Meet the Team
Nisha Bala (they/them) serves as a Technical Assistance provider for the California Center for School Climate.
Nisha is also a Research Associate with the Justice and Prevention area at WestEd, where they help perform analyses on the California Healthy Kids Surveys (CHKS) and assist with other data management and analysis needs. They also provide technical assistance and consultation on data use practices to county offices of education, districts, and schools. Prior to joining WestEd, Nisha worked at the Tennessee Education Research Alliance, a research-practice partnership between the Tennessee Department of Education and Vanderbilt University. Nisha was part of a team analyzing administrative, survey, and testing data and specialized in student survey data analysis.
Jenny Betz (she/they) serves as a Technical Assistance Provider for the California Center for School Climate.
Jenny is also a Senior Program Associate in the Resilient and Healthy Schools and Communities content area at WestEd providing coaching, training, and technical assistance to support client efforts to assess and improve school climate and wellness, with an emphasis on equity, trauma-informed practices, SEL, partner engagement, youth leadership, bias-based bullying, LGBTQ students, data use, and sustainability. With more than 20 years of experience in the nonprofit sector, Jenny has worked with hundreds of SEAs, LEAs, government agencies, professional associations, community organizations, and corporations, focusing on creating and sustaining safe, inclusive, and equitable learning environments for all students.
Rebeca Cerna (she/her/ella) serves as the Director for the California Center for School Climate.
As an Area Director at WestEd, Rebeca supports districts, schools, and community partners in centering equity and improving educational, prevention, and health outcomes. Rebeca’s areas of expertise include health and wellness, school culture/climate, partner voice, data use, and cross-sector collaboration. She has extensive experience in working with communities that have been challenged by infrastructure deficiencies and in lifting the voices of all community members. Rebeca directs the School Community Health Data Project, funded by The California Endowment, and is leading technical assistance efforts for the first cohort of California Community Schools Partnership Program grantees. Rebeca has also worked with diverse settings, including rural and urban communities, recent and mixed-status immigrant communities, and alternative education.
Kenwyn Derby (she/her) serves as a Technical Assistance Provider for the California Center for School Climate.
As a Senior Research Associate at WestEd, Kenwyn partners with educators, policymakers, and other stakeholders at local and state levels to understand contextualized problems of practice, to prioritize needs, to collect and analyze qualitative and quantitative data, and to apply evidence to increase equity and improve the experience and outcomes of students and others in human service systems. She provides coaching and technical assistance in contexts ranging from schools to cross-sector collaboratives, with an emphasis on supporting those in traditionally underserved communities. Her expertise includes facilitating and managing projects to improve youth well-being and mental health, to ease transitions for students, to reduce chronic absence and school dropout, to increase student and family engagement, and to create and sustain culture change.
Carla Guidi (she/her) serves as a Technical Assistance Provider for the California Center for School Climate.
Carla is also a Program Associate in WestEd’s Resilient and Healthy Schools and Community area, where she provides supports to schools and districts on strengthening their school climate practices. Her areas of expertise include school climate, wellness, public health, health promotion, and early childhood education. She has experience with implementing school climate programs and evaluating wellness policies. At the state and federal levels, she has provided technical assistance supports on early childhood systems change and data governance. Carla has conducted research on gaps in TA support for educational agencies, health and wellness agencies, and universities that use data for research and statistical purposes. Prior to working at WestEd, she was also a preschool teacher.
Shazia Hashmi (she/her) serves as a Technical Assistance Provider for the California Center for School Climate.
As a Program Associate at WestEd, Shazia translates and applies research on equitable, developmentally appropriate strategies to support state education agencies, district leaders, and educators in serving communities. She supports research and technical assistance projects that focus on improving practices in social–emotional learning, school climate, and community engagement. She currently works with The California Endowment’s School Health Data Team to create supportive, engaging learning environments for students using school climate data. She also serves as a technical assistance provider for the National Center to Improve Social Emotional Learning and School Safety.
Jo Ann Izu
Jo Ann Izu (she/her) serves as a Technical Assistance Provider for the California Center for School Climate.
