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Biography of Lisa Ramirez – Deputy Assistant Secretary for Policy and Programs, Office of Elementary and Secondary Education


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Dr. Lisa R. Ramírez is the Deputy Assistant Secretary for Policy and Programs in the Office of Elementary and Secondary Education at the U.S. Department of Education. In this role, she oversees a broad range of management, policy, and program functions.

Prior to her current appointment, Dr. Ramírez served as the Director of the Office of Migrant Education and the Director for the Office of School Support and Rural Programs in the Office of Elementary and Secondary Education (OESE). Dr. Ramírez joined the U.S. Department of Education in 2006, when she was appointed Group Leader for the discretionary grants team, which plans and coordinates the High School Equivalency Program (HEP), College Assistance Migrant Program (CAMP), and the then active Migrant Education Even Start (MEES) program. After only one and a half years in her new role, she was promoted to Director of the Office of Migrant Education, where she led the planning and coordination of all aspects of the various programs, including grant and contract administration, policy, evaluation, and special initiatives. In 2015, she added the Office of School Support and Rural Programs to her portfolio. Even with dwindling resources including a reduction in staff, Dr. Ramírez has continued to inspire the staff in such a way that they have developed their own leadership skills and have become motivated to produce consistently higher and more effective results, both inside the office and with the field of grantees.

The daughter of migrant workers and a former migrant worker herself, Dr. Ramírez left the fields to serve in the United States Army Reserves. She financed portions of her college education through the GI Bill and began her career as an educator in 1992, first as a middle and high school teacher in English and English for Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL) in Texas, then serving as Assistant Principal and Principal. In 2004, Dr. Ramírez took on the challenge of opening the Lubbock Independent School District’s first charter campus, the Ramírez Charter School. Dr. Lisa R. Ramírez brings a unique combination of personal and professional experiences to help improve the academic success of students across the country. A dynamic, change agent at heart, Dr. Ramírez has had a powerful impact on the various staffs and offices where she has worked. Correspondingly, Dr. Ramirez is recognized within the Department for her unique positive spirit, notable intelligence and outstanding leadership.

Born in Chicago, but a Texan at heart, Dr. Ramírez received her B.A., M.Ed., and Ed.D. degrees from Texas Tech University, in Lubbock, Texas. A life-long learner, she is an alumna of the Executive Leadership program at the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University and the National Hispana Leadership Institute. She is also a Pahara-Aspen Institute Fellow. Dr. Ramírez enjoys running, hiking, writing and the study of film/world cinema. Dr. Ramírez currently lives with her husband, two children and two family dogs in Alexandria, Virginia.

Office of School Turnaround Staff Biography

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Picture of Jason, Office of School Turnaround–>

OST Leadership

Scott Sargrad

Deputy Assistant Secretary for Policy,
Office of Elementary and Secondary Education

This position serves as the Deputy Assistant Secretary for Policy and School Turnaround in the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Elementary and Secondary Education. It leads the Office of School Turnaround, which administers the $4.5 billion School Improvement Grants program and coordinates the Department’s school turnaround efforts.


Carlas McCauley

Group Leader

Carlas serves as the Group Leader at the U.S. Department of Education in the Office of Elementary and Secondary Education (OESE). Carlas is tasked with directing and providing oversight of the administration of the School Improvement Grants program in the Office of School Turnaround. Since 2007, he has helped to administer approximately $5 billion toward improving schools.

Before joining the U.S. Department of Education, Carlas was a Project Director for the National Association of State Boards of Education, where he worked with state policy makers in an effort to transform secondary education through policy development.

Carlas holds a Masters and Doctorate of Education from the Rossier School of Education at University of Southern California located in Los Angeles, California. He is also a graduate of Saint Louis University located in St. Louis, Missouri.


OST Staff


Michael Lamb

Michael serves as Special Assistant to the Assistant Secretary for Civil Rights in the U.S. Department of Education, where he helped develop the Office for Civil Rights’ new strategic plan and technical assistance strategy. He is currently detailed to the Office of School Turnaround, working on the office’s technical assistance and internal capacity initiatives, and is state contact to six states on their turnaround work. Prior to the Department, Michael worked as an organizer on the Presidential campaign of Barack Obama, first in Iowa and then in Virginia. Before that, he spent three years teaching middle school in the Harold Ickes Homes on Chicago’s South Side. There, he became committed to school turnaround efforts after his students dramatically increased their proficiency in reading and writing on state tests. He graduated from Duke University with a major in public policy, and did graduate work in education policy at the University of Illinois-Chicago.


