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Leadership & Staff

Highlander Institute Staff

Cathy Sanford – Director of Research and Design

☎ 401.831.7323, ext. 307
After many years leading the Highlander Institute, Cathy has stepped into a role that utilizes her vast experience with grant writing and program design. She is responsible for working with our partners to create customized programs that leverage best practices to enhance school effectiveness.

Dana Borrelli-Murray – Executive Director

☎ 401.831.7323, ext. 305
As the Executive Director, Dana is responsible for overseeing all areas of service and specialty within the Institute, as well as strategic planning, fundraising and organizational effectiveness. Before her role at the Highlander Institute, Dana worked as the Director of Expanded Learning for Highlander Charter School. She holds graduate degrees in Anthropology and Urban Education Policy and lives in Edgewood with her husband.

Eric Butash – Director of Strategy and Implementation

☎ 401.831.7323, ext. 304
As Director of Strategy and Implementation, Eric is responsible for the design, creation, and operations of various statewide systems as it relates to the implementation of blended learning initiatives. He has spent the past 13 years in technology leadership roles most of which serving as Director of Technology for the North Smithfield Schools. Eric has served as the president for the RISTE (Rhode Island Society of Technology Educators) Organization and has worked with RI Department of Education on various statewide initiatives: Internet Access State Master Price Agreement & $20 million RIDE Wireless Classroom Initiative. He lives in Smithfield with his wife and two boys.

Erin Brouillette – CPA, Accounting Supervisor

Erin is responsible for overseeing accounting functions at the Institute. She ensures that the organization is using best practice in monitoring and reporting on income and expenses, with a keen eye on the bottom line. Erin, her husband and their son live in Pawtucket.

Jeanne D’Agostino – Director of Development

☎ 401.831.7323, ext. 306
Jeanne serves as the Institute’s Director of Development, engaging with funders and supporters to achieve the organization’s mission. In addition, Jeanne leads the Institute’s marketing and communications as the organization continues to grow its reach throughout the region. Jeanne, her husband, and their dog Rudy live in Cumberland.

Kara O’Connell – Educational Strategies Specialist

☎ 401.831.7323, ext. 309
As Educational Strategies Specialist, Kara supports partnering schools and districts with professional learning services on topics including blended and personalized learning, data analysis and action planning and the implementation of Next Generation learning models. With a background in Special Ed. Administration and 6 years as a technology implementation specialist, Kara has experienced first hand the transformative impact of high quality, technology- enhanced classroom instruction. Kara lives in Massachusetts with her family.

Laura Jackson – Educational Strategies Specialist

☎ 401.831.7323, ext. 303
Laura Jackson is an Educational Strategies Specialist at the Highlander Institute. In that role, she assists with program design, communications, and district outreach for the Fuse RI project. In addition, Laura designs and delivers professional learning and coaching services to elementary and secondary educators on a variety of topics including blended learning and formative assessment. Prior to joining the Institute, Laura served as a RTTT Assessment Specialist at the Rhode Island Department of Education and taught 5th and 8th grade English Language Arts in Boston. She now lives in Stonington, CT.

Rose Mary Grant – Head of Highlander Charter School

As the leader of the Institute’s sister organization and lab school, Rose Mary Grant works closely with Institute initiatives to ensure quality and effectiveness of Institute-led projects. Additionally, Rose maintains an open feedback loop between the school and Institute and encourages teachers to bridge the gap between both organizations as consultants, innovators, and partners in education reform.

Roshni Lakhi – Blended Learning Specialist

☎ 401.831.7323, ext. 302
Roshni Lakhi is a Blended Learning Specialist at the Highlander Institute, leading the organization’s operations in New York. She is a former Teach For America corps member, during which she taught 7th and 8th grade math and was the Director of Technology Integration in Providence, RI. She is a founding member of the EdUnderground and EdTechRI initiatives, bringing the best of educational technology to educators to enhance student learning.

