Our executive team
Reading Partners is headquartered in Oakland, CA, with program offices in each of the cities we serve throughout the US. To learn more about our program and leadership in the cities we serve, see our regional pages.
Chief Executive OfficerKarine joined Reading Partners in 2017 with a long-standing commitment to literacy and a 20-year track record of business success at Scholastic Inc. After graduating from the University of Miami with a Bachelor’s degree in Business Administration with a double major in international finance/marketing and finance, Karine started her career in the telecommunications industry. Her passion for children’s literacy soon led her to join Scholastic, Inc. where she was a highly skilled and valued leader for 20+ years. While at Scholastic, Karine spearheaded numerous partnerships and learning/mentorship initiatives centered on expanding literacy opportunities for students. Karine launched the Scholastic Family and Community Engagement (FACE) business in 2009. FACE improves literacy development and raises academic achievement in underserved communities by increasing access to books and other literacy resources through an integrated family, school and community engagement model. Karine serves on several nonprofit boards including Reach Out and Read of Greater New York, Raising A Reader and the Advisory Board of Eagle Academy Foundation. Ms. Apollon’s greatest and most fulfilling role is that of a mother to her two sons, Mario and Benjamin.
Senior Vice President, National DevelopmentKaren Casanova first joined Reading Partners as executive director in the Twin Cities region where she successfully launched the program in St. Paul and Minneapolis, MN in 2015. Prior to joining Reading Partners, Karen played leadership roles in several arts nonprofit organizations before serving for nearly a decade as part of Target’s corporate social responsibility team. At Target, she held a variety of positions in community relations, including managing a portfolio of arts partnerships, providing strategic direction for employee volunteerism programs, and overseeing K-12 education investments in the Midwest and Northwest regions. This experience made her keenly aware of the education inequities facing children in poverty and sparked her desire to make a difference for kids. Karen has a degree in political science and communications from Augsburg University and is a lifelong resident of Minneapolis.
Chief Knowledge OfficerSince 2011, Dean has guided Reading Partners’ curriculum, program development, and evidence-based practices, including the design and oversight of internal and third-party research and evaluation studies. He is committed to improving the lives of children in under-resourced neighborhoods, and for the past 20 years has held various roles in nonprofit leadership, program development and evaluation, and K-12 data analysis and policy. Dean also has experience in advisory roles for nonprofit and city-wide data and evaluation boards. Dean has a joint master’s degree from Tufts University in child development and urban & environmental policy and a bachelor's degree in political science from Duke University.
Chief Financial Officer
Nolene brings more than 20 years of finance and accounting experience to support Reading Partners. Before joining Reading Partners, Nolene held several leadership roles at Gap Inc., including the corporate controller and CFO of several divisions. While at Gap, she volunteered for nine years as treasurer and then audit committee member of Gap Foundation. Prior to joining Gap, Nolene was the corporate controller for two software companies in Silicon Valley, and was a partner at KPMG in San Francisco. She was attracted to Reading Partners because of the effectiveness of its program to help students realize their academic potential. She is a support committee member and volunteer at Redwood Family Shelter for homeless families, and served as a board member for Big Brothers/Big Sisters of San Francisco for four years. Nolene earned her bachelor’s in accounting from Notre Dame de Namur University.
Susan Werley Slater
Senior Vice President of Regional OperationsSusan brings 15 years of experience in direct service, program management, executive leadership, and organizational strategy. For ten years prior to joining Reading Partners, Susan worked for Jumpstart, a national early education nonprofit organization, where she most recently served as the chief program officer. Susan’s other roles at Jumpstart included executive director of the northeast region as well as program director and site manager. Throughout her tenure, Susan built Jumpstart’s profile in Massachusetts as one of the top organizations serving young children. Susan is a graduate of McDaniel College and has a master's in child development from Tufts University. Susan was a member of the 2007 Schott Fellowship in Early Care and Education, a one-year public policy leadership program. She is also a graduate of LeadBoston and in 2011, Susan received Boston Business Journal’s 40 Under 40 Award.
Our board of directors
ChairDan Carroll is a founding partner of Brooklands Capital Strategies and an acknowledged pioneer in the Asian private equity industry. Prior to forming Brooklands, Mr. Carroll was a Partner of TPG Capital, joining the firm in 1995 when he co-founded TPG’s Asian investing business, formerly Newbridge Capital. Over 15 years, Mr. Carroll built the firm’s Asia-based investment team to 40 professionals in seven offices and was responsible for raising five investment funds with $7 billion in committed capital. Prior to joining TPG, Mr. Carroll spent nine years with Hambrecht & Quist Asia Pacific, a pioneer in the Asian private equity industry. Mr. Carroll holds a bachelor's in economics from Harvard University and a master of business administration from the Stanford University Graduate School of Business.
