Cognia Leadership

As an organization, we are dedicated to providing service and support for our institutions to improve what they do to help students learn. To succeed, our leadership must be in concert with our culture as a service organization. We are governed by an independent Board of Directors and an executive team dedicated to these values, strategic direction, and a commitment to focusing on the ultimate outcome for students.

Board Members

Karen Cowe

Board Member, Chair

Professional Background

Karen Cowe is CEO of Ten Strands, a California-based nonprofit whose mission is to build and strengthen the partnerships and strategies that will bring environmental literacy to all of California’s 6.2 million K–12 students. She also is the project director of the California Environmental Literacy Initiative, a statewide public-private partnership, and a founding partner of the National COVID-19 Outdoor Learning Initiative. Cowe is an education-industry executive with over 30 years of experience in sales and fund development, marketing, program design, professional learning, business development, and operations. Prior to launching Ten Strands, she was President and CEO of Key Curriculum Press, an innovative and award-winning K-12 STEM publisher. Before that, she was Managing Director of Burlington Books in Athens, Greece—the first publisher in Greece to offer locally-focused English language instructional materials for Greek students. Additionally, Cowe serves on the boards and advisory boards of Open Up Resources, the Biomimicry Institute, Green Guardians, and Seventh Generation Advisors. Cowe holds a Bachelor in Business and a minor in Education from Saint John’s College, York and a Master of Business Administration from Saint Mary’s College, California.

Phil Jacobs

Board Member, Vice Chair

Professional Background

Mr. Phil Jacobs is a founding partner for The Pendleton Consulting Group, an Economic Development Consulting business in Atlanta, Ga. He spent 34 years working for BellSouth/AT&T in various roles such as corporate officer, president of operations for BellSouth-Georgia, president of business services for AT&T Southeast, and president of BellSouth business services. He also worked for two years on an international assignment with Optus Communications in Sydney, Australia as chief operating officer. Jacobs has distinguished himself as a leader among civic organizations, serving as former board chair for the Georgia Partnership for Excellence in Education, Georgia Leadership Institute for School Improvement, Georgia Chamber of Commerce Education Committee, Georgia Early Learning Initiative, and Metro Atlanta United Way. He currently serves on the Boards of several Atlanta-area organizations. He completed his undergraduate work at Denison University.

Gustavo Balderas, Ed.D.

Board Member

Professional Background

Dr. Balderas started his career in education as a high school teacher and counselor in Oregon. He has served as superintendent in California, Washington State, and Oregon and is currently the Superintendent of schools in Beaverton, the third largest school system in Oregon. Throughout his 34-year career in education, Dr. Balderas has focused on closing achievement and opportunity gaps for all students. His career highlights include being named the National Association for Bilingual Education Superintendent of the Year, Oregon Latino Educator of the Year, and Education Research and Development Institute (ERDI) Mike Kneale Excellence in Leadership Award recipient. Dr. Balderas also is a volunteer consulting superintendent for the Educational Research and Development Institute, Suburban School Superintendents, and the Institute for Educational Innovation national organizations. He received his doctoral degree in Educational Leadership from the University of Oregon.

David P. Driscoll, Ed.D.

Board Member

Professional Background

Dr. Driscoll is the former Commissioner of Education for the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. With a career in public education that spans more than 55 years, Driscoll began as a middle school and high school Mathematics teacher. He went on to work as a Superintendent of Schools and Deputy Commissioner of Education in Massachusetts. Driscoll has served as Chair of several boards, including the Thomas B. Fordham Institute, National Assessment Governing Board (NAGB), and CenterPoint. He earned his bachelor’s degree in Mathematics from Boston College, master’s degree in Educational Administration from Salem State University, and a doctorate in Educational Administration from Boston College. Driscoll also is a published author with his book, Commitment and Common Sense: Leading Education Reform in Massachusetts.

Margaret Gilmore, Ed.D.

Board Member

Professional Background

Dr. Margaret Gilmore is a Senior Strategic Facilitator for InitiativeOne Leadership Institute. Dr. Gilmore recently served as the Allendale County School District Superintendent in South Carolina. She was named South Carolina Athletic Administrators Association (SCAAA) Superintendent of the Year in 2020 in recognition of her transformational impact in South Carolina Public Schools. As a transformative leader, she has held pivotal positions such as Leadership Transformation Coach/Administrator for South Carolina Department of Education and Assistant Chief Academic Officer for Tennessee's largest school district, Shelby County Schools. Dr. Gilmore also has served on various boards and committees, including the South Carolina Association of School Administrators’ Executive Superintendents’ Board, Southern Palmetto Regional Chamber of Commerce Board, and Salkehatchie Superintendents Consortium. She received COGNIA’s “Excellence in Education” award from Tennessee and South Carolina. She earned her bachelor’s and master’s degrees in Elementary and Special Education from Arkansas State University, master’s degree in Educational Leadership and doctorate degree in Educational Leadership & Policy Studies from the University of Memphis.

Maya Valencia Goodall

Board Member

Professional Background

Maya Valencia Goodall is a Latina entrepreneur focused on exceptional outcomes for multilingual learners. She co-founded Lingual Learning, a curriculum company dedicated to helping students become confidently bilingual, which was acquired by Lexia Learning. She continues to develop groundbreaking learning products that leverage technology to ensure learner success. Goodall is deeply interested in the intersection of technology, theory, curriculum design that embraces cultural heritage by celebrating multilingualism. Goodall speaks three languages and holds a Master’s in Education and a Master’s in Applied Linguistics.

