Our Team


Reid Saaris

Reid Saaris – Executive Director
With a personal commitment to equity in education that traces back to seeing his best friend not receive the same quality of education, even though he was just across the hall at the same school, Reid founded Equal Opportunity Schools to help schools develop systems to close achievement gaps and provide all students an equal opportunity to achieve their education goals.

At Equal Opportunity Schools, Reid provides vision, organizational and strategic leadership. His role as Executive Director includes partnership, fund, and board development; long-term planning; recruitment; team and program development; and advocacy on behalf of the Equal Opportunity Schools’ mission to ensure that all students have the opportunity to succeed in challenging high school classes.

Prior to starting Equal Opportunity Schools, Reid coached soccer and cross-county running and taught history, economics, philosophy and psychology at a large, rural high school in South Carolina. He also headed the Advanced Placement (AP) and International Baccalaureate (IB) programs at a school that grew to the largest IB program in the state. It was there he found a relatively simple, high-impact reform that could enhance learning opportunities for “missing students” across the country. He committed to ensure that no student in the school would be overlooked for participation in AP or IB because of the color of their skin or the size of their parents’ paycheck. That reform effort seeded Equal Opportunity Schools.

Reid is a respected writer and researcher on education. His summa cum laude thesis at Harvard, Our Latest Generation: The Civic Greatness of Young Americans, disputed the idea that young Americans are disengaged and apathetic, and traced political inequalities back to inequity in educational opportunities. It was awarded the Hoopes Prize for excellence. Reid also authored a paper for the Education Trust about the missing students problem. He received Stanford’s only 2010 Social Innovation Fellowship and is currently a Draper Richards Kaplan Entrepreneur and an Echoing Green Fellow.

Reid graduated from Harvard with a Bachelor’s in Government and has a Master’s in Business and Education from Stanford.


Chris BelcherChris Belcher -Superintendent-in-Residence

Dr. Chris Belcher brings a wealth of experience as a classroom, school and district leader to his position as the Superintendent-in-Residence at Equal Opportunity Schools.

As the former Superintendent of Columbia Public Schools, he was recognized for his commitment to serving all students, cultivating community and staff buy-in and developing long-term financial and facilities plans for the district. He also spearheaded the district’s partnership with Equal Opportunity Schools, and with great personal investment and participation in the partnership, lead his district to close its race gaps in a single year.

Chris currently serves as an Assistant Teaching Professor in PK-12 Leadership and Policy at the University of Missouri. He retired as Superintendent of the Columbia Public School District, Columbia, MO in June 2014 and has worked in education for 31 years. He has served as a teacher, principal, central office administrator, college professor, and superintendent. He has also served as an education consultant to many public schools and the Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education.

Chris earned a BSE in secondary biology and chemistry, Master’ of Education and Education Specialist degree in Administration from the University of Central Missouri at Warrensburg, and his Doctorate in Educational Leadership from the University of Missouri-Columbia. Chris has received a number of awards and recognitions, including being named as Missouri State Teachers Association Administrator of the Year and the Missouri School Public Relation Association’s Superintendent of the Year.


Sandy ZookSandy Zook – Office Manager
Sandy’s strong operations, human resources and accounting background keeps Equal Opportunity Schools running smoothly and focused on closing educational opportunity and achievement gaps.

As Office Manager, Sandy develops and implements a wide variety of systems and processes essential to the organization’s effectiveness in areas including finance, human resources, legal, compliance, contracting, information technology and procurement.

Most recently, Sandy was the Office Manager for an international high tech startup. She managed finance and accounting, office operations and human resources.

Sandy was an engaged parent of Advanced Placement students in public schools and served as PTA President and a parent representative to Bellevue High School’s program delivery council at the Bellevue School District’s finance committee. Sandy also has a strong commitment to community service and has been a volunteer and advocate for Hospice of the Valley, Little Bit Therapeutic Riding, Life Care Center of Kirkland, Los Angeles DSHS and New Directions for Women.

Sandy graduated with a Bachelor of Arts from Northwestern University.


Luke JusticeLuke Justice – Senior Director, Strategic Initiatives
Luke brings a strong background in education advocacy and a broad set of skills from his private sector experience to his work at Equal Opportunity Schools.

