John Fitzpatrick, Educate Texas' Executive Director, has an extensive history working with education. Before taking the helm at Educate Texas, Mr. Fitzpatrick served as Executive Director of the Capital Area Training Foundation, now Skillpoint Alliance, where he worked to build relationships between the business sector, educational interest groups, and community partners for the benefit of Central Texans. Concurrently, he held the position of Vice-President for Education and Workforce Development for the Greater Austin Chamber of Commerce and also served as an elected member of the Austin Independent School District Board of Trustees. He spent four years on Capitol Hill where he worked on education and workforce development policies for the U.S. House of Representatives and U.S. Senate. Mr. Fitzpatrick first began his career in education as a middle school teacher and coach. He received a bachelor’s degree from Wesleyan University in Connecticut, and a master’s degree from the LBJ School of Public Affairs at University of Texas-Austin.
Chief Operating Officer
As Chief Operating Officer, George Tang ensures Educate Texas’ day-to-day operations align with its mission of preparing all Texas students to graduate from high school ready for college, career and life. Prior to joining Educate Texas, Mr. Tang co-founded Rosetta, an advertising agency fueled by an analytical approach to creating marketing strategies. In 2009, Mr. Tang returned to Dallas to focus on education, addressing the significant gaps and challenges currently stressing the education system. Mr. Tang earned a bachelor of science in finance and accounting from New York University.
Chief Program Officer
Chris Coxon currently serves as the Chief Program Officer for Educate Texas. Mr. Coxon previously served as the Deputy Superintendent for Teaching and Learning for the Boston Public Schools. During his tenure, the Broad Prize for Urban Education recognized the district as a finalist for four consecutive years and then as the winner in 2006. Mr. Coxon has also served as a principal, district administrator, and teacher in Puerto Rico for the Department of Defense Education Activity and in Dallas where he began his teaching career. He has served on various educational boards at the state and national level and has presented at various conferences across the country. In 2000, Mr. Coxon was selected into the Urban Superintendents Program at Harvard University. Mr. Coxon holds a bachelor’s degree from Benedictine College, a master’s degree in educational leadership from Phoenix University, and a master’s degree in administration, planning and social policy from Harvard University, where he is also a 2011 doctoral candidate.
Chief Financial Officer
Amy Groff is Educate Texas’ Chief Financial Officer. Before joining the Educate Texas team, Ms. Groff served as Vice President of Finance and Administration for the Dallas Symphony Orchestra for 23 years. Prior to joining the Symphony, she was with Pricewaterhouse-Coopers (formerly Coopers & Lybrand) leaving as a senior manager after seven years of employment. Ms. Groff serves on the Finance Committee for the United Way of Metropolitan Dallas County and as a board member on the Dallas Symphony Foundation Board. Ms. Groff graduated from the University of Texas at Arlington with a bachelor’s degree in business administration in accounting.
Priscilla Aquino Garza
Associate Program Officer, Policy and Advocacy
Priscilla Aquino Garza is responsible for statewide policy and advocacy work related to K-12 education in Texas. She began her education work as a middle school teacher in Boston, the South Bronx, and Austin. She worked as a research associate for the Texas High School Project, the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board and the Texas Early Childhood Coalition. She then served as the Director of Educator & Student Policy Initiatives at the Texas Education Agency where she was responsible for improving educator quality and effectiveness and developing more effective educator recruitment and retention strategies. Prior to Educate Texas, she was the Deputy Director for Stand for Children Texas where she oversaw organizing, advocacy and statewide education policy. Ms. Aquino Garza earned her bachelor’s degree in Sociology from Harvard University, a certificate in Latin American Studies, and her teaching certificate from the Harvard Graduate School of Education. She received her master’s in public affairs from the LBJ School for Public Affairs at the University of Texas.
Jessica Bassett is Educate Texas' Communications Manager with experience in public relations, public affairs, and government. Ms. Bassett previously worked in the Office of the Governor of Texas under Rick Perry in the Criminal Justice Division as a program specialist, grant manager. After which, she worked as a communications associate for the Austin-based public affairs firm, ROSS Communications. She is a graduate of Texas Tech University with a degree in political science.