Vice ChairWalter Elcock retired in April of 2013 from Bank of America after 39 years in management, ranging across human resources, operations, and retail banking, managing the 5,000 retail branches across the country as well as the market president network. He also served as president, Bank of America Texas. Walter has been a member of the board of trustees for the Dallas Museum of Art over the last ten years, serving in the capacities of chair and president as well as interim director in 2016. He is also a board member of the Trinity River Conservancy and Highland Homes. His wife Laura has served as a member of the Reading Partners North Texas board for the past two years. Walter and Laura are both graduates of the University of North Carolina in Chapel Hill, and have two daughters, Hilah in Larkspur, CA and Catherine in Brooklyn, NY. They have five grandchildren: Jasper, Elsa, and Luke are in Larkspur, with Holden and Maddie in Brooklyn.
TreasurerBrad Creswell is partner and co-founder-NCA Partners, LLC, a leading Pacific Northwest based private equity firm with over 20 years of experience successfully partnering with entrepreneurs, business owners, and management teams. NCA Partners specializes in buying and building industrial services businesses in northwest North America and currently manages $150 million of equity invested in four portfolio companies. He is currently on the boards of two privately held portfolio companies, NC Services Group and PTW Energy Services, Ltd. and on the board of Northern Frontier Corporation, a publicly listed company on the TSX Venture exchange (Toronto Stock Exchange).Read
Brad also serves on the Northwest regional board of Thrivent Financial, a Fortune 500 financial services firm. Prior to joining NCA, he worked at Bankers Trust (subsequently acquired by Deutsche Bank) in the corporate finance department in New York City. Creswell started his career in the audit department of Arthur Young, where he earned his CPA. Brad holds a bachelor of arts from the University of Puget Sound and an MBA from the Amos Tuck School of Business at Dartmouth. He lives in Seattle with his wife of 32 years and they have two grown boys.
Ian has more than thirty years of broadcast journalism experience, with 20 years in senior news management positions. Most recently, Ian was executive producer of ABC News’ This Week, the network’s leading in-depth political news and interview program. Prior to joining This Week, he was senior producer for broadcasts including ABC World News with Charles Gibson, ABC World News Tonight with Peter Jennings, and CBC’s flagship nightly news and current affairs program, The National. Before taking on news management positions, Ian spent five years between 1988 and 1992 as a news documentary producer for The Journal, covering major national and international events.Read
Ian Cameron served for six years on the Reading Partners board in Washington, DC. In his two years as board chair, Ian worked to adopt new fundraising strategies, increase the size of the board, and begin annual board retreats. Ian is also a Reading Partners tutor. In addition to his commitment to Reading Partners, Ian is a trustee on the Ford’s Theatre board and The Maret School board, a K-12 independent school in Washington, DC. Ian lives in Washington, DC with his wife and two children.
Kevin CapitaniKevin Capitani joined Pearson in 2016 as the President for North America. Kevin has been a driving force behind redefining what it means to put the customer at the center of an increasingly digital/services business. He is leading Pearson North America’s digital transformation to ensure customers have a better teaching and learning experience. His background is in developing collaborative teams and fostering growth in customer-focused businesses. Kevin has a history of managing and leading in global, highly matrixed technology organizations. Prior to Pearson, Kevin spent more than 20 years at SAP. He started as a functional consultant implementing software before becoming a global support manager for complex implementation and strategic consulting, including business and sales strategy development.Read
Throughout his career, he has worked with Fortune 500 companies across multiple geographies and industries, and he’s managed large field-based sales teams. He has also had a variety of leadership positions, focusing on building and managing the most complex customer relationships. Kevin received his degree from the University of California Berkeley.
More than anything, Kevin enjoys spending time with his wife, Carol, and their two daughters, Carmen and Tatum. Every day they remind him that there is always something new to learn, and he’s excited to be a part of a company that believes that too.
Ann ChenAnn Chen is an independent consultant focused on advising nonprofits. She was a partner at Bain & Company and retired in 2013 after 22 years with the firm. Most of that time was spent in Hong Kong, where she lived for 19 years. Since moving to the Bay Area four years ago, Ann has continued to advise high-impact nonprofit organizations in education. She serves as a long-time advisor to De Marillac Academy, a fourth through eighth grade school in the Tenderloin neighborhood. Ann serves on the board of directors of Common Sense Media, a leading independent nonprofit organization dedicated to helping kids thrive in a world of media and technology. She is a trustee at the Town School for Boys, a K–8 independent school in San Francisco as well as a director on the board of the Corporation of Yaddo, one of the country’s most established artists’ residency programs. Ann recently completed her term on the HBS Alumni Board.Read
Ann has a B.S.E. in computer science from Princeton University and an M.B.A. from Harvard Business School. She is married to a business school classmate and has a teenage son.
