Leadership Institute

“This was the closest thing to a paradigm shift I’ve personally experienced in terms of how I think about my approach to my work.”

Meet the Cohorts

Ariel Johnson

Chief of Staff
Illinois Network of Charter Schools

Ariel Taylor Smith

Co-Executive Director
Transform Education Now

Colin Sharkey

Executive Director
Association of American Educators and AAE Foundation

Debbie Veney

Senior Vice President of Communications and Marketing
National Alliance for Public Charter Schools

Dia Bryant

Executive Director

Jack Minor

Vice President of Strategy and Advocacy
Tennesseans for Student Success

Jessica Giles

Democrats For Education Reform DC

Kate Sobel

Partner, Policy & Advocacy

Kelly Caufield

Vice President of Government Affairs
Colorado Succeeds

Kerry Savage

Director of Policy

Krista Spurgin

Executive Director
Stand for Children Colorado

Laura Jimenez

Director of Standards and Accountability
Center for American Progress

Leah Sutton

Vice President of Policy & Engagement

Lisa Lazare

State Director
Educators for Excellence Boston

MacKenzie Stroh Hines

Chief of Staff
Mississippi First

Matthew Pahl

Executive Director
Public Charter Schools of New Mexico

McKenzie Allen

Executive Director
Maryland Alliance of Public Charter Schools

Natalie Tovani-Walchuk

Founding Executive Director
GO Public Schools West Contra Costa

Nathan Hoffman

Director of State Policy and Legislation

Nicholas Banovetz

Chief of Staff
Great MN Schools

Paula Cole

Executive Director
Educators for Excellence-Minnesota

Rose Acerra

Interim Executive Director
We Raise NJ

Shannon Hodge

Founding Executive Director
DC Charter School Alliance

Tim Langan

Chief Operating Officer
National Parents Union and Massachusetts Parents United

Tom Greene

Vice President of Advocacy

Brigitte Blom Ramsey

Executive Director
Prichard Committee for Academic Excellence

Catharine Bellinger

Bradley Holdings

Claire Goebel

Strategic Growth & Development
Engaging Inquiry

Courtney Boswell MacDonald

Board Member
Texas State Board for Educator Certification

Dale Chu

Senior Visiting Fellow
Thomas B. Fordham Institute

David Powell

DP3 Consulting

Erin Hart

Senior Vice President and Chief of Policy and Community Impact
Education Forward AZ

Gina Mahony

Domer Consulting, LLC

Hamida Labi

Policy Counsel
NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, Inc

J. Alex Kelly

Deputy Chief of Staff
Governor Ron DeSantis

Jamie O’Leary

Associate Director of Policy
Crane Center for Early Childhood Research & Policy at Ohio State University

Jeani Frickey Saito

System Director, Government Relations and Policy
SCL Health

Juan Gonzalez

Pathways Director
Education Systems Center

Madeleine Bayard

Senior Vice President
Rodel Foundation of Delaware

Mary Cypress Metz

Vice President of Programs
Tennessee SCORE

Peter Franzen

Associate Executive Director
Children’s Education Alliance of Missouri

Rachel Amankulor

Board President
Catalyst Academy Charter School

Sanford Johnson

Executive Director
Teach Plus Mississippi

Sarah Lillis

Executive Director
Teach Plus California

Sean Andersen

Founding Partner
P.A.C.E. Strategies

Sean Matteson

Chief of Staff
City of New Haven, CT

Seth Litt

Webster Avenue Strategic Partners

Tonia Holowetzki

Deputy Director
Public and Government Affairs, Clackamas County

A One-of-a-Kind Experience

The Leadership Institute complements other Network opportunities (which tend to focus on policy topics in education) by reaching entirely outside of education for lessons from other sectors that sharpen advocacy strategy, pushing participants to think bigger about political influence. Each convening provides a mix of case-based discussions of political campaigns, experiential learning opportunities, and connection to expertise related to the arts of influence and political strategy.

Past participants have reflected that the relationships built among their cohorts were as powerful as the content, and that they have created meaningful connections and lasting professional relationships that have extended well beyond the three meetings.

How to Participate

The Leadership Institute is open to executive directors of PIE Network member and partner organizations, as well as individuals in strong “number two” positions. The experience is best suited for leaders who have distinguished expertise in advocacy, organizing, and policy in education, and are hungry for broader insights from other sectors that further sharpen their abilities as strategists and influencers. We seek a balance in each cohort across the different types of organizations and approaches to advocacy, considering the depth and complexity of experiences and perspectives applicants bring to the mix.

If there are more applicants than we can accommodate, we consider first the insights and qualifications put forth in potential participants’ applications. We also consider the balance noted above, as well as the potential ideological, gender, ethnic, and geographic diversity that a potential participant brings to the mix. (Note that organizations that have not yet participated are prioritized over those that have, if demand is high.) We also prioritize the participation of executive directors, but will ensure a mix of other roles in order to bring a range of perspectives. Finally, we seek evidence of an applicant’s commitment to being a leader within the broader Network in an ongoing way; leaders and organizations that consistently engage and actively participate in other PIE Network opportunities are considered some of the strongest applicants.

Commitment & Cost

Each cohort meets over a time period of 12 to 18 months. All costs associated with the experience (travel, hotel, etc.) will be covered by the PIE Network, thanks to the generosity of our funding partners. Participants are expected to fully invest their time and energy in each meeting.


We anticipate opening applications for the next cohort in 2022. Please email Jen for more information.