It's about great public schools.


James Merriman
Chief Executive Officer
James Merriman

James Merriman is one of the nation’s foremost experts on charter school policy. Mr. Merriman is a leading voice and advocate for high quality, equitable charter schools and frequently speaks and writes about the actions that need to be taken to strengthen and expand charter schools within the New York City public school system. Mr. Merriman’s op-eds, commentary and guest blogs have been featured in The New York Times, The New York Post, The New York Daily News, The Huffington Post, Gotham Schools and Eduwonk and he is a frequent guest on major TV and radio outlets on public education reform and policy. Before joining the Charter Center in 2007, he worked at the Walton Family Foundation where he helped develop and implement the foundation’s grant making in the charter school sector. Mr. Merriman came to Walton after spending more than seven years at the Charter Schools Institute of the State University of New York (SUNY-CSI), including five as its executive director. At SUNY-CSI, which is one of two state-wide authorizers of charter schools, Mr. Merriman helped create and design systems for authorization and oversight that promote the growth of a high quality charter school sector; then U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan singled out SUNY-CSI as a national model for this work. In 2012, Mr. Merriman was named a Pahara-Aspen Educational Fellow. He has served on the board of the National Charter Schools Institute and is currently a member of the board of directors of the National Association of Charter School Authorizers, for which he has also served as a member of its advisory board.

Before entering the charter sector, Mr. Merriman was also a commercial litigator for the law firm Cleary, Gottlieb, Steen & Hamilton in New York City. He is a graduate of Columbia College and New York University Law School.

Alexandra Apfel
Inclusive Education Specialist
Alexandra (Ali) Apfel is an Inclusive Education Specialist, who partners with schools to share her experience in school leadership, pedagogical expertise, and passion for supporting students with disabilities. Her support includes leading the Collaborative’s Leadership Cohorts for Special Populations, and general professional development in the form of school visits, workshop and training facilitation, and technical assistance. Prior to joining the Collaborative, Ali worked as a Special and General Education Teacher, a Director of Student Services, an Assistant Principal, and a Principal. Regardless of the role, her purpose in education has always centered on creating inclusive and accessible educational environments for students, staff and families. Ali holds a B.A. in Psychology from Cornell University, earned her M.S. in Early Childhood Special Education as a Teach For America corps member from Hunter College, and completed her principal training through the KIPP School Leadership Programs.
Alexandria Aponte
Program Manager, School Supports

As Program Manager, Alexandria oversees program implementation and provides logistical and administrative support to the Charter Center’s School Supports department, ensuring that NYC’s charter schools have the resources and guidance they need to ensure operational excellence. Before joining the Charter Center, Alex spent nine years in the financial sector where she gained extensive experience managing projects, developing training materials and collaborating on program launches. Alexandria holds a Bachelor’s degree in American Studies from the University at Buffalo.

Marie Bergqvist
Manager, Marketing and Communications

Marie manages the Charter Center’s program marketing, corporate communications, events PR, media campaigns, web content and social media presence. Marie brings over ten years of experience in marketing, communications and PR from an agency environment as well as in-house at global IT- and financial services firms. Prior to joining the Charter Center, Marie worked as an Account Manager at a boutique PR agency in New York, managing clients such as the Prostate Cancer Foundation and the New York Center for Children. Also having served as a Marketing & Development Coordinator at a London-based NGO focusing on socio-economic development in South Africa, she has an ample understanding of the non-profit sector. Marie holds a Master of Science in Sustainability & Management from Royal Holloway, University of London.

Christina Brown
Chief Operating Officer
Christina Brown

Christina provides critical, high level support to the CEO and is accountable for maximizing the current impact and future growth of the Charter Center and its staff. She brings to the position an extensive background in nonprofit management. Before joining the Charter Center, Christina was Vice President of External Relations at Civic Builders, where she raised more than $15 million to support the development of charter school facilities. She also served in leadership roles at the Union Square Partnership, the Greenwich-Chelsea Chamber of Commerce and several performing arts venues. Christina is a graduate of the State University of New York at Stony Brook.