Jo Ann is also a Senior Research Associate in the Resilient and Healthy Schools and Communities content area at WestEd, where she provides research, evaluation and technical support to schools, districts, public agencies and community partners to improve social and emotional health, school climate and violence, and alcohol and other substance abuse prevention. She recently led several San Francisco Department of Children, Youth, and their Families (DCYF)–funded projects to support the department’s planning and capacity-building strategies, including building the capacity of out-of-school time programs to foster social and emotional competencies among children and youth, assessing how DCYF-funded programs shifted programming and services during the COVID-19 pandemic, and conducting an equity assessment to support and inform DCYF’s racial equity action plan. Jo Ann has also provided technical assistance to schools and community-based organizations on evaluation and data use, school climate, and inclusion of youth voice.
Nakanya Magby (she/her) serves as a technical assistance provider for the California Center for School Climate.
Nakanya is a Senior Program Associate in WestEd’s Resilient and Healthy Schools and Communities (RHSC) area. In this capacity, she provides coaching, training, and curriculum development in areas related to school climate and culture, trauma-informed practices, and equitable practices. Currently, she supports the California Center for School Climate and the Office of the California Surgeon General. Most recently, she served as a school climate and culture specialist at the state level in Washington, DC, providing professional development, technical assistance, and coaching for a safe and supportive school climate to include multi-tiered systems of support and trauma-informed and equitable practices. Nakanya joins WestEd with over 20 years of experience in education and mental health, having previously worked as a special educator, school counselor, dean of students, and district- and state-level specialist. Nakanya believes that all students should have access to a quality educational experience both academically and emotionally.
Lora Markel (she/her) serves as a Project Coordinator for the California Center for School Climate.
Lora is also a Project Coordinator in WestEd’s Resilient and Healthy Schools and Community area, where she coordinates online and face-to-face events and supports project teams to help ensure the timely and successful completion of project goals.
Lan Nguyen (she/her) serves as a Technical Assistance Provider for the California Center for School Climate.
Lan is also a Program Associate at WestEd in the Resilient and Healthy Schools and Communities content area and has experience in diverse roles within large K–12 school districts supporting and guiding the implementation of Restorative Practices programs. As a former high school science teacher and experienced Restorative practitioner, Lan is grounded in the daily realities of school and classroom life and has used that knowledge to guide her work with school and district leaders. She has seen firsthand the transformative potential of effectively implementing Restorative Practices programs on the culture and climate of schools. Lan also has years of experience providing professional development and technical assistance to schools and districts around LGBTQ+ issues in education.
Youth and Young Adult Advisors
Julian Berkowitz-Sklar is a member of the Youth Advisory Team for the California Center for School Climate.
Aisha Bilgrammi is a member of the Youth Advisory Team for the California Center for School Climate.
Jubia Chavez is a member of the Youth Advisory Team for the California Center for School Climate.
Amiya Farias is a member of the Youth Advisory Team for the California Center for School Climate.
Sarah is a Young Adult School Climate Advisor for the California Center for School Climate. She helps to improve school climate by giving insightful young adult perspectives on various topics. Sarah started her interest in school climate through volunteering for high school programs and starting an on-campus club focused on improving social awareness and education for her school’s student body. Currently, she is attending Fullerton College as a STEM honors student, majoring in Biology.
Alexa Southall is a member of the Youth Advisory Team for the California Center for School Climate.
Kieran is a Young Adult School Climate Advisor for the California Center for School Climate. He recently graduated high school and plans on attending Saint Mary’s in Moraga for college where he will be studying business and playing rugby. He loves working as a school climate advisor because he enjoys providing input and options on how we can make school better and more engaging for students and for learning.
Shaun Ali (he/him) serves as a Technical Assistance provider for the California Center for School Climate.
Shaun is a Senior Justice Technical Assistance Specialist with WestEd’s Justice and Prevention Team. Shaun provides technical assistance (TA) for the National Reentry Resource Center funded by the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) as well as for the Center to Improve Social and Emotional Learning and School Safety funded by the U.S. Department of Education. Prior to joining WestEd, Ali supported two Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention (OJJDP) grants focused on youth violence prevention. He was also an integral part of a large-scale transformation effort for justice agencies in one of the largest counties in the country and served as TA coordinator for the U.S. DOJ Bureau of Justice Assistance. Shaun’s areas of expertise include technical assistance; capacity building; strategic planning; and project management around violence prevention and intervention, school safety, reentry, and alternatives to incarceration.
