Charter Schools Institute
Staff Biographies


The Charter Schools Institute assists the Board of Trustees of the State University
of New York in meeting its responsibilities under the New York State Charter Schools
Act of 1998.  Institute staff are committed to furthering SUNY's leading role
in strengthening public education across New York State.

   
   
   

Susan Miller Barker is the Executive Director at the SUNY Charter Schools Institute. Responsible for the oversight of all Institute operations at its two office locations, Ms. Miller Barker is charged with setting the course for future growth of the Institute including enhanced collaboration with and contributions to the broader University and the state-wide Power of SUNY strategic plan. Ms. Miller Barker is the founder and CEO of Smart Hounds Solutions and was a Principal with Shanahan Capital Ventures, LLC.


Previously a Senior Associate with the National Association of Charter School Authorizers (NACSA) from 2006 through 2009, Ms. Miller Barker served as NACSA's Vice President for Research and Evaluation. She led NACSA's research, evaluation and accountability initiatives designing NACSA’s first national data project on authorizer practices and authoring The State of Charter School Authorizing 2008. Prior to joining NACSA, Ms. Miller Barker was the Senior Vice President and Senior Fellow at the State University of New York (SUNY) Charter Schools Institute, where she led the development and implementation of SUNY’s charter school research, evaluation and renewal activities as a statewide charter authorizer. As Associate Commissioner of Education for the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, Ms. Miller Barker led the implementation of school and charter accountability under Massachusetts’ groundbreaking 1993 Education Reform Act. Ms. Miller Barker is a member of Harvard’s Urban Superintendent’s Program where she worked as intern superintendent in the Charlotte-Mecklenburg, NC Schools alongside Dr. Eric Smith the former Florida Commissioner of Education. A former Vice President at the Hudson Institute, Ms. Miller Barker taught at the Indian Creek Discovery Science and Technology Magnet School in Indianapolis, Indiana receiving Indiana’s Excellence in Education Award in 1990.

Ms. Miller Barker has been a visiting lecturer at Columbia University and Butler University, and was the founding chairperson of the board at the True North Troy Preparatory Charter School in Troy, New York. She holds an Ed.M. from Harvard University's Graduate School of Education, where she has completed all doctoral coursework in Administration, Planning and Social Policy and was awarded the 1999 Edward J. Meade, Jr. Fellowship. 


Ralph A. Rossi II, Esq. joined the SUNY Charter Schools Institute in 2004 as its General Counsel. He currently oversees all legal, charter and fiscal compliance issues for, and is an Executive Deputy Director of, the Institute. He also serves as counsel to the SUNY Trustees’ Education, College Readiness and Success Committee. Mr. Rossi is nationally regarded for his expertise in charter school law and is frequently consulted by charter schools, other school authorizers and charter-related organizations from across the country. He has been instrumental in developing and refining Institute policies throughout his tenure. Prior to joining the Institute, Mr. Rossi served as the General Counsel for the Office of the New York State Inspector General for six years, and as Director of Industrial Finance and Special Counsel for the New York State Environmental Facilities Corporation for two years. Mr. Rossi was previously associated with the law firm of Chadbourne and Parke LLP where he practiced in the firm’s litigation and white collar groups. Mr. Rossi is a graduate of Columbia College in the City of New York and Rutgers School of Law - Newark. He is admitted in New York, New Jersey and several federal district courts.


Ron Miller, Ph.D. is the Executive Deputy Director for Accountability at the State University of New York’s Charter Schools Institute, the largest university based charter school authorizer in the nation.  Prior to joining the Institute, Dr. Miller was Director of the Office of School Planning and Accountability in the New York City Department of Education, serving as the educational accountability officer for school districts.  In that capacity, he developed school accountability reports for the city schools and coordinated related staff development for district administrators in all the high school and community school districts.  Previously, he conducted evaluative research and organizational studies for large scale projects in the city department.  In his current role at the Charter Schools Institute, Dr. Miller oversees the monitoring and evaluation of its 95 operating charter schools and leads the Institute’s charter renewal activities.  Based on the quality of school programs and student academic performance data, he directs the Institute’s examination of each school’s prospects for renewal throughout its charter period.  Dr. Miller is responsible for collaborating with the leaders and boards of trustees of charter schools in developing their individual performance contracts and annual reporting.  Dr. Miller has presented papers at annual meetings of the American Educational Research Association and the National Association of Charter School Authorizers; he has served as Adjunct Assistant Professor at Teachers College Columbia University and Pace University. He holds a BA degree from the University of California at Berkeley and a Ph.D. in Applied Anthropology from Columbia University.


