Agenda for Children

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 serves on the boards of LCMC Health, Children's Hospital, New Pathways New Orleans, Louisiana Outdoor Outreach Program (LOOP), and the GPOA Foundation. He also serves on the Louisiana Health Care Commission and is a member of the Louisiana Early Childhood Care and Education Advisory Council. Tony is a past board chair of the Institute of Mental Hygiene and the Greater New Orleans Foundation and he has served on the boards of the Bureau of Governmental Research and Baptist Community Ministries.

Tony is an Aspen Institute Fellow (Pahara-Aspen Education Fellowship) and an Annie E. Casey Foundation Fellow (Leadership Institute for State-Based Advocates). In 2015, Tony received the Scott Cowen Service Award from the Tulane University Alumni Association. In 2016, he received the Loyola University Alumni Association’s Adjutor Hominum Award. Tony has also been recognized by the National Council for Jewish Women, the Bureau of Governmental Research, the Orleans Public Education Network, and the Posse Foundation for his contributions to public education in New Orleans.

Tony has a master’s degree and doctorate in School Psychology from Tulane University and a bachelor’s degree in Psychology from Loyola University New Orleans.

 

Jennifer Roberts
President
Executive Director, New Orleans Early Education Network

Jen Roberts is a seasoned nonprofit executive that has more than 20 years of experience in education, nonprofit organizations, and philanthropy.

She currently serves as the President of Agenda for Children, an advocacy organization founded in 1984 to improve the well-being of Louisiana’s children. In this role, she also serves as the Executive Director of the New Orleans Early Education Network (NOEEN), a public/private partnership created by local early childhood practitioners, New Orleans Public Schools, and the LA Department of Education to increase access to early childhood education, improve the quality of early learning experiences for young children, and connect organizations who work with and on the behalf of young children to resources in Orleans Parish.

Jen previously spent eight years in philanthropy at Louisiana’s largest private philanthropic foundation. She worked with local and national funders to leverage over $100 million dollars of new investment into New Orleans for local nonprofits working with or on behalf of children and youth and co-founded a local/national funder collaborative. Her career has also included work in an education policy start-up, higher education, workforce development, k-12 education classrooms and administration, and youth development programming.

She served on the national Leadership Council for the Aspen Institute’s Forum for Community Solutions Opportunity Youth Incentive Fund, was an inaugural fellow of the Southeastern Council of Foundation’s Advanced Leadership Institute, and was a member of the 2015 New Orleans Regional Leadership Institute class. In 2019, she was named an Aspen Institute Economic Opportunities Fellow focusing on racial equity in the New Orleans workforce and founded two new ventures, the Early Childhood Opportunity (ECHO) Fund, a grantmaking program for early learning centers across Southeast Louisiana, and the New Orleans Early Education Research Alliance with faculty from Tulane University.

She currently serves on the State’s Early Childhood Care and Education Advisory Council and is on the boards of The Cowen Institute at Tulane University and BGR, an 85+ year-old private, nonprofit, independent research organization. A native of the Gulf Coast, she earned a Bachelor’s degree in Urban Studies from Bryn Mawr College and a Master’s degree in Education Policy and Management from Harvard University. She has called New Orleans home since 2002.

 

Anna E. Williamson
Managing Director, Center for Early Childhood Programs and Professional Development

Anna brings to the Agenda team fifteen years of experience working in education and education reform. Most recently, Anna was a school administrator and Assessment Coordinator at a large early childhood program in Houston, Texas. Prior to Houston, Anna lived in Washington, DC and was the Associate Director, Stewardship and Engagement at The CityBridge Foundation, a private family foundation that marshaled intellectual, financial, and social capital to help build a high performing public education system in the District of Columbia. In this role she educated and engaged business leaders, philanthropists and community members in the District of Columbia’s education reform efforts. Prior to The Foundation, Anna was Director, Community Development at the national nonprofit First Book, liaising between schools and nonprofits and First Book’s corporate and government partners. Anna completed her M.A. in Early Childhood Special Education and Human Development at The George Washington University in 2013, and currently serves on Mayor Cantrell's Re-Opening New Orleans COVID-19 Community Services Working Group, and is a Pritzker Fellow representing Agenda for Children's work in early childhood education research, policy and practice. 

Aimee Grainer
Managing Director, NOEEN

Aimee Grainer was born in New Orleans and raised in Austin, Texas, along with her three siblings.
Upon returning to the city of her birth in 2011, Aimee began her career as a leader in public education, working first for the Recovery School District, and later for the Orleans Parish School Board. In addition to being an advocate for educational equity, transparency, and accountability, Aimee enjoys time spent outdoors at Audubon and City Parks, reading, letter-writing, and serving the local homeless community. 

 

Analiezel Hall
Early Care and Education Specialist and Region 3 Coordinator

A native of the Philippines, Analiezel lived in Asia until her family relocated to Louisiana during her senior year of high school. Analiezel’s early aspirations to become an educator developed into a strong desire to help disadvantaged children by providing compensatory education or academic development to ensure their success. She has over twenty years of experience in Elementary and Early Childhood Education. She is a former St. Tammany public school and Head Start teacher, an assessor for Louisiana’s Quality Rating System, and a Head Start Pre-K Specialist. Analiezel holds a bachelor’s degree in Elementary Education from the University of New Orleans and is currently pursuing a master’s degree in Curriculum and Instruction.

Certifications include: Certified Reliable CLASS Observer (Infant, Toddler, Pre-K), Certified MMCI Pre-K Instructor, Inter-Rater Reliable in GOLD by Teaching Strategies, Louisiana Pathways Trainer Level III, CDA PD Specialist.

 

Angelique Thomas
Director of Early Childhood Programs

Originally from New Orleans, Dr. Angelique Thomas joined Agenda’s team in 2021. She has more than 13 years’ experience working on behalf of children and families. Dr. Thomas previously worked for NOLA Public Schools, where she helped coordinate early childhood enrollment and student access for Orleans Parish. She is also an active member of St. James Major Guild. Dr. Thomas holds a bachelor’s degree in Psychology, a master’s in Educational Leadership and Doctorate in Education from Clark Atlanta University.  

 

Ashley Plaisance
Coordinator, Early Childhood Programs and Partnerships

Born and raised in Patterson, Louisiana, Ashley joined the Agenda team in 2015 as the Program Assistant/Technical Assistant. Ashley has experience as an early childhood teacher, as well as extensive experience working as an administrative assistant. Ashley holds a bachelor's degree in Psychology, with a minor in child and family studies from the University of Louisiana at Lafayette.

 

Brandi Joshua
Early Care and Education Specialist

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 the 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. Brandi also has a bachelor's degree in Interdisciplinary Studies with a minor in Social Science from Nicholls State.

 
Certifications include: Certified Reliable CLASS Observer (Infant, Toddler and Pre-K), CLASS Affiliate Trainer (Infant, Pre K) , Certified MMCI Pre-K Instructor, Inter-Rater Reliable in GOLD by Teaching Strategies, Louisiana Pathways Trainer Level II

 

Caitlin Boley
Program Manager, New Orleans Early Education Network

Caitlin was born and raised in Memphis, Tennessee and joined the Agenda team in 2021. Upon moving to New Orleans, Caitlin joined the AmeriCorps program Serve Louisiana, serving at NetWork Volunteers, a volunteer management nonprofit. She then joined NetWork as the Director of Service-Learning and Community Engagement, developing and managing volunteer programs, relationships, and service-learning curriculums. Caitlin is particularly passionate about thoughtful relationship-building, utilizing restorative and trauma-informed practices, and cultivating equitable institutions. She is a graduate of Pace University (NYC) with dual degrees in both Political Science and Philosophy and Religious Studies.

 

Cherrie Barthelemy
Grants Manager & Senior Accountant

Born and raised in New Orleans, Cherrie is happy to return home after living in Washington, DC and Memphis, TN for the last seventeen years.  She has over 20 years of accounting, budgeting and financial management experience, in government, corporate as well as non-profit. Cherrie is excited to be a part of an organization that works to improve the lives of Louisiana’s children and families. Cherrie has a bachelor’s degree in Accounting from Xavier University.

 

Danielle Davis
Early Care and Education Specialist

Danielle Davis joined the Agenda team in 2021. Originally from Houma, LA, she currently resides in Gray, LA. Danielle has over 18 years of experience in early childhood education. Prior to joining the team at Agenda, she served as a Center Director at St. Lucy Child Development Center for 9 years and a lead teacher at the Head Start Program Terrebonne Parish for 7 years. Danielle has an associate of arts degree from Delgado Community College and recent graduate of LELA. She serves as a Professional Development Specialist with The Council for Professional Development.

Certifications: CLASS Reliable Observer- Toddler & Pre-K, InterRater Reliable for TS Gold, Louisiana Pathways Trainer, American Red Cross CPR/FIRST AID/AED instructor, Technical Competency in First Responder and Administrator Certification from Louisiana pathways

 

Denea Laffoon
Early Care and Education Specialist

Born and raised in Inglewood, California, Denea has over a decade of experience teaching infants, toddlers and preschoolers in California, Nevada and New Orleans. In her previous position, she was promoted from an infant and toddler teacher to Education Coordinator, which allowed her to serve as a peer coach for the infant and toddler staff at a Type III early learning center. She also participated in the MyTeachingPartner (MTP) program, through which she provided teachers 

Certifications include: Certified Reliable CLASS Observer (Infant, Toddler, Pre-K), MTP Coach, Certified Infant/Toddler MMCI Instructor, Family Engagement Credentialed Administrator, Inter-Rater Reliable by Teaching Strategies GOLD, Louisiana Pathways Trainer Level Iwith intensive, personalized CLASS coaching and support. She holds an associate's degree in Early Childhood Education from Santa Monica College.

 

Derrick Toups
Assistant Director, Continuing Education & Professional Development

Originally from Houma, Louisiana, Derrick joined Agenda’s team in 2021. Over the past decade, Derrick has taught two, three, and four year olds, third grade, and adult learners in addition to serving as an early childhood center director and adjunct faculty for the Care and Development of Young Children programs at local community colleges. Derrick serves on the board of directors for the Louisiana Early Childhood Association, on the advisory council for the Louisiana Association for the Education of Young Children, on the Louisiana Early Learning and Development Standards Review Committee, and as affiliate faculty for the Early Childhood Education Institute at LSU. He is also a proud volunteer coach for The Miracle League of Greater New Orleans. Derrick holds a B.A. in English and international development from Tulane, an M.Ed. in elementary education from Notre Dame, and a certificate in early childhood education from UCLA. He is currently completing his certificate in early education leadership from the Harvard Graduate School of Education, holds the National Administrator's Credential, and is a certified Louisiana Pathways trainer.

 

Dianna Constant
Early Care and Education Specialist, Region 4 Coordinator, Intervention Specialist

A long-time resident of Thibodaux, Louisiana, Dianna has been part of Agenda's team since 1990. She has over forty years of 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. She serves on the board of United Way of St. Charles and is actively involved with the Parish Networks in New Orleans and Houma supporting interaction improvements in Early Child Care Center and has served on the Child Care Health Care Consultant board since 2000. Dianna holds a bachelor’s degree in Sociology/Youth and Family Services from Nichols State University.

Certifications include: Certified Reliable CLASS Observer (Infant, Toddler, Pre-K), CLASS Affiliate Trainer (Pre K), Inter-Rater Reliable in GOLD by Teaching Strategies, Child Care Health Consultant, Louisiana Pathways Trainer Level II, Well-Ahead's Early Childhood Outdoor Learning Environment Trainer, Physical Activity Learning (PALS), and CDA PD Specialist.

 

Elizabeth Kief
Director, Continuing Education & Professional Development

A native of Long Island, New York, Elizabeth "Luz" Kief has more than 30 years of experience in the Early Care and Education field. She has direct teaching experience in full inclusion preschool and self-contained early childhood special education classrooms. While working in a regional CCR&R in southwest Florida, Luz held positions as a Resource and Referral Specialist, Infant/Toddler Specialist, Program Coordinator, and Assistant Education Director where she was responsible for supervision of directly operated early care and education sites and the development, provision, and facilitation of both community and regional training and technical assistance activities. Elizabeth has a bachelor’s degree in Early Childhood Education and has taken graduate level coursework in early childhood special education and general special education.

Certifications include: Certified CLASS Observer (Infant, Toddler, Pre K), Affiliate CLASS Trainer (Toddler, Pre K), Inter-rater Reliable in GOLD,Teaching Strategies APT trainer for GOLD, Louisiana Pathways Trainer Level II. 

 

Gabrielle Izzo
Coordinator of Early Chilldhood Program Quality 

Gabrielle "Gabby" Izzo is from Boston, MA and has called New Orleans home for the past 10 years. A strong advocate of early childhood education, she believes in supporting our teachers to learn and understand the importance of education for children birth to five. In her role, she ensures all of Orleans Parish CLASS observations are completed and held at high quality standard. She has earned Preschool and Toddler CDAs, a Louisiana Ancillary Certificate and is currently in her second year at Ashford University where she will obtain her bachelor’s degree in Early Childhood Development.

Certifications include: Certified Reliable CLASS Observer (Infant, Toddler and Pre-K), CLASS Affiliate Trainer (Infant, Pre K), MTP Coach, Certified MMCI Pre-K Instructor, Inter-Tater Reliable in GOLD by Teaching Strategies, Louisiana Pathways Trainer Level I

 

Jackie Rodriguez
Manager, Professional Development

Jackie is a New Orleans native, but has lived in several different states and abroad during her military travels. She has over 20 years of experience in early childhood with Head Start, military child development centers, and private child care providers. Her many roles have included a New Parent Support Specialist for the Naval Support Activity in New Orleans and the Training & Curriculum Specialist for a military child development center. Jackie has a degree in Early Childhood Education from Irvine Valley College, CA, a bachelor’s degree in Sociology/Psychology from Loyola University in New Orleans, as well as a master’s degree in Early Childhood Studies from Walden University.

Certifications include: Certified Reliable CLASS Observer (Infant, Toddler and Pre-K), CLASS Infant and Toddler Trainer, Certified Infant/Toddler MMCI Instructor, Inter-Rater Reliable for TS GOLD, Louisiana Pathways Trainer Level III

 

Jessica Harris
Program Manager, NOEEN City Seats

Born and raised in New Orleans, Louisiana, Jessica joined the Agenda team in 2017. She has over sixteen years of experience teaching Early Childhood Education in Texas, Alabama, and New Orleans and twelve years of experience working in Early Head Start as a lead teacher and education supervisor. She has an associate’s degree in Early Childhood Education from Delgado Community College and a bachelor’s degree in Child Development and Family Studies from Southern University at New Orleans.

Certifications include: Certified Reliable CLASS Observer (Infant, Toddler and Pre-K), Inter-Rater Reliable for TS GOLD, Louisiana Pathways Trainer Level II

 

Joette Timmerman
Early Care and Education Specialist

A native of Louisiana, Joette was born and raised in Destrehan, Louisiana. She has over 20 years in early childhood education. After Hurricane Katrina Joette and her family moved to Texas where she was a Pre-k Lead Teacher in Conroe, Texas for 10 years. In 2015 she and her family moved back to her hometown and became a Certified Reliable Observer for Toddler CLASS and Pre-K CLASS and has observed in St. Tammany, Livingston, Tangipahoa and Orleans Parishes. She has also worked as an Enrichment Teacher at a homeschool center in Mandeville. Joette serves at her church as a Sunday School Teacher in New Orleans and is also a volunteer for St. Joseph’s Hospice. She also enjoys calligraphy, art and writing children’s books, one that she has shared with her previous school in Texas.

 Certifications include: Certified Reliable CLASS Observer (Infant, Toddler and Pre-K), Inter-Rater Reliable in GOLD by Teaching Strategies, Louisiana Pathways Trainer I, Go Napsacc Consultant

Kenneth Francis
Policy Fellow

A native of Brooklyn, NY, Kenny first came to New Orleans for what he thought would be a two-year adventure as a Teach for America corps member, teaching Kindergarten. However, like many before him, the incredible people and specifically the children of New Orleans became a part of his soul. After his corps service ended, he remained in the city and continued on as an early childhood educator teaching Kindergarten and Pre-kindergarten at several schools across the city. These experiences taught him the paramount importance that a child’s early educational experience plays not just in their academic development, but life outcomes. Most recently, he was the Director of School Support and Improvement for the Orleans Parish School Board working to increase access to resources and build equity in our public school system. Kenny enjoys indulging in all of the great music and delectable food New Orleans has to offer and can also be found hosting “Resistance Radio New Orleans” a radio show and podcast that centers on New Orleans and Louisiana state politics. Kenny has his bachelor's degree in History from the University of Virginia.

 

Kenya Harris
Coordinator Of Professional Development

Originally from the New Orleans area, Kenya began with Agenda for Children in 2006 as the bookkeeper and receptionist - later repositioning as the Program Administrative Assistant in the New Orleans region. Kenya is an integral part of the Training Department team in her current role as Training Coordinator as well as providing support for Technical Assistance and Resources & Referrals. 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 maintains a Child Development Associate credential to continue to engage in the efforts for quality care and education within the early childhood sector. 

 

Kiara Oyola
Community Liaison & Special Projects Assistant

Originally from Boston, Kiara joined Agenda for Children in 2021. She has more than 2 years of experience working on behalf of children and families. Kiara previously worked for the Bard Early College New Orleans as the Student Activities Coordinator, where she facilitated many events (such as Matriculation, the Fall Showcase, Bard Gatherings, Commencement, etc.), clubs, organizations as well as provided resources for the community. She also had the pleasure of serving on the school's Student Services Team and Professional Development Committee.

Kiara is also an active community member in New Orleans and has served the local community through SBP via AmeriCorps by doing disaster recovery work. Kiara holds a bachelor's degree in Psychology from Loyola University New Orleans.

 

Kiara Winters
Staff Accountant

Born and raised in New Orleans, Kiara joined Agenda in 2021. Kiara has seven years of accounting and administrative experience in education and health care. Prior to joining the Agenda team, she worked as a Financial specialist at a Federally Qualified Health Center and previously worked as a Staff Accountant at an organization that provided financial support to charter schools across Louisiana and an Accounting Clerk at Jefferson Parish Public Schools. Kiara is very passionate about the wellbeing of Louisiana’s children and families and is excited to join the organization. She holds an Associate of Applied Science in Accounting and a Bachelor of Science in Accounting and is an active member of the Association of Certified Fraud Examiners and the Institute of Internal Auditors.

She is a Certified Fraud Examiner.

 

Mellisa Wetzel
Early Care and Education Specialist

Born and raised in the New Orleans area, Melissa originally joined Agenda's team in 2014 as an Intern. She has come full circle and rejoined Agenda's team in 2021. She has more than 10 years experience working on behalf of children and families. Melissa previously worked for Boys Town Early Head Start partnership as an Education and Disabilities Coordinator where she provided professional development, coaching, CLASS observations, and support for families with children with disabilities. She also previously worked in the state's Early Intervention system, Early Steps, as a Family Service Coordinator, where she guided parents through the Early Steps process of receiving therapy to help their child develop in their communication, cognitive, physical, adaptive, and social skills. Melissa has also worked in several Infant, Toddler, and PreK classrooms on military bases and in the New Orleans area. Melissa is an active member of Young Catholic Professionals and serves as Director of Operations on the Leadership team. Melissa holds a Master's degree in Human Resource Education & Workforce Development from Louisiana State University. She also holds a Bachelor's degree in Child & Family Studies from Louisiana State University.

Certifications include: Certified Reliable CLASS Observer (Infant and Toddler), Inter Rater reliable in GOLD by Teaching Strategies. Louisiana Pathways Trainer Level III

 

Natalie Reich
Program Coordinator, NOEEN

Natalie is from Arlington, VA, right outside of Washington, DC. She has previously worked with the Urban Institute and the Louisiana Budget Project, and is a strong advocate for equitable social policy. Although she is not a New Orleans native, she has developed a deep love and appreciation for the city and its people. She is proud to be a part of the Agenda team and to be supporting the growth of early childhood care and education in Louisiana. She recently graduated from Tulane University and holds a bachelor's degree in Political Science and Social Policy. 

 

Nicole Cousizan
Vice President, Finance and Administration

A native of Slidell, Nicole "Nikki" Cousizan joined Agenda in October 2019. Nikki has more than fifteen years of experience in nonprofit finance and more than ten years of experience in executive leadership. Prior to Agenda, she was the Chief Financial Officer of a Federally Qualified Health Center in Houston, TX where she was responsible for the financial management of an organization that offered a wide range of healthcare and social services for indigent, under-served and disenfranchised individuals in the greater Houston Area. In 2015 Nikki was selected as a Top 50 Black Health, Medical & Wellness Professional in Houston, TX. Nikki is also actively involved and committed to community service and empowerment. She is a member of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc. Nikki has a Master’s degree in Business Administration from Prairie View A&M, a B.S. in Accounting from the University of Louisiana at Lafayette and, a B.S. in Finance from the University of Louisiana at Lafayette. Nikki has also completed attended the UCLA Anderson School of Management and Johnson & Johnson Health Care Executive Program and Leadership Iberia.

 

Tara Zapp
Director Of Contracts and Strategic Partnerships

Tara is thrilled to call New Orleans home and be part of Louisiana's efforts to bring quality early education to all its residents. She has ten years of experience working with children and family services and is an active volunteer with Planned Parenthood Gulf Coast. Tara has facilitated and managed education, child protection, and disaster management programs for families in Louisiana, New York City, Somalia, Kenya, Uganda, and Bosnia and Herzegovina. She holds a Master’s of Science in Policy and Non Profit Management from The New School University and a Bachelor's degree in Political Science from Drew University. Tara has called New Orleans home since 2013 and is excited to raise her son in the brass capital.

 

Tasha Landry
Operations Assisstant 

Originally from New Orleans, Tasha has supported Agenda’s team for over 16 years. She coordinates payroll, invoice payments, supplies, and office logistics. Tasha is an active volunteer the Family & Friends of Louisiana’s Incarcerated Children, Pyramid Parent Training Center, and Central City Renaissance Alliance.

 

Teresa Falgoust
Co-Director, Judy Watts Center and Director Of Data & Research

Born and raised in the New Orleans area, Teresa joined Agenda's team in 2005. Teresa has 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. She is a Louisiana ACE educator and serves on the Steering Committee of the New Orleans Grade Level Reading Campaign and the PRAMS Advisory Committee. Teresa has her bachelor’s degree in Political Studies from Bard College.

 

Tiffany Wallace
Early Care and Education Specialist

Tiffany is a native of New Orleans and has over 13 years of early childhood experience. Prior to joining the team at Agenda, she worked as a preschool teacher and was promoted to be a Early Childhood Coach. Tiffany holds an associates degree in Art in Early Childhood Education from Delgado Community College and a bachelor's degree from Southern University at New Orleans.

Certifications include: Certified Reliable CLASS Observer (Infant, Toddler, Pre K), Inter-Rater Reliable for TS GOLD, Louisiana Pathways Trainer Level II

 

 


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