Kimberly Light

Kimberly is a senior program officer and team lead in the Office of School Turnaround, where she is responsible for a state monitoring team and the technical assistance working group. She previously served as team lead for health, mental health, environmental health, and physical education programs in the Office of Safe and Drug-Free Schools, and led a variety of grant programs and projects related to school health and safety, including grants to integrate schools and mental health systems, a recognition program to identify effective models on college campuses, and a regional centers program that provided training and technical assistance to states and school districts. She also taught English in Japan and worked as a counselor for several community-based organizations serving disabled youth and adults. Kim has a BS in Rehabilitation Education from Penn State University and a MA in Human Resource Development from George Mason University, and lives in Virginia with her husband and teenage son.


Chuencee Boston

Chuenee is a program officer and team lead in the Office of School Turnaround, where she is responsible for a state monitoring team and the peer-to-peer convenings. She has supported districts and states in the development and implementation of their educator evaluation systems as a program officer for the Teacher Incentive Fund Program. Prior to joining the Department, she worked for the Comprehensive Centers as a technical assistance provider for multiple states. She also worked for the Senate committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions. She has extensive experience in research and policy development and implementation related to teacher quality, early childhood, school improvement, special education. She holds a BA in Public Policy from Duke University and a MA in Education Policy from George Washington University.


Molly Scotch Budman

Molly serves as a program officer in the Office of School Turnaround, where she serves as state contact and works on internal capacity and monitoring/grantmaking initiatives. Molly previously served as a reading specialist in Stamford, Connecticut, at a school that received a School Improvement Grant. She also taught high school English in Manchester, New Hampshire. As an undergraduate at Vanderbilt University, Molly majored in secondary education and English and developed an interest in transforming high school students into passionate readers, thinkers, and writers. She also holds a master’s degree as a reading specialist from Teachers College at Columbia University. She is delighted to be working with the OST team!


Phavy Cunningham

Phavy is a program officer within the Office of School Turnaround, where she serves as a state contact and contributes to several workgroups focused on the capacity building and sustainability of national school turnaround efforts. Prior to joining the Office of Elementary and Secondary Education, she served as a program specialist in the Office of Special Education and Rehabilitative Services of the U.S. Department of Education. She is a native of Pennsylvania where she earned her Bachelors in Politics and International Relations from Ursinus College, located in Collegeville. Phavy holds a Master of Education in Counseling and Development from George Mason University in Fairfax, VA. She has also completed post- graduate studies in Educational Leadership at The George Washington University. Phavy has worked for Fairfax County Public Schools, VA as an elementary special education teacher in a Title I school, as an admissions/school counselor for FCPS high school Career and Technical Education academies, and as a transition counselor for Northern Virginia Community College in partnership with FCPS where she assisted at-risk and first-generation students with the high school-to-college transition process. She enjoys traveling and has studied Art History in Florence, Italy, Santiago, Spain, and has most recently visited Cape Town, Durban, and Johannesburg, South Africa where she examined the educational system and a number of higher education institutions in post-apartheid South Africa. Phavy is dedicated to improving the American education system and is happy to be a part of the OST team.


Laticia Melton

Laticia is a program assistant in the Office of School Turnaround, where she works on internal capacity initiatives. Prior to joining OST, Laticia served as the assistant to the Deputy Assistant Secretary for Policy and School Turnaround. In that role, she scheduled meetings and travel and helped prepare documents for the Deputy Assistant Secretary’s speaking engagements. Previously, Laticia served as program assistant in the Student Achievement and School Accountability (SASA) office at the Department. She also worked as a legal instrument examiner at the United States Patent and Trademark Office, where she was responsible for reviewing patent and trademark documents. Laticia is excited to be working in OST and use her organizational and database skills to contribute to the team!


