National Alliance for Public Charter Schools Staff
President & CEO
Nina Rees is the President and Chief Executive Officer of the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools, the leading national nonprofit organization committed to advancing the charter school movement.
Rees has over 20 years of experience in Washington, D.C., most recently as Senior Vice President for Strategic Initiatives for Knowledge Universe, a leading global education company with investments in early childhood education, before- and after-school programs and online instruction.
Prior to her tenure at KU, she served as the first Assistant Deputy Secretary for Innovation and Improvement at the U.S. Department of Education. In this capacity, she oversaw the administration of 28 grant programs, supporting 1,300 projects and was responsible for spearheading innovative federal programs and policies such as school choice, charter schools, alternative routes to teacher certification and school leadership. She also helped coordinate the implementation of several provisions of the No Child Left Behind (NCLB) Act. Prior to joining the Education Department, Rees served as Deputy Assistant for Domestic Policy to Vice President Dick Cheney.
Rees has also served as the senior education analyst at the Heritage Foundation where she authored more than two dozen policy briefs and served as the foundation's chief spokesperson on education. She has appeared on various news outlets including CNN, C-Span and PBS's NewsHour and her articles and opinions have been published in the New York Times, The Wall Street Journal and The Washington Post.
Rees currently serves on the board of advisors of the Education Policy and Governance Program at Harvard University’s John F. Kennedy School of Government, the National Association of Charter School Authorizers, the Apple Tree Institute for Education Innovation and the review board for The Broad Prize for Public Charter Schools.
Rees holds a B.A. in Psychology from VA Tech and a master’s in International Transactions from George Mason University. She lives in McLean, VA with her husband and daughter.
Vice President, Operations
Cordell Carter is the Vice President for Operations for the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools. Cordell was recently the Vice President for Policy at the Business Roundtable (BRT), where he managed a broad policy portfolio for the BRT including K-16 education, worked closely with the members of the BRT, and assisted in planning and organizing quarterly CEO meetings. Prior to joining the BRT, Cordell served as the Director of the School Support Services Division, Director of Business Systems, and Special Assistant to the Chief Financial Operations Officer for Seattle Public Schools. Prior to joining Seattle Public Schools, he served as Visiting Attorney for Kreditanstalt für Wiederaufbau (KfW) Bankengruppe's Office of Legal and Executive Strategy in Frankfurt, Germany, and previously served as a Strategy Consultant for IBM Business Consulting Services - Public Sector. Cordell holds a B.A. in political science and economics from the University of Washington, an M.S. in public policy and management studies from Carnegie Mellon University and a J.D. from the University of Notre Dame Law School. He was also a Broad Resident from 2008-2010.
Senior Vice President, Government Relations
Gina Mahony is the senior vice president for government relations, where she focuses on improving federal support for the growth and expansion of high quality public charter schools across the country. Before joining NAPCS, Mahony was a Policy Director at Brownstein Hyatt Farber Schreck, serving as a strategist, advocate and advisor for Fortune 500 and privately‐held companies, coalitions and trade associations on issues before the U.S. Congress, the Executive Branch, and federal agencies. Prior to her work at Brownstein, Mahony spent 11 years working on Capitol Hill, serving more than five years as a senior policy advisor to Rep. Steny H. Hoyer (D-MD), during his tenure as House Majority Leader and Democratic Whip. During her time on the Hill, she developed and implemented legislative strategies on a variety of policy issues, including education. Mahony received a Bachelor of Arts in Government from the University of Notre Dame, and her Master of Education in Administration, Training and Policy Studies from Boston University.
Chief of Staff
Eric Paisner is the chief of staff for the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools, where he works to ensure greater collaboration across all elements of our work. Prior to joining the Alliance, Eric worked as an attorney for Powers Pyles Sutter & Verville PC, advising clients on a variety of education and corporate issues. He also served as a senior consultant with Arthur Andersen, specializing in strategic management solutions for large corporations and government agencies. Eric has a Bachelor of Business Administration from the University of Michigan and a law degree from Georgetown University Law Center.
Senior Vice President, State Advocacy and Support
Todd Ziebarth is the senior vice president for state advocacy and support for the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools. Previously, he worked as a policy analyst both at the Education Commission of the States from 1997 to 2003 and at Augenblick, Palaich, and Associates from 2003 to 2005. He has a Bachelor of Business Administration from Western Michigan University, a Masters of Public Administration from the University of Colorado at Denver and a Masters of Urban and Regional Planning from the University of Colorado at Denver.
Director, State Services
Taishya Adams is the director of state services for the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools. Taishya’s journey in education began as a servant leader with the Children’s Defense Fund Freedom School program in 1995. Since then, she has worked with a variety of local and national non-profits, the U.S. Department of State and urban public school districts to strengthen the educational landscape for the next generation of global citizens. Prior to joining the Alliance, Taishya served as a performance officer with the D.C. Public Charter School Board. In this capacity, she gained a wealth of experience in monitoring and providing technical assistance in the academic and operational performance of public charter schools. She earned her Masters of Arts in International Education from George Washington University where she specialized in program management and educational systems and her Bachelor of Arts from Vassar College in Political Science and Film Production.
Angela Christophe is the director of programs for the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools. She has served on the staff of the D.C. Public Charter School Board and most recently as the business affairs director for a mental health agency. Angela is an active resident of Washington, D.C., serving as a member of the Georgia Avenue Economic Development steering committee, and was elected as an Advisory Neighborhood Commissioner. A New Orleans native, Angela is a graduate of Howard University's School of Business.
