Dr. Elizabeth “Betsy” Arons
Chief Executive Officer

Elizabeth “Betsy” AronsDr. Elizabeth Arons is in her 34th year in public education and her 31st year in human resources leadership in public school systems. She is Chief Executive Officer and founder of the Urban Schools Human Capital Academy–an initiative that focuses on human resources reform and the development of human capital leaders. She has served as Chief Executive Officer of Human Resources, New York City Department of Education; as Associate Superintendent, Human Resources, Montgomery County (MD) Public Schools; and as Director of Human Resources in Fairfax County (VA) Public Schools.

Throughout her leadership roles, Betsy has instituted a number of human capital and human resources reforms to elevate the strategic role of HR in meeting the district’s student achievement goals. From 2007-2011, she worked as a Human Resources/Human Capital Consultant for The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, supporting human resources reform in urban districts such as Atlanta, Denver, Hillsborough County, Memphis, Pittsburgh, Prince George’s County, Oakland, and Tulsa.

Prior to her work with New York City schools, Montgomery, and Fairfax Counties, Betsy served as an assistant principal intern and a high school English teacher. Her Bachelor’s Degree in English and her teaching credentials were earned at the University of California, Berkeley; her Master’s Degree in English at the University of Illinois (Chicago); and her Doctorate in Educational Administration and Organizational Development from American University (Washington, D.C.). Dr. Arons has served as the President of the American Association of School Personnel Administrators and has been a well-recognized leader in the field of Human Resources and Human Capital for public school systems.

Dr. Darlene Merry
Chief Academic Officer

DarleneWebsiteDr. Darlene Merry serves as the Chief Academic Officer for the Urban Schools Human Capital Academy and is also a consultant to numerous school districts, educational organizations, and nonprofits in the area of human capital management and organizational development.

In her most recent role as a Senior Advisor to New Leaders for New Schools, Darlene was responsible for serving as a thought leader and a critical consultant in the work of turnaround school leadership, human capital management, and district leadership. Darlene also served as the Chief Academic Officer and head of the Aspiring Principals Program for New Leaders for New Schools. Along with serving as a member of the organization’s executive team to set the vision and direction of the organization, Darlene focused on ensuring that the New Leaders’ recruitment, selection, training, and development model prepared urban school principals to lead schools that promote high levels of academic achievement and success for every child.

Before joining New Leaders, Darlene served as a teacher, principal, and Associate Superintendent for Organizational Development in Montgomery County, Maryland, a large urban/suburban school district that has had significant success in closing the achievement gap. There she served as a leader to develop professional growth systems for principals and other administrators, teachers, and support staff. Darlene received her Bachelor’s Degree in English at Bowling Green University, her Master’s Degree in Counseling at The George Washington University, and completed Doctoral work in Leadership and Policy Studies at The University of Maryland. In addition, Darlene has participated in the three-year-long Harvard Public Education Leadership Project (PELP).

Charles “Chuck” Cascio
Chief Communications Officer

Charles "Chuck" CascioChuck Cascio has a broad range of experiences in education, consulting, and leadership. A former teacher at both the secondary school and university levels, Chuck has spent the past 18 years working with national education-based organizations. Prior to focusing on the work of USHCA, Chuck developed communications, public affairs, and interactive learning as a Vice President at Educational Testing Service (ETS) for ten years. Before joining ETS, Chuck was Vice President for Certification Standards and Teacher Development at the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards, where he expanded the profile of NBPTS through a variety of creative promotional initiatives. As both a staff member and consultant for different education organizations, Chuck has developed promotional campaigns, media-relations strategies, and business initiatives that have increased awareness, improved public relations, and grown market presence. He is a highly skilled writer, editor, and speaker who has worked on projects ranging from book development through website content, logo creation, sales copy, and speech content and presentation. His awards include being lead creative developer for an Emmy Award-winning public service campaign, and receiving a National Endowment for Humanities Grant, a Presidential Scholars Award, a Rothman Institute Award for Entrepreneurial Leadership, and various honors and citations for journalism, creative writing, and teaching.

