Kimberly Hambrick, Ph.D., Director
I have over 30 years of extensive experience and knowledge of the region, serving in leadership roles to provide capacity building as well as research and evaluation services. I am knowledgeable about federal, state, and local statutes including ESSA and current initiatives. A certified coach and trainer, my focus is on leadership development, effective communication, and team building. I have been connected with the Comprehensive Center program since its inception, with a short break to develop my leadership training and coaching more extensively.
Why I do this work? I am passionate about working in this region and alongside educators to improve educational opportunities for all students.
Laura Taylor, Deputy Director
I have over 14 years of experience including classroom instruction, directing TA projects, program evaluation, leading resource development and digital media efforts, and providing support to locals and states in topical areas from birth to workforce development. I have worked closely with states as they implement their ESSA plans, and I am particularly well-versed in areas related to teacher and leader development and early learning.
Why I do this work? Access to quality education with high expectations for all students is the catalyst for systemic change. By doing this work, I firmly believe that we can support this change and ensure a brighter future for all children.
Brad Keller, Ph.D., Co-Lead
I have over 18 years of experience conducting research on and providing technical assistance for education programs. I have worked extensively with K-12 programs, and throughout Appalachia.
Why I do this work? Effective education is the tool that allows people and communities to shape their futures. I help people generate and use research to increase opportunity.
Rebecca Valenchis, Co-Lead
I offer a continuum of data, early intervention, special education, teaching, TA, project management, and program evaluation expertise across a variety of private and public settings. I am grounded in the practical application of proven educational strategies and support services for all children and their families – especially our youngest learners with disabilities. My broader skill set includes cultivating virtual Communities of Practice (CoP), process development and meeting facilitation, and synthesizing research.
Why I do this work? I am delighted to be a member of the team supporting this work because pursuing positive outcomes for all children and their families is of the utmost importance to me.
Shauna Harps, Ph.D., Co-Lead
As the director of an evaluation of projects funded by the Appalachian Regional Commission, I am familiar with the Appalachian region’s characteristics, strengths, and challenges. Additionally, as a TA provider, I have worked collaboratively with clients and grantees to address their needs related to data quality, performance measurement, and grant implementation.
Why I do this work? It is rewarding to see clients and grantees transition from having limited knowledge of how to effectively use data to improve program and project processes to feeling pride in the fact that they actively contributed to data-driven decisions that improve outcomes and are sustainable.
Monica Young, Ph.D., Co-Lead
I have provided TA to states, districts, IHEs, and non-profits in topics such as data management, data use, human capital management, equitable access, educator evaluation, and accountability, for over 15 years. I have designed and led workshops, convenings, focus groups, and provided individualized support to increase capacity of dozens of education organizations across the nation. In addition to spending four years at the New York State Education Department overseeing accountability metrics and analytics, I also have experience teaching and overseeing research on teacher preparation at Syracuse University.
Why I do this work? I do this work because I have experienced the challenges with designing and implementing meaningful initiatives at the state level. I am eager to support state agencies with enhancing the design and implementation of their initiatives.
Chris Lee Nicastro, Ph.D., Co-Lead
I have over 40 years of experience, serving as a teacher, administrator, superintendent, and Commissioner of Education for the State of Missouri. In addition, I have served on over 30 non-profit boards and taught graduate classes in the leadership program at St. Louis University.
Why I do this work? As the first college graduate in my family, I know only too well that education is the key to a successful future. I am committed to ensuring that all of our children get the same opportunity, and that they have great teachers and great schools.
Terry Lashley, Ph.D., Co-Lead
I have over 30 years of progressive experience in program design; K-12 STEM instruction; curricular reform for teachers and students; dropout recovery and prevention programs; college and career readiness programs; large-scale evaluation projects; grant development; and development of undergraduate, graduate and pre-service teachers. I have worked with rural, underserved students as well as gifted and highest performing students across the U.S. My comprehensive center work has focused on competency-based education, personalized learning, social and emotional competencies, whole child supports, and student agency.
Why I do this work? To make a difference. Throughout my school years, I had so many wonderful teachers and opportunities; I also had parents who supported my involvement in curricular and extracurricular activities. Not all students have the same type of positive experiences I had and, through my work, I hope to help change that.
Jobi Lawrence, Ed.D., Co-Lead
I have over 25 years of experience working across all levels in the field of education, through program administration, evaluation, and implementation with educators across the country and internationally. I bring content expertise in English learners, special populations, assessment and evaluation, literacy, and school improvement. Over the course of my career, I have provided leadership at the National Clearinghouse of English Language Acquisition (NCELA) and the Appalachia Regional Comprehensive Center. I served as the Director of Title III and Education Program Consultant for the Iowa Department of Education.
Why I do this work? Providing capacity building TA allows me to grow and learn alongside our partner states, and I get to serve as a thought partner and provide services that build the capacity of the SEA to move the work forward. It is very rewarding to see the results from each initiative and the impact the work has on the educational outcomes for educators, students, and families.
Amy Lamitie, Co-Lead
I have 25 years of experience in education. I began her career designing instructional materials for corporate change initiatives and then taught high school English, served as a building administrator in two school systems, supported educational reform initiatives for the SEA, and designed and delivered adult professional learning in the areas of literacy, mathematics, social-emotional learning, and standards-based instructional design.
