Sara Almaraz, Events and Communications Associate

As the Events and Communications Associate at CORE, Sara Almaraz is responsible for managing the details of statewide CORE collaborative convenings and events. Sara brings several years of experience in the nonprofit and meetings arenas to CORE. Most recently, she worked in fund development, handling grant proposals, reports and other communication media for a large hunger relief organization in the Central Valley. She has also held positions with the San Francisco Convention & Visitors Bureau and the International Society for Magnetic Resonance in Medicine, where she was responsible for communications, collateral and marketing efforts. Sara lives in Clovis, California, with her husband Kino, a mechanical engineer, and their daughter Malina.


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Noah Bookman, Chief Strategy Officer

Noah Bookman is the Chief Strategy Officer of CORE Districts. In his role, Noah leads CORE’s strategic initiatives, including CORE’s newly launched cross-district improvement community focused on math achievement gaps for African American and Hispanic/Latino youth, and CORE’s multi-district continuous improvement, holistic data system serving 1.8 million students.

As Chief Accountability Officer at CORE from 2013 to 2016, Noah oversaw the implementation of the CORE No Child Left Behind Waiver, which included a first of its kind whole child approach to school accountability, emphasizing academic success, social-emotional development and positive school culture-climate. He also led the development and implementation of two school intervention programs – School Pairing and Communities of Practice – that together operated in over 200 low performing Title I schools in the state of California.

Before CORE, Noah served as the Director of Performance Management for the Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD). His responsibilities involved developing and implementing a coherent system to articulate, monitor and deliver outcomes for schools, for the regional and central office units that support and manage schools, and for the operational divisions of the District’s central office. Noah also played a leadership role in the District’s educator effectiveness initiative. Noah has also served as a Managing Director at the After-School-All-Stars (ASAS), a national after-school program for at-risk youth and was an English teacher in the LAUSD. He is a graduate of University of California, Los Angeles and has a Masters in Public Policy from the University of California’s Goldman School of Public Policy. Noah lives in the Greater Los Angeles Area with his middle school sweetheart, and their son and daughter.


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Sonum Dixit, Program Assistant

Sonum Dixit is one of the Program Assistants at CORE. Before CORE, she worked at OCA-Greater Los Angeles (OCA-GLA) and Committee of 100 (C-100) to plan events and raise awareness about issues affecting the Asian American community in Los Angeles. She received a B.A. in Neuroscience and completed a Post Baccalaureate Program, both at Amherst College. While at Amherst, she gained extensive research experience and a passion for issues affecting women and children of color. She was a Young Leaders Institute fellow with South Asian Americans Leading Together (SAALT) and co-founded It Happens Here Amherst, an activist group and magazine addressing campus sexual assault. She is excited to combine her data analysis experience with her nonprofit and event planning experience at CORE.


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Jina Kim-Qvale, Program Manager

In her role as CORE Districts School Support Program Manager, Jina is responsible for supporting the rollout and implementation of CORE Intervention programs, School Pairing and Community of Practice, for all participating districts. She has been an educator for over 18 years. Jina worked as a teacher in both public and private settings, served five years as an assistant principal and over four years as a principal. As a principal, she designed and opened a pilot school, Ambassador School of Global Education, in Los Angeles Unified School District located on the historic RFK Community Schools complex. Part of an internal reform movement, Ambassador School of Global Education is a hub of innovation located in the center of Pico Union and Koreatown. Ambassador School of Global Education is a part of Asia Society’s International Schools Network and is designed as a multi-age, project-based school with emphasis on heritage and foreign languages. In 2012, Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa and the Department of Cultural Affairs, City of Los Angeles featured Jina as an “Educator Breaking the Mold” as part of Asian and Pacific American Heritage Month.

Jina received her Bachelors in Sociology and Psychology from the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA). She continued her education at UCLA to earn her Masters in Education and at Pepperdine University for her Masters in Administration. In 2012, Jina earned a Doctorate in Educational Leadership through the UCLA Educational Leadership Program. Jina resides happily in Los Angeles with her husband, son, daughter, and dog.

