National Alliance for Public Charter Schools Staff
President & CEO
Nina Rees is the President and Chief Executive Officer of the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools, the leading national nonprofit organization committed to advancing the charter school movement.
Rees has over 20 years of experience in Washington, D.C., most recently as Senior Vice President for Strategic Initiatives for Knowledge Universe, a leading global education company with investments in early childhood education, before- and after-school programs and online instruction.
Prior to her tenure at KU, she served as the first Assistant Deputy Secretary for Innovation and Improvement at the U.S. Department of Education. In this capacity, she oversaw the administration of 28 grant programs, supporting 1,300 projects and was responsible for spearheading innovative federal programs and policies such as school choice, charter schools, alternative routes to teacher certification and school leadership. She also helped coordinate the implementation of several provisions of the No Child Left Behind (NCLB) Act. Prior to joining the Education Department, Rees served as Deputy Assistant for Domestic Policy to Vice President Dick Cheney.
Rees has also served as the senior education analyst at the Heritage Foundation where she authored more than two dozen policy briefs and served as the foundation's chief spokesperson on education. She has appeared on various news outlets including CNN, C-Span and PBS's NewsHour and her articles and opinions have been published in the New York Times, The Wall Street Journal and The Washington Post.
Rees currently serves on the board of advisors of the Education Policy and Governance Program at Harvard University’s John F. Kennedy School of Government, the National Association of Charter School Authorizers, the Apple Tree Institute for Education Innovation and the review board for The Broad Prize for Public Charter Schools.
Rees holds a B.A. in Psychology from VA Tech and a master’s in International Transactions from George Mason University. She lives in McLean, VA with her husband and daughter.
Senior Vice President, Government Relations
Gina Mahony is the senior vice president for government relations, where she focuses on improving federal support for the growth and expansion of high quality public charter schools across the country. Before joining NAPCS, Mahony was a Policy Director at Brownstein Hyatt Farber Schreck, serving as a strategist, advocate and advisor for Fortune 500 and privately‐held companies, coalitions and trade associations on issues before the U.S. Congress, the Executive Branch, and federal agencies. Prior to her work at Brownstein, Mahony spent 11 years working on Capitol Hill, serving more than five years as a senior policy advisor to Rep. Steny H. Hoyer (D-MD), during his tenure as House Majority Leader and Democratic Whip. During her time on the Hill, she developed and implemented legislative strategies on a variety of policy issues, including education. Mahony received a Bachelor of Arts in Government from the University of Notre Dame, and her Master of Education in Administration, Training and Policy Studies from Boston University.
Chief of Staff
Eric Paisner is the chief of staff for the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools, where he works to ensure greater collaboration across all elements of our work. Prior to joining the Alliance, Eric worked as an attorney for Powers Pyles Sutter & Verville PC, advising clients on a variety of education and corporate issues. He also served as a senior consultant with Arthur Andersen, specializing in strategic management solutions for large corporations and government agencies. Eric has a Bachelor of Business Administration from the University of Michigan and a law degree from Georgetown University Law Center.
Vice President, Communications and Marketing
Starlee Rhoades is the vice president for communications and marketing at the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools. Prior to her work at the National Alliance, Starlee spent almost eight years at the Phoenix-based Goldwater Institute. She has also worked in corporate political consulting, policy development, and on numerous political campaigns. Starlee has appeared on the Fox Business show Stossel and was a regular guest on the Phoenix NBC affiliate's Sunday morning political talk show, Sunday Square Off. Starlee is a graduate of Arizona State University.
Senior Vice President, State Advocacy and Support
Todd Ziebarth is the senior vice president for state advocacy and support for the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools. Previously, he worked as a policy analyst both at the Education Commission of the States from 1997 to 2003 and at Augenblick, Palaich, and Associates from 2003 to 2005. He has a Bachelor of Business Administration from Western Michigan University, a Masters of Public Administration from the University of Colorado at Denver and a Masters of Urban and Regional Planning from the University of Colorado at Denver.
Senior Manager, Communications and Marketing
Katherine Bathgate is the senior manager for communications and marketing at the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools. Prior to joining NAPCS, she served as Deputy Press Secretary for the House Education and the Workforce Committee where she focused on expanding the committee's digital communications efforts. She has previously worked for the Denver Zoo in fundraising and has also worked on several campaigns. She holds a B.A. in Philosophy and Public Affairs with honors from Claremont McKenna College.
