A think-and-do tank committed to North Carolina public schools
Elizabeth Anderson joined the Public School Forum as Director of the North Carolina Center for Afterschool Programs in Fall of 2022, bringing with her more than 15 years of experience in nonprofit leadership and management of afterschool programs. She is deeply committed to building collaborative, cross-sector partnerships to address complex issues impacting children, teens, and their families. She is particularly passionate about making sure that children and teens have access to safe, high-quality out-of-school enrichment opportunities that allow them to develop their individual interests and identities while supporting their academic, social, and emotional success.
Elizabeth is a North Carolina native hailing from Winston-Salem, NC. She is a product of the North Carolina public school system, from elementary to graduate school. After earning her Bachelor of Arts degree in Journalism and Mass Communication and History from UNC Chapel Hill, she spent almost ten years in New Mexico facilitating and administering school-day, afterschool, and summer programs for children and youth, including at the Georgia O’Keeffe Museum, Girls Incorporated of Santa Fe, Fine Arts for Children and Teens, and Communities in Schools of New Mexico. These experiences showed her the transformative power of afterschool, summer, and other out-of-school time programs and informal learning, starting her lifelong journey advocating and supporting afterschool opportunities.
In 2016, Elizabeth returned home to North Carolina where she earned her Master’s degrees in Social Work and Public Administration with a focus on Community, Management, and Policy practice and Nonprofit Leadership. She was Program Director for Chatham County Partnership for Children from 2020-2022 where she led Child Care Resource and Referral programming for a five-county region and served as a convener and thought leader on early childhood issues in Chatham County.
As Director of NC CAP, Elizabeth provides strategic leadership to develop, drive, and ensure sustainability of NC CAP priorities and initiatives and statewide afterschool policy. She leads the Afterschool Network for North Carolina, regional convenings of afterschool stakeholders, and NC CAP’s annual SYNERGY conference for out of school time providers, educators, and community partners. She also serves as NC CAP’s point person for the Afterschool Alliance and National Afterschool Association to support national out of school time policy and efforts.
Marisa brings a wealth of knowledge from the non-profit sector to the Public School Forum of North Carolina, having served as volunteer, employee and board member for many local nonprofits. Marisa served as President of the Junior League of Raleigh, Major Gifts Coordinator for Urban Ministries of Wake County, as Membership Coordinator for Triangle Land Conservancy, and in several development roles at UNC-Chapel Hill and Duke University Medical Center. Marisa is also a trained Community Action Poverty Simulation facilitator.
Marisa coordinates and advances the Forum’s individual and corporate giving, including sponsorships for the Forum’s four signature events: Eggs and Issues, Synergy Conference, the Jay Robinson Education Leadership Awards Gala and the Color of Education Summit. Marisa also manages grants for the Forum.
Marisa received a BS in Political Science from Elon College and a Masters in Public Administration from UNC-Chapel Hill.
Gretchen joined the Forum in 2022 and brings with her years of experience as a versatile professional in both mission-driven and business/consulting organizations. She has extensive experience collaborating with senior leaders to plan and organize multi-functional changes and growth. Her background includes HR, talent management and recruiting, office administration and marketing and communications.
Gretchen supports all aspects of the Forum’s operations working directly with the Directors of Finance and Administration, Strategic Partnerships and the President and Executive Director.
As the Producer/Communications Analyst, Shannon supports the Public School Forum’s weekly show, Education Matters as well as other video/communication needs. Prior to joining the Public School Forum, Shannon produced Education Matters at WRAL while earning a B.A. in International Studies/Relations and Middle Eastern Studies at North Carolina State University. While studying abroad in the United Arab Emirates and Morocco, Shannon taught outdoor skills to girls who typically wouldn’t have the opportunity to learn outside and worked to rebuild schools for minority students in rural regions. Shannon is passionate about education policy and always wanted to produce shows centered around building communities up through education and working towards equitable opportunities for children.