Janine Rudder

As a program officer with the Office of School Turnaround, Janine assists state educational agencies with their turnaround efforts and works on technical assistance and monitoring initiatives. She has also supported districts and states in the development and implementation of their educator evaluation systems as a program officer for the Teacher Incentive Fund Program. As a Master Educator with the District of Columbia Public Schools, Janine assessed the quality of classroom teachers’ instruction using the district’s Teaching and Learning Framework and provided tailored professional development to teachers based on their needs.  She also volunteered with the Ministry of Education in Belize, where she conducted professional development workshops for educators.  Prior to that, Janine taught middle school students with mild to moderate learning challenges in Oakland, California. She holds a Master’s Degree in Sociology and Education from Teacher’s College, Columbia University.

Christopher Tate

Christopher is on detail with the Office of School Turnaround from Federal Student Aid (FSA) at the U.S. Department of Education. While at FSA, Christopher managed projects related to implementing policy through the products students and schools use in applying for and processing student aid. Prior to joining the Department, Christopher co-developed a nonprofit that advocates for children in the court system because of parental abuse and neglect and spent several years working in and with the federal TRIO programs. Having been a TRIO student himself, he recognizes the valuable impact access to a quality education and advocacy can have for low-income students. Christopher holds a B.A. in Business Development and Leadership from Westminster College where he graduated with honors and served as the first openly gay president of the student body. He also holds a master’s degree from Brandeis University in Sustainable International Development where he received a fellowship to further his studies because of his interest in, and commitment to, addressing the effects of poverty in the United States through education and advocacy.

Sara Waly

Sara is a program officer in the Office of School Turnaround, where she serves as a state contact and also works on technical assistance and internal capacity initiatives.  Prior to joining the Department, Sara served in state government on policy development and implementation related to teacher and principal preparation, licensure, recruitment and retention, and evaluation.  Previously, Sara taught 6th grade writing in Gary, Indiana, 7/8 grade reading, writing and social studies at a bilingual charter school in Phoenix, Arizona, and served as a special education teacher’s aide in Germantown, Wisconsin.  As an undergraduate at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, Sara majored in international studies and journalism and studied abroad in Quito, Ecuador.  She holds a Master in Teaching from Dominican University and a Master of Public Policy in Education from Vanderbilt University.  She is thrilled to be working with the OST team to support states in implementing their ambitious plans to transform their lowest-performing schools.

Christine Weeter

Christina is a program officer in the Office of School Turnaround where she serves as a state contact and works on technical assistance and internal capacity initiatives. She also supports the School Turnaround AmeriCorps, School Turnaround Learning Community, and Peer to Peer initiatives. She previously worked on discretionary grants for high schools with a special interest in dropout prevention and recovery, rural education, and wrap-around supports to prepare students to graduate high school with clear pathways to college and career. Prior to joining the Department, Christina worked in the non-government sector on education policy and finance, program evaluation, professional development curriculum, and provided direct service to youth with severe emotional and behavior disorders, many of whom had experienced abuse and neglect. A Kentucky native, Christina has also worked, studied, and volunteered in seven different countries in Latin America, Europe, and the Caribbean, and enjoys volunteering with Atlas Corps and its cadre of international Fellows. Christina earned a M.Ed. in Education Administration and a M.S.W. with a focus on program planning, evaluation, policy, and community organizing from Boston University. She earned her B.A. in psychology with a minor in Spanish from the University of Kentucky.


Michael E. Wells, Ph.D.,

Michael is a senior program officer and Team Lead at the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of School Turnaround. He coordinates monitoring and support for the western states and Puerto Rico and leads the Office’s monitoring and grantmaking initiatives. Michael has worked in the fields of psychology and public education for over 30 years. He has had a private practice in psychotherapy, taught at the university level, and has administered school safety and student services programs at the local and federal level, as well as establishing and directing the operation of public alternative school programs. Michael received his undergraduate degree and doctorate in counseling and educational development from the University of North Carolina and his master’s degree in psychology from Western Michigan University. He is licensed as a psychologist and a professional counselor. He and wife Dianne have five sons and six grandchildren.


David Yi

David serves as a program officer and the internal capacity workgroup leader at the Office of School Turnaround. Prior to joining the Department, David was an elementary and middle school ESL teacher in Washington, DC where he also served as middle school staff coordinator. In college, he volunteered as a language tutor to foreign exchange students and also worked as a campus recruiter for Teach For America. An avid traveler, David has studied in Madrid, Spain and worked in Sydney, Australia for the Australian Minister for Defense. Originally from Louisville, Kentucky, David has a BA in Political Science and a BS in Social Studies Education from Boston University and a MA in Teaching English for Speakers of Other Languages from American University.

