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The Commissioner's Executive Team

Janelle Asmus, Chief Communications Officer

Janelle Albertson Asmus, APR, is a veteran education communications professional with more than two decades experience at the state and local levels. She was named CDE’s chief communications officer in May 2011 by Commissioner Robert Hammond.

Asmus has served in various communications and public relations leadership positions in Kansas and Colorado. She’s been the president of both states’ school public relations association and has served as the Southwest Regional Vice President for the National School Public Relations Association. She’s a regularly invited presenter for conferences around the nation on issues such as strategic communications planning, governmental relations and issues management. She’s a featured author of books such as School Public Relations: Building Confidence in Public Schools, The Wit and Wisdom of PR Success, and the Journal of School Public Relations. Her work has earned dozens of state and national awards including the National School Public Relations’ highest award, the Gold Medallion, for superior public relations practices.

Prior to joining CDE, Asmus served as the chief communications officer for Adams 12 Five Star Schools, Thornton, Colo. She’s also worked in similar roles with the Boulder Valley School District, the Wichita (Kan.) School District, the Kansas State Department of Education, and the Kansas Association of School Boards. Click here to see the work of the Communications Division.


Elliott Asp, Special Assistant to the Commissioner

Elliott Asp joined the department in November 2012 to provide advice and support to the commissioner on special projects in the areas of assessment, accountability, educator effectiveness, the Colorado Growth Model and policy. Asp previously worked for Cherry Creek School District as assistant superintendent for performance improvement.

Before joining Cherry Creek, he held a similar position in the Douglas County School District and also worked with curriculum and assessment in Littleton and Aurora Public Schools.

Asp has more than 35 years of education experience ranging from serving as a teacher, assistant principal, assessment director and director of the Colorado Assessment Consortium. He’s been tapped for other state leadership roles including serving on Colorado Standards and Assessments Development and Implementation Council, the Colorado Teacher Development Council and the Commissioner’s Task Force on Assessment. He has also edited volumes, contributed to books, and written for research and professional journals. He has presented locally and nationally on topics ranging from standards-based education to assessment design.

Asp earned his bachelor’s degree in biology from the University of Colorado at Boulder. He went on to earn a master’s in curriculum and instruction at the University of Northern Colorado and a Ph.D. in educational administration and human development from Penn State University.


Leanne Emm, Associate Commissioner

Leanne Emm was appointed assistant commissioner for school finance at the Colorado Department of Education in 2011. Prior to joining CDE, Emm worked for Jeffco Public Schools in the areas of budget and finance for almost 14 years. While at Jeffco, she was also involved with federal programs, pupil counts, debt issuance and system improvements.

Emm also worked for Jefferson County Public Libraries running the business office and also served as the city accountant for a small Denver metro city. Leanne has a bachelor’s degree in accounting, and holds a master’s degree in public administration from CU-Denver.


Jill Hawley, Associate Commissioner of Achievement and Strategy

Jill Hawley brings nearly 21 years experience in education policy and business. Prior to joining CDE, she served as project director with The New Teacher Project (TNTP) where she assisted CDE in developing and implementing a statewide strategy for increasing educator effectiveness.

Hawley spent eight years working for AdvancED where she was responsible for leading the merger that created the organization, implementing the organization’s strategic plan and managing the organization’s 30 state offices. She has held a variety of leadership roles in a range of nonprofit organizations seeking to improve the quality of education for all students. Early in her career she served as a staffer at the Colorado Legislative Council. Hawley holds a bachelor’s degree in public policy from Stanford University and a master’s in business administration from the Harvard Business School.


Rebecca Holmes, Associate Commissioner of Innovation, Choice, and Engagement

Prior to joining CDE in March 2013, Holmes was the CEO of KIPP Colorado Schools. KIPP (Knowledge is Power Program) is a system of 125 charter schools across the U.S. with a commitment to preparing students in underserved, low-income communities for success in college and life. At KIPP Colorado, Holmes was responsible for more than tripling the size of the organization and leading the schools to record levels of student achievement. Holmes also has private sector experience as a senior consultant with Deloitte Consulting, where she worked with a variety of clients on change management, talent strategies and organization design. Holmes began her career as a middle school teacher. She holds a bachelor's degree in history from Yale University and an M.B.A. from Harvard Business School.


Carey Taylor Markel, Policy Analyst, Data Privacy Officer and Director of State Board Relations

Carey Taylor Markel was hired by the Colorado Board of Education in October 2011. She brings a broad range of public and private sector experience to her role as Director of State Board Relations, including partner in a law firm in South Carolina and Of Counsel to Wheeler Trigg O’Donnell in Denver.

Most recently, Markel served as Senior Assistant Attorney General in the Education Unit of the Colorado Department of Law where she provided counsel to the State Board of Education and the Department of Education on a variety of matters and issues. While at the Department of Law, Markel served as general counsel to the Board of Trustees of Western State College of Colorado and provided counsel to other Colorado institutions of higher education. Through her service in the Department of Law, Markel developed an extensive knowledge of P-20 systems.

Having grown up with educators, Markel has a deep appreciation for the dedication they bring to the profession. Markel holds a Juris Doctor from Emory University School of Law and a Bachelor of Arts from Auburn University.


Keith Owen, Deputy Commissioner

Owen oversees the state’s special education programs, federal programs including Title I, support for local school districts, and accountability systems.

Owen comes to the state department from Durango School District where he served as the superintendent for three years. During his tenure in Durango, he is credited with initiating a principal professional development program for principals in the southwest portion of the state and leading a comprehensive community strategic plan that has resulted in many improvements to the school system.

Prior to being the superintendent in Durango, Owen served in a variety of leadership positions with the Pueblo City School District. His experience in Pueblo included being a teacher, principal, director of reading programs, executive director of elementary education and chief academic officer. Owen received his Ph.D. and Superintendent License in June of 2004 from the University of Denver in Colorado.

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