Leadership & Board of Directors

Executive Staff

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.

Frank Grossman, Ph.D.

Deputy Executive Director & Chief Academic Officer

Frank Grossman, Ph.D.

Dr. Frank Grossman joined CLI in 2015. He leads all aspects of school services including internal and external professional development, service delivery, and the design and development of programs. Frank holds a Ph.D. from the Department of Leadership, Policy & Politics from Teachers College, Columbia University.

Reina Prowler

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.

Rob Alessandrine

Director of Technology

Rob Alessandrine

Coming Soon.

Jessica Graham

National Director of Development

Jessica Graham

Jessica leads all fundraising efforts. Prior to her current role, Jessica was instrumental in helping CLI win the 2017 David M. Rubenstein Prize from the Library of Congress and launching the organization’s fundraising program in Houston. She brings over 15 years of experience helping non-profit organizations successfully increase revenue by connecting and building relationships with donors. Jessica is an American Express Non-Profit Leadership Academy alumna. She presents at national conferences and her work has been featured in leading publications, including the New York Times.

Caryn Henning

Director of Program Design & 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.

Michael Jones

Director of Marketing & Technology

Mike Jones

Mike brings a diverse background rooted in marketing & design to CLI. He has extensive experience developing & implementing strategic marketing plans which integrate traditional, digital, and social media. He also brings a wealth of creative design knowledge to his position, having successfully launched the new CLI visual identity, the LEARN website, and Blueprint. As CLI's technology leader, Mike oversees the work of our IT vendor, and ensures the reliability and functionality of CLI's infrastructure.

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.

Jill Valunas

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.

Board of Directors
Board Title
David J. Bloom

Senior Vice President

Merrill Lynch


Gerald Mosely
CP&P Development, LLC


Victoria Raivitch
CliftonLarsonAllen LLP
Mary Klein
Retired Educator


Richard Berkman
Of Council
Dechert LLP
John Bonow

Managing Director & CEO

Public Financial Management
Nelson Flores

Assistant Professor

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

The Ezold Law Firm, P.C.

Joel Zarrow
Children's Literacy Initiative

Regional Managers

Sharon Weldon - Northern New Jersey

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.

Claire Mueller - Houston, TX

Claire guides the implementation of CLI’s mission in the Houston Metro area. She has been a literacy educator for over 30 years in both public and private schools. Her experience as a teacher, instructional specialist, literacy coach and principal serve her well as she cultivates partnerships with school districts, oversees professional developers and supports project implementation of effective literacy practices. Working with a network of colleagues, Claire works to ensure that training, resources and coaching combine in a powerful way to help students reach their potential as readers, writers and thinkers.

Claire has a passion for children and literacy education particularly with under-served populations. She holds a BS in Curriculum and Instruction from Texas A & M University and a M. Ed. in Administration and Supervision from University of Houston.

Sarah Koenen - Denver, CO

Sarah joined CLI in 2016 as Denver’s Regional Manager. Sarah’s experience as a 1st grade teacher is what drives her passion to support students, teachers, and school leaders in the hard and rewarding work of teaching students to read and write. She believes that teachers deserve high quality professional development and coaching experiences that draw upon their professional knowledge and experiences with students.

Previous to working at CLI, she was a teacher, coach, mentor, and presenter for 18 years. She holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Elementary Education and a Master’s Degree in Early Childhood Education, both from Northern Arizona University. In 2009, NAU also awarded Sarah an Honorary Doctorate for her work in education and advocacy for the teaching profession.

Francesca Cerabino - Philadelphia, PA

Francesca is the Regional Manager for the Philadelphia region supporting a passionate team of District Leaders, Supervisors, Coaches and Teachers.

Her work is guided by the following key values: that literacy is a right of all children; that every teacher has the ability to grow and strengthen their literacy expertise; that we all lead by example; and that fostering relationships are a necessary building block for the growth and sustainability of CLI’s mission.

Francesca started at CLI as a Professional Developer in 2011 where she has been a literacy coach, facilitator, mentor, supervisor, and associate regional manager before taking on the role as Regional Manager. Prior to joining the CLI team, she taught grades K-3 for over 9 years. Francesca holds a BS in Elementary Education from Brooklyn College and a MA in Applied Educational Psychology: Reading Specialist from Teachers College, Columbia University.

Michelle LaCoursiere - Broward County, FL

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!