CEI Introduces Two Vice Presidents: Welcoming Eight New Team Members!

July 18, 2023

We are thrilled to welcome eight new teammates to CEI whose collective expertise spans the education landscape, with focus on deepening support for policy, district and school leadership, family and community partnership, and strategic data and communications.

Karen Quanbeck and Amber Elias both join as Vice Presidents to lead CEI’s state-level ecosystem work through policy-focused partnerships.

Quanbeck (Q) joins from Clear Creek School District, where she served as superintendent since 2019, and previously as Jeffco Public Schools’ Chief of Elementary Schools and as an elementary and middle school principal. As Vice President of Statewide Partnerships, she will lead superintendent advocacy and partnerships to advance CEI’s ecosystem work at the intersection of K-12 and postsecondary education, and workforce.

Elias joins from 15 years in Denver Public Schools, where she served most recently as Executive Director of Operations Service Delivery, and Lead Operational Superintendent and Deputy General Counsel prior to that. As Vice President of Policy and Partnership, she will lead partnerships with policymakers, advocacy organizations, regional and state-level community organizations, and agency leaders to support aligned accountability policy change and drive a learning agenda around educator retention.

“We are honored to welcome Q and Amber who bring such a wealth of complementary expertise in leadership and partnership across districts and communities. These two leaders strengthen our ability to bridge policy and practice by amplifying district implementation efforts that collectively accelerate new possibilities for education innovation and equity,” said Rebecca Holmes, CEI President and CEO. “CEI’s greatest asset is our staff and I am proud of the increasing breadth of knowledge and capacity that our eight new teammates will contribute to our work across the state.”

Six additional teammates join from Colorado school districts, policy, and education partner organizations, bringing new leadership and expertise to CEI’s expanding family and community partnership, district planning and school improvement, and strategic data and communications efforts.

We can’t wait for you to meet our new colleagues as we continue working together in the year ahead!

CEI’s Newest Team Members

Amber Elias, Vice President, Policy and Partnership

As Vice President of Policy and Partnership, Amber Elias focuses on expanding and supporting partnerships with policymakers, advocacy organizations, regional and state level community organizations, and agency leaders. She also leads efforts that support aligned accountability policy change and that expand learning and action in educator recruitment and retention. After 15 years working at Denver Public Schools and leading work designed to improve the experience of students, teachers, and leaders, she looks forward to engaging with systems and leaders across Colorado to scale the impact of promising practices. In her free time, Amber enjoys road trips and camping with her two kids. She has a dedicated hot yoga practice and a very serious book club and can usually be found outdoors.

Laura Harney, Director, Family and Community Partnership

As Director of Family and Community Partnerships, Laura Harney provides coaching, strategic planning, and coalition building to strengthen family and community partnerships statewide. She joins the CEI team from Rocky Mountain Prep in Denver and Aurora, where she oversaw enrollment, family and community engagement, and advocacy for the network. She brings a decade of experience in education and policy, including her role as program director for former state senator Mike Johnston and as an Indianapolis Urban Leaders Fellow. Laura has a deep love for global citizenship fostered by a five-month, solo backpacking journey through southeast Asia to learn about the intersection of culture, education, and sustainability, and as a 2013 Fulbright fellow in Ecuador.

Karen Quanbeck, Vice President, Statewide Partnerships

As Vice President of Statewide Partnerships, Karen Quanbeck focuses on building and supporting superintendent advocacy and partnerships to advance CEI’s ecosystem work at the intersection of K-12, postsecondary, and workforce. Karen is thrilled to start in this new role following a long career in PK-12 public education. Most recently, she served as superintendent in Clear Creek School District. She has held numerous positions in Jeffco Public Schools, including teacher, assistant principal, principal, and chief of elementary schools. She is enthusiastically dedicated to the transformation of school in collaboration with communities.

Cassandra Quillen, Assistant Director, Communications and Marketing

As Assistant Director of Communications and Marketing, Cassandra Quillen provides internal and external communications strategy and support to CEI and its partners. Prior to joining CEI, Cassandra was a policy analyst with the Arts Education Partnership at Education Commission of the States where she researched and reported on key topics and policy issues across the arts and education. She has held multiple education-focused roles in her career and brings more than 11 years of content and resource development, communications, and project management experience to CEI. She is passionate about engaging in work that fosters positive, impactful experiences and outcomes for learners and communities.

Elisha Roberts, Assistant Director, Implementation and Partnership

As Assistant Director of Implementation and Partnership, Elisha Roberts works to support CEI’s school district partners and their communities in leading and executing strategic planning and implementation to drive significant school and district improvement. With 15 years of experience in K-12 educational settings, Elisha’s work has focused on providing students with opportunities to become lifelong learners, critical thinkers, agents for change, and responsible community members in society. Most recently, Elisha served as Chief Academic Officer of STRIVE Prep, following her role as Managing Director, and as Founding Principal of STRIVE Prep RISE. Born and raised in Colorado, Elisha was a Daniels Scholar and holds a B.A. from Occidental College and an M.A. in Curriculum and Instruction from Boston College’s Donovan Urban Scholars program.

Angie Rolón, Manager, Data and Learning

As Manager of Data and Learning, Angie Rolón contributes to CEI’s efforts to operate as a data-driven learning organization. In this role, she will also support schools and districts to build knowledge and share their work in social-emotional development and career-connected learning through program evaluation for meaningful data use. Her previous experience includes six years of working as a bilingual and dual language educator in Texas. Angie was also an Urban Leaders Fellow at the Colorado Department of Education and recently completed her master’s degree from the University of California Berkeley’s Goldman School of Public Policy.

Emily Takimoto, Assistant Director, Network Implementation and Partnership

As Assistant Director of Network Implementation and Partnership, Emily Takimoto supports Colorado school districts to establish and expand career-connected learning practices and social emotional development experiences for students. In her previous role as manager of Denver Public School’s Launch Internship and Youth Apprenticeship programs, she worked to provide a new vision for postsecondary success for high school students. Drawing on her experience in public education, Emily strives to maintain compassion and intention when reimagining our educational system and advocating for youth-centered ideas.

Eileen Walz, Assistant Director, Strategic Project Management

As Assistant Director of Strategic Project Management, Eileen Walz focuses on aligning and facilitating the most promising strategies and synergizing insights across CEI projects and partnerships. Eileen brings 15 years of experience working across the education landscape to the CEI team, including facilitating learning experiences, building community, exploring how people engage differently with tools and interactive spaces. In prior roles, she developed experiential learning programs for universities and international education programs and streamlined information systems for impact-minded companies and schools.