CLEE Staff & Board Members

Donna Braun, Ed.D. PRN ’04

Executive Director

Prior to co-founding CLEE, Donna served in urban secondary public schools as a science teacher and a school leader in Tucson, AZ and Providence, RI. She holds a BS from Southern Illinois University, an MS from the Florida Institute of Technology, is a PRN grad and has an Ed.D. from Johnson and Wales University. Donna’s focus is on research and implementation of transformative leadership development to advance educational equity. @DonnaLBraun

Cora H.L. Brumley, MBA

Director, Finance & Operations

Cora directs finance and business operations. Brumley served for 18 years in intercollegiate athletics, most recently as commissioner of an NCAA Division III conference, where she was responsible for the league's strategic leadership and governance; fiscal, program and human resource management; advocacy and outreach; and revenue generation. Brumley also has experience as a Title IX consultant. Brumley earned an MBA in marketing and BBA in international economics from the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater, with induction into several honor societies.

Janelle Clarke-Holley, M.A. & M.Ed.

Director, Executive Leadership Programs

Janelle’s journey began in Brooklyn, surrounded by a loving family who instilled the importance of a constant pursuit of knowledge. This influenced her motivation to become an educator. Janelle has a Bachelors and a Masters from Johnson and Wales University and a Masters from the University of Rhode Island. She has more than 20 years in education; as a teacher, assistant principal and principal in both urban and rural communities. Her experience in education has taught her how to encourage others into achieving more than they ever dreamed. She says, the most exciting aspect of being an educator is shaping an environment where learning can create life-changing effects and possibilities bloom. When she is not at work, Janelle enjoys spending her free time with her husband and two beautiful little girls.


Kevin Cordeiro, M.Ed. PRN ‘20

Continuous Improvement Facilitator and Coach

Kevin's professional interests include radical social studies research & curriculum and pop-culture as an avenue for SEL and social justice. Before CLEE Kevin spent 10 years as an educator/administrator in Providence at TAPA. He holds an M.ed. in Curriculum Design and Instruction and a BA in history. He lives in Warwick, RI where he’s reading speculative fiction, horror, and fantasy or walking Rocky Point with his son.

Karen Cortes

Operations and Community Support Manager

Karen loves data visualization and creating workflows and products that work for the people that use them. Her previous work analyzing long-term water quality data sets at the Narragansett Bay Estuary Program and Narragansett Bay Commission developed her passion for data and efficient systems. Karen has a BS in Marine Biology from Brown University. In her free time, she enjoys gardening, traveling, and working on home improvement projects.

Evelyn Cosme Jones, M.Ed.

Associate Director, Principal Residency Network Administration

Evelyn attended public schools in NYC and RI and has a BA (Brown University) and an M.Ed. (URI) in education. She has been a social worker, freelance interpreter, teacher, and school and district leader in Providence for 13 years and in Central Falls for 10 years.  She founded the Seal of Biliteracy in 2015 in CF and believes that a key to equity is providing students with varied opportunities for language learning (any language!). She is surrounded by her husband, 3 children, and grandchildren and enjoys long hikes. @EvelynCosmeJones


Chris Cuthbertson, M.A.T. PRN ’08

Assistant Director of Advising, Facilitator and Coach

Before joining CLEE, Chris taught in independent schools and was a founding teacher, and then school leader, at The UCAP School in Providence. In over 40 years as an educator, facilitating and supporting the growth of others has been her passion and her north star. Chris holds a B.A. from Williams College and an M.A.T. from Brown University. She enjoys spending time outdoors, especially on the water. @chriscuthberts

Laryssa Doherty, Ed.D.

Continuous Improvement Facilitator and Coach

Laryssa is passionate about professional learning and growth, culturally responsive pedagogy, and equitable practices. Prior to joining CLEE, she spent 23 years as an educational leader in predominantly urban public schools. Laryssa holds a B.M. and M.M. in Music Education from Ithaca College, an M.Ed. in School Leadership from Harvard University, and an Ed.D. from Boston University. She enjoys gardening, baking, and spending time with family.

Ben Doren

Continuous Improvement Facilitator and Coach

Ben is passionate about radical inclusion: the idea that all people always belong in schools learning together. He grew up in Brooklyn and has taught at and led elementary, middle and high schools in New York City, rural Michigan and Western Massachusetts. He loves cooking, gaming, hiking with his partner and the two dogs he adores with her, and visiting with their adult children in NYC and Philadelphia.


