Dana Borrelli-MurrayExecutive Director
As the Chief Executive Officer of Highlander Institute, Dana is responsible for the alignment between the organization’s mission, vision, strategy, capacity, growth and impact. In her role, Dana sets the vision and leads the plan for organizational health and culture, both internally and externally. A change agent with deep community ties, she is driven by creative thinking, social justice, and a deep belief in dismantling convention in order to meet the changing needs of all learners.
Before her role at the Highlander Institute, Dana was a director at Highlander Charter School in Providence, RI, where she created policies and systems to elevate anytime, anyplace learning opportunities. She advocated for whole child and full service educational models at the state and national level, supporting best practices in program evaluation and policy. A native Rhode Islander, Dana holds graduate degrees in Anthropology (University of Massachusetts-Amherst) and Urban Education Policy (Brown University). She sits on multiple state and local boards, committees and working groups. Dana performs with the Extraordinary Rendition Band, a local activist street band creating raucous noise for social causes. She lives in Edgewood with her spouse and children.
Shawn RubinChief Education Officer
As the Chief Education Officer of Highlander Institute, Shawn acts as the organization’s lead architect, ensuring the Institute’s work serves our most important constituents- students. He is a national thought leader on coaching and consulting approaches to classroom personalization and school change management. His days are split between providing on the ground support in schools and districts supporting educators and leadership, and the creation and design of new processes for systemic educational change.
His ten years in the classroom have informed his insider’s view into the challenges teachers face on a daily basis. Shawn is a co-author of the book Pathways to Personalization: A Framework for School Change, through Harvard Education Press. In 2017, Shawn received the iNACOL Innovator Award for Outstanding Individual Contribution to Personalized Learning. He holds a Masters Degree in Education from Lesley University. Shawn lives in Providence, RI with his wife and two boys.
Malika AliManaging Partner
Malika is passionate about working to develop educators to be change agents of instructional and systemic equity and to nurture students’ cognitive development through culturally responsive and sustaining pedagogy. As a Managing Partner at the Highlander Institute, Malika is responsible for the Institute’s evolving and iterative pedagogical approach to change, as well as program implementation across all classrooms, schools and districts.
Prior to working at the Institute, Malika served as an Innovation Specialist and a high school science teacher. She was a Rhode Island District Teacher of the Year and served on Governor Raimondo’s STEAM and Equity in Educator Preparation Working Group. Malika holds an M.Ed. in Education Policy and Management from Harvard Graduate School of Education and a B.A. in Public Health from Brown University. As a daughter of strong and brilliant Eritrean refugees, Malika has spent her life critiquing the systems that perpetuate educational inequity, and she is proud to be a part of the struggle to ensure that all children have access to, and can take advantage of, an empowering education.
Cathy SanfordManaging Partner
Cathy is an experienced educator, education consultant, and nonprofit administrator. As a Managing Partner at the Highlander Institute, she leads research and development efforts , supporting the exploration, measurement, and codification of new approaches to school change and instruction. Cathy is the co-author of the first Institute book, Pathways to Personalization: A Framework for School Change (2018) and also leads organizational writing projects including grants, blog posts, reports, and publications.
As the founding Director of Programs for the Institute, Cathy launched programming and strategic priorities for the organization and built a regional network of educators spanning multiple states and dozens of communities and districts. Before her move to the Institute, Cathy coordinated curriculum at Highlander Charter School, a Pre-K-12 urban school that specializes in supporting students with diverse learning styles. Prior to this role, she was the co-director of Breakthrough Providence; and taught math at the Oundle School in Northamptonshire, England. Cathy holds a BA in Psychology from the University of Virginia and an MA in Education Policy Analysis from Stanford University. She lives with her husband and two daughters in southeastern Massachusetts.
As the Highlander Institute’s Chief of Staff, Kaiya’s work focuses on the culture and capacity of the team. In collaboration with staff, her area of focus centers on the values of diversity, equity, and inclusion through developing processes, policies, and understandings of how interpersonal dynamics impact everyone’s experience at the organization. This work includes formal processes such as performance management systems to supporting team members improve their communication and relationship patterns.
Prior to joining our team, Kaiya worked extensively as an educator in prisons across the East Coast. Her expertise lies in developing personalized and project-based curriculum for currently incarcerated adults. In addition to teaching, Kaiya was responsible for the overall program management of Higher Ed in Prison programs as well as tutoring programs across the Northeast for incarcerated adults and children. An experienced educator and non-profit manager, she continues to work on campaigns advocating for the rights of incarcerated people in Rhode Island. Kaiya earned her Masters of Education from Merrimack College in Massachusetts.
Stephanie CastillaManaging Partner
As a Managing Partner at the Highlander Institute, Stephanie leads the organization’s strategy and works to ensure connections between the organization’s efforts, impact and vision. Utilizing a wealth of skill sets and expertise areas, she is responsible for employing the art and science of methods and actions that focuses Highlander Institute in a strategic direction, ensuring organizational health and strength internally and externally. An experienced designer, Stephanie is the Institute’s brand manager, platform designer and systems thinker.
