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.
SecretaryStephanie is Managing Director at Goldman Sachs and a senior member of the Industrial Department and the Merger Leadership Group in the Investment Banking Division (IBD). In 2008, she managed Conflicts and Business Selection for IBD in the Americas. Prior to that, she was a vice president from 2004 to 2007 in the Industrial Department and Merger Leadership Group in San Francisco. Earlier in her career, Stephanie worked in New York in the Mergers and Acquisitions Department. Stephanie was named to Fortune Magazine's 2015 40 Under 40 list, the publication's annual ranking of the most influential young people in business.
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.
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.
Susan HayesFrom 1996 to 2015 Susan served as president and CEO of ReSurge International. As president, she ushered ReSurge through a strategic evolution from a direct service organization to one that also educates overseas medical professionals and builds the permanent surgical capacity in developing countries. Susan came to ReSurge with 15 years of management, fundraising and media experience in public broadcasting, including serving as vice president for development and publicity for the Western New York Public Broadcasting Association. Previously, Susan was a political science instructor at Syracuse University and the University of South Carolina, and a project manager for public policy think tank, Syracuse Research Corporation. From 2009-2015 Susan served on the board of directors of InterAction, the largest alliance of US-based international nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) focused on the world’s poor and most vulnerable people.Read
She was also a member of the steering committee for the NGO Leadership Institute at the Moynihan Institute for Global Affairs at the Maxwell School, Syracuse University. In addition, Susan served on the board of Good Samaritan Hospital in Los Gatos from 2008-2014 where she was board chair in 2013-2014, and on the the Santa Clara Valley YWCA board from 1997 to 2000. Since retiring as ReSurge CEO in 2015—in addition to her service to Reading Partners—Susan has devoted time and energies to pro bono consulting with nonprofit boards in Silicon Valley, and in supporting and guiding female nonprofit CEOs in the greater Bay Area.
Kristyn Klei BorreroCommitted to transforming urban education, Dr. Kristyn Klei Borrero has 20 years of experience in urban education. Kristyn is the CEO and co-founder of the Center for Transformative Teacher Training (CTTT). CTTT’s work focuses on transforming the practices of teachers, coaches and school administrators to become more culturally relevant and positively impact school achievement through the use of real-time coaching technologies. Prior to co-founding CTTT, Kristyn was a classroom teacher in Ohio and California, where she became the principal of an independent, urban charter school at age 27.Read
She was the turn-around principal of East Palo Alto Charter School and the founding principal of Berkeley Maynard Academy in Oakland. Both schools were recognized for exceeding state academic benchmarks. As director of innovation at Aspire Public Schools she was responsible for securing a $60 million grant from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. In her role as interim area superintendent at Aspire, she also provided direct support and coaching for in-service principals. She has a doctorate from University of California, Berkeley in Educational Leadership.
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.
Jamie SlaughterJamie Slaughter is a graduate of Yale College and Yale Law School and a partner at Keker & Van Nest LLP, a San Francisco-based law firm. His practice focuses on intellectual property, professional negligence and general commercial litigation. Jamie served for three years as a Mayoral appointee on the San Francisco Police Commission. In addition to Reading Partners, he currently serves on the boards of directors of Legal Services for Children, the Boys & Girls Clubs of San Francisco, and The Horace W. Goldsmith Foundation.
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.
Denise WattsDenise Watts currently serves as the Learning Community Superintendent for Project L.I.F.T. (Leadership and Investment for Transformation), a philanthropic initiative composed of leaders from Charlotte’s largest community and family foundations aiming to accelerate student achievement in nine West Charlotte schools. Serving as a semi-autonomous learning community within Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools (CMS), the initiative focuses on talent, time, technology, community/parent engagement, and policy change. Charlotte Mecklenburg Schools is an urban school district with 146,000 students in kindergarten through 12th grade in 168 schools. Project L.I.F.T. was created to support the district's most challenging schools.Read
Under the leadership of Dr. Watts, Project L.I.F.T. schools were among the first in the nation to implement Opportunity Culture, a model that leverages district support systems to redesign career pathways and compensation to extend the reach of excellent teachers to more students within budget. Over the last two years, Opportunity Culture has had a positive impact on student achievement and the recruitment, retention, and development of teachers in Project L.I.F.T. schools. It has also been replicated as a CMS district-wide strategy in 26 additional schools.
In her 15-year career trajectory, Dr. Watts has been recognized for her leadership as North Carolina’s Middle Level Principal of the Year in 2008. She was also tapped for Strategic Staffing, CMS’s nationally recognized turnaround initiative that placed top leaders and teachers in its most challenged schools. Before being chosen to lead Project L.I.F.T. she served as the community superintendent of 20 Title I schools. In 2012, she was selected to take Project L.I.F.T. from concept to implementation.
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.
Southern Methodist UniversityDr. Chard is dean of the Annette Caldwell Simmons School of Education and Human Development at Southern Methodist University. He 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 also was a California public school teacher and a Peace Corps educator in Lesotho, Africa. Dr. Chard’s work as a co-principal investigator on reading aloud curricula in first-grade classrooms has been awarded $3.8 million in grants from the U.S. Department of Education. A principal investigator for several federal research projects in reading and math curricula, Dr. Chard is also an advisor on the National Council on Teacher Quality (NCTQ). He holds a Ph.D. in special education from the University of Oregon.
Nell Duke, Ed.D.
University of MichiganDr. Duke is a professor of literacy, language, and culture, and a member of the International Reading Association’s (IRA) Literacy Research Panel. Dr. Duke’s work focuses on early literacy development, particularly among children living in poverty. Her specific areas of expertise include development of informational reading and writing in young children, comprehension development and instruction in early schooling, and issues of equity in literacy education. Dr. Duke received her doctoral degree from the Harvard University Graduate School of Education. She is the recipient of the American Educational Research Association (AERA) Early Career Award as well as awards from the Literacy Research Association, the National Council of Teachers of English, and the International Reading Association. She currently serves as co-principal investigator on projects funded by the Institute of Education Sciences, the National Science Foundation, and the Spencer Foundation.
Jeannette Mancilla-Martinez, Ed.D.
University of California-Irvine
Dr. Mancilla-Martinez is an assistant professor at the University of California-Irvine where her research focuses on the connection between students’ language and literacy development. Her work focuses on students with low language and literacy skills, students from low-income homes, immigrant children, and language minority learners. Dr. Mancilla-Martinez has presented her work widely at professional conferences, domestically and internationally, 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. In addition, she is the co-author of Teaching Vocabulary to English Language Learners. She holds degrees in language and literacy from the Harvard Graduate School of Education, and began her career as an elementary school teacher in Los Angeles.
Donna Scanlon, Ph.D.
University at Albany, State University of New YorkDr. Scanlon is a professor at the University at Albany, where her research has 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 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. 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. Dr. Scanlon has presented both locally and nationally on Response to Intervention (RtI), is the author of several recent publications on the topic, and is a member of the International Reading Association’s RtI Task Force.