Staff

James Merriman
Chief Executive Officer
James Merriman

James Merriman is one of the nation’s foremost experts on charter school law, authorizing and policy. Mr. Merriman is a leading voice and advocate for high quality charter schools and frequently speaks and writes about the actions that need to be taken to strengthen and expand charter schools within the New York City public school system. Mr. Merriman’s op-eds, commentary and guest blogs have been featured in The New York Times, The New York Post, The New York Daily News, The Huffington Post, Gotham Schools and Eduwonk and he is a frequent guest on major TV and radio outlets on public education reform and policy. Before joining the Charter Center in 2007, he worked at the Walton Family Foundation where he helped develop and implement the foundation’s grant making in the charter school sector. Mr. Merriman came to Walton after spending more than seven years at the Charter Schools Institute of the State University of New York (SUNY-CSI), including five as its executive director. At SUNY-CSI, which is one of two state-wide authorizers of charter schools, Mr. Merriman helped create and design systems for authorization and oversight that promote the growth of a high quality charter school sector; U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan singled out SUNY-CSI as a national model for this work. Mr. Merriman has served on the boards of the National Charter Schools Institute and as vice-chair of the National Association of Charter School Authorizers; currently he is a member of that organization’s advisory board. Mr. Merriman was recently named a Parhara-Aspen Educational Fellow.

Before entering the charter sector, Mr. Merriman was also a commercial litigator for the law firm Cleary, Gottlieb, Steen & Hamilton in New York City. He is a graduate of Columbia College and New York University Law School.

Cat Alexander
Replicating Quality Schools
Cat Alexander directs the Charter Center’s only nationally-offered program, Replicating Quality Schools. Cat is an Education Consultant currently working on charter school development and replication; blended/personalized learning design and implementation; portfolio school district transformation; and, social impact investing. Prior to her work as a consultant, Cat was a Program Officer at the Michael & Susan Dell Foundation where she focused her grant making and social impact investing on the K-12 Quality School Options portfolio. She was also the founding Chief Operating Officer of Rocketship Education, a blended personalized learning charter school network out of California. Before getting her master's in business administration from the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University, Cat was a Business Process Consultant in the Energy Trading and Risk Management group at Andersen Consulting/Accenture.
Nicole Bliman
Communications and Media Coordinator
Nicole Bliman

Nicole uses her background in journalism and public relations to help the Charter Center promote its various projects via media relations, event planning and advertising, as well as providing counsel to internal departments regarding stakeholder outreach. Prior to joining the Charter Center, she worked for a financial services PR agency helping clients strengthen their brand. Her career began in journalism, first with CNN at its headquarters in Atlanta, then as a reporter for a financial magazine in New York. She took a brief hiatus from Communications between Atlanta and New York, when she volunteered as an English teacher in Chile for six months with English Opens Doors, a program sponsored by the Chilean government. Nicole received an M.S. in Public Relations & Corporate Communications from New York University and a B.S. in Broadcast Journalism from Syracuse University.

Christina Brown
Chief Operating Officer
Christina Brown

Christina provides critical, high level support to the CEO and is accountable for maximizing the current impact and future growth of the Charter Center and its staff. She brings to the position an extensive background in nonprofit management. Before joining the Charter Center, Christina was Vice President of External Relations at Civic Builders, where she raised more than $15 million to support the development of charter school facilities. She also served in leadership roles at the Union Square Partnership, the Greenwich-Chelsea Chamber of Commerce and several performing arts venues. Christina is a graduate of the State University of New York at Stony Brook.

Caryl Cohen
Teacher Certification Consultant
Caryl Cohen

Caryl Cohen worked for the NYC Department of Education for thirty-three years as a middle school English teacher and as an administrator in the Division of Human Resources. During her 25-year tenure in HR, she served as the director of elementary and middle school staffing; special assistant to the chief executive for instruction; and from 1993 until her retirement in October 2004, as the deputy executive director for teacher recruitment, certification, licensing and salary. She was the DOE’s liaison to the NYS Education's Department, Office of Teaching Initiatives dealing with certification policies, regulations, and implementation of the teacher quality criteria (HQT) of the No Child Left Behind federal law. She has continued to serve as the liaison to the SED on certification issues on behalf of the NYC Charter Sector. Ms. Cohen received her bachelor's degree in education from Cortland State University, and a master’s degree in education and an advanced certificate in supervision and administration from Brooklyn College.