Why I do this work? I believe all children deserve a high-quality education that gives them choices in their lives and power in this world.
Subject Matter Experts
My experience in education includes conducting research and evaluation studies for federal programs, and providing technical assistance in the areas of performance measurement, data collection, and reporting.
Why I do this work? I enjoy working with clients to find ways that data can help inform decisions, and to improve our collective understanding of how education programs are working. Education can transform lives, and I believe that everyone deserves access to a high-quality education.
I am skilled at providing TA to states in the region on education data management and data systems, communities of practice, and virtual engagements. I have provided TA to states, districts, and grantees for 15 years, supporting education for students with disabilities, statewide longitudinal data systems, educator preparation and development, and personalized learning.
Why I do this work? I started my career supporting access to general education for students with disabilities, and pursued a graduate degree in public policy, where I continued to study disparities in education and strategies to improve equity. Each state and district brings a different perspective and background to why they are trying to improve education and I enjoy learning from them and sharing with other states new ideas and practices.
Carla Howe, Ph.D.
I have over 20 years of K-12 experience from school choice research assistant, classroom teacher, district and regional teacher consultant, and SEA staff leading information and reporting initiatives. While at the WVDE, I led the state’s data governance efforts, which included collaborating across various agencies and programs such as higher education and career and technical education to make information more readily available to stakeholders. I helped build the capacity of SEA and LEA staff to understand and use information for decision-making through training, workshops, and supporting materials.
Why I do this work? I get up each morning with the hope of positively impacting students’ educational and career opportunities by ensuring access to information so that strategic, intentional, and impactful data-driven decisions can be made by students themselves or with them as the central focus.
Jennifer Flynn, Ph.D.
I have a Ph.D. in social psychology from NYU, with a minor in quantitative methods. For the last seven years, I have provided technical assistance and conducted research in educational settings.
Why I do this work? I care deeply about ensuring all children receive an excellent education. As a mother and a daughter of an educator, I have seen firsthand the power of schools in our communities.
I am the former Deputy Assistant Secretary for Rural Outreach at the U.S. Department of Education (2009-2013), a communications consultant, and was Chief of Staff for the Maryland State Department of Education and served as a spokesman and oversaw communications for two Maryland public school districts.
Why I do this work? I do this work to improve educational and economic opportunities for disadvantaged communities.
I currently hold my Superintendent, Principal (PreK-12), Elementary (PreK-6), and Special Education (K-12) licensures in the state of Ohio. I have a wide range of curriculum and instruction expertise from my experience as community school director, an elementary principal, a special education teacher co-teaching with a variety of teachers and subject areas from preK-12th grade, a continuous improvement officer at a Drop Out Prevention and Recovery Career Technology High School, and most recently an independent educational sales consultant working with schools to support their assessment and programing for students to successfully transition from school into the workforce.
Why I do this work? At the core of why I went into education and now work in technical assistance is to ensure that ALL students receive the highest quality education possible to meet their individualized needs for learning, workforce development, and overall wellness.
Matt Finster, Ph.D.
I have more than 10 years of experience in education and educational policy research. I have provided TA to U.S. Department of Education grantees in the area of strategic management of human capital, including teacher recruitment, induction, performance management, and compensation. I have written briefs and presented nationally on a variety of topics including teacher turnover and mobility, evaluating teacher leadership programs, development and implementation costs of student learning objectives, staffing teacher leader programs, high school rankings, and peer evaluation programs.
Why I do this work? Because I believe the fate of our future depends on the education of youth.
Sheila Brookes, Ph.D.
I have recently completed an intensive study of the Military Child Care System with the goal of taking that model to states, territories, tribes, and municipalities. I have been a high-performing Senior Training and Technical Assistance Specialist for federal early childhood grants, including Head Start and Early Head Start, and I have over 25 years of experience in the field of early childhood. I have an extensive background in early childhood as a former preschool teacher, program director, executive director, professor of child and family studies, and senior research and policy analyst with rigorous training in policy analysis and research and evaluation methods. My specialties include, early literacy and early math; early childhood teacher preparation; using data for improvement; and program evaluation and improvement recommendations.
Why I do this work? I entered the field of early childhood as a preschool teacher to make a difference. My goal, in all of the work that I do, is to improve the lives of children and families.
Wesley Williams, II
I have managed and led a series of equity pilot projects, implemented state and national level equity work. designed and conducted professional learning equity series, and directed state-level equity offices. After acquiring extensive training and graduate-level coursework in culturally relevant teaching/cultural responsiveness, I designed a unique professional learning series that reflects my educator professional learning design known as the Culturally Responsive Teaching and Leading (CRTL) Journey.
Why I do this work? I engage in activating my professional why through the areas of educator equity, racial equity, and cultural responsiveness in partnership with my clients nationwide to ensure that each human (regardless of the social constructions of race, gender, ethnicity, etc.) has the opportunity to discover purpose, vision, and passion. Each day I internalize a quote by James Baldwin that centers and grounds my work: For these are all our children, and we will either profit by or pay for whatever they become.