Board of Directors Detail

Caroline Altman Smith
Chairperson
The Kresge Foundation
Deputy Director - Education

Caroline Altman Smith is deputy director of The Kresge Foundation’s Education Program. She supports the team’s domestic grantmaking, which funds higher education institutions and national nonprofit organizations that work to help more underserved students enter and succeed in postsecondary education.

Before joining Kresge in 2008, Caroline served for five years as a program officer at the Lumina Foundation in Indianapolis where she worked to create opportunities for low-income, minority and first-generation students to enter college and complete their undergraduate degrees.

A graduate of the University of Virginia, Caroline holds a master’s degree in philanthropic studies and a certificate in nonprofit management from the Lilly Family School of Philanthropy at Indiana University. She is an instructor for The Grantmaking School at Grand Valley State University, previously chaired the Emerging Practitioners in Philanthropy National Board of Advisors, and currently serves on the boards of the Council of Michigan Foundations and Grantmakers for Education.

Sanjiv Rao
Vice-Chairperson
Ford Foundation
Director, Civic Engagement and Government

Sanjiv Rao is director of the Civic Engagement and Government team, which seeks to strengthen representation, participation and leadership in US democracy so that communities have the capacities to shape their futures, animated by principles of dignity, inclusion and fairness.

Sanjiv has been with Ford since 2012, but has spent the bulk of his career in the field working in communities of color to advocate for policies that integrate holistic youth and community development more effectively with public systems. Sanjiv began his career as an elementary school teacher in California, Texas and Mexico. 

Sanjiv has a PhD in public administration from NYU, a master’s degree in education from UC Berkeley, and a bachelor’s degree in history from UCLA. He has been an active member of Grantmakers for Education since joining the Ford Foundation.

Amy Kerwin
Secretary
Ascendium Education Group
Vice President - Education Philanthropy

Amy Kerwin is vice president - education philanthropy at Ascendium Education Group. She leads Ascendium's philanthropic initiatives to help more students from low-income families, students of color, and first generation students get to and through college. Ascendium's exploration, validation and scaling grants are designed to help more students arrive at college academically and financially prepared and help these students navigate the challenges that too often prevent them from graduating.

Richard Tagle
Treasurer
The Andy Roddick Foundation
Chief Executive Officer

Richard Tagle has played many leadership roles: senior program officer for the United States Conference of Mayors where he oversaw grants to cities to support women’s and family health programs in 15 cities; as chief of staff at Public Education Network where he oversaw initiatives to improve student achievement across 88 school districts; as chief executive officer at Higher Achievement that provided academic supports to middle school students in 4 cities; as founder and managing principal at High Think that provided supports to growing nonprofits in DC Metro; and, currently, chief executive officer at the Andy Roddick Foundation that invests in out-of-school time strategies to close learning opportunity gaps in East Austin, Texas.

Richard has led small organizations with grand missions. It is the only way to look at a social problem, tackle and solve it, and elevate the quality of life conditions in the community in which he lives. Currently, he serves on the boards of Learn All the Time Network (as chair) and College Forward. He served as chair of the National Summer Learning Association board from 2000-2012 and served on the boards of the Asian Pacific Islander Partnership for Health, DC Community College Preparatory Academy, and Nonprofit Roundtable for Greater Washington. He has done grassroots outreach, program development and design, policy analysis and advocacy, led organizations to grow and scale, and raised and granted millions of dollars to initiate, evaluate, and sustain children and family-centered initiatives.

Sophie Fanelli
Member
Stuart Foundation
President

Sophie Fanelli is the president of the Stuart Foundation where she is responsible for leading the foundation’s investments to advance whole child education in California and Washington State. She oversees four grantmaking portfolios: School Finance & Accountability, Educator Leadership, Creativity & Arts Education, and Adolescent Learning. Sophie first joined the Stuart Foundation as senior program officer for education in October 2012.

Previously, she served as director of research & policy at the Institute for Democracy, Education, and Access (IDEA) at UCLA where she oversaw public policy and legislative efforts focused on education equity and access, student and parent engagement, and school transformation. She also worked at the American Civil Liberties Union of Southern California where she concentrated on a range of social and racial justice issues including advancing education equity, LGBTQ issues, immigrants rights, and advocacy for the homeless. Sophie was trained as a lawyer in France, Italy and at the University of Texas in Austin where she focused on criminal justice issues.