Senior Director, Government Relations
Pam Davidson is the Senior Director of Government Relations for the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools. Pam is an experienced government relations professional, with more than 18 years of experience in this field. She spent more than 14 years on the Hill working for House Republicans, starting in the personal offices for several Members and concluding with seven years as professional staff on the House Education and Workforce Committee. She has drafted legislation, written committee reports, negotiated legislative language, and worked with a variety of stakeholders from all ends of the political spectrum. In her off-the Hill experience, Pam has worked for the National Council for Adoption and the National Association of Child Care Resource and Referral Agencies. She has also executed advocacy campaigns, conducted trainings, represented organizations in the press, and testified in front of the House Ways and Means Committee.
Senior Director, State Advocacy
Lisa Grover is the senior director of state advocacy for the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools. Most recently, Lisa was the CEO of the New Mexico Coalition of Charter Schools, where she advanced the policy environment by helping to create a second authorizer, solidify a lease assistance program and gain charter access to state tax exempt bonds. Before that, in 2001, Lisa was a founder of one of the first charter high schools in New Mexico, ranked over the last four years by Newsweek magazine as one of the top performing 1,200 high schools in the country. She began her career as a high school Spanish teacher in the Los Angeles Unified School District and also taught English as a Second Language in China, Ecuador and Mexico. She holds a doctorate in Romance Languages and a Master's Degree in Linguistics and Multi-cultural Education. In 2010, her charter school peers recognized her as New Mexico’s Innovator of the Year.
Director, Special Projects
Laura Katzin is the Director of Special Projects at the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools where she supports the Alliance in fundraising and various cross-functional activities. Prior to joining NAPCS, Laura worked in government relations and event planning for several organizations and government offices. Most recently, she worked at Knowledge Universe where she helped manage the government relations activities in 20 states and Congress. Laura holds a M.A. in Government from Johns Hopkins University and a B.A. (magna cum laude) in Political Science from Loyola University Chicago.
Senior Manager, Research and Analysis
Nora Kern is the senior manager for research and analysis for the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools. Prior to this position, she worked with the Data Quality Campaign as a federal policy associate, on Capitol Hill for a Georgia Congressman, and as a 4th grade teacher in a charter school in Gainesville, Florida. She started her career in DC in an education policy fellowship coordinated by the Thomas B. Fordham Institute and the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools. Nora holds a B.A. in History and minors in Education and Italian Studies from the University of Florida.
Senior Director, Research and Evaluation
Anna Nicotera is the senior director of research and evaluation for the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools. Prior to joining the Alliance, Anna was a pre-doctoral research fellow with the U.S. Department of Education’s Institute of Education Sciences (IES) and a graduate research assistant at the National Center on School Choice. Her research experiences include program evaluations of whole school reform models and professional development initiatives in urban school districts, as well as a multi-state, longitudinal examination of the impact of the No Child Left Behind school choice provision on student achievement. Anna received her Bachelor of Arts in Political Science from the University of Chicago and she is a doctoral candidate in Education Leadership and Policy Studies at Vanderbilt University.
Chris Rue is a research analyst for the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools, where he analyzes data and presents information on charter schools. Before shifting to the education field, Chris interned and volunteered extensively in international projects, including internships at the United Nations Development Programme and the Foreign Agricultural Service and volunteer work in Peru and Ghana. Chris has a Bachelor of Arts in Economics from Emory University and a M.S. in Agricultural and Resource Economics from the University of California, Davis.
Vice President, Legal Affairs
Renita Thukral is the vice president of legal affairs for the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools, where she develops and coordinates the Alliance of Public Charter School Attorneys and addresses civil rights, fiscal equity and labor/employment issues confronting charter schools. Prior to her work with the Alliance, she was the policy director at the Louisiana Association of Public Charter Schools and, prior to that, the director of policy and advocacy at New Schools for New Orleans. While in New Orleans, she taught as an adjunct professor at Loyola University School of Law and published an article titled, “The Unique System of Charter Schools in New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina: Distinctive Structure, Familiar Challenges.”
Before entering the charter school world, Renita was a public defender in New York City, practicing at the trial and appellate levels in state and federal courts. She clerked for the Honorable Robert W. Sweet, in federal district court in the Southern District of New York; she earned her Juris Doctorate from Yale Law School and her Bachelor of Arts from Stanford University. She taught junior high school math in Los Altos, Calif., before attending law school.
Marlene Voelker is the executive assistant for the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools. She is responsible for supporting the president and CEO, and the COO with many of their duties. Prior to joining the Alliance, Marlene served as the office manager and executive assistant in a prominent real estate firm in northern Virginia. She has also worked in the merchandising and marketing fields in both creative and entrepreneurial roles. Marlene spends some of her spare time working with ChildHelp, a nonprofit organization for abused children. Marlene holds a Bachelor of Science degree in Education from the University of Maryland.
Jenny Wanger is the conference coordinator for the National Alliance for Charter Schools. She works closely with the director of programs and communications staff to execute the annual National Public Charter Schools conference. Jenny brings to the Alliance several years’ experience in the hospitality industry and a background in events management for arts nonprofits. She graduated from Harvard University with a Bachelor of Arts in East Asian Studies, specializing in Chinese literature.
Senior Policy Fellow
Christy Wolfe is the Senior Policy Fellow for the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools. She has more than 18 years of experience working on federal education policy, most recently as an independent consultant working with national education reform organizations. Wolfe spent eight years at the U.S. Department of Education, serving as the Associate Deputy Secretary for Policy and managing the development of critical elementary and secondary, as well as special education, policy and regulatory issues. Wolfe was also a Professional Staff Member for the U.S. House of Representatives’ Committee on Education and the Workforce, where she worked on major education legislation, including the No Child Left Behind Act. She holds a Bachelor of Arts in American Government from the University of Virginia.