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Magnet Experts

Our team is ready for you!

To meet the demand of schools wanting to grow professionally, MSA developed a credentialed team to focus solely on developing excellence in schools/programs.

This specialized nationwide team of experts possesses extensive skill-based knowledge, to help guide and foster greatness in member schools and their home districts.

NIMSL Magnet Experts: train teachers, administration and district leadership; provide technical assistance to local school districts through on-site leadership training and evaluation of magnet school programs; review policies and procedures relating to theme selection, marketing, and student assignment; provide strategic implementation planning for new, emerging, and revitalized magnet schools; coach schools and staff toward earning Certification.

MSA customizes training and services to meet specific timeframe, budget, and local needs.

Elena Ashburn


Dr. Elena Ashburn is the proud principal of Needham B. Broughton Magnet High School, an IBO World, Global Studies, and Magnet Schools of America (MSA) Demonstration School in the Wake County Public School System. Elena’s work is driven by the belief that strong magnet school programming founded on the MSA Magnet Schools Pillars ensures excellent and equitable educational access and learning for our students. 

Elena previously served as principal of East Garner Magnet Middle School, an IBO World, and Creative Arts School, where her team led in moving the school out of the state-sanctioned low-performing status. Elena is a leadership coach with MSA, working with leaders throughout the country implementing magnet programs. In 2018, Elena earned a doctorate from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, where her research examined the underrepresentation of women in the superintendency. In 2021, Elena was named the North Carolina Wells Fargo Principal of the Year and currently serves as an advisor to the North Carolina State Board of Education.

David Brooks


Dr. David P. Brooks has been the Global Studies, Language Immersion, and International Baccalaureate Magnet Coordinator at Broughton Magnet High School in the Wake County Public School System (NC) since 2013. During this time, David has been very proud to lead the school from its initial phases of magnet program development to a point where the school has now been certified at the demonstration level by the Magnet Schools of America through two cycles of the certification program. David is passionate about inspiring teachers and educational leaders to work within their communities to set a lofty vision and develop the tools needed to bring that vision to reality. David’s particular areas of expertise involve assisting schools to ensure sound and creative curriculum development and instructional practices, equitable access and inclusion for all students in all programs, and academic excellence.

Outside his work at Broughton and with the National Institute for Magnet School Leadership, David has served as the President of the International Baccalaureate Schools of North Carolina and has led workshops in conjunction with multiple state, national, and international organizations. David’s teaching background is in social studies, and he earned a Doctorate in Curriculum and Instruction from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, with research specializations in curriculum theory and global education.

Beth Cochran


With six years of MSAP grant management experience with Wake County magnet schools, Dr. Beth Cochran has extensive knowledge regarding MSAP grants, winning MSA Merit Awards of Excellence and Distinction, receiving National Magnet Certification, and increasing and maintaining diversity and school integration goals of the magnet schools with which she works.

Beth recently retired from Wake County Magnet Schools in Raleigh, N.C., and works as a NIMSL magnet expert. Beth’s ongoing works to help districts review their magnet schools for certification/re-certification readiness and to help districts meet diversity goals.  Beth has served as a consultant to MSA via the Louisville, Kentucky, Charlotte, North Carolina, Greensboro, North Carolina, Colombia, Georgia, Osseo, Minneapolis, and Richland 2, South Carolina review teams. Beth attended North Carolina State University, Raleigh, and holds a Doctor of Education in Educational Leadership.

Mary Conage


Dr. Mary Conage enjoyed a successful 33-year career with the Pinellas County School District in Florida. Her professional journey includes experience as a classroom teacher, instructional coach, curriculum supervisor, and director of federal programs. In every role, Mary’s primary goal was to facilitate conditions for learning that lead to student agency and high academic achievement. Her doctoral studies at the University of Florida focused on curriculum and instruction, emphasizing culturally responsive pedagogy. This led her to develop and present related professional development sessions for educators. 

Mary has presented at several national education conferences, including Learning Forward, ASCD, the Council of Great City Schools, and the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics. In her retirement, she continues to share her knowledge and passion for highly effective, learner-responsive instruction through writing, professional development, and coaching.