Stephanie joined the Highlander Institute in 2011 as a co-founder of the organization’s first incubated startup software product, Metryx. She holds degrees from RISD, where she is an adjunct professor. Stephanie lives in Cranston, RI with her husband, son, and dog.
Erin BrouilletteChief Finance Officer
As the Chief Finance Officer, Erin ensures the financial health of the Institute through day-to-day fiscal operations and long term financial planning for the organization. Erin is responsible for overseeing the financial functions of the organization including development and management of the budget, preparation of the financial statements and reporting. Erin marries the best practices in monitoring, reporting and strategy with her passion for education.
Erin brings over 15 years of experience in the accounting field including experience in public accounting, school finance and working with nonprofits. Active in her community she sits on various committees and organizations, including her town’s school committee. Erin lives in Massachusetts with her husband and three children.
Cindy KenneyAssociate Partner
As Associate Partner, Cindy provides the backbone functions needed for continued excellence and growth. She uses her extensive experience to support executive level leadership as well as overall office management for the organization. Prior to joining Highlander Institute, Cindy spent over ten years working in the financial industry in both Administrative and Client Service roles. Cindy holds a B.A. in Communications with a Minor in Writing. She lives in Attleboro with her husband, two children and their dog.
Karina RodriguezSenior Data Partner
As the Institute’s Senior Data Partner, Karina leads the charge to strengthen the organization’s impact and effectiveness through continuous improvement and data. Karina creates the data and analysis systems and protocols, and translates learnings into iterative actions for the organization.
Born and raised in New York City, Karina graduated from the University of Chicago with a degree in Anthropology and received her masters from Brown University in Urban Education Policy. Karina has had great opportunities working and teaching students from the south side of Chicago and from her hometown in Brooklyn. She previously interned at PPSD with the Ethnic Studies program assisting with the development of the program and its curriculum during their pilot year. She also worked with the New York office of the Annenberg Institute for School Reform as their Data and Research Analyst and worked alongside community organizations across the United States on projects around equity and culturally responsive education. Karina is a Data Fellow through the Learning Accelerator and currently serves on the Institute’s Remote DEI Collective team.
As a Partner at Highlander Institute, Michaela is responsible for supporting the organization, implementation, and coordination of contract work. In addition, Michaela leans in to support professional learning and coaching work as well. A former continuous improvement coordinator for the organization, Michaela has conducted hundreds of classroom observations to bridge the efforts of the programmatic work and measurement needs of the organization. Michaela serves on the Institute’s Business Strategy workgroup and provides logistical support for business development, implementation and impact measurement.
Prior to joining the Institute team, Michaela taught for 15 years -- spending twelve of those years in the third grade. She earned her undergraduate degree in education from RI College. When she is not preparing the Institute’s implementation models, Michaela spends her time at home in Warwick with her husband and daughter.
As a Partner, Christina works with administrators, teachers, and students to realize their visions of personalization. Christina believes that culturally responsive personalized learning is the lever for radical change in education and supporting student agency and equity. At the Institute, Christina develops and delivers high quality professional development, classroom modeling, and individual coaching sessions for teachers, school administrators, and district personnel as it relates to the Highlander Institute’s pedagogical framework and school change framework. She is also the creator of Highlander Institute’s Be Education podcast.
Before working at the Highlander Institute, Christina supported students and teachers as a behavioral and academic interventionist, taught 4th grade in an intentionally diverse charter school, and taught K-12 in a residential behavioral health facility in Honolulu, HI. Christina holds an undergraduate degree from the University of Rhode Island, and a Master’s in Teaching from Rhode Island College. She lives in Portsmouth, RI with her husband, Matt, and her twin boys, Daniel and Benjamin.
Vera De JesusPartner
Vera De Jesus
As Partner, Vera collaborates with educators to elevate students' voices and engage families in our work toward a shared vision -- classrooms that empower all learners to co-design their communities and futures. Vera nurtures agents of change through one-on-one and small-group coaching, professional development sessions, project management, and Design Team facilitation. Additionally, Vera supports the Institute’s communication and development efforts.
Prior to joining the Institute, Vera taught 8th grade math in Central Falls, where she previously served as an AmeriCorps Fellow. Vera's fellowship experience led her to pursue a Masters in Teaching at Brown University. Before finding her professional purpose in education, Vera studied Journalism and Psychology at Northeastern University and worked in corporate communications for several years. Born in the Philippines and raised in Rhode Island, Vera enjoys working with schools and districts both near and far -- alongside the best team anyone could ask for!