Legislation, Regulations, and Guidance


  • Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965, as amended, Title IV, Part F, Subpart 3, Sec. 4631



Funding Status


Appropriation: $0


Appropriation: $0


Appropriation: $1,473,795


Appropriation: $3,000,000


Appropriation: $3,000,000


Appropriation: $0


Appropriation: $0


Appropriation: $10,000,000

Number of awards: TBD

Note: Appropriations of Project SERV funds not used in previous years remain available for awards in subsequent years.


1. Who is eligible to apply for Project SERV funds?

Local educational agencies (LEAs) and institutions of higher education (IHEs) are eligible to apply for Project SERV if (1) their learning environment has been disrupted as a direct result of a violent or traumatic event (see answer to question 2 below for a discussion of “eligible event”), and (2) responding to the crisis poses an undue financial hardship. Charter Schools that are considered LEAs under State law may directly apply for funding for Project SERV. Consistent with State and local procurement procedures, LEAs and IHEs may provide services directly and enter into contracts with other providers for necessary services. LEAs and IHEs may not subgrant funds received through Project SERV.

2. What is an “eligible event”?

Many types of events have the potential to seriously disrupt the learning environment. Further, events that appear similar do not always affect the learning environment in the same way. These facts make it difficult to determine in advance all the types of events which would be eligible for services. Any traumatic or violent event, that disrupted teaching and learning, is eligible for services under Project SERV if the LEA or IHE is able to: (1) demonstrate the traumatic effect on the learning environment including how the event has disrupted teaching and learning; and (2) demonstrate that the needed services cannot be adequately provided with existing resources in a comprehensive and timely manner, and that the provision of services and assistance will result in an undue financial hardship on the LEA or IHE. Generally, eligible events are those events that occur outside of the normal routine of school operations. The following are some examples of potentially eligible events. Other serious events not listed here also may be eligible.

  • shootings or other serious violent incidents in schools, such as stabbings
  • suicides of students, faculty members and/or staff
  • hate crimes committed against students, faculty members and/or staff
  • homicide of students, faculty members, and/or staff off cam

3. What events are not eligible for funding?

Many types of events may have the potential to disrupt the learning environment, yet are not considered eligible for funding under Project SERV. For example, actions taken by school boards, administrators or other school officials as part of their normal educational administrational function are the kind of incidents that are not considered eligible for funding.

4. What activities are eligible for funding under Project SERV?

Project SERV will fund costs that are reasonable, necessary, and essential for services activities that are intended to restore a sense of safety and security, help the victims/students stabilize their lives, and assist LEAs and IHEs in managing the practical problems created by the traumatic event. Project SERV funds are available to supplement, not replace, resources provided for these purposes by other Federal, State, local and private agencies and organizations. Examples of allowable services and activities are:

  • Technical assistance on developing an appropriate recovery plan for addressing student needs and assessing the Federal, State, and local resources available to the LEA, IHE, and community to carry out this response.
  • Mental health assessments, referrals, and services related to the traumatic event (with the goal of restoring victims/survivors to their pre-incident levels of functioning)
  • Overtime for teachers, counselors, law enforcement and security officers, and other staff
  • Substitute teachers and other staff as necessary
  • Emergency transportation such as expenses incurred during evacuation
  • Transportation and other costs to operate school at an alternative site
  • Repairs of minor damage caused by the traumatic event (Extended Services Grants only)
  • Temporary security measures such as non-permanent metal detectors and additional security guards and security cameras

This list is not meant to be exhaustive. Applications to fund other services will be considered if the proposed activities are not among the list of services and activities that may not be funded (see response to FAQ Question 5); and are necessary to restore the learning environment.

5. What activities are not eligible for funding under Project SERV?

Project SERV funds may not be used for the following types of services and activities:

Any activity for which other resources, such as, insurance claims and reimbursements, capital improvement funds and disaster assistance for which payment will be received by another agency such as the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), the Office of Victims of Crime (OVC), or other Federal, State, local, or private agencies or organizations.

