Leadership

Our Board of Directors



Dr. Luzelma Canales
Board Member (2017-2020)

Dr. Luzelma G. Canales serves as the Senior Associate Vice President for Student Success for The University of Texas Rio Grande Valley (UTRGV). She is responsible for the overall leadership and administration of programming and services leading to student success in academic, college life, and the transition of students to the workforce or graduate school. In addition, Luzelma is has a key leadership role in ensuring excellent and ongoing academic and student support services for all students, designed to increase retention and graduation rates while maintaining the highest standards of academic excellence. Luzelma served as the founding executive director for RGV FOCUS, a collaboration with Educate Texas. Luzelma provided leadership for a large-scale collective impact initiative launched to transform college readiness, access, and success across a four-county region in the Rio Grande Valley of South Texas. The collaborative is comprised of over forty partners including four postsecondary institutions, eleven school districts, two workforce boards, private funders, and numerous community based organizations and nonprofits. Luzelma served as a community college and university administrator for over twenty-five years. She led numerous institutional community college national reform initiatives including Achieving the Dream, Breaking Through, and several with Excelencia in Education. Luzelma serves on local, state and national boards related to closing equity gaps in voter turnout and educational attainment. She was born and raised along the Texas-Mexico border in deep South Texas. She and her family migrated to Washington and Oregon to work in the fields during the 1960s and 1970s. Her lived experience includes participating in the integration of schools and witnessing the efforts of the United Farm Workers to bring to light concerns over working conditions of migrant farm workers. These and other experiences formed her commitment to work with organizations to identify and eliminate barriers that are faced by Latino students as they navigate the high school and college experience. Luzelma earned a bachelor’s degree in accounting from Pan American University, master’s in business administration from the University of Texas – Pan American, and doctorate of philosophy in human resource development from Texas A&M University.

Allana Jackson
Board Member (2017-2019)

Allana Jackson is a manager in Bridgespan’s Boston office where she focuses on the Education and Children, Youth, and Families practices. Her work with nonprofit organizations and foundations has included strategic planning, talent strategy, organizational design, and customer strategy with public school districts, charter management organizations, foundations, and innovative nonprofits.

Prior to joining Bridgespan, Allana was a manager at Bain & Company in its Consumer Goods & Retail Practice where she helped clients with a range of issues including organizational effectiveness, growth strategy, and mergers & acquisitions. Allana was also a member of Bain’s pro-bono Education practice where she worked with clients in K-12 education and led Bain’s relationship with Rowe Elementary School, a Bain-sponsored school in Chicago.

Allana graduated from Harvard University with her BA in Economics and Sociology. She also has an MBA from the Kellogg School of Management, where she was a Siebel Scholar. A native of Atlanta, Allana currently lives in western Massachusetts with her husband and son.


Jim Larimore
Board Member (2019-2022)

Jim Larimore is Chief Officer for the Center for Equity in Learning at ACT, where he leads ACT’s strategy to engage students, families, educators and communities to promote equity in learning and workplace success. Jim’s team develops programs, research and partnerships to improve college and career readiness and success for all students.

Before joining ACT five years ago, Jim’s career in higher education focused on college access and student success. He served as deputy director for student success at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, and as a student affairs leader at campuses including Stanford, Dartmouth, Swarthmore and NYU Abu Dhabi in the United Arab Emirates. Jim’s postsecondary career began as assistant dean and director for the American Indian Program at Stanford.

Jim serves on the Board of Directors for the Iowa City Community School District Foundation, and the Leadership Giving Advisory Board for United Way of Johnson and Washington Counties. He’s served on the Advisory Council that created the Gates Foundation's Millennium Scholars Program, and been the President of the International Student Affairs Advisory Board for the Universidad de Monterrey in Monterrey, Mexico. He currently serves as an Advisor for Michelle Obama’s Reach Higher Campaign, the Aspen Institute’s Forum for Community Solutions, the United Negro College Fund's Career Pathways Initiative, the Center for Postsecondary Readiness and Success at American University, and the Hope Center for College, Community and Justice at Temple University.


