Meet the Staff
Dr. Anthony Recasner, CEO
A native of New Orleans, Dr. Anthony “Tony” Recasner took over the helm of Agenda for Children in January 2011 after almost twenty years of working to reform public education in New Orleans. Tony is co-founder of FirstLine Schools, a charter school management organization which opened the city’s first charter school (New Orleans Charter Middle School) and now operates five charter schools. Tony’s work has consistently demonstrated how to educate disadvantaged children by challenging and engaging them academically, while effectively addressing their social and emotional needs. In January 2009 at President George W. Bush’s farewell address to the nation, Tony was recognized by the President for his work and for serving as an example of heroism for all Americans. Tony is chairman of the board of the Greater New Orleans Foundation and serves on the board of Children’s Hospital of Louisiana and the Louisiana Children’s Cabinet Advisory Board. Tony has a Master’s and Doctorate in School Psychology from Tulane University and a Bachelor’s degree in Psychology from Loyola University New Orleans.
Karri Kerns, Director of Early Care & Education
Originally from Iowa, Karri moved to New Orleans one year ago and joined the Agenda for Children team in 2012 to lead the organization’s Child Care Resource and Referral division. Karri has more than 20 years of experience in increasingly responsible roles within the child care sectors in Nevada, Iowa and Maryland. Karri has worked as a pre-K teacher, center director, Head Start program manager, and regional manager for a corporate childcare company. Prior to moving to New Orleans, Karri was the administrator of the Child Development Laboratory School at Iowa State University and under her leadership, the Lab School earned NAEYC accreditation, five stars under Iowa’s Quality Rating System and was honored by NAEYC as one of ten programs across the nation demonstrating excellence in “Engaging Diverse Families.” She is also an adjunct faculty member at Tulane University. Karri holds a Master’s in Child Development from Iowa State University, and is a Level III Pathways certified trainer.
Catherine Robin, Director of Kindergarten Readiness and K-12 Programs
A native of New Orleans, Catherine is one of most recent additions to the Agenda for Children team. Catherine brings an extensive background in early childhood from her direct experience as an educator, Early Childhood Specialist, and most recently, as Program Manager for Total Community Action’s Head Start at Mahalia Jackson Center. In addition, Catherine has served as an Adjunct Faculty member at Delgado Community College, and holds a Master’s of Education in Curriculum and Instruction and a BA in Elementary Education. She is certified to teach nursery through 8th grade. Catherine is the Vice President of Job Corps Community Relations Council, serves on the Advisory Committee for OPEN, and is a member of the Head Start Association.
Donna Cavato, Director of Development & Strategic Partnerships
Originally from Chicago, Donna moved to New Orleans and has called it home since 2000. With over 20 years of experience in the non-profit sector in Chicago and New Orleans, Donna was the Executive Director of Communities In Schools of New Orleans and Founding Director of Edible Schoolyard New Orleans, a comprehensive, hands-on food education program at FirstLine Schools. Donna joined the Agenda for Children team in 2012, co-chaired the New Orleans Food Policy Advisory Committee on Cafeteria Reform, and is on the advisory council for Grow Dat Youth Farm. Donna holds a Master’s in Urban Planning and Public Policy from the University of Illinois at Chicago.
Lisa Cooks, Business Manager
A native of New Orleans, Lisa joined Agenda for Children in 1999 and has overseen finance and business management of the organization since that time. Lisa’s expertise includes fiscal grants management and she previously served on the Children’s Service Collaborative in New Orleans. Lisa is pursuing a Bachelor’s degree in Organizational Management from Our Lady of Holy Cross College.
Tasha Landry, Business Office Assistant
Originally from New Orleans, Tasha is the organization’s Business Office Assistant with over 16 years of service to Agenda for Children. In addition, Tasha plays an active volunteer role for the following organizations: Family & Friends of Louisiana’s Incarcerated Children, Pyramid Parent Training Center, and Central City Renaissance Alliance.