Nicole Daniel
Teacher Certification Program Associate
Nicole provides support for the Charter Center’s Teacher Certification Unit. Originally from California, Nicole is a relatively recent transplant to New York, having moved here from Texas in 2012. Before joining the Charter Center, Nicole was a high school social studies teacher in Texas. She holds a BA in Psychology from Stanford University and a Master’s of Arts in Teaching from Rice University.
Megan Davis-Hitchens
Manager, Special Educator Leadership Development
Megan Davis-Hitchens
As Manager of Special Educator Leadership Development, Megan brings her experience in education to support Collaborative member schools. Megan is responsible for ensuring NYC charter schools have the resources and supports necessary to maintain high quality special education programs. Her goal is to build collaborations that support schools’ efforts to strengthen and grow their special education programs. Megan comes from Bedford Stuyvesant New Beginnings Charter School, where she worked as the Special Education Coordinator, fostering an inclusive special education environment by supporting the instruction, management and services related to students with disabilities. Prior to coordinating and teaching in the charter sector, Megan taught in the NYC DOE as a special education first, second, and fifth grade teacher. Megan holds a B.A. in Psychology from Lewis and Clark College, and earned an M.A. in Elementary Special Education and General Education as a Teaching Fellow at Brooklyn College.
Dixon Deutsch
Executive Director, NYC Special Education Collaborative
Dixon Deutsch

Dixon is responsible for incubating and building a new program initiative at the Charter Center. His goal is to build an organization that promotes and supports special education in the city’s charter schools. Dixon comes from Achievement First, where he worked as the Regional Director of Special Services. At Achievement First, he incorporated a more inclusive approach to supporting students with disabilities in schools, cultivated relationships with local District staff, and developed and implemented the systems necessary to support special education in a network of schools. Prior to Achievement First, Dixon taught in the NYC DOE as a special education kindergarten and fifth grade teacher. Dixon is a graduate of the University of Texas at Austin, holds an M.S. in Early Childhood and Special Education from Lehman College, and an Ed.M. in Educational Change: Special Education from Bank Street College of Education.

Jim Ford
Replicating Quality Schools
Jim Ford supports the Charter Center’s only nationally-offered program, Replicating Quality Schools. Jim has worked as an independent education consultant and technical assistance provider for the past 15 years, supporting more than 150 charter schools nationally on such projects as charter school planning and operations, board training and development, business and strategic planning, financial management, and much more. For more than eight years, Jim was Charter School Program Director and Lead Underwriter for the La Raza Development Fund, a support organization of the National Council of La Raza (NCLR). Prior to that position, he served as Director of NCRL's Charter School Initiative. Jim also worked as Staff Director for the District of Columbia Council’s Education, Libraries, and Recreation Committee, in which he was one of the primary authors of the charter school law and school funding formula in Washington, D.C., both of which are considered among the strongest in the nation. Jim is currently a member of the Boards of Trustees for the Manhattan Charter School in New York City and the ACT/KIPP Charter School in Chicago.
David Frank
Director, School Supports

A native New Yorker, David is responsible for a variety of projects related to school operations, outreach, and teacher certification. Before joining the Charter Center, David worked on the development of educational programs for at-risk youth. David has also been involved in learning science, educational policy research and program evaluation with the aim of improving teaching and learning in our nation’s school system. He holds a B.S. and M.S. in Developmental Psychology from the University of Pittsburgh.

David Golovner
Vice President of Policy and Advocacy
David Golovner

David oversees the Charter Center’s governmental and community outreach as well as its grassroots infrastructure in order to ensure a favorable public policy environment for New York City’s charter schools, and education reform in general. David has an extensive background in politics and non-profit advocacy and communications. Prior to joining the Charter Center, David managed a senate re-election campaign, served as senior staff in the Office of the Bronx Borough President and was as a member of the national advance staff for the White House under former President Bill Clinton. David is a graduate of the University of Massachusetts and holds an MBA from Metropolitan College of New York.

Erik Joerss
Deputy for Government Affairs
Erik Joerss

Erik monitors federal, state and local actions effecting charter schools. Prior to joining the Charter Center, Erik was the Director of City Legislation for the New York City Department of Consumer Affairs, Legislative Director to Council Member Diana Reyna, Campaign Manager to former Council Member Melinda Katz in her race for Comptroller, and Director of Candidate Services at the Campaign Finance Board and Director of Lobbying and Grassroots Organizing for Common Cause/NY. He also founded "Enlightened Markets," a not-for-profit organization that identified market solutions to lift the working poor out of poverty. Erik has a bachelor of Arts in Political Science from the University of Central Florida and has more than fifteen years of government, advocacy, politics and communications experience.

Patrick Keyes
Coordinator of Special Projects
Patrick Keyes
As the Coordinator of Special Projects, Patrick assists in the coordination of events for both the NYC Special Education Collaborative and NYC Collaborates. In his work with the Collaborative, Patrick ensures that schools have the resources needed to educate students with disabilities. For NYC Collaborates, Patrick creates opportunities for educators from district and charter schools to share information and improve student achievement. Previously, Patrick worked in fundraising for Boston’s PBS affiliate, WGBH. He has also worked as an English teacher in Korea, Spain, and Boston.
Edith Litt
Director of Administration
Edith Litt

Edith is responsible for managing the organization's daily office operations, human resources and employee relations. Before joining the Charter Center, Edith served for 16 years as the Director of Finance for the Institute of Literacy Studies at Lehman College, where she also graduated with a Degree in Accounting.

Susan McCarthy
Director of Finance
Susan McCarthy

Susan is responsible for the financial and accounting functions at the Center. Susan has over 25 years experience as the Director of Finance at several nonprofits including Brookdale Center for Healthy Aging and Longevity, CCI formerly Child Care, Inc. and the Jewish Museum. Susan is a certified public accountant and has a BS in accounting and a BA in English from Syracuse University.

