER and currently staffs the Community Network Steering Committee. Originally from Denver, Carlina is the mother of seven children, ranging from 8 to 29 years old, and has one grandson. Her favorite out-of-office activities are camping, spontaneous road trips, boating, reading, history (especially Black history) and is always hunting for sunshine.

 

Brian Chu, Data Analyst

As a Data Analyst, Brian supports the Road Map Project’s mission by performing analytics, answering data inquiries from partners, and supporting the CCER Data Team’s continuous improvement process by developing new dashboards and reports. Before CCER, he had five years of experience doing data analysis, building reports and automating processes in the retirement industry. Brian earned his bachelor of science from Johns Hopkins University in applied mathematics and statistics and is currently serving as the treasurer for Homestead Community Land Trust. He lives in the Highland Park neighborhood with his dog, Peppy, and loves to spend time at Westcrest Dog Park.  He also enjoys playing board games, slow pitch softball, and cheering on the Mariners and Seahawks.

 

 

 

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Shelby Cooley, PhD, Research Director

Shelby is Research Director at the Community Center for Education Results. She builds university partnerships and maintains a portfolio of mixed-methods and secondary data collaborative studies in support of community partners. She received her Ph.D. in Developmental Science from the University of Maryland where she examined school climate, the emergence of racial bias in childhood, children’s perceptions, of fairness and justice, racial identity, and contexts that enable youth to challenge negative group norms. Dr. Cooley’s prior professional work focused on low-income children-of-color in New York and D.C., working on NYU Steinhardt’s INSIGHTS to Children’s Temperament and Child Trends’ D.C. Public School’s Head Start Evaluation. She consulted on racial bias in schools for Teaching for Tolerance: Teacher Perception Tool and CNN AC360: Kids on Race. As a researcher and Southeast Seattle native, Shelby is passionate about data access and views community research as a tool for social liberation.

 

Tom Elliott, Operations Coordinator

Tom joined the CCER team in 2017 as the Operations Coordinator. He works with CCER staff and Road Map Project partners to ensure each meeting and work group is scheduled and supported. Previously Tom worked in the office of Mayor Mike McGinn and managed political campaigns at the city and state level. A native of Illinois, Tom learned about the Road Map Project and the inequity in Washington’s public education system through his work in the political sphere, and he is thrilled to focus his energy on seeing the Road Map Project succeed. Outside of work Tom is an active Ultimate Frisbee player and a lapsed saxophonist. He enjoys chess and tennis, though he struggles at both.

 

 

 

 

Julie Feng, Digital Communications Coordinator
Julie is a member of the CCER communications team, working to engage with Road Map Project communities through multimedia platforms. As a digital storyteller, she is committed to advocating for equity through an intersectional lens. She has a diverse background in education, with experiences in Seattle Public School classrooms, University of Washington Libraries, and various Seattle-area nonprofits. Julie spent two years creating and managing Peace Corps Youth Development programs in Morocco, where she served on the Gender Advocacy Committee and the Multi-Media Committee. Through grassroots partnerships, she facilitated projects including a national creative writing competition, a social justice journalism course, and a girls’ empowerment program for Michelle Obama’s Let Girls Learn Initiative. Julie holds a degree in English and Creative Writing from the University of Washington. She is originally from Taiwan, but grew up in South King County. She is an avid reader, poet, traveler, and adventurer.

 

 

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Stacey Giachino, Operations Manager
Stacey manages CCER’s operation systems and processes, office and IT facilities, events (large and small) and Mary Jean’s calendar. She has years of operations and production experience in a wide range of fields, including internet-based financial systems, University of Washington’s Lung Transplant Program and the Getty Center Scholars department. Stacey started her professional life as a film producer/screenwriter after graduating from University of California Los Angeles with a degree in English literature. She has learned from every role she has held – whether senior vice president of operations, bookkeeper or film producer. Her dedication to equity and education led her to CCER, where she delights in using her ability to “get things done” in support of the Road Map Project. When not working, Stacey loves to spend time with her daughter (who encourages her to get out into the beautiful Pacific Northwest to hike and kayak) and to knit.

 

 

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Jose M. Hernandez, PhD.
, Senior Data Science Fellow

Jose is a Data Scientist at the UW eScience Institute serves as Senior Data Science Fellow on several collaborative studies with CCER and partners, examining discipline disproportionality, high school coursetaking and community college persistence. Jose was previously a Research Scientist with the Center on Reinventing Public Education, where he led projects assessing common enrollment systems across different U.S. districts.  Before that, he was a postdoctoral fellow with Insight Data Science and has worked as an applied statistician for a variety of projects across multiple disciplines. Jose earned his Ph.D. at the University of Washington, with a focus in statistics and measurement and his M.Ed. in Education Policy from University of Washington. His doctoral research focused on assessing causal inference methodology in the absence of randomization. Jose is passionate about using statistics and machine learning to inform education policymaking, particularly to improve outcomes for students in the Road Map Project region.

 

 

Diana Huynhdiana 1, Director of Communications Strategy
As part of the CCER team, Diana supports the Road Map Project through a variety of communications activities, including media engagement, advocacy campaigns and report production. She specializes in policy and research communications and previously served as deputy director of the Education Policy Center at American Institutes for Research in Washington, D.C. Before that, she was a producer at NPR affiliate WNYC and held other newsroom positions including reporter and copy editor. Diana also spent time in the classroom first as an assistant teacher for Pennsylvania’s Migrant Education Program and then later with the Japan Exchange and Teaching Program. She holds a bachelor’s in journalism from Temple University and a master’s in public and nonprofit policy and management from New York University.

