• About our Team

    ACOE Team

    Chaunise Powell

    Chaunise Powell, EdD, LCSW, PPS

    Chief of Student Services
    Alameda County Office of Education

    Chaun Powell is the Sr. Chief of Student Services at the Alameda County Office of Education. Chaun comes to the work as a scholar-practitioner serving at the intersection of health and education for more than a decade. Her experience includes providing direct services as a community based and school social worker. She has also served as a school administrator at the school site, district, and county levels. Chaun believes Community Schooling allows us to radically reimagine how we do education. She is excited about the future and optimistic about the ways in which the Community Schools strategy can operationalize equity in education. Chaun holds a Masters in Social Work and Doctorate in Educational Leadership with an emphasis in Social Justice from California State University East Bay. She is also a Licensed Clinical Social Worker.

    “The wrong first question is, What do we need to do? The right first question is, Who do we need to become?” –Benjamin McBride


     

    Michael Essien

    Michael Essien, M.Ed.

    Executive Director of Community Schools, Student Services Division
    Alameda County Office of Education

    Michael Essien is the Executive Director of Community Schools and Partnerships at the Alameda County Office of Education. He brings more than three decades of experience, as a teacher and administrator in the Greater Bay Area fighting to achieve equitable outcomes for students, parents, and educators, in public education. Michael is an educational leader who believes equity and the Community Schools Strategy are synonymous. He recognizes the unique time we are experiencing in California and is hopeful for the future. Michael has a BA in African American Studies and a MA Ed from UC Berkeley's Principal Leadership Institute.

    “Educational equity means that each child receives what he or she needs to develop to his or her full academic and social potential” -National Equity Project 


     

    Veronica Valerio Duncan 

    Veronica Valerio 

    Director I, Community Schools  
    Alameda County Office of Education

    Veronica is the Director of Community Schools at the Alameda County Office of Education.  She has been a Spanish bilingual elementary school principal, vice principal, professional development coordinator, regional literacy coach and classroom teacher with over 25 years of experience.  She holds a BA in Spanish Literature and a Specialization in Chicana/o Studies from UCLA and MA Ed in Urban Education from UC Berkeley’s Principal Leadership Institute. 

    “Man has responsibility, not power” -Tuscarora   


     

    Natasha Cotar 

    Natasha Cotar 

    Program Director
    Alameda County Office of Education

    Natasha is the Program Director for Community Schools, Collaborative Leadership. Her previous roles at  ACOE include Program Director of Strategic School Support, and Program Manager of Research and Evaluation; her work included Differentiated Assistance, Results-Based Accountability, LCAP review and support, and Charter school support. She also served as the Resource Library Technician for the California After School and Healthy Kids Resource Center, providing educational resources to statewide clients. She holds a BA in English from CSUF and an MS from SJSU in Library and Information Science.

    “Educating the mind without educating the heart is no education at all.” - Aristotle 


     

    Cecilia Apley 

    Cecilia Apley 

    Program Director
    Alameda County Office of Education

    Cecilia is the Program Director for Community Schools, Family and Community Engagement. For the past 18 years Cecilia, has dedicated her career to supporting individuals with a wide range of barriers to success, including socioeconomically disadvantaged and migrant families, English learners, adjudicated youth, and pregnant parenting minors, to access resources and opportunities. Cecilia’s commitment to student-centered practices and whole-child education have had a ripple effect in improving student attendance, increasing family engagement, and reducing suspensions throughout California.  Cecilia holds a BA in Human Development: Adolescent Development Concentration and a CTE credential in Education, Child Development and Family Services.  


    “Until we get equality in education, we won’t have an equal society.” -Sonia Santomayor  


     

    Alberto Solorzano 

    Alberto Solorzano 

    Program Director
    Alameda County Office of Education

    Alberto Solorzano is the Program Director of Community Schools, Expanded and Enrichment Programs for the Alameda County Office of Education. He has 27 years of experience as an elementary, middle, and high school principal. Alberto is a compassionate leader who has brought creativity, collaboration, and a focus on equity to enhance the teaching and learning at his school sites. Alberto has a Masters in Educational Leadership and spent four years in the Principal Fellowship Program at Stanford University. 


    “If your actions inspire others to dream more, learn more, do more and become more, you are a leader.” -Simon Sinek   


     

    Soledad Padilla  

    Soledad Padilla  

    Program Director
    Alameda County Office of Education

    Soledad Padilla joined the Alameda County Office of Education as the Program Director of Community Schools and Expanded Learning after 34 years in education in Long Beach and Hayward Unified School Districts. She began her career in education in Long Beach Unified as a Teacher’s Assistant. She moved on to become one of the five community liaisons in the Office of Attendance Service and made home visits to students missing school. This experience became invaluable when she became a Bilingual Classroom Teacher as getting to know her students’ home environment was crucial to understanding how they arrived every morning into her class. Soledad moved to Oakland and continued teaching and making home visits in Hayward. After 13 years of teaching she transitioned to the English Learner Specialist position where she had the opportunity to support teachers, students and families and encouraged their participation in decision making bodies at their school site. As Assistant Principal and Principal in Hayward she continued to advocate for teachers, students and families. Shared leadership and collaboration is her motto. She comes with experience in working in elementary, middle and high school. She received her BA in Ethnic Studies(Chicano/Latino, Black studies & Women Studies) from CSU Long Beach, Teaching credential from CSU Hayward and her Administrative Credential from CSU East Bay.  