Luke collaborates with the Executive Director and the rest of the Equal Opportunity Schools team on a wide variety of projects, including strategic and financial planning, new systems visioning, development, and implementation, and communications and innovation.

Prior to joining EOS, Luke worked at the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation as a consultant on the Measures of Effective Teaching project. Luke analyzed the use of student perception surveys and developed a set of strategic recommendations for how the Foundation could help scale the adoption of student surveys in teacher evaluation systems. Luke has also consulted for Education Pioneers and 2Revolutions, an education design firm that launches new schooling models. Prior to his work in education, he served as Vice President for Aon Corporation, a global risk management company.

Luke serves as the Board Treasurer and head of the Finance Committee for Invictus Preparatory Charter School.

Luke graduated with a Bachelor’s of Arts from Harvard and received his MBA from Columbia Business School, where he was President of the Social Enterprise Club.


Alexa Llibre

Alexa Llibre – Manager, Strategic Initiatives
Alexa’s classroom experience and passion for equity and humanity in education motivate her work at Equal Opportunity Schools. She brings her insights into the teacher experience, academic acceleration and data-driven decision making in a variety of school settings to her position at EOS.

Alexa taught Spanish, levels 1-3, at Henry Ford Academy: School for Creative Studies in Detroit, MI. There, she focused on introductory Spanish, learning through the Teaching Proficiency through Reading and Storytelling (TPRS) method, writing a complete Spanish 1 curriculum, and piloting the first Spanish 3 course at the school. In her time at Henry Ford Academy, she also led the Coding Club, and connected with hundreds of inspiring and intelligent teenagers daily. Previously, she served as the undergraduate Executive Director of a service organization bringing arts education to over 150 students in the Cambridge, MA area. She also worked in the Chicago Public Schools’ Office of Performance adapting Scantron Assessment teacher training resources, and at SGA Youth & Family Services in Chicago in non-profit development.

Alexa has a Bachelor of Arts in Sociology from Harvard.


Sasha RabkinSasha Rabkin – Senior Director, Partnerships
Sasha brings a strong background in diverse education settings including program management in a cross section of schools and districts.

For over eleven years, Sasha served as Director of School and Family Programs at the Institute for Community Leadership where he managed community based social justice leadership interventions with schools and families. Prior to this, Sasha spent three years at the Washington State Office of Superintendent of Public Instructions where he managed statewide youth leadership and service learning programs.

Sasha has a Bachelor of Arts in Government from the University of Redlands, where he also served as student body president. He recently completed his Doctorate in Educational Leadership and Change from Fielding Graduate University in Santa Barbara, CA.


Fa'izah BradfordFa’izah Bradford – Partnership Director
Fa’izah’s lifelong commitment to equity, inclusion, and social justice drives her to humbly serve others with great passion and sensitivity, while holding high expectations for all.

Her work in public education and non-profit organizations has had an emphasis on student advocacy, increased academic achievement, and college and career readiness. During her tenure with Kent School District, Highline Public Schools, and Bellevue School District, she strengthened the promotion of equity and the empowerment of families and communities. Most recently as Director of Community, Family, and Student Impact with Teach For America – Washington, Fa’izah developed and executed teaching strategies that led to greater academic achievement throughout Washington State.

Fa’izah has a Bachelor of Arts in Business Administration from Northwest University. Additionally, she completed the Annie E. Casey Foundation’s Collaborative Leadership for Results program in 2011. Fa’izah serves on the Senior Leadership Team with her local church and stays active in her community.


Niambi ClayNiambi Clay – Partnership Director
Niambi’s passion for addressing the educational needs of students, business training and experience in the classroom help her make a difference in students’ lives as a Partnership Director at Equal Opportunity Schools.

Niambi has dedicated her career to education reform. She was a high school math teacher in the Bay Area where she also served as a curriculum consultant for the creation of the California High School Exit Exam and developed an internship program for teachers pursuing their teaching credentials. Most recently, Niambi served as district administrator for tutorial support in Oakland where she managed a $5 million budget. During her tenure the program was recognized by the California Department of Education as a national model for program implementation.