Derek Fialkiewicz


Dr. Derek Fialkiewicz is currently serving as the Superintendent of the Corbett School District in Corbett, Oregon. He spent 26 years as an educator in Nevada’s Clark County School District (CCSD), beginning as a high school mathematics and computer science teacher and ending as a middle school principal. Dr. Fialkiewicz transformed Lied STEM Academy from a low-achieving middle school with decreasing enrollment into the highest achieving middle school in CCSD while nearly doubling enrollment with a large waiting list. In 2022 and 2017, Dr. Fialkiewicz was named Magnet Schools of America Region II Principal of the Year and a finalist for the NASSP Assistant Principal of the Year, respectively. While in Nevada, Dr. Fialkiewicz served many years as the president of both Southern Nevada Math Council and Nevada Math Council. His educational passions lie in PBL, grade reform, CTE, mental health, and formative feedback.

Bridgette Fortenberry


Bridgette Fortenberry is a proud New Orleans native and two-time graduate of Louisiana State University. She currently serves as a High School Magnet Site Coordinator, but she served as an English educator for more than a decade prior to accepting this position.

Throughout her tenure in the classroom, she garnered two Baton Rouge Magnet High School Teacher of the Year awards, as well as being named one of the three semifinalists for the 2012 East Baton Rouge Parish School District’s High School Teacher of the Year Award. She earned recognition due to her mentorship of new teachers, and her commitment to the idea that all students should have true access to success. Teaching is a calling, which she is constantly striving to walk worthy of in every aspect of her career.

Michelle Frazier


Dr. Michelle Frazier is an Independent Educational Consultant specializing in Magnet School Design and Curriculum Development. She retired from the Chicago Public School System (CPS), where she served as a teacher, Magnet Coordinator, and Grants Manager. In addition to supervising over 130 magnet schools in the district, Michelle oversaw and supported the opening of over 35 new magnet schools and programs throughout the district, including Montessori, International Baccalaureate programs, and STEM schools. 

Michelle is also a magnet expert for the National Institute of Magnet School Leaders. As a consultant, she reviews and provides professional development for magnet schools and programs. She also coaches schools participating in the National Magnet School certification process. Michelle is a Chicago native and a graduate of CPS.

Jennifer Furman-Born


Jennifer Furman-Born began her educational career in the Clark County School District (CCSD) in 2000 as an art specialist before accepting her first administrative position. Over the next 11 years, Jennifer served as an elementary school assistant principal. In this position, she worked to assist in the turn-around of an elementary at-risk school. 

In October of 2012, Jennifer became the school principal of Gordon McCaw Elementary School, a Title I school seeing declining achievement. In 2014, Gordon McCaw Elementary School was selected as a CCSD magnet school to assist in school overcrowding and increasing school choice across the Las Vegas Valley. In February 2018, the National Title I Distinguished Schools Program publicly recognized McCaw ES for its positive educational advances in exceptional student performance for two consecutive years. Jennifer received the Magnet Schools of America (MSA) Region VII Principal of the Year award in 2019. Jennifer’s educational philosophy is based on an uncompromising belief that all students can learn given a positive learning environment, strong and knowledgeable leadership, a committed and focused educational team, an encouraging community, and a supportive family.

Christine Gross


Dr. Christine Gross’ dedication to serving diverse learning environments began as a Peace Corps Volunteer in Papua New Guinea, South Pacific and as an international educator in Cameroon, Africa. Christine is a former magnet school administrator and former Director of Career & Technical Academies and Magnet Schools in Clark County School District. Dr. Gross served as Project Director of three Magnet Schools Assistance Program grant cycles in Napa Valley Unified School District. Christine’s experience working as the first female firefighter for Nevada Division of Forestry continues to influence her dedication to develop equitable opportunities for students, families, and educators.

Maria Hersey


Maria Hersey is the Director of Strategic Partnerships for World Savvy and has over 20 years of experience in K-16 education. She served as the founder and principal advisor for Global Education Advisors, Director of Education & Training for The Goldie Hawn Foundation, and regional program manager and development specialist for the International Baccalaureate. Maria has also worked in public education, focusing on magnet schools throughout Florida as an elementary school teacher, magnet coordinator, and assistant principal. 