Kirsten Ebersole LaCroix, M.Ed. PRN ’11

Senior Director, Programs

Kirsten believes in the power and potential of public schools and is driving toward a vision where every student’s unlimited potential is unleashed, rather than defined.  Kirsten’s career has spanned over twenty years as an elementary school teacher and administrator. She has been with CLEE since 2011. Kirsten lives with her husband, two teenage daughters, and beloved dog where they enjoy various sports and recreational activities, the outdoors, and traveling.  

Julia Hendrix, M.Ed.

Continuous Improvement Facilitator and Coach

Julia Hendrix's professional interests include developing shared leadership in schools and school systems; examining and dismantling inequitable structures in schools and organizations; and understanding the role of emotions in equity and anti-bias work. Prior to her work at CLEE, she was a principal, assistant principal, content coach, and teacher in public schools in Massachusetts. She holds a B.A. from Wellesley College, a M.T.S. from Harvard Divinity School, and a M.Ed. from Lesley University. She lives in Medford, MA, and is the mother of two adult sons. She is an avid reader in all genres, as well as gardener and yoga practitioner.

Chris Jones

Partner Communications and Support Manager

Chris is passionate about supporting educators with tools for collaboration and brings experience in nonprofit communications and programs. He shares time with School Reform Initiative (SRI) and has been a part of other organizations that fostered collaborative and reflective practices among educators since 2003. Chris has BA in Sociology/Anthropology from Earlham College. Chris likes to maintain old cars and motorcycles and his tiny old dog and cat in Bloomington, Indiana.


Kayla Lambright, M.Ed.

Continuous Improvement Facilitator and Coach

Kayla is fueled by her strong ties to the community, she has a proven track record of championing education and health equity in diverse communities. With a background as an educator in Greater Boston, she taught Chemistry and Biology at secondary schools and served as the Director of Extended School Year and Expanded Learning opportunities for the Office of Special Education. Kayla holds a Master's in Education for Curriculum and Teaching from Boston University and a Bachelor of Science in Public Health from the University of Massachusetts Lowell. During her leisure, she finds solace in nurturing her garden and cherishing time with loved ones.

Jenny Li

Continuous Improvement Facilitator and Coach

Jenny is a passionate life long learner who taught high school for 7 years in Rhode Island before joining CLEE as a facilitator and coach. Aside from teaching, Jenny has extensive experience writing curriculum and facilitating for youth organizations in Providence and NYC. She received her B.A. in Africana Studies and Environmental Studies, and her M.A.T. from Brown University. Jenny's background in community organizing has always guided her practice, and she continues to support movement work in varying capacities. In her spare time, she enjoys eating good food whenever she visits her family in NYC, adventuring outdoors, and trying out new hobbies.

Michelle Li, M.A.

Director, Learning Leader Network

Michelle’s work centers around educational innovation and improvement, especially around issues of equity for youth from underrepresented groups. She is passionate about applying the tools of improvement science in networked improvement communities to empower educators and students. She holds an M.A. in Program Evaluation and Improvement Research from the University of Michigan School of Education. Prior to joining CLEE, Michelle taught high school English in the Boston area. @emilytwo


Janet Lyons, Ph.D.

Continuous Improvement Facilitator and Coach

Janet’s professional interests include supporting reflective practices and building meaningful relationships as a means to enhancing educational leadership development. She believes that as transparent and transformative leadership practices grow, new and innovative opportunities for teachers and students will expand as well. Janet has worked as an educator and administrator in Massachusetts and Rhode Island, and holds a B.S. in Elementary Education, a M.Ed. in Leadership and Administration, a M.Ed. in Educational Technology, and a Ph.D. in Educational Leadership. Janet lives with her husband, and enjoys golf, baking, and traveling.

Cheryl McWilliams, Ed.D.

Continuous Improvement Facilitator and Coach

Cheryl's has over twenty-five years experience in education as a teacher, building level administrator, and Superintendent. She is passionate about professional learning for educators that is not only transformational but that builds capacity and fosters innovation. She believes in continuous improvement and equitable learning outcomes for all students. Cheryl has a B.A. in Music and M.Ed. in Elementary Education, both from Rhode Island College, and an Ed.D. in Educational Leadership from Northeastern University. Cheryl enjoys spending her free time with her husband, children, and grandchildren.

