When schools succeed,
Meet the RACs
Kate Allen is the Elementary Literacy Specialist for the NJDOE Region 7 Regional Achievement Center. She works with teachers and administrators to improve reading and writing assessment, instruction, student learning, and intervention. After helping to lead a community-based grant-making program in Philadelphia, Ms. Allen entered teaching in order to gain on-the-ground knowledge about improving outcomes for kids. She taught fifth graders in Camden, NJ, where her class's performance earned her the honor of being a regional finalist for the 2011 Sue Lehmann Award, presented to second year Teach for America teachers for instructional excellence and significant student gains. Ms. Allen received her B.A. in Economics from the University of Pennsylvania and her Ed.M. in Language and Literacy from Harvard Graduate School of Education, where she earned her reading specialist certification. In her free time, she loves reading, traveling, yoga, hiking, and spending time with her family and friends.
Jo Ann Berkley
Jo Ann Berkley is the School Culture and Climate Specialist for the NJDOE's Region 7 Regional Achievement Center. In this role, she is responsible for working with Focus and Priority Schools to enhance their school culture and classroom climate to create an environment where every student is able to learn. A career educator, Ms. Berkley has various experiences in education as a middle school principal, an elementary principal, curriculum coordinator/assistant principal, instructional coach, former classroom teacher, new teacher mentor and professional development trainer. She has also worked as an administrator in both public and charter schools. Additionally, Ms. Berkley is a senior adjunct instructor at Burlington County College and teaches education and remedial reading courses. A graduate of Temple University with a B.S. in Early Childhood and Elementary Education and an M. Ed. in Educational Leadership from Cheyney University, Ms. Berkley is presently a doctoral candidate at Wilmington University. In her leisure time, she enjoys bowling, spending time with family and friends, and reading.
Bill Connolly is the Secondary Literacy Specialist for the NJDOE's Region 7 Regional Achievement Center. Mr. Connolly works with teachers and administrators of focus and priority schools with issues of curriculum, instruction, and assessment related to English Language Arts. As a NJ public school educator, Mr. Connolly taught English, journalism, and creative writing at the secondary level and also served as a school and district literacy supervisor. He also was a co-director of local sites of the National Writing Project at Rutgers and Rowan Universities. Mr. Connolly received his B.A in English from Ursinus College, earned his Ed.M in English Education from Rutgers University, and earned his principal's certificate through the NJEXCEL program. He has published professional and personal writings in a variety of local and national journals and has presented at NCTE and IRA conventions. In his free time, he enjoys spending time with family and friends and working out.
Carole DeMesquita is the special assistant to the Executive Director for NJDOE's Region 7 Regional Achievement Center, which encompasses the five counties in Southern New Jersey. In this role, she and the team are responsible for supporting the turnaround efforts in Priority and Focus schools that were designated in the NJDOE's ESEA waiver approved by the USDOE. An educator for more than 30 years from preschool to college level, Carole has been with the NJDOE for more than 12 years within various offices that include NJPEP (New Jersey Professional Education Port), the Southern Region Office, the former Abbott division, and the Office of School Improvement. Prior to joining the DOE, Carole developed and supervised two charter schools – one in Delaware and one in Pennsylvania. She also was chief school administrator for a private special education school, co-chairperson for over 15 years for her township planning board, and a county coordinator for the County Municipal Court Dispute Mediation System. Carole is a certified state mediator through the Civil Court system. She is a graduate of New England College and Central Connecticut State University with a B.S. and M.S. in Elementary and Special Education with a Supervisory Certification from Rowan and Temple Universities. Carole enjoys spending her spare time with her husband, two sons and two young granddaughters, and baking/cooking for them.