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Annabelle Kleist, Chief of Staff

Annabelle Kleist joined CORE Districts in 2013, and as a Chief of Staff she provides operational, grant management, financial, and communications support for the organization.  Annabelle brings public policy, project management, and scientific expertise to the CORE team.  Previously, she was a Science and Technology Policy Fellow in the California State Assembly and worked directly in a legislator’s office.  She also conducted scientific research and taught undergraduate laboratory classes while completing her PhD in Plant Biology at the University of California, Davis.  Annabelle stays involved in the scientific community as an editor for an open access biology journal and a herbarium volunteer.


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Rick Miller, Executive Director

Rick Miller serves as the Executive Director of the CORE districts. Prior to joining CORE, Miller was the Deputy State Superintendent for P-16 Policy and Information Branch of the California Department of Education.  In this position, Miller developed policy recommendations on promising ways to improve student achievement throughout California specifically focused on closing the state’s achievement gaps from PreK to Higher Education. Prior to his time at the California Department of Education, Miller worked at Microsoft Corporation developing communications strategies on privacy, security, and overall corporate image.  Miller also served as a strategic communications advisor to the Chancellor of the California State University System (CSU). Prior to working at CSU, Miller served the U.S. Department of Education in Washington D.C. as Press Secretary to Richard W. Riley, Secretary of Education in the Clinton Administration. Miller also spent time during those years periodically detailed to the White House Office of Advance where he traveled domestically and internationally on behalf of President Clinton. Miller also serves on the Education Advisory Board for the Region IX Equity Assistance Center as well as on the Board of Directors for Rocklin Academy Family of Schools. He lives in Rocklin, California with his wife, Julie, an elementary school speech therapist and their two sons, Casey and Ryan.

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Michelle Steagall, Chief Academic Officer

As the CORE Chief Academic Officer, Michelle Steagall is responsible for bridging the work to support the implementation of Common Core Standards and promoting teacher and principal effectiveness across the eight CORE partner districts. Michelle brings 23 years of school district experience to her work at CORE.  She began her educational career as a multi-graded classroom teacher amidst thousands of acres of wheat fields in rural North Eastern Oregon.  In 1990 she moved to California to join the Clovis Unified School District family where she served as a teacher, assistant principal in intermediate and elementary schools, an elementary principal and the associate superintendent for curriculum and instruction.  Additionally, Michelle served for six years as the superintendent of the Clay Joint Elementary School District and the Chowchilla School District both located in the diverse heart of California, the San Joaquin Valley. Michelle earned a Masters in Educational Administration from Fresno State, a Doctorate in Educational Leadership from the University of La Verne in Southern California and is a licensed curriculum auditor.  As a superintendent she was selected and served on various state wide committees with the California School Boards Association.


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Whitney Stormberg, Program Assistant

Whitney Stormberg serves as a Program Assistant for CORE Districts. She previously worked for Lieutenant Governor Gavin Newsom, managing constituent affairs and performing research for the Lieutenant Governor’s event briefs. Over the years, Whitney developed a passion for service work. Within the past five years she has traveled and worked with Engineers Without Borders and various private entities; meeting, serving and developing friendships with those she encountered both nationally and internationally. With a passion for public service, Whitney is excited to be part of a organization whose mission is to improve the surrounding community.


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Julie White, Director of External Relations

Julie White joined the CORE Districts as director of external relations in July 2016. White serves as the organization’s primary spokesperson, sharing the CORE Districts’ work and latest news with educators as well as policymakers and the general public. Prior to this role, White served as director of communications for the California State Board of Education, managing media and public relations on California’s school funding and accountability system as well as standards and assessments. Previously, White served for 17 years as assistant executive director for the Association of California School Administrators and managed all association communications strategies. White has served as a senior consultant for the California State Assembly and as public information officer for California’s 11th largest school district, San Juan Unified. White and her husband, Tom, live in Sacramento. They have two children, Gavin and Abbie.


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