When schools succeed,
Meet the RACs
Chimaobi Amutah is the Data Specialist for the NJDOE's Region 4 Regional Achievement Center. In his role, he works with school-based personnel in Region 4 to develop data collection, analysis, and publishing procedures utilized in decision-making to improve students' academic performance. Prior to joining the RAC team, Mr. Amutah taught for a variety of public, charter, and private educational organizations, including the Humphreys County School District in Mississippi, KIPP Delta College Preparatory Schools in Arkansas, and Kaplan Test Prep in New Jersey. Mr. Amutah earned his BA in African and African American Studies with honors from Harvard University. He also holds a Master's Degree in Education with a specialization in Social Studies Curriculum & Instruction from the University of Mississippi where he was a part of the highly selective Mississippi Teacher Corps. He is currently pursuing a doctoral degree in education within the Education, Culture, and Society concentration from Rutgers University's Graduate School of Education where he is the Martin Luther King, Jr. Scholar. As a native and resident of Trenton who attended Trenton Public Schools throughout his K-12 education, Mr. Amutah joined the NJDOE to improve the educational outcomes of students from his and similar communities.
Lois Braender, Ed.D.
Dr. Lois A. Braender is a Turnaround Coach for the NJDOE's Region 4 Regional Achievement Center. In her role, she works directly with Priority School principals to ensure that interventions to increase student achievement are cohesive and coordinated. Prior to joining the RAC 4 team, Dr. Braender served the Hamilton Township School District as a teacher, principal, Director of Elementary Education, and Assistant Superintendent for Curriculum and Instruction. Dr. Braender earned her Bachelor of Science and Master in Education degrees, along with her teacher, supervisor, and principal certificates, from Trenton State College. She earned an Educational Doctorate from Rutgers University and she also holds a Chief School Administrator certificate. In her leisure time, Dr. Braender enjoys traveling and spending time with friends and family, especially her four grandchildren.
Ellen L. Clay
Ellen L. Clay is a Math Specialist for NJDOE's Region 4 Regional Achievement Center. Her responsibilities include supporting districts within the region in mathematics instruction as the country transitions from thinking of mathematics as memorization of procedures to thinking of it as the study of things that can be counted and measured, as well as of the operations/functions that we apply to those counts and measures. Prior to joining RAC 4, her work ranged from math professor to middle school math teacher in Philadelphia. Most recently, she has been a mathematics education professor at Drexel University where she worked with and studied teachers' acquisition of conceptual knowledge and the implementation of this knowledge within the teachers' classrooms. Dr. Clay earned her doctorate in mathematics from the University of Louisiana at Lafayette. When she is not working or thinking about her work, Ellen enjoys spending time in nature, ballroom dancing, yoga, and traveling to Louisiana and upstate New York to spend time with family and friends.
Stephanie Crea is a State Turnaround Coach for NJDOE's Region 4 Regional Achievement Center (RAC). In her role, she works collaboratively with the RAC team to assist principals in leading the school turnaround efforts. In addition, she works to ensure that interventions from the school improvement plans are cohesive, coordinated, and designed to promote sustained student achievement. Prior to joining the RAC 4 team, Stephanie worked for the Hamilton Township School District in Mercer County in a number of roles. She was a Title I/basic skills and first grade teacher, supervisor of professional development, coordinator of curriculum and funded programs and an elementary principal. Stephanie earned a BS in Elementary Education and a Master's in Education from Trenton State College and a second master's degree from The College of New Jersey in Educational Leadership. During her free time she enjoys spending time with her family and friends, being on the beach, going out to eat and baking.
Kelly L. Creque
Kelly L. Creque is the Project Manager for NJDOE's Region 4 Regional Achievement Center. She is part of the team that is responsible for supporting turnaround efforts in Priority and Focus Schools in the 7 districts within Region 4. With over 15 years of experience in administrative roles in the Trenton, Newark and Atlanta Public Schools, Kelly brings a unique perspective to the team. She has served as Executive Assistant to the Chief Operations Officer and subsequently, Assistant to the Deputy Superintendent for Curriculum and Instruction. After that, she was hired to lead the Office of Assessment and Accountability. During nine years in that post, she served as district testing coordinator, performed much of the district's data analysis, and submitted most of the district's state and federal reporting. The aspect of that position that she most enjoyed was working with central administrative staff, principals and school-based team to understand the data and use it to inform their curriculum and instruction-related decision-making. Later, she served as Special Assistant for Special Education, and most recently Director of Student Information Services. These roles have provided her with a strong background in data management and analysis, as well as professional development. She brings these skills and experiences to her current role as Project Manager for RAC 4.