 

 

 

 

Cinthia Illan-Vazquez, Project Associate

Cinthia joined CCER in 2017 as a Project Associate, supporting the Executive Director and a diverse set of CCER Projects. Her drive to bring the values of justice and equity to our education system began when she volunteered and later worked for Communities In Schools of Lakewood as their Site Coordinator. The experiences that were formed in those classrooms—witnessing the day-to-day education disparities among immigrant, low-income, and communities of color—fueled her passion for supporting systemic solutions. It’s the same passion that has led her to join CCER and support the Road Map Project’s mission to improve education outcomes for students in this region regardless of their zip code or race. Before joining CCER, her professional experiences included being a Legislative Assistant to State Representative Laurie Jinkins, where she conducted research and coordinated stakeholders for the advancement of key policy developments. Cinthia was also the Fellowship Coordinator for the Washington Bus, where she directed curriculum and training for 15 young people, focusing on civic engagement in the Seattle community. Additionally, she is a community organizer with the Washington Dream Coalition and has developed political campaigns for local, state, and national legislation. Cinthia has a political science degree with a pre-law track from Whitworth University. She is originally from Mexico, but grew up in Pierce County. When not at work, she enjoys hiking, reading, and volunteering with kiddos.

 

Alejandra PérezPhoto of Alejandra, College & Career Success Coordinator
Alejandra joined CCER in 2016, and leads DiscoverU activities and supports additional college and career-focused projects. Alejandra’s passion for educational equity comes from her advocacy with and for undocumented students and their families in Washington State and around the nation. Alejandra has an extensive background in organizing for social justice, running large-scale events and conferences and providing professional development to educators. Alejandra served as Co-Director for the Beyond HB 1079 Conference, is a member of the Dream Educational Empowerment Program (DEEP) National Advisory Council, and a community organizer with the Washington Dream Coalition.

Born and raised in Guatemala, Alejandra moved to the United States when she was twelve years old. She graduated from Cleveland High School in Seattle, and went on to earn her Bachelors of Arts from the University of Washington Bothell, where she double majored in Society, Ethics, & Human Behavior and American & Ethnic Studies and a double minor in Education & Society and Diversity Studies. Alejandra loves to learn about the intersections of race, gender, class, sexuality, etc., and how youth/student lead activism can transform society. During her free time, Alejandra enjoys watching shows, traveling, attending and organizing social justice protests with her friends, and laughing with her family.

 

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Lynda S. Petersen, Associate Director
Lynda joined CCER in 2010 just in time to help plan the Road Map Project kick-off conference in December 2010. Lynda has a lot of different responsibilities in supporting the operations of CCER and her colleagues. She has also staffed the Road Map Project’s Birth to 3rd Grade Work Group since the group’s beginning and plays a role in staffing the Aligned Funders group. Prior to joining CCER, Lynda worked in local government. From policy to practice, she is excited to contribute to work that positively impacts her neighborhood, city and region. On the weekends, she can be found rooting on her Seattle Sounders.

 

 

 

 

Gretchen Stahr Breunig, Early Learning & Elementary Success Director

Gretchen Stahr Breunig joined CCER in 2018.  She leads neighborhood community-school partnerships in all Road Map districts, piloting local improvement networks beginning with the Renton Innovation Zone partnership.   She has 30 years of experience working in governmental, non-profit, and consulting roles to support the quality of early learning systems and services.  PrEaeviously, she worked with the federal Office of Child Care, Region X to support Washington and Oregon states and 18 federally recognized Tribes.  She also worked as Washington Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction WaKIDS Professional Development Coordinator and Program Manager the first five years of expansion of state-funded full-day kindergarten.  In addition, she has implemented early phases of public-private initiatives such as the PSESD Early Numeracy P-3 Alignment project, the Early Childhood California Mentor Teacher Program, and Washington STARS.  She is married and is proud mom of two young adults.  In her free time, she loves biking, kayaking, hiking, and enjoying art, theater, and literature.

 

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Natasha Rosenblatt, Director of Data Strategy
Natasha has more than 20 years of experience leading large-scale data and reporting initiatives that leverage multi-source, complex databases to address community needs.  Her previous work includes implementing a statewide health care database, and developing an annual report on the quality of health care services across Washington state.  Natasha holds a Master’s degree in Public Health from the University of Washington, and is a member of the Leadership Tomorrow class of 2016.  She believes that education is a powerful tool in improving social justice, and she is thrilled to join CCER and its community partners to use data to improve education outcomes for students in our region.  Natasha is currently the Fundraising Chair for the Greater Seattle Techbridge Advisory Council.  She is a long time resident of Southeast Seattle, and has a son who attends Chief Sealth International High School. Natasha is also an avid music lover, with her tastes ranging from Dolly Parton to Gabriel Teodros. In her spare time she attends live shows throughout the Seattle area.

 

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Nicole Yohalem, Director, Opportunity Youth Initiative
Nicole joined CCER in fall 2013 to focus on reconnecting 16- to 24-year-old “opportunity youth” to education and career pathways. Prior to joining the staff, Nicole worked in a variety of roles in the youth development and education fields at the local and national levels. From 2000 to 2013, Nicole worked at the Forum for Youth Investment, leading work on youth engagement, research-practice partnerships and improving youth program quality. Nicole also served as a youth development specialist at Michigan State University, worked in the adolescent division of the High/Scope Educational Research Foundation and served as a consultant to the World Bank on education reform in the Latin American and Caribbean region. When not working toward the Road Map Project’s 2020 goal, she is enjoying time with her husband Andy, daughter Zoe and son Theo.

 

 

 

Cash 2Cash, Chief Canine Officer
This lovable, devoted 11-year-old canine is the office mascot. He can be seen following Avery around or begging for snacks around lunchtime. Cash’s skills include being a people-dog, jumping for joy when he gets to the office in the morning and has the ability to brighten everyone’s day.