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Meet the Team

Mildred Toliver, Interim President

Mildred joined the School Turnaround staff after participating in the program.  She now works extensively not only with principals but also with teachers, district administrators, and school boards. She leads much of the national and regional training and initiates many of our new education initiatives.  She leads the team of School Turnaround Specialists on the ground and is instrumental in providing professional development internally for them at TRI.  

Alexandra Poole, Chief Financial Officer

Alex brings more than twenty years of financial and business management experience to TRI. She has worked with a diverse group of non-profit organizations throughout her career. She has successfully implemented meaningful and measurable solutions to address their unique organizational and financial needs. Alex will work closely with TRI staff in continuing to drive outcomes for kids.

Billie-Jo Slingerland, Director Program Operations

Billie-Jo has been supporting the people and programs of The Rensselaerville Institute since 2006. Her robust skillset and results driven leadership has attributed to countless successes over her tenure. As the Director of Program Operations she maintained the website and provided strategic support for all TRI programs. 

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Nicole Johnson, Chief Partnerships and Opportunities Officer

Nicole led Leonard Sixth Grade Center as a participating principal in School Turnaround prior to becoming a specialist. Under her leadership, in 2008 the school received a rating of “Recognized” from the Texas Education Agency, the 2nd highest achievement rating in the state of Texas. The campus reading gap that was as wide as 20 points – was reduced to less than 9 points.  Her campus received the Gold Performance Award for 51% of the students scoring Commended in Reading.

Loretta Blanks, Executive Director School Turnaround

Loretta became a principal in 1991. Loretta led her first school, Dumfries Elementary, in making marked improvements, including a 23% improvement in fourth grade writing scores in one year.  Loretta continued her work as a turnaround principal at John Small Elementary School.  Test scores improved from 56% of the students being proficient in reading and mathematics to 81% being proficient and the school being recognized as a School of Distinction.

Raquel Hill, Director Community Sparkplugs

Raquel's entrepreneurial spirit and out of the box thought processes have contributed to her success in a variety of roles in the community and the corporate world. Raquel has played key roles in assisting local small businesses and non-profits with change management and developing infrastructure. Her list of accomplishments includes: creating strategy and the branding of several local businesses, successfully managing a grass-roots political campaign and an event management company.

Natasha Hunter, Instructional Coach

Natasha Hunter joined the School Turnaround team in August,  2019. She has served as an Elementary Assistant Principal,  High School Accountability Specialist,  Junior High Literary Specialist, and K-4 Reading Coach. Natasha brings a passion for using data to guide standards-based planning and instruction and is excited to collaborate with others in this area. Natasha has been in education for sixteen years and is looking forward to growing more professionally alongside such accomplished educators as those in the School Turnaround department, as well as those who partner with our company. 

Tyrone Burton, Turnaround Specialist

Tyrone  was the principal of Cherokee Park Elementary School in Caddo Parish, Louisiana. Under his leadership the school made major gains, and he was named Elementary School Principal of the Year in 2013- 2014. Under his leadership student achievement increased by 75% in core content areas. Cherokee Park Elementary went from threat of closure in 2001 to earning some of the highest distinctions in the state. In 2009 and 2010, his school earned the Cecil Picard Excellence in Education Award for achieving the highest value added score in the state.

Sherron Jinadu, Turnaround Specialist

Sherron became the principal of Anniston High School in Anniston, Alabama when it was designated a persistently failing school.  She became a participating principal in School Turnaround in 2011 and as the instructional leader implemented strategies for her school to achieve AYP in reading in 2013.  From 2012-2013 Anniston High School saw gains of 25% in reading and 30% in math.  She received the honor of being named School Turnaround Principal of the Year in 2013.

Cynthia Lawson, Turnaround Specialist

Cynthia Lawson, has served as a principal, instructional supervisor, and specialist at the district and state levels. Throughout her career, she received various awards and accolades for improving the schools in which she worked, including Kentucky’s Presidential Award for Excellence in Mathematics and Science Teaching and Mathematics Education Service and Achievement Award, presented by the Kentucky Council of Teachers of Mathematics. In addition, under her leadership, Second Street Middle School was named a finalist in the Middle Schools to Watch Program for Kentucky and a National Title I Distinguished School for Narrowing the Achievement Gap, one of two schools selected by the Kentucky Department of Education.

Bruce Osgood, Turnaround Specialist

As the principal of John Muir Middle School, Bruce led his staff in an effort that addressed sub par academic performance and raised API (Academic Performance Index) scores by 43 points in his first year and 41 points in his second year, earning the school the California Governor’s Performance Award.  As the Principal of Burbank High School, Bruce led a turn around effort that grew the school’s API by 127 points over 8 years and met AYP targets for all significant sub populations.  Bruce has served as an Elementary teacher, Middle School Principal, and High School Principal.

Debon Lewis, Turnaround Specialist

Debon, has served as a founding school principal and teacher throughout his career. His expertise as a turnaround school leader has led to several awards and accolades throughout his career, including an NAACP Education Award and two Rookie Teacher of the Year Awards. Under his turnaround leadership, KIPP AMP Academy’s grade from the NYDOE went from a D to an A in two years. He is also founder and CEO of Transformative Growth Partners and does consulting work nationally for various entities.

Sandra Bethea, Senior Results Specialist

Sandra Bethea is results-driven and community-focused in her work with nonprofits, foundations, community members and government. She has over 20 years of social service and leadership; experience developing community-based programs, strategic planning, fiscal management and community outreach. Sandra is passionate about helping people achieve results through program design and sustainable change; she has assisted many organizations in achieving results for the communities they serve.

Megan Caswell, Program Administrator

Megan Caswell joined the TRI team in May of 2018 supporting the School Turnaround program.   Megan brings 10 years of management and customer service to the position, which benefits the organization as she manages travel for the entire team.  She can juggle multiple priorities and adapt to unforeseen changes, which benefits the School Turnaround program as she provides internal administrative support, plans and organizes conferences, maintains databases and manages the day to day operations for the ST team.   Her ability to do web research, format business documents and troubleshoot software programs are additional skills she brings to the organization.

April Jacobsen, Bookkeeper

April joined the TRI team in May of 2018 as bookkeeper, supporting our CFO.  April brings almost two decade’s experience in bookkeeping, administration and customer service. She supports the TRI team in the areas of bookkeeping, payroll and project management.

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Senior Fellows

Hal Williams

Hal is a Senior Fellow of TRI, where he is a thought partner for senior staff.  He also develops and applies outcome tools for a variety of critical social problems. Hal was named Senior Fellow in October 2008, after retiring as President after 38 years of guiding and growing the Institute through its formative years. He consults, speaks, and writes regularly in the field of outcomes.  

John LaRocca

John is a Senior Fellow at TRI after a 40 year career at the organization. John helps organizations to understand and implement the tools and techniques of outcome thinking and practice. His interests lie in improved effectiveness and increased efficiency for programs and organizations. His strengths come from an ability to translate the lessons of his long tenure at TRI to a large and varied audience.

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