As a Partner, Mike is responsible for securing and sustaining long term school and district partnerships as well as new school and district engagements. Mike is focused on helping to bridge the equity gap in student learning by providing coaching and leadership support to all education stakeholder groups. Mike serves on the Institute’s Business Strategy team, hosted the #EdChatRI Twitter chat, and founded the Project Based Learning Rhode Island (PBLRI) Educator Network. He is a skilled coach and facilitator and works in partnership with multiple organizations and school systems.
Prior to working at Highlander, Mike taught both 1st and 5th grade, as well as working as the Science and Technology Coach for Foster Public Schools in Foster RI. Mike holds a Bachelors of Fine Arts from the University of Rhode Island, and a Master of Arts in Teaching with a focus in Elementary and Elementary Special Education from Johnson & Wales University. Mike lives in Cranston, RI with his wife, Megan, and their daughters, Julia and Luna.
As a Partner at Highlander Institute, Maeve is responsible for the coordination, creation and management of all services, including convenings, workshops, professional learning communities, as well as asynchronous content and distribution. In this role, Maeve provides steady guidance and direction to the long term arc and scope of this work as it relates to the organization’s overall vision and mission. In addition, Maeve supports the communication and development efforts of the Institute. A gifted facilitator and coach, Maeve also supports a portfolio of schools and districts through educator coaching and professional development.
Previously, Maeve led the nationally recognized Fuse RI Program, a Highlander Institute fellowship that trained educators as lead change agents. The six year, grant funded program trained over 100 fellows, created cross-district partnerships, and scaled to other states under Maeve’s leadership. Before starting at the Institute, Maeve was a founding high school math teacher at Village Green Virtual Charter School in downtown Providence, and also taught English as a Second Language through Fulbright Bulgaria. She studied Economics at Binghamton University and lives in Providence, RI.
As a Partner at the Highlander Institute, Nando provides high quality professional development workshops, classroom modeling and individual action-based consulting sessions for teachers, parents, school administrators and district personnel. Nando is the lead on the Institute’s NYC Pathways Schools initiative, supporting NYC schools as they embark on a long term personalized redesign and implementation process.
Born in NYC and raised in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic until the age of seven, Nando spent his early youth in Washington Heights as an agent of change in Teatro H.E.Y. (Health Education for Youth) based out of Columbia University's Center for Population & Family Health. Through the NYC Teaching Fellows program, he began teaching elementary education in the Bronx while attaining his Masters degree in Education. After several years in the classroom, Nando caught the eye of Leapfrog's Schoolhouse division where he became an educational consultant, then later a Curriculum and Implementation Manager for Achieve3000, Scientific Learning, and Curriculum Associates, forming relationships with administrators, coaches, teachers and families throughout the US and helping them integrate their educational platforms across PreK - 12 classrooms. Since then, Nando has continued to serve in various coaching capacities for schools and districts across the country. He lives in NYC with his wife and daughter.
As a Partner at the Highlander Institute, Meg leans in across the organization as a skilled project manager and coach. Meg’s current work scope includes tactical management support for various Institute initiatives as well as supporting professional learning in Highlander Institute partner schools. Previously, Meg directed the Institute’s Fuse MA program, a collaboration with The Education Cooperative (TEC) and twelve partner districts to grow the Institute’s Fuse Fellowship across the Commonwealth.
Prior to joining the Institute, Megan taught Special Education and ELA, created educational resources at WGBH Educational Foundation, and worked to leverage technology to enhance communication and curriculum for Newton Public Schools. Most recently, Megan directed the MassNET Program for LearnLaunch Institute, providing support for Boston Public School teachers in the design and implementation of blended and personalized learning strategies. She has a BA in English from Northeastern University and an M.Ed from the University of Massachusetts. Meg lives in Barrington RI with her spouse and daughter.
As a Partner at the Highlander Institute, Heidi collaborates with educators and organizations in pursuit of an equitable, joyful, and authentic learning environment for students and teachers. A skilled coach and content creator, Heidi provides expertise in the development and implementation of high quality professional development, classroom modeling, and individual coaching sessions for teachers, school administrators, and district personnel.
Heidi previously taught at the Charles River School and The Compass School. As a teacher for 19 years, she aspired to teach the whole child through a student-centered learning environment that adjusted for the individual and connected to the real world through projects. Heidi received her BA in Elementary Education and Sociology from Stonehill College and her Masters in School Counseling from the University of Hartford. She lives in Providence with her husband, daughter, and son.
As an intern with the Impact and Pedagogy teams, Allison supports data analysis and provides research and design assistance for resources connected to nurturing critical consciousness in students. Originally from Cincinnati, Ohio, Allison is currently a junior at Brown concentrating in History with plans to add Africana Studies as a double concentration. At Brown, Allison serves as a Head Writing Fellow, helping her peers with their writing skills. Previously, Allison has worked on a number of political campaigns and has worked for her local City Council and Clerk of Courts. Allison plans on becoming a lawyer, focusing on civil rights or the criminal legal system. She is proud to be interning with a team that strives to create equity and justice in education.