Joel Zarrow, Ph.D.

Chief Executive Officer

Joel Zarrow, Ph.D.

Dr. Joel Zarrow was appointed in 2014 as CLI’s Chief Executive Officer. Joel has dedicated his nearly 20-year career to improving the quality of education in public urban schools. He earned his doctorate at Stanford University and has presented at national and international conferences with multiple publications to his credit.

Reina Prowler

Deputy Executive Director & Chief Financial Officer

Reina Prowler

As Chief Financial Officer, Reina Prowler is responsible for developing and implementing CLI’s long-term financial strategy. She leads all financial administration, planning and budgeting. Reina earned her B.A. in Business Economics and American Civilizations from Brown University and her M.B.A., with concentrations in Accounting and Strategic and Operations Management from The University of Chicago Booth School of Business.

Naimah Bilal

Chief Development Officer

Naimah Bilal

As Chief Development Officer, Naimah Bilal provides leadership, strategic vision, and direction to engage and expand philanthropic support to advance CLI’s mission. Naimah earned her bachelor’s and Master’s degrees from Indiana University in Bloomington and Case Western/CIM, respectively, and is an MBA/Economics candidate at the UC Lindner College of Business.

Caryn Henning

Managing Director of Program Design & Professional Development

Caryn Henning

Caryn is a 17 year veteran of CLI. In that time, Caryn has also been a Regional Manager and a Professional Developer. As the Director of Program Design & Content Development, Caryn is responsible for ensuring CLI has the right program “scope and sequence” in place, as well as the professional development to build the necessary expertise to build teacher capacity and accelerate student early literacy learning.

Jill Valunas

Senior Regional Executive Director

Jill Valunas

Jill oversees the implementation of projects in the Eastern Region, leads & guides Regional Managers/Associate Regional Managers, provides support to district leaders, and strives to expand our work to reach more children. She ensures that both the learning objectives and outcomes stipulated in all client and donor contract expectations are met. Over the past 20 years, Jill has served as an educator and educational leader in urban education. Jill provides her expertise in school improvement and strives to transform education by tending to the needs of each individual represented in the school culture.

Mary List

Regional Executive Director

Mary List

Mary has dedicated her career to improving quality teaching and learning in public elementary schools. In her role as the Regional Executive Director for CLI’s central region, Mary oversees the quality implementation of projects including Chicago, Denver, and Houston area schools. In this position she manages district and school relationships, provides support to school and district leaders, designs projects with clients, and supervises the locally based CLI regional managers and professional developers while ensuring that both the learning objectives stipulated in client contracts and all donor expectations are met.

Todd Gehling

Director of Technology Strategy

Todd Gehling

Todd joined CLI in 2019 with a passion for delivering innovative technology solutions that empower organizational and employee growth. He directs all aspects of the technology strategy including identification of opportunities, product and partner selection, solution delivery, ongoing service support, and planning future capabilities to align to the organizational vision. Todd has 20 years of experience working as a technology expert and leader across several industries and approaches technology transformation as a continuous, collaborative effort that promotes new ideas and the courage to test them out.

Brian L. Johnson

Director of Diversity & Inclusion

Brian L. Johnson

Brian L. Johnson joined CLI in June of 2020. He leads our efforts to integrate diversity, equity and inclusion into everything we do at CLI. Serving as a teacher and school administrator the last 29 years in public, charter and independent schools, has allowed him to see and experience education from various perspectives. Brian earned his BA in Psychology and his MA Ed. at Wake Forest University.







Sandra LaFleur

Director, Social Change Initiatives

Miami Dade College


Gerald Mosely
CP&P Development, LLC


Victoria Raivitch
CliftonLarsonAllen LLP


Mary Klein
Retired Educator


Richard Berkman
Of Council
Dechert LLP


David J. Bloom

Senior Vice President

Merrill Lynch

John Bonow

Managing Director & CEO

Public Financial Management
Henri Crockett

Co-Founder & President

Crockett Foundation

Nelson Flores

Assistant Professor

University of Pennsylvania

Frank Gettridge

Executive Director

National Public Education Support Fund

Steve Piltch, Ed.D.
Senior Fellow
Director, School Leadership Program
Graduate School of Education
University of Pennsylvania
Adam Spector
Managing Partner
Brandywine Global Investment Management, LLC

