Charter Schools Institute
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.
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 Charter Schools Institute. After teaching for seven years in New York City public schools, Dr. Miller joined the central offices of the New York City Department of Education, where he conducted evaluative research and organizational studies. As Director of the Office of School Planning and Accountability, he served as the educational accountability officer for the Department. In that capacity, he developed school accountability reports for the city schools and coordinated staff development on their use for district administrators in all the high school and community school districts. In addition, he worked with school leaders to develop their competence to use data for school improvement. In this role he developed PASS, a school performance review system which was adopted in 600 city schools. Dr. Miller has regularly presented papers at annual meetings of the American Educational Research Association and 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.
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.
Sean Fitzsimons is the Director of School Applications at the SUNY Charter Schools Institute. He is responsible for overseeing the Institute’s review of proposals to establish new schools. Mr. Fitzsimons was promoted from the position of Program Analyst. As Program Analyst, he supported SUNY’s new charter school application process by addressing questions from applicants, reviewing and analyzing new applications, coordinating the review of applications to establish new charter schools by Institute staff and external educational experts, and drafting application summaries and other related documents. Prior to his time at the Institute, Mr. Fitzsimons served as Chair of the Social Studies Department at Manassas Park Middle School in Manassas Park, Virginia where he guided curriculum sequencing and pacing to align the school’s courses with state standards, trained and mentored faculty, and designed and implemented courses in Civics and Economics, American Studies, American History, and World Geography. He also taught remedial reading curriculum to special education students and English language learners. Prior to his service at Manassas Park Middle School, Mr. Fitzsimons was an Administrative and Research Assistant at the Embassy of Japan in Washington, D.C. In addition, Mr. Fitzsimons was a visiting instructor at Shanghai Teachers University in Shanghai, China, where he designed and taught curriculum for English language learners. Mr. Fitzsimons received his Master of Education degree in Curriculum and Instruction and Secondary Education Social Studies from George Mason University and his Bachelor of Arts degrees in International Relations and Political Science from the State University of New York, College at Geneseo.
Thomas J. Franta, Esq. joined the SUNY Charter Schools Institute in 2009 as its Staff Attorney, was promoted to the position of Associate General Counsel in 2012 and Associate Counsel in 2013. He is responsible for analyzing initial and renewal applications for charter schools to ensure compliance with SUNY requirements and applicable state and federal laws; performing due diligence for new and existing charter schools with regard to management contracts, opening requirements and facilities agreements; monitoring existing schools for compliance with applicable state and federal laws, rules and regulations, charter agreements, corrective action plans, probation plans and remedial action plans; assisting with the drafting and updating of Institute policies and procedures, and overseeing the charter revision process for schools seeking to amend their charters. Prior to joining the Institute, Mr. Franta represented public school districts, administrators, teachers, and students throughout central and northern New York on a wide variety of matters. A United States Marine Corps veteran, Mr. Franta received his Juris Doctor degree from Syracuse University College of Law, where he was a member of the Syracuse Law Review, The Digest, and the Moot Court Honor Society, and his Bachelor of Arts degree in Sociology from the State University of New York at Plattsburgh.
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.
Danielle Keen is a Senior Analyst for School Evaluation at the SUNY Charter Schools Institute. Ms. Keen will support the oversight and evaluation team in managing the requirements of the school evaluation process and conduct ongoing data analysis of SUNY authorized charter schools. Prior to joining the Institute, Ms. Keen served as a Strategy Consultant for the United Nations World Food Program. On this project she served as Team Finance Director, where she managed all the financial elements of a six-person consulting team and worked to compile a 5-year strategic plan for school feeding implementation, the use of gender effective programming, and the shift from food aid to food assistance in the Central African Republic. Ms. Keen also served as a Development Team Member for Pencils of Promise, an organization which partners with local communities to build schools and increase educational opportunities in the developing world. In addition to this work, she served as a Teacher for America corps member, teaching middle school in East Harlem and the Bronx, where she created and implemented a rigorous reading and writing program resulting in significant student growth and achievement. Ms. Keen received her B.A. in International Studies from the University of Illinois, her Master of Science for Teachers from Pace University in New York, a Master of Public Administration from the Columbia University School of International and Public Affairs and a Master of Public Affairs from Sciences Po-Paris.
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.
Maria C. Sazon is the Director of School Finance at the SUNY Charter Schools Institute. Ms. Sazon provides leadership in the areas of charter school finance, fiscal policies and practice, oversight as well as replication. An experienced charter school financial analyst, Ms. Sazon's focus is on organizational fiscal performance and soundness as well as the financial viability of future plans. She helps evaluate applications for new charter schools, charter renewals and revisions. She also leads the continued development of the Institute’s fiscal dashboard, oversees the distribution of state grants and provides technical assistance and guidance regarding financial policies, internal controls and facility planning for charter schools. Ms. Sazon most recently served as Senior Director for Facilities Initiatives at the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools where she implemented a four-pronged approach to address the lack of appropriate financing structures and capital for charter school facilities. Prior to that, she served as Vice President/Senior Municipal Research Analyst at New York City based asset manager AllianceBernstein, where she analyzed risks related to investments in education facilities and other public purpose bonds. She received her Bachelor of Science degree in Business Management from Saint Peter’s College and her Master of Business Administration in Finance from Fordham University.
Jeffrey Wasbes isthe 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.