Barbara Acenowr is the Director of Charter School Finance at the SUNY Charter Schools Institute.  She is responsible for providing leadership in the area of finance by suggesting, designing and implementing regulatory and fiscal policies and procedures that strengthen the Institute’s oversight of SUNY authorized charter schools as well as fiscal performance and compliance of individual charter schools. Barbara also oversees the administration of the SUNY Fiscal Dashboard of operating schools, reviews applications for new charter schools, renewals and revisions. In addition, Barbara oversees the administration of state grant funds, which includes the development of Requests for Proposals and disbursement of funds. Barbara first joined the Institute in 2001, during its infancy, as the Director of Charter School Fiscal Accountability and remained to see 22 charter schools open and operating. Barbara left to work in the private sector and returned to state service in 2008 with the New York State Police as a Senior Budget Analyst and Senior Internal Auditor. Previously, Barbara had work experience in Public Accounting and forensic auditing with the NYS Inspector General’s Office. Barbara received her B.S. in Accounting from SUNY Oneonta and is working towards a Masters in Public Administration at Marist College. She is a member of the Association of Government Accountants, the Institute of Internal Auditors, and the National and Local Associations of Certified Fraud Examiners and is in the process of completing the certification process to become a Certified Fraud Examiner.


Aaron Campbell is a Senior Analyst at the SUNY Charter Schools Institute.  He is responsible for supporting the Institute’s Director of School Evaluation in the ongoing evaluation of SUNY authorized charter schools.   Prior to joining the Institute team, Mr. Campbell served as a Teach for America Corps Member in the Metro Atlanta area.  In this role he taught both second and third grade students in each subject area.  Mr. Campbell completed his undergraduate studies at Morehouse College in Atlanta, GA, and holds a Masters Degree in Education from Harvard University.


Kathryn Connell-Espinosa is the Administrative Analyst at the SUNY Charter Schools Institute. Ms. Connell-Espinosa assists in the management of fiscal, operational and administrative matters for the SUNY Charter Schools Institute. Prior to joining the Institute, Ms. Connell-Espinosa spent four years as the Compliance Specialist for the Educational Incentive Program, a scholarship program within the Professional Development Program. Ms. Connell-Espinosa received her B.A. in Psychology from the University at Albany.

Shawn C. Davis is the Director of Administration for the SUNY Charter Schools Institute. She is responsible for managing all fiscal and administrative matters related to the Institute, including: development of the operating budget and master contract; authorization of vendor/consulting agreements and other payments; and the processing of all personnel actions. In addition, Ms. Davis oversees all administrative processes related to the work of program staff, as well as general office operations. Prior to joining the Institute in October 2004, Ms. Davis worked as a Project Staff Associate with the University Center for Academic and Workforce Development (SUNY), providing programmatic and fiscal oversight to 10 welfare-to-work programs across New York State. Ms. Davis formerly worked as a Business Analyst with Public Consulting Group, a management consulting firm located in Boston. Ms. Davis received her B.A. in Policy Studies from Syracuse University, Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs, and a Masters in Public Administration with a concentration in Public Management/Human Resources from the University at Albany, Nelson A. Rockefeller College of Public Affairs and Policy.


John Flack is the Finance and Grants Analyst at the SUNY Charter Schools Institute.  He is responsible for assisting in the ongoing evaluation of fiscal performance and compliance of charter schools authorized by the SUNY Trustees as well as fiscal review of new school applications, renewals, revisions and facilities financings.  In addition he supports the administration of the Institute’s New York State Charter Schools Stimulus Fund (SSF) grant program.  Prior to joining the Institute, Mr. Flack served as the Administrator of the New York Intrastate Access Settlement Pool, overseeing the administration of several New York State mandated telecommunications funds.  Mr. Flack received his B.A. in Business Management from Hartwick College.


Carrie E. Gee, Esq. is Associate Counsel at the SUNY Charter Schools Institute. Ms. Gee is responsible for supporting the Institute's Executive Deputy Director and General Counsel on legal, charter and fiscal compliance issues. Prior to joining the Institute Ms. Gee was an Associate with Whiteman, Osterman and Hanna working in their education and labor practice groups. Ms. Gee has spent her career working in education law at the elementary, secondary and university levels. Ms. Gee holds a B.A. in English and Theatre from Colgate University and a J.D. from Hofstra University School of Law.