Sara Pollard – Design-Think Manager, AmeriCorps VISTA

☎ 401.831.7323, ext. 300
Sara Pollard is an AmeriCorps VISTA serving as Design-Think Manager at the Highlander Institute, where she embraces the design process to create capacity and build long-term sustainability that supports the organization’s strategic growth plan. Sara is a recent graduate of the Rhode Island School of Design (RISD), where she majored in Illustration and Politics & Policy. She is a practicing illustrator and believes in design as a vehicle for positive change and effective communication. She currently lives in Providence, RI.

Shawn Rubin – Director of Blended Learning

☎ 401.831.7323, ext. 308
As the Director of Technology Integration, Shawn is responsible for outreach, research, consulting and professional development/training in blended learning and education technology integration. Shawn, a founding faculty member of the Highlander Charter School, has ten years of teaching experience in a variety of grade levels. Rubin has an insider’s view into the challenges and limitations teachers face on a daily basis. Shawn lives in Providence with his wife and 2 sons.

Stephanie Castilla – Director of Innovation

☎ 401.831.7323, ext. 309
As the Institute’s Director of Innovation, Stephanie is responsible for identifying design opportunities within the educational space and helping to bring these opportunities from concept to reality. Her specialities include product development, business & marketing strategy, visual design for print & web, and implementing design thinking to drive innovation. She joined the Highlander Institute in 2011 as a co-founder of the organization’s first incubated edtech company, Metryx.

Highlander Institute Contributors

Amy Lorvidhaya – Literacy Project Facilitator

Amy serves as the Literacy Project Facilitator for Highlander’s partnership with three K-5 schools in East Providence, helping principals and teachers enhance literacy instruction in order to improve student outcomes. She lives in Providence with her husband and two young sons.

Jessie Arora – Research Associate

Jessie Arora, founder of TeacherSquare, is focused on improving educational outcomes for all types of learners and empowering educators to play a more active and meaningful role in tech adoption in our schools. She is particularly passionate about cultivating the education startup ecosystem to help create tools and services that improve teaching and learning for all students. As an angel investor she focuses on the K12 education space, applying her experiences from Google, Citizen Schools & the Stanford Graduate School of Ed. She blogs at and you can follow her @Jessie_Arora.

Nick DiNardo – Meet Education Project Director

Nick DiNardo believes that every kid, regardless of race or socioeconomic status, should have the opportunity for a quality education that cultivates a curiosity and fire for lifelong learning. Nick has worked in higher education technology for the past seven years for two Fortune 500 education companies, founded (and closed) a startup, and been a part of the executive team of a seed stage ed tech startup based in Cambridge, MA. He is a founding board of trustee for Argosy Collegiate Charter School, a proposed grade 6-12 college preparatory school focused on serving low-income families in Fall River, MA. Nick is also a City Year Boston mentor. Nick is also an adjunct professor at the Johnson & Wales University College of Business in Providence, RI. Nick is a graduate of Wesleyan University (CT), and also holds an MBA from the University of Massachusetts at Amherst.

Tom Driscoll – Technology Integration Specialist

Tom Driscoll is a high school social studies teacher and instructional technology coach that has conducted professional development sessions throughout the region to help educators innovate in their classroom. Tom recently completed the Computing in Education M.A. program through Teachers College at Columbia University and has authored contributing chapters for three books on instructional technology.

Highlander Charter School and Highlander Institute Board of Trustees


John Kelly, Chair, President and CEO, Meeting Street

John Lombardo, Secretary and Treasurer-Small Business Owner

Ron Caniglia, President- Stand Corporation

Richard Dickson, Retired Professor Emeritus- Rhode Island College

Jim Gannaway, Executive Director- Casey Family Services

Susan Hannon, Senior Vice President-Global Wealth and Investment Management US Trust Bank of America

Bari Harlam, BJ’s Wholesale Club

Eric Mack, Associate Attorney- Edwards Wildman

Rosemary Mede, Human Resources- The Providence Center

Fran Murphy, Executive Director- Washington Park Community Center

Rachel Roderick, Human Resources- CVS/Caremark

Linda Cohen-Attorney