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The Commissioner's Executive Team
Chief Information Officer
Ms. Bohannon has over 30 years of experience in providing technology services and solutions to internal and external customers in international and domestic settings. After beginning her career in aerospace engineering and providing engineering and technology services to NASA and Lockheed Martin, she provided project and senior leadership services from her home base in Australia for five years. After returning to the U.S., she provided senior technology leadership services in city, county and state government, and in small private sector technology and consulting firms. Her strengths lie in strategic business and technology planning/delivery, strong client relationship management, and building effective data and technology governance structures. Her business knowledge spans many industries, with a current primary focus on K-12 education.
Ms. Bohannon spent six years as the Chief Information Officer of Jefferson County School District, strengthening that organization's Information Technology department by transforming it into a true value-add service provider. She joined CDE in 2011, and was appointed CIO in early 2015. Her role within CDE includes oversight of internal information technology delivery functions, Data Privacy and Information Security programs, and the Data Service Unit that provides direct support of districts in the provision of data to CDE.
Associate Commissioner of Student Learning
Dr. Melissa Colsman was appointed associate commissioner of student learning at the Colorado Department of Education in January 2017. Melissa has been in public education for 33 years, serving at CDE for the past 13 years. Among her roles at CDE, Melissa has served as the state's mathematics content specialist, and mostly recently, as the executive director of teaching and learning.
Before coming to the department, Melissa was the district K-12 mathematics coordinator for Cherry Creek School District, and she taught middle school mathematics for 15 years. As a classroom teacher, Melissa received recognition for her teaching expertise, including National Board Certification and the Presidential Award for Excellence in Mathematics and Science Teaching, the highest award a mathematics or science teacher can receive.
Melissa has her Ph. D. in educational leadership and innovation from the University of Colorado Denver. Her master's degree is in interdisciplinary studies in mathematics, science, and technology from the University of Northern Colorado.
Associate Commissioner of School Quality and Support
With 22 years of experience in public education, Dr. Rhonda Haniford has served students and communities in a variety of roles. Dr. Haniford served as Assistant Superintendent of Secondary Leadership in the Greeley-Evans School District for the past three and a half years. Before Greeley, she served as Principal of Centaurus High School in the Boulder Valley School District, where she had worked for nine years. She has also worked as an English Language Arts teacher, assistant principal and principal in school districts in both Missouri and Colorado.
Dr. Haniford has increased on-time graduation rates and decreased dropout rates in both her roles as principal and assistant superintendent. While principal, Dr. Haniford’s work led to a 98% on-time graduation rate. As an assistant superintendent, her work led to a significant increase in graduation rates. Through the launch of a shared strategic plan, Dr. Haniford collaborated with the greater community of school staff, industry leaders, colleges, and both city and county officials to develop career pathways for every student. She also led two school communities in re-envisioning student learning, timely feedback and mentor programs. Within two years both schools became Schools of Innovation and moved out of Turnaround, where they ranked for the previous seven years, to become schools of performance.
Dr. Haniford completed her undergraduate degree and Masters of School Administration degree at Southern Illinois University of Edwardsville. Her Doctorate of Education is in Educational Leadership from Saint Louis University.
Chief Operating Officer
Jennifer Okes has worked for the State of Colorado since 1990 and loves serving the citizens of this great state. She has been at CDE for four years and oversees the Division of School Finance and Operations, which includes the Offices of Budget, Accounting, and Purchasing; Capital Construction; Grants Fiscal Management; Human Resources; School Finance, School Nutrition, and School Transportation.
Prior to joining CDE, Jennifer was the deputy executive director for the Colorado Department of Personnel & Administration, where she worked to improve the financial management and overall culture of the department. She has also worked at the Governor's Office of State Planning and Budgeting, where she oversaw statewide budgeting and common policies; the Colorado Department of Human Services-Information Technology Services, where she served as financial services manager and implemented a system development life cycle methodology; and the Office of the State Auditor, where she evaluated programs as a performance auditor.