Executive Director, RGV Focus
Dr. Luzelma G. Canales is executive director for RGV FOCUS, a collaboration with Educate Texas. Prior to joining Educate Texas, Dr. Canales served as a community college and university administrator for over twenty-five years. During her time in higher education she provided oversight for resource development, compliance, organizational development, community engagement, continuing education, workforce development, corporate training, and adult basic education. Dr. Canales also served as the lead for numerous national reform initiatives including Achieving the Dream (ATD), Breaking Through, and several Excelencia in Education initiatives from 2004 to 2011. In 2009, Luzelma was invited to join an elite group of professionals as an ATD Data Coach and remains active. She also worked with UT-Austin and Texas community colleges to establish a culture of evidence by making data informed decisions. Dr. Canales holds a Bachelor of Business Administration from Pan American University, a Master of Business Administration from the University of Texas – Pan American, and Doctorate of Philosophy in Human Resource Development from Texas A&M University – College Station.
Denise Davis brings more than 25 years of experience in education to her position as the Associate Program Officer of Educate Texas' Early College High School Initiative. Dr. Davis has taught in both elementary and secondary schools, has served as assistant principal and dean of instruction at the secondary level and owned and operated her own private school for more than a decade. Dr. Davis holds a bachelor’s degree of science in elementary education from Texas A&M Commerce, a master’s in educational administration from the University of Texas Brownsville, and a doctorate of education in higher education from the University of North Texas.
Denise Devora, Associate Program Officer for the Educate Texas T-STEM initiative, has more than 14 years of higher education experience and has worked in the private and public sector of universities and colleges. Before joining Educate Texas, Ms. Devora worked as the Director of Dual Credit and Tech Prep and as the Early College High School Liaison for Mountain View College. As the Director of Dual Credit/Tech Prep, Ms. Devora was an integral part of forming the early college high school from implementation to the first graduating class. Ms. Devora’s final role at Mountain View College was to serve as Interim Dean of Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences where she managed over 100 faculty, adjuncts and support staff to ensure compliance and coordination of college-wide efforts. Denise received her master’s degree in organizational management from University of Phoenix and her bachelor’s degree in speech communication and public relations from Texas State University. She also received her Doctorate in education with a specialization in Leadership for Higher Education from Capella University.
Associate Program Officer
Kelty Garbee is the Associate Program Officer for Educate Texas' Teacher Effectiveness initiative. Before joining the Educate Texas, Ms. Garbee worked at the Texas Education Agency (TEA) where she served as the Early College High School Program Manager. In this capacity, she developed expertise in dual credit and P-16 partnerships and was responsible for creating a designation process that allows school districts and colleges to join the statewide network of Early College High Schools. Before working at TEA, Ms. Garbee served as Assistant Manager of Grants and Sponsorships in the Development Office at the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in Washington, DC. Ms. Garbee earned a bachelor’s degree in English and Studies in Women and Gender from the University of Virginia and a master's in public affairs from the LBJ School at University of Texas-Austin. She is currently pursuing a doctorate in education administration with a specialization in higher education from University of Texas-Austin.
Alma Garcia, with more than three decades experience in education from K-12 to higher education, offers a wealth of knowledge as the Program Officer for Educate Texas' Early College High School initiative. She started her career as a bilingual education teacher in the Brownsville Independent School District, where she went on to serve as an elementary and secondary school principal. She later joined the University of Texas at Brownsville, where, as an adjunct professor, she designed instructional methods courses for graduate and undergraduates students in secondary education programs, and later served as director of GEAR UP, a college awareness, readiness, enrollment and outreach program. She joined Educate Texas in 2004 and is among the foremost expert on dual enrollment, dual credit and early college high schools in the state. Ms. Garcia was instrumental in working with grantee high schools and institutions of higher learning in aligning their curriculum and building community support and with the Texas Education Agency on its new ECHS designation process. She earned a bachelor’s degree in elementary education from Pan American University (now The University of Texas-Pan American) and has a master’s in educational administration from Stephen F. Austin University.
