Co-Founder & Managing Partner Empire Charter Consultants
Jill is a founder and partner of the new Empire Charter Consultants (ECC). Jill works closely with charter schools to provide technical assistance and support services for schools at every stage of their life cycle – from the founding stages to renewal and replication. She directs professional development opportunities focused on schools’ needs, provides proven guidance navigating any situation, connects schools to movement professionals, and leads ECC’s strategic planning as a certified strategic facilitator. Jill has extensive experience supporting charter school authorizers and associations on new school development, strategic planning, and general guidance.
Jill has been a respected leader of the national charter school community for nearly 20 years. She previously served as the Managing Director of the Northeast Charter School Network, where for 11 years she ran the daily operations for the Network, the membership program, the new school incubator program, provided technical services, and delivered in-school support for member schools in New York and Connecticut.
She helped create and launch Elevate Charter Schools, a national charter schools services program that provided support to other state associations in relation to school services.
Jill has provided services for charter schools in New York, Connecticut, New Jersey, Delaware, South Carolina, Illinois, and Nevada. Jill serves on the Program Committee for the annual National Charter School Conference.
Jill began working with charter schools in 1999 at the Charter Schools Institute of the State University of New York.
Co-Founder & Managing Partner Empire Charter Consultants
Andrea is a founder and partner of the new Empire Charter Consultants (ECC). Andrea works closely with charter schools to provide technical assistance and support services for schools at every stage of their life cycle - from the founding stages to renewal and replication. Andrea shares regulatory, policy, and legislative updates with clients and tracks authorizing trends. She leads ECC’s technical writing projects and excels at offering clients advice and helping implement changes with a focus on strong policy. Andrea also works with authorizers and associations, notably helping to support others in their new school development work.
Andrea has 15+ years of experience in the charter school movement, and is considered a leading expert in New York State on charter school policy. Prior to founding ECC, Andrea worked for eight years at the Northeast Charter Schools Network (NECSN), most recently serving as the New York State Director. Prior to that, she served as the Director of Policy. Andrea led NECSN’s New York research analysis and developed policy positions, coordinated advocacy events throughout New York State, and supported government relations. She worked directly with member charter schools on technical and compliance issues, and supported schools as they managed critical conversations.
Prior to joining NECSN, Andrea was Research Associate at the Foundation for Education Reform & Accountability, a non-profit education policy think tank, and worked as a policy analyst at the U.S. Government Accountability Office. She served as a founding member and Board Secretary for a charter school in Albany. Andrea earned a Master of Arts in public policy from the University at Albany, and graduated from the University at Buffalo with a degree in anthropology.
Jessica Mokhiber is Communications Director for Empire Charter Consultants. She works closely with charter schools to help tell their stories, highlighting their incredible successes and the stellar educations so many of them are providing to families and communities who’d be starved for options without them. Jessica saw first-hand how charter schools have changed a generation of lives for the better during her four-plus years working as the Communications Director for the Northeast Charter Schools Network, where she worked prior to joining Empire Charter Consultants. After assuming that role in 2014, Jessica knew she’d be a life-long advocate for choice in public education. Her work included profiling schools across New York State who are denied access to facilities funding for their buildings, showcasing superstar schools in the movement, and uplifting the voices of educators, parents, and students who are fighting for equality in education. Jessica has helped educators and parents share their perspectives in a range of publications, including the Wall Street Journal, New York Post, New York Daily News, Amsterdam News, Albany Times-Union, Buffalo News, and Rochester Democrat and Chronicle.
Prior to her work in the charter school movement, Jessica worked for the New York State Senate Majority Press Office. Jessica also spent five years working as a reporter and a producer for a local Albany-based Time Warner Cable News affiliate. She attended Siena College where she double majored in English and Political Science, and earned her Master’s degree from the S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications at Syracuse University.
Data and Analytics Research Consultant
Wendy Diamante is the data analytics and research consultant at Empire Charter Consultants. Wendy provides expert data analysis, insight, and research to ECC and its member schools through a firm she founded this year with her husband, The Diamante Group. Wendy is known for her meticulous attention to detail and her dogged research. Her data informs instruction for member schools, and highlights trends in education. Wendy has a deep knowledge of charter schools and education policy, as she has worked with charters for more than a decade, the entirety of her career. She has also worked with a number of prestigious organizations before joining ECC.
Prior to joining ECC, Wendy worked for several years for the Northeast Charter Schools Network as the Director of Data and Research where she provided direct data services to schools and managed the association’s data systems. She also worked as the Quality Assurance Coordinator for the Colorado Charter School Institute where she oversaw the legal and organizational compliance of 30 charter schools, and as a Policy Fellow for the National Association of Charter School Authorizers (NACSA) where she helped implement a charter school Performance Framework in the NJ Department of Education’s Office of Charter Schools. Her insight and analysis has informed schools and education support organizations in many states including New York, Connecticut, Colorado, and New Jersey.
Wendy earned her Bachelor of Arts in Public Policy and Management from SUNY Albany and holds a Black Belt in Body Mind Systems where she trains in Kung Fu, Bagwa and Tai Chi.
Charter School Evaluator
Natasha M. Howard, PhD, is passionate about ensuring access to great schools for all families and understands that expanded choice is meaningless without effective, sustainable supports and accountability at all levels. It's with this mindset that she has partnered with ECC to serve as their member schools' Charter School Evaluator.
Dr. Howard supports program and process improvement strategies in schools and authorizing agencies across the U.S. Her areas of expertise include: senior leadership coaching, board governance, use of assessment data, and organizational capacity. She has reviewed more than 200 proposals for new district and charter schools in New York, New Jersey, Connecticut, Tennessee, Minnesota, and Wisconsin. She has also led teams of reviewers on over 150 school evaluations focused on strength of academic model, services for at-risk students, teacher and leader evaluation processes, and effective oversight. Dr. Howard has served as a leadership development coach for the National Association of Charter School Authorizers’ Leaders Program.
Prior to becoming an independent consultant, she served as the Managing Director of Program at the SUNY Charter Schools Institute, the largest university-based authorizer in the U.S. Responsible for both the programmatic and strategic work related to the ongoing evaluation of SUNY authorized charter schools, Dr. Howard led the development of Institute practices and protocols for school evaluations and high stakes renewal decision-making. Prior to this, she launched a capacity-building initiative for nonprofit organizations preparing to support new schools while serving as Senior Director for Partner Relations in the New York City Department of Education’s portfolio office where she also reviewed applications for new district and charter schools. Her research background includes studies of anti-bullying programs as well as teacher efficacy and expectation.
Having completed undergraduate studies at the University of North Carolina, Dr. Howard remains a loyal Tar Heel. She earned her doctorate (Ph.D., Counseling Psychology) from the University of Georgia where she became a rabid Bulldog football fan before completing a fellowship in Clinical-Community Psychology at Yale University. She also holds a Master of Arts from Boston College.