RFA has a distinguished board of directors who provide the organization with strategic guidance and fiscal oversight.
James Earl Davis
Chair, Board of Directors
Professor, College of Education
James Earl Davis is a professor in the College of Education at Temple University with primary appointments in higher education and urban education. Professor Davis holds secondary faculty appointments in the Department of African American Studies and the Women Studies Program. He also serves as a senior research associate at the NationalCenter on Fathers and Families, an interdisciplinary policy research center in the Graduate School of Education at the University of Pennsylvania. His research interests focus on urban education policy, sociology of education, equity andaccess to higher education, and gender studies. Specifically, Dr. Davis has investigated the influence of social contextsof learning—including school, family, and community settings—with a concern for how gender and race informstudents’ achievement and engagement outcomes, particularly among young Black men. His work hasappeared in numerous academic journals, including Gender & Society, Urban Education, Educational Researcher,Youth & Society, American Journal of Evaluation, Review of Research in Education, and Race Ethnicity and Education. Dr. Davis earned his B.A. in sociology from Morehouse College in Athens, GA, and his Ph.D. in social policy and evaluation from Cornell University in Ithaca, NY. A former National Academy of Education postdoctoral fellow, Dr.Davis has been a faculty member at the University of Delaware and Cornell University. He has also served as visiting scholar in the Institute for Research on Women and Gender at the University of Michigan. His research and evaluationstudies have been funded by the National Science Foundation, Spencer Foundation, William Penn Foundation, and the U.S. Department of Education. He recently served three years as the interim dean of Temple’s College of Education, and is currently the principal investigator on a National Science Foundation (Research on Gender in Science and Engineering Program) project, STEMing the Tide: Exploring Factors Related to Males of Color Interest, Engagement and Achievement in Mathematics and Science. In 2003, he received the American Evaluation Association (Ethnic Participation in Evaluation) Distinguished Service Award, and in 2010 he received the award for American EducationalResearch Association Distinguished Editorial Service.
Taft & Partners
- Rachel currently works as a communications manager with the Lawrenceville-based strategic communications firm Taft and Partners. Rachel has been working in the communications business most of her life, starting with the school newspaper in Middle School. She progressed to working as a morning news producer for Fox 29 in Philadelphia, with stops along the way at Fox News Channel, 20/20 (ABC News), and MTV News. While working at Fox 29, Rachel filled many roles including writing, guest-booking, and updating the website. She produced a portion of the Emmy-Award-Winning newscast “Good Day Philadelphia” for six years, helping to launch a new early morning show, and improving the ratings in key demographics. Outside of work, Rachel volunteers with the Pancreatic Cancer Action Network’s Philadelphia Affiliate, serving as the chapter’s Social Media Administrator since October 2013. She also volunteers as a social media consultant for Pancreatic Cancer Research America Enterprise (Pancrea.org). Rachel was named to the board of Research for Action in September of 2015, where she serves on the Marketing and Development Committee. She received her passion for education issues from her mother, Linda Katz, founder of Children’s Literacy Initiative.
School District of Philadelphia
- Jesse Gottschalk teaches 4th grade at William Cramp Elementary School in Philadelphia. He is a member of the Philadelphia Federation of Teachers and the Caucus of Working Educators, and he serves on the Community Schools Task Force organized through the Philadelphia Coalition Advocating for Public Schools (PCAPS). Prior to becoming an educator, Jesse served as the Communications Director for the Philadelphia Cross City Campaign for School Reform, a coalition of local community organizing groups working with support from research and advocacy organizations; he also has experience working with students in out-of-school-time settings including afterschool and summer programs. Jesse previously worked at Research for Action as Communications Director through the Philly Fellows program. Jesse received his M.S.Ed in early elementary education from the University of Pennsylvania, and has a bachelor’s degree from Swarthmore College.
Ami Patel Hopkins
Chair, Board Development Committee
Kindergarten Transition Fellow, School District of Philadelphia
Founder, Asha Advisors, LLC
- Ami Patel Hopkins is currently serving as the Kindergarten Transition Fellow for the School District of Philadelphia (SDP). In this role, Ami works closely with the early learning team at the SDP as well as a variety of SDP partner agencies to investigate and create solutions to the infrastructure and operational challenges that hinder successful kindergarten transition. Ami is also the Founder of Asha Advisors, LLC. Prior to this, she was the Vice President of Teaching, Learning and Innovation at the Philadelphia Education Fund (Ed Fund), where she spearheaded the Ed Fund’s efforts to ensure excellent teachers in every classroom–driving to enhance the preparation, support, and networking of teachers across the city. Ami also served as Deputy Education Officer to former Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter in the Mayor’s Office of Education. She has worked on education reform issues at the national level through the Alliance for Excellent Education, served as an AmeriCorps member in Maryland, has done college access work in a Baltimore high school, and taught first grade in inner-city Miami. Ami currently serves as the Chair of the Board Development Committee for Research for Action, is a board member of YESPhilly, is on the Executive Committees of PhillyCORE Leaders and the John Hopkins University MPP Alumni Association and is on the Advisory Board of the Philadelphia Chapter of the Penn State Alumni Association. She earned her Master’s degree in Public Policy with a concentration in Education Policy from Johns Hopkins University and a Bachelor’s degree from the Pennsylvania State University.