Denise Milburn, M.Ed.

Continuous Improvement Facilitator and Coach

Denise believes in the unlimited potential of our students and in the power of our leaders to unleash that potential. Prior to her work at CLEE, Denise spent 35 years in public education as a Principal, Curriculum Coordinator, and Teacher. She has a Bachelor of Science from Emerson College and Master of Education from Lesley College. Denise has two children in college and currently lives at home with her husband. She enjoys her children, traveling and time with family.


Joe Pirraglia, M.Ed.

Director of Principal Preparation Programs, Facilitator & Coach

Joe worked as a teacher, building administrator, and district administrator in both Rhode Island and Massachusetts before joining CLEE. He has a B.A. in Elementary Education/English from the University of Rhode Island and an M.Ed. in School Leadership from Rhode Island College. His professional interests include supporting and fostering the growth of school leaders, rethinking traditional models to address inequities, and strategies to increase student engagement in the classroom. He lives in Cumberland, RI and enjoys exercising, playing the guitar, and reading.

Jamal Safi, Ph.D.

Associate Director of Emerging Learning Technologies, Facilitator & Coach

Jamal’s professional focus includes critical pedagogy, constructivist learning, and adaptive learning technology. He worked as a teacher, a juvenile justice education counselor and coordinator, and most recently as a principal in New Bedford. Jamal holds a B.S. from Roger Williams, an M.Ed. from Bridgewater State, and a Ph.D. from UMASS. He lives in Providence with his partner, cat, and dog. He enjoys traveling, reading, urbanism, and history.


Todd Simendinger, M.Ed.

Continuous Improvement Facilitator and Coach

Todd's professional interests include leadership development and equity. Prior to joining CLEE, Todd worked as a consultant and coach in private industry and education. He also has twenty years of experience working across the K-12 spectrum, ten of those years as a principal. Todd earned a Masters degree in Education/ Curriculum Design and Development from the University of Phoenix, along with a B.A. in history from Ohio State. He resides in Gloucester, MA and enjoys coaching youth sports and spending time with his three children.

Joel Stewart, MPH

Data Systems Leader

Joel is passionate about leveraging data and technology to inform and empower all people, making complicated things simple, and teaching programming skills. Prior to his work at CLEE he worked as a Data Scientist at DataSpark, home of the RI DataHub. Joel has an MPH from Brown University and a BA from UC Berkeley. In his free time, Joel enjoys Botany, reading, and wandering.

Yovanny Vargas, M.Ed.

Continuous Improvement Facilitator and Coach

Yovanny, a lifelong learner, educator and artist dedicated to community advocacy and empowerment, has 10 years of experience (and counting) working in Rhode Island’s educational ecosystem. Prior to joining CLEE, Yovanny has worked as a mentor, a teacher, an administrator and a state level employee all with the aim of uplifting and centering the voices of students in schools. He has a B.A in psychology and an M.Ed both obtained at Rhode Island College. When he is not thinking about education you may find him covered in acrylic paint or tinkering with a new recipe at home.

If you would like to work with us, please check out the employment opportunities page


Our Board

Barera Ali, Board Director

Barera Ali soon to Graduate from East Longmeadow high school. She’s passionate about making her to school a better and safer place. She is the founder/President of POC committee, along with the working in CLEE. She is going to pursue a degree in Child psychology at the Bay Path University. Furthermore, she is an Artist, who has worked on many pieces throughout her spare time in her high school career.

Julia Karahalis, Board Director

Julia’s passion is assisting individuals and organizations with dream manifestation. She brings to her roles and relationships a unique combination of credentials, creativity and competence including an MBA with more than 25 years of experience leading the institutional advancement efforts for multi-million dollar non-profit organizations in Rhode Island. She is also a certified Gallup Strengths Coach and received her Certificate of Advanced Graduate Studies in Creative and Expressive Arts from Salve Regina University. She loves facilitating opportunities for individuals and groups to express their creativity, increase their awareness, apply their talents, and maximize their ability to co-create outcomes for the highest and best purpose of everyone involved.

