Board of Trustees
Editorial Projects in Education
Sarita E. Brown
Sarita E. Brown is the President of Excelencia in Education, a national not-for-profit organization working to accelerate Latino success in higher education by linking research, policy, and practice to serve Latino students. A thought-leader in higher education, she has spent more than two decades at prominent national educational institutions and at the highest levels of government, working to implement effective strategies to raise academic achievement and opportunity for low-income and minority students.
Ms. Brown started her career at the University of Texas at Austin by building a national model promoting minority success in graduate education. Coming to the nation’s capitol in 1993 to work for educational associations, she was appointed the Executive Director of the White House Initiative for Educational Excellence for Hispanic Americans, under President Bill Clinton and U.S. Secretary of Education Richard Riley. Ms. Brown later applied her talents and experience to the not-for-profit sector and, in 2004, she co-founded Excelencia in Education.
Ms. Brown is active in national educational organizations and currently serves on the board of directors for ACT Inc. and the National College Access Network. An effective public speaker, Ms Brown travels throughout the country to advocate for Latino success in higher education. Her writing on the potential for Latino college-going talent includes a chapter (“Making the Next Generation Our Greatest Resource”) in Latinos in the Nation’s Future (2009), edited by Henry Cisneros and published by Arte Público Press.
Recognized with numerous awards, Ms. Brown was honored in 2009 with the Harold G. McGraw Jr. Prize in Education, for her “innovative thinking, strong leadership, and accomplishment by example” and also received an Honorary Doctor of Humane Letters Degree from North Carolina State University. In 2012, she received an Honorary Doctor of Humane Letters in Behavioral Sciences from Carlos Albizu University. Ms. Brown holds a bachelor’s degree in ethnic studies and bachelor’s and master’s degrees in communication from the University of Texas at Austin.
Christopher Curran, Chair
Christopher Curran is a Founding Partner of Tyton Partners, formerly Education Growth Partners and Education Growth Advisors. Tyton Partners is the premier growth private equity firm focused exclusively on the Prek-12, higher education, corporate training and lifelong learning sectors. The firm focuses on growth capital financings, minority recapitalizations, and buyouts of profitable, high-growth companies in the target sectors. The firm has offices in Stamford, Conn., and Boston.
Mr. Curran also leads Tyton Partners’ strategic consulting and investment banking practice, which delivers strategy, financial, and operational advisory services to assist clients in evaluating strategic options, accelerating growth, and improving business operations.
Mr. Curran has 20 years of experience in banking, investing, consulting, operations, and policy in the education industry and is widely known as respected thought leader and speaker in the field. He formerly led the education and training practice at Berkery, Noyes & Co., the leading mergers and acquisitions advisory firm serving the information industry middle market. In his six years at the firm, Mr. Curran was the pre-eminent education industry investment banker, having personally initiated, negotiated, and managed more than $2 billion in transaction volume in virtually every sub-segment within the pre-K-12, postsecondary, and corporate training sectors.
Previously, Mr. Curran was a managing director at Eduventures, the education industry’s premier strategic market research and consulting firm. Earlier, he was the Senior Vice President of Business Development at I.COMM, a high growth software provider to the education and government marketplaces. During his time at I.COMM, he also served as the President and Executive Director of the SchoolFirst Foundation, which developed a model educational technology platform that was donated to underserved schools.
Mr. Curran began his career as the research and policy director for the Massachusetts House of Representatives, where he was intimately involved in the development of several initiatives regarding educational reform, charter school funding, and the implementation of educational technology in Massachusetts public schools.
Francesca Forzani is the Associate Director of TeachingWorks at the University of Michigan School of Education. She has spent the past seven years collaborating with colleagues to redesign the teacher education programs at the University of Michigan and studying reform initiatives in teacher education. Dr. Forzani’s research focuses on identifying instructional practices that are essential to competent beginning instruction and on the implementation of reform in teacher education. She is particularly interested in the development of a common language for studying and teaching instructional practice and on identifying resources that support practice-focused teacher training.
Before coming to the University of Michigan, Dr. Forzani taught high school English for four years in Greenville, Mississippi, where she was a Teach for America corps member. She also served as a teacher-educator for three years in Teach for America’s summer training institute and for a year in Teach First’s summer institute in London, U.K.
She holds a bachelor’s degree in English from Smith College and a master’s degree in public policy and a Ph.D. in education policy from the University of Michigan.