Angela Christophe is the director of programs for the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools. She has served on the staff of the D.C. Public Charter School Board and most recently as the business affairs director for a mental health agency. Angela is an active resident of Washington, D.C., serving as a member of the Georgia Avenue Economic Development steering committee, and was elected as an Advisory Neighborhood Commissioner. A New Orleans native, Angela is a graduate of Howard University's School of Business.
Senior Director, Government Relations
Pam Davidson is the senior director of government relations for the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools. Pam is an experienced government relations professional, with more than 18 years of experience in this field. She spent more than 14 years on the Hill working for House Republicans, starting in the personal offices for several Members and concluding with seven years as professional staff on the House Education and Workforce Committee. She has drafted legislation, written committee reports, negotiated legislative language, and worked with a variety of stakeholders from all ends of the political spectrum. In her off-the Hill experience, Pam has worked for the National Council for Adoption and the National Association of Child Care Resource and Referral Agencies. She has also executed advocacy campaigns, conducted trainings, represented organizations in the press, and testified in front of the House Ways and Means Committee.
Senior Director, Finance and Operations
Natalie Ethridge is the senior director of finance and operations for the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools. Prior to joining the Alliance, Natalie was the director of programs and operations for the Institute for a Competitive Workforce, the education and workforce nonprofit program of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation. Prior to her work at the U.S. Chamber, Natalie worked in operations on several campaigns including Governor Mitt Romney’s 2008 presidential campaign and Governor Schwarzenegger’s 2006 reelection campaign. Natalie received a B.S. in Community and Regional Development from the University of California at Davis and a M.B.A. from George Mason University.
Nick Fickler is the staff assistant for the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools. Prior to this position, he served as a campaign intern for Rep. Ed Royce (R-CA) during his successful reelection bid in 2012 and as an intern in the District Office of Rep. John Campbell (R-CA). He started his career in D.C. on Capitol Hill, serving in the office of Rep. Royce. Nick holds a B.A. in Political Science and a B.A. in Art History from the University of Southern California.
Wentana Gebru is the research analyst for the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools, where she supports the Alliance in data collection and analysis. Prior to joining the Alliance, she worked as a Test Engineer, ensuring the quality of applications and data for a college Marketing and Recruiting firm in Richmond, VA. She also worked as an Information Technology intern for Pepco Holdings Inc. Wentana holds a B.S. in Information Systems from Virginia Commonwealth University
Senior Director, State Advocacy
Lisa Grover is the senior director of state advocacy for the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools. Most recently, Lisa was the CEO of the New Mexico Coalition of Charter Schools, where she advanced the policy environment by helping to create a second authorizer, solidify a lease assistance program and gain charter access to state tax exempt bonds. Before that, in 2001, Lisa was a founder of one of the first charter high schools in New Mexico, ranked over the last four years by Newsweek magazine as one of the top performing 1,200 high schools in the country. She began her career as a high school Spanish teacher in the Los Angeles Unified School District and also taught English as a Second Language in China, Ecuador and Mexico. She holds a doctorate in Romance Languages and a Master's Degree in Linguistics and Multi-cultural Education. In 2010, her charter school peers recognized her as New Mexico’s Innovator of the Year.
Director, Special Projects
Laura Katzin is the director of special projects at the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools where she supports the Alliance in fundraising and various cross-functional activities. Prior to joining NAPCS, Laura worked in government relations and event planning for several organizations and government offices. Most recently, she worked at Knowledge Universe where she helped manage the government relations activities in 20 states and Congress. Laura holds a M.A. in Government from Johns Hopkins University and a B.A. (magna cum laude) in Political Science from Loyola University Chicago.
Senior Manager, Research and Analysis
Nora Kern is the senior manager for research and analysis for the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools. Prior to this position, she worked with the Data Quality Campaign as a federal policy associate, on Capitol Hill for a Georgia Congressman, and as a 4th grade teacher in a charter school in Gainesville, Florida. She started her career in DC in an education policy fellowship coordinated by the Thomas B. Fordham Institute and the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools. Nora holds a B.A. in History and minors in Education and Italian Studies from the University of Florida.