Maria’s work has received international recognition in social-emotional learning, program design and evaluation, curriculum development, and global-mindedness. She is a keynote speaker and has led workshops across five continents. Her dissertation focused on developing global-mindedness and school leadership perspectives. Maria’s work with children and educators is a fulfilling aspect of life that brings her great joy and happiness. In addition, she enjoys cooking, traveling the world, and spending time with family and friends.

Joshua Hunter


Josh’s professional journey began in 2002, encompassing roles from teaching high school science to middle school language arts, math, science, and social studies, including  serving as a district-level Instructional Technology Facilitator and Literacy Coach. Presently, he is the Senior Administrator for Magnet Curriculum Support & Outreach in the Wake County Public School System. Driven by a passion for STEM education, curriculum support/development, and magnet schools, Josh has made notable contributions at district, state, and national levels. He is actively involved with organizations like NSTA, NCSTA, ISTE, MSA, and the WCPSS K-12 Science Core Leadership Team, facilitating the district’s STEM Teacher Leadership Team and serving as an NC STEM School reviewer. Josh supports schools with navigating the Certification and STEM school processes.

Josh holds bachelor’s degrees in Biology/Chemistry and master’s degrees in Curriculum/Instruction from Marshall University and Instructional Technology, and School Administration from University of North Carolina Wilmington. Josh loves the beach and enjoys spending time with his Siberian Husky daughter, Luna!

Cara McGlynn, MSW, LICSW


Cara practices and coaches her team on an embedded and aligned model of Restorative, Trauma Aware, and Social Emotional Learning in the service of Educational Equity. She cares deeply about student achievement, and social justice, and understands the importance of developing high structure and consistency for predictably underserved students. She specializes in youth mental health, trauma-aware practices, special education, and crisis work.

Maria Nichols


Maria Nichols is a national literacy consultant whose efforts are fueled by her passion for transformational approaches to teaching and learning powered by the constructive, dynamic nature of talk. She is a frequent speaker at national literacy conferences, and the author of numerous texts, articles, and blog posts focused on engaging students through talk, including Comprehension Through Conversation: The Power of Purposeful Talk in the Reading Workshop (Heinemann, 2006), “Real Talk, Real Teaching” (Ed Leadership, November 2014), Building Bigger Ideas: A Process For Teaching Purposeful Talk (Heinemann, 2019), and most recently, Making the Case for Slow Reading (CCIRA, August 2023).

Maria’s work as an educational leader also includes 33 years with the San Diego Unified School District (SDUSD), where she served as a Classroom Teacher, Demonstration Teacher, Literacy Coach, Magnet Resource Teacher, Magnet Project Manager, and eventually as the Director of School Innovation.  Through her work with SDUSD’s Magnet Department, Maria supported the 2010 Magnet School Assistance Program (MSAP) grant cycle, designed and led the 2013 and 2016 MSAP grant cycles, and crafted the 2021 MSAP grant, which she is now supporting.  Maria’s work inside the MSAP grant cycles includes all aspects of compliance, communication, and leading and facilitating change.  She specializes in professional development that fully engages participants as co-constructors, with an emphasis on designing dynamic, responsive teaching and learning.  The resulting curriculum design is equally dynamic, responsive, and relentlessly child-centered. 

Winston Pierce


Winston Pierce has been a magnet school educator for over 30 years with the Wake County Public School System in North Carolina. Winston found her niche in magnet programming as her values align with the magnet pillars and ideals: commitment to diversity, academic excellence, innovative instruction/professional development, leadership and family/community engagement. She has engaged in magnet programming as a classroom teacher, assistant principal and principal. In her magnet educator roles, Winston has been involved in magnet theme development, theme implementation and continuous improvement reflection to grow existing magnet programs. As a magnet school leader she employs distributive leadership structures to ensure that all members of the school community (students, staff, families, partners) have agency in school based decisions; building a true professional learning community with a common vision.

Maria’s work has received international recognition in social-emotional learning, program design and evaluation, curriculum development, and global-mindedness. She is a keynote speaker and has led workshops across five continents. Her dissertation focused on developing global-mindedness and school leadership perspectives. Maria’s work with children and educators is a fulfilling aspect of life that brings her great joy and happiness. In addition, she enjoys cooking, traveling the world, and spending time with family and friends.

