As Massachusetts Secretary of Education, James Peyser directs the Executive Office of Education, which oversees early education, K-12, and higher education. Secretary Peyser sits on each of the boards governing the Commonwealth’s education agencies, as well as the University of Massachusetts system. He is Governor Charlie Baker’s top advisor on education and helps shape the Commonwealth’s education reform agenda.
Before serving as Secretary, he was the managing director at NewSchools Venture Fund. He supported innovative education entrepreneurs in urban communities to transform public education. Secretary Peyser was Massachusetts Board of Education’s chairman from 1999 to 2006. He also served as education advisor to Governors Bill Weld, Jane Swift and Mitt Romney. He developed state policies of standards and assessments, school accountability, and charter schools.
Hasan Davis has reshaped himself over the course of many years through dedication, diligence, and dynamic thinking. Hasan has become a thought leader in the fields of education and juvenile justice, making youth support and guidance his purpose. Utilizing his missteps as a child and young adult to reshape his future, and the futures of countless others, Hasan has shown his skill as a practitioner in these areas through successful tenures as Commissioner and Deputy Commissioner (Dept. of Juvenile Justice, Kentucky), and impacted the lives of over 3,000 young people. He has, additionally, helped to inform policy decisions, testifying before Federal Legislators, and as a keynote speaker for 20 years, using his experiences and training to guide many more.
Maria Fernandes, Director of Early College and Post-Secondary Partnerships at New Heights Charter School of Brockton, is committed to the delivery of educational opportunities by narrowing disparities in public education. She has over 12 years of experience working in and managing college preparation/transition programs in the Brockton region. Her experience includes the development and implementation of alternative educational pathways, dropout prevention and intervention programs, and college access and preparation for traditionally underserved students. She has extensive experience working with diverse, economically disadvantaged, and youth offender populations. She holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in Criminal Justice from Stonehill College and a Master of Education degree in Higher Education Administration from Eastern Nazarene College.
Shannon Gardner is the Assistant Director of Curriculum and Instruction for Humanities at Lynn Public Schools and the administrator of early college programs. Shannon has been with the district for 23 years, and her work on early college programs began in 2012 as a program specialist for the district’s Race to the Top grant. Currently Shannon is working on sustaining and expanding early college through Lynn’s designation partnerships with North Shore Community College and Salem State University. With a focus on equity and a desire to open more opportunities for Lynn students, Shannon is deeply engaged in the success of early college.
Focused on innovation in education, Dr. Joseph Goins’ career began as a Vocational Educator in the state of Tennessee and has continued to innovate academic and commercial spaces alike. Dr. Goins would go on to further his education in the state of Tennessee, earning a MS in Administration and Supervision (University of Tennessee), and an Ed. D. in Educational Leadership and Policy (Vanderbilt University) for a broader view of the challenges facing, and potential of, modern education. He has developed foundational skills programs for learners with the Tennessee Board of Regents, occupational profiles for a work-ready credential, and a statewide basic skills/mathematics curriculum focused on career pathways. Dr. Goins has built upon his desire to integrate innovation into education in everything he has done, promoting academic achievement, educator effectiveness, and outcome-driven leadership strategies.
Dr. William Hayes is the founding principal of Mastery High School of Camden, a Renaissance partner school in Camden, New Jersey. Prior to his current position, he was a turnaround principal at Franklin D. Roosevelt Academy Pre-K-8 in Cleveland, OH. Dr. Hayes spent his early career as a high school teacher and administrator in Boston Public Schools. He is a 2007 Phi Beta Kappa graduate of Morehouse College and received his master’s in education from the Harvard Graduate School of Education. In 2016 he received his Doctorate of Education from Vanderbilt University with a concentration in education leadership and policy. His work and advocacy has focused on closing the access and opportunity gap for low-income children of color particularly in urban areas. As the founding principal of Mastery High School Dr. Hayes successfully launched a dual enrollment and automotive certification program while simultaneously building a community hub for families in the area through the monthly foodbank. Dr. Hayes prides himself on being a humble servant leader with a heart for the people and a will for change.