Chuck holds a Master’s Degree in Communications from American University, a Bachelor of Science in Economics and Business Administration from Wagner College, and an Advanced Studies Certificate in Executive Leadership from Georgetown University’s McDonough School of Business.

Danielle Pickens
Senior Human Capital Advisor and Human Capital Partner

Danielle PickensDanielle Pickens, the Academy’s Senior Human Capital Advisor (and Human Capital Partner), has more than a decade of experience working in urban education. Most recently, as a Human Resources Director for the New York City Department of Education, she led a team of 50+ employees to assist more than 5,000 teachers annually in gaining certification quickly and easily so they could focus on the more important work of improving their instructional practice. As part of her role in Human Resources, Danielle also conceptualized and launched technology systems like a Human Resources Exchange, an online communications platform, to better share HR updates, news, and data with schools, central, and field-based offices. With each project, she focused on improving HR processes, customer service, data management, and services for schools. For her leadership and contributions, Danielle was selected as an inaugural member of the Chancellor’s Fellowship, an eight month leadership development program.

Prior to her work in Human Resources, she raised more than $70 million in private funding to support the New York City Department of Education’s key leadership priorities, including a Leadership Academy for principals, parent involvement, and a budget reallocation process.

Before joining the New York City Department of Education, Danielle served as a project coordinator for the Chicago Public Schools and worked at Accenture, a management consulting firm.
Danielle earned a Master’s in Education Policy and Management from the Harvard Graduate School of Education and a Bachelor’s degree in Public Policy from the University of Chicago.


Craig Chin
Human Capital Partner

Craig ChinCraig Chin has recently completed six years at the Boston Public Schools, where he first started as a Broad Resident following several years as a management consultant. His work as an independent consultant focused on supporting district- and state-level reform efforts through improved human capital strategy development, implementation, and system transformation.

In his most recent position as the Assistant Superintendent of Human Resources in Boston, Craig served on the Superintendent’s leadership team and led the district’s human capital initiatives with particular emphasis on school turnaround efforts as well as the implementation of a new performance management system. He also played a key leadership role in a human resources reinvention initiative, as well as implementing Race to the Top, Teacher Incentive Fund, and Teacher Quality Partnership funded initiatives. Previously, Craig served as the Assistant Chief Operating Officer, supervising multiple departments where he utilized his extensive experience in operational improvement/redesign, budget control, school closings, school choice, organizational alignment, and strategic planning.

Prior to joining the Boston Public Schools, Craig worked in management consulting with Ernst & Young, Grant Thornton, and Benchmarking Partners. He holds a Bachelor of Science Degree in Mechanical Engineering from Tufts University and a MBA from the McDonough School of Business at Georgetown University.

Roberta Cole Ellis
Human Capital Partner

Roberta Cole EllisRoberta Cole Ellis, the retired Chief Human Capital Officer for Tulsa (OK) Public Schools, is in her 39th year in public education. Roberta worked closely with Betsy Arons and The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to redesign the Human Capital Department and reorient central human resources offices to improve student academic achievement.

Roberta worked with a consultant in 2010 to implement a new teacher evaluation rubric based on teacher effectiveness; all Tulsa Public Schools teachers were evaluated with this new effectiveness-evaluation instrument. She strategically reorganized the Human Capital Department to create four Human Capital Partner positions that were directly responsible for meeting school administrators’ human resource needs with a 48-hour turnaround expectation. Under her guidance, professional development was reorganized and redesigned to provide a quality new teacher mentoring program and to provide a standardized support system for experienced teachers evaluated as not effective. In coordination with the teachers’ union, Roberta helped establish new protocols and procedures and renegotiated new language that aligned the teacher effectiveness work. Prior to her work in the Human Capital Department, Roberta worked in the Accountability and Federal Programs Department of Tulsa Public Schools. She has an in-depth knowledge of integrating and maximizing federal entitlement, grant, and earmark dollars to further the urban reform movement and to increase student academic achievement in high poverty schools.