She currently serves as the principal of Farmington Woods International Baccalaureate Primary Years Programme Magnet Elementary school.

Tamani Powell


Tamani Anderson Powell is an educator by training but a people person at heart. She enjoyed teaching in the middle school setting for nine years before serving as an assistant principal for two years. She has combined her passion for people with her desire to see all students succeed in her position as the Director of Marketing and Communication for Wake County Public Schools System’s (WCPSS) Office of Magnet and Curriculum Enhancement Programs. She assists families as they explore varied educational choices in WCPSS and models excellent customer service as one strategy to attract families to magnet schools. In addition, she works closely with the Office of Student Assignment on selection priorities that allow WCPSS’s magnet schools to achieve the goal of integrated student populations.

Tamani gives back to her community through her sorority, Delta Sigma Theta, and St. Ambrose Episcopal Church. She loves time spent with her husband, children, and extended family, the sound of the ocean, a great baseball game, and opportunities to see the world. 

Veronica Raley


Veronica Raley, M. S., is a former science teacher, magnet coordinating teacher, instructional coach, grant manager, and program evaluator. She earned a master of science degree in biology teaching from the University of Washington and a graduate certificate in program evaluation from the University of South Florida. She spent 17 years working in public schools, and for the past ten years has worked on STEM/STEAM/NGSS initiatives across the country.  

Veronica has supported and evaluated projects funded by the Magnet Schools Assistance Program, the National Science Foundation, the Small Business Innovation Research Program, and the New York State Council on the Arts. Her favorite aspect of working with magnet schools is building capacity and confidence in providing high-quality educational experiences for all students.

Jayme Rawson


Jayme Rawson is College Coordinator and Achievement Coach at East Career and Technical Academy in Las Vegas. Jayme started and runs East Tech’s Senior Capstone Project Experience for students. The event now attracts 500 visitors to East Tech’s community from industries statewide. In her life as a National Institute for Magnet School Leadership magnet expert, she has helped schools across the U.S. find their way to success using humor, ready-to-use strategies, examples, and tons of support.

While firmly rooted in the present and the profound impact of magnet school education, Jayme currently looks toward the future as she works with seniors at East Career and Technical Academy to develop their post-high school plans. She supports the college application process in person and via a website she created. In addition, she holds various workshops, revises hundreds of college and scholarship essays, and provides field trip experiences for juniors and seniors who visit college campuses and work environments. Jayme also schedules college recruiting visits and handles other vital tasks that support students’ dreams.

Billie Rayford


Billie Knight Rayford currently serves as a NIMSL magnet expert, trainer, reviewer, and coach for schools participating in the magnet school certification process. She has worked with Arizona, California, Georgia, Illinois, Minnesota, Nevada, New Mexica, North Carolina, and Tennessee schools. Recently, Billie worked with the Nevada Association of School Administrators as a training facilitator for Nevada administrators and teachers. 

As a retiree from the Clark County School District in Las Vegas, Nev., Billie served as a special education teacher, principal, associate superintendent, and interim chief instructional services officer of K-12 schools, including magnet schools, career, and technical academies, College of Southern Nevada High School, and grants. Additionally, she has experience as a charter school principal and compliance director, where her duties included curriculum and instructions, recruitment, assessments, accountability, compliance, and charter renewal. Billie is a native Texan and a forty-three-year resident of Nevada. She attended Abilene Christian University and the University of Nevada Las Vegas with master’s degrees in educational diagnosis and administration.

Jennifer Rushing


Jennifer Rushing has been an educator for 18 years. Starting her career teaching in kindergarten, first grade and second grade classrooms helped her to develop a love for inquisitive and excited learning for students. She spent several years as a Digital Resource Coach, working closely with K-8 teachers to integrate technology into their instruction, before joining the Med Pro 21 magnet school project team.

Most recently, as a recruitment and implementation coordinator, Mrs. Rushing worked with all four Med Pro 21 schools to assist in using  MSAP (Magnet Schools Assistance Program) grant funding to transform these schools into a leading K-12 continuum of magnet schools. Over their six year award period these schools were able to make gains that earned them certified demonstration status.