Lori Taylor

Senior Counsel

Foley & Lardner LLP


Jacqueline Woolley

Attorney & Counselor at Law

Dailey LLP

Joel Zarrow
Children's Literacy Initiative


Philadelphia, PA

Nicole Bethea 

Nicole guides and manages the implementation of CLI's mission and vision in various School District of Philadelphia schools. In her 20 years of educational experience, Nicole has worked as a teacher's assistant, teacher, Reading Recovery interventionist, literacy coach, and school principal. Over the last twenty years, Nicole has dedicated her professional and personal time to improving the lives of students through education, service, and mentorship. Nicole believes that all students can thrive, when provided with high quality core and small group instruction. Nicole's mission is to support, create, foster, and develop educators in their efforts to enhance the learning experiences of students.
Nicole holds a Bachelor's Degree in English/Education and a Master's Degree in Educational Administration. She is currently pursuing a Doctoral Degree in Organizational Leadership.

Northern New Jersey

Sharon Weldon 

As a Regional Manager, Sharon guides the implementation of CLI’s mission in a variety of Northeastern school districts. Her prior 17 years of experience as a CLI Professional Developer lends direction and depth to her current role, as she cultivates partnerships with school districts, oversees professional developers, and supports project implementation of effective literacy practices. Sharon coordinates with a network of colleagues to ensure that the delivery of trainings, coaching and materials provide educators with instructional practices and resources to empower students as they become powerful readers, writers and thinkers.

With a commitment to impact and sustainability, Sharon contributes to CLI’s vision of transformational instruction, combining efforts of all involved to ensure children become successful, life-long members of the literacy community.

Broward County, FL

Michelle LaCoursiere 

Michelle leads the implementation of CLI’s mission in Broward County, FL, supporting an amazing team of Administrators, Principals, Coaches, and Teachers.
She believes that good instruction = good results and knows that championing teachers and their professional growth is the key to changing the face of education. In her 19 years as an educator, she has served as a teacher, reading specialist, student services coordinator, assistant principal, and interim principal.
Michele has built her passion for literacy, curriculum, teaching, and learning throughout each experience. She holds a Bachelor of Arts in Elementary Education and a Master’s Degree in Educational Leadership from Florida Atlantic University. With an unwavering commitment to CLI’s mission, Michele builds meaningful relationships with all stakeholders to ensure that teacher and student success is the top priority!

Philadelphia, PA

Erica Plummer 

Erica is a Regional Manager for CLI’s SDP Project, supporting District Leaders, Supervisors, Coaches, and Teachers in the Philadelphia school district. She believes that literacy is a HUMAN RIGHT, and that our role as literacy educators is to make sure that RIGHT is made equitably available to every child. It is this belief that drives her passion for supporting urban educators to grow in their literacy expertise. Furthermore, she believes that literacy education and social justice are inextricably linked, and therefore literacy educators must approach literacy with an antiracist lens.

Erica received a B.S. in Biology from Xavier University of Louisiana in 2008 and later received a M.Ed. in Educational Psychology with an emphasis in Research and Evaluation Methods from the University of MO - St. Louis. Before accepting a Literacy Specialist role at CLI, Erica taught various elementary grades in Baltimore and Saint Louis City Schools. One thing she’s learned after working in various districts is that a major key to student growth is building a teacher’s knowledge around content and pedagogy; to equip them with the tools needed to appropriately respond to students’ needs.

Philadelphia, PA

Michelle Allen 

Michelle leads the implementation of CLI’s mission and vision in the Philadelphia Metro region. She supports district and charter school administrators, coaches and teachers with successful implementation of effective Pk-5 literacy practices to ensure increased student achievement outcomes.

Michelle most recently led the recruitment team at KIPP Philadelphia Public Schools to ensure that there is an effective educator in every classroom to educate and support the diverse students and families with an emphasis on hiring and retaining BIPOC teachers and leaders. Prior to her experience in talent, Michelle led the design and implementation of K-2 curriculum and assessments along with supporting professional development for teachers and leaders at 14 elementary schools across Philly and Camden as the Director of Early Elementary Teaching and Learning at Mastery Charter Schools. She began her leadership career at Mastery as a Founding Turn-Around Assistant Principal in 2010 and before that she was an elementary teacher in the School District of Philadelphia for 5 years. Michelle is a graduate from Cabrini College where she earned her B.S in Education, B.A in Spanish and later her M.S in Education with a focus on literacy.
Michelle is a Philadelphia native with a passion for dismantling white supremacy in K-12 education spaces and providing Black and Brown children with a liberating educational experience. In her free time she enjoys spending time with her husband and two children, travelling, and attending Zumba classes.