Roberta’s classroom experience was as a Reading Specialist in high poverty schools with a focus on developing processes that connected reluctant and unsuccessful students with creative and success-oriented experiences. As Title I Executive Director, she interacted with the State Department of Education and community partners to redesign low-performing/high-poverty schools into transformational high-performing community schools, revitalizing those schools and the surrounding community. Roberta is recognized as a leader in Oklahoma in reviewing and analyzing all facets of school operations to help schools improve student academic performance. Roberta holds a Bachelor’s Degree in education from Oral Roberts University and a Master’s Degree in Reading Education from University of Tulsa.

Michael Moore
Human Capital Partner

Michael MooreMichael Moore has more than 35 years of experience as a K-12 public school educator and has served as a teacher, a high school principal, and a superintendent of schools. His areas of expertise include leadership development, organizational development, and executive coaching.

Recently, Michael led the core program at New Leaders, Inc. as Chief Academic Officer. New Leaders, a national nonprofit, recruits, selects, trains, and supports principals for the most underserved schools in 12 urban areas. While at New Leaders, he led work that developed and implemented a leadership trajectory and assessment, a school diagnostic tool, and a coaching framework. While serving as the Executive Director of New Leaders’ California program, Michael supported 36 urban principals, 13 of whom saw double-digit annual gains in their student achievement results. As a superintendent, he co-founded two multi-district collaboratives to streamline human capital development, improve the quality of governance, and reduce costs. Michael also worked with the Brookings Institution to improve K-12 governance throughout the state of Maine.

Michael has extensive experience with collective bargaining, interest-based negotiation, and performance management systems. His current consulting portfolio includes projects on teacher effectiveness, principal standards and evaluation, the role of the principal-manager, and the creation of talent pipelines in urban school districts. He holds degrees from The Boston Conservatory and University of Southern Maine.

Dr. Carol S. Parham
Human Capital Partner

Dr. Carol S. ParhamDuring her 40-year career in Education, Dr. Carol S. Parham has developed a wide range of expertise in Education Leadership and Human Resources. She served for more than eight years as Superintendent of Anne Arundel County (MD) Public Schools, the fifth largest district in Maryland and the 43rd largest in the nation. The first woman and the first African American to serve in this position, she was chief county school officer for a 75,000-student school system and leader of more than 8,000 employees. Prior to becoming superintendent, she served in several roles in Baltimore City, Howard County, and Anne Arundel County public schools as a junior high school teacher and Human Resources specialist, supervisor, and director. As Director of Human Resources in Anne Arundel County, Carol oversaw reorganization of the Department of Personnel and the creation of the Division of Human Resources.

More recently, Carol served as the Interim Associate Dean for Diversity and Student Experience in the Graduate School at the University of Maryland. She is also Associate Chair and Professor of the Practice in the College of Education in the field of Education Leadership, and she teaches graduate level courses in Education Leadership and Human Resources. She directs the Maryland Program for Excellence in Leadership, a doctoral program designed for educators interested in district-level leadership positions. Carol was named 1996 Maryland Superintendent of the Year and has received many honors, including induction into the Circle of Excellence after being selected three times as one of Maryland’s Top 100 Women by the Daily Record. She is also featured in the book Women in Maryland History. In the spring of 2002, she was honored with the dedication of the administrative headquarters of the Anne Arundel County Public Schools as the Dr. Carol Sheffey Parham Building.

A graduate of the University of Maryland, where she received a Bachelor of Arts Degree cum laude in Social Studies Education, Carol also holds a Master of Education Degree in Guidance and a Certificate of Advanced Study in Education, Administration, and Supervision from The Johns Hopkins University. Carol’s Doctorate of Education is from the University of Maryland.

