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  • Our Story
  • Our Mission
  • Our Goals
  • Our Staff

Since its founding in 2015, the School and State Finance Project has established itself as a “go-to” nonpartisan policy organization for accurate data and information, independent analysis, and creative, thoughtful solutions for some of Connecticut’s toughest education funding and state finance challenges.

The School and State Finance Project works with stakeholders and communities across Connecticut, and aims to serve as a trusted resource for state and local policymakers, school district officials, community leaders, and all people looking for transparent, accessible, and approachable information about education funding and state finance.

The School and State Finance Project is a nonpartisan, nonprofit policy organization, focused on education funding and state finance issues, with a commitment to providing independent analysis, building public knowledge, improving transparency, and developing fair, sustainable solutions.

To learn more about our organization, including our structure and funding, visit www.ctschoolfinance.org/about.

  • Serve as an independent and trustworthy source of high-quality research and analysis about Connecticut’s education finance policies and state budget.
  • Improve transparency around Connecticut’s education and state finances by providing access to timely, accurate, and easy-to-understand data and information.
  • Build public knowledge about Connecticut’s finances, budget, and economy, and elevate conversations about how to strengthen the state’s fiscal health.
  • Increase awareness about Connecticut’s education finance system and the need for an equitable, unified funding formula that treats all students fairly and strengthens schools and communities.
  • Develop thoughtful, data-driven solutions that address Connecticut’s education funding and state finance challenges by working collaboratively with state and local policymakers, community groups and leaders, and other key stakeholders.
  • Provide technical assistance to partner organizations seeking to solve education finance-related challenges.
Lisa Hammersley Executive Director
Patrick Gibson Deputy Executive Director for Data, Policy, & Special Projects
Michael Morton Deputy Executive Director for Communications & Operations
Erika Haynes Director of Community Engagement
Morgan Considine Senior Data Analyst
Ashley Robles Data Analyst
Amber Martin Data Analyst
Sasha Davis Policy Analyst
C.J. Strand Government Relations & Policy Associate
George Sinclair Communications & Government Relations Associate
Nisha Gandhi Community Engagement & Communications Associate
Jen Nakos Community Engagement Associate
Jailynn Caraballo Communications & Community Engagement Intern
Andréa Comer, Council Chairperson Chief External Affairs Officer, CT Paid Leave Authority
Kevin Booker Jr. City Councilor, City of New London; CEO and Founder, Booker Empowerment, LLC
Matthew Quinones CEO, Stamford Public Education Foundation
Carrie Schindele Executive Vice President for Programs & Administration, The Peter & Carmen Lucia Buck Foundation
Zahava Stadler Special Assistant for State Funding and Policy, The Education Trust

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Lisa Hammersley

Executive Director

As Executive Director, Lisa Hammersley is the chief executive of the School and State Finance Project and is responsible for overseeing the direction, work, and external affairs of the organization. She is also charged with leading, supporting, and coordinating efforts to execute and fulfill the organization’s mission and goals while maintaining relations with state and local policymakers, organization funders, and other external stakeholders.

A veteran Connecticut budget and policy advisor, Lisa has more than a decade of experience, knowledge, and leadership in state budget analysis, policymaking, and legislative affairs. Lisa joined the School and State Finance Project as the organization's Deputy Executive Director in December 2018 after working in Connecticut’s legislative and executive branches.

Previously, Lisa served as a senior staff member for the Republican Caucus of the Connecticut State Senate for over eight years, including four years overseeing all of the Caucus’ budget and policy work as its budget director and chief legislative analyst. During her time working for the Caucus, Lisa analyzed state budgets and policy changes, formulated budget proposals, wrote legislation and amendments, and was instrumental in spearheading policy initiatives and working across the political aisle to pass legislation, including two bipartisan state budgets in 2017 and 2018.