Neal CohenNeal Cohen is an executive with more than 30 years of experience working in the aviation and manufacturing industries. Most recently he served as Executive Vice President and Chief Financial Officer for Alliant Techsystems, responsible for accounting and controls, treasury, tax, financial planning and analysis, internal audit, and investor relations. Previously Neal was President and Chief Operating Officer for Laureate Education, where he helped develop strategy, growth and operating plans for the global university network with 675,000 students in 28 countries. He has 16 years of experience with Northwest Airlines, Inc. and U.S. Airways, including serving as Executive Vice President and Chief Financial Officer, where he led merger and acquisition activities, restructuring, and profitability and growth initiatives. He also held a number of operating and marketing positions at Northwest Airlines. He started his career and spent seven years at the General Motors New York Treasurer's Office. Neal received a bachelor's degree in politics, economics, rhetoric and law, and a Master's in Business Administration in finance and accounting from the University of Chicago.
Devin FletcherDevin joined Tulsa Public Schools in 2016 where he currently serves as the chief learning officer and chief talent officer. As the CLO, Devin is responsible for establishing a vision of learning for students and adults in the district and he leads curriculum and instruction. As the CTO, Devin helped launch Tulsa Teacher Corps in 2017, a district-run teacher preparation and certification program. Previously, Devin served as executive director of teaching and learning at Denver Public Schools from 2013-16 where he was the district lead on academic planning and implementation of standards-aligned resources and instructional best practices. In his role he spearheaded the design and development of the district's Literacy Plan 2020. Denver Public Schools realized a six percentage point increase in third-grade proficiency for both English and Spanish speaking students in one year and narrowed the gap on state assessments for students of color.Read
Prior to joining Denver Public Schools, Devin served as the managing director of finance and operations at New Urban Learning, a high-performing charter management organization based in Detroit, Michigan that served elementary, middle, and high school students.
I am proof that providing access to rigorous, high-quality educational opportunities can shift a child’s predetermined trajectory and minimize the corrosive effects of systemic poverty on families, communities, and society as a whole. I am committed to leveraging my seat to drive institutional and systemic change to increase equity, access, and opportunity for all, not just those born into privilege.
Harris LarneyHarris is committed to improving the educational experience of schools and students nationwide. He currently serves as the CEO of E-Therapy, a market leading tele-therapy company, providing speech tele-therapy services to schools and students across America. He has an extensive history of working with, and building, new businesses across several markets, including education technology, mobile applications, and interactive media. He is an active investor in the early stage technology market. He previously worked as the CFO/CDO of a $100M mobile media company; Motorola, where he launched mobile solutions worldwide; and IllinoisVentures, a seed technology venture capital fund. He holds an MBA from the University of Chicago, Booth School of Business and a MA & BA in history from the University of Wisconsin–Madison.
Liza McFaddenLiza McFadden has spent the past two and a half decades redefining how nonprofits, for-profits and government can work more collaboratively. She consults with government, nonprofits and for-profits to help solve public policy issues. Liza’s portfolio of work includes having served as the CEO of four foundations, managing a public relations firm, advising key leaders in government, and serving on a public board. For the past six years, she served as the president of the Barbara Bush Foundation, and transitioned it from a traditional grant-making nonprofit to an investor in educational technology, particularly for low-literate adults.Read
A former advisor to Frank Brogan while Commissioner of Education and to Jeb Bush while Governor, she has helped architect and implement programs with key outcomes to improve family’s lives including work in mentoring, adoption, and strategies for government to partner with faith and community-based organizations.
Education advocate. Liza believes education is a civil right, no matter one’s age or financial well-being. A frequent news contributor and conference speaker, her views have been featured in such publications as US News and World Report, and at such forward-leaning ed-tech conferences as ASU/GSV. She serves as a board member for the publicly traded company, K12, which provides virtual learning via 70 nonprofit boards across the United States. Among her awards, she prizes one of her first, a Distinguished Individual Davis Productivity Award from Florida Taxwatch for animating her interest in determining values for social outcomes.
