Newsmakers for November 2008

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It’s out with the old and in with the new at the Oakland, Calif.-based National Council on Crime and Delinquency (NCCD). After 14 years leading the organization, President Barry Krisberg announced he is leaving next year. It is unclear whether a new leader will emerge from the NCCD staff of 32, or come from outside. The organization has hired a private firm to handle the search.

Lawanda Ravoira

Meanwhile, NCCD has begun work on a major new project. It is creating a new division in Jacksonville, Fla. – the National Center for Girls and Young Women. The center is funded with a $500,000 start-up grant from the Jessie Ball duPont Fund, which makes grants only to the 300 organizations that received money from Mrs. duPont from 1960 to 1964 (the 101-year-old NCCD is one of those groups).

Lawanda Ravoira, a Jacksonville-based consultant who recently served as vice chairwoman of Florida’s Blueprint Commission on Juvenile Justice, will run the center. She served for 14 years as CEO of the PACE Center for Girls, which serves 4,500 at-risk Florida girls each year, and she was once director of program services for the National Network for Youth. Contact: (510) 208-0500,

Robert Sherman, who has been with New York-based grant maker Surdna Foundation for 15 years, has left the foundation to run the newest venture of the giant international nonprofit, New York-based Mercy Corps, which has a $300 million average annual budget.

Sherman is the new executive director of Mercy Corps’s Action Center to End World Hunger. The mission of the center is to use digital and interactive media to expose audiences to hunger and poverty issues. Chief among those audiences will be tourists and school children. Longer-term goals are to build a service corps to fight hunger and poverty and a centralized Internet community of people interested in acting along the same lines.

“We are thrilled to have found an executive director who is so experienced in – and passionate about – working with young people to create social change,” Mercy Corps CEO Neal Keny-Guyer said in a statement.

The action center, for which Mercy Corps merged with nonprofit Netaid in 2007, opened last month in lower Manhattan. Its office space also includes a hunger museum that it expects to draw 100,000 visitors each year. A West Coast version of the center will open next year.

Sherman most recently served as Surdna’s director for effective citizenry, and was in charge of spending about $6.5 million annually on projects that included youth media and civic engagement programs. The program’s 2008 grantees include the Boston Area Youth Organizing Project, Los Angeles-based Inner City Struggle and New York’s Radio Rootz.

No replacement for Sherman at Surdna has been selected, though he seems to support promotions up the chain for Program Officer Jee Kim and Program Associate Stefania Vanin.

The program “is in skilled and compassionate hands with Jee and Stefania, in whom I have total confidence,” Sherman wrote in a farewell.

Contact: Mercy Corps, (800) 292-3355,; Surdna, (212) 557-0010,

Heather Johnston Nicholson, the director of research for national nonprofit Girls Inc., has retired. Nicholson, who worked out of the organization’s research headquarters in Indianapolis, was with Girls Inc. for 26 years.

Replacing Nicholson is Laura Plybon. Prior to joining Girls Inc., she was a research and evaluation specialist at Edvantia, a 42-year-old nonprofit that serves as the primary evaluator of state “No Child Left Behind” implementation in Kentucky, North Carolina, Tennessee and West Virginia.

Girls Inc. is run by Joyce Roche. (212) 509-2000,

Oren Root is the new director of the New York-based Vera Institute of Justice’s Center on Immigration and Justice. Root, a former criminal defense lawyer in New York, was most recently deputy director of the Police Assessment Resource Center in Los Angeles, which fosters police accountability and civilian oversight of law enforcement.

Root also ran the Court Employment Project, a program of the Center for Alternative Sentencing and Employment Services (CASES) in New York that seeks alternatives to incarceration for young felony offenders.

The Center on Immigration and Justice helps a select group of organizations develop networks of volunteer attorneys to represent children in immigration proceedings. About 7,000 youth end up in the custody of the Office of Refugee Resettlement’s Division of Unaccompanied Children Services each year. Contact: (212) 334-1300,

Susanne Cole

Susanne Cole has moved up to senior vice president of programs for Pressley Ridge, which is based in Pittsburgh and operates 49 programs in eight states (Delaware, Kentucky, Maryland, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Texas, Virginia and West Virginia) and Washington, D.C. Pressley Ridge provides service to troubled and developmentally challenged children.

