NSCC Staff

Phil Brown
Senior Practice Consultant

Jonathan Cohen, Ph.D., A.B.P.P.
Co-founder and President of NSCC

Ashley Duffee
Research Associate

Darlene Faster
Chief Operating Officer, Communications Director

Julio Gonzalez
Information Technology Director

Jueqi He
Finance & Admin Coordinator

Deborah Haber
Senior Practice Consultant

Jack Heidgerd
Director of Finance

Kori Hamilton, M. Ed.
Senior Policy and Practice Consultant

Marjie Knudsen
Twitter Manager

Serena La Rocque
Assistant Director of Education

Shannon McCarthy
Senior Resource Center Manager

Mylisa Nogra
School Support Coordinator

Akeem Ogaro
Junior IT Associate

Randy Ross
Senior Policy and Practice Consultant

Jessica Savage
Senior Policy Consultant

Leighann Starkey
Research Director

Amanda Weitzel
Senior School Support Coordinator

Romina Fraiegari
School Support Manager

Edgar Rivera
Policy Associate

Erin Schulte
Consultant

Tim Tasker
Educational Project Manager

Indu Viswanathan
Practice Associate

Philip Brown

Philip Brown
Senior Practice Consultant
[email protected]

Philip Brown, PhD, is a Senior Practice Consultant at NSCC. He is also a Fellow of the Graduate School of Applied and Professional Psychology at Rutgers University where he founded and directed the Center for Social and Character Development. He has been principal investigator on several U.S. Department of Education grants, including research studies on evidence-based practices. Phil has served in student support services related management positions in the New Jersey Department of Education and the Pennsylvania Department of Health for 25 years, as a school board director, founder and president of the New Jersey Alliance for Social, Emotional and Character Development and is a member of the National School Climate Council. With colleagues from Fordham and Marshall Universities he is co-editor of the Handbook of Prosocial Education (2012).

Jonathan Cohen

Jonathan Cohen, Ph.D., A.B.P.P.
Co-founder and President of NSCC
[email protected]

Jonathan Cohen, Ph.D. is the co-founder and president of the National School Climate Center (NSCC). He is an Adjunct Professor in Psychology and Education at Teachers College, Columbia University; co-founder and emeritus chair, The National School Climate Council; co-editor of the International Journal of School Climate and Violence Prevention; and a practicing clinical psychologist and psychoanalyst.

Jonathan has worked in and with K-12 schools for over thirty-five years as a teacher, program developer, school psychologist, consultant, psycho-educational diagnostician and mental health provider. After working as a middle school teacher at the Marianne Frostig Center for Educational Therapy in Los Angeles, he received his Ph.D. in clinical psychology from the City University of New York, New York, New York and completed a Post-Doctoral Fellowship in Child and Adolescent Psychology (1979-1980) at New York Hospital-Cornell Medical Center as well as at the Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, Department of Pediatrics, New York, N.Y. He is a Diplomat in Clinical Psychology, American Board of Professional Psychology (June, 1988).

Jonathan founded and directed the Teachers College Press Social Emotional Learning series, which was published in partnership with the Collaborative for Academic, Social Emotional Learning. He has authored over 85 articles, chapters and books including Educating Minds and Hearts: Social Emotional Learning and the Passage into Adolescence (Teachers College Press and the Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development, 1999); (with B. Cohler) (1999) The Psychoanalytic Study of Lives over Time: Clinical and Research Perspectives on Children Who Return to Treatment as Adults (co-edited with Bert Cohler; Academic Press; 1999) and, Caring Classrooms/Intelligent Schools: Social Emotional Education of young Children (Teachers College Press; 2001). Both of his Teachers College Press books were awarded the "Best Academic Book" by the American Library Associations Choice in 1999 and 2001 respectively. He is a co-author (with John Devine) of the recently published volume Making your School Safe: Strategies to Protect Children and Promote Learning (Teachers College Press, 2007). And, the co-editor (with Kristie Fink and Sean Slade) of Integrating Prosocial Learning with Education Standards: School Climate Reform Initiatives (Routledge, 2017)

Dr. Cohen has consulted to scores of schools, districts and State Departments of Education interested in furthering social, emotional, ethical and academic education and positive school climate in America, France, Israel, Japan, Peru, and Switzerland. He often lectures to groups of educators, parents and/or mental health professionals here and abroad. He speaks to educational and parent groups about a range of topics and has presented keynotes at scores of national conferences, State and Federal educational meetings, schools and district professional development forums.