BethAnn Berliner (she/her) serves as a Senior Advisor for the California Center for School Climate.
BethAnn is a Senior Researcher and Project Director in the Research-Practice Partnerships content area at WestEd as well as partnership lead with the Regional Educational Laboratory West. BethAnn has extensive experience working across education, health, justice, and social service sectors to improve student academic and well-being outcomes, focusing on the whole person. She leads policy and applied research studies and provides coaching and technical support to communities and schools using evidence to strengthen student support interventions. As a national leader in the areas of highly mobile and unhoused students, students who are English learners and newcomers, students in foster care, chronically absent students, and students who dropped out, her published work has been widely cited, influencing federal and state policy and local practice.
Tom Hanson (he/him) serves as a Senior Advisor for the California Center for School Climate.
Tom is a Senior Managing Director at WestEd. He has extensive experience in developing and validating survey instruments designed to measure school climate and other outcomes. He is the Director of the California School Climate, Health, & Learning Survey (CalSCHLS), a comprehensive youth risk-behavior and resilience data-collection service available to all California local education agencies. He has served as a principal investigator of multiple large-scale randomized controlled trials and has been lead methodologist for several studies examining the impacts of education interventions.
Tran Keys (she/her) serves as a Senior Advisor for the California Center for School Climate.
Tran is a Senior Research Associate with the Region 15 Comprehensive Center (R15CC) and the Regional Educational Laboratory West (REL West) at WestEd. With REL West, she supports the development and dissemination of research-based, user-friendly products and events that aid policymakers and practitioners in understanding research that informs decision-making and education practices. Within both R15CC and REL West, Tran provides analytic technical assistance and coaching to state education agencies and other key stakeholders in myriad state- and region-specific projects, supporting improved education and student outcomes through evidence-based research. She has extensive experience as a professional development provider for district and state leaders and more than 20 years of experience working with school districts and educational organizations.
Maria Paredes (she/her) serves as a Technical Assistance Provider for the California Center for School Climate.
Maria is a Senior Engagement Manager at WestEd in the Quality Schools and Districts content area. Maria developed the Academic Parent Teacher Teams (APTT), a strengths-based model of family engagement designed to strengthen the capacity of teachers and families and transform family participation in their children’s education. This model has been adopted by over 2,000 schools in 26 states and has been the subject of multiple studies asserting the positive outcomes for students, families, and schools. She has partnered with state departments, districts, and schools to support program development, professional learning, and integration of effective family engagement practices into all areas of school improvement. Her areas of expertise include family and community engagement; organizational development; needs assessments; and design of high-impact family engagement programs for state departments, districts, and schools.
Christina Pate (she/her) serves as a Technical Assistance Provider for the California Center for School Climate.
Christina is Deputy Director of the U.S. Department of Education’s Center to Improve Social and Emotional Learning and School Safety and the Director of the Equity Accelerator funded by the Bechtel Family Foundation. She previously served as the Technical Assistance Lead for the National Institute of Justice’s Comprehensive School Safety Initiative in Atlanta Public Schools and was a Project Director and TA Liaison for SAMHSA’s Project AWARE at the Now is the Time TA Center. Christina has extensive experience in education, public health, wellness services, and service systems and brings a range of expertise in strategic planning, systems thinking, social–emotional development and mental health, educator well-being, leadership and collaboration, and organizational climate and culture.
Natalie Walrond (she/her) serves as a Senior Advisor for the California Center for School Climate.
Natalie serves as the director for the Resilient and Healthy Schools and Communities content area at WestEd. She also serves as Director of the national Center to Improve Social and Emotional Learning and School Safety housed at WestEd. The Center works nationally to build state and local capacity to integrate evidence-based approaches to social and emotional development and school safety with academic teaching and learning, school climate, and all the ways that children and youth experience school. Natalie speaks and writes on social and emotional well-being, education excellence, alignment and coherence, and equity. Natalie brings to her work over 25 years of experience in K–12 education, finance, and strategy, for both for-profit and nonprofit organizations.