Monica Santana Rosen
Human Capital Partner

Monica Santana RosenHuman Capital Partner Monica Santana Rosen has a wide range of experience in human capital management, organization design, leadership development, and principal recruitment and selection. Most recently, Monica directed the Chicago Public Schools efforts to improve the quality of principals across the district, spearheading the redesign of a principal screening process, launching a local and national principal recruitment effort, and supporting the strategic promotion, support or removal of principals.

In Chicago, Monica established the Leadership Development and Support Unit, where she oversaw the district’s Principal Induction Program and provided support for the district’s 26 Chief Area Officers. Prior to this role, Monica helped lead a redesign of the district’s Human Resources Department, and then established and led the 65-staff member Employee Services team in HR. During her tenure in Employee Services, average transaction turnaround time improved from eight weeks down to three days, call answer rates rose from 45% to 93%, and first call resolution increased from 45% to 75%. Prior to joining Chicago Public Schools, Monica worked in philanthropy and nonprofit management, serving as a grants administrator for the Tiger Foundation in New York City and then as Executive Director for Management Leadership for Tomorrow, a career development program for minority undergraduates and professionals. Monica left the Chicago Public Schools at the end of the 2011 school year to launch her own business consulting in education on principal effectiveness and HR redesign. Early clients include Newark Public Schools, The George W. Bush Institute, and The Broad Center for the Management of School Systems.

Monica holds a Bachelor of Arts Degree in Psychology from Wesleyan University and a Master of Business Administration from Harvard Business School. She is the recipient of the Paul and Daisy Soros Fellowship for New Americans, and is a graduate of the Broad Residency in Urban Education.

Dr. Rosa A. Smith
Human Capital Partner

Dr. Rosa A. SmithDr. Rosa A. Smith is a career educator who is nationally noted for her courageous effort to address the plight, challenges, and opportunities available to change the education trajectory of black male students. Most recently, she served as the Regional Education Director for New Leaders for New Schools (NLNS) where she supported NLNS partnerships in Memphis, Greater New Orleans, and Milwaukee. Prior to joining NLNS, Rosa was President and CEO of the Schott Foundation for Public Education for six years. During her tenure, the Fair Funding Act policy was funded in New York, early childhood policies were enacted in Massachusetts, and the Foundation started the Black Boys Initiative.

Rosa taught elementary and junior high school in South Bend (IN) and St. Paul (MN), served as a high school principal in St. Paul and Minneapolis, and provided district leadership in the roles of Assistant Director of Curriculum and Assistant Superintendent of Planning and Support Services (included the HR function). As Superintendent of Schools for the Columbus (OH) Public Schools and School District of Beloit (WI), Rosa conducted operations, finance, and curriculum audits to focus the work of adults, improve student achievement, and increase public confidence in the districts.

Rosa has earned numerous awards, including the Wisconsin Superintendent of the Year, MLK Humanitarian Award, the Spurgeon Award, the YMCA Achievement Award, the NAACP Service Award, the HOSTS Champion for Children Award, and the Fred Rogers Leadership Award in Philanthropy. She has served on many boards and advisory groups, including the American Association of School Administrators’ Executive Committee, the Harvard University Urban Superintendent Program, and The Alliance for Education advisory committee. Currently, Rosa serves on the National Center for Family Homelessness board of directors. Rosa received her BA and MA in Music from Indiana State University and her PhD in Public Policy and School Administration from the University of Minnesota. She has an Honorary Doctorate Degree from Ohio Dominican University.

Dr. Jane Lai Woodburn
Human Capital Partner

JaneWoodburn150With 34 years of experience in public education, Dr. Jane Lai Woodburn, is passionate about improving teaching and learning by ensuring highly effective teachers in the classroom. Under her leadership as the Deputy Superintendent and Chief Operating Officer in Washoe County School District in Nevada, she led the transformation of Human Capital services across the district by promoting collaboration between Human Resources, principal supervisors, and principals to support the principals’ role as Human Capital Managers. Active with national organizations focusing on Process Performance Management and benchmarking with Key Performance Indicators, she brought best Human Capital practices and networking opportunities to the district. As a result, while facing major budget cuts, the district was able to reduce their hiring process from 14 to 5 steps to increase efficiency and cost-effectiveness in the hiring of qualified applicants who are best matches for schools.

