Board of Directors and Advisory Council
Learner-centered change impacts all aspects of a community and requires diversity of perspective and voice. Our Board of Directors and Advisory Council, comprised of trusted partners, friends, and leaders, bring guidance and first-hand knowledge of what it takes to realize a learner-centered paradigm where all learners can thrive.
Board of Directors
Dr. Frankie Escobedo
National Center of Urban Transformation
Dr. Francisco Escobedo has been an educator the better part of 30 years. Since 2010, he is the Superintendent of the Chula Vista Elementary School District (CVESD). Located in southern San Diego County, the District’s 46 schools serve over 29,400 students. In 2019, the Learning Policy Institute identified CVESD was one of seven “California Positive Outlier” districts for its superior academic scores. Dr. Escobedo is past president of the Chula Vista Chamber of Commerce Board of Directors; member of the Board of Directors for West Ed Advisory Board, California Collaborative for Education Excellence, the local YMCA, and for Classroom of the Future Foundation; and a Rotarian. He was selected as 2019 Superintendent of the Year for ACSA Region 18.
Center for Inclusive Innovation at Digital Promise
Prior to joining Digital Promise, Ms. Smith served as Chief Learning and Innovation Officer with the Network for Teaching Entrepreneurship (NFTE), leading the innovation strategy for the global leader in youth entrepreneurship education. Ms. Smith oversaw the development of a portfolio of college- and career-ready programs to empower disadvantaged youth to lead economically sustainable lives and research on the Entrepreneurial Mindset Index (EMI) – a pioneering tool for measuring the impact of non-cognitive skills on student success.
Chief Learning Officer
Joseph South, chief learning officer, is a strategic national educational technology leader focused on evidence-based learning transformation.
He formerly served as the director of the Office of Educational Technology at the U.S. Department of Education. In his role at the department, he was an adviser to the Secretary of Education and developed national educational technology policy, formed public-private partnerships to assist state and local education leaders in transitioning to digital learning, helped school districts expand the use of openly licensed educational resources (OERs), and collaborated with stakeholders to nurture a robust ecosystem of edtech entrepreneurs and innovators.
He also worked on a cross-governmental team to bring high-speed broadband, interactive devices, professional development for educators and leaders, and high-quality affordable digital content to U.S. classrooms. He is a strong proponent of the active use of technology by learners.
Dr. Devin Vodicka
Dr. Devin Vodicka is the CEO of Learner-Centered Collaborative and the author of Learner-Centered Leadership. During his tenure as Superintendent of Vista Unified School District, he was recognized three times as California Superintendent of the Year—in 2016 by AASA and in 2015 by ACSA and Pepperdine. He was named Innovative Superintendent of the Year in 2014 by the Classroom of the Future Foundation. And he was a nine-time White House invitee, both in recognition for district-wide achievement, and to advise and partner with the U.S. Department of Education’s office of Educational Technology and Digital Promise League of Innovative Schools. A longtime advocate for a more learner-centered model of education, Devin leads Learner-Centered Collaborative in the pursuit of its vision for education ecosystems that empower all learners to:
- know who they are,
- thrive in community,
- and actively engage in the world as their best selves.
Managing Partner & COO
Eve brings her seven-year tenure as Altitude Learning’s General Counsel combined with her career in law and early experience as an English teacher to her role as COO leading the company’s finance, HR, legal and administrative teams. She previously was Acting Director of the Diane Abbey Law Center, a law and policy center providing professional support to City and State government agencies, non-profit groups, private law firms, and law students. Before that, Eve was an Associate at global law firm Hogan Lovells. Since 2014, she has served as Treasurer of the ACLU of New York (the NYCLU), and she is a member of the TechGC national steering committee and a frequent host and speaker at its national summits and other events. Eve holds a B.A. from Swarthmore College and a J.D. from NYU School of Law. She is admitted to practice law in New York and California.
Executive Director & President
Lincoln High School (San Diego Unified)
Melissa Agudelo is the principal of Lincoln High School in San Diego Unified where she brings her passion for social justice, grassroots work, hands-on learning, supporting work-based initiatives, and building rock-solid relationships that support every student on any path. She has served in a variety of school settings from Teach for America to project-based charter schools to large comprehensive schools.
Executive Director of Educational Excellence & Innovation
Vista Unified School District
Nicole Allard is the Executive Director of Educational Excellence and Innovation for Vista Unified School District, supporting educators to create learning environments and pathways that prepare students to make positive contributions in an increasingly complex world. Prior to this, Nicole served as the principal of Mission Vista High School, a nationally recognized demonstration magnet school.
Santa Ana Unified School District
Jerry Almendarez’s career in education spans 28 years and includes experience as a classroom teacher, assistant principal, and principal. Mr. Almendarez also served as Director of Human Resources for Colton Joint Unified from 2003 to 2007, Assistant Superintendent of Human Resources from 2007 to 2010 and Superintendent from 2010-2020. As the Superintendent of Schools for the Santa Ana Unified School District, Jerry Almendarez is responsible for leading the 11th largest school district in the State, with 56 schools and programs, approximately 5,000 employees, and an expense budget of $890.6 million.