He is the father of two children and has been married for 36 years.

Darlene Faster

Darlene Faster
Chief Operating Officer, Communications Director
[email protected]

Darlene Faster is NSCC’s Chief Operating Officer and Communications Director. Darlene has more than a decade of experience working with schools, districts, and states to integrate whole child reform. She leads NSCC’s Comprehensive School Climate Inventory (CSCI) work nationwide, and directly trains school personnel on interpreting their data to create sustained, actionable improvement plans. Darlene is the Project Manager for NSCC’s five-year collaboration with Iowa State‘s Safe and Supportive Schools (IS3) grant, and directs all technical support in partnership with Iowa’s principal investigators for the grant. She provides leadership support on all of NSCC’s survey-based research and improvement projects, including our multi-year collaborations with Special Olympics Project UNIFY (nationwide), the Capital Regional Education Council in Connecticut (35 districts), and with Detroit RESA (50+ schools). Ms. Faster co-created and launched NSCC’s nationwide bully prevention awareness campaign, BullyBust (www.bullybust.org) and the Upstander Alliance, which provides free, concrete prevention supports to more than 3500 schools nationwide. Ms. Faster has done preliminary doctoral research in urban schools in Chicago and New York, and worked with the National Center for Learning Disabilities (NCLD) before joining NSCC. Presently, Darlene serves on the Research Advisory Committee for Special Olympics Project UNIFY.

Julio Gonzalez

Julio Gonzalez
Information Technology Director
[email protected]

Julio Gonzalez is the Information Technology Director of the NSCC, Julio has over a decade of extensive knowledge and experience in the IT field and has worked with other non-profits to achieve their IT goals. He is also a proud veteran of The US Army, and participated in operation enduring freedom and Iraq freedom as an intelligence / operations SSgt. . New York and Georgia native, Julio is fluent in both English and Spanish, and spends most of his free time working with new technologies and tinkering to create new programs.

Kori Hamilton

Kori Hamilton, M. Ed.
Senior Policy and Practice Consultant

Kori Hamilton, M. Ed. is a Senior Policy and Practice Consultant at NSCC. She is also a senior education equity specialist at the Mid-Atlantic Equity Consortium. Her primary role is to providing technical assistance and professional development to schools and school districts focused on equity with specialization in cultural proficiency, special education, school culture and climate, harassment prevention, and alternative discipline practice. She works with numerous districts to support their resolution of compliance agreements with the US Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights, Department of Justice, as well as other state compliance agencies. Ms. Hamilton has combined her knowledge of practice with skillful resource creation and dissemination through publications, website content management, and a full range of social media tools, improving collaborative efforts with partners and national experts to provide universal and targeted technical assistance to families, educators, and practitioners.

Deborah Haber

Deborah Haber
Senior Practice Consultant

Deborah Haber, M.Ed., is a Senior Practice Consultant at NSCC. Deb is formerly EDC Vice President and expert educator for 30 years, is a nationally recognized leader in developing and directing national resource, training, and technical assistance programs and centers for state and federal agencies. Her passion is around creating safe and supportive learning environments for children and youth so they may grow into healthy and thriving adults. She has more than 20 years of experience in strategic management aimed at enhancing TA effectiveness and efficiency as well as in and providing assistance to enhance cross-sector collaboration and systems transformation in states and communities. For 11 years, she directed the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration’s (SAMHSA) National Center for Mental Health Promotion and Youth Violence Prevention, overseeing an annual budget of $6-8 million and leading a team of 40 professionals to support 350 Safe Schools/Healthy Students (SS/HS) school/community grantees and 35 Project LAUNCH state and local grantees. Prior to this, she oversaw the $3.5 million training and TA Center for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), delivering TA to over 50 state education agencies and 18 large, urban districts. As director of EDC’s Center for School and Community Health (CSCH), she provided strategic direction and management for (among others) the Tribal Juvenile Detention and Reentry Training and Technical Assistance Center, the Tribal Youth Program Training and Technical Assistance Center, and the Massachusetts Technical Assistance Partnership for Prevention. She has more than 30 years of experience in education, school and behavioral health, and in delivering services to professionals and practitioners that helps them to better meet the needs of the children, youth and families they serve. She is especially interested in developing readily accessible tools and materials that empower local leaders, professionals, and practitioners to succeed in solving community problems based on research and best practice. She is an expert curriculum developer, trainer, and facilitator. Her decades of experience collaborating with the key stakeholders in the field ensure that her strategic decisions are informed, pragmatic, culturally competent, and embraced by the target audiences. Ms. Haber received her M.Ed. from Boston University and is currently seeking certification in positive psychology.

