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The Commissioner's Senior Leadership Team

Marcia Bohannon

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.


Joanna Bruno

Assistant Commissioner, Teaching and Learning

Bio coming soon!


Paul Foster

Assistant Commissioner, Exceptional Student Services

Bio coming soon!


Emma Garrett-Nelson

Chief Communications Officer

Emma Garrett-Nelson is the Chief Communications Officer at the Colorado Department of Education overseeing the department’s internal and external communications, public relations and media engagement, and digital platforms. She has worked in the nonprofit sector for nearly 20 years with a focus on public education for the last decade.

Prior to joining the CDE team, Garrett-Nelson worked as the chief of staff at Washoe County School District, the second-largest district in Nevada with 60,000 students and 7,000 employees. In that role, she helped to lead first-year implementation of the district’s strategic plan and supported while building systems and structures to strengthen organizational readiness and accountability.

Prior to Washoe County, Garrett-Nelson spent eight years leading strategic communications at Tulsa Public Schools, the largest public school district in the State of Oklahoma serving 33,000 students in grades pre-K-12. She managed communications and public relations for the district during the 2018 Oklahoma teacher walkout, the COVID-19 pandemic, and the 2021 Bond for Tulsa Public Schools, a $415 million package that passed with 73% voter support.

Prior to Tulsa, Garrett-Nelson worked in the Office of the Commissioner at the Rhode Island Department of Education; Gordon School, a progressive independent school serving students in nursery-8th grades; and was the lead field organizer for the successful campaign to pass marriage equality legislation in the State of Rhode Island. 

Garrett-Nelson holds a bachelor’s degree in English from Temple University and a master’s degree in administrative leadership from the University of Oklahoma. 


Rhonda Haniford

Deputy Commissioner, Student Excellence

Dr. Haniford serves as the Deputy Commissioner, Student Excellence at the Colorado Department of Education. She is focused on ensuring all students and their families have access to high quality schools, and she understands the importance of engaging students in meaningful learning that honors their unique talents and aspirations. She leads the School Quality and Support division that includes Accountability and Continuous Improvement, School and District Transformation, Schools of Choice, Federal Programs and Supports, and Field Services. She has worked in K-12 public education for over two decades.

Before joining the Colorado Department of Education, Dr. Haniford served as an assistant superintendent, high school principal, and public school teacher where she used genuine shared decision making processes to increase on-time graduation rates, decrease dropout rates, and increase career pathways for students. She empowers school communities to design quality schools that engage students in purposeful, rigorous learning. She is skilled in strategic development, leadership coaching, teacher development, business and community partnerships, blended learning, and continuous improvement strategies that drive positive student outcomes. Most importantly, she believes that every student deserves a high quality education.

Dr. Haniford received a Ph.D. in Educational Leadership from Saint Louis University, and a Masters of School Administration from Southern Illinois University at Edwardsville. She lives in Colorado with her husband and two children who are in elementary and middle school.


Scott D. Jones

Deputy Commissioner, Strategy

Scott D. Jones has served as the Deputy Commissioner, Strategy since May 2024 (formerly as the Chief of Staff since December 2022) of the Colorado Department of Education where he leads the internal operations teams, the Strategic Recovery Office, and supports overall organizational strategy. He joined CDE as the Chief Strategic Recovery Officer in July 2021, bringing with him more than a decade of experience in education research, policy and administration. In this role, Scott lead the development and implementation of CDE’s cross-departmental COVID-19 education recovery plan in collaboration with other CDE leaders and staff in support of the state’s districts and schools as they recover from the impacts of the pandemic.

Before joining CDE, Scott served as assistant director of budget management for the University of Colorado Boulder where he led the financial management of the campus’ response to the coronavirus pandemic including day-to-day supervision of almost $150 million In federal relief funds. Prior to that, he was the senior manager of strategic planning and chief of staff to the associate chief of academics for Denver Public Schools where he managed district-wide academic initiatives. Before that, he worked for Education Commission of the States and the Council of Chief State School Officers in leveraging education policy and research to expand access for all students to engage in a well-rounded education.

Scott completed his undergraduate degree in music education at Carthage College in Kenosha, Wisconsin, and his graduate work at the Indiana University School of Public and Environmental Affairs in Bloomington, Indiana, where he also chaired the city commission on the arts.

 


Shelbie Konkel

Senior Legislative Advisor

Bio coming soon!


Jennifer Okes

Chief School Operations Officer

Jennifer Okes has worked for the State of Colorado since 1990 and loves serving Colorado’s school districts and the citizens of this great state. She has been at CDE since 2013 and oversees the Division of School District Operations, which includes four Units: Capital Construction, School Finance and Grants, 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.


Danielle Ongart

Assistant Commissioner, Student Pathways and Engagement

Bio coming soon!


Alyssa Pearson

Deputy Commissioner, Pathways, Policy and Partnerships

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.


Wayne Peel

Chief Financial Officer

Bio coming soon!


Margarita Tovar

Chief Talent Officer

Dr. Margarita Tovar is the Chief Talent Officer of the Colorado Department of Education, overseeing educator preparation, educator development, educator effectiveness, licensing, enforcement, early childhood workforce development, and human resources teams. 

Most recently, Dr. Tovar served as Chief Talent Officer in the Summit School District where she has led the transformation of this rural district’s human resources team and served as an integral member of the superintendent’s cabinet. She is living proof that education changes lives. Based her experiences in different roles and districts, and through her first-hand experiences, she works with urgency and purpose to address educational barriers that deter students and communities from reaching their highest potential and aspirations.

She started her career as a teacher’s aide at Farias Early Childhood Center in the Houston Independent School District and has worked in several school and district-based roles, including as a bilingual teacher, dual language coordinator, instructional specialist, assistant principal, and principal. She also served as a school improvement liaison between the Corsicana Independent School District and the Texas Education Agency.

Dr. Tovar is a proud first-generation graduate of the Houston Community College where she earned an associate's degree, the University of Houston-Downtown where she earned her bachelor degree, and the Houston Baptist University where she earned her master’s degree. She also recently celebrated earning her doctoral degree from the University of Houston.

 


Joyce Zurkowski

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.


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