The Practitioner Council of the Hoover Education Success Initiative is comprised of 15-20 leading education policy voices from across the country. Collectively they serve as brain trust from which HESI members and authors draw insight and inspiration. Each member occupies a unique space in the education system—sitting inside Governors’ offices and state legislatures, leading state education agencies and educational non-profits, convening other systems leaders on university campuses and in membership organizations. Members provide input and guidance as pressure-testers of policy proposals, distributors of policy recommendations, identifiers of early adapters and connectors to potential partners. Each member commits to an 18-month term of service, and participates in the annual HESI Symposium. They serve an important role in the HESI network of collaborators.
Melanie D. Barton has served since September 2019 as senior education advisor for the governor of South Carolina. She is responsible for advising the governor on policy and finance issues related to early childhood education, public education, and higher education. She previously served as the executive director of the South Carolina Education Oversight Committee (EOC), an independent nonpartisan committee composed of eighteen educators, business leaders, and elected officials, appointed by the South Carolina General Assembly and governor to oversee enactment of the state’s accountability system for K–12 education. During her eighteen years working for the EOC and the general assembly, Barton directed the evaluation of the state’s full-day 4K program and assisted the general assembly in developing public education finance policies. Since 2012 she has represented South Carolina on the Southern Regional Education Board, serving on several commissions, including Early Childhood, Computer Science, Teacher Preparation, and Dual Enrollment. She earned her master’s degree in public-policy analysis from Duke University and her undergraduate degrees in history and political science from Furman University.
State Rep. Bob Behning has served in the Indiana House of Representatives since 1992 and represents House District 91, which includes portions of Marion and Hendricks counties. He was born and raised in Indianapolis and has been a proud Hoosier his entire life. In 1976, he received a BS degree from Indiana University. Throughout his tenure as a representative, he has advocated for education reform in Indiana. As chair of the House Education Committee, he led a multiyear effort to successfully pass the most comprehensive education reform package in the United States. Behning believes that all parents deserve the right to choose the school that best meets their child’s needs. In 2011, he authored legislation creating the School Choice Scholarship program, providing scholarships or vouchers to families who do not have the financial means to pay private school tuition. Indiana has the largest school voucher program in the United States. Behning currently works at Marian University as the director of external affairs for the Educators College.
Dr. Holly Boffy is the vice president of the Louisiana State Board of Elementary and Secondary Education. She was re-elected to serve a third term in 2019. Boffy founded EdTalents to support schools, districts, and organizations in building educator talent systems to attract, hire, place, develop, leverage, and retain strong teachers and leaders. Previously, Boffy spent six years with the Council of Chief State School Officers, supporting state education agencies with teacher and leader initiatives. She taught middle school for ten years, earned National Board Certification in 2006, and served as an adjunct instructor for the University of Louisiana–Lafayette. Boffy is the 2010 Louisiana State Teacher of the Year. She earned three degrees from Louisiana State University, including a bachelor of science, master of education, and education specialist in curriculum and instruction. She earned her doctorate from Walden University with a study on the implementation of student standards, Progression of Elementary Teachers in Implementing Language Arts Common Core State Standards.
Stephen Bowen serves as the deputy executive director for state leadership at the Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO). In his role, he directs the activities of the membership services, leadership academy, and data and information services teams. Bowen oversees the development and implementation of programs and services designed to support the leaders and staff of state education agencies. At CCSSO, Bowen previously served as a senior advisor, working directly with chiefs and their senior staffs in collaboration with the Leadership Academy and other council teams to improve the performance and effectiveness of their state agencies; and as the strategic initiative director for innovation, where he worked to worked to improve the leadership capacity and capabilities of state agencies and to support states as they advanced promising innovations to improve student outcomes. Bowen is also a former state chief, having served as Maine’s commissioner of education from 2011 to 2013, a former state legislator, and a middle and high school social studies educator. Bowen holds a bachelor’s degree in political science from Drew University and a master’s degree in education from George Mason University.