Jennifer was born and raised in Denver and graduated from the University of Colorado Boulder with a degree in finance.
Associate Commissioner of Educator Talent
Dr. Colleen O'Neil is the associate commissioner of the Educator Talent unit, which encompasses the offices of educator preparation and development, educator licensing and enforcement, and educator effectiveness. Colleen holds her teacher, principal and superintendent license in the state of Colorado.
Prior to current work with CDE, Colleen was the director of curriculum, career and technical education for the South Dakota Department of Education, where she facilitated the work of three offices and worked with the Secretary of Education and Governor's Office.
Colleen also worked at Greeley-Evans School District as the chief human resource officer, an elementary school administrator and the director of strategic planning. She has also served as project manager and assessment specialist for CDE, chief learning officer for an eLearning company and a middle and high school English teacher and coach.
Colleen earned a bachelor of arts from Colorado State University at Pueblo (formerly University of Southern Colorado), a master's from the University of Northern Colorado, an educational specialist degree from the University of Colorado Denver and her doctoral degree from Bethel University in Saint Paul, Minn.
Alyssa Pearson is the deputy commissioner of the Colorado Department of Education, overseeing implementation of the department's strategic plan and work with the state board, legislature and external partners. She also leads the Student Pathways, State Library and Legislative Relations & Policy teams. Alyssa has worked at the Colorado Department of Education since 2003 and formerly served as the associate commissioner for Accountability, Performance and Support.
During her time at CDE, Alyssa has also supported Title I programs, coordinated and led the No Child Left Behind accountability and data reporting requirements, written a successful proposal to the U.S. Department of Education for approval for use of the Colorado Growth Model for federal accountability, and ensured approval of the state's ESEA waiver from the U.S. Department of Education. She has enjoyed working with internal and external partners to continually improve the work of CDE and ensure that data is used securely, responsibly and effectively in order to improve our state education system.
Prior to her time at CDE, Alyssa taught fifth graders in Denver Public Schools. She holds a bachelor's degree in psychology and an elementary education certification from the University of Colorado at Boulder as well as a master's degree from the Harvard Graduate School of Education.
Chief Communications Officer
Dana Smith has more than two decades of experience providing strategic communications counsel to senior executives in the corporate, non-profit and government sectors. She started her career as a journalist in Washington state, and then shifted to providing public affairs and public relations counsel to school districts as well as businesses in the energy, sports, technology and telecommunications industries. She came to Colorado in 2000 to serve as the chief spokesperson and communications director for US West, now Century Link, and later served as the communications director for Mile High United Way. Prior to joining the team at CDE in 2014, she served as the deputy director for communications and marketing for the Denver Scholarship Foundation, a key partner in Denver Public Schools' efforts to make college possible for Denver students. As the chief communications officer at CDE, Dana oversees the department's media relations, publications and web management functions.
Chief Assessment Officer
Joyce Zurkowski has been responsible for overseeing the state assessment program since 2010, including Colorado's transition to online assessment. Prior to joining CDE, she served in a similar position in Illinois, after serving as a contractor for their alternate assessment for students with the most significant cognitive disabilities.
Previously, Joyce taught education- and assessment-related masters-level courses at the University of Missouri while doing advanced study in special education and research/measurement at the University of Kansas. She has experience in providing appropriate interventions and supports to students and adults with disabilities as both an educator and consultant. Throughout her career in education, Joyce has been committed to improving access and opportunity for all students. She draws upon her combination of state, vendor and classroom experience, as well as her familiarity with special populations, as she considers assessment development and administration in Colorado. Joyce is a member of the National Assessment Governing Board (NAGB) Policy Task Force and has been a frequent presenter at state and national conferences on assessment-related issues.
Joyce holds degrees in philosophy and special education from St. Norbert College and University of Wisconsin – Oshkosh. She has also completed doctoral-level coursework in special education and measurement at the University of Kansas.