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 board of the National Charter Schools Institute and national advisory board of the National Association of Charter School Authorizers; currently he is a member of that organization’s Board of Directors. Mr. Merriman was recently named a Pahara-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.
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.
Corey provides legal counsel and guidance to Charter Center staff, while also working on a variety of projects that benefit New York City’s charter school sector. Before joining the Charter Center, Corey was Assistant Counsel to the New York State Gaming Commission, where she advised on the state-wide casino selection process and helped create the regulatory framework in New York State. Corey was also a litigation associate for the law firm Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison, where she represented a broad range of corporate clients. Prior to law school, Corey was a middle school special education teacher in the Bronx for the NYC DOE. Corey is a graduate of New College of Florida, holds a M.S. in Elementary and Special Education from Lehman College, and is a graduate of the New York University Law School.
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.
As Program Manager, Megan brings her experience in education to 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. Through weekly schools visits, staff developments and city-wide trainings, Megan guarantees schools have access to ongoing support and development opportunities. 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 for four years in the NYC DOE as an elementary special education teacher. Megan comes to New York from San Francisco, California. She 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 is responsible for building the newest school support initiatives at the Charter Center, teams that promote and support inclusive special education and ELL programs in New York City charter schools. He launched the Charter Center’s Special Education Collaborative in 2011; as Executive Director he grew membership to include over 85% of NYC’s charter sector. Prior to that, Dixon worked as the Regional Director of Special Services at the Achievement First (AF) charter network. At AF, he incorporated a more inclusive approach to supporting students with disabilities and language needs in schools, cultivated relationships with local district staff, and developed and implemented the planning and systems necessary to support special services in a network of schools. Before working in the charter sector, Dixon taught in the NYC DOE as a special education kindergarten and fifth grade teacher. He 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.
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.
As Director of School Supports, Randall helps charter schools ensure operational excellence and sustainability by providing technical supports, professional development opportunities and best practice sharing among schools. He and his team also seek to address sector-wide challenges and secure needed resources for the sector. Before joining the Charter Center, Randall served in the New York City Department of Education for 11 years - four years as a school business manager, then as Deputy Network Leader in one of the school support networks. He concentrated on the integration of operations, student services and instructional coaching into strategic plans for improvement. Prior to his entry into education, Randall worked in the private sector in sales management.
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.
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.
Patrick assists in the coordination of events and manages day-to-day operations for the NYC Special Education Collaborative. He maintains the Collaborative’s online presence, crafts communication on events, and supports schools in utilizing their membership benefits. Previously, Patrick worked in fundraising for Boston’s PBS affiliate, WGBH. He has also worked as an English teacher in Korea, Spain, and Boston.
Kenea provides logistical and administrative support to the Charter Center’s school supports department, ensuring that NYC’s charter schools have the resources and guidance they need to ensure operational excellence. Before joining the Charter Center, Kenea worked as an Executive Assistant and a training specialist at the Center for Children’s Initiatives. She holds a Bachelor’s degree in Geography, with a concentration in Geographic Information System (GIS) from Hunter College and is a former Public Service Scholar.
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 leads the Charter Center’s data collection and analysis efforts, and provides analyses and guidance on policy issues that affect the charter sector in order to support school staff and inform the public dialogue. Prior to joining the Charter Center, Michael worked in education administration and operations for Newark Public Schools and Baltimore City Public Schools. He also has extensive research and evaluation experience after holding positions at the New York City Office of Management and Budget, MDRC and the Education Trust. Michael has a B.A. in History from Rutgers University, a M.P.P. from the University of Chicago, and a J.D. from Georgetown University Law Center.
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 is responsible for the Charter Center’s marketing and communications strategy and campaign development and promoting the organization via digital and social media, publications and events. Before the Charter Center, Petra was Policy and Communications Director for the Center for New York City Neighborhoods, a non- profit established by Mayor Bloomberg, the City Council and private foundations and corporations to combat the foreclosure crisis in New York City. She also work 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.
Kayla’s work to support the Charter Center’s public outreach and messaging includes coordinating program marketing, media campaigns and special events and overseeing our website and social media activities. Prior to joining the Charter Center, Kayla spent four years as the Digital News Editor for The Maritime Executive magazine. She holds a Bachelor’s degree in Journalism and Mass Communications, with a specialized focus in Public Relations from Florida International University.
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.