John Fitzpatrick
Member
Communities Foundation of Texas
Executive Director, Educate Texas

John is the executive director of Educate Texas, CFT's statewide education initiative. His role spans five areas: strategy, fundraising, advocacy, culture/talent and what he calls Team CFT. From 1997-2004, John had a dual role as the executive director of Skillpoint Alliance, a central Texas nonprofit, and vice president for education and workforce development at the Austin Chamber of Commerce. John moved to Texas in 1994 to attend grad school at the LBJ School at UT Austin, where he met his wife, Kristen Vassallo. Before that, he worked on Capitol Hill for Republicans and Democrats on education, workforce development, trade and other issues. John taught eighth-grade English and U.S. history for a year in Long Island, New York. He holds a bachelor’s in sociology from Wesleyan University, where he also played soccer.

John Garcia III
Member
Greater LA Education Foundation
President

Dr. John Garcia III is chief deputy of strategic partnerships & innovation at the LA County Office of Education and president of its newly formed foundation, The Greater LA Education Foundation. In his prior position as program officer for education at the California Community Foundation, John managed outreach, initiatives and grantmaking focused on improving educational outcomes and opportunities in Los Angeles County.

Previously, John served as a consultant with Jobs for the Future, the Southern Regional Education Board and the National Governors Association. He spent four years as a school counselor in an urban school district and was the Westside Impact Teacher of the Year in 2010. John also served as an adjunct professor at Phoenix Community College, teaching college success strategies, and was the founding director of the Arizona College Access Network. He has served as a policy analyst for the White House Initiative on Educational Excellence for Hispanics and was a doctoral resident with the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

John holds a business degree in supply chain management and a Master of Counseling from Arizona State University. He earned his doctorate in education leadership from the Harvard Graduate School of Education.

Elizabeth González
Member
College Futures Foundation
Chief Program & Strategy Officer

Elizabeth González joined College Futures Foundation in 2019. As chief program & strategy officer, Elizabeth works closely with the president to manage the development and implementation of the foundation’s strategy.

Previously, Elizabeth was a portfolio director and senior program officer at The James Irvine Foundation, where she initially oversaw the Youth program and, more recently, the Better Careers initiative, postsecondary success grantmaking, and Linked Learning, Irvine’s effort to integrate academic and career-technical education for better student outcomes in high schools throughout California. Prior to her work at the Irvine Foundation, González was a postsecondary success program officer at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. At First 5 Los Angeles, González served as a senior program officer, developing and managing investments in community capacity building and early learning while leading the organization’s strategic planning.

A first-generation college graduate, Elizabeth earned a B.A. from Columbia University, and a Ph.D. in sociology from the University of California, Los Angeles. She currently serves on the boards of Linked Learning Alliance and Grantmakers for Education.

Paul Herdman
Member
Rodel
President & CEO

Paul is president and CEO of Rodel, which he joined in 2004.  He is a founding member of the Vision Coalition, Delaware’s public-private partnership whose aim is to transform public schools to world-class status. Paul is an Aspen Institute-NewSchools Fellow in entrepreneurial leadership, and a 2010 recipient of the NewSchools Venture Fund “Change Agent of the Year” award. He has served as a senior manager at New American Schools, consulted with Brookings Institution, RAND, the Annie E. Casey Foundation, the U.S. Department of Education, and The World Bank. Paul has taught K-12 in the U.S., South Africa, and Australia, and co-founded an Outward Bound-based school-within-a-school in New York City. He assisted the secretary of education for two governors in Massachusetts during the wholesale redesign of the state’s policies on standards, choice, and finance during the 1990s.

Susan Johnson
Member
Lumina Foundation
Director, Organizational Development & Philanthropic Practice

Susan D. Johnson, Ph.D., is director of organizational development and philanthropic practice where she provides conceptual leadership and strategic direction in Lumina's efforts to achieve the 60% attainment goal at Lumina Foundation, based in Indianapolis, Indiana.

