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Governing Board

The REL Northwest Governing Board provides strategic guidance on REL Northwest work to maximize local effectiveness and leverages its regional networks to amplify and disseminate REL products. Meet the REL Northwest Governing Board:

Headshot of Vanesse Hiratsuka

Vanessa Hiratsuka

State: Alaska
Dr. Vanessa Hiratsuka (Diné/Winnemem Wintu; she/her) is an assistant professor of clinical and translational research, and co-director of research and evaluation at the University of Alaska Anchorage Center for Human Development. She received a bachelor’s degree in human biology from Stanford University, a master’s degree in public health practice from the University of Alaska Anchorage, and a doctoral degree in public health from Walden University. Her community engagement work has spanned regional, national, and international efforts. Her research interests include ethical, social, and legal implications of genomic research and precision medicine among Indigenous populations; evaluation of health interventions in public schools; cultural adaptation of chronic disease and behavioral health interventions; and community-engaged evaluation of health and training programs serving individuals experiencing intellectual and developmental disabilities.

Headshot of Jayne Downey

Jayne Downey

State: Montana
Dr. Jayne Downey is a Professor in the Department of Education at Montana State University, where she serves as the Associate Dean for Educator Preparation and the Director of the Center for Research on Rural Education. As an educational psychologist, she has worked in educator preparation for over 20 years and her research and scholarship are focused on strengthening the preparation of teachers and counselors for rural schools and communities and improving outcomes for rural students. Jayne serves on the board of directors for the Montana Small Schools Alliance, working on behalf of 140 of Montana’s smallest rural and remote schools. She is a co-leader of the Rural Education International Research Alliance and a co-author of Rural Education Across the World and Teaching in Rural Places: Thriving in Classrooms, Schools, and Communities. Jayne has been awarded $10 million in funding for grants and research. She has published over 40 articles, technical reports, evaluations, and professional manuals, and given over 60 peer-reviews, and invited research presentations at regional, national, and international conferences.

Headshot of Kali Thorne Ladd

Kali Thorne Ladd

State: Oregon
Kali Thorne Ladd is chief executive officer at Children’s Institute. She is a social entrepreneur who is a passionate advocate for equity and education transformation with a background that spans from teacher to program manager to policymaker to chief executive over the last 20 years. After spending 4 years as education director for Former Mayor Sam Adams, Kali pursued establishing and co-founding KairosPDX, a non-profit dedicated to closing opportunity and achievement gaps for historically marginalized children. Kali led KairosPDX as executive director for 9 years before taking on the role of chief executive officer of the Children’s Institute, a statewide policy, advocacy, and research organization based in Portland. Kali continues to serve at CI. In May 2012, Kali won election to the Portland Community College Board of Directors, Oregon’s largest higher education institution. She served for 7 years and as Chair for 2 1/2 years. In 2016, Kali was appointed by Governor Brown to the Early Learning Council of Oregon where she currently serves. Kali received her bachelor’s degree in elementary education and Psychology from Boston College and earned a master’s degree in education policy from Harvard University.

Headshot of Nichole Cruser

Nichole Cruser

State: Idaho
Nichole Cruser is principal at West Elementary School in Mountain Home, Idaho. At an early age, Nikki knew teaching was the career path for her. Inspired by teachers and mentors who shared their time, knowledge, and talents, she tapped into Idaho’s higher education programs to pursue teaching. She earned her elementary education degree in 1995 from Lewis-Clark State College, followed by her special education master’s degree from Boise State University, and an educational leadership degree from the University of Idaho. Her first teaching job was in Mountain Home, Idaho and 25 years later, she is still excited to see how she can help students and teachers alike in this small town. In addition to having a “dream job,” she has kept busy with two daughters – one graduating soon from the University of Idaho and the other attending Lewis-Clark – her husband of 27 years, and the newest four-legged addition to the family, Mila.

Headshot of Carmen Xiomara Urbina

Carmen Xiomara Urbina

State: Oregon
Carmen Xiomara Urbina is the deputy director of the Oregon Department of Education. She is a bilingual and bicultural professional with 30 years of experience working with communities of color and education systems. She is a proven leader who brings diverse and unique lived-experience and skills. She has developed exceptional talents serving in early learning settings, K-12 school districts and ESDs, higher education, and leading culturally specific and highly respected community-based organizations in Oregon. Carmen’s efforts are always grounded in equity, focused on the needs of all our students and families, and designed to bring community and education organizations together in both safe and effective ways. She has facilitated and led asset based complex and targeted outreach in communities of color to implement effective parent involvement and recruitment strategies in districts, schools, and community-based organizations. She attended the University of Santa Monica where she was awarded a masters in spiritual psychology and Oregon State University where she was awarded a B.S. in agriculture and resource economics and a minor in international economics in 1989; she also holds an associate degree in business administration and accounting.

Headshot of Brian Jeffries

Brian Jeffries

State: Washington
Brian Jeffries is the policy director for the Washington Roundtable, a public policy think tank composed of senior executives of the state’s largest private employers, and the Partnership for Learning, the Washington Roundtable’s education foundation. Prior to his current role, Brian worked for a private educational testing company. Before that, he spent nearly 10 years at the Washington state education agency, the Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction serving as a senior advisor on numerous issues, including high school graduation, dual enrollment, state assessment, and career and technical education. In the middle of two stints with the state, Brian was the staff coordinator to the state Senate Early Learning, K-12, and Higher Education Committee, then worked as a policy consultant to the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. He began his career in education as a high school special education teacher.