Dr. Kristin Hunt is the inaugural Statewide Director of Early College programs for the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. She brings to this role over twenty years of professional experience in higher education administration, project management, counseling and teaching. Throughout her career, she has specialized in issues of access, equity, and affordability in higher education, as well as strategic partnerships between k-12 and higher education. In her current role, she works closely with the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education, Department of Higher Education, and the Executive Office of Education to support the Designated Early College partners, as well as the potential applicants for Early College Designation.
Pierre Lucien is a policy analyst and strategic data fellow at DESE. He previously worked as a research analyst at the Harvard Center for Education Policy Research. His educational background includes a bachelor’s degree from St. John’s University and master’s degrees from the Ohio State University and Brown University, respectively. He was born and partially raised in Haiti, and spent the remainder of his formative years in Brooklyn, Queens, and Westbury, New York. In his spare time, he enjoys traveling, watching sports, spending time with his parents, and frequenting Haitian restaurants.
Keeth Matheny is an award-winning teacher, author, and speaker. He is a member of the Aspen Institute’s Social Emotional and Academic Development (SEAD) Council of Distinguished Educators. A passionate and dedicated former classroom teacher with over 25yrs experience, he created and taught an innovative social and emotional learning freshman seminar, which helped reduce freshman failures by 41% and discipline referrals by 71% at Austin High School over a four-year period. Keeth is a co-author of School-Connect a research and evidence-based social and emotional learning curriculum now in over two thousand secondary schools. He is an engaging frequent public speaker and keynote on SEL, school safety, and multi-tiered systems of student and staff supports. Since 2014, he has helped launch over three hundred SEL programs in secondary schools, led over three hundred teacher trainings, and presented at two congressional briefings on SEL, in Washington DC.
Sophia Stephney has worked with urban youth in education for the last 12 years. She has been an English teacher, Dean of Humanities, and, most recently the Associate Principal of Student Affairs at New Heights Charter School of Brockton. At Northeastern University, Mrs. Stephney focused on understanding the social structures, institutions, and cultural milieus that affect children in our society, then completed a Masters of Education at American International College. During her first years as a teacher, Mrs. Stephney worked with under-credited, at-risk teenagers in an alternative program. It was during this experience, where she developed a mission to provide excellent education for every student, regardless of socioeconomic status or background. Following her mission, in 2016, Mrs. Stephney began a career at New Heights Charter School in Brockton and worked with the school’s founding team to maximize her impact on urban students and their community. As a lifelong learner, she continues to study educational best practices, including engaging students in a college-going culture and providing high quality instruction to all students. It is her true belief that every student can succeed in college and is determined to develop appropriate support to help every student succeed.
Trevor Stokes regularly serves as a subject matter expert in labor market analysis to support career-driven curriculum development, regional economic research and growth planning, industry sector partnerships, educational product development and public policy recommendations. Personal experience in secondary education, adult technical training and workforce development have contributed to a practical and digestible approach to interpreting and applying labor market data. Trevor is a Certified Community Researcher and an alum of Lee University in East Tennessee where he earned a bachelor’s degree in communications. He now resides in Phoenix, Arizona where he supports the state’s efforts to grow, attract and retain quality jobs.
Omari Walker has served as Executive Director, Associate Principal, and Principal of alternative education programs and schools since 1999. In 2010 while still a principal at Resiliency Prep School, Walker co-founded the Resiliency Foundation whose mission is to shift the responsibility for the education of youth from schools to the community as a whole. Since its inception, the Resiliency Foundation has helped districts throughout the New England Region develop and improve programming for thousands of underserved youth. In 2012, Walker shifted his focus from intervention to prevention after coming to the realization that a high school diploma still left many of his brightest students incapable of competing for quality employment in the workforce. With the help of his staff, Walker co-created an Early College School model that aims to not only prepare students for college but also allows for them to earn an Associates Degree while still in high school. In March of 2016, Walker and his team received a Charter from the state to launch the first wall-to-wall Early College School in the history of Massachusetts. The school currently serves 735 students, where 5 sophomores, 66 juniors and 74 seniors attend college full-time for a total of 145 students attending college classes full time. We anticipate that our first graduating class in 2021 will graduate more than 50% of its seniors with an Associates Degree. Part of Walker’s success is his own history with trouble before a high school teacher helped to get him on track. He brings a unique combination of experience, enthusiasm and commitment to everyone he serves. Walker has a Bachelor’s degree in English and a Master’s degree in Education from Boston College.