Teresa Falgoust, KIDS COUNT Program Coordinator
Born and raised in the New Orleans area, Teresa has held the KIDS Count Program Coordinator position since 2005. Teresa brings expertise in accessing and using data on child well-being in Louisiana, including data on economic security, education, early education, juvenile justice, health and child welfare. Teresa can assist individuals and organizations in identifying what data is available and appropriate for supporting policy arguments, grant proposals and community needs assessments. Teresa has her Bachelor’s in Political Studies from Bard College.
Tara McDonald, Early Childhood Literacy Coordinator
Originally from Atlanta, Tara joined Teach for America and was a founding kindergarten teacher at Akili Academy, and a founding Kindergarten teacher at KIPP Believe Primary in New Orleans. Tara joined the Agenda for Children team in July, 2012 as the Early Childhood Literacy Coordinator, and is thrilled to be pursuing her passion to spread a love of literacy and learning to more children in New Orleans. Tara has a BA in International Affairs and Human Services from the George Washington University, and is a member of the Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Young Leadership Council (YLC) and the Sirens of New Orleans.
Bridge to Quality Team
Glenda Bennett, Bridge to Quality, Technical Assistance Coach
Glenda joined the organization in 2011 and has over twenty one years of experience in the early childhood education field. In her tenure as an early childhood professional, Glenda has held several leadership positions with increasing levels of responsibility and programmatic oversight. She has worked in such diverse locations as Germany, Texas, Alabama, Kentucky and most recently in Robert and New Orleans, Louisiana. Most recently, she has served as Assistant Director at the Stennis Child Development Center, and Director of the Child Enrichment Center in Kentucky. Glenda recently received her Master’s degree in Early Childhood Education from Concordia University in St. Paul, Minnesota.
JoAnn Clarey, Bridge to Quality, Technical Assistance Coach
Having joined the Agenda for Children staff in 2011, JoAnn brings over 25 years experience in early childhood with previous positions including Director of the Children’s Center at Loyola University and Delgado Community College, Adjunct Faculty member in Early Childhood Education at Delgado College and Project Coordinator for LSUHSC’s Child Care Technical Assistance Pilot Project. An accomplished educator and trainer, Joann is a Louisiana Pathways Certified Child Care Specialist Trainer and holds a Master’s of Education in Curriculum and Instruction with specialization in Early Childhood from the University of New Orleans.
Beverly Splane, Bridge to Quality, Program Coordinator
Beverly joined the Agenda for Children team in 2011 and brings a wealth of experiences and skills from her professional tenure of nearly four decades ranging from extensive non-profit project and grants management work to business and governmental positions. Previous positions held include Executive Vice President and Chief Operating Officer for the Chicago Mercantile Exchange, Staff Assistant to President Gerald R. Ford in the White House and Manager of Special Careers at Harvard Business School. Beverly holds an MBA degree in Finance & Economics from the University of Chicago.
Child Care Resource and Referral Team, Region 1, New Orleans
Racquel Hayes McKay, Child Care Resource and Referral, Assistant Director
A native of New Orleans, Racquel joined the Agenda for Children team in 2009 and has experience as an Early Head Start Caregiver, Preschool Teacher and Family Service Worker. In addition to her role as CCR&R Assistant Director, Raquel is a Level II Pathways certified trainer and also provides technical assistance in early childhood programs. Racquel holds a BA in Child Development from Texas Woman’s University and an AA in Early Childhood Education from Delgado Community College. Racquel is an active board member of the Greater New Orleans AEYC, is a certified Family Life Educator through the National Council on Family Relations and participates in the Franklin Avenue Baptist Church Worship Service Child Care Ministry.
