As an alliance, the Coalition for Community Schools is represented by leaders of all ages, stages and contexts from youth to grandparents; from educators to elected officials; from families to institutions; from health & human services to out of school time; and from government agencies to grassroots organizations. Together, we work to grow excellent and sustainable Community Schools. The Coalition is dedicated to advancing this mission through a shared set of principles: to build on community strengths, invest in trusting relationships, and a commitment to continuous improvement.
The Institute for Educational Leadership (IEL) is the home of the Coalition for Community Schools, acting as the intermediary between the Coalition’s national intermediaries and place-based networks. IEL supports the work throughout the entire organization and intentionally staffs the Coalition to facilitate the development and implementation of a shared strategic plan.
The Coalition is full of talented leaders. In the spirit of our values and principles, IEL practices distributive leadership by enlisting the support of Network Co-Chairs. Visit our Networks to meet the Co-Chairs. To learn more about our Regional Deputy Directors and what jurisdictions they serve, click here.
Joline Collins serves as the Deputy Director of the Northeast Regional TAC Center. She is a proud first-generation college student and is currently a 2022 Ed.M. candidate at Harvard University Graduate School of Education; studying education policy and management. Since 2017, Joline has honed her expertise in systemic family and community engagement, leadership development and network management at IEL. She has supported the growth of IEL’s District Leaders Network on Family and Community Engagement, a peer-driven knowledge network designed to engage over 175 members as both experts and learners through a national structure to support member capacity building activities, organized professional learning experiences, co-authored Taking it to the Next Level: Strengthening and Sustaining Family Engagement through Integrated Systemic Practice, and more.
“I came into this work initially for personal reasons, as a parent first. After I had my first child, I reflected on my own school experiences and thought about what I wanted for my daughter. I knew that she couldn’t live in a bubble and that her experiences and success would be connected to other children in her generation. Therefore, I begin to ask myself how do you ensure a positive education experience and plethora of opportunities to an entire generation? Understanding the need is great and solutions are complex, one person cannot do this work alone. Instead, to be successful, it will take leaders representing multiple systems to come together, strategize, and innovate on how to best serve our students, families and communities. To be clear, the solution must involve a two-generation approach because if our families are not well or engaged, then the students/youth they love, and support will not be well,” shares Collins.
Looking forward to the path ahead, Collins reflects on why this role is so timely: “COVID-19 forced leaders to think about schooling differently and the importance of family and community engagement. Right now, we have an opportunity to truly engage in cross-sector collaboration, and with Community Schools as a vehicle, restructure systems to better serve students and their families. IEL is an organization with deep expertise. Through our networks, we witness both the patterns and challenges local leader are facing. With IEL’s new place-based strategy, through a regional approach, we can more strategically and efficiently partner with communities to improve outcomes locally and uplift what works nationally.”
In her spare time, Collins enjoys traveling, organizing things, reading a good book, or binge-watching Netflix.
Dr. Donnie Hale is a proud father, husband, son, and friend that loves to create possibilities with others. Dr. Donnie Hale serves as the Regional Deputy Director, Southern Regional TAC. He is responsible for engaging leaders and networks, coaching and supporting, and building capacity for community schools to positively impact youth and families. Dr. Hale brings 20+ years of experience in higher education, teaching, research, coaching, community building, and relationship cultivation. He previously has served as Executive Director for Community Engagement and Strategic Partnership at Florida Memorial University, Assistant Director for the University of Central Florida – Center for Community Schools, and Director of The Education Effect (University-Assisted Community School Partnership) at Florida International University, and Assistant Professor of Education at Carroll University in Waukesha, WI. His body of work is focused on race, equity, educational opportunity, college access and human development. His teaching experience has been in areas of sociology, education, African American history, and cultural diversity.
Hale is originally from Stockton, CA. He attended undergraduate at Willamette University and graduate school at Boise State University. He is a father to Taylor, Chloe, and Donnie III. Husband to Heather Hale. Proud son to Donnie and Debra Hale and brother to Michael, Michelle, Glen, and Terrence.
Dr. Ryan Hurley (he/him) serves as the Regional Deputy Director of the Midwest Technical Assistance Center.
Ryan brings experience as a community organizer, Community School Coordinator and the Director of a regional Community Schools initiative. As the Director, Ryan supported the establishment and growth of a network of Community Schools, developed cross-sector partnerships, and collaboratively created a transformational strategy grounded in shared leadership, equity and cultural relevance. Under his leadership, the partnership grew exponentially and is regularly recognized as a best practice in systems building across the national Community Schools network. Ryan has supported and advocated for Community Schools policies at the local, regional and national level. Before transitioning to IEL, Ryan developed an organizational and financial structure to support continued growth and sustainability, including securing a highly competitive multi-year Department of Education grant and the passing of a Community Schools policy by the local school board.