Mike Lawrence, Secretary
Mike Lawrence, an Emmy Award-winning former journalist, serves as Chief Reputation Officer and Executive Vice President of Cone Communications. Mr. Lawrence is responsible for leadership on reputational issues arising for Cone’s corporate and non-profit clients, as well as for the agency itself. Mr. Lawrence founded Cone’s Corporate Responsibility discipline and continues to provide counsel to CR clients on issue management, stakeholder engagement, sustainability. Mr. Lawrence also plays a key role on Cone’s Crisis Prevention & Management team and serves as a member of the agency’s executive leadership group.
Mr. Lawrence has worked with corporations such as Timberland, Nestlé Waters North America, Starbucks, CVS/Caremark, Whole Foods Market and Ben & Jerry’s, and nonprofit organizations such as Outward Bound. He is also the recipient of two national crisis management awards for work done on behalf of Crayola.
Mr. Lawrence spent 26 years as a television anchorman and reporter, including a decade as bureau chief at two daily newspapers. Covering business, technology and politics, Mr. Lawrence won five Emmy Awards, including two for overseas reporting, in addition to a variety of other news honors. He is a past president and a current board member of the New England local of the American Federation of Radio and Television Artists, and is a graduate of Brown University.
Christopher A. Liedel
Christopher Liedel is the president of Smithsonian Enterprises. The revenue-producing organization at the Smithsonian Institution, Smithsonian Enterprises contains three primary divisions: media, retail, and business development and licensing.
The media division includes Smithsonian and Air & Space magazines and their online products; Smithsonian Books; goSmithsonian, a brochure and online guide for visitors; and the Smithsonian Channel. In September 2011, Smithsonian Channel was awarded its first Emmy in cinematography for a nature documentary. The three-year-old channel is the youngest to have won an Emmy award. Smithsonian Enterprises’ retail operation includes museum and airport stores, the Smithsonian Catalog, three IMAX Theaters, food concessions, and adult and student travel programs. Consumer-product licensing encompasses agreements with more than 40 companies permitting the use of the Smithsonian name following collaboration with Smithsonian staff and curators.
For 16 years prior to joining the Smithsonian, Mr. Liedel was at National Geographic, starting as Vice President for Strategic Planning. The following year, he was named Executive Vice President and CFO. He reported directly to the President and board of trustees and had oversight of more than $1 billion in investments, information services, distribution, and facilities management. Mr. Liedel oversaw a plant expansion to produce National Geographic magazine and negotiated subscription fulfillment outsources with Time Inc. He also assisted with the launch of National Geographic Channels and acquired a school publishing business.
From 1991 to 1996, Mr. Liedel was Senior Vice President at Ringier America Inc., an international media organization based in Switzerland. At Ringier, he established its Non-Traditional Business Group with seven technology units.
Mr. Liedel’s board affiliations include: the Nobel Prize Education Fund; National Philanthropic Trust, which he chaired from 2005 to 2008; U.S. Golf Association, where he serves on the executive committee; and Amazon Center for Environmental Education and Research Foundation.
A resident of Vienna, Va., Mr. Liedel earned his bachelor’s degree at Bowling Green State University in Ohio and his master’s degree at Georgia State University in Atlanta. He is a Wharton Fellow from the University of Pennsylvania.
Ericka Miller, Vice Chair
Ericka Miller is currently Vice President of the national executive search firm Isaacson, Miller, placing exceptional leaders in mission-driven nonprofit organizations. Before rejoining the firm, she was Chief of Membership, Governance, and Higher Education at the College Board. Previously, she was Senior Advisor to Secretary Arne Duncan at the U.S. Department of Education.
Prior to her service in the presidential administration of President Barack Obama, Ericka was Vice President for Operations and Strategic Leadership at the Education Trust, a nationally recognized research and advocacy organization dedicated to promoting high academic achievement of all students, kindergarten through college.
Ericka was also President and Chief Operating Officer of the McKenzie Group (now part of American Institutes for Research), a comprehensive education consulting firm with a 20-year history of providing evaluation and technical assistance services to school districts, institutions of higher education, federal agencies, foundations, and other public and private organizations.
From 1997 through 2000, Ericka served as Legislative Assistant to former U.S. Senator Bob Kerrey, of Nebraska, advising the senator on all elementary, secondary, and postsecondary education policy issues. Before her time on the Hill, Ericka was Assistant Professor of English Literature at Mills College, in Oakland, California. Prior to launching her career in education, she was an editor at the Washingtonian magazine.