Wayne has spent his career making STEM education more accessible, engaging, and fun for learners of all ages. With a focus on out of school learning opportunities he brings years of experience in hands-on STEM education to the team. He has a background in traditional “lab bench” science and worked in the Marine Sciences Department at UNC Chapel Hill as an undergraduate where he earned a Bachelor of Arts in Environmental Studies with a focus in Environmental Decision Making. While at UNC he was introduced to the world of informal science education through a service learning opportunity at Morehead Planetarium and Science Center.
For over ten years Wayne helped develop and manage many of the STEM education programs at Morehead Planetarium. Through the Science Summer Camp and Morehead Afterschool Programs he developed, tested, and implemented STEM curricula for thousands of young learners in grades K-8 in a variety of science disciplines. Wayne played a major role in creating live science shows, new exhibits, STEM overnights, and field trip experiences for Morehead Planetarium and the NC Science Festival. He has even taken his love of science and education abroad and has written and developed STEM content for young learners in both China and in France for unique out of school learning opportunities. Wayne has a particular interest in training educators in science communication and the delivery of STEM content to varied audiences.
With the goal of making a broader impact, and to continue in his efforts to increase access to STEM learning, Wayne obtained a master’s degree in Elementary Education and Teacher Leadership from Elizabeth City State University. He took those skills to the North Carolina public school system as a first grade teacher and then as a middle school science teacher. Wayne spent a year teaching and learning at Willow Oak Montessori School where he implemented a student driven approach to STEM education as their science specialist.
Wayne strongly believes that everyone is a lifelong learner and that providing exciting, engaging, and meaningful STEM experiences to students outside the classroom can have a lasting impact on how they perceive and engage with STEM. Through his effort at NC CAP he hopes to spread his enthusiasm for science and learning to every corner of North Carolina.
Stacey Craig is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker and owner of a private psychotherapy practice in Raleigh, NC. Stacey has been a school consultant and coach through the Resilience and Learning Project at the Public School Forum of NC since March 2019. Her life’s passion is helping schools and families create and sustain healing communities where children with complex needs and stressors grow into healthy, connected, engaged adults.
Stacey earned her Masters Degree in Social Work from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill in 2012 with specializations in School Social Work and Child and Family Mental Health. Since then, she has gained a variety of career experience as a psychotherapist, school-based program manager, counseling supervisor, trauma-informed consultant, and trainer in the Raleigh-Durham area, NC, Boston, MA, and in the United Kingdom.
Outside of her work passions, Stacey loves learning about different cultures and places through travel, spending time with friends and family, walking through nature, and exploring the arts through dance, music, drawing, painting, improvisational theater, and writing.
Elizabeth has a passion for improving the lives of at-risk and trauma-exposed children. She brings experience in mobilizing diverse groups of individuals and building collaborative relationships in order to create systems-level change that benefits children and youth. Elizabeth earned her Bachelor of Arts in human services from Elon University, and her Certificate in nonprofit leadership and her Master of Social Work from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
After graduating from Elon University, Elizabeth worked in development and fundraising for the National Multiple Sclerosis Society both in North Carolina and in New York City. During her time at UNC Chapel Hill in graduate school, Elizabeth served as a school social work intern at both Heritage Middle School and Forestville Road Elementary and as a youth services intern at InterAct of Wake implementing a healthy relationships curriculum in Wake County Schools. Most recently, Elizabeth was a Program Manager for the Center for Child and Family Health with the North Carolina Child Treatment Program in Durham, NC implementing a training program across the state to train clinicians and social workers in trauma-focused therapies for children and families. Elizabeth joined the Public School Forum in June of 2017 and now serves as the Director of the North Carolina Resilience and Learning Project working to create trauma-sensitive schools in our state.
Lauren has more than fifteen years of education research and policy experience at the local, state, and national levels. Her work at the Forum involves guiding the organization’s research, policy analysis, engagement, and advocacy efforts in order to support a strong and equitable system of public education in North Carolina. Lauren also serves on the Guiding Committee for the Color of Education and is a founding board member of the Education Justice Alliance.