    “Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.” -Nelson Mandela      

     

  • UCLA Team

    Marissa Saunders 

    Marissa Saunders 

    Associate Director for Research 
    UCLA Center of Community Schooling

    Marisa Saunders is associate director for research at UCLA’s Center for Community Schooling. Her primary areas of research focus on K-12 transformation efforts aimed to address longstanding educational inequalities. Her research explores topics such as teacher leadership, ownership, and agency. She has 20 years of experience leading qualitative and mixed-methods studies and has worked with school-, district- and state-level teams to study, identify, and improve the impact of transformational high school reform efforts. She has authored a number of publications and books including Multiple Pathways to College, Career, and Civic Participation (co-edited with Jeannie Oakes, published by Harvard Education Press) and Learning Time: In Pursuit of Educational Equity (co-edits with Jorge Ruiz de Velasco and Jeannie Oakes, published by Harvard Education Press). 

    “It always seems impossible until its done.” Nelson Mandela 


     

    Leyda W. Garcia 

    Leyda W. Garcia 

    Director for Professional Learning
    UCLA Center of Community Schooling

    Leyda W. Garcia is a public social justice scholar whose praxis spans over two decades as a teacher and formal school leader. As a principal of the UCLA Community School she experienced the power of communities (students, teachers, families, partners) to affirm and uphold key values and practices for the future of our educational institutions, nation and democracy. She firmly believes students, teachers, and families are strategically positioned to shape the schooling process to function in emancipatory and inclusive ways. She holds a Bachelor's and Master's degree from Stanford University, a Master's Degree in Education from the UCLA Principal Leadership Institute, and a Doctorate from Loyola Marymount University. 

    “Not everything that is faced can be changed, but nothing can be changed until it is faced.” - James Baldwin 

    CALIFORNIANS FOR JUSTICE

    Najla Gomez

    Najla Gomez

    Capacity Building Director  
    Californians for Justice

    Najla Gomez is the Capacity Building Director at Califonrians for justice and helps build the capacity of school district staff to increase family and student participation in decision-making. Since 2018 Najla has co-lead Professional Learning Networks of schools and districts with districts in the Central Valley, Alameda County of Education and schools in Long Beach Unified School District. Najla coordinates CFJ’s Equity in Action Services, professional services and resources to support education leaders in creating educational conditions in which all youth are expected and supported to thrive. Najla has supported over 12 School Districts and over 10 schools in advancing Relationship Centered Schools and addressing inequities from the classroom to the district with students as leaders. Najla was a student leader with CFJ in East San Jose where she received the support to get into Stanford University. As an immigrant Xicana woman influenced by Black feminism, Najla believes that freedom necessitates the dismantling of all systems of oppression. She believes a better world is possible. 

    “How do we reorient public education around another set of values and approaches? We begin by reclaiming the village, centering the experiences of children— particularly children at the margins—and working to heal the wounds of racism and oppression in our schools.” Shane Safir, Chapter 1 of Street Data 


     

    Asher Ki

    Asher Ki

    Capacity Building Manager  
    Californians for Justice

    My name is Asher Ki, I’m a Capacity Building Manager with Californians for justice, a Fresno state alumni with an associates and professional certificate in communications and a Bachelors in sociology.  I’m the Co-founder/ executive director of Cultured Seeds Inc., a community benefit organization invested in combating cultural stigma, discrimination and overall lack of awareness surrounding mental health, trauma and racial disparities amongst marginalized low-income LGBTQ+ communities of color. I have a passion for making a difference in my community by advocating for racial, social  and educational justice as well as building the capacity of individuals, and organizations.  

    “There is a beguiling intricacy associated with the work. We must be both competitive and unlatched in our thinking, planning and execution in order to create sustainable systems rooted in anti racist transformative bounds”. - Asher K

    NATIONAL EDUCATION ASSOCIATION

     

    Dave Greenberg

    Dave Greenberg 

    Senior Policy Analyst, Teacher Quality Department
    National Education Association

    Dave Greenberg is a Senior Policy Analyst in the Teacher Quality Department at the National Education Association where he supports the NEA Community School Implementation Institute. Prior to his current role, Dave served as the Executive Director of NEA-New Mexico’s Center for Community Schools where he led the state affiliate’s work around community school advocacy and learning. Dave also served as Director of Community Schools for Las Cruces Public Schools, New Mexico’s second largest school district, and was Assistant Director of Ngage New Mexico where he helped launch a collective impact education partnership. Dave began his education career as a US History teacher at Gadsden High School in Anthony, New Mexico. . 

    “The answer to the question “What kind of education do we need?” is to be found in the answer to the question “What kind of society do we want?”- Chilean sociologist Eugenio Tironi