Niambi has a Master’s of Education and MBA from Stanford University where she was also President of the Black Graduate Students’ Association. While at Stanford, she also helped develop the vision for Schools for Community Empowerment, an educational nonprofit that won the grand prize in the Global Social Venture Competition at the London Business School.


Kia FranklinKia Franklin – Partnership Director
Kia is committed to advancing educational equity through policy, advocacy and direct services. She comes to Equal Opportunity Schools having successfully partnered with and in schools, districts, and non-profit organizations to provide meaningful educational opportunities to all students. She has also worked in the legal/policy fields to advance the interests of underrepresented groups.

Most recently Kia worked at TAF (formerly Technology Access Foundation) providing support to TAF Academy, a public 6th through 12th grade school in Federal Way, Washington. There she collaborated with teachers to design a college readiness curriculum for middle and high school students, advised seniors through the college admissions process, and supported district family engagement initiatives. She was a program manager in the Education Department at The Urban League of Metropolitan Seattle and a senior fellow at the Drum Major Institute for Public Policy in New York.

Kia has a Bachelor of Arts in Political Science and African and African-American Studies from Stanford University and a Juris Doctorate from Georgetown University Law Center. She is also a member of the Washington State Bar Association.


D. Janaé LandisD. Janaé Landis – Partnership Director
Janaé joined the partnership team at EOS in the summer of 2014.  She holds a B.S. and M.Ed. from Washington State University (Go Cougs!). Janaé served as the Principal of The Academy of Citizenship and Empowerment, a public high school in SeaTac, Washington.  Her previous public school experiences have included serving as AP in two large high schools, a Dean of Students, and a CTE teacher.

Janaé took five years “off” from the public schools as Director of a non-profit in the Yakima Valley/Tri-Cities area of Washington.  She served as the principal investigator of Acesso a la Ciencia; a collaborative project funded by the National Science Foundation. This project focused on providing informal science opportunities for Latino(a) families in the Yakima Valley.

Janaé’s personal journey runs the gamut from private industry to public schools, as well as the non-profit world. This non-traditional path has shaped her thinking and passion for increasing equitable pathways for students in our school systems. Janaé has a body of work around issues of equity and access that bring her to this place.  She is excited about the work at EOS and looking forward to closing gaps with the schools and districts who are ready to make change.


Eddie Lincoln – Partnership DirectorEddie Lincoln
Eddie is passionate about issues of social justice and educational equity. He is deeply committed to closing the opportunity gap for underrepresented youth and is proud to be an active member of his community.

Most recently, Eddie served as the Assistant Director for K-12 Partnerships as part of the Seattle University Youth Initiative, a community engagement effort focused on strengthening education and support systems for neighborhood youth and their families. In his role, he successfully partnered with Seattle Public Schools to develop programs which address gaps in services and learning opportunities. Eddie also served as the University liaison to staff, students, and community partners interested in engaging in school-based projects and programming.

Eddie has a Bachelor of Arts in Communication Studies from Seattle University and a Juris Doctorate from Thurgood Marshall School of Law.


Bernadette MerikleBernadette Merikle – Partnership Director
Bernadette is passionately committed to increasing access to higher education for underrepresented students. She spent most of her career in higher education admissions where she recruited students to New Mexico State University, Cornell and the Seattle University School of Law.

Her focus shifted to educational equity when she was selected as the inaugural Director of Diversity and Equity for South Puget Sound Community College in Olympia, WA. Recently, Bernadette served on the Senior Leadership Team for Highline Public Schools as Director of Equity and Family Engagement.

Bernadette received her Bachelor of Science degree from Cornell University and has a Master’s of Education from Seattle University. Additionally, she completed the Annie E. Casey Foundation’s Collaborative Leadership for Results program and is a 2011 graduate of the National Urban Fellows’ America’s Leaders for Change cohort. Bernadette volunteers on the Curriculum Committee for Leadership Tomorrow, Seattle.


Aurora ParrishAurora Parrish—Partnership Director
Aurora brings her strong background in education policy and school/community partnerships to her role as a Partnership Director at Equal Opportunity Schools.