Natasha M. Howard, Ph.D. is the Director of School Evaluation at the SUNY Charter Schools Institute. Responsible for both the programmatic and strategic work related to the qualitative evaluation of SUNY authorized charter schools, Dr. Howard now leads the development of Institute practices and protocols for school evaluations, manages school visit teams, and oversees the production of all school evaluation and renewal recommendation reports. Prior to joining the Institute team, she led the New York City Department of Education’s design and rollout of a citywide public review process for school proposals and launched a capacity-building initiative for nonprofit organizations interested in starting new schools. Dr. Howard's research background includes studies of anti-bullying programs as well as teacher efficacy and expectation. Having completed undergraduate studies at the University of North Carolina, she remains a loyal Tar Heel. She earned her doctorate (Ph.D., Counseling Psychology) from the University of Georgia before completing a fellowship in Clinical-Community Psychology at Yale University. She also holds a Masters of Arts from Boston College.


Catherine S. Kramer is the Director of Charter School Information at the SUNY Charter Schools Institute. She is responsible for the Institute's public affairs as well as the distribution of Institute information and materials. Prior to coming to the Institute, Ms. Kramer was a Senior Budget Examiner for the New York State Division of the Budget. At the Division, she worked on a number of issues, including State-Federal relations, collective bargaining, and State workforce monitoring. She also has worked as staff writer for The Legislative Gazette. Ms. Kramer earned her Master of Public Administration from the Rockefeller College of Public Affairs and Policy – University at Albany with a concentration in education policy. Currently she is pursuing a Master of Social Work/PhD in Social Welfare from the School of Social Welfare – University at Albany, where she is interested in researching poverty interventions. Ms. Kramer graduated summa cum laude with a Bachelor’s degree in Political Science from Rockefeller with additional concentrations in sociology and journalism. She is a member of The National Honor Society for Public Affairs and Administration, Pi Alpha Alpha.

Maureen C. Murphy is the Director of Charter Accountability at the SUNY Charter Schools Institute. She is responsible for the ongoing refinement and management of the Institute’s practices and procedures regarding school compliance including: serving as an initial point of contact for SUNY authorized charter schools on compliance relating questions; monitoring enrollment; facilitating requests for changes in program; conducting an annual review of school admissions information; and handling school facilities issues including coordinating public hearings and tracking open issues.  Ms. Murphy also serves as the Institute’s compliance liaison with the New York State Education Department. Ms. Murphy joined the Institute in 2006 as the Institute’s Senior Grants and Finance Analyst.  Previously, she served as Finance Director for the New York State Small Business Development Center (NYS-SBDC). Ms. Murphy received her B.S. degree in Business Administration from the State University of New York at Albany.


Andrea Richards is the Program Analyst at the SUNY Charter School Institute. She is responsible for evaluating applications to open new charter schools and to renew or revise the charters of existing schools. Prior to joining the Charter School Institute, Ms. Richards assisted with research on workforce management issues for Governor Cuomo’s Spending and Government Efficiency taskforce.  She also developed infrastructure and provided program evaluation for SUNY Works, an initiative to build and enhance co-operative education and internship programs throughout the state university system. Before moving to New York, she spent fifteen years in institutional research, communications, and administration in the higher education sector in Washington, DC and Maine.  Ms. Richards holds a Master of Public Administration degree with a specialization in policy analysis from Rockefeller College at the University at Albany and a Bachelor of Business Administration degree with a specialization in finance from Concordia University in Montreal.  Ms. Richards is a member of the National Honors Society for Public Affairs and Administration.


Jeffrey Wasbes is the Director of Performance and Systems Analysis at the SUNY Charter Schools Institute. Mr. Wasbes is responsible for monitoring and coordinating the development of school Accountability Plans and school data reporting; analyzing individual school performance as part of the Institute’s oversight and evaluation protocols; and providing evaluation and analytic support to the Institute’s school evaluation teams. He most recently served as the Project Manager at Research Works, Inc., an Albany based organization providing program evaluation, data management services and a wide range of related technical assistance support to the education and public services sector. He received his Bachelor of Arts degree from the University at Albany, a Master of Public Administration degree from the Rockefeller College of Public Affairs and Policy at the University at Albany, and holds New York State Teacher Certification in K-12 music education.


Heather Wendling is a Senior Analyst at the SUNY Charter Schools Institute.  She is responsible for supporting the Institute’s Director of School Evaluation in the ongoing evaluation of schools seeking renewal of their charter.  Prior to joining the Institute, Mrs. Wendling was a special education teacher and academic intervention specialist at Albany Community Charter School for four years.  Mrs. Wendling also taught in the Elmont Union Free School district and completed a two year commitment as a Teach for America corps member in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania and Brooklyn, New York, while she earned her Master’s in Teaching degree from Pace University.  Before entering the field of education, Mrs. Wendling earned her Juris Doctorate from the University Of Connecticut School Of Law.  She specialized in taxation law and served as a student attorney advocating for low income taxpayers before the Internal Revenue Service.  Mrs. Wendling attended the State University of New York at Stony Brook and graduated summa cum laude with a Bachelor’s degree in Political Science.