In addition to her work in the Connecticut General Assembly, Lisa’s breadth of budget and policy experience includes nearly five years at Connecticut’s Office of Policy and Management (OPM), which serves as the governor’s budget office. During her time at OPM, Lisa worked as a budget specialist and analyst and was responsible for formulating portions of proposed gubernatorial budgets, presenting budget recommendations to policymakers, and prioritizing and recommending capital projects for Connecticut’s State Bond Commission.

Lisa holds a Master of Public Administration degree from the University of Connecticut and a Bachelor of Arts in Political Science and Government from Central Connecticut State University. She and her family reside in Southington, Connecticut.

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Patrick Gibson

Deputy Executive Director for Data, Policy, & Special Projects

One of the original staff members of the School and State Finance Project, Patrick Gibson specializes in quantitative public policy analysis, and serves as the organization's Deputy Executive Director for Data, Policy, and Special Projects.

As Deputy Executive Director, Patrick leads the School and State Finance Project’s data and policy teams and oversees the development of all the organization's data and policy content, including analyses of state, local, and federal data, and the development of accessible and informative tools and data visualizations.

Additionally, Patrick spearheads the organization’s work in providing custom data analysis for state and local policymakers and other external stakeholders, and works closely with the School and State Finance Project’s Executive Director and Deputy Executive Director for Communications & Operations to chart the organization’s strategic direction.

Patrick is also charged with leading and coordinating the organization’s consultant and fee-for-service work. In leading this work, Patrick has helped an array of partner organizations — including school districts, state working groups, nonprofits, and news publications — advance their missions and meet their goals and objectives.

Patrick holds a Master of Science in Public Policy and Management from Carnegie Mellon University, and a Bachelor of Arts in Political Science and Business Administration from Muhlenberg College. At Carnegie Mellon University, Patrick worked with a team to model the economic impact of a proposed brownfield redevelopment in Pittsburgh.

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Michael Morton

Deputy Executive Director for Communications & Operations

A member of the School and State Finance Project team since its founding, Michael Morton serves as the organization's Deputy Executive Director for Communications and Operations, and is responsible for overseeing all of the organization's communications, public outreach, and internal operations.

With expertise in public affairs, media relations, and communications strategies, Michael is in charge of the final development, production, and release of all materials produced by the organization, and is responsible for ensuring all materials are accessible and approachable for their specific audiences. Michael also manages the organization’s websites and is coordinates all organizational messaging, legislative testimony, press releases, and public communication.

In addition to his communications roles, Michael acts as a chief of staff for the School and State Finance Project's Executive Director. In this capacity, Michael oversees all internal operations of the organization, leads the School and State Finance Project's strategic planning process, and assists the Executive Director in managing the organization's budget and resources. He also works with the Executive Director and Deputy Director for Data, Policy, and Special Projects to develop the organization's policy priorities.

Previously, Michael worked for the global communications firm H+K Strategies and was a member of its public affairs practices in Washington, DC and Austin, Texas. At H+K, Michael was heavily involved in government relations, policy research, media relations, stakeholder engagement, and message building. Over the course of his tenure at H+K, Michael helped lead accounts for a prominent federal consulting group, an international tire manufacturer, and a leading company uniform supplier.

Michael holds a Bachelor of Journalism degree and a Bachelor of Science in Communication Studies degree from The University of Texas at Austin.

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Erika Haynes

Director of Community Engagement

Erika Haynes brings to the School and State Finance Project more than a decade of community leadership, parent engagement, and experience navigating the state’s public school systems.

In her role as Director of Community Engagement, Erika meets with parents, teachers, students, community leaders, and interested residents across Connecticut to help them better understand the state’s school finance system and how it impacts their communities. Erika regularly gives school finance presentations to community and school groups, and offers a number of workshops for those interested in learning more about education funding and how they can increase their civic participation. In addition to trekking around the state, Erika is responsible for developing and executing the School and State Finance Project’s community engagement plan, and for nurturing and maintaining connections in communities.

