Meet Our Staff
Jason LaTurner is the director of the Texas Comprehensive Center and oversees work focusing on educator effectiveness, school turnaround, and systemic change for Texas school districts. He brings more than 15 years of experience in scoping, assessing, and managing programs in education and nonprofit settings. This experience ranges from pre-K to post-baccalaureate levels and includes designing and implementing both large- and small-scale evaluation studies.
Debra Rodriguez serves as the co-deputy director for the Texas Comprehensive Center. In this role, she works closely with the director to ensure the Center’s technical assistance projects are aligned with national, state, and local initiatives, manages project staff, budget, state, and federal deliverables, and provides the expertise needed to support the Texas Education Agency’s (TEA) objectives.
John Spence is the co-deputy director of the Texas Comprehensive Center (TXCC) and manages client relations with key leadership and staff of the Texas Education Agency (TEA) to help build the capacity of the state’s public education system to address state and federal priorities related to the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA). He provides quality assurance for TXCC projects and oversees TXCC’s portfolio to ensure client satisfaction and leverage new opportunities for collaborative work.
Brenda Arellano is a senior researcher at AIR. She has more than 15 years of experience utilizing her methodological expertise through quasi-experimental and mixed method designs, as well as survey design and analysis through the utilization of district, state, and national longitudinal data systems. Dr. Arellano is a co-primary investigator and project lead for several studies under the Regional Educational Laboratories Southwest, funded through the Institute of Education Sciences (IES).
Catherine Jacques is a researcher at AIR. Her work focuses on systems and supports for educator effectiveness and development and for college- and career-readiness. Jacques provides technical assistance to states and districts and develops resources for the Center on Great Teachers and Leaders and the College and Career Readiness and Success Center, supports the implementation of educator evaluation and development systems in several states, and leads work on career and technical education at AIR through the Center on Great Teachers and Leaders.
Chad Henry is a research associate within the Research and Evaluation program. He provides support for the Texas Comprehensive Center, focusing on GIS mapping and data analysis. He is currently assisting the TXCC’s work with the Texas Education Agency’s evaluation of educator preparation programs.
Senior TA Consultant
Cheryl Harris is a senior technical assistance consultant at AIR. Her current work involves providing technical assistance for the Texas (TXCC) and Southeast (SECC) Comprehensive Centers, addressing state and local capacity building in school improvement and key content areas. In this role, she works with colleagues to develop online course materials. She also recommends, creates, and designs high-quality instructional content and interactive e-learning materials.
Cora Goldston is a Communications Associate at American Institutes for Research. For the Texas Comprehensive Center, she develops handouts about state initiatives and co-facilitates meetings of the Texas Family-School Engagement Council, which will lead to future communications products for teachers, parents, and administrators. Goldston also works on the Midwest Comprehensive Center, REL Midwest, REL Southwest, and the State Support Network.
Elizabeth Barkowski is a senior researcher at AIR with more than 10 years of experience in education program evaluation, research, and technical assistance, with a particular focus on educator effectiveness and human capital management. Currently, Dr. Barkowski leads the evaluation of Texas Center for Educator Excellence’s human capital management initiatives and the evaluation of the National Center for Teacher Residencies’ Supporting Effective Educator Development grant, and is the deputy director of the study of the Teacher Education Assistance for College and Higher Education grant.
Ellen Cushing is deputy director for the College and Career Readiness and Success Center and a senior research and policy analyst at AIR. Cushing has over ten years of experience providing technical assistance support at the national, state, and local level on various education reforms including college and career readiness, educator evaluation, and educator talent management. Currently, Cushing leads several state-based technical assistance efforts focused on developing college- and career-readiness for all students.
Erin McCann is a senior researcher at AIR. Dr. McCann has more than 15 years of experience designing and implementing evaluation studies for federal, state, and local-level contracts with a general focus on examining factors that influence school improvement processes and practices.
Senior TA Consultant
Etai Mizrav is a senior technical assistance consultant in the Center for Great Teachers and Leaders program at AIR. He supports states in developing policies and implementing programs related to equity in education and particularly equitable access to educators by creating technical, research-based resources and providing consultation.
Fausto A. López
Senior TA Consultant
Fausto A. López is a bilingual, Spanish speaking, senior technical assistance consultant working on afterschool and expanded learning initiatives at AIR. He provides technical assistance, training, and professional development to diverse audiences in the education and out-of-school time sectors. López works with new and emerging afterschool systems to design resources and tools that support afterschool programs in the development, implementation, and evaluation of program offerings.
Felice Trirogoff is a communications specialist at American Institutes for Research (AIR), where her primary responsibilities include reviewing, editing, proofreading, and writing deliverables and public information materials. She works closely with Texas Comprehensive Center staff on projects such as the District Turnaround Leadership Initiative, Texas Reward School Case Studies, Educator Evaluation and Support Systems, and the Texas Equity Plan. Trirogoff reviews and edits content for projects in compliance with style guidelines and branding principles.
Garry Davis is a technical assistance consultant in the Policy, Practice, and Systems Change practice area at the American Institute for Research. He has over seven years of experience in program administration, research, and technical assistance. In his current position with the Texas Comprehensive Center, he works to build the capacity of the Texas Education Agency (TEA) to develop, implement, and sustain various education initiatives, policies, and programs.
Grace Fleming is a researcher at AIR. Fleming currently leads the District Excellence project in TXCC where her team is developing a toolkit of resources for based on case studies of high performing districts in the Texas Rio Grande Valley. She also works with SECC developing evaluation tools for school improvement and qualitative evaluation of a STEM program initiative for retention of university STEM students.
