For Immediate Release
Tuesday, February 26, 2019

New State Board of Education members and State Superintendent of Education sworn in today

State Board elects officers and Chairperson appoints committee chairs

​SPRINGFIELD The Illinois State Board of Education (ISBE) swore in seven new Board members and welcomed one returning member at its regular business meeting in Springfield today following their appointments Monday by Governor JB Pritzker. The Board selected and swore in Dr. Carmen I. Ayala as the 30th State Superintendent of Education, effective March 1, 2019.

Governor Pritzker named Darren Reisberg as chair of the Board. Chairperson Reisberg appointed Susan Morrison as chair of the Education Policy Planning Committee and Jane Quinlan as chair of the Finance and Audit Committee. The Board elected Donna Simpson Leak as vice chair of the Board and Cristina Pacione-Zayas as secretary of the Board.

Biographical information for Ayala and the members of the Board, as provided by the Office of the Governor, is below.

Carmen Ayala, State Superintendent of Education

Dr. Ayala has more than 30 years of education experience, most recently serving as the superintendent of Berwyn North School District 98. She previously served as an assistant superintendent for Plainfield District 202; as a director in Community Consolidated School District 300; and as an assistant superintendent, director of Bilingual Services, and teacher in Aurora East School District 131. She began her career at Chicago Public Schools, serving as a teacher for five years. Dr. Ayala received her Bachelor of Arts from Mundelein College, her MBA from Dominican University, and her Ph.D. in educational leadership and policy studies from Loyola University of Chicago.

Darren Reisberg, Chair of the Board

Reisberg currently serves as the vice president for strategic initiatives and deputy provost at the University of Chicago. He served the university as vice president and secretary and was the first executive director of the university's Institute of Politics. He currently serves on the institute's Board of Advisors. Reisberg previously served as general counsel and deputy superintendent of ISBE. In those roles, he counseled the State Superintendent of Education and State Board of Education on legal, policy, and operational matters. He also was an employment and labor attorney at the Chicago law firm of Sidley Austin LLP and worked as a judicial law clerk for U.S. District Court Judge Rebecca R. Pallmeyer. Reisberg received his Juris Doctor from Yale Law School and his Bachelor of Arts in political science at Duke University.

Donna Simpson Leak, Vice Chair of the Board

Leak currently serves as superintendent of Community Consolidated Schools District 168. She has trained thousands of teachers and presented at more than 200 conferences worldwide. Leak previously served as assistant superintendent and superintendent of schools in Rich Township High School District 227, where she oversaw all functions of the district, including curriculum and instruction, federal and state grants, district improvement, and campus restructuring initiatives. Rich Township high schools received the distinction of Best High Schools in America from U.S. News & World Report during her tenure there. Leak has been a member of the National Council of Supervisors of Mathematics Board for several years and is a lead instructor with the Professional Learning Community academies. Leak has also been an active member of the American Association of School Administrators for the past decade, recently receiving her National Certification Certificate. Leak received her Ph.D. in administration and supervision from Loyola University, Master of Arts in educational administration from Governor's State University, and Bachelor of Science in mathematics from the University of Illinois at Chicago.

Cristina Pacione-Zayas, Secretary of the Board

Pacione-Zayas currently serves as the director of policy at Erikson Institute, where she generates systemic solutions leading to equitable opportunities and positive outcomes for young children, families, and communities. Her work is informed by over a decade of experience leading education policy and community education initiatives in Illinois' Latinx communities. Pacione-Zayas previously led the Latino Policy Forum's Education Department with a focus on improving education policy in the birth-to-third-grade continuum that will produce positive outcomes for Latinx and immigrant children. She cultivated a 29 percent reduction in serious disciplinary infractions during her two years as the culture of calm coordinator for Roberto Clemente Community Academy, a public high school in Chicago. She managed a network of eight community schools in the Little Village neighborhood of Chicago, representing more than 1,500 youths and 650 adults, as the community schools director at Enlace Chicago. She received her doctorate in educational policy studies, Master of Education in educational policy studies, and dual Bachelor of Arts degrees in sociology and Spanish from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