Prior to joining the Forum, Lauren lived for ten years in New York City, where she worked as a researcher and consultant for a number of organizations including The Public Good, the Center for Understand Race and Education, the Ford Foundation, the New York Civil Liberties Union, and the U.S. Department of Justice. Lauren earned her Ph.D. in Sociology and Education with a concentration in Education Policy from Columbia University’s Teachers College and her undergraduate degree from UNC Asheville. She grew up in Charlotte, NC and is a proud graduate of the Charlotte Mecklenburg School System.
Sara began her career in education teaching English abroad, and continued as an ESL educator for the Durham Public School System. She later transitioned designing and building professional development and online communities of practice for educators and other adult learners. She brings interest and experience in culturally and linguistically inclusive curriculum and teaching practices, teacher training and support, and equitable access to education resources.
In her role as Program Manager for Public School Forum’s policy team, Sara co-coordinates the Education Policy Fellowship Program, and supports research in other areas including teacher recruitment, diversity, training, and retention. Sara holds a BA in Global Studies and a Master of Arts in Teaching from UNC-Chapel Hill. Sara is a native of North Carolina and a graduate of the Wake County school system.
Ashley is the Associate Director for the Dudley Flood Center for Educational Equity and Opportunity at the Public School Forum of North Carolina. In this position, Ashley guides policy and research priorities related to racial equity, manages the Flood Center Fellowship program, and oversees the programmatic efforts of the Flood Center. Her current research has centered around strengthening the teacher pipeline, focusing on understanding the barriers within licensure policies and requirements that prevent candidates, especially those from diverse backgrounds, from entering the teaching workforce within North Carolina. Ashley is also a member of the Governor’s DRIVE Task Force, charged with creating a plan of action to increase racial, ethnic, and linguistic diversity within North Carolina’s educator workforce.
Before moving to the Triangle, Ashley earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in Psychology from Wake Forest University. After college, she gained a passion for education and racial equity through influential experiences such as facilitating social justice workshops for students as an Americorps member in Memphis, TN, and collaborating with community members to promote the academic, socio-emotional, and behavioral well-being of students as a Program Coordinator at Big Brothers Big Sisters.
To continue making strides in social justice, Ashley completed a dual Masters’ degree in Social Work and Public Administration at the University of North Carolina – Chapel Hill. Her focus on understanding and addressing systemic issues surrounding race, organizational culture, and practices has been a consistent motivator and has validated the work she does at the Public School Forum of North Carolina. Ashley recognizes the disparities and inequities within education and nonprofit leadership and as a native of High Point, NC, she has a strong passion for advocating for all people throughout the state.
Malasia is the Program Coordinator at the Dudley Flood Center for Educational Equity and Opportunity. As the Program Coordinator, she provides overall support and organization for the Flood center, manages and coordinates communications, and drafts and disseminates information about the Flood Center’s programmatic and research efforts. Additionally, she supports the programmatic work of the center such as the Student Voices Webinar Series, Rural Teacher Leader Network, Color of Education Summit, and other programmatic efforts as needed. Prior to joining the Public School Forum, Malasia was a Fellow at the Z. Smith Reynolds Foundation where she made funding recommendations in accordance with the Foundation’s grantmaking strategies, organizational values, and priority areas. Additionally, she managed the recruitment and selection processes for the Non-Profit Internship Program and the Fellowship Program.
Malasia is a native of North Carolina and earned a Bachelor of Arts in Political Science from North Carolina State University. During her undergraduate experience, she participated in the North Carolina General Assembly Internship Program, supported research as a Research Assistant at the T.E.A.C.H. National Center, and interned with the James B. Hunt Institute. On campus, Malasia created safe spaces for students of color and those disproportionately affected by systemic inequities by reactivating the campus chapter of the NAACP. Additionally, Malasia participated and led service trips internationally to teach English. Malasia has a heart for education. She aspires to experience a world where education policy is informed by quality research and accounts for historical inequities faced by students and communities.
Angela Taylor Mendell is the Southeast Region NC Resilience & Learning Program Manager. Prior to joining the Forum, Angela was employed with Bladen County Schools for twelve years as the district’s Behavior Specialist and also as the MTSS (Mulit-Tiered Systems of Support) Coordinator for four of those years. Prior to working with Bladen County Schools, Angela had a diverse career serving in various child, youth and family service areas (Medical Social Work, Child Welfare and Systems of Care). Angela has a passion to help change the stigma in our society associated with Mental Health/Behavioral Health and aspires to bring insight and understanding on issues of trauma and resiliency to school staff and others who work with children and youth.