Cole previously worked for Pressley Ridge as vice president of residential and educational services and was the executive director of Pressley Ridge’s operations in West Virginia. She is a licensed social worker and earned her masters degree in special education from Marshall University in Huntington, W.Va. She has worked for Pressley Ridge since 1990, when she started as a teacher and counselor at the Green Gardens residential program in West Virginia. Contact: (412) 872-9400,

Kate Raftery, who was the director of overseas field assistance for the Peace Corps, is the new vice president for education at the Baltimore-based International Youth Foundation, which posted a budget of $20.5 million on its most recent tax returns. That department at IYF is dedicated to working with public and private partners to “expand and improve young people’s access to education,” according to the website. Raftery has already put in some work for IYF, which is headed by CEO William Reese, but officially joined the foundation this month. Contact: (410) 951-1500,

Deena Fox is now on the legal staff as an Equal Justice America Fellow at the Bazelon Center for Mental Health Law in Washington. The Equal Justice America program provides opportunities for law students and recent graduates to work with organizations that deliver civil legal services to vulnerable populations.

Fox will focus on special education for students with disabilities and opposing the criminalization of people with mental illnesses. Contact: (202) 467-5730,

Linda Jo Turner

Linda Jo Turner has been named to the position of foundation relations consultant at the Chevy Chase, Md.-based National 4-H Council, which is run by CEO Don Floyd. She will lead the Council’s national fundraising plan with foundations. She was director of the University of Missouri’s Flagship Scholars program, and previously served as director of Missouri 4-H Youth Development programs.

The council also elected Linda Kirk Fox to the board of trustees. Fox is the associate vice president and dean at Washington State University Extension. She was a recipient of the U.S. Department of Agriculture Secretary’s Honor Award in 1997 and again in 2002. Contact: (301) 961-2800,


The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation ($40 billion in assets), which is headed by CEO Jeff Raikes, tapped John Deasy to be deputy director of its education reform efforts, which fall under the purview of Vicki Phillips, director of U.S. education.

Deasy left his post as superintendent of the Prince George’s County (Md.) Public Schools (133,000 students), a position he took in February of 2006.

Deasy is credited with leveling the academic playing field in a diverse county with a wide range of socioeconomic conditions. The Gates Foundation was most impressed with his pilot “pay-for-performance” project with county teachers, which offered teachers more money for gaining career certifications, working in troubled schools and improving academic performance.

Gates’ education reforms focus on improving high schools, funding early-learning programs and providing college scholarships. Contact: (206) 709-3100,

Alissa Talley is a new program assistant for the Mott Foundation’s Pathways Out of Poverty grant program. Talley was communications assistant at the New York-based Innocence Project, which seeks to use DNA evidence to exonerate wrongfully convicted inmates.

Working for Mott ($2.6 billion in assets), which is headed by Bill White, will not be Talley’s first venture into Michigan. She graduated from the University of Michigan and volunteered for the Michigan Prison Creative Arts Project in three locations.

Talley works on Pathways’ Learning Beyond the Classroom portfolio, which is within the Improving Community Education program area. Contact: (248) 519-2011,


Did a recent fundraiser on behalf of Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.) offer a peek at some of the names that could appear on office doors at federal youth-serving agencies (namely, the departments of Health and Human Services, Justice and Education)?

The soiree, at a downtown Washington steakhouse, drew about 125 of the liberal youth work elite, and about $110,000 in donations. It was hosted by Obama’s domestic policy director, Neera Tanden, who went over to Obama’s side after directing policy for the presidential campaign of Sen. Hillary Clinton (D-N.Y.). Tanden was senior vice president for academic affairs at the Center for American Progress.

The committee that organized the fundraiser includes some prominent names in the field. One would think that some would push openly for jobs with an Obama administration, and others certainly wouldn’t ignore a phone call. Among the committee members, in no particular order of importance or stature:

Joan Lombardi, originally a Clinton donor, held two positions within the Administration for Children and Families under President Bill Clinton: deputy assistant HHS secretary for children and families and associate commissioner of the Child Care Bureau.

Toby Chaudhuri, the communications director for the Campaign for America’s Future and a former spokesman for the Children’s Defense Fund.

Sandy Newman, founder of Fight Crime: Invest in Kids.