She earned a Master's in Public Administration from New York University's Robert F. Wagner School of Public Service.
When she's not working, Kelly's favorite activity is spending time with her family. She enjoys playing tennis and riding bikes with her husband and two sons.
Dr. Michael Gilbert
Michael Gilbert, a resident of Lawrenceville, New Jersey, is the NJDOE's Region 4 Regional Achievement Center Climate and Culture Specialist. He served the Hamilton Township School District, Hamilton Township, New Jersey, as a teacher, coach, athletic director, vice principal, high school principal, Director of Educational Services and Director of Curriculum & Instruction. He works with the schools in Region 4 to achieve goals of raising student personal growth and academic achievement through the development of healthy learning environments. This is facilitated by the collaborative efforts of the schools, districts, and RAC 4 staff. Michael received his doctoral degree in Education Leadership from Seton Hall University, studying the relationship between pupil control ideology and academic optimism. He is an adjunct professor and mentors new administrators. During his free time, Michael enjoys running and spending time with his family.
State Turnaround Coach
Erin Johansen is the Mathematics Specialist for the NJDOE's Region 4 Regional Achievement Center (RAC). In her role, she works with priority and focus schools on upgrading math instruction to meet higher standards. Prior to joining the RAC 4 team, Erin Johansen taught 8th grade mathematics at Ocean Township Intermediate School for six years; worked as a consultant with LL Teach Inc. for three years working in the Camden City Schools; and most recently served as a Math Coach for Winslow Township Schools for two years. Erin earned her bachelor's degree in mathematics and elementary education from Georgian Court College and a master's degree in school administration from New Jersey City University. In her free time, she enjoys spending time with her niece and nephew and finding out all of what living at the shore has to offer.
Hermenegildo Santiago is the Human Resources Specialist for the NJDOE's Region 4 Regional Achievement Center (RAC). In his role, he works on human capital-related issues within the RAC such as hiring, recruitment and selection, and building internal capacity. Outside of the RAC, he focuses on human capital issues within schools and school districts in order to help ensure greater teacher quality and positive student outcomes.
Prior to this role, Hermé spent most of his career in educational and social services organizations focused on improving the human condition. Hermé worked at MDRC in New York, an education research firm, as a program researcher. He worked at JFF, an education policy and program development firm in Boston as a communications and program manager. Next, he worked at Education Pioneers in Boston, a human capital education pipeline firm, in talent recruitment and program expansion. He also worked as a communications and policy liaison at the NJ Department of Human Services. Hermé has also devoted his life to community service and outreach from the age of 10 in his community in Trenton, helping the Latino community with literacy and life skills. He continued that service to the community in Boston in the French, Haitian, Salvadorian, Columbian, Dominican and Brazilian communities.
In Boston, Hermenegildo provided program consulting for Boston Scholars, an education mentoring program where inner city students are given a rigorous preparation to enter private schools in New England. He also volunteered at the Boston Center for Community and Social Justice, where he was an adviser for Latino, African American, Asian, and Native American youth and youth of low socio-economic status. He is a graduate of Yale University, where he helped build the Tutoring in Elementary Schools program. He received a graduate degree from Harvard University in Education Policy and Management and a Business Certificate from UC Berkeley. He is also a first-generation American and the first person in his family to graduate from high school.
An avid learner of languages, Hermenegildo is fluent in Spanish, Brazilian Portuguese and French, which he has taught at Berlitz Language Schools. He is currently learning Mandarin Chinese and trying to practice his Italian. A traveler by nature, he has been all over Brazil, Puerto Rico, Dominican Republic, Italy, France, Spain, Germany, Argentina, and Chile. His next trips are planned for Brazil and China. He really enjoys working with people that are passionate about social inequality and educational opportunity in America.
Stephanie Washam is an Instructional Specialist for the NJDOE's Region 4 Regional Achievement Center. In her role, she provides observation and feedback, facilitates professional development, provides resources and best practices, and partners with embedded specialists and principals to raise student achievement. Prior to joining the RAC team, Ms Washam worked as an elementary director of curriculum and instruction in a Philadelphia renaissance school. She earned her BA in history and political science at the University of Pittsburgh. Afterwards, she became the founding early childhood Teach For America alumni in Camden, and earned her Master of Education degree at Drexel University concentrated on teaching, learning, and curriculum. She joined the RAC team because she strongly believes that every public school has the ability to provide students with an excellent education, and wanted to be a part of that change. She currently enjoys running after her one-year-old daughter, yoga, and reading.