Jeremy SmithJeremy Smith currently serves as vice president of Rainwater Inc. and executive director of charitable services where he directs the foundation’s giving in education and medical research. Prior to joining Rainwater, Smith worked in management consulting at McKinsey & Company and DenuoSource, LLC. Smith serves as a board member at Lumin Education, Dallas Zero to Five Funders Collaborative, TFA DFW Board of Advisors, First 3 Years, the FW Education Foundation, and the Texas Christian University Board of Visitors. Smith is a graduate of the Harvard Business School and the Harvard Divinity School. He received his bachelor's of science in engineering from the University of Arkansas.
Our curriculum advisors
In February 2013, Reading Partners launched its curriculum advisory committee to ensure reading and literacy experts share their knowledge and experience with evidence-based practices to guide regular revisions to its curriculum and instructional practices. The committee is led by Chief Knowledge Officer Dean Elson.
David Chard, Ph.D.
Dean ad Interim, Boston UniversityDr. Chard became dean ad interim of Boston University Wheelock College of Education & Human Development on June 1, 2018. He was previously president of Wheelock College before its merger with Boston University. Prior to that, Dr. Chard served as dean of the Annette Caldwell Simmons School of Education and Human Development at Southern Methodist University (SMU), where he created a strategic vision focused on undergraduate and graduate programs built on evidence-based practices.ReadDr. Chard has held faculty positions at Boston University and the University of Texas at Austin, and served as associate dean in the College of Education at the University of Oregon. At Oregon, he oversaw curriculum and academic programs in the College of Education. He is a member of the International Academy for Research in Learning Disabilities, and has served in leadership roles in numerous professional organizations. Prior to his becoming dean, Dr. Chard was an active researcher focused on studying instructional practices that are most effective at meeting the needs of students with learning disabilities. In addition, he is the author of numerous instructional programs on early literacy and language arts and has been a classroom teacher.
Nell Duke, Ed.D.
University of MichiganDr. Duke is a professor in literacy, language, and culture and in the combined program in education and psychology. Dr. Duke’s work focuses on early literacy development, particularly among children living in poverty. Dr. Duke received her doctoral degree from the Harvard University Graduate School of Education. She has received the William S. Gray Citation of Merit from the International Literacy Association for outstanding contributions to research, theory, practice, and policy. She has also received awards from the American Educational Research Association, the Literacy Research Association, the National Council of Teachers of English, the Michigan Reading Association, and other organizations. She has served as co-principal investigator on projects funded by the Institute of Education Sciences, the National Science Foundation, Lucas Education Research, and the Spencer Foundation among other organizations. Her Twitter handle is @nellkduke.
Jeannette Mancilla-Martinez, Ed.D.
Associate Professor, Vanderbilt UniversityDr. Mancilla-Martinez is an associate professor of literacy instruction in the Department of Teaching and Learning and an associate dean of graduate education for Peabody College. She was appointed to the National Assessment of Education Progress (NAEP) Standing Committee on Reading in 2017. In addition, Dr. Mancilla-Martinez is a 2013 National Academy of Education/Spencer Postdoctoral Fellow, a 2013 Hellman Fellow, and, most recently, a 2017 English Language Learners Policy Fellow. Her research is focused on advancing students’ language and reading comprehension outcomes, including those of students from Spanish-speaking, low-income homes. The studies she is engaged in build on her earlier research in reading development and focus on the central role of supporting students’ language comprehension to mitigate later reading comprehension difficulties.Read
She has presented her work widely at professional conferences, including the American Educational Research Association, the Society for the Scientific Study of Reading, the Society for Research in Child Development, and the National Dual Language Institute. Her work is also featured in several peer-reviewed journals. She holds a Master of Education and Doctorate of Education in language and literacy from Harvard University, as well as a bachelor’s in liberal studies with a concentration in English and Spanish from Mount Saint Mary’s College.
Donna Scanlon, Ph.D.
University at Albany, State University of New YorkDr. Scanlon is a professor at the University at Albany, where her research and teaching have focused on the characteristics of children who experience substantial difficulty in learning to read and on how to prevent and remediate reading difficulties. She has been a member of the Department of Literacy Teaching and Learning (formerly the Reading Department) faculty since 2000, and affiliated with the University’s Child Research and Study Center (CRSC) for many years. The CRSC is an organized research center that focuses primarily on reading development and reading difficulties. She and her colleagues have developed an approach to early literacy instruction and intervention, the Interactive Strategies Approach (ISA), which has been found to be effective in reducing the incidence of reading difficulties in the early primary grades. More recently her work has focused on reading intervention for children in intermediate and middle school grades. Most of Dr. Scanlon’s research has been supported by grants from the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development and the United States Department of Education.