Angela resides in Elizabethtown, NC (Bladen County) with her husband of 26 years. They have two daughters Lexie (22) and Lorna (19).
As the Policy and Research Analyst, Elizabeth supports the Public School Forum’s research, advocacy, and publication work, including the annual Local School Finance Study and bi-annual Education Policy Primer. She is currently working toward her Master of Public Policy at Duke University’s Sanford School of Public Policy. Prior to joining the Public School Forum, Elizabeth earned a B.S. in Human and Organizational Development with a track in education policy and a B.A. in English from Vanderbilt University. Elizabeth is passionated about education policy and working to create equitable school systems for all students, especially those who face structural challenges.
Jessica started her career in education teaching middle school math for the Wake County Public School System. She is passionate about creating strong schools through community partnerships. As a teacher, Jess has facilitated workshops to help teachers understand and implement culturally responsive teaching strategies.
In her role as Policy Engagement Coordinator for Public School Forum’s policy team, Jess supports event planning and coordination of local and statewide convenings related to policy, develops relationships and engages with education partners and stakeholders. She also works with the communications team to draft and disseminate content about education policy.
Jess holds a BA in History from UNC-Chapel Hill and a Master of Arts in Teaching from NC State University. Jessica is a native of Raleigh, North Carolina and a graduate of the Wake County school system.
As a communications analyst, Chanté helps develop and steer the Forum’s voice on social media and assists with a variety of other communications efforts. Previously, she worked as a Program Assistant at the International Center for Journalists, planning training activities for journalists in various countries. Chanté is a Raleigh, NC native and a graduate of Howard University, where she earned a bachelor of arts in Media, Journalism & Film.
While at Howard, she held internships with VICE News and The Carolinian, among others. Additionally she served as Managing Editor of the student-run newspaper, The Hilltop, which was named Student Newspaper of the Year by HBCU Digest during her tenure. She also created and ran a blog entitled Be The Zeitgeist exploring fashion, hip-hop culture and social issues. As a professional communicator, Chanté is passionate about conveying ideas meant to better the future of marginalized communities.
Becky Stern comes to the Resilience & Learning Project with 30 years of experience working in schools. Having grown up in a family of teachers, Becky started her career as a high school English teacher in her home state of New Jersey, and earned her Master’s Degree in Social Work from UNC Chapel Hill shortly after moving to North Carolina in 2000. Along the way, she has been a school-based interventionist on several projects while working for Duke University’s Center for Child and Family Policy. These projects included developing and implementing curricula devoted to violence prevention, alcohol and tobacco use prevention, high school dropout prevention, and most recently on social and emotional learning in preschool classrooms. Becky joined the Forum in 2019 and feels like her entire career has been preparation for this work of helping to create schools where all students feel safe, heard, seen, and valued for who they are. She lives in Carrboro with her husband Michael and two sons, Caleb and Archer.
As a former K-8 educator and school counselor, Eulanda has over 18 years of experience working in public education. She has a passion for using her gifts to serve vulnerable children and teens who are living in or experiencing stressful or traumatic situations. This passion continues to guide her toward opportunities to educate others on recognizing how trauma affects all individuals and how our bodies respond to trauma.
Eulanda received her bachelor’s degree in Elementary Education from North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University and her master’s degree in Counselor Education from East Carolina University with a dual track in school counseling and clinical mental health. In 2018, she became a certified trauma-informed and resiliency focused educator through Reconnect for Resilience™.
While educating herself on trauma, resilience, and Adverse Childhood Experience (ACEs), Eulanda was selected as a board member of Rural Opportunity Institute (ROI). In this role, the mission is to support people’s healing process by educating, reshaping systemic practices, and fostering deep-rooted connections with individuals in the community at large. Eulanda has trained hundreds of individual throughout Eastern North Carolina and beyond. Through these trainings, she has taught resiliency tools and built relationships which foster connection and healing. Eulanda’s work facilitating professional development and educating others has been featured in PACEs Connection (Positive and Adverse Childhood Experiences) – a national social network for mental well-being. Through PACEs, Eulanda was recognized as a champion in building ACEs awareness.