State Rep. Ashton Wheeler Clemmons has always had a passion for serving the people of North Carolina, the state she proudly calls home. After graduating from University of North Carolina–Chapel Hill, she taught as a NC Teaching Fellow in Durham and Guilford counties and later earned her Master’s degree in school leadership from Harvard University and her Doctorate of Education from University of North Carolina–Greensboro. As principal of schools in Rockingham and Guilford counties, she led the turnaround of one of the state’s lowest-performing schools. While serving as assistant superintendent of the Thomasville City Schools, Clemmons was selected one of the Triad Business Journal’s “40 Leaders under 40” and was also honored by the United Way with its Human Rights Advocate award. In 2018, Clemmons was elected to serve in North Carolina’s 57th House District and has been appointed to the Commerce, Education K–12, Education-Universities, and Finance Committees. She also serves as the House Democratic Freshman Caucus cochair. Clemmons is an energetic and passionate advocate for better schools and job training programs, as well as policies that protect our health care, environment, and voting rights.
Mike Cohen is a nationally-recognized leader in education policy and standards-based reform. He became President of Achieve in 2003. Created in 1996 by the nation's governors and corporate leaders, Achieve is an independent, bipartisan, non-profit education reform organization based in Washington, DC that helps states raise academic standards and high school graduation requirement, improve assessments and strengthen accountability so all students graduate ready for college, work and citizenship. Under Mike's leadership, Achieve launched the American Diploma Project Network, formed the Partnership for the Assessment of College and Career Readiness (PARCC) - one of two multi-state consortia developing common assessments - and helped develop the Common Core State Standards and the Next Generation Science Standards. Cohen has held several key roles in education during the past 20+ years, including Director of Education Policy at the National Governors Association (1985-90) and Director of Planning and Policy Development at the National Association of State Boards of Education (1983-1985). During the Clinton Administration he served as Assistant Secretary for Elementary and Secondary Education, Special Assistant to President Clinton for Education Policy, and Senior Advisor to U.S. Secretary of Education Richard Riley.
State Sen. Manny Diaz Jr. a native of Hialeah, Florida, has worked with the youth of his community as a teacher, coach and administrator over his entire career, including as assistant principal at Hialeah Miami Lakes Senior High and as founding partner of the Beyond the Bell Learning Center in Miami Springs. Diaz earned a bachelor’s degree in human resources and education from St. Thomas University and a master’s degree in educational leadership from Nova Southeastern, and completed the prestigious Harvard Graduate School of Education Principal’s Summer Institute in 2006. Manny was first elected to the Florida House of Representatives in 2012 and was re-elected in 2014 and 2016. He chaired the Choice and Innovation and the PreK–12 Education Appropriations Subcommittees and sat on the Education Committee as well as the K–12, Education Appropriation, and the Health Innovation Subcommittees. In 2018, Diaz was elected as state senator for District 36, and he currently serves as chair of the Education Committee as well as on several committees and subcommittees.
Jon Husted is the 66th and current lieutenant governor of Ohio. In this role, he primarily focuses on economic development, which is complimented by his posts as director of both the Governor’s Office of Workforce Transformation and the newly-formed InnovateOhio as well as overseeing the regulation-watchdog office, the Common Sense Initiative. Husted earned a bachelor’s degree in education and a master’s degree in communications, both from the University of Dayton, where he was an All-American defensive back for the Dayton Flyers and a member of the 1989 National Championship Football Team. Having started his life in a foster home before being adopted by his parents, Husted has long been a passionate advocate for pairing children with loving parents and families as well as delivering greater opportunity to all Ohio children through access to a quality education.
