When schools succeed,
Meet the RACs
William T. Andersen
William T. Andersen is the Secondary Literacy Specialist for the NJDOE's Region 5 Regional Achievement Center. In his role, Mr. Anderson works directly and collaboratively with Priority and Focus Schools to implement turnaround principles focused on improving student achievement and performance. Mr. Andersen works with school and district administrators, literacy supervisors, and coaches to support English language arts, social studies, and science teachers as they put in place research-based literacy instruction that addresses communication skills essential for all students to meet the rigorous college and career readiness standards. Prior to joining the department, Mr. Andersen served as language arts teacher and supervisor, high school principal, assistant superintendent for curriculum and instruction, and doctoral dissertation editor. He earned his BA from Sacred Heart University and his MA from Yeshiva University; and he completed additional graduate work in supervision and administration at Georgian Court University and CCNJ. In his spare time, Mr. Andersen enjoys classical music, jazz, dance, theatre, art, baseball, and literary study.
Michael Littlejohn is the School Leadership Coach for the NJDOE's Region 5 Regional Achievement Center. In his role, Mr. Littlejohn works directly with the school principals and leadership teams of the Priority Schools in implementing the eight turnaround principles. He coordinates the efforts of the instructional specialists to provide professional development, training, and aligning professional practice to the Common Core. Prior to joining the RAC team, Mr Littlejohn was a Network Turnaround Officer working on the School Improvement Grant. Mr. Littlejohn served as the Highly Skilled Professional for Restructured Schools, an elementary and middle school principal, and a reading and curriculum specialist, as well as a classroom teacher in Jersey City Public Schools. Mr. Littlejohn earned a BA from New Jersey City University, an MA from New Jersey City University, and an M.Ed. from Rutgers University. He enjoys running, music, theatre and sports.
Iliana Okum is the English Language Learner (ELL) Specialist for the NJDOE's Region 5 Regional Achievement Center. Prior to joining the RAC team, she worked as Assistant Director of Elementary Education for the Pemberton Township School District and was responsible for the coordination of curriculum development, professional development, and state and local assessment systems and school improvement plans for the district elementary schools. Ms. Okum served in several senior level positions at the Department of Education as Director of Bilingual Education, Equal Educational Opportunity, Gender Equity Programs and the New Jersey Commission on Holocaust Education. She also served as Director of Urban Assistance Centers-Central and South under the Division of Urban and Field Services. Ms. Okum received her BA in elementary education from Trenton State College and her MA in Urban Education and Bilingual Education from The College of New Jersey. She is certified as a supervisor, principal and school administrator. Iliana is a member of the American Rose Society where she is a certified horticultural judge and consulting rosarian. She enjoys travelling and competing nationally in rose shows.
Katherine Gallagher is the Project Manager for the NJDOE's Region 5 Regional Achievement Center. In her role, Ms. Gallagher is responsible for tracking the implementation of school improvement plans, monitoring each school's progress toward individualized, quantifiable improvement goals, and analyzing performance data to evaluate the impact of interventions on student outcomes. Before joining the RAC team, Ms. Gallagher managed the development of school turnaround programs for some of New Jersey's most persistently low-achieving schools and most recently managed the implementation of a major school improvement initiative at the high-school level. Ms. Gallagher earned a B.A., magna cum laude, from Rutgers College, and a J.D. from Rutgers School of Law-Newark, where she was a Dean's Merit Scholar, Student Bar Association representative, and Minority Student Program facilitator. In her free time, Ms. Gallagher enjoys travelling, cooking and skydiving.
Dr. Frances Borkes
Dr. Frances Borkes is the Intervention Specialist for the NJDOE's Region 5 Regional Achievement Center. As part of the RAC team, she supports teaching and learning for the special education population in all Focus and Priority Schools in Monmouth, Middlesex and Ocean Counties.
Dr. Borkes began her career as an educator teaching special needs students in a resource center at the elementary level. After completing her MA, she assumed the role of learning consultant on the child study team. Subsequently, she became high school assistant principal, followed by twelve years as principal. She continued in her role as an educator by working with schools that had been identified as needing additional assistance/support to improve student achievement. As a practitioner, Dr. Borkes brings her years of providing proven instructional practices and building leadership to the schools she supports. Some of her leisure activities include participating with friends in a book discussion club, playing the piano and traveling with family.
Deidre Richardson is the Mathematics Specialist for the NJDOE's Region 5 Regional Achievement Center. In her role, she works with school leaders and teachers to continually improve and monitor mathematics instruction and student achievement. Prior to joining the RAC team, Ms. Richardson was a secondary mathematics instructional coach and mathematics teacher. She has also served as a mathematics assessment development consultant supporting the development of Common Core- aligned elementary and secondary mathematics benchmarks. Ms. Richardson holds a BS in Mechanical Engineering and M.Ed. in Mathematics Education from Rutgers University. Currently, she is pursuing a doctorate in mathematics education with a research focus on the analysis of instructional modules implemented in undergraduate mathematics courses for pre-service teachers that seek to elicit recognition of student reasoning while exploring fraction and rational number ideas.
Dr. P. Jean Voorhees
Dr. P. Jean Voorhees is an Instructional Specialist for the for the NJDOE's Region 5 Regional Achievement Center. Prior to joining the RAC team, she worked in school improvement as a Network Turnaround Officer for School Improvement Grant (SIG) schools, and as a consultant for both CAPA and QSAC teams. Jean was formerly a language arts literacy (LAL) specialist with the NJDOE where she worked on the development of the revised state's Core Curriculum Content Standards for LAL and managed the Reading First grant for New Jersey that procured more than $125 million in federal funding for our most struggling schools. Dr. Vorhees has also served as a district-level reading coordinator and adjunct instructor in Rider University's undergraduate reading department. And, during her tenure in the Old Bridge School District at Carl Sandburg Middle School, she received the "Governor's Teacher Recognition" award. Jean is a current member of ASCD and the International Reading Association and serves on the Board of Trustees of the Vintage Automobile Museum of New Jersey, a non-profit organization devoted to educating the public on the history of the automobile in New Jersey. She has an MA degree in Reading and Communication Science from Kean University and a Doctorate of Education from Nova Southeastern University with a specialization in Child and Youth Studies. In her spare time, she is an avid collector of classic cars and enjoys reading, boating, and spending time with her family, pets and grandchildren.
Sheila Wegryn is the Climate and Culture Specialist for the for the NJDOE's Region 5 Regional Achievement Center. In her role, she supports the work of partner schools developing and sustaining learning environments conducive to student success. Prior to joining the RAC team, Ms. Wegryn served New Jersey students as a teacher, state and federal grant writer/director, and school administrator. Ms. Wegryn brings to the RAC team her experience leading diverse school communities to realize high expectations. As principal of a nationally ranked high school, Ms. Wegryn led her team to national instructional best practices and federal recognition on one hundred percent graduation rate and college acceptances. Ms. Wegryn earned a BA in Cultural Anthropology/Latin American Studies from Allegheny College and a Master of Educational Administration with distinction from Kean University. In her spare time, Ms. Wegryn enjoys writing, flat water canoeing and traveling with her family.