Board of Trustees
Editorial Projects in Education
Larry Berger is Chairman and co-founder of Wireless Generation, an education company that has pioneered the application of emerging technologies to PreK-12 teaching and learning. Wireless Generation is now a part of Amplify. Mr. Berger led the invention of Wireless Generation's mCLASS® system, which enables educators to administer early reading and math formative assessments using mobile devices and then immediately receive results, analysis, and support for differentiated instruction. Today, Wireless Generation serves millions of teachers and children and hosts one of the largest databases of longitudinal education data in the country. Wireless Generation also launched FreeReading.net, the first open source curriculum to be approved through an official state adoption.
Prior to founding Wireless Generation, Mr. Berger served as the educational technology specialist at The Children's Aid Society. Mr. Berger was a Rhodes Scholar and a White House Fellow working on educational technology at NASA.
Mr. Berger was a 2007 inaugural fellow for the Entrepreneurial Leaders for Public Education Program, created by The Aspen Institute and the New Schools Venture Fund. He serves on the Board of Trustees for the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching, is a member of the Board of Overseers for the Annenberg Institute on School Reform at Brown University, and is a Board Member of Peer Health Exchange.
Gina Burkhardt, Secretary
Gina Burkhardt is executive vice president of American Institutes for Research (AIR), one of the largest behavioral and social science research organizations in the world. AIR, a not-for-profit organization, conducts and applies research in the areas of education, health, international development, and work and training to improve people’s lives and well-being, with a special emphasis on the disadvantaged. As director of AIR’s Education, Human Development, and the Workforce division, Burkhardt is responsible for more than 600 employees.
Burkhardt’s expertise includes leadership, organizational development and systems change, district and school improvement, and policy research. She led the transformation of the North Central Regional Educational Laboratory, a single federally funded contract, to Learning Point Associates, a nonprofit education research and consulting organization providing research-based solutions and tools as well as policy guidance to states, districts, foundations, corporations, and the federal government. She was chief executive officer of Learning Point Associates when it merged with AIR in 2010.
As a lifelong educator, Ms. Burkhardt has held teaching, research and development, professional services, and nonprofit management positions throughout her 20-year career. She has worked both in the United States and Europe as an organizational development consultant; authored numerous publications; and given several presentations on a variety of educational topics, including the role of the federal government in supporting education research and development.
Ms. Burkhardt is currently a board member for Knowledge Alliance and the Center for Labor and Community Research. She was formerly a board member for the Partnership for 21st Century Skills and the Consortium on Chicago School Research at the University of Chicago. She was also an appointed member of the Illinois Task Force on Innovation, Intervention, and Restructuring. Ms. Burkhardt holds degrees from the Rochester Institute of Technology and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
Christopher Curran, Vice Chair
Christopher Curran is a founding partner of Education Growth Partners and Education Growth Advisors. Education Growth 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, Connecticut and Boston Massachusetts.
Mr. Curran also leads Education Growth Advisors, a strategic consulting firm and investment bank that 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. With colleagues, she directs efforts to design and study practice-based approaches to teacher education and to develop training opportunities for teacher educators around the country. Her current research is focused on developing measures of high-leverage teaching practices in English language arts and mathematics, focused on the Common Core State Standards. Before coming to the University of Michigan, 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 training institute and for a year in Teach First’s summer institute in London, U.K. She holds a B.A. in English from Smith College, a master’s degree in public policy from the Gerald R. Ford School of Public Policy at the University of Michigan, and a Ph.D. in education foundations and policy from the University of Michigan.
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. Mr. Lawrence is 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.
As Vice President for Operations and Strategic Leadership of The Education Trust, a nationally recognized research and advocacy organization dedicated to closing the academic achievement gap K-16, Ericka serves as chief operating officer and is also responsible for leading the advancement of the organization's strategic plan. Before joining the staff of the Ed Trust, Ericka was vice president and director of the national executive search firm Isaacson, Miller, where she led the firm's K-12 education practice, helping to place capable leaders in mission-driven organizations and university schools of education. Prior to joining the firm, Ericka was 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. Ericka also served as legislative assistant to former U.S. Senator Bob Kerrey, 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, Calif. Prior to launching her career in education, she was an editor at the Washingtonian magazine. Ericka holds a bachelor's degree from Georgetown University and a doctorate from Stanford University. She is a member of Leadership Washington's Class of 2004, and she serves on a number of nonprofit boards.
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, Chair
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.