Teammate Spotlight: CEI Expands Our Leadership in Industry and Postsecondary Partnership, Communications Planning, and School Improvement

November 14, 2022

We are thrilled to have welcomed Shelley Banker, Claire Cecere, Tristan Connett, and Katie Kraft to our team in the last few months. These new hires help accelerate progress toward our 2023 goals and respond to increasing partner requests for expertise and support in postsecondary partnership, career-connected learning, communications and narrative change, and school improvement planning. We are excited for you to know and work with each of them, who you can read more about below. 

Shelley Banker, Director, Colorado Trustee Network (CTN) – postsecondary policy and partnerships; equity and access acceleration

As Director of CTN, Shelley Banker will focus on fostering partnerships with postsecondary representatives and accelerating access and equity in higher education spaces. Banker brings a decade of leadership promoting educational equity and access in Colorado’s postsecondary systems, including through the implementation and expansion of the Colorado Opportunity Scholarship Initiative (COSI), the development of the Colorado Department of Higher Education’s (CDHE) Educational Equity Office and Equity Champions Coalition, and most recently serving as Interim Executive Director of the Community College of Denver Foundation. Banker’s belief in postsecondary innovation and equity, understanding of Colorado’s postsecondary policy and partner ecosystem, and passion for creating statewide networks that accelerate transformation in programming, policy, and advocacy make her uniquely suited to lead CTN’s work forward. Shelley received her Master of Social Work from the University of Denver’s Graduate School of Social Work, focusing on community and social change, emphasizing stable housing, education, and workforce development for communities that are traditionally underserved. She also has a Bachelor of Science in Business Administration from the University of Colorado (CU) Denver and is a proud alum of Leadership Denver Class of 2022. 

Claire Cecere, Associate, Communication and Outreach district communications planning, storytelling, and project management 

As Communication and Outreach Associate, Claire Cecere supports partner districts’ communications audit and plan development work as well as CEI’s dissemination and engagement, storytelling, and other organizational communications efforts. Prior to joining CEI, Cecere worked at CU Boulder’s Center for Community Based Learning and Research, CU Boulder’s Research Hub, and The CU Bold publication. Cecere has a Bachelor of Science in Strategic Communication and Journalism from CU Boulder. 

Tristan Connett, Manager, Implementation and Partnership – school and district coaching and improvement planning, stakeholder engagement, career-connected and social emotional learning 

As Manager of Implementation and Partnership, Tristan Connett provides coaching, implementation, and facilitation supports to CEI’s partner schools and districts, with emphasis on graduate profile and strategic plan development, school improvement planning, and community engagement. She started her career over a decade ago working in several community-based organizations in Denver. Connett then became a director of a school-based community center and co-developed an extended learning opportunity program that later