Corey Callahan
General Counsel and VP of Legal Policy

Corey provides general legal counsel to the Charter Center and provides guidance to the sector on local, state and federal laws and regulations affecting NYC charter schools. Corey also advises on legal strategies supporting the Charter Center’s strategic objectives as well as overseeing the collection and analysis of data. Before joining the Charter Center, Corey was Assistant Counsel to the New York State Gaming Commission, where she advised on the state-wide casino selection process and helped create the regulatory framework in New York State. Corey was also a litigation associate for the law firm Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison, where she represented a broad range of corporate clients. Prior to law school, Corey was a middle school special education teacher in the Bronx for the NYC DOE. Corey is a graduate of New College of Florida, holds a M.S. in Elementary and Special Education from Lehman College, and is a graduate of the New York University Law School.

Kevin Carew-Bynoe
Administrative Coordinator
Kevin is responsible for conducting member support, event coordination and presentation preparation at the Collaborative. A Brooklyn native with a growing background in the arts and stem-based nonprofit fields, Kevin strives to provide children with the best tools for success. Kevin has served as program coordinator, digital marketer and community outreach director for multiple community development nonprofits and holds a B.S. in Game Art & Design from The Art Institute of Fort Lauderdale.
Caryl Cohen
Teacher Certification Consultant
Caryl Cohen

Caryl Cohen worked for the NYC Department of Education for thirty-three years as a middle school English teacher and as an administrator in the Division of Human Resources. During her 25-year tenure in HR, she served as the director of elementary and middle school staffing; special assistant to the chief executive for instruction; and from 1993 until her retirement in October 2004, as the deputy executive director for teacher recruitment, certification, licensing and salary. She was the DOE’s liaison to the NYS Education's Department, Office of Teaching Initiatives dealing with certification policies, regulations, and implementation of the teacher quality criteria (HQT) of the No Child Left Behind federal law. She has continued to serve as the liaison to the SED on certification issues on behalf of the NYC Charter Sector. Ms. Cohen received her bachelor's degree in education from Cortland State University, and a master’s degree in education and an advanced certificate in supervision and administration from Brooklyn College.

Jasmine Crenshaw
Coordinator, Policy & Advocacy

Jasmine is responsible for providing logistical, outreach, and strategical support for the Policy & Advocacy team as they address matters affecting charter schools on the local and statewide levels. She is also responsible for preparing for and tracking the team’s legislative efforts. Prior to joining the Charter Center, Jasmine has worked in the racial justice and social reform world, working in the public policy department of the ACLU of New Jersey, as well as with Equal Justice USA’s Trauma to Trust Policing Initiative. Her love of sports has allowed her to coach girls’ basketball, and she has marketing experience with an international digital marketing agency. Jasmine completed her BA at New York University, where she studied Social and Cultural Analysis concentrating in Africana and Urban Studies.

Jennifer Hall
MLL/ELL Specialist
Jennifer is a Multilingual Learner/English Language Learner Specialist at the Collaborative. She has spent nearly a decade working in English Language Learner education in many different capacities throughout her career. She began her career in education supporting and guiding program development at schools with low ELL populations for the Nashville Public School District. After her time in Nashville, she spent a year in Guatemala teaching first grade at Colegio Americano de Guatemala, a dual language international school. Prior to joining the Charter Center, she served as the English Language Learner Coordinator at a charter school in Phoenix, AZ. She holds a B.A. in Global Studies with an emphasis in Globalization and Culture from Middle Tennessee State University and a M.S. in Elementary Education from Johns Hopkins University.
Randall Iserman
Director of School Support and Development

As Director of School Support and Development, Randall guides new charters schools through the planning and start-up stages, and helps existing schools ensure operational excellence and sustainability by providing technical supports, professional development opportunities and best practice sharing. He and his team also seek to address sector-wide challenges and secure needed resources for the sector. Before joining the Charter Center, Randall served in the New York City Department of Education for 11 years - four years as a school business manager, then as Deputy Network Leader in one of the school support networks. He concentrated on the integration of operations, student services and instructional coaching into strategic plans for improvement. Prior to his entry into education, Randall worked in the private sector in sales management.