Jack Heidgerd

Jack Heidgerd
Director of Finance
[email protected]

Jack Heidgerd joined NSCC in August 2009 as Director of Finance and also currently serves as interim Chief Financial Officer at WNYC Radio. Jack is a graduate of the New York City public school system and received BBA and MBA degrees from Iona College in New Rochelle, NY. After college, Jack spent 25 years working in financial management in the Gannett Company, the largest newspaper publisher in the USA, last servicing as Vice President of Finance at The Journal News in White Plains, NY. In addition to significant accomplishments as a financial leader in Gannett, Jack has served in various financial leadership roles in non-profit organizations including Lutheran Social Services, The Food Bank for Westchester, Koinonia and the Westchester Housing Fund. He lives in Bedford Hills, NY with is wife Ann Marie and two sons.

Marjie Knudsen

Marjie Knudsen
Twitter Manager

Marjie Knudsen is the Twitter Correspondant for NSCC and Bullybust. She is a Child Advocate and Author. Her goal is to shine a light on the positive actions that youth can take to increase the feeling of well-being and resiliency in their lives. Towards that goal, she enjoys researching and sharing information for parents, teachers, counselors and leaders that work with youth. She has a B.A. degree in Communication from Iowa State University. Her past work has been in advertising and media production.

Serena La Rocque

Serena La Rocque
Assistant Director of Education
[email protected]

Serena La Rocque is the Assistant Director of Education at NSCC. Over the past eight years, Serena has worked with children, schools, non-profit organizations, and states in the US and Mexico. She has teaching experience, as well as, experience in co-designing, implementing, managing, and evaluating k-12 educational programs. In addition, Serena has worked with New Jersey Department of Education to help edit their curriculum to integrate social emotional learning competencies into the classroom. She received her Masters in Urban Education Policy from Brown University.

Randy Ross

Randy Ross
Senior Policy and Practice Consultant
[email protected]

Randy Ross, M.S., M.A., is a Senior Policy and Practice Consultant at the National School Climate Center. Her special focus is on projects related to civil rights and equity concerns. As co- leader (with Jessica Savage, Esq.) of the NSCC Policy and Civil Rights Team, she provides technical assistance and professional development services to school districts and state education leaders wishing to address equity issues in their school climate, discipline, and bullying/harassment policies and practices. Randy served for almost nine years as Senior Equity Specialist at the New England Equity Assistance Center at Brown University. Her work focused on implementing an equity-centered school climate model, which includes distinguishing between bullying and discriminatory harassment and culturally responsive social-emotional learning (SEL). She has worked with numerous districts to support their implementation of agreements with the US Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights. Previously, Randy served under the New Jersey Attorney General in the Office of Bias Crime and Community Relations, where she initiated and led “New Jersey Cares About Bullying,” a statewide, state-sponsored coalition of government and nonprofit stakeholders. She has taught at all levels, from pre-school to graduate students. Randy received her B.A. and M.A. in Anthropology from the University of California at Berkeley and an M.S. in Educational Leadership from the Bank Street College of Education in New York City. She is a member of the National School Climate Council and serves on the Steering Committee of the Social Emotional Learning Alliance of Massachusetts.