A longtime resident of Willimantic, Connecticut, Erika is a former member of the Windham Town Council and has served as both a community representative on the Windham School Readiness Council and as a board member for the Windham Parent Network.

As a proud mother of four, Erika has experienced the gamut of Connecticut’s public school systems. In addition to homeschooling for a period of time, her children have attended local public schools and magnet schools. The journey of her children through school, and her unique experiences as both a community leader and parent, have fueled her passion for working with communities to support their students and schools.

Erika’s commitment to education and community is demonstrated through her past work assisting parents and guardians through special education Planning and Placement Teams (PPTs) and her founding of the Windham chapter of Blessings in a Backpack, a program that sends food home to roughly 500 Windham-area children each weekend.

Erika holds a Master of Education degree in Early Childhood Education from the University of Hartford and a Bachelor of General Studies degree from Eastern Connecticut State University. From 2000-2016, she also served as an adjunct professor at The Hartt School at the University of Hartford, where she led the nonprofit component for Performance Arts Management and Music Management majors.

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Morgan Considine

Senior Data Analyst

Morgan Considine brings to the School and State Finance Project experience in quantitative policy analysis and program evaluation, along with a familiarity with state government operations and departmental functions.

As a Senior Data Analyst, Morgan helps analyze state, local, and federal data as well as create interactive data tools and visualizations. Additionally, Morgan helps develop policy solutions and works with fellow members of the School and State Finance Project’s data team to present solutions in ways that are accessible and approachable for audiences of varying levels of expertise.

Prior to joining the School and State Finance Project, Morgan completed a variety of internships focused on public policy and data, including stints at the Connecticut Department of Children and Families and the State Department of Education.

Morgan holds a Master of Public Policy, with a concentration in public finance and budgeting, from the University of Connecticut, as well as a Bachelor of Arts in History and Political Science from Eastern Connecticut State University.

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Ashley Robles

Data Analyst

With a background in data analysis and data visualization, as well as experience examining and evaluating retirement and benefit plans, Ashley Robles is a member of the School and State Finance Project's data team.

Originally an intern for the organization while she pursued her master's degree, Ashley currently serves as a data analyst where she is responsible for analyzing education funding and state finance data to help the organization create tools and resources that are transparent and understandable for users of all knowledge levels.

Prior to working for the School and State Finance Project, Ashley worked for USI Consulting Group where she focused on defined benefit and defined contribution clients, and evaluated accounts and budgets for monthly benefit payments.

Ashley holds a Master of Public Policy from the University of Connecticut with a focus area of public finance and budgeting, as well as a Bachelor of Arts in Mathematics and Statistics from UCONN.

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Amber Martin

Data Analyst

A skilled data analyst with expertise in descriptive and predictive analytics, Amber Martin specializes in policy analysis and qualitative and quantitative research.

As a member of the School and State Finance Project’s data team, Amber helps analyze state, local, and federal data and works collaboratively to create interactive tools and visualizations that bring data points to life for all knowledge levels.

Before joining the School and State Finance Project, Amber served as a policy analyst for the Rhode Island Public Expenditure Council (RIPEC), a nonpartisan, nonprofit public policy research organization. While at the RIPEC, Amber led a variety of functions including: conducting data collection and maintaining state and municipal finance databases; designing and preparing revenue and expenditure reports and budget impact analyses; researching and producing policy reports; drafting legislative testimony and issue briefs; and creating data sheets to inform community members, policymakers, and stakeholders on public policy issues.

Prior to her time at the RIPEC, Amber work as a banker and then an analysis and reporting specialist at Citizen’s Bank where she designed and implemented analytic models to forecast foreclosure and real estate sales, reviewed legal documents, and produced monthly reports on inventory, sales, profits, and losses.

Amber holds a Master of Science in Data Analytics from Southern New Hampshire University as well as a Master of Environmental Anthropology from the University of Kent in the United Kingdom. She also earned her Bachelor of Arts in Anthropology from Rhode Island College.