Melissa Katz
ELL Specialist
As the Charter Center’s first ELL Specialist, Melissa works to ensure that the city’s charter schools have access to the essential supports, resources and technical assistance in place to lead their English Language Learners to academic success. Her goal is to advocate for ELLs and strengthen their presence and achievement in NYC charter schools. She worked as a K-5 ESL teacher for the NYC DOE for five years. During her time in the classroom, she created an inclusive environment through culturally responsive teaching and best ESL methodology, including SIOP. Melissa holds B.A.s from Trinity College (Hartford) in French, Spanish and English, and earned her M.S. in TESOL as a Teach For America corps member from Fordham University.
Myrah Murrell
Executive Coordinator
Myrah Murrell

Myrah works directly with the Charter Center's CEO, James Merriman. She also works outside the Charter Center as a marketing consultant for community organizations and start-up businesses. Before joining the Charter Center, Myrah managed several Grammy Award winning musicians in Atlanta, where she graduated with a Bachelor's Degree in Marketing from Clark Atlanta University.

Stephen Phelps
Account/Administrative Coordinator
Stephen Phelps
Stephen supports the Charter Center’s event planning and fingerprinting services and assists with the Charter Center’s accounting and administration. He has his BA in Italian and French from Brigham Young University and is currently pursuing a degree in accounting.
Michael Regnier
Director of Policy & Research
Michael Regnier

Michael is responsible for developing the Charter Center’s policy arguments, sharing accurate data about the charter sector, and helping school leaders understand and influence the policies that affect them. Before joining the Charter Center, Michael was a Research Manager at Edison Learning where he developed pilot partnerships to improve mathematics instruction and principal evaluation. He also worked as a public policy consultant at Berk and Associates in Seattle, as well as for the American Institutes of Research as a research assistant in education statistics. Michael is a graduate of Princeton University and holds a Master’s Degree in Social Sciences from the University of Chicago.

Hannah Shirey
School Supports Program Manager
Hannah Shirey

Hannah provides support to schools on a variety of school operations projects, including Start Right, teacher certification and the Common Online Charter School Application. Originally from Iowa, she recently spent a year working to create space for experiential, multi-faith education in New York City as a Faiths Act Fellow of the Tony Blair Faith Foundation. Outside of her work at the Charter Center, Hannah serves as an associate advisor to the International Center for Advocates Against Discrimination. She holds a B.A. in Anthropology and Middle East and Islamic Civilizations Studies from Colgate University.

Patricia Tudosa
Program Manager, Policy and Advocacy
Patricia Chabvepi

Patricia joins the Center with a background in policy, research, advocacy, and international affairs. She has a Master’s degree from New York University, and is a former California Capitol Judicial Administration Fellow. Her experience includes conducting research for the Social Science Research Council, working for and with elected officials, and assisting the prosecution of the United Nations International Tribunal in East Timor, among others. Outside work, Patricia is in the post-production stages of a photo-documentary project on human trafficking that she conducted in her native Romania and Moldova this spring.

Petra Tuomi
Director of Marketing and Communications
Petra Tuomi

Petra is responsible for developing the Charter Center’s marketing, communications and media relations strategy and promoting the organization via media, electronic communications, publications and events. Before the Charter Center, Petra was Policy and Communications Director for the Center for New York City Neighborhoods (CNYCN), a non-profit established by Mayor Bloomberg, the City Council, and private corporations and foundations to combat the foreclosure crisis in New York City. She also worked in Director of Communications roles at Women’s World Banking, a leading global microfinance network and Barnard College, Columbia University. Petra graduated with an MBA in Marketing from Fordham Graduate Business School and BA in Economics from Hobart and William Smith Colleges.

Leanne W. Bloom
Digital Marketing Specialist
Leanne is responsible for the Charter Center’s diverse range of digital needs, such as maintaining the Center’s website, expanding its social media channels and distributing email communications. Leanne has more than 15 years of experience helping nonprofits strengthen their digital presence through web development, social media, data analytics, search engine optimization and multichannel fundraising campaigns. She has been involved with U.S. Department of State programs and Child School, a NYC school for special needs. She also volunteered to teach computer skills at Young Women’s Leadership School of East Harlem and founded U Go Girl, a volunteer project to promote STEM with girls in New Orleans. Leanne graduated with a BA in Graphic Design from North Carolina State University.
Monica Wawrzyniak
Policy Data Analyst
Monica Wawrzyniak
Monica is responsible for collecting, maintaining, and analyzing data about charter schools, in order to assist school staff and inform public debates. Before joining the Charter Center, she worked in her native Chicago as a summer fellow with the Chicago Scholars Foundation and as an analyst with Information Services Group, a consulting firm. She has a Bachelor’s Degree in Economics from Wellesley College.
Luis Zuluaga
Administrative Coordinator
Luis Zuluaga

Luis is responsible for facility support and providing information to parents who contact the Charter Center. Luis has a background in graphic design, music, and worked for Details magazine for several years; before joining the Charter Center, he was the office manager for five years for the Robert Allen Group, a home furnishings design company.