Ericka holds a bachelor’s degree in English Literature from Georgetown University and master’s and doctoral degrees in English Literature from Stanford University. She is a member of Leadership Greater Washington’s class of 2004, and she serves on a number of nonprofit boards.
Aida Molina is currently serving as the Director of Education for the California Collaborative for Educational Excellence (CCEE) where, along with the team, she will plan and execute the massive project of vetting all technical assistance providers to support key actions in governing local control in California, partnering with county offices and districts across the state.
Dr. Molina has served over 20 years in the public education system and she is passionate about extending educational equity and access for all students. In her previous role, Dr. Molina was appointed as a member of the California State Board of Education for five years while also serving as the Assistant Superintendent of Academic Improvement and Accountability for the Bakersfield City School District. She held the positions of bilingual classroom teacher, Vice Principal, Principal, and District Administrator across various districts in California. She was also appointed to the Commission on Teacher Credentialing and served a three-year term. Her work as an educator and student advocate is centered on improving the conditions in which all children can succeed. She is driven by issues of social justice and is committed to creating systemic changes that prepare students for college and career readiness.
Molina's passion for student learning is based on the premise that all children are entitled to the finest public education. She has led various districts in the professional development of teachers and administrators on strategies for closing the academic achievement gap. In 2002, she published her work entitled, “Grade Level Teams: Key to Equity and Excellence." Dr. Molina holds a doctorate of philosophy in education from Claremont Graduate University, a Master of Arts degree in educational administration from California State University, Sacramento, and a Bachelor of Arts degree in liberal studies from California State University, Sacramento.
Harriet Sanford is the President and CEO of the NEA Foundation and has led the Foundation’s work since 2005. The Foundation supports the collaborative efforts of public school educators, their unions, school districts, and communities to focus on learning conditions that improve student performance.
Ms. Sanford began her career as a public school teacher, which led to a senior executive career that spans more than 28 years, with 22 years as the President and CEO of nonprofit/public organizations that include the Arts and Science Council in Charlotte, NC, and the Fulton County Arts Council in GA. Before joining the NEA Foundation, Ms. Sanford served as the conceptual lead and manager of “South by South Africa: Crafting Cultural Understanding,” a project that built economic links and cultural understanding between South Africa and U.S. partner cities. Her career is bound together by an unwavering commitment to strengthening community by building on the skills, talents, and aspirations of each of its members.
Ms. Sanford has managed annual budgets of more than $18 million and capital funds of $200 million. A recognized specialist in the field of fund-raising, Ms. Sanford has led several initiatives that have raised more than $58 million to support the mission of various nonprofit organizations. She has also served as a member of the Board of Directors of some 10 nonprofit organizations.
Ms. Sanford’s contributions to the advancement of arts education, culture, and cultural understanding have been recognized by numerous nonprofit organizations, including the North Carolina Arts Education Association, Americans for the Arts, National Black Arts Festival, the National Association of Counties, and the Metro Atlanta Chamber of Commerce. Ms. Sanford also served as a United States Information Agency fellow to South Africa in the late 1990s. She currently serves on the Board of The NAMES Project Foundation, Hispanic College Fund, Caversham Centre (South Africa), and the DC Jazz Festival, and she is an advisor to the Communities for the Public Education Reform.
Ms. Sanford holds an honorary Doctor of Humane Letters degree and a BA in Education from New England College, as well as an MPA from the University of Connecticut.
Jim Sexton has worked in digital media for the past 14 years. He specializes in content development, monetizing content via advertising, and building websites, mobile apps, and social media products that attract audiences.
Mr. Sexton is the Chief Digital Officer for B.A.S.S., the Bass Anglers Sportsman Society, where he manages Bassmaster.com and other digital products. B.A.S.S. also has two magazines, TV shows on ESPN and Outdoor Channel, fishing tournaments throughout the U.S., and more than 500,000 members.
Prior to B.A.S.S., Mr. Sexton served as Senior Vice President of Edit & Product for Time Inc. Lifestyle Digital, where he led the relaunch and growth of eight websites, including MyRecipes.com, MyHomeIdeas.com, CookingLight.com, SouthernLiving.com, Sunset.com, CoastalLiving.com, RealSimple.com, and AllYou.com.