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Sasha Davis

Policy Analyst

With a background in community organizing, program management, and education policy, Sasha Davis brings a unique perspective and invaluable experience to the work of the School and State Finance Project.

As a Policy Analyst, Sasha helps research and develop policy proposals that advance the organization’s mission and goals. This work includes reviewing current academic and policy research, writing reports and policy briefings, and identifying best practices and possible solutions for addressing some of Connecticut’s toughest education funding and state finance challenges.

Prior to joining the School and State Finance Project, Sasha served as a community organizer and program manager for the Sheff Movement Coalition, which is a group of parents, students, educators, and community members working to ensure all students in the Hartford region have access to a quality integrated education. In this role, Sasha developed and oversaw a leadership program for middle and high school students called School Based Advocacy Teams. Before her work at the Sheff Movement Coalition, Sasha served in a variety of graduate assistant and research assistant roles at the University of Connecticut, and was a leadership facilitator for the Discovery Center in Hartford.

Born and raised in Connecticut, Sasha is pursuing a Ph.D. in Education Policy from the University of Connecticut, where she received her Master of Public Administration and a graduate certificate in Leadership and Public Management. She also holds a Bachelor of Arts in Leadership and Organizational Studies from Bay Path College and an Associate of Arts from Capital Community College. Sasha and her family reside in Berlin, Connecticut.

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C.J. Strand

Government Relations & Policy Associate

C.J. Strand brings to the School and State Finance Project more than a decade of government relations and policy experience working in both the Connecticut General Assembly and the state’s executive branch.

As a Government Relations and Policy Associate, C.J. is responsible for developing and maintaining relationships with state and local policymakers, informing legislators about the work and positions of the School and State Finance Project, and ensuring the organization is aware of the latest legislative developments. C.J. also works with the organization’s Executive Director to develop and implement a comprehensive government relations strategy that is reflective of the organization’s priorities and goals. In addition to his government relations work, C.J. is a member of the organization's policy team​ and serves as the lead researcher and writer for many of the School and State Finance Project’s reports and policy briefings.

Prior to joining the School and State Finance Project, C.J. spent more than three years as a legislative liaison for Connecticut’s Department of Transportation where he was responsible for developing and advocating for the department’s legislative priorities, researching key legislative issues impacting the department’s policies and programs, and fostering and maintaining relationships with policymakers and stakeholders.

Before his tenure at the Department of Transportation, C.J. worked in the Connecticut General Assembly serving first as the clerk for the legislature’s Transportation Committee and then later as a legislative aide. In both positions, C.J. worked on a number of legislative initiatives and was responsible for researching legislative proposals and advising on policy issues.

A native of Connecticut, C.J. holds a Bachelor of Arts in Political Science degree from the University of Connecticut. C.J. and his family reside in Bristol, Connecticut.

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George Sinclair

Communications & Government Relations Associate

With experience in legislative affairs, public policy, and communications, George Sinclair brings valuable insight, knowledge, and a unique skillset to the School and State Finance Project.​

In his role as Communications & Government Relations Associate, George is responsible for crafting and implementing the organization’s social media strategy and establishing ways to effectively message the organization’s materials to its various audiences. Additionally, George is responsible for helping develop and maintain relationships with state and local policymakers and informing legislators about the work and positions of the School and State Finance Project.​

Previously, George worked in the government relations practice of a Connecticut-based law firm where he connected organizations and businesses with the appropriate legislators in the Connecticut General Assembly. From this experience, George gained extensive knowledge about the legislative process and a wide array of public policy areas.

George also worked as an assistant clerk for the legislature’s Appropriations Committee, where he received significant first-hand experience in the state budget process. In addition to his legislative and government relations experience, George worked as a research assistant on Connecticut’s Racial Profiling Prohibition Project where he helped analyze statewide traffic stop data in order to identify potential disparities.

George holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in Politics and Government from the University of Hartford.