Aurora worked for seven years for the YMCA of Greater Seattle, developing and managing innovative programs for college and career readiness, as well as for extended learning time, within a number of public middle and high schools. Previously, she acted as an academic coach at School’s Out Washington for program providers at two diverse middle schools to increase their efficacy with meeting students’ academic needs.

Aurora has a Bachelor of Arts from Johns Hopkins University and a Master’s in Education Policy, Organization, and Leadership Studies from Stanford University. She completed a Thomas C. Wales Foundation fellowship in 2010, which focused on non-profit leadership development.


Allison WoodAllison Wood – Partnership Director
Allison is committed to ensuring all children have the opportunity to realize their full potential through equitable access to a rigorous, high quality education.  In addition to her Partnership Director responsibilities, Allison co-leads EOS’ Partnership Success initiative, which aims to identify and scale best practices in closing race and income AP/IB participation gaps within a single year.

Prior to joining EOS in  2013, Allison worked at the New York City Department of Education as an Education Pioneers Fellow, and also led research activities for a community-based organization in Brooklyn that was applying for a $30 million federal Department of Education Promise Neighborhoods grant. Before entering education, Allison spent five years working as an instructor at FareStart, a Seattle-based culinary job training and placement program for homeless and disadvantaged individuals.

Allison has a Master’s in Public Administration from NYU’s Wagner School of Public Service, and graduate certificates in Business Administration and Case Management from the University of Washington and Antioch University. She received her Bachelor’s degree from the University of Wisconsin, where she graduated summa cum laude and Phi Beta Kappa.


Maile HadleyMaile Hadley – Senior Director, Programs
Maile connects all of her work to equity of access to high quality educational opportunities for underrepresented students. She has previously brought this lens to work in online learning, Washington STEM (science, technology, engineering, & math) program development, and statewide policy work.

Most recently she launched a new initiative to promote computer science through student created apps, with a strong focus on rural and underrepresented communities with the Technology Alliance. She has worked with the Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction and the Digital Learning Commons.

Maile has a Bachelor of Science in Electrical Engineering from the University of Washington and coursework towards a master’s in pastoral studies from Seattle University.

Maile is active in her community and church, serving on the St. James Cathedral HIV/AIDS CareTeam ministry. She has a long history of community service, including working with the Washington Engineering and Technical Outreach Council, and the National Society of Black Engineers.


Ross GillilandRoss Gilliland – Director, Sustainability & Evaluation
Ross provides support to our partner schools and districts through collaborative work with their leaders and the detailed study of existing and new, student-specific data. He has been instrumental in developing cutting-edge research, findings and tools to enable schools around the country to understand the causes and potential solutions to the problem of students being under-matched with the challenging coursework that will prepare them for college.

Most recently, Ross worked at the White House Council on Environmental Quality in Washington D.C. developing National Environmental Policy Act procedures and guidelines, as well as managing data for 26 federal agencies.

A graduate of the University of Wisconsin with a degree in physics and music performance, Ross was a string bassist with the Madison Symphony Orchestra for almost 10 years. Ross also has a Master’s in Public Administration from the University of Washington and serves on the Systems Advisory Committee for Seattle Public Utilities.


Derek RobbeckeDerek Robbecke – Director, Database & Product Development
Derek brings a strong background in product development and software engineering to Equal Opportunity Schools. In his role as Director of Technology, Derek oversees the development and architecture of EOS applications for capturing and analyzing student information and effectively executing on the goal of students having opportunities and access to challenging coursework that will prepare them for the future.

Prior to joining EOS, Derek contributed in positions at Boeing and Verizon Wireless and played key roles in the product development at local technology startups Varolii, Calamander and Knoq.

Derek has Bachelor of Science in Computer Science and Bachelor of Arts in Business Administration degrees from Washington State University and is currently enrolled in the Leadership Executive MBA program at Seattle University.


Graham BeardenGraham Bearden – Senior Analyst & Coordinator, Student Tools
Graham combines teaching experience with database management and statistical analysis skills in his study of student data.

Previously, Graham taught Theory of Knowledge and Environmental Systems and Societies at United World College Costa Rica as part of the International Bachelorette Diploma. He was also a Youth Programs Fellow at the World Affairs Council. Graham’s experience in international education has led him to work with students from over 100 countries.