Mrs. Rushing is passionate about her work with magnet programs as she shares the belief that we should be able to eliminate minority group isolation and make schools equitable for all. She holds a Bachelor of Science in Elementary Education from the University of North Carolina at Greensboro and a Master of Arts in Educational Administration from The University of South Carolina. She is a National Facilitator with the School Reform Faculty and sole owner of Scholastic Solutions Consulting Group LLC. When she is not in a Med Pro school you can find her reading, hiking, and/or spending time with her family. She resides in Roswell, GA with her two children, husband, and golden retriever.

Marian Simmons


Marian Simmons has been an educator for 16 dedicated years. She has taught Pre-Kindergarten, 2nd, and 3rd Grade, and she currently serves as a Magnet Curriculum Specialist, part of the MEDPro21 STEAM-M continuum. She collaborates closely with fellow educators to create diverse learning opportunities that propel students toward success through medical, engineering, and arts immersion. 

Marian played a pivotal role in overseeing the implementation of the MSAP grant funding. This initiative helped transform her school into a leading K-12 continuum of magnet schools, earning National Demonstration Certification and the Merit School of Excellence award through Magnet Schools of America. In 2023-2024, she was named Magnet Teacher of the Year within her district – a prestigious honor which reflects her ongoing strength for creating positive impacts on the lives of children.

Marian holds a Bachelor of Science degree in Early Childhood Education from Lander University and a Master of Science degree in Curriculum, Instruction, and Assessment, K-12th Grade from Walden University. Recognized as a 2023-2024 South Carolina ASCD Emerging Leader, she also is a Certified Critical Friends Group Coach through the National School Reform Faculty. 

Heidi Targee


Heidi Targee is an award-winning magnet school leader and educator who has worked for more than 25 years with schools and districts throughout the U.S. She has held K-14 teaching and leadership positions in Florida, New York, Rhode Island, and Virginia. She is currently a magnet expert for the National Institute of Magnet School Leadership. 

Heidi is an ardent collaborator and passionate about working with others to build school cultures and develop innovative programs that deeply engage students, staff, families, and community partners and build collective efficacy to benefit ALL learners. Her curriculum work includes authoring, facilitating, mapping, and coaching in art and design, STEM and STEAM, K-12 transdisciplinary units, and best practices in teaching and learning, including transformative technology integration. Heidi has a B.S. in Art & Spanish from James Madison University and a Master of Arts in Teaching in Art + Design from Rhode Island School of Design. She lives on Florida’s Space Coast with her husband, her extended family, and a garage full of motorcycles.

Trish Taylor


Trish Taylor has been an educator in the Clark County School District for nearly 30 years. She currently serves as the principal of East Career and Technical Academy, a Magnet Schools of America Demonstration School, and the recipient of the 2017 Magnet School of the Year award. Trish began her administrative career at Southwest Career and Technical Academy. 

Before serving as an administrator, Trish taught English and social studies at the junior high and high school levels for 21 years. In addition, she serves as a magnet expert for the National Institute for Magnet School Leadership for several years and finds this work tremendously rewarding. 

Scott Thomas


Scott Thomas serves as director of education services in Northeast Metro Intermediate District 916 in the Twin Cities (MN). He is the former principal of two racially and economically diverse magnet schools; Echo Park Elementary School of Leadership, Engineering, and Technology and Glacier Hills Elementary School of Arts & Science. Prior to that, Scott served as the Executive Director for Magnet Schools of America, based in Washington DC. During this time, Scott worked to develop national standards for magnet schools that define essential characteristics that include leveraging student diversity in meaningful ways, equity, family and community engagement, academic excellence, and theme fidelity. 

Scott is also a consultant with school districts on projects related to magnet school design, student selection, evaluation and improvement, and systemic school equity. He has served in education for over 20 years and loves every day of it. He is the father of three children and lives with his husband in Eagan.