Erik Joerss
Director of Government Affairs
Erik Joerss

Erik monitors federal, state and local actions affecting charter schools. Prior to joining the Charter Center, Erik was the Director of City Legislation for the New York City Department of Consumer Affairs, Legislative Director to Council Member Diana Reyna, Campaign Manager to former Council Member Melinda Katz in her race for Comptroller, and Director of Candidate Services at the Campaign Finance Board and Director of Lobbying and Grassroots Organizing for Common Cause/NY. He also founded "Enlightened Markets," a not-for-profit organization that identified market solutions to lift the working poor out of poverty. Erik has a bachelor of Arts in Political Science from the University of Central Florida and has more than fifteen years of government, advocacy, politics and communications experience.

Aadhar Kansal
Data & Research Analyst
Aadhar leads the Charter Center’s data collection and analysis efforts, and provides analyses and guidance on policy issues that affect the charter sector in order to support school staff and inform the public dialogue. Prior to joining the Charter Center, he served as an Operations Analyst at the NYU Admissions office, co-founded an e-commerce startup and worked with various nonprofits in his native India. Aadhar has a Master of Science in Technology Management from New York University and a Bachelor of Technology in Civil Engineering from India.
Melissa Katz
Director, The Collaborative for Inclusive Education

Melissa is an inclusion and equity advocate for historically underserved populations in NYC charter schools. As the Director of The Collaborative for Inclusive Education, she works to ensure that schools have access to the essential supports, trainings, resources and technical assistance necessary to ensure the success of all of their students. Prior to joining the Collaborative, she worked as a French dual language teacher and an ESL teacher within the NYC DOE. During her time in the classroom, she strived to provide equity and access for all her students through culturally relevant pedagogy and research-based language supports. Melissa holds B.A.s from Trinity College (Hartford) in French, Spanish and English, earned her M.S. in TESOL as a Teach For America corps member from Fordham University, and her M.S. in Educational Leadership from Hunter College.

Edith Litt
Director of Administration
Edith Litt

Edith is responsible for managing the organization's daily office operations, human resources and employee relations. Before joining the Charter Center, Edith served for 16 years as the Director of Finance for the Institute of Literacy Studies at Lehman College, where she also graduated with a Degree in Accounting.

Marcos Martí
Director, Marketing and Communications

Marcos oversees and develops the Charter Center’s public outreach, corporate communications, public relations, and marketing strategy, including media campaigns, branding, and sector-wide communications. Marcos brings over 10 years of experience in marketing communications, development, and community mobilization. Before joining the Charter Center, Marcos worked in Marketing and Development for an international community development non-profit. He then transitioned into education by serving as the external affairs and development manager for a high performing dual-language charter school in New Jersey. Marcos holds a Masters in Cross Cultural Studies from Nyack College.

Susan McCarthy
Director of Finance
Susan McCarthy

Susan is responsible for the financial and accounting functions at the Charter Center. Susan has over 25 years experience as the Director of Finance at several nonprofits including Brookdale Center for Healthy Aging and Longevity, CCI formerly Child Care, Inc. and the Jewish Museum. Susan is a certified public accountant and has a BS in accounting and a BA in English from Syracuse University.

Jenn Rodriguez
Inclusive Education Specialist

Jenn facilitates high quality and equitable experiences for all learners via professional development, school visits, and the providing of necessary resources. Jenn started her career in education as an NYC Teaching Fellow and has since worked as a special education teacher, instructional coach, and school leader in both self-contained and co-taught classrooms in New York City district and charter schools. She has helped charter schools implement Universal Design for Learning, effective co-teaching, and Response to Intervention. She holds a B.A. in Psychology from Pace University, an M.A.T. in Special Education from CUNY Queens College, and a Certificate of Advanced Study in School Building and District Leadership from the College of St. Rose.

Dylan White
Executive Project Coordinator

Dylan graduated from Drew University with a B.A. in English. His responsibilities include managing the Charter Center's social media and websites as well as assisting with media campaigns and communications. Prior to coming on board at the Charter Center, Dylan worked in the sports information office at Drew University and as an Editorial Intern at Men's Fitness magazine.

Luis Zuluaga
Manager, Office Administration
Luis Zuluaga

Luis is responsible for managing the Charter Center’s front office support services, which include parent and school customer service, facility and tech administration, event coordination and departmental assistance. Luis has a background in graphic design, music, and worked for Details magazine for several years; before joining the Charter Center, he was the office manager for five years for the Robert Allen Group, a home furnishings design company.