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Nisha Gandhi

Community Engagement & Communications Associate

Nisha Gandhi comes to the School and State Finance Project with experience in communications, policy analysis, community relations, and education policy research.

As a Community Engagement and Communications Associate, Nisha serves as a bridge between the organization’s community engagement and communications teams and is responsible for building and maintaining relationships with community members and partners, and creating materials to inform the public and key stakeholders about education funding and state finance issues.

Prior to joining the School and State Finance Project, Nisha worked as a policy consultant for the City of Providence where she helped create a backbone nonprofit organization to house information about the work of nonprofits across Rhode Island.

She also previously worked as a research consultant for the Providence Children & Youth Cabinet where she developed professional development trainings for teachers, parents, and administrators about best practices for building trauma-sensitive schools. Additionally, Nisha has served as the social media and communications coordinator for the organization Run for Something, which is a national nonprofit dedicated to providing resources for young, progressive candidates running for office.

Nisha holds a Master of Arts degree in Urban Education Policy from Brown University and a Bachelor of Arts degree in Education Policy from Quinnipiac University.

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Jen Nakos

Community Engagement Associate

A passion for social justice, education, and volunteering has led Jen Nakos to the School and State Finance Project where she serves on the Community Engagement team.

As a Community Engagement Associate, Jen works with communities across the state to help Connecticut residents better understand the state’s education finance system and how it impacts their local schools. Jen is also responsible for cultivating and enhancing relationships with community-based organizations and exploring avenues for potential partnerships and collaborations that support the organization's mission and goals.

In addition to her community engagement work, Jen is actively involved in the PTA for her children’s elementary school, including serving terms as its president and treasurer. Prior to moving to Connecticut in the early 2000s, Jen lived in Hong Kong for five years where she was a freelance English language teacher and a network associate for Chase Manhattan Bank.

Jen holds a Master of Social Work from Sacred Heart University and a Bachelor of Arts in Economics from Boston College. Previously, she worked as an operations analyst for The Boston Company and Fidelity Investments.

Jen lives in Fairfield with her husband, their three children, and their family dog.

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Jailynn Caraballo

Communications & Community Engagement Intern

A recent graduate of Quinnipiac University who will begin pursuing her Master of Arts degree in political communication at Emerson College in the Fall of 2021, Jailynn Caraballo brings experience in communications, public policy, and community outreach to the School and State Finance Project.

As a Communications and Community Engagement Intern, Jailynn focuses on graphic design, video production, and digital engagement. Her work is centered around better informing communities and stakeholders about the School and State Finance Project’s work and issue areas, as well as advancing the organization’s mission and goals.

While receiving her Bachelor of Arts in Journalism and Political Science at Quinnipiac, Jailynn served as president of the Ambassadors Program for the School of Communications and was the vice president of the university's chapter of the National Association of Black Journalists. Previously, Jailynn was an intern for D.C. Witness and created the Hamden Hunger Project, which helped residents of Hamden, Conn. access food at reasonable prices.

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Andréa Comer, Council Chairperson

Chief External Affairs Officer, CT Paid Leave Authority

Andréa Comer serves as the Chief External Affairs Officer for the CT Paid Leave Authority, leading communications efforts and strategies for the quasi-public state agency. Previously, she served as the Executive Director for Educators for Excellence, and has worked in various communications, strategic planning and development efforts.

A former reporter and copy editor, Andréa served as an elected member of the Hartford Board of Education, and an appointed State Board of Education member, where she pushed for transparency in school suspension and expulsion rates statewide.

Andréa has a BA in journalism from SUNY Buffalo State, is an Aspen Executive Leadership alumnus, and is a Master of Public Administration Executive Fellow at the University of Connecticut. She serves as Chair of the Hartford Foundation for Public Giving’s Greater Together Advisory Committee, as Vice Chair of Five Frogs, and on the board of the Hartford Public Library.