Dr. Bridget Rey, Child Care Resource and Referral, Program Coordinator/Resource and Referral Specialist
A New Orleans native, Bridget comes to Agenda with extensive experience as a school psychologist in Orleans Parish Public Schools and the Recovery School District. Prior to assuming the role of Parent Referral Specialist, Bridget interned with Quality Care for Children, a Child Care Resource and Referral agency in Atlanta. She loves working with parents of young children to emphasize the importance of laying a strong educational foundation for their children. Bridget holds a bachelor’s degree in psychology from Xavier University, an M.A. and Specialist in Education from the University of Minnesota, and a Ph. D. in Special Education from Southern University and A & M College in Baton Rouge, Louisiana.
Olayeela Daste, Child Care Resource and Referral, Referral Program Assistant/Receptionist
Although she was born in Brooklyn, New York, Olayeela has called New Orleans home since she was a toddler. As one of the longest serving Agenda for Children staff members, Olayeela has extensive experience working in the early childhood field as a trainer, educator and resource for child care centers and families. Olayeela is pursuing her Bachelor’s degree from Roger Williams University in Rhode Island, as part of the Ashé Cultural Arts Center Unbound program. Olayeela is an active and beloved oral historian and storyteller with multiple organizations, faculty of the Institute of Cultural Education and founding member of the UMOJA Committee Inc. and its annual event, Celebration of the African-American Child.
Kathleen S. Lee, Child Care Resource and Referral, Technical Assistant/Trainer
A native New Orleanian, Kathleen has over 25 years of experience in the field of Early Childhood Education. Prior to joining Agenda for Children in 1996, she was the Director of St. Mark’s Child Care Center and Director of Emergency Child Care for United Urban Ministry Program. She also assisted in opening the first child care center on a high school campus in New Orleans, where she later served as the Director. Kathleen has also served as a board member for 10 years for the Hume’s Child Development Centers and for the past 20 years has served as the chairperson of the volunteers for the Greater New Orleans Association for the Education of the Young Child Conference. Kathleen has her Associate’s Degree in Early Childhood and is a Level I Pathways certified trainer.
Michelle S. Banks, Child Care Resource and Referral, Technical Assistant/Trainer
Originally from California, Michelle moved to New Orleans and joined the Agenda for Children team in 2011. Prior to her current position, Michelle was the Child Care Site Director for Rainbow Rising School Age Care in Irvine California and has several years of experience as a Head Start Preschool Lead Teacher and Early Head Start Education Specialist. Michelle has a Bachelor’s degree from California State University with a major in Psychology and minor in Child Development and has completed the Multiple Subject Credential coursework in Elementary Education at Chapman University. Michelle is currently pursuing a Master’s in Education in Early Childhood Education and is a Level II Pathways certified trainer.
Kenya C. Harris, Child Care Resource and Referral, Program Assistant
Originally from New Orleans, Kenya began with Agenda for Children as a receptionist in 2006. She is now the Program Assistant in New Orleans. Kenya is an integral part of the technical assistance team and is responsible for scheduling coach’s visits to early education programs, maintaining databases and ensuring the program’s compliance with grant requirements. She is proud to be part of the Agenda team because it allows her to support the growth and development of Louisiana's children in the early stages of their lives through the quality of care children and families receive. Kenya is currently pursuing a Child Development Associate credential.
Child Care Resource and Referral Team, Region 3: Northshore/Mandeville
Misty Brown, Child Care Resource and Referral, Region 3 Coordinator
A native of Slidell, Louisiana, Misty joined the Agenda for Children team in 2011 and has over twenty years experience in early care and education. Previous positions include Director of Wee Wisdom Learning Center and Lead Teacher at Regina Coeli Head Start. Misty has an Associate’s degree in Early Childhood and is currently pursuing a Bachelor’s degree in Family and Consumer Sciences from Northwestern State University. Misty is also an advisory board member for the Louisiana Technical Community College and is a Level I Pathways certified trainer.
Donell Dominique, Child Care Resource and Referral, Technical Assistant/Trainer
While Donell joined the Agenda for Children team as a full-time member in 2011, she has been a trainer with the organization’s Positive Steps program for over ten years. Donell brings ten years of experience running a family child care center and was the Vice President of the New Orleans Family Child Care Association. Donell is pursuing an Associate’s degree in Child Development from Nunez College and holds a Bachelor’s in Counseling from Trinity Christian University. Donell is a Level I Pathways certified trainer.
Emily Trout Garrett, Child Care Resource and Referral, Program Assistant
Originally from California, Emily’s lived in New Orleans for 13 years and joined Agenda for Children in 2012. Prior to that, Emily worked for 5 years at Wee Wisdom Learning Centers as the Office Coordinator. Emily has an Associate’s degree in Graphic Design from Delgado Community College and has several years of experience working as a freelance graphic designer.
Child Care Resource and Referral Team, Region 4: Houma/Thibodaux
Dianna Constant, Child Care Resource and Referral, Region 4 Coordinator
A long-time resident of Thibodaux, Louisiana, Dianna has been part of the Agenda for Children team since 1990. Dianna has over forty years experience in early childhood education. She spent twenty years directing and operating her own child care center and has more than two decades of experience as a trainer and technical assistance advisor for early childhood programs. Dianna holds a Bachelor’s degree in Sociology/Youth and Family Services from Nichols State University and is a Level II Pathways certified trainer. Dianna serves on the board of United Way of St. Charles and volunteers with the Bayou Land Families Helping Families.
Abigail Iron Rope, Child Care Resource and Referral, Technical Assistant/Trainer
Originally from Lacombe, Louisiana, Abigail joined Agenda for Children in 2012 and has 8 years of experience working in the field of early childhood education. She began her professional work as an infant/toddler teacher and then was promoted to become a center director and systems coach for a large corporation. Abigail was also employed as a regional director for a privately owned child care company in Louisiana. Abigail has an Associate’s degree in Psychology from Salt Lake City Community College and also a Child Development Associate credential. She is a Level I Pathways certified trainer and is pursuing a Bachelor’s degree in Child Development.
DeNeil Brown, Child Care Resource and Referral, Program Assistant
Originally from Los Angeles, California, DeNeil has lived in Houma for the past 28 years. DeNeil joined the Agenda for Children team in 2011. DeNeil is pursuing a Bachelor's degree in Child and Family Development from the American Military University. DeNeil is on the Board of KIM’s Playhouse and Discovery Museum, owner of Zoo-ba-Loo Indoor Playground, editor/publisher of Macaroni Kids Houma and serves on the board of the Women’s Business Alliance in Houma.
Brandi Joshua, Technical Assistant / Trainer
A native of St. James Parish, Brandi has resided in Thibodaux since 2008. She has over nine years of early childhood experience as a lead teacher and child care center director. Prior to joining the Agenda team in 2012, she served as the Director at Moses Child Care Center and previously worked as a Lead Teacher at St. James Head Start. Brandi holds an Associate’s Degree in Child Development and Preschool Management from Nicholls State University, and volunteers as a Court Appointed Special Advocate (CASA) in Lafourche Parish.
Positive Steps Team
Diane Zimmerer, Positive Steps, Program Coordinator
Diane moved to New Orleans from Durango, Colorado in 2012. Her most recent positions in the early education sector include Quality Initiatives Coordinator of the Early Childhood Council of La Plata County and the Director & Teacher at the Early Childhood Enrichment Center in Colorado. Diane has a Bachelor’s degree in Human Development and Family Studies with an emphasis in infant, child and adolescent development. She also has an AMS Infant & Toddler Montessori Teaching Credential, a Zero to Three Cradling Literacy Training Certificate and is a Level II Pathways certified trainer.
Miss McKinnie, Positive Steps, Program Assistant
A native of New Orleans, Miss joined the Agenda for Children team in 2007. Miss is pursuing her Bachelor's degree in Psychology with a minor in Sociology from the University of New Orleans. Her son has inspired her to become more involved, knowledgeable and educated in early childhood development and education.