Maryellen Fitzpatrick is the ELL Specialist for the NJDOE Region 7 Regional Achievement Center. In this role, she works with teachers, school leaders, and district administrators in Focus and Priority schools to develop and assess programs and support instruction for bilingual and English language learners (ELLs), particularly in the content areas. Dr. Fitzpatrick began her career in education as a bilingual 7th grade teacher in the Camden City Public School District. Other teaching experiences include extensive work in face-to-face and asynchronous online writing instruction for Temple University's Writing Center, and teaching ESL and citizenship to Chinese, Cambodian, and Vietnamese immigrants in the Chinatown section of Philadelphia. Prior to joining RAC 7, Dr. Fitzpatrick worked as an Assistant Professor in the Department of Teacher Education at Rowan University, and she has served as a consultant to school districts in New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and Delaware, training teachers in the strategies of Sheltered English Instruction for English Language Learners in the content area classrooms. A graduate of Rutgers University, Dr. Fitzpatrick earned BA degrees in English and Spanish. She earned an M.Ed. and her Ed.D. from Temple University in Curriculum, Instruction, and Technology in Education with a focus on Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages (TESOL). Her particular areas of interest are in the teaching of reading to English language learners who are not able to read in their first language, sheltered instruction of English in the content areas, and teacher education and preparation. In her free time, she enjoys spending time with her husband and four children, reading, cooking, and exercising.
Melissa G. Jackson
Melissa G. Jackson is the Intervention Specialist for the NJDOE's Region 7 Regional Achievement Center. Prior to joining the RAC team, Ms. Jackson taught inclusion at Monongahela Middle School in Deptford Township for nine years. While teaching at Monongahela Middle School, she became a T^3 regional instructor and Universal Design for Learning (UDL) Specialist. With a focus on UDL and TI-Technologies, Ms. Jackson has presented at various conferences, including Gloucester County-wide In-service, NCTM National, NCTM Regional, AMTNJ, and T^3 regional and international. She also served as a teacher mentor for the South Jersey Math Project. Ms. Jackson earned her B.A. summa cum laude from Rowan University and earned a middle school math certificate of graduate study from Rowan University. In her free time, she enjoys spending time with her family, vacationing in Florida, and coaching basketball.
Cassandra Johnson is an Instructional Specialist for the NJDOE's Regional Achievement Center 7 team. In her role, she is responsible for assisting schools and districts with the continuous improvement of instruction in an effort to close the achievement gap. Prior to joining the RAC team, Mrs. Johnson served in various educational leadership roles. During her time as the owner of a supplemental education services business, she and her team contracted with the School District of Philadelphia and several charter schools to provide supplemental services to at-risk students under NCLB. As an Instructional coach and consultant, Mrs. Johnson worked with several schools in Philadelphia, Delaware and New York to drive best practices in initiatives such as Response to Intervention (RTI), Professional Learning Community (PLC) development, rigor, engaging students, unit planning, assessment and others. Mrs. Johnson has also spent time as a Common Core State Standards (CCSS) curriculum writer for Chicago Public Schools. Mrs. Johnson earned her BA from Howard University and her MS Ed. from City University of New York-- City College. In her spare time, she enjoys hiking, challenging workouts such as Cross Fit, reading historical fiction, shopping and spending quality time with family and friends.
Stuart Lockhart is the Project Manager for the NJDOE's Region 7 Regional Achievement Center. In this role, he and his team are responsible for supporting the turnaround efforts in Priority and Focus Schools that were designated in the NJDOE's ESEA waiver approved by the USDOE. A career officer in the United States Marine Corps with world-wide operational experience, Mr. Lockhart retired after twenty-five years of active duty prior to joining the NJDOE this past September. As a Marine, he had numerous assignments in training and education, including teaching tours on the faculty of the U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis, MD and most recently, Rice and Prairie View A&M Universities in Houston, TX under the NROTC program. Mr. Lockhart is a graduate of the U.S. Naval Academy and he earned an M.A. in History from Temple University. In his free time, he enjoys spending time with his family that includes two young daughters, the sport of rowing, and anything pertaining to military history subjects.