Jessica Savage

Jessica Savage
Senior Policy Consultant
[email protected]

Jessica Savage, Esq., M.A., is the Senior Policy Consultant at the NSCC. She is a graduate of the University of Pennsylvania, where she studied psychology and the Biological Basis of Behavior, Georgetown University Law Center, where she received her J.D., and New York University, where she received a Master's degree in Education Policy and Social Justice. While at NYU she completed a thesis on the causes of, and best practices for preventing, peer-to-peer sexual harassment in school. She has worked with a number of child advocacy organizations, including Children’s Rights, Inc. and the Children’s Defense Fund, and practiced employment law at the New York law firm, Liddle & Robinson, L.L.P. for five years.

Amanda Weitzel

Amanda Weitzel
Senior School Support Coordinator
[email protected]

Amanda Weitzel is the NSCC School Support Coordinator. She also attends Montclair State University where she is working on a Graduate Certificate in Data Collection and Management. Montclair State is where she received her Bachelors in Sociology. Her ultimate goal is to attain her PhD in Educational Research Methodology.

Romina Fraiegari

Romina Fraiegari
School Support Manager
[email protected]

Romina Fraiegari is a School Support Coordinator at NSCC. She graduated from Queens College with her B.A. in English with a double minor in History and Art History. Romina graduated with Highest Honors in English from QC. In 2014 she graduated with her M.A. in English from Fordham University. Previously, Romina worked at a Kumon Learning Center for six years; during this time she developed a passion for teaching, education, parent outreach, as well as an interest in data analysis as it relates to individual student academic growth and progress. She also worked at a charter school in the South Bronx as a Curriculum Writer. Romina is passionate about social inclusion, youth development, as well as disability studies.

Ashley Duffee

Ashley Duffee
Research Associate
[email protected]

Ashley received her Bachelor's from Rutgers University, and her Master's degree from Brooklyn College, where she studied Mental Health Counseling and Experimental Psychology. She loves working with children and has taught students of varying backgrounds, from preschool age through high school. She has used her psychology training to approach teaching from a holistic standpoint, realizing the impact that mental health, social conditions, and relationships among students and teachers have on a student’s academic performance. Ashley believes in the importance of using data and formalized assessments to make informed decisions, and is interested in research relating social well-being to academic success.

Jueqi He

Jueqi He
Finance & Admin Coordinator
[email protected]

Jueqi He is a Finance and Admin Coordinator at NSCC. She graduated from University of Western Ontario with B.A and with a double major in Finance and Global Commerce. In 2015 she graduated from Yeshiva University and received her M.S. in Quantitative Economics. Jueqi is a high-energy financial professional with multi-national work experience .Now Jueqi is excited to begin her career path in non-profit organization and would like to learn more about educational industry.

Erin Schulte

Erin Schulte
Consultant

Erin Schulte, Ph.D. is a consultant for the National School Climate Center. She earned her bachelor's degree from Marquette University with a double major in Psychology and Spanish Language and Literature. She earned her master's degree in School Counseling from the University of Missouri- Saint Louis. She was a guidance counselor in public high schools in Saint Louis, MO for 6 years. She recently earned her Ph.D. in Educational Psychology with an emphasis in Character Education from The University of Missouri- Saint Louis. She currently works as the Coordinator of Guidance and Character Education for a large public school district in Saint Louis, MO. Her research interests include using yoga and mindfulness to promote mental well-being in students.

Shannon McCarthy

Shannon McCarthy
Senior Resource Center Manager

Shannon McCarthy, Ed.M, is the Senior Resource Center Manager at NSCC. She is committed to promoting intercultural understanding in the United States and around the world, and believes that young people play a vital role in this work. After graduating from Pitzer College with a B.A. in Gender and Feminist Studies, Shannon completed a year of fulltime service with City Year Los Angeles. She spent two years living in Paris, France, where she worked as a teacher and tutor, and supported a French education company’s English language and international programming expansion. Shannon holds a Master of Education in Prevention Science and Practice from the Harvard Graduate School of Education, and is thrilled to continue creating learning environments that foster civic action and social justice.