Rebeca Filomeno Nason, PRN ‘15, Board Director

Rebeca currently serves as the Director of Multilingual Learners, Instruction and Services, for the Providence Public School District. Before joining the PPSD Office of Multilingual Learners, she served as an assistant principal at Gov. Christopher DelSesto Middle School in Providence. Previously, she served as a school guidance counselor and dean at Nowell Leadership Academy. Rebeca has also served as an early childhood educator teaching first and second grade at The Learning Community Charter School and preschool at For Pete’s Sake Preschool.  

Rebeca holds a Master of Arts in Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages (TESOL) from Rhode Island College, as well as a Master of Arts in School Counseling from Seton Hall University. She also obtained her administrator certification through the Principal Residency Network at the Center for Leadership and Educational Equity. Rebeca holds a bachelor’s degree in Human Development from Lesley University and an associate degree from the Community College of Rhode Island. 


Phyllis Hardy, Board Director

Phyllis is Executive Director of the Multistate Association for Bilingual Education-Northeast (MABE). She worked as a bilingual special educator in a public school and then as Equity and Diversity Specialist for The Education Alliance. Phyllis is a founding member of the Language Opportunity Coalition that advocated for the Seal of Biliteracy and the bilingual education, and the Coalition on Equity, Diversity and Disability. She enjoys spending time with her grandchildren.

Soljane Martinez, Ed.D PRN ’18, Board Director

Soljane Martinez, Education Coordinator (Brown University); adjunct faculty (JWU) Soljane's professional interests include culturally responsive and sustainable education, teacher preparation, coaching and professional development, social justice, and community advocacy. Soljane was a classroom teacher of grades 3-12 for 18 years, a middle and high school Dean of Culture & Students and a principal. Prior to teaching she was a newspaper reporter with The Providence Journal and the Wall Street Journal. Soljane holds an Educational Leadership doctoral degree from Johnson & Wales University, a Master's of Education from CUNY-Staten Island and a BA in Journalism from URI. She enjoys spending time with her husband and teenage boys traveling, cooking, dancing and supporting multiple sporting events to cheer on her kids.

Dr. Richard McGregory, Board Director

Dr. Richard McGregory Jr. has served as the Chief of Staff for the Madison Metropolitan School District since September 2020. Previously, he served as the Executive Director of Strategic Communication and Accountability for Robbinsdale Area Schools (2016–2020). Prior to these positions in K-12 public education, McGregory provided leadership, planning and evaluation for programs and initiatives aimed at enhancing
the achievement of underrepresented multicultural and first-generation students at the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater (1992-2015).


Justin Medeiros, Board Director

Justin was a student leader of the School Climate Transformation Network in 2019-2020 when he was an 8th grader at Martin Middle School in East Providence, RI. He is currently a 10th grader at East Providence High School, and serves on the CLEE board of directors.

Justin is leading efforts to create diverse clubs at his school in order to engage his learning community in pressing issues in the world and how they can fix them. Justin loves collaborating with people and working not only as a student leader but as a Black student, to make the world a better place for all.

Justin believes that education is the key to success, and that every person should have success to equitable education. In Justin's own words, "It is time for the human race to unite as one, despite our many differences, in love, so as to advance ourselves".

Donald Peurach, Board Director

Donald J. Peurach is a Professor of Educational Policy, Leadership, and Innovation at the University of Michigan and a Senior Fellow at the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching. His research focuses on the organization, management, and improvement of instruction, with a particular focus on network-based continuous improvement. He earned his BA and teaching certificate from Wayne State University his MPP and Ph.D. from the University of Michigan.

Jonathan Ponds Ed.D., Board Director

I have been an educator for over 20 years. I am a change agent in my field assuring that all children receive a quality education. I started my career as a special education teacher in the Boston Public School system. After receiving my doctorate from Johnson & Wales University in Providence, Rhode Island, I was appointed Principal in Malden, Massachusetts. Currently I am the Superintendent in Montclair, NJ. Previously I spent 5 years leading a group of dynamic educators in Moonachie, NJ. Together, we significantly enhanced the academic achievement and social emotional wellbeing of our students and developed a plethora of enrichment and safety net programs for our students and families. Lastly, I have had the humble pleasure to be able to share my work as an adjunct professor at the graduate level, as a guest speaker on school leadership and culturally responsive leadership, and on education panels.


Are you interested in serving on the CLEE Board of Directors? Please click this link to learn more and let us know more about you.