Previously, Mr. Sexton was Senior Vice President of Interactive Brands for Scripps Networks where he managed HGTV.com and DIYnetwork.com. During his tenure, the sites won three prestigious Webby Awards. Earlier in his career, Sexton worked in magazine editorial roles, including USA Weekend and several Whittle Communications publications. He received his bachelor’s degree in journalism from the University of Tennessee. Mr. Sexton serves on the Board of Visitors for the University of Tennessee’s College of Communication and Information.
Lester Strong is the Vice President and Chief Executive of AARP Experience Corps, which tutors and mentors elementary school children (K-3) who struggle with reading by utilizing the skills and experiences of adults age 50 and over. AARP Experience Corps serves 20,000 in 19 cities across the United States through a program recognized as the one of the most effective in-school interventions in the country.
Prior to his service at AARP Experience Corps, Lester has served a leader in educational entrepreneurship and development. He was the Chief Development Officer for the BELL (Building Educated Leaders for Life) Foundation, which also provides tutoring and mentoring services to underserved children. His efforts doubled the foundation's endowment and propelled expansion from three to five cities: Baltimore, Boston, Detroit, New York and Springfield, MA.
A long-time proponent and practitioner of meditation, Lester was also CEO of the SYDA Foundation, an educational organization that provides instruction in yoga and meditation in 46 countries. He spent 25-years in the television industry as an executive, producer, reporter and anchor in Charlotte (WBTV), Atlanta (WSB), New York (ABC Entertainment) and Boston (WHDH). His work earned him a host of national and regional awards, including five regional Emmy Awards and a White House commendation from President Ronald Reagan.
Lester serves as a member of the board of trustees for both the Noyce Foundation and Editorial Projects in Education (Education Week). Lester holds a bachelor's degree from Davidson College and is a graduate of the Columbia Business School's Institute for Non-Profit Management.
Jerry D. Weast, Treasurer
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.
Dr. Weast’s approaches to early childhood education, differentiation of resources, professional growth systems, predictive analytics, and relationship strategies for both unions and business involvement are the subjects of numerous Harvard Business School case studies, and of the book Leading for Equity (Harvard Education Press, 2009). 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. Dr. Weast’s leadership is analyzed in the book Team Turnarounds: A Playbook for Transforming Underperforming Teams (Frontiera and Leidl, 2012); 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).
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.
Dr. Weast has served on the boards of various policy, educational, business, and community organizations, including the Peabody College (Vanderbilt University) National Ed.D. Advisory Board and Junior Achievement Worldwide Education Group and is a current trustee of the Committee for Economic Development, board member for the Institute for Educational Leadership, and member of the National Education Foundation Senior Fellows Advisory Group. In furtherance of his work in educational leadership development, he is founder and president of the Partnership for Deliberate Excellence, LLC, through which he is working with school districts across the United States to improve the quality of public education.
Dr. Weast has presented extensively across the United States 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 professional educators in Near and Middle Eastern countries, and has been invited by Japan’s Ministry of Education to speak in Japan on the topic of school reform. He holds an Ed.D. in Educational Administration from Oklahoma State University, where he was named to the Hall of Fame in the College of Education.
Ron Wolk, Chair Emeritus
Ron Wolk is the former chairman and editor of Editorial Projects in Education, the nonprofit organization that established The Chronicle of Higher Education, Education Week, Teacher Magazine, and Quality Counts.
Throughout his career, Mr. Wolk has kept one foot in journalism and the other in education. He spent 20 years in higher education at Johns Hopkins and Brown universities in charge of external affairs. He worked with Clark Kerr on the Carnegie Commission on the Future of Higher Education, and with Milton S. Eisenhower on the National Commission on the Causes and Prevention of Violence, established after the assassinations of Robert Kennedy and Martin Luther King.
After more than two decades of work in the school reform trenches, Mr. Wolk retired in 1997 and moved to Rhode Island, where he has continued to remain active in trying to improve public education. He is chairman of Big Picture Learning, an organization devoted to creating small, innovative schools, and influencing education policy. He served as founding chairman of What Kids Can Do, an organization that promotes and publicizes the accomplishments of young people across the nation. Mr. Wolk is also an adjunct member of the faculty of the department of education at Brown, and a member of the advisory committee of The Annenberg Institute for School Reform at Brown.
The Education Commission of the States presented him with the James B. Conant Award in 2008.