Ryan served as the co-chair of the Coalition for Community Schools United Way Network, co-founded a state Community Schools Coalition, and is member of the Coalition’s Community Schools Leadership Network. Ryan has advocated for disability inclusion, developed award-winning arts education programming, and collaboratively organized spaces for educators to build culturally responsive and restorative classrooms and schools.
Pele Le is a proud second-generation Vietnamese American and a first-generation college graduate of the University of Minnesota, Twin Cities with a B.A.S. in health services management and a minor in psychology, public health, leadership, and Korean.
Prior to joining IEL, Pele bridged communities and developed advocates in his work at universities, state and federal-level civil rights organizations, and nonprofits. At the Southeast Asian Resource Action Center, he advocated for the largest refugee population to ever resettle in the United States, leading equitable outreach research and national community engagement efforts. At the Asian Pacific American Labor Alliance, he coordinated local grassroots and national campaigns to mobilize the AAPI community for the elections.
Joining IEL in 2022, Michelle Lessly Blackburn is the Senior Policy Manager, working to advance the policy agenda of both IEL and the Coalition for Community Schools on the federal level. She brings 15 years of experience in higher education administration and policy research. Her policy work focuses on the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act, the Clery Act, and accreditation innovation. Prior to joining IEL, Michelle was the Head of Student Success at an EdTech nonprofit based in San Francisco and worked at MIT in the Division of Student Life. She currently serves as the Executive Director for the Blackburn Foundation, a non-profit focused on college readiness for K-12 students in North Texas. She holds a Doctorate in Law and Public Policy from Northeastern University and a Master’s of Education from Abilene Christian University.
A Texas native, Michelle now lives in Oakland, CA, with her husband and son.
José Muñoz became the Coalition for Community Schools director in 2017, bringing over 30 years of cross-sector partnership experience in youth, family, and community development. Before joining IEL, he was the executive director of the ABC Community School Partnership in New Mexico. In this role, José scaled up Community Schools from four to 26 in five years, won the first Community Schools Initiative Leadership Award, and hosted the largest Community Schools National Forum to date.
José earned a national legacy award for his work leading gang prevention, intervention, and re-entry programs for the Boys & Girls Clubs. He was also the Coordinator of a national model site for the Juvenile Detention Alternative Initiative supported by the Annie E. Casey Foundation and is a founding member of the Southern Nevada Community Gang Task Force.
José and his wife have a blended family of two sons and three daughters. The Muñoz’s serve their community through their church and community groups in their free time.
Sign of getting old.
Mia joined IEL in October 2019, and leads IEL’s communications and elevating IEL’s online presence through our various digital platforms and networks of partners.
Prior to her time at IEL, Mia worked to support digital communications for almost 8 years at the United Food and Commercial Workers International Union. Her experience there included leading social media and online campaign efforts focused on servicing hardworking union members by creating a platform for their stories and amplifying their voices to help them build better lives and gain agency, as well as educating the masses about the union difference and Labor’s impact on social justice issues.
During that time Mia also earned her MFA at George Mason University where she concentrated on creative nonfiction writing and utilized courses in professional writing and web design to enhance her skills in writing for the web to engage a wide variety of stakeholders.
Mia is also an advocate of Type One Diabetes, helping to support groups like Type One Run, that connect area diabetics and their friends and family through running and community. She lives in northern Virginia with her Fiancé and German Shepard Sarah.
Christa Rowland believes in the power of uniting communities to create a brighter future for all children. Before joining the IEL team, Christa was the Director of Community Impact at the United Way of Treasure Valley in Boise, Idaho. She helped grow the system of Community Schools in Idaho, founded the Idaho Community School Learning Network, and co-founded the Idaho Coalition for Community Schools.
Christa began her career as a Music Educator, teaching hundreds of students the joy of creating music. She has a Masters Degree in Public Administration, a Graduate Certificate in Nonprofit Administration, and Bachelors Degrees in Music Education and Violin Performance.
Liz Thacker joins IEL as the Community Connections Manager. She is no stranger though to IEL having contracted with IEL for nearly four years to support the operations of our Coordinators Network. She brings over 10 years of experience working as a Coordinator with three different Community Schools. In her last role, she did partner onboarding and development helping transform the high school experience through career themed academies.
Liz holds a Master of Education from the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, and a Bachelor of Science from Furman University. She currently resides in East Tennessee with her husband and two young children.