Senior TA Consultant
Haidee Williams is a senior technical assistance consultant at AIR. Presently, Dr. Williams serves as a Regional Education Laboratory Southwest (REL SW) partnership facilitator lead for the REL SW Networked Improvement Community, the rural TA consultant for the Texas Comprehensive Center and Great Lakes Comprehensive Center. She has over 35 years of experience in school improvement focused rural education policy and STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics).
Helen Muhisani has more than ten years of experience in data analysis and reporting, with a particular focus on postsecondary outcomes and indicators of college and career readiness. Muhisani is an experienced project director and task lead. She currently supports the Texas Comprehensive Center’s work on Texas’ Accountability System for Educator Preparation and is the data collection and instrument development task lead for a randomized control trial examining the impact of National Board Certified Teachers on student outcomes.
Kathleen L. Pfannenstiel, Ph.D., senior researcher at American Institutes for Research (AIR) and provides technical assistance and professional development to states and school districts with an emphasis on improving results for students with disabilities. Dr. Pfannenstiel is the principle investigator for an Office of Special Education Programs (OSEP) model demonstration grant. She works with middle school general and special educators to increase the use of evidence-based practices in mathematics to increase outcomes for students in special education.
Principal TA Consultant
Ms. Wood leads TXCC support for ESSA and Texas’ Expanded Learning Opportunities Council. She also leads leads the Family Engagement State Leaders Network, the Wyoming Family Engagement Project and the Illinois Quality Afterschool Program. She also serves on the board of the National Association of Family, School, and Community Engagement.
Senior TA Consultant
Laura Shankland is a senior technical assistance consultant at AIR. Shankland leads the TXCC’s work in facilitating the Texas State Board of Education’s development of the new Long-Range Plan for Public Education. She also supports the TXCC’s work in helping the Texas Education Agency develop and implement its Consolidated State Plan for the Every Student Succeeds Act. Shankland is a former classroom teacher and a certified Project Management Professional.
Lisa Lachlan is a principal research scientist in the Professional Services program at American Institutes for Research (AIR). Dr. Lachlan has more than a decade of experience conducting policy, practice and systems change projects in education at the federal, state and district levels.
Liz Nelson is a technical assistance consultant at AIR. Presently, Nelson serves as the project lead in the Texas Comprehensive Center’s (TXCC) support of the Texas Education Agency’s Grow Your Own grant, supports numerous other projects at TXCC and the Midwest Comprehensive Center (MWCC), and is the Partnership Facilitator Lead for the Regional Education Laboratory Southwest (REL SW) School Improvement Partnership.
Lois Kimmel is a research assistant in the Special Education Practice Area at American Institutes for Research. Kimmel’s experience focuses on teacher quality, teacher preparation, and education pathways related to improving outcomes for students with disabilities. At the Texas Comprehensive Center, she supports the development of literature reviews for the state and districts on Grow Your Own Programs, rural teacher recruitment, and career and technical education.
Mary J. Nistler
Mary J. Nistler is a senior researcher in the research and evaluation strand of AIR’s professional services. Mary has been with AIR for 13 years. She has experience in designing and conducting evaluations that focus on implementation and inform clients about effective and replicable practices and approaches that support program expansion and improvement. Her evaluation includes leading the design and analysis of an initial review of a statewide system of support to inform the state agency as it planned to move from a regional to a more centralized system.
Matthew A. Clifford
Matthew A. Clifford is a principal researcher at the American Institutes for Research and directs research studies on school-level leadership, develops products to support school leadership for use by principals and their supervisors, and consults with states and districts on school leadership pipeline policy issues. At the Texas Comprehensive Center, his work targets low-performing campuses and focuses on coaching teachers and principals to improve so they are better able to serve their students.
Molly Cain is a research intern at AIR. Her current research interests and areas of expertise include methodology of linear mixed models, missing data methods, and statistical literacy and communication. At the Texas Comprehensive Center, she supports staff through statistics and data analysis coaching and statistical analysis of survey data from Grow Your Own Programs.
Robert M. Stonehill
Robert M. Stonehill is a managing director at AIR. Dr. Stonehill is responsible for development and oversight of a range of projects to support effective implementation and outcomes of education policies, programs, and initiatives at the national, state, and local levels. He provides guidance in developing, managing, and evaluating national education initiatives to improve teaching and learning in high-need schools and communities, and is a nationally recognized expert in designing, implementing, and evaluating afterschool and expanded learning enrichment programs.
Senior TA Consultant
Robyn Madison-Harris is a senior technical assistance consultant in Policy, Practice, and Systems Change at American Institutes for Research (AIR) who works primarily in the Southeast and Texas Comprehensive Centers. Her primary responsibilities include providing for state and local education agency clients’ technical assistance and professional development needs as requested per her content specializations. Dr. Madison-Harris also serves as the liaison to the Center for Standards and Assessment Implementation.
Shannon Lasserre-Cortez is a senior researcher at AIR. Dr. Lasserre-Cortez’s current research interests and areas of expertise include longitudinal research and evaluation, dropout prevention, and early childhood education. She also has extensive experience as a methodologist on quantitative, qualitative, and mixed methods research and evaluation studies. In her current position Dr. Lasserre-Cortez serves as the Regional Educational Laboratory Southwest alliance researcher for the New Orleans Charter School research alliance and the Arkansas Prekindergarten Research Alliance.
Senior TA Consultant
Mr. Sharp works with the Texas Education Agency (TEA) to increase district administrators’ capacity for supporting underperforming schools. His projects include coaching and sustainable systems development with district teams through the District Turnaround Leadership Institute and professional development for District Coordinators of School Improvement. Mr. Sharp also serves as the TXCC liaison to the Center on School Turnaround at WestEd.