Jim Weill, president of the Food and Research Action Center since 1998.

Lori Kaplan, executive director of the Latin American Youth Center since 1987.

Fred Davie, president of Philadelphia-based Public/Private Ventures.

Shelley Waters Boots, a senior research associate at the Urban Institute.

Also attending the fundraiser: Urban Institute Senior Fellow Olivia Golden, who joined President Clinton’s staff in 1993 as commissioner of children, youth and families at HHS and was promoted to assistant secretary for children and families; National Network for Youth CEO Vicky Wagner, Fight Crime: Invest in Kids’ juvenile justice expert Miriam Rollin, and National Court Appointed Special Advocates CEO Michael Piraino.

The past few months have found two states with new juvenile justice leaders.

In Wisconsin, Margaret Carpenter is the new administrator of the Division of Juvenile Corrections, an arm of the state’s corrections department. On her resume alone, she appears to be a choice that will please anyone who is of the opinion that educating incarcerated youths is probably a good idea.

Carpenter has worked on both fronts: education of youths, and education in prison. She spent the past year as the corrections department’s education director for the Division of Adult Institutions. Before that, she spent 17 years teaching in the Chicago Public Schools and the Kenosha, Wis., Unified School District. She was also a Captain in the Illinois Army National Guard until 1996.

Texas Gov.Rick Perry (R) announced last month that after a year and a half, the state will remove the Texas Youth Commission (TYC) from conservatorship. TYC oversees all state-run juvenile prisons, while the Texas Juvenile Probation Commission runs all other post-adjudication programs.

The most recent conservator, Richard Nedelkoff – on the job since December – will return to his job as chief operating officer at Clearwater, Fla.-based Eckerd Youth Alternatives, a multi-service agency serving youth in seven states.

Cherie Townsend

It can be seen as an early vote of confidence for TYC’s new executive commissioner, Cherie Townsend, who took over Oct. 1. She ran juvenile court services for Clark County (Las Vegas), Nev., and before that held the same position for Maricopa County (Phoenix) in Arizona.

Townsend is not an outsider, though. Before all that, she spent 18 years in various roles at TYC, most notably as director of community services.

Theoretically, the TYC job should be a stark contrast to managing services for Clark County, which has one of the fastest-growing populations in the country. TYC should gradually see a lower demand for its services under the state’s recent reforms. That should give Townsend time to move it toward a more regional approach to services, and retool the quality and safety of TYC facility operations.

Another state leader, Illinois’s Kurt Friedenauer, was made the permanent director of the Department of Juvenile Justice in late September. He had held the position on an interim basis for longer than many permanent hires; he was first brought on in 2006, one year after the department was created.

It’s official: child welfare reform guru Kevin Ryan’s consulting firm, Newark, N.J.-based Public Catalyst Group, will take on the troubled D.C. Child and Family Services Agency (CFSA) as its next mission.

Hiring PCG was a condition the city agreed to in order to avoid a return to federal receivership, which it previously found itself in after losing a lawsuit brought by New York nonprofit litigation firm Children’s Rights and its founder, Marcia Robinson Lowry.

Ryan’s star has been on the rise in child welfare since his involvement in New Jersey’s reforms. Ryan ran the Department of Children and Families (DCF) before stepping down last March.

“Kevin and [former DCF Director of Policy and Planning MollyArmstrong] really turned things around here,” says Paul Vincent, whose Montgomery, Ala.-based Child Welfare Policy and Practice Group is still working in New Jersey.

Ryan is already involved in the reform effort under way in Michigan (also pursuant to a Children’s Rights lawsuit; unlike D.C., Michigan settled with Lowry instead of fighting her in court) and has gained the respect of children’s rights advocates there.

Will two troubled systems at once be too much for a small consulting firm? Time will tell. Contact: (908) 655-5350, e-mail

A new low on the common-sense meter for public officials!

Mel Kuhn, the mayor of Arkansas City, Kan., wore blackface and titled his character “Smellishis Poon” at a drag queen contest held as a fundraiser for local Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASA).

“Blackface is shoe polish,” he said, calling his application tan-face. “That’s not what I did. I dressed up to win and because it was so hilarious,” Kuhn told


Kuhn initially brushed off questions about the nature of his performance, but publicly apologized after a meeting with a local chapter of the NAACP.