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Elizabeth Evans

Founder + CEO

A former lawyer, Elizabeth has over 25 years of experience in management, strategy, campaign design, coalition building, data-driven policy design, strategic communications, law, and policy. Previously, Elizabeth was Executive Director of the Illinois charter school association for five years, where she established core programs and was the chief architect of the nation’s first comprehensive state charter school law reforms in 2009.


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Paul Toner


A former teacher, lawyer and president of the Cambridge Education Association, Paul recently concluded 8 years as Vice President and President of the 113,000-member Massachusetts Teachers Association, where he put educators at the center of efforts to shape education policy as the state developed its Race to the Top application, educator evaluation, new assessments, and rolled out its Common Core standards. He also helped create the Massachusetts Education Partnership, an innovative labor management community relations organization focused on improving student achievement.


Jamie O’Leary

Chief of Staff

Jamie comes to the VIVA Project with more than five years experience in classroom teaching. Her passion is changing the focus in education toward 21st century skills such as developing interpersonal relationships, critical thinking, and effective use of technology.


Cindy Richards


Cindy Richards is a Pulitzer Prize nominated journalist in Chicago. She has been a writer, columnist and/or editor at the Chicago Sun-Times and Chicago Tribune newspapers, Chicago Parent, Catalyst Chicago and Lifetimes magazines. Online, she serves as Editor-in-Chief of in addition to managing multiple projects for TripAdvisor involving more than 100 travel writers around the world. 

She is a social media expert who understands the power of Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Instagram and Google+.  Ms.Richards has also taught in the graduate journalism program at Northwestern University.  Ms. Richards was a founding member of New Voice Strategies, and had served as a moderator for numerous VIVA Idea Exchanges since 2010.


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Dr. Harrington Gibson


Dr.Harrington V. Gibson, Assistant Professor, began his career as a Golden Apple scholar and teacher. While earning his bachelor’s degree in Elementary Education from the University of Illinois at Urbana/Champaign, Dr. Gibson completed a series of research projects around issues related to culturally relevant literacy materials used to improve reading practices in elementary and middle schools. He continued with this research focus while enrolled in the Educational leadership program at Northwestern University’s School of Education and Social Policy. Concerned with utilizing research that addresses the opportunity and achievement gap for marginalized student populations, he continued his research studies at Harvard Graduate School of Education where he earned his doctorate in Teaching and Learning. During that time, Dr. Gibson worked as a teaching fellow for the urban education and school reform courses, advisor to teacher education candidates, mentor teacher and consultant for the Massachusetts Department of Education, New York Charter School Network. Moreover, Dr. Gibson served as a member of the Harvard Leadership Development Initiative; which required onsite support for principals and teachers employed in low performing Boston Public Schools. His dissertation documents the philosophies and instructional approach of successful teachers who have proven to be successful with Black male students. As a professor of Educational Leadership, he consistently supports the work of principals and superintendents who are working to address the racial achievement/opportunity gap through effective leadership. Currently, Dr. Gibson is engaged in collaborative research that will result in the development of School Quality Standards and a Diagnostic Review Process for the Chicago Public School System.


Tina Nolan


Tina has more than twenty years experience teaching in academic and cultural institutions and more than fifteen years in leadership positions including National Director of Leadership Development at New Voice Strategies, Associate Director of Partnerships at National Louis University, and Director of Education at the Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum. She is an independent education consultant and an adjunct professor of Educational Leadership at National Louis University where she teaches doctoral level coursework in organizational inquiry, change leadership, curriculum planning and evaluation, professional development, and policy/advocacy in education. Tina is also chair of several dissertation committees, and provides internship supervision to aspiring school superintendents. Tina has continued her relationship with new Voice Strategies as a VIVA Exchange Moderator. Past Idea Exchanges include:

  • The Minneapolis Public Schools Project: Unifying The Academic and Social Curriculum In Minneapolis
  • New Jersey Charter Schools Association Project: Character Education
  • Chicago Public Schools Project: Time, Teachers & Tomorrow’s Schools

Tina is also past board member for the Museum Education Roundtable, past chair of its publications committee, and Editor-in-Chief for the Journal of Museum Education. Tina currently serves on the Education Committee of the Board of Trustees at the John G. Shedd Aquarium in Chicago and on the Board of Directors for Child Restoration Outreach Support Organization.

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Krista Robinson-Lyles


Dr. Krista Robinson-Lyles has a 21 year history in the field of education that includes work in urban, suburban, public, and private schools, as well as the university classroom.  With varied roles that have included classroom teacher, elementary school administrator, university instructor, grant manager, parent education facilitator and instructional coach, she is seasoned in supporting the growth and development of teacher candidates, novice and veteran teachers from diverse backgrounds, as well as working with families.

In addition to her elementary and university classroom experience, Dr. Robinson-Lyles has experience facilitating professional development for various schools in and around Chicago, Illinois, Gary, Indiana, and Garibaldi and Nehalem, Oregon. Providing customized planning, training and support is key to her work and success in schools. As a consultant, her work has included serving as thought partner, classroom coach, collaborative curriculum planner, parent literacy facilitator, and diversity engagement facilitator.



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