Eulanda believes that resilience is an inner strength in all humans and that we as people need connection to support healing. She is committed to living life with an open heart to not only serve others, but to meet people where they are. Eulanda is now working to create trauma-informed – trauma-sensitive classrooms, and build positive relationships that focus on the whole child.
In her capacity as Senior Director, Dr. Townsend-Smith will advance and expand the current programmatic and policy efforts of the Flood Center in an effort to achieve its mission of addressing issues of systemic racism by advocating for structural changes in policy and practice to build an equitable education system that meets the social, emotional, and academic needs of NC’s diverse student population.
Dr. Deanna Townsend-Smith has been working in education for over 20 years. In 2014, she earned her doctorate in Educational Leadership. She has worked and gained expertise in a variety of roles, including as a teacher, mentor, new teacher coach, administrator and, most recently, as the Director of Board Policy and Operations for the North Carolina State Board of Education. Prior to that role, Dr. Townsend-Smith served as the assistant director in the NC Office of Charter Schools. Deanna has a passion for education and has dedicated her life’s work to the field. Most of her career has been spent in North Carolina, where she resides with her husband and son. In her spare time, she enjoys spending quality time with friends and family, reading, and traveling.
Rhonda joined the Public School Forum in 2014, bringing more than 25 years of extensive experience in the accounting field to her position. Rhonda provides management, control, and administration of all fiscal operations and supports the President & Executive Director with long range financial planning. Although a native of North Carolina and graduate of East Carolina University, Rhonda spent the bulk of her professional career in the Philadelphia area. While in Pennsylvania, she gained her valuable and versatile experience by working in all aspects of accounting in both the private and public sectors including city and county government, institutions of higher learning and several major international organizations.
Mary Ann Wolf, Ph.D. has served as President and Executive Director of the Public School Forum of North Carolina since June 2020, bringing with her more than 20 years of educational policy and leadership working on federal, state, and local policy and directly with schools and districts to improve equity and build capacity for innovation. At the Forum, she connects policymakers and practitioners with a deep focus on ensuring that every child in NC has access to a high quality and equitable education.
Prior to her role at the Forum, Mary Ann was the Senior Director of the Professional Learning and Leading Collaborative (PLLC) at the Friday Institute for Educational Innovation at NC State University. She and her team lead ongoing, job-embedded professional learning to guide superintendents, district teams, principals, coaches, and teachers in North Carolina and across the country. Mary Ann and her team also led the development of the Learning Differences and Social and Emotional Learning (SEL) online courses and micro-credentials, with over 20,000 participants across the world.
Mary Ann co-wrote Leading Personalized and Digital Learning: A Framework for Implementing School Change through Harvard Education Press (2017), as well as many other publications on personalized learning, culture, leadership, and learning analytics. She previously served as the Executive Director of the State Educational Technology Directors Association (SETDA) in Washington, D.C., where she led a national and nonpartisan nonprofit focused on innovation with members from all fifty state departments of education. This work included a focus on topics such as equitable access to broadband internet, professional learning and assessment; as well as providing input to legislation and policies. Mary Ann testified before Congress on personalized and digital learning, provided significant input on the 2009 ARRA/Stimulus Educational Technology federal legislation, and has worked extensively with members of Congress, the Bush and Obama administrations, state leaders in NC and all fifty states, and other policy organizations.
Mary Ann served as the chair and vice chair of the non-partisan, elected Chapel Hill-Carrboro School Board during her tenure from 2017 through 2021. After teaching fifth grade in Henrico County, Virginia, she received her Ph.D. in Education, Administration and Supervision from The Curry School of Education at the University of Virginia. She received a Master’s of Education from The George Washington University and a bachelor’s degree in accounting and marketing from Georgetown University. Mary Ann lives in Chapel Hill with her husband, Brian; and she has three children who attend or attended (prior to graduation) our public schools in NC.