Ellen Haley

Board Member

Professional Background

Ellen Haley has extensive experience in educational assessment and business leadership with more than 35 years of experience leading educational assessment activities. She served as a senior executive of CTB/McGraw-Hill for more than 30 years, including eight years as president. Ms. Haley’s business expertise spans business development, acquisitions, sales, finance, and operations. Ms. Haley has extensive experience in all aspects of assessment, including product development, custom test development and transitions to online test delivery. Ms. Haley holds a master’s degree from Golden Gate University, San Francisco, Calif.; and a bachelor’s degree from Marygrove College, Detroit, Michigan.

Laura Slover

Board Member

Professional Background

Laura Slover is currently the Managing Director of Skills for the Future, a joint endeavor of The Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching and ETS. Previously, Slover was the founder and CEO of CenterPoint Education Solutions. Prior to that, she was the founding CEO of the Partnership for Assessment of College and Careers (PARCC) Inc. Slover started her career teaching high school English in Colorado and then spent 16 years at Achieve, helping states build aligned standards, assessments, and accountability systems. As a native Washingtonian, she served on the DC Board of Education from 2007-2014, and she is an Aspen-Pahara fellow. Slover earned a bachelor’s degree in English and American Literature from Harvard University; a master’s degree in Education – Curriculum and Instruction from the University of Colorado at Boulder; and a master’s degree in Education Policy from Georgetown University.

Allen Smith

Board Member

Professional Background

Allen Smith has dedicated his education career to improving chronically low-performing schools and transforming good schools into great ones. In 2003, he co-founded Skyland Community High School as the only charter at-risk-focused school in Denver, Colorado. By 2006, the school had its first class with 100% graduation, college acceptance, and enrollment. Smith spent the next seven years leading schools within Denver Public Schools, at the elementary, middle, and high school levels, before moving into district leadership as the Executive Director of the Denver Summit Schools Network. He has served in extensive roles of leadership working with the Charlotte Mecklenburg School District as a Community Superintendent, Oakland Unified School District as Deputy Superintendent and Chief of Schools, and a return to Denver as Senior Deputy Superintendent and Chief of Culture Equity and Leadership Teams for Denver Public Schools. Smith is currently serving as Superintendent for KIPP Texas Public Schools San Antonio where he led the system through a time of needed growth, coinciding with the COVID-19 pandemic. Smith obtained degrees from Central State University in Ohio and Denver University in Colorado.

Richard Swartz

Board Member

Professional Background

Richard Swartz served as vice president, strategy, products, and portfolio at Measured Progress from 2010 through 2017. His vision and leadership led to the growth of the district and classroom portfolio of products and services that help educators improve teaching and learning. Mr. Swartz is a veteran assessment professional and educator. Before coming to Measured Progress, he served as president of Riverside Publishing. He previously served as president of ETS Technologies, Inc., a for-profit subsidiary of Educational Testing Service, leading successful efforts to commercialize ETS’s online learning and assessment technologies, including e-rater, ETS’s natural language-processing automated essay-scoring technology. Mr. Swartz received a master’s degree from The Writing Seminars at Johns Hopkins University and a bachelor’s degree in English from Mansfield State University.

Eugene White, Ph.D.

Board Member, Past Chair

Professional Background

Dr. Eugene White is the president of Martin University in Indianapolis, Indiana. He is an educational pioneer in Indiana with over 30 years of experience in education. He was the first African American high school principal in the Fort Wayne Community Schools and in the Metropolitan School District of Washington Township’s North Central High School; the first African American superintendent of the Metropolitan School District of Washington Township; and the first African American president of the Indiana Association of Public School Superintendents (IAPSS). He has achieved numerous honors including Outstanding Superintendent of the Year and has served in leadership roles with several organizations including president of the board of the North Central Association of Schools and Colleges Commission on Accreditation and School Improvement. He also served as president of the American Association of School Administrators (The National Superintendent's Association). Additionally, he is an accomplished author. He completed his doctoral work at Ball State University, graduate work at the University of Tennessee, and undergraduate work at Alabama A&M University.

Janet Womack, Ph.D.

Board Member

Professional Background

Dr. Janet Womack is an education consultant. Dr. Womack retired as Superintendent for Florence City Schools in 2017. Dr. Womack has experience as a classroom teacher, elementary and high school principal, system level Director of Instruction K-12, Regional In-service Center Director, and Director of Federal Programs and Student Assessment. She has extensive experience with effective leadership, data analysis, and continuous improvement. Dr. Womack has served as Chair of the AdvancED Alabama Council and a member of the AdvancED National Accreditation Commission. She has 27 years in education and received numerous awards and accolades in innovation and leadership at the state and national levels, including her selection as the 2016 Alabama Superintendent of the Year. Womack also has garnered success through the implementation of a 1-1 technology initiative, launching of the Florence Academy of Fine Arts, and opening of the first virtual school in Alabama. Dr. Womack received her undergraduate degree from Jacksonville State University in Elementary Education and her masters and doctorate degrees in leadership from Auburn University.