Throughout her career in higher education, she has acquired intimate knowledge of policies and practices affecting student success, student engagement, and institutional accountability. After joining Lumina in 2008, Susan served as a strategy officer and later as director of equity and inclusion where she actively sought to engage professionals, scholars, and partners committed to the promotion of equity and excellence in postsecondary education.

Prior to joining Lumina, Susan held professional positions in student affairs at Louisiana State University and the University of North Dakota and in institutional research at Indiana University. Johnson earned her B.S., M.S., and M.Ed. degrees from the University of Florida and her Ph.D. in higher education and student affairs at Indiana University.

Susan is actively involved in the philanthropic sector, currently serving on the board of Grantmakers for Education and the executive team of Indiana Blacks in Philanthropy (IBIP). She is also a co-editor of Standing on the Outside Looking In: Underrepresented Students' Experiences in Advanced Degree Programs.

Janet Lopez
Member
Rose Community Foundation
Senior Program Officer

As senior program officer at Rose Community Foundation, Janet Lopez, Ph.D. directs the education program area, which seeks to eliminate the achievement gap and create equitable opportunities for all children to achieve academic success in the K-12 public school system. She has also been instrumental in partnering with local and national funders to create and direct the Denver Opportunity Youth Investment Initiative, the Colorado Education Organizing Fund, and the Climb Higher Colorado Coalition.

Prior to joining the foundation, she served as the director of P-20 education initiatives at the University of Colorado Denver. She has also served as the deputy director of former Colorado Governor Bill Ritter’s P-20 Education Coordinating Council. With an emphasis on ensuring student access and success, she has also worked at the Daniels Fund, the National Conference of State Legislatures and the State Higher Education Executive Officers.

Dr. Lopez received her doctorate from The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Her book, Undocumented Students and the Policies of Wasted Potential, focuses on the experiences of college-ready, undocumented high school students in North Carolina. Dr. Lopez is a German Marshall Fund Marshall Memorial Fellow and a National Hispanic Institute Gen X Woman of Distinction.

Charmaine Mercer
Member
William and Flora Hewlett Foundation
Program Officer, Education

Charmaine is a program officer in Education at the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation. Her portfolio focuses on education policy, practices, and tools that advance deeper learning experiences and outcomes, especially for those furthest from opportunity.

Prior to joining the foundation, Charmaine was a director and senior researcher for the Learning Policy Institute, where she led a small team of dedicated researchers, policy advocates, and communication specialists. In a previous role, she served as the vice president for standards, assessment, and deeper learning at the Alliance for Excellent Education, a national policy and advocacy organization that focuses on secondary schools. Charmaine has also held various positions on Capitol Hill, including as a senior staffer for the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human Services, Education, and Related Agencies, a senior staffer for the Education and Labor Committee, and a researcher for the Congressional Research Service.

Charmaine received her Ph.D. in politics and education policy from Claremont Graduate University, as well as her master’s degree in political science. She received her bachelor’s degree in political science from San Diego State University. Charmaine is a native Californian, finally returning home after being on the East coast since 2002, and the shamelessly proud mom of adorable twin boys. She also enjoys running.

Sara Sneed
Member
The NEA Foundation
President and CEO

Sara Sneed is president and CEO of The NEA Foundation in Washington, D.C. Sara joined The NEA Foundation in February 2019, after almost 20 years with the Hartford Foundation for Public Giving, one of the nation’s largest community foundations. While with the Hartford Foundation, Sara served as director of education investments, promoting educational equity and excellence with partners at the local, state and national levels. Sara also led the development of strategy and policy advocacy to close persistent educational opportunity gaps and improve student outcomes across some of Connecticut’s highest need school districts.

She is credited with developing dynamic new learning opportunities both for and with educators and students; successful advocacy for equity-focused fiscal practices among schools and school districts; and effective grants programs, policy advocacy, and cross sector collaboration supporting English Learners, whole child development and increased family, school and community partnership.

Among her national leadership roles, Sara currently serves as Vice Chair of the Board of the Institute for Educational Leadership in Washington D.C.; on the Grantmakers for Education Equity Impact Group; and on the steering committees of the Education Funders’ Strategy Group and Community Schools’ Funders Group.