Mylisa Nogra

Mylisa Nogra
School Support Coordinator

Mylisa Nogra is a School Support Coordinator at NSCC. She graduated from SUNY Geneseo with a B.A. in Geography and a minor in Economics, and was a recipient of the prestigious Geneseo Fellows Scholarship. Mylisa realized her passion for working with children as a camp counselor for the Rochester Young Scholars Academy at Geneseo and as an after-school tutor for at-risk youth. She is particularly passionate about urban education and closing the achievement gap. Mylisa is interested in using her Geography and Economics background to study school equity as it relates to students affected by different geographic and demographic factors.

Akeem Ogaro

Akeem Ogaro
Junior IT Associate

Akeem Ogaro, B.Sc. in Computer Information Systems from Monroe College, is a Junior IT associate at NSCC. An ambitious, motivated and humble young man born in Bronx, NY but was raised in the land of wood and water, Jamaica. It was in his early teenage years that Akeem discovered his passion for computers and technology on a whole. As a result, he recognized that he will eventually start a career in this progressive industry. While in college, he didn’t mind lending a hand from time to time in the IT laboratory to help students work their way around the computer. Akeem relishes reading, traveling, and is ultimately thrilled to start his IT career at NSCC.

Edgar Rivera

Edgar Rivera
Policy Associate

Edgar Rivera is a Policy Associate at NSCC. He has worked within the field of education in a number of capacities, both in the U.S and Guatemala. The majority of his work centers on facilitating an equitable and democratic schooling experience for all children, particularly via the active challenging of the many socio-cultural, institutional, bureaucratic and interpersonal ways in which children and their families experience marginalization in schools. Recently, he worked as a research assistant at the Research Alliance for New York City Schools on the NYC High School Choice study. He received his B.A in Sociology from Vassar College and will receive his M.A in Sociology and Education from Teachers College, Columbia University.

Leighann Starkey

Leighann Starkey
Research Director

Leighann Starkey, Ph.D. is the Research Director at the National School Climate Center. She received her Bachelor's degree from the University of Pittsburgh and her Ph.D. in Developmental Psychology from The Graduate Center, City University of New York. Prior to NSCC, Leighann served as Project Director for Opportunities for Equitable Access to Quality Basic Education (OPEQ), a cluster-randomized impact evaluation of an intervention aimed at improving school environments, teacher performance, and student academic outcomes in the Democratic Republic of Congo. She also served as a research assistant at Fordham University in the follow-up study of the Reading, Writing, Respect, and Resolution (4Rs) program in New York City, as a policy research assistant at the Institute for Children, Poverty, and Homelessness, and as a research assistant on multiple projects at the Pitt Parents and Children Laboratory at the University of Pittsburgh. Leighann has also lectured as an adjunct at Brooklyn College. She has authored and co-authored peer-reviewed publications appearing in the Journal of Education in Emergencies, Annals of Behavioral Medicine, and the Journal for Research on Educational Effectiveness.

Tim Tasker

Tim Tasker
Educational Project Manager

Tim Tasker, MA is an Educational Project Manager at NSCC. His work with NSCC began when he served as Project Manager for a two-year, collaborative grant that was focused on bullying prevention and school climate improvement, called the Communities Aligning for School Transformation (CAST) Project. After earning his B.A. in Psychology and Religious Studies from Northwestern University, Tim spent nearly a decade working as a researcher in the education and mental health fields. More recently he earned his M.A. in Psychology from the University of Illinois at Chicago, where he will soon complete his Ph.D. in Psychology with emphases on Community and Prevention Research as well as Statistics, Methods, and Measurement. His research interests include: bias-based bullying, school and organizational climates, generalizability of educational interventions, and strategies for reducing bias. Tim is passionate about work that makes data accessible to all school stakeholders and empowers them to be leaders in school transformation efforts.

Indu Viswanathan

Indu Viswanathan
Practice Associate

Indu Viswanathan, M.A., is a Practice Associate at NSCC. She has sixteen years of global experience in curriculum design, teaching, and teacher education. She has served in American public schools, Ecole Francaise Internationale de Bombay, and with educational NGOs in India and Haiti. Indu also served as Research and Impact Director for YES! for Schools, a schools-based nonprofit committed to delivering breathing and meditation modalities to schools across the country. She is currently a doctoral student at Teachers College, Columbia University. Indu is a champion of positioning wellness as a cornerstone of lifelong teacher education, social justice, and school life.