Postsecondary Policy Analyst
Melissa Henderson is the Educate Texas Postsecondary Policy Analyst and brings with her eight years of experience in the Texas House, having served as legislative director for Rep. Patrick Rose. Throughout his four terms, she had primary responsibility for advising him on education - both P-12 and postsecondary - particularly in his capacity as a member of the House Higher Education Committee for three sessions. Ms. Henderson worked closely with institutions of higher education, House leadership and the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board on issues such as tuition and financial aid policy, top ten percent admissions policy reform, and creating student regent positions on the boards of regents of each public university system in the state. She holds a bachelor’s degree in psychology from Texas A&M University.
Susan Henderson serves as the Program Manager for the Early College High School Professional Development Network. Before joining the Educate Texas team she was principal of the Berkner TSTEM Academy in Richardson ISD. It was due to the achievements of this academy that Susan sought a position at Educate Texas to expand her reach with such innovative programs as TSTEM and ECHS. Susan has also served as an assistant principal, instructional specialist and math instructor. In her current position at Educate Texas, she manages the development and delivery of specialized professional development specifically designed to enable teachers to move students through rigorous classroom curriculum at a pace necessary for the completion of college courses in high school. Susan earned both her bachelor of science in kinesiology and master’s in educational administration from the University of North Texas.
Research and Evaluation Analyst
Kristin Kuhne is a Research and Evaluation Analyst at Educate Texas. Her primary responsibilities include conducting quantitative and qualitative research on our statewide educational initiatives. Prior to joining the Educate Texas, Dr. Kuhne worked at the Texas Schools Project/Education Research Center at UT Dallas as a Research Associate. Her work there included the evaluation of a variety of educational interventions from early childhood to high school. Dr. Kuhne received her doctorate in public policy and political economy from the University of Texas at Dallas where she also earned a master’s in public affairs. She also holds a bachelor’s in finance from the University of Texas at Austin and was employed in the financial services industry before doing her graduate work.
Jennifer C. Pearson
Director of Development
As the Director of Development, Jennifer C. Pearson, JD, CFRE coordinates Educate Texas’ fundraising efforts and manages the research, analysis and strategy for the organization’s giving portfolio. Ms. Pearson brings with her fourteen years of fundraising and donor relations experience having led capital campaigns, corporate-foundation programs, estate planning, and major gift strategies for Austin College, Centenary College, and the National Audubon Society. As an attorney, her clients were varied and included charitable organizations, private foundations, trusts, banks and credit unions, among others. She holds a juris doctorate from Boston College Law School and a bachelor’s degree from Centenary College.
Interim Project Manager
Catherine J Pena currently serves Educate Texas as the Interim Project Manager for the i3 Early College Expansion Partnership Grant in the Rio Grande Valley supporting the Pharr – San Juan – Alamo and Brownsville Independent School Districts. Catherine’s career in education began over 20 years ago and includes positions as an elementary school teacher, middle and high school math teacher, district math strategist, college prep assistant principal, and external instructional coach with Educate Texas. Her most rewarding experience as an educator is being a founding teacher at Achieve ECHS in McAllen, Texas. It is at Achieve where she discovered her passion for the work done by early college high schools: to provide the opportunity of college for all, no matter their socioeconomic background and expound on the belief that all students have the ability to succeed in college. Through her work with Educate Texas, Catherine continues to work toward her mission of providing the opportunity of college for all students by promoting and supporting college readiness standards and practices. Catherine received a bachelor’s degree from Texas A&M University, College Station, Texas and a master’s degree from Lamar University in Beaumont, Texas.
Dr. Reo Pruiett is the Educate Texas T-STEM Initiative Program Officer, and has over 25 years of experience in education. Dr. Pruiett began her career as a high school teacher and after obtaining her master’s degree, worked in central office administration as an exemplary teacher and leader, new teacher supervisor, and science supervisor. After obtaining her doctorate degree, Dr. Pruiett was chosen to become the director of secondary education which entailed working with all high school and middle school principals to promote rigorous academic achievement for all students. She has served on various academic committees at the district, regional, state and national levels.