Andréa was an inaugural award recipient of the 100 New England Women of Color, and has been recognized by the CT Commission on Children, YMCA, Urban League of Greater Hartford and the CT NAACP, which named her among the 100 Most Influential leaders in the state.

She is the proud wife of a law enforcement officer and mother of a kindergarten teacher.

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Kevin Booker Jr.

City Councilor, City of New London; CEO and Founder, Booker Empowerment, LLC

Kevin Booker, Jr. is the founder of Booker Empowerment, LLC and has been an educator for many years. He is committed to uplifting and educating individuals. Kevin realized his passion for encouraging others who do not have a voice when he was 12 years old. At that young age, he committed to fighting for young people, understood the importance of helping others see their full potential, and dedicated himself to a life of seeking social justice.

Kevin went on to achieve various degrees through the support of his family and strong mentors. He now teaches college and high school level classes, trains men and women who have been sexually assaulted, facilitates leadership and diversity workshops, and lectures. In addition to being a City Councilor for New London, Kevin is a mentor and speaks publicly all over the country to encourage people to understand the power of education and using their voice to make positive change. He has a strong passion for encouraging others to stay positive through adversity and volunteers his time working with many individuals from various backgrounds. His motto is “Get comfortable with being uncomfortable.”

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Matthew Quinones

CEO, Stamford Public Education Foundation

Matthew Quinones serves as the Chief Executive Officer for the Stamford Public Education Foundation. He began in this role in May 2015. Previously, Matt served as Manager of Recruitment & Talent Support for Americares, a Stamford-based global health and emergency response nonprofit organization.

He is currently the President of the Stamford Board of Representatives, serving as the Deputy Mayor for the City of Stamford, and representing District 16. In addition, Matt served as a commissioned officer in the Connecticut Army National Guard for six years beginning in 2012 and, prior to that, served three years as an enlisted soldier.

Born and raised in Stamford, Matt graduated from Stamford High in 2004 and holds a B.A. from the University of Connecticut. He is also the former chair of the Executive Team for the United Way of Western Connecticut’s Cradle to Career Initiative and serves on the board of directors for the Mill River Collaborative, the Stamford Partnership, and the Housing Development Fund.

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Carrie Schindele

Executive Vice President for Programs & Administration, The Peter & Carmen Lucia Buck Foundation

Carrie Schindele is Executive Vice President for Programs & Administration for The Peter and Carmen Lucia Buck (PCLB) Foundation, a New York City‐based family foundation. Since joining PCLB in March 2008, Carrie’s role has evolved as the Foundation has grown. Today, she oversees PCLB’s grant-making, which will total $31+ million this year, with a primary focus on K-12 education.

Previously, Carrie served for a decade in the development offices of several New York organizations, including The Salvation Army and The New York Public Library.

Carrie holds a Masters in Public Administration from New York University and a Bachelor of Arts in English and Theatre from Wesleyan University.

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Zahava Stadler

Special Assistant for State Funding and Policy, The Education Trust

Zahava Stadler serves as the Special Assistant for State Funding and Policy at the Education Trust. She previously served as Director of Policy and then Managing Director at EdBuild, an organization focused on school finance equity. While at EdBuild, Zahava focused on state funding formulas and formula reform, funding inequality issues generally, and the relationship between funding policies and segregation.

Prior to EdBuild, Zahava worked primarily on human capital initiatives serving high-need schools and districts, and she assisted the School District of Philadelphia in its action planning process.

Zahava holds a bachelor's degree in political science from Princeton University and master's degrees in public administration and education policy from the University of Pennsylvania.

Our Consulting Services

In addition to its independent policy work and knowledge building in communities, the School and State Finance Project offers a variety of for-hire consulting services to organizations that align with our mission, focus areas, and goals. Through this work, we harness the data and policy experience of our staff to provide partners with the assistance and support needed to achieve their goals. Click the button below to learn more about the consulting services we offer, and for examples of our previous work.

View our database of materials and resources

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