Mr. Almendarez has a master’s degree in Educational Leadership from the University of Redlands, and a bachelor’s degree in business/finance from Cal State San Bernardino. Mr. Almendarez has also taught as an adjunct professor at Azusa Pacific University and the University of Redlands, and was named a 2019 Ted-Ed Innovative Educator. In 2020 Jerry Almendarez was named CALSA Region 6 Superintendent of the Year.
Dr. Leighangela Brady
National School District
Dr. Leighangela Brady, is the Superintendent of National School District and an author of Transforming Ice Age Schools and Test Less, Assess More. She is well known for engaging and motivating others to shift practice to meet the needs of today’s students while preparing them for a better tomorrow.
Menlo Park City School District (CA)
Erik Burmeister is passionate about innovating education and ensuring all students are engaged in meaningful learning in spaces where curiosity flourishes and students’ and educators’ voices are valued. An award-winning teacher, principal, and superintendent, Erik has been recognized as a transformative leader, applying design principles to solve a variety of challenges.
Dr. Eric Chagala
Vista Innovation & Design Academy
Dr. Eric Chagala is the founding principal of Vista Innovation & Design Academy (VIDA) in Vista Unified School District. He believes that all kids need a place to matter, that our actions say what we believe about children and that schools have souls that need to be nurtured. Core to his work is his research-backed knowledge that schools have the power to either defeat or perpetuate the status quo of a neighborhood.
Learning Ecosystems Design
David Cook is CEO of Learning Ecosystems Design, a consulting firm focused on creating community-driven, learner-centered ecosystems. He has over 25 years in public education and also currently serves as Director of Innovative Learning for the Kentucky Department of Education.
Mālama Honua Charter School
Denise Espania’s teaching career has spanned Pre K through 12th grade, general and special education, from Washington to Hawaiʻi. In 2004, Denise left the classroom and moved into post secondary education. After enjoying her time as an educational researcher and teacher educator, she returned to K-12 as a school administrator at an elementary and then a middle school. Denise received her undergraduate from Gonzaga University and her masters degree in Special Education from the University of Hawaiʻi Mānoa. She continued her education receiving her administrator credential and doctorate from the University of Washington. Denise is humbled and honored to serve the students and ʻohana of Waimānalo.
Her work is grounded in looking to the future while being rooted in the culture of our past and her belief that all children learn how to care for the earth, for each other, and to become successful contributing members of society by working with peers and mentors through a process of observing, doing, and perfecting. She views the “kuleana” (responsibility) of educators to ensure that all “keiki” (children) have the confidence and courage to dream and set high goals, navigating through the challenges and successes of life to reach their desired destinations.
Sr. VP of Education, Thrively
Former Principal, Design39
Joe Erpelding is the Sr. VP of Education at Thrively, a whole-child learning ecosystem, where he supports schools and districts across the country in discovering that the future is a place WE create by moving systems from what is wrong to what is strong. Previously he led one of the nation’s most innovative and visited K-8 schools, Design39Campus.
Dr. Pamela Moran
Virginia School Consortium for Learning
Dr. Pamela Moran is Executive Director of the Virginia School Consortium for Learning. She co-chairs the Virginia is for Learners Innovation Network, a collaborative of district innovation teams. Pam was selected by peers as Virginia’s 2016 Superintendent of the Year and was one of four finalists for National Superintendent of the Year. She co-authored Timeless Learning and advocates for student-centered, contemporary education.
Dr. Cory Steiner
Northern Cass School District (ND)
Dr. Cory Steiner is the Superintendent of the Northern Cass School District in North Dakota where he works with a dedicated and passionate group of educators to shift their entire system to personalized competency-based learning. A longtime advocate for learner-centered education and systemic education reform, he has also served on several boards and community organizations, including the Governor’s Task Force on Innovation.
Executive Director of Personalized Learning & Innovation Sustainability
Kristen Watkins leads Dallas ISD’s efforts to move towards scale, sustainability, and fidelity of implementation of personalized learning districtwide. She also directs opportunities to spark and sustain innovation districtwide through programming and fellowships. Prior to this role she was a middle school teacher nationally recognized for her success in the classroom.
Learn with Our Team
We’re collaborative, which means we love sharing! Browse our blog, tools, and books to access learner-centered resources and insights.
Reclaiming Joy at the End of the School Year
Bryanna Hanson2023-05-19T17:38:16+00:00Categories: Blog|Tags: Authentic Learning, Competency-based, Inclusive & Equitable, Personalized Learning, Professional Learning|
10 Questions to Ask Students
Learner-Centered Collaborative2023-02-21T19:05:21+00:00Categories: Tools|Tags: District Transformation, Learner Agency, Learner-Centered Leadership|
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