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2018-19 Leadership Academy Cohort 4

Leadership Logo copyThe CEELO Leadership Academy is designed to strengthen leadership and management competencies of individuals with responsibilities for early childhood education programs in state departments of education (SEAs), early learning agencies and other state early childhood education agencies. The Academy will introduce concepts of leadership development tailored to state early education administrators designed to build SEA leadership and management capacity to advance state agency visions for early childhood education and partner with state leaders and organizations to build a more unified, equitable, and efficient state birth through third grade early childhood system. The yearlong CEELO Leadership Academy includes four in-person sessions, interim online learning opportunities, and intensive coaching for each fellow.


  • Orientation Webinar for Fellows – WED- April 4 – 3-4:30
  • May 1-3, 2018 – Washington, DC
    • Interim Webinar – TH, May 17– 3:00-5:00 Eastern
  • June 6-8, 2018 – CEELO’s Annual Roundtable, Austin, TX
    • Interim Webinar – TH, June 28 – 3:00-5:00 Eastern
  • August 7-9 2018 – Washington, DC
    • Interim Webinar – TH, Sept 20 – 3:00-5:00 Eastern
  • November 6-8, 2018 – Washington, DC
    • Interim Webinar – TH, December 6 – 3:00-5:00 Eastern
  • January 8-10, 2019 – Washington, DC
  • March-May 2019 – In-state site visits planned with coaches



  • Rolf Grafwallner, CEELO Senior Scientist and Program Director at the Council of Chief State School (CCSSO) Rolf is Program Director for Early Childhood Initiatives at the Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO) in Washington, D.C. where he works with states to improve learning opportunities and outcomes for young children. Prior to joining the Council, Dr. Grafwallner worked on early childhood policy and school reform as an Assistant State Superintendent at the Maryland State Department of Education. He has been a teacher, program director and administrator prior to joining the Department. He supports CEELO with expertise on large scale early childhood assessments, governance, finance, and organizational leadership, as well as early education systems building.

    • Ph.D., University of Maryland, Education Policy, Planning and Administration
    • M.A., Millersville University (PA), Early Childhood and Elementary Education
    • M.A., University of Munich (Germany), Political Science

    Jim Lesko, Project Manager, Preschool Development Grants Program (PDG); AEM Corporation. Jim works as a project manager and TA Expert for federal technical assistance contracts within the Education Division, AEM Corporation including PDG, RTT-Early Learning Challenge TA and Striving Readers Comprehensive Literacy. Prior to joining AEM, Jim was the director, early development and learning office in the Delaware Department of Education. His specific responsibilities included overseeing the state prekindergarten program, early childhood special education, home visiting, professional development office, Head Start Collaboration, and quality rating and improvement program. In addition to his TA and SEA work, Jim is involved in providing professional development to a cohort of European and Middle Eastern countries on the topic of inclusion of children with disabilities. Education:

    • Ed.D., University of Delaware, Educational Leadership and Policy
    • M.Ed., University of Washington, Early Childhood Special Education
    • B.A., William Paterson University, Elementary and Special Education

    Penny Milburn is a consultant to NIEER and CEELO, and was an Early Childhood Specialist at the Iowa Department of Education, where she oversaw the development, implementation and evaluation of the state’s universal preschool program. Her work guided policy, professional development, family education, literacy, assessment, and kindergarten entry assessment. She facilitated a technical assistance network of early childhood and early childhood special education professionals from across the state. Prior to her position at the Iowa Department of Education, Penny worked as a specialist for Iowa State University Extension, an adjunct professor, group home administrator and coordinator for individuals with disabilities, child care provider, teacher, and an Area Education Agency early childhood specialist. She taught early childhood special and general education for more than 20 years.

    • M. S., Iowa State University, Child Development, Early Childhood Special Education
    • B. S., Iowa State University, Child Development

    Jim Squires, Senior Research Fellow (National Institute for Early Education)/Senior TA Fellow (Center on Enhancing Early Learning Outcomes) Jim conducts research on national and state early education policy and practices, focusing on prekindergarten through third grade, and provides technical assistance to state leaders. He was formerly the early childhood programs coordinator at the Vermont Department of Education and past president of the National Association of Early Childhood Specialists in State Departments of Education. Jim has taught and directed programs in child care, Head Start, public schools, migrant education, and university lab schools, and served as adjunct faculty at the University of Vermont, Champlain College, and Community College of Vermont. Education:

    • Ph.D., Child Development and Public Policy, The Union Institute
    • M.S., Child and Family Development. University of Georgia
    • B.A., Psychology, Lake Forest College
  • April 4, 2018 – Interim Webinar

    May 1-3, 2018 – Washington, DC

  • What the Academy Fellows are reading: