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.
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 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.
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.
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.
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.
Courtney provides support for the Charter Center's parent coordination work with schools as well as coordinating its parent liaison professional development series. She is a native New Yorker, born in the South Bronx, and a graduate of one of the city's first charter schools, KIPP Academy. Courtney attended boarding school in Massachusetts and college in North Carolina, after which she returned to New York and mentored at risk youth, devoting herself to various social justice causes.
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 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 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.
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 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.
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.
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 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.
Shalia is responsible for coordinating and planning events for the NYC Special Education Collaborative's members, maintaining the resource library, and bookkeeping. She is currently attending Pace University, pursuing a degree in Advertising and Integrated Marketing Communications. Before joining the Collaborative, Shalia worked for an audiologist, who supported seniors that were hearing impaired. She hails from Southern California and, in her spare time, enjoys reading, Netflix marathons, and attending the Museum of Natural History.
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.
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.