Graham has a Bachelor of Arts in Political Science from Florida Gulf Coast University, a Master of Arts in Natural Resource Management from United Nations University for Peace in San Jose, Costa Rica and a Master of Public Administration from the University of Washington.


Jamila HusseinJamila Hussein – Analyst
Jamila is a social justice advocate committed to educational equality. She is passionate about closing opportunity gaps and increasing access to education.

Jamila comes to EOS after interning at the Legal Services National Technology Assistance Project where she assisted non-profit legal aid programs improve services through effective and innovative use of technology. She also interned at the Council on American Islamic Relations, a civil rights organization where she worked as an advocate for people facing religious discrimination in education, housing, and employment. When she’s not working, Jamila leads her community garden’s efforts to grow organic produce for donation to the Queen Anne Food Bank. She also loves to hike and play tennis.

Jamila has a Bachelor of Arts in Religious Studies and Classics with a concentration in Critical Theory from Macalester College


Chaya JonesChaya Jones – Analyst
Chaya adores quantitative research and statistical analysis, and has developed a set of skills that includes data management, data visualization, and research design and methodology. She enjoys making complicated technical information accessible and understandable to a broad audience, using principles of information design and data visualization.

Youth advocacy is a particular passion for Chaya. Previously, she volunteered as a youth mentor with Seattle Youth Garden Works. In this life-changing role, Chaya worked to employ and empower homeless and underserved youth. In addition, Chaya worked as a data analyst for Columbia Legal Services where she provided analysis on homeless youth in Washington’s public schools for the purpose of legal advocacy and improved access to education and social services. Her experiences and skillset align well with Equal Opportunity Schools’ mission and she is thrilled to be working alongside a dynamic and passionate team.

Chaya has a Bachelor of Arts in Interdisciplinary Visual Arts and a Master of Public Administration, both from the University of Washington.


Adam KayAdam Kay – Senior Analyst & Coordinator, Data Science
Adam works to develop and use research, findings and tools to enable schools around the country to understand the causes and potential solutions to the problem of students being under-matched with the challenging coursework that will prepare them for college.

Previously, Adam was a faculty member of Teacher’s College at Arizona State University  and in the Department of Education at Dartmouth College where he taught courses and conducted research in teacher professional development, learning across cultures and adolescent social development.

Adam has a Bachelor of Arts in Psychology and Sociology from Northwestern University, a Master of Education from U.C. Berkeley and a Doctorate of Philosophy with a focus in Cognition and Development.


Jessica PaulsonJessica Paulson – Senior Analyst & Coordinator, School Tools
Jessica comes to Equal Opportunity Schools after a career in the political world. Jessica served as a Senior Analyst for Grove Insight, a polling and communication strategy firm.

After college graduation, she worked in her hometown of Seattle as membership coordinator for the Washington Food Coalition – emergency food providers committed to developing new programs, helping to provide additional food for individuals and families in need, and informing the public about hunger issues. While still in college, Jessica interned with Washington Governor Gregoire’s office.  She also built up a taste for change as the intern for the Center on Diversity and Community on the University of Oregon’s campus.

Jessica has Bachelor of Arts in Political Science from the University of Oregon.


Elizabeth SykesElizabeth Sykes – Analyst
Elizabeth is thrilled to return to her hometown of Seattle to join the Equal Opportunity Schools team. She brings a broad set of analytical skills to EOS, including survey development, database management, statistical analysis, and data visualization. She has great enthusiasm for the task of identifying missing students and increasing access to challenging coursework for all students. As a member of many student-led organizations throughout her educational career, Elizabeth has seen firsthand the importance of inclusion and equal opportunities for students at all levels.

Prior to joining EOS, Elizabeth conducted research focusing on the effects of social integration on individuals’ levels of trust in institutions. Elizabeth has a passion for tackling social justice issues from an institutions perspective, and is interested in finding ways to use evidence-based research to inform policies that will end institutional racism.

Elizabeth has a Bachelor of Arts in Sociology from the University of Portland, and a Master of Arts in Criminology and Criminal Justice from the University of Nebraska Omaha.


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