- Diane Kim is currently a first-year law student at Temple University’s Beasley School of Law. Diane has been engaged in many facets of education in Philadelphia, including roles as Philadelphia City Councilman David Oh’s Education Director, a Bilingual Special Projects Assistant in the School District of Philadelphia’s Office of of Multilingual Curriculum and Programs, an External Liaison for the School District of Philadelphia’s Charter SChools Office, and most recently, as a Neighborhood Project Manager for the Asian Arts Initiative. Diane received her B.A. in Education Policy and Politics from Mount Holyoke College in 2012.
Stevens & Lee
- Ken Kleinman is a labor and employment partner at the law firm of Stevens & Lee in Philadelphia, representing management. He has been advising clients, litigating cases and negotiating union contracts for 35 years and has been rated highly by his peers, both in legal publications such as Martindale-Hubble and as a PA Super Lawyer since that program’s inception. Ken graduated at the top of his class at Cornell University School of Industrial & Labor Relations before getting his law degree from Harvard Law School and clerking for the Honorable Walter Jay Skinner. He has devoted many volunteer hours as a Board Member and former President of the Board of Action AIDS, as well as for the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society. Ken joined the Research for Action Board in 2015 because of his commitment to education in Philadelphia, inculcated in him by his wife, Debra, a longtime School District of Philadelphia elementary school teacher, who continues to work in elementary education in New Jersey. Ken and Debra have five children and two grandchildren and live in center city Philadelphia.
Chair, Finance Committee
Associate Professor, College of Education
- Christopher McGinley’s perspectives on leadership and learning have been shaped significantly by the roles that he has played as a teacher, school principal, district level administrator and superintendent. He currently serves as coordinator for the Educational Leadership Program at Temple University where he holds the post of associate professor. From 2008 to 2014 he served as the Superintendent of Schools at the Lower Merion School District. He is also the former Executive Director of the Delaware County Intermediate Unit and former Superintendent for the District of Cheltenham Township. For the first 18 years his career, Dr. McGinley served in the School District of Philadelphia. Dr. McGinley’s career in education and advocacy began as a special education teacher. While serving as superintendent in Cheltenham, he partnered with the University of Pennsylvania to form the Delaware Valley Consortium for Equity and Excellence, an organization that now includes more than thirty school districts dedicated to closing the achievement gap. Dr. McGinley earned a Bachelor’s Degree from Temple University in Elementary Education and a Master’s in Special Education from Antioch University. He earned his doctorate in Organizational Leadership at the University of Pennsylvania.
Former Executive Director
Philadelphia Mayor’s Commission on Literacy
Dr. Judith Rényi is widely known as a guest speaker and writer on education policy issues in Philadelphia and nationwide. She was appointed Executive Director of the reconstituted Mayor’s Commission on Literacy by then-Philadelphia Mayor Michael A. Nutter in January 2011, who charged her with focusing the work of the Commission on adult work-readiness for the City’s large, under-educated population. With support from the City of Philadelphia, private and corporate funders, Dr. Rényi has instituted systems to increase quality and access to adult literacy and ESL throughout the city. She established the Philadelphia Adult Literacy Alliance, bringing together all literacy and ESL providers, workforce development professionals, and other partners, for professional development, networking and advocacy. Dr. Rényi has also introduced the first-ever electronic registration and enrollment system for low literate adults in the U.S., and the first-ever cohort-based, interactive online courses are to pilot in early 2014. She is a trusteeof the Community College of Philadelphia and a member of the Board of Directors of Philadelphia Works, Inc. Dr. Rényi has worked at the cutting edge of instructional technology for K-12 and higher education for more than 30 years, first as a Dean at New York University and later Rosemont College, founding Vice President of Academic Affairs and Partnerships for American College of Education, and President and CEO of The NEA Foundation for the Improvement of Education. She also worked in K-12 school reform as the founding Executive Director of what is now called The Philadelphia Education Fund and, on behalf of The Rockefeller Foundation, a national network of urban education reform projects.
Chair, Marketing and Development Committee
- Josh Simeone is the Manager of Communications for the Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority. Overseeing the Authority’s digital initiatives, including the public and internal websites, various social media channels, videos and customer facing interactive elements, Josh has worked to change the way SEPTA communicates with its employees and customers. In addition to his work with SEPTA, Josh serves as a Board Member and the Chair of the Marketing & Communications Committee for the Philadelphia-based organization Research for Action. Previously, Josh worked in journalism with positions at FOX 29, WHYY and various local ABC news affiliates in Minnesota and Colorado.
The Vanguard Group, Inc.
- Marisa Tilghman is a native of West Philadelphia and has proudly served on the RFA board since 2015. Marisa is employed as Associate Counsel at The Vanguard Group, Inc. and previously worked as an Associate at Morgan Lewis and Bockius LLP and as a Senior Associate at PricewaterhouseCoopers LLP. Marisa resides in Bryn Mawr, PA with her husband and three young children. Marisa’s commitment to education stems from being a mother of three and being the daughter of a retired Philadelphia School District educator.