  • Construction
  • Repairs of minor damage caused by the violent or traumatic event [Immediate Services Grants only]
  • Permanent security measures such as stationary metal detectors or permanent security cameras
  • claims recoverable under insurance coverage, including Medicaid reimbursements for related services to students, staff, and their families
  • Payments of fines assessed upon the LEA or IHE, employees, and/or members of employees’ or students’ families
  • Payment of settlements assessed against the LEA or IHE, employees and/or members of employees’ or students’ families in civil court actions
  • Payment of legal fees or loss of wages due to court appearances incurred by the LEA or IHE, employees and/or members of employees’ or students’ families
  • Costs for hospitalization, treatment of physical injuries, rehabilitation, or prescription costs
  • Payment for public relations consultants or other media activities
  • Services of existing County/public/private non-profit mental health agency staff whose role is to respond to emergency mental health needs of children
  • Mental health services for persons other than students, faculty, other school personnel, and members of their immediate families
  • Universal mental health screenings
  • Emergency management services, such as development of emergency management plans, conducting vulnerability assessments, etc.

6. To whom may services be provided?

Services may be provided to students, teachers, and school staff, and to immediate family members of students, teachers, and staff. Services may be provided to individuals directly affected by a traumatic crisis or event, such as those who are personally victimized or injured by a crime or disaster; those who witness a violent event; or those whose family members are victimized, injured, or killed. Services may also be provided to those who are not directly injured or victimized but who are indirectly affected, for example, by attending or working in a school where a traumatic event or natural disaster has occurred.

NOTE: Counseling services for school staff may only be requested if those services are not covered by the insurance policy provided by the school district.

7. May LEAs or IHEs be eligible for funding if a crisis or incident happened off campus?

Yes, the determining factor in eligibility for funding is that the crisis disrupted the learning environment. Incidents that occur off-campus, such as accidents and shootings of students that take place in the community, and natural disasters such as hurricanes and floods, can have an impact on the learning environment, and therefore are potentially an “eligible event” under which an LEA or IHE may apply for funding.

8. Can project SERV funds be used to fund violence prevention programs such as after-school programs, mentoring programs, anger management, or skills building management?

Project SERV funds are to be used to restore the learning environment by addressing the disruptive effects of a traumatic crisis or event. Although an LEA may understandably wish to respond to such a crisis by initiating or strengthening prevention activities, Project SERV funds may not be used for such activities.

9. How are applications submitted?

To help expedite the review process, applications for Immediate Services and Extended Services grants should be sent via email to Hamed.Negron-Perez@ed.gov.

LEAs applying for funding must also ensure that the application is coordinated and shared with the State Education Agency.

10. Under what circumstances may the Department deny funding of an application?

All Project SERV grants are at the discretion of the Secretary and subject to the availability of funds. The Secretary may deny funding, even to a high scoring project, if the project is not consistent with the goals and purpose of the Safe and Drug-Free Schools and Communities Act (SDFSCA), or does not further national needs related to the SDFSCA. Examples of additional circumstances under which ED may deny a request for funding under Project SERV are: if the applicant fails to document the need for Federal funds; if the applicant is not an LEA or IHE; if the application is incomplete; if the purposes for which funding is being sought are inconsistent with the statutory authority for the use of these funds; if funding is unavailable; or if the proposed activities are unallowable under the non-regulatory guidance for the program.

11. What assurances must an LEA or IHE provide the Department?

There are several assurances that an LEA must submit as part of the application package, such as:

  • Non-Construction Programs Assurances (SF 424B)
  • Disclosure of Lobbying Activities (SF LLL).

Awards for 2018




Award Amount

Texas SEA TX








Freeman SD WA


Broward County PS FL


Two Eagle River School MT


Clark County SD NV


New Paltz Central SD MT


Santa Fe ISD TX


St. Mary’s County PS MD


West Liberty-Salem LSD OH


Marshall County SD KY


Corning Unified Elementary SD CA


Awards for 2017




Award Amount

Flint Community Schools Michigan


Anderson SD South Carolina


Washington West Supervisory Union SD Vermont


Washoe County SD Nevada


Anderson SD, 2nd Award South Carolina


St. Joseph SD Missouri


San Bernardino City Unified SD California


Awards for 2015




Award Amount

Fairfax County Public Schools Virginia $50,000.00
The University of California, Santa Barbara California $569,725.00
Marysville SD Washington $50,000.00
Pine Ridge School, Pine Ridge Reservation South Dakota $218,515.00