Ashlie Thompson


Dr. Ashlie Thompson began her career in the Wake County Public School System (WCPSS) in 1996. After ten years of teaching, she served as the Assistant Principal of Curriculum and Instruction at Enloe Magnet High School for six years. This position was the start of her work in magnet schools. Ashlie worked in the WCPSS Magnet and Curriculum Enhancement Office for two years as the Director for Curriculum Enhancement Programs. In 2013, she was selected as the founding principal of an application school, Vernon Malone College and Career Academy. She was named Southwestern Area Superintendent in July 2017. 

Ashlie currently serves as the Central Area Superintendent. She began working for the National Institute for Magnet School Leadership in the fall of 2020. She has served as a magnet expert on projects supporting districts with strategic planning.

Kacye Womack


Kacye Womack is a dedicated professional with over two decades of experience in the Magnet education community, currently working within the East Baton Rouge Parish School System. Having been a magnet student herself, she has remained deeply involved in this field for 23 years. Kacye began her journey as an educator, serving as both a teacher and Magnet Site Coordinator for 18 years at a Visual and Performing Arts Magnet Elementary School within the district. During this time, she demonstrated exceptional leadership and a passion for fostering creative learning environments.

Her commitment to Magnet education led her to transition to the administrative side, where she took on the role of overseeing a substantial $15 million Magnet Schools Assistance Program (MSAP) Grant for four schools within the East Baton Rouge Parish School System. In this capacity, she spearheaded the implementation of a dynamic curriculum focused on creative arts and sciences themes, further enriching the educational experiences of students and staff alike.

Currently, Kacye serves as the Director of Grants Management within the East Baton Rouge Parish School System, where she oversees the administration of the prestigious $13 million Fostering Diverse Schools Grant. Her expertise in grant management and her dedication to diversity and inclusion in education make her an invaluable asset to the community.

Kacye earned her undergraduate degree in education and later pursued a master’s in supervision from Southeastern Louisiana University. Her academic background, combined with her extensive professional experience, equips her with a deep understanding of educational best practices and effective leadership strategies. Kacye Womack continues to make significant contributions to the Magnet education community within the East Baton Rouge Parish School System, shaping the future of education with her expertise and passion.

Jon Wren


Jon Wren serves on the Magnet Schools team with Metropolitan Nashville Public Schools in Nashville, TN. His areas of focus include project strategy, community engagement, & leadership development. In 2020 and 2023 he led successful Magnet Schools Assistance Grant Applications resulting in awards of 14.6 and 15 million dollars respectively in funding. Leveraging partnerships with organizations like National Public Radio, Magnet Schools of America, AVID, the Tennessee Titans, Camp Gladiator, MEG Languages, & the foreign ministry of Japan, Jon works to change the narrative around public education by highlighting stories of innovation, diversity, and personal connections. As an advocate for Magnet school-turnaround and transformation, Jon helped develop the limited run, Peabody Award winning podcast series, The Promise, highlighting the story of school desegregation in the midst of community gentrification. He has been a featured presenter and lecturer with the Vanderbilt Peabody College of Education and Blue Ribbon Schools of Excellence. Jon is a below-average skier, has been made fun of by Jay Leno on live TV, and once gotten a ticket for driving too slow. He lives in Middle Tennessee with his family.

Rosalind Wright


Rosalind Wright, JD, ED.S,  is the Director of Magnet Programs in East Baton Rouge Parish School System. Her lifetime commitment to children evidences her love for teaching and learning. Rosalind has served as the Principal of Park Forest Creative Science and Arts Magnet, where she was instrumental in cultivating a culture of excellence, increasing test scores and bridging the gap between home and school. Rosalind has presented at the National Girl Bullying and Relational Aggression Conference, the National School Safety Conference, and the Magnet Schools of America Conference. In addition, she has traveled extensively throughout Louisiana, training school resources and D.A.R.E officers in chemical dependency, bullying prevention, suicide intervention, and restorative practices. Her experience with school restorative practices allows her to make and sustain relationships with stakeholders.

Rosalind graduated from Southern University with her bachelor’s in education and Master’s in special education. She continued her studies and received a Juris Doctor from Southern University Law Center and her Educational Specialist in Leadership degree from the American College of Education. She serves as the Legal Consultant to a small private school network in Baton Rouge and as a magnet expert for the National Institute of Magnet School Leadership.