With her experiences as School Performance Director supporting principals on school improvement in 29 schools and as Human Resources Director staffing 199 schools in Montgomery County Public Schools, Maryland, Jane strengthened collaboration among Human Resources staffers, principal supervisors, and principals to ensure that schools are staffed with teachers who are the best matches for meeting their specific needs. She led Human Resources through the Baldrige process, which resulted in improved customer service from Human Resources to schools/central offices and opening of schools with filled vacancies. To increase efficiency while decreasing cost and cycle-time for recruitment and selection, she initiated online recruitment creating video shorts targeting Gen X, Y & Millenials and Career Changers through social networks and Skype interviews. She collaborated with staff from Teach for America and The New Teacher Project to develop a Hiring for Attitude project and aligned HR staffers to service specific schools so principals had “one-stop shopping” for their HR needs. Jane worked to address workforce diversity and the staffing of critical areas/high-needs schools by collaborating with the Maryland State Department of Education, major universities, and business communities to develop Grow Your Own Teacher/alternative programs and to establish processes that address the issues of forced placement and staffing high-needs schools.

Jane has also served as an elementary/secondary special educator, Adult ESL teacher, high school counselor, Human Resources Staffing Analyst, and Administrative Assistant to the Associate Superintendent of Student/Community Services in Montgomery County and Prince George’s County Public Schools in Maryland, and as a Reading Clinician at the University of Maryland Reading Clinic. She holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Special/Elementary Education, Master’s Degree in Early Childhood-Elementary/Reading Education, Master’s Degree in Counseling & Personnel Services, and Doctorate of Philosophy in Education, Policy & Leadership from the University of Maryland; and Administration & Supervision Certification from Trinity College in Washington, D.C. She is a National Board Certified Counselor experienced in executive coaching and change management and holds certification in Six Sigma (Green Belt) and Lean Six Sigma (White Belt).



Jeffrey “Jeff” Kang
Human Capital Fellow

Jeffrey “Jeff” KangJeff Kang is a seasoned consultant and program manager with a metrics-driven approach to help organizations make key decisions and build capacity to meet their mission. As a program officer in Prince George’s County (MD) Public Schools, Jeff led the design and implementation of a performance management system for all central office departments, and he most recently managed the district-wide transition toward a weighted student-funding model.

Jeff began his work in K-12 education as an Education Pioneers Fellow and Broad Resident; he is passionate about helping others navigate their path into the sector. In addition to spending five years as a consultant with Booz Allen, Jeff has also provided strategic and technical support to Ashoka, Education Pioneers, and Ashesi University in Accra, Ghana.

Jeff received an engineering degree from the University of Pennsylvania and a Master of Business Administration Degree from University of California, Berkeley’s Haas School of Business. He enjoys using his education and work experiences to coach, mentor, and develop teams.

Katherine “Katie” Nesmith
Human Capital Fellow

Katherine “Katie” NesmithPrior to joining the Urban Schools Human Capital Academy, Katie Nesmith worked at the New York City Department of Education for more than four years in a variety of roles. Most recently, she was a Senior Director in the Office of School Leader Effectiveness, leading the design and implementation of the Department’s principal performance review pilot in 30 schools. In addition to working in the Department’s Office of Product Development, where she managed the launch of a professional learning management system for teachers and school leaders, Katie was also Director of Strategic Analysis in the Division of Human Resources.

Before joining the NYC Department of Education, Katie worked at the World Bank in Washington, DC, where she researched education systems across East Asia and the Pacific Region and supported the Bank’s education program in Mongolia. Katie began her career as an elementary school teacher in East Oakland and East Palo Alto, California.

Katie holds a Master’s Degree in International Management from the University of California, San Diego and a Bachelor’s Degree from the University of California, Berkeley.