Johnny Key began serving as the commissioner of the Arkansas Department of Education in 2015. In May 2019, Governor Asa Hutchinson announced Key as the department’s secretary as part of his plan to transform state government. Key now serves in both capacities. Key helps guide the agency in transforming Arkansas to lead the nation in student-focused education; and in providing leadership, support, and service to schools, districts, and communities so that every student graduates prepared for college, career, and community engagement. Key began his public service career in the Baxter County Quorum Court as a justice of the peace. Afterward, he was elected to the Arkansas House of Representatives and Arkansas Senate. During his state senate tenure, Key served on the Education Committee and served as chair for one term. Key graduated from University of Arkansas–Fayetteville in 1991 with a Bachelor of Science in chemical engineering.
Patricia Levesque is the chief executive officer of the Foundation for Excellence in Education (ExcelinEd), a leading education policy organization founded by former Florida governor Jeb Bush. Working in more than 30 states across the nation, ExcelinEd develops customized student-centered solutions for policy makers seeking to transform education systems. Patricia is also executive director of ExcelinEd in Action, a national advocacy organization dedicated to turning bold, proven education reforms into reality. Levesque currently serves on the board of the Policy Innovators in Education Network and on the Florida Charter School Alliance, the External Advisory Committee for the Center for Education Policy Research at Harvard, the Workforce Readiness Working Group for the Florida Talent and Development Council, and the Florida Government Efficiency Task Force. She previously served on the Florida Constitution Revision Commission (2018), the Florida Taxation and Budget Commission (2007–08), and the Florida Government Efficiency Task Force (2007), and was a Fellow Cohort 7 of the Pahara-Aspen Education Fellowship. Levesque has held leadership positions in education policy, including serving for nearly a decade in the Florida legislature and the executive office of the governor.
Dr. Wayne D. Lewis Jr. has led the Kentucky Department of Education since April 2018. His resume includes experience in public school districts, postsecondary institutions, and state government. He has worked as a classroom teacher, teacher educator, postsecondary faculty member, program administrator at the undergraduate and graduate levels, and executive administrator in state government. Prior to assuming appointments in state government, he was associate professor with tenure in the College of Education at the University of Kentucky. His published research and writing over the last decade has been in the areas of education policy and politics, school-family-community engagement, and school choice in American and international contexts. Lewis completed undergraduate studies at Loyola University, New Orleans. He earned a master’s degree in urban studies with a concentration in public administration at the University of Akron, completed a post-baccalaureate teacher preparation program in special education at the University of New Orleans, and earned a PhD in educational research and policy analysis with a cognate in public administration at North Carolina State University.
Mike Magee is chief executive officer of Chiefs for Change, a nonprofit network of diverse state and district education leaders dedicated to preparing all students for tomorrow’s world. He previously cofounded and was chief executive officer of Rhode Island Mayoral Academies (RIMA), where he worked with a statewide coalition of mayors to enact sweeping changes to state education policy and to build a statewide network of regional, diverse-by-design charter schools. Before starting RIMA, Magee taught American literature and philosophy at Haverford College, Wheaton College, and the Rhode Island School of Design. In 2004, his book Emancipating Pragmatism won the Elizabeth Agee Prize in American Studies. He is a 2013 Pahara Aspen Education Fellow and Pahara Fellowship moderator. Mike holds a PhD in English from the University of Pennsylvania and a Bachelor’s degree in political science and English from the College of the Holy Cross.
Dr. Candice McQueen has been chief executive officer of the National Institute for Excellence in Teaching (NIET) since January 2019. NIET is a national nonprofit with 20 years of evidence-based work in building educator excellence to ensure all students have the opportunity for success. Prior to joining NIET, she was Tennessee’s commissioner of education. She led the creation of a strategic plan, Tennessee Succeeds, which outlines strategies to increase college and career readiness for Tennessee's one million students. Today, students are posting record-high ACT scores and graduation rates, and a 2018 state assessment found that students in historically underserved student groups often outpaced their peers in growth. McQueen has long advocated for focusing on human capital as the primary lever for change. In 2018, researchers at Georgetown University pointed to Tennessee's teacher evaluation and professional development model as leading to career-long improvement in teachers and gains in student achievement. Prior to being commissioner, McQueen was dean of the college of education at Lipscomb University. She started her career as a classroom teacher, teaching in elementary and middle schools in Tennessee and Texas.