Senior Director, Research and Evaluation
Anna Nicotera is the senior director of research and evaluation for the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools. Prior to joining the Alliance, Anna was a pre-doctoral research fellow with the U.S. Department of Education’s Institute of Education Sciences (IES) and a graduate research assistant at the National Center on School Choice. Her research experiences include program evaluations of whole school reform models and professional development initiatives in urban school districts, as well as a multi-state, longitudinal examination of the impact of the No Child Left Behind school choice provision on student achievement. Anna received her Bachelor of Arts in Political Science from the University of Chicago and she is a doctoral candidate in Education Leadership and Policy Studies at Vanderbilt University.
Jill Poppe is the programs coordinator for the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools, where she plans and executes events hosted by the Alliance, including the annual National Charter Schools Conference. Prior to joining the Alliance, Jill worked in the marketing department of the Advisory Board Company. Jill has also worked in fundraising and event planning for other non-profit organizations, including the Millennium Campus Network and Concordia Language Villages. A Minnesota native, Jill holds a B.A. in International Relations and German from Tufts University.
Senior Director, State Advocacy
Russ Simnick is the senior director of state advocacy for the National Alliance for Public Charter SChools. Prior to joining the Alliance, he served as President of the Indiana Public Charter Schools Association building the organization from the ground floor to the leading voice in the state charter sector and leading two major charter reform bills through the legislature which improved Indiana from one of the weaker policy environments to one of the strongest. He has served as a founding charter school leader and teacher, was executive vice president of one of Indiana’s largest public relations firms, and has several years of legislative experience as an Indiana Senate staffer and campaign experience on a variety of campaigns at the state legislative, congressional and gubernatorial levels.
Russ serves on the board of School Choice Indiana and the Policy Committee for Hoosiers for Economic Growth. He is a past board member of the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools and served as chair and vice chair of the NAPCS State Leaders Council. Russ is a Ph.D. Candidate, Marion University; a graduate of the Academy of Teaching and Learning, Marion University; holds his M.Ed. from Indiana Wesleyan University and bachelor’s of science degree from Ball State University.
Vice President, Legal Affairs
Renita Thukral is the vice president of legal affairs for the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools, where she develops and coordinates the Alliance of Public Charter School Attorneys and addresses civil rights, fiscal equity and labor/employment issues confronting charter schools. Prior to her work with the Alliance, she was the policy director at the Louisiana Association of Public Charter Schools and, prior to that, the director of policy and advocacy at New Schools for New Orleans. While in New Orleans, she taught as an adjunct professor at Loyola University School of Law and published an article titled, “The Unique System of Charter Schools in New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina: Distinctive Structure, Familiar Challenges.”
Before entering the charter school world, Renita was a public defender in New York City, practicing at the trial and appellate levels in state and federal courts. She clerked for the Honorable Robert W. Sweet, in federal district court in the Southern District of New York; she earned her Juris Doctorate from Yale Law School and her Bachelor of Arts from Stanford University. She taught junior high school math in Los Altos, Calif., before attending law school.
Marlene Voelker is the executive assistant for the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools. She is responsible for supporting the president and CEO, and the COO with many of their duties. Prior to joining the Alliance, Marlene served as the office manager and executive assistant in a prominent real estate firm in northern Virginia. She has also worked in the merchandising and marketing fields in both creative and entrepreneurial roles. Marlene spends some of her spare time working with ChildHelp, a nonprofit organization for abused children. Marlene holds a Bachelor of Science degree in Education from the University of Maryland.
Senior Policy Advisor
Christy Wolfe is the senior policy advisor for the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools. She has more than 18 years of experience working on federal education policy, most recently as an independent consultant working with national education reform organizations. Wolfe spent eight years at the U.S. Department of Education, serving as the Associate Deputy Secretary for Policy and managing the development of critical elementary and secondary, as well as special education, policy and regulatory issues. Wolfe was also a Professional Staff Member for the U.S. House of Representatives’ Committee on Education and the Workforce, where she worked on major education legislation, including the No Child Left Behind Act. She holds a Bachelor of Arts in American Government from the University of Virginia.