Susan Morrison, Chair of the Education Policy Planning Committee

Morrison has worked as an Illinois educator and advocate for children for almost 40 years. She began her career as a social studies teacher, working for 10 years in Homer and Girard. Morrison taught middle and high school social studies and had administrative experience as a building principal and director of curriculum and instruction. She was also selected as the first state director for AdvancED at the University of Illinois. Morrison's statewide leadership responsibilities have included positions as state director of School Improvement, state director of Gifted Education, state director of Education to Careers, and program director for many state and federal programs. She had oversight for state accountability, standards and assessment, teaching and learning, educator effectiveness, special education, early childhood education, bilingual education, and career and technical education prior to retiring as deputy superintendent/chief education officer at ISBE in June 2015. Morrison received her Master of Arts in educational administration from the University of Illinois Springfield, her bachelor's degree from Cornell College, and a specialist degree in superintendency from Eastern Illinois University. She holds a Professional Educator License endorsed for teacher, principal, and superintendent. Two of Morrison's four children are public school teachers in Illinois. Morrison was appointed to the Illinois State Board of Education in July 2017 by Governor Bruce Rauner.

Jane Quinlan, Chair of the Finance and Audit Committee

Quinlan currently is regional superintendent for the Champaign-Ford Regional Office of Education 9, where she previously was the assistant regional superintendent. She served as the vice president of the Illinois Association of Regional Superintendents of Schools from 2011-13. She previously served as director of ROE SchoolWorks, the professional development division of Champaign-Ford ROE and Vermilion ROE. Quinlan also has worked as a reading and language arts specialist at Education Service Center 13, where she later became assistant director and director. She received her Ph.D. in educational organization and leadership and her M.Ed. in reading from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and her B.S.Ed. in elementary education from Eastern Illinois University in Charleston.

Christine Benson

Benson has 35 years of teaching and administrative experience in elementary, middle, and high schools in Illinois. She served as central office administrator for seven years, focusing on budget management, curriculum development, and grants. Benson served as superintendent for six years at Mendota High School, five years in the Ottawa Elementary School District, and six years in the Streator Elementary School District. She received her Doctor of Education from Northern Illinois University and her Master of Science in education administration and Bachelor of Music Education from Illinois State University.

Cynthia Latimer

Latimer has more than 33 years of administrative and classroom experience in Aurora school districts. She began her career as a special education teacher in East Aurora District 131 and later worked in West Aurora School District 129 for 10 years. Latimer went on to serve as principal of W.S. Beaupre Elementary School from 1990 to 1993 and Abraham Lincoln Elementary School from 1993 to 2000. She then served as chief officer for special populations at District 129, working closely with social workers, psychologists, speech and language pathologists, teachers, and nurses throughout the district. Latimer was promoted to assistant superintendent in the Division of Student Services in 2006, and she became the assistant superintendent in the Division of Teaching and Learning in 2008. Her duties there included oversight of all aspects of PK-12 instruction, including those of the former Student Services Division. She held this role until her retirement in 2014. Latimer received her Master of Science in educational leadership and policy study from Northern Illinois University and her Bachelor of Science in special education from Illinois State University.

David Lett

Lett has spent more than 35 years teaching and leading K-12 schools and in higher education. He currently is an adjunct professor on the Education Leadership Department at the University of Illinois Springfield. Lett served as superintendent for Pana Community Unit School District 8 from 2001 to 2017. He previously served as the middle school principal at Seneca Grade School and as an assistant principal at Ottawa Township High School. He taught social sciences at Seneca, Morrison High School, and Reddick Junior High/High School at the beginning of his career. Lett received his Doctor of Education and Master of Education Administration from Illinois State University and his Bachelor of Science in economics from Illinois Wesleyan University.

Jacqueline Robbins

Robbins served as a UniServ director for two regions at the Illinois Education Association from 2007 to 2017. She previously taught at Dunlap High School, served as community relations manager and instructor of 28 programs at Hult Health Education Center, and was a program coordinator and instructor at Illinois Central College. She received her Master of Arts from Bradley University and Bachelor of Arts from Millikin University.

Robbins will be sworn in at the March State Board meeting.