Headshot of Lisa Parady

Lisa Parady

State: Alaska
Dr. Lisa Parady is the executive director of the Alaska Council of School Administrators (ACSA). ACSA was created to serve as an umbrella for four of Alaska’s premier educational leadership organizations: elementary principals (AAESP), secondary principals (AASSP), school business officials (ALASBO) and the Alaska Superintendents Association (ASA). ACSA’s unifying purpose is to support educational leaders through professional forums, provide a voice that champions possibilities for all students, and purposeful advocacy for public education. Dr. Parady became Executive Director of ACSA in 2014, after six years in Utqiagvik (OO-tiyag-vik), where she served as the acting and assistant superintendent of the North Slope Borough School District. She led the district through many issues that confront rural districts today – educator recruitment and retention, curriculum that is standards based and culturally relevant and engaging, and the day-to-day challenges of district administration in remote regions. Before moving to Alaska, Lisa served as chief of staff in the Wyoming Department of Education, as a cabinet member and director of the Wyoming Department of Workforce Services, and as senior policy analyst in the Governor's office, where she was primarily responsible for all K-12 education, higher education, health, and social service issues.

Headshot of Michaela Miller

Michaela Miller

State: Washington
Dr. Michaela Miller is the deputy superintendent at the Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction (OSPI). The deputy superintendent oversees a variety of divisions within the agency, supports the Superintendent to carry out his goals, and provides leadership and resources to support districts in helping all students develop skills necessary for their future. Prior to her appointment as deputy superintendent, she was the director of outreach and engagement for the National Board. From 2007–13, she was the director of Washington’s Teacher and Principal Evaluation Project, National Board Certification Program and Beginning Educator Support Team for OSPI. From 1995–2007, Dr. Miller taught high school, facilitated National Board candidates, and mentored new teachers in the North Thurston Public Schools. She achieved National Board certification in 2002 and renewed in 2011. She earned her doctorate from the University of Washington and holds a Washington state principal certification from Seattle Pacific University.

Headshot of Min Sun

Min Sun

State: Washington
Dr. Min Sun is an associate professor in Education Policy at the University of Washington. Min investigates the policies and practices that drive improvements in teacher workforce and instruction, school accountability and effectiveness, and school finance, with the aim of advancing educational equity. In close partnership with practitioners and policymakers, her work seeks to provide meaningful, innovative, and rigorous research to address pressing educational issues from classroom to state level. Professor Sun innovates in educational research by applying machine learning methods to examine textual and video data about curriculum and instruction, teacher professional networks, and school improvement actions/tasks on a large scale. She then uses econometric models to connect these quantitative measures of school and instructional processes with student success, both short-term (e.g., test scores, attendance) and long-term (e.g., high school graduation, post-secondary education, and employment). Professor Sun’s recent work includes educational technology platform development that are codesigned with K-12 teachers and for them to efficiently plan and deliver instruction and collaborate with one another. Professor Sun is the Founder and co-director of Education Policy Analytics Lab. Dr. Sun’s contributions to the field have been recognized as a recipient of the National Science Foundation’s CAREER Award.

Headshot of Kelly Manning

Kelly Manning

State: Alaska
Kelly Manning is the deputy director of Innovation and Education Excellence at the Department of Education and Early Development in the State of Alaska. A lifelong Alaskan, Kelly is dedicated to supporting an equitable and rigorous public education system that develops Alaskans for the Alaska workforce. Having worked in disabilities services, local arts education, tribal partnership, and juvenile justice, Kelly brings an understanding of the wide needs of varied student populations to her work at the state level. Kelly holds a BA in English from the University of Alaska Southeast, an MAT in Secondary English Teaching from the University of Alaska Southeast, and an MFA in creative writing from the University of Alaska Fairbanks.

Headshot of Sharyl Allen

Sharyl Allen

State: Montana
Sharyl Allen is deputy superintendent of Montana’s Office of Public Instruction. She is a native Montanan raised in an entrepreneurial environment with ranching as the backbone of her family. Community involvement and pride were firmly instilled by parents who valued work ethic, family, music, and God. Western Montana College provided an exceptional foundation to become an effective teacher. Her MBA was completed at Northern Arizona University, where she also completed post-masters work in educational leadership. Georgetown University’s Urban Educational Leadership certificate was completed in 2015. With 38 years in public education, she has been with the OPI for over a year first as the Transformational Learning and Montana Advanced Opportunities program manager, and since April 2020 as the deputy superintendent.

Headshot of April Campbell

April Campbell

State: Oregon
April Campbell is a citizen of the Confederated Tribes of Grand Ronde and the director of the Office of Indian Education at the Oregon Department of Education. April has 20 years of experience working in Indian Education and works closely with State Education agencies, the 9 federally recognized tribes in Oregon, and native communities and organizations in an effort to close the opportunity gap for American Indian/Alaska Native students and increasing Indigenous educators in Oregon. As a first generation, high-school graduate, April has a passion for learning and helping others on their educational journey. April led the revision of Oregon’s American Indian/Alaska Native Student Success State Plan, which includes efforts for Senate Bill 13 – Tribal History/Shared History curriculum and the implementation of Native American curriculum in classrooms across the state.

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