Joel Zarrow

Chief Executive Officer

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. Most recently, Joel launched and led the New Jersey Department of Education’s efforts to effect an academic turnaround in 220 of the state’s lowest-performing schools. Under his leadership, New Jersey established six Regional Achievement Centers, staffed with a range of educational experts focused on providing direct support to schools and districts.

Prior to that, Joel was in the private sector as a management consultant working with global Fortune 1000 firms on leadership and performance issues. Joel is a founding board member of Envision Schools, a charter management organization in the San Francisco area. He earned his doctorate at Stanford University and has presented at national and international conferences with multiple publications to his credit.

Frank Grossman

Chief Academic Officer & Deputy Executive Director

Frank joined the CLI team in June 2015. Frank leads all aspects of school services including internal and external professional development, service delivery, and the design and development of programs. For over two decades, Frank has dedicated his career to improving the educational opportunities for all students.  Prior to coming to CLI, Frank served as the Executive Director for New Jersey’s Regional Achievement Center serving school districts in four counties, including Trenton Public Schools.

Frank’s deep commitment to educational equity began as classroom teacher, science department chairperson, and football coach in a public high school Los Angeles.  He has also served as an education professor at Swarthmore College and coordinated a project at the National Center for Restructuring Education, Schools and Teaching (NCREST) that illuminated how practitioners utilize and conduct research to close the academic achievement gap that existed between white students and African American and Latino students. Frank holds a Ph.D. from the Department of Leadership, Policy and Politics from Teachers College, Columbia University. He has presented at national and international conferences, and has multiple publications to his credit.

Pat Federman

Co-Founder & Lead Developer of Coaches and Facilitators

With a background in teaching and a passion for the field of literacy, Pat co-founded CLI in 1988. Pat provides constant insight on CLI’s development and promotes the mission and strategic planning in her day to day activities. While serving as co-founder for the past 26 years, Pat’s other role at CLI is as a Regional Manager. In this position she, manages relationships with school districts, designs projects with clients, and supervises the Professional Developers.

Prior to co-founding CLI, Pat taught Pre-K and Kindergarten and served as Principal of Greene Towne School in Philadelphia. In addition to her time spent at CLI, Pat is a Reading Specialist and continues to tutor elementary school students in reading.

Pat holds a BS in Early Childhood Education from Drexel University and a MA in Elementary Education and Reading from St Joseph’s University.

Michael Jones

Director of Marketing & Technology

Mike joined the CLI team in 2014 and brought with him a diverse background rooted in marketing and design. Mike has extensive experience developing and implementing strategic marketing plans which integrate traditional, digital and social media. In addition, Mike brings a wealth of creative design knowledge to his position, having successfully launched the new CLI visual identity in 2015.

Prior to joining CLI Mike developed award winning marketing campaigns for Panasonic, has designed and developed websites for numerous Fortune 500 companies, and created a wide variety of print collateral, videos, advertisements, and mobile applications.

Caryn Henning

Director of Program Design and Development

Caryn is a 14 year veteran of CLI. In that time, Caryn has been a Regional Manager (7 yrs) and a Professional Developer (6 yrs). Caryn has been involved in almost every aspect of CLI’s program, from creating content to directly working with teachers to make certain that implementation makes a difference for students. As the Director of Program Design and 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. As the Co Project Director for our i3 Scale Up grant Caryn oversees CLI training and coaching, the orientation and ongoing training of CLI PDs, and all data analysis.

Ify Ajuba-Ugorji

Ify Ajuba-Ugorji

Director of Operations

Ify ensures that CLI’s complex array of logistics and services are delivered at the highest quality and efficiency. She supervises staff responsible for project logistics and management, contracting with Professional Development consultants, and the ordering, shipping and receiving of books and materials. She has over eleven years of project management experience in for-profit and non-profit industries, and was CLI’s Project Manager for the East region for six years. She holds an MBA with concentration in Management from Argosy University, Washington DC, and a Certificate in Project Management from Temple University.

Mary List

Mary List

Regional Executive Director

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.

Before assuming her role as Central Regional Executive Director, Mary started at CLI as a Professional Developer in 2007, where she worked as a literacy coach, content developer, facilitator, and mentor before taking on the role as the CLI Regional Manager for Chicago.  Prior to joining the CLI, team she successful taught grades K-3 and served as reading specialist for nine years. Mary holds a BS in Elementary Education and a minor in Early Childhood Education from St. Norbert College and a MS in Reading from National-Louis University.

Jill Valunas

Jill Valunas

Regional Executive Director

Jill oversees the implementation of projects in the Eastern Region, leads and 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.

Jill started at CLI as a Professional Developer in 2005, where she has been a literacy coach, content developer, facilitator, and mentor before taking on the role as Regional Manager. Over the past 20 years, Jill has served as an educator and educational leader in urban education. This experience has given her a deep appreciation for teachers, principals, and district leaders. 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. She holds a Master’s in Educational Leadership from St. Joseph’s University and a Bachelor’s in Psychology and Elementary Education from Lycoming College.

Reina Prowler

Chief Financial Officer

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.

Sara Hertz

National Director of Development

Sara joined CLI in 2018, bringing with her 30 years of broad experience in the non-profit sector. She has worked to build sustainable and diverse revenue streams for organizations ranging in size from local to global. She is committed to building resilient local communities, both through her professional work and her volunteer efforts. She is an elected member of her local government, a co-founder of her local farmers’ market, and serves on the board of the Wissahickon Valley Watershed Association. Sara is a graduate of the University of Pennsylvania.




Sharon Weldon

Regional Manager – 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. As a member of this non-profit organization, 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

Regional Manager – Houston

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. Her personal zeal aligns well with CLI’s mission to help all students become lifelong learners. 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

Regional Manager – Denver

Sarah joined the CLI team 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.

Sarah is thrilled to be supporting children, teachers, and administrators in reading and writing in the Mile High City!

Michele LaCoursiere

Regional Manager – Broward County

Michele is a Regional Manager who works within Broward County 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!

Francesca Cerabino

Regional Manager – Philadelphia

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.

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