Angelika Schroeder represents Colorado’s 2nd Congressional District on the Colorado State Board of Education. Appointed in January 2009 and re-elected three times, she was named chair in 2017. Schroeder earned a bachelor’s degree in mathematics and an MBA and PhD in accounting from the University of Colorado–Boulder. She is a former tax CPA and college professor of accounting. For the past 35 years she has also been active in education issues at the local, state, and national levels. She was appointed in 1995 by then governor Roy Romer to Colorado’s Teacher and Special Services Professional Standards Board, and from 1999 to 2008 was a member of the Boulder Valley School Board, serving as treasurer and vice president. She has also served on the Colorado Association of School Boards and the Alliance for Quality Teaching. She is currently on the Education Leadership Council, a board member of the Colorado Public Education and Business Coalition, a recent Gates Foundation Fellow, and treasurer/secretary of the board of the National Association of State Boards of Education.
Dr. David Steiner is executive director of the Johns Hopkins Institute for Education Policy and professor of education at Johns Hopkins University. He currently serves as a member of the Maryland State Board of Education and the Maryland Commission for Innovation and Excellence in Education. Additionally, he serves on the boards of Core Knowledge Foundation and Relay Graduate School of Education. He previously served as commissioner of education for New York State, as the Klara and Larry Silverstein Dean at the Hunter College School of Education, and as director of education at the National Endowment for the Arts. As commissioner, Steiner took a lead role in the state’s successful $700 million Race to the Top application to support the redesign of state standards, assessments, and teacher certification requirements. Steiner consults regularly with the federal government, state education leaders, educational reform organizations, and universities. He has addressed audiences on both side of the Atlantic, and authored books, book chapters, and more than fifty articles. He holds degrees from Balliol College, Oxford University (BA and MA), and Harvard University (PhD in political science).
Jenn Vranek is an expert in district, state, and federal education policy, politics, and advocacy. Over the last 20 years, she has worked with K–12 and postsecondary school educators, policy makers, and philanthropists in more than 30 states. She has advised many national foundations and education organizations such as the Aspen Institute, Achieve, American Federation of Teachers, Council of Chief State School Officers, Data Quality Campaign, Educators 4 Excellence, Thomas B. Fordham Institute, National Alliance for Public Charter Schools, Teach Plus, and the US Department of Education. Before starting Education First, Jenn made advocacy grants at the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, led and lobbied state legislators for Washington State’s Partnership for Learning, cofounded the Washington, DC, office of Achieve, and researched academic standards at the American Federation of Teachers. Honored as one of Puget Sound Business Journal’s “40 under 40” in 2010, she also volunteers as vice chair of the Danielson Group board of directors and as an advisory board and PAC board member for Washington’s Stand for Children. Jenn earned her MPP from Georgetown University and her AB from the College of William & Mary.
Dr. Carey M. Wright became the state superintendent of education for Mississippi in 2013. Under her leadership, Mississippi has initiated aggressive education reforms that have increased literacy skills in pre-K through 3rd grade, pushed student achievement on the National Assessment of Educational Progress to a faster improvement rate than that of most other states, and increased the graduation rate to an all-time high of 84 percent. Wright spearheaded initiatives in Mississippi that nearly doubled the Advancement Placement participation and success rate, resulted in significant annual gains in English language arts and mathematics proficiency, and earned Mississippi annual recognition from the National Institute for Early Education Research as one of only seven states meeting all or most quality standards for early childhood education. Wright is a member of the National Assessment Governing Board, past president of the board of directors of the Council of Chief State School Officers, and a Chiefs for Change board member. She also serves on the Reagan Institute Summit on Education steering committee and is a Broad Academy alumnus.