Executive Director - Joe Williams
Joe Williams has built a reputation as one of the most effective strategists and coalition-builders in the education reform community. He is a nationally recognized analyst and public speaker on education policy and politics, reaching thousands of listeners in audiences from coast to coast each year.
Joe is also one of the most prolific writers and commentators in the education reform world, often tapping into his experience as a newspaper reporter and author to make the case for reform. He previously worked as an award-winning education journalist for the New York Daily News and Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. He has written extensively on education politics nationally and has served as a non-resident senior fellow for the Washington-based think-tank Education Sector. He is author of the book Cheating our Kids: How Politics and Greed Ruin Education (Palgrave Macmillan, 2005.)
Joe lives in New York City where his children attend the city's public schools.
Deputy Director - Lea Crusey
Lea Crusey joined DFER as Deputy Director in July 2013 after serving as State Director at the education reform organization StudentsFirst, managing state-level activity in Missouri, Iowa and Nevada. She started her career as a middle school teacher in East Palo Alto, California, where she worked with high-needs kids and spent the next 8 years working in the public, private and non-profit sectors serving in a range of roles that included project management at the Chicago Transit Authority, financial operations management for LAZ Parking and advocacy at StudentsFirst. During that time Lea also acted as a volunteer at KIPP Chicago where she helped them launch their Associate Board.
Originally from New Jersey, Lea received her BA from Claremont McKenna College in Claremont, California and a Masters degree in Public Policy from the University of Chicago’s Harris School of Public Policy.
She is based out of Washington, DC, with her husband Jeb, where she dreams of spending her spare time at the Silver Bay YMCA on Lake George in upstate New York.
Policy Director - Charles Barone
Charles Barone has more than 25 years of experience in education service, research, policy, and advocacy. Prior to joining Democrats for Education Reform (DFER) full-time in January of 2009, Barone worked for five years as an independent consultant on education policy and advocacy. His clients, in addition to DFER, included the Citizens' Commission on Civil Rights, the Education Trust, The Education Sector, and the National Academy of Sciences.
From 1997 through 2003, Barone worked for Congressman George Miller (D-CA), first as Legislative Director, then as Democratic Deputy Staff Director for the House Education and Labor Committee when Miller became the Committee’s top-ranking Democrat in 2001. Barone led all of Miller’s work on education and children’s issues during that time period and was lead negotiator for House Democrats on the No Child Left Behind Act of 2002. Barone first came to Capitol Hill as an American Academy for the Advance of Science Congressional Fellow in 1993, and subsequently became Chief Education Advisor to the late Senator Paul Simon (D-IL) until 1996 when Simon retired.
National Political Director - Patrick van Keerbergen
Patrick van Keerbergen is an experienced political organizer with close to a decade of experience in New York City and State government and politics. He joined DFER in 2010 as our National Field Director and in 2012 assumed the role of National Political Director.
In 2009, Patrick served as the Manhattan field director for Mayor Michael Bloomberg's successful reelection campaign. In this role he oversaw a robust field campaign, that resulted in close to 160,000 votes for the Mayor's reelection.
Chief of Staff - Sean Andersen
Sean Andersen joined DFER as Chief of Staff in January 2012 after spending more than two years working as the Deputy Field Director at Education Reform Now (ERN). While at ERN, Sean spearheaded long-term community support campaigns focused on bringing school choice to new neighborhoods, student recruitment campaigns, and short-term turnout campaigns for elections, rallies and hearings. He has worked with groups such as Success Academies, Explore Schools, Launch, Young Women’s Leadership Network and Public Prep.
Director of Development - Joe Kelley
Joe Kelley is a nationally recognized Democratic fundraiser based in New York City. He guides DFER's national fundraising strategy and assists with our national and NY state political advocacy efforts. Joe's past experience includes consulting for numerous progressive candidates and causes, including US Senator Chris Murphy's 2012 campaign; the 2012 Democratic Convention Host Committee; American Bridge 21st Century; America Votes; Media Matters for America; Women's Voices, Women Vote; and the Democracy Alliance.
In the 2010 election cycle, Joe served as US Senator Richard Blumenthal's Finance Director. Joe also worked on Illinois Comptroller Dan Hynes' gubernatorial campaign, and with the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee.
Joe graduated from Dickinson College in Carlisle, PA with a BA in American History.
National Development Manager - Molly Thelosen
Molly joined the DFER team after working in a variety of education contexts, spanning from policy to practice. Initially coaching a summer Cheer/English camp in Nogales, Mexico, Molly developed an interest in the transformative power of education. Teaching in Bogota, she continued to learn about the challenge of providing a quality education for kids. An interest in improving education outcomes at a system level inspired her study of policy at Harvard's Graduate School of Education. While studying, she worked on a project developing an index to measure state-level primary school quality in Mexico's public schools. Joining DFER, Molly looks forward to working with a strong team of highly effective reformers.
HR Manager - Ashley Bergeron
Ashley Bergeron joined DFER in July 2013 after teaching 7th grade math enrichment classes in the Bronx with Citizen Schools. Previously, Ashley worked with high school freshmen in Sheepshead Bay, Brooklyn through City Year. Teaching, mentoring, and tutoring at-risk students for over four years has fueled her passion for education reform.
Policy Analyst - Marianne Lombardo
Marianne Lombardo is a policy analyst at Democrats for Education Reform (DFER). Before joining DFER, Marianne was the Vice President for Research & Evaluation at the Ohio Alliance for Public Charter Schools, an Education Administrator for Ohio’s statewide Juvenile Correctional System, a Program Evaluator for a welfare-to-work project, and an Adjunct Instructor of Sociology. A graduate of New Futures High School in Albuquerque, NM (one of the first alternative schools for teen parents in the nation) and a parent of a current public charter school student, Marianne knows firsthand how getting the right kind of education can transform a life.
Marianne has a masters degree in Sociology from the Ohio State University and recently completed the Strategic Data Project’s Leadership in Analytics at the Harvard Graduate School of Education. Although she finds it hard to get her mind off education reform, Marianne enjoys travel, reading and protesting injustice.