Dr. John Luczak
Board Member (2018-2022)

John Luczak is a leading expert on teacher evaluation, leadership and preparation reforms. He has worked closely with district and state reform, union, and management groups to build these new systems and help overcome implementation challenges. He also led projects to build a five-year human capital strategy for Delaware, a new turnaround principal pipeline in New Jersey and currently leads two school turnaround projects in Syracuse to build new turnaround leadership teams and new teacher leadership roles. John has advised several teacher voice and state-level advocacy organizations.

John began his career in education as a high school social studies teacher and became passionate about education policy after working in an urban public school district. Prior to joining Education First, John worked at the Chicago-based Joyce Foundation, the U.S. Department of Education, and SRI International. He took a brief leave of absence from Joyce to work in the Illinois Governor’s office and helped develop the state’s performance evaluation reform act and alternative certification legislation that were passed in January 2010.

John is a founding board member of Teach Plus and in 2012 he was selected as an Aspen Institute-NewSchools Entrepreneurial Leaders for Public Education Fellow. He has a Ph.D. and M.A. from Stanford University in education administration and policy analysis and a B.A. from Brown University. John enjoys volunteering in his children’s classrooms in Evanston, IL, and coaching baseball. He remains a diehard fan of the Chicago Cubs.


Dr. Curtis Martin
Chairperson of Board (2017-2020)

Dr. Curtis E. Martin has served in the field of education for forty-four years. He has served as a classroom teacher, graduate teaching assistant, professor at the community college level, as an associate member of Ph.D. faculty, as a Department Chairperson, as a College Dean, as Executive Vice president, as Dean of Students, and as Interim President.

Having earned the Ph.D. from The Ohio State University, his interest and energies have been devoted to equity in education and closing the gaps in achievement between the different ethnic groups. The focus of these efforts has been the accreditation of teacher preparation programs through activities which were based on standards-based curriculum and program delivery and enhancement of programs through evidence supported decision making. This work led to the development and funding of the Charter Teacher Education Program at Fort Valley State University where candidates advanced to the next level through the achievement of standards rather than through the earning of letter grades.

He has served in several leadership positions beyond his campus including as a member of the executive committee of AACTE and as a representative to NCATE. He has written grants, obtaining more than five million dollars, all geared toward improving the quality of education of minority learners. He has devoted years to serving on accreditation review teams and continues to do so, while consulting with institutions of higher education on going beyond accreditation to becoming leaders in preparing teachers and advocating for and championing the cause for quality education for all learners.


Dr. Candice McQueen
Board Member (2019-2022)

Dr. Candice McQueen has been NIET’s chief executive officer since late January 2019. NIET is a national nonprofit with 20 years of evidence-based work across 20 states in building educator excellence to ensure all students have the opportunity for success. In her first year at NIET, Dr. McQueen is collaborating with NIET staff and partners across the country to lead a strategic planning process to ensure NIET vision for even more greater impact beyond the 250,000 educators, 30,000 teacher leaders and 2.5 million students already served by NIET as we lead nationally in the efforts to improve teaching and learning.

Dr. McQueen has been a lifelong educator, and prior to her role at NIET, Dr. McQueen was Tennessee’s commissioner of education from January 2015 through January 2019. During her time at the state department of education, Dr. McQueen led the creation of a new, educator-informed strategic plan, called Tennessee Succeeds, which later became the department’s plan to transition to the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA). The comprehensive plan provided aligned goals, priorities, and strategies focused on increasing college and career readiness for Tennessee’s 1 million students. At each step of her work, Dr. McQueen opened lines of communication between the department and external stakeholders, ultimately connecting with tens of thousands of Tennessee teachers in every county in the state throughout her time as commissioner.

Commissioner McQueen also undertook a number of initiatives to strengthen areas that support students’ long-term success. In February 2016, she launched Read to be Ready, a multi-faceted initiative centered on a goal of having 75% of Tennessee third graders reading on grade level by 2025. Through Read to be Ready summer camps, students have showed statistically significant gains in their learning and reading skills. Additionally, as part of Tennessee Succeeds, the department is now going further to ensure all students can access opportunities throughout their K-12 education that prepare them for their next step, with a particular focus on making sure all high school students have access to a variety of college, career and technical education pathways. The department has increased transparency by working with families and community members to create new, user-friendly score reports for the state assessment and a new state report card website with additional dashboard metrics and ratings, including detailed student group performance. Similarly, the department and state board of education have partnered to increase transparency in education preparation and now more clearly highlight candidate diversity and the outcomes of education preparation providers and as they prepare first-year teachers, as well as strengthen the review process for those programs. Further, Dr. McQueen worked with state leaders and the Tennessee General Assembly to pass the largest investment in K-12 education without a tax increase in Tennessee history and advocated for historic increases in teacher salaries.

Tennessee is known nationally as a model for creating dramatic growth in student achievement, with the foundation for improvement rooted in NIET’s core work of developing and supporting highly effective teachers in every classroom. In 2018, researchers at Georgetown University pointed to Tennessee’s teacher evaluation and professional development model, which incorporates the NIET rubric and principles, as laying the foundation for substantial, career-long improvement in the state’s teachers and resulting gains in student achievement. In addition to being recognized as one of the fastest improving states in the country over the past decade through its results on the National Assessment of Education Progress (NAEP), Tennessee has earned recognition from national researchers at Stanford University for its growth compared to other states. Additionally, Education Next noted the quality of Tennessee’s academic standards moved from an “F” to an “A” over the past decade, with Tennessee also being the only state to both raise expectations and improve student performance simultaneously.

Before her role as Tennessee commissioner of education, Dr. McQueen served as senior vice president and dean of the college of education at Lipscomb University. She also served as a higher education faculty member and department chair before being named dean in 2008.

While at Lipscomb, McQueen served as a member of the university’s executive leadership team and oversaw both her college and the 1,300 pre-K-12 grade students in three schools at Lipscomb Academy. Under her leadership, Lipscomb’s college of education and teacher preparation program grew dramatically, increased in faculty and student diversity, and were consistently highlighted as one of the top teacher training programs in the state of Tennessee for quality and effectiveness based on the Tennessee Report Card on the Effectiveness of Teacher Training Programs and was pointed out as the second highest ranking program in the nation by the National Council on Teacher Quality. McQueen also founded the Ayers Institute for Teacher Learning and Innovation at Lipscomb. The institute has a focus on improving professional learning for teachers by focusing on embedded professional development, coaching and new approaches to leadership training and support.

Prior to joining Lipscomb University, Dr. McQueen was awarded multiple awards for both her teaching and the curriculum design of a new magnet school. Dr. McQueen has a bachelor's degree from Lipscomb, a master's degree from Vanderbilt University, and a Ph.D. from the University of Texas. She started her education career as a classroom teacher, teaching in both public and private elementary and middle schools in Tennessee and Texas.

McQueen serves on the Board for the Council for the Accreditation of Educator Preparation (CAEP), is a member of Chiefs for Change, serves on the Results for America state advisory committee, and was recently named a distinguished faculty member in education at Lipscomb University.


Dr. Inger Swimpson
Vice Chairperson of Board (2017-2019)

A native of North Carolina, Dr. Inger Swimpson moved to Maryland after earning her bachelor’s degree in Biology and her teaching certification at North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University.

Passionate about teaching and education, she worked as a middle school science educator for 25 years at the Montgomery County Public Schools—and attained progressive leadership roles that included: department chairperson and Supervisor, Staff Development Programs, Director, Certification and Staffing, and Director, Talent Acquisition.

Dr. Swimpson is a skilled facilitator and excels at helping leaders discover their creativity and passion through shared leadership challenges and aspirations. Dr. Swimpson’s most gratifying professional accomplishment lies in the establishment of the BOND (Building Our Network of Diversity) Program, a networking, leadership, mentorship, and fellowship program created for African American and Latino male educators in Montgomery County Public Schools. This program allows these men of color to connect, share, and build upon a shared craft: teaching.

Dr. Swimpson uses her extensive leadership and K-12 experience to assist institutions of higher education, such as Howard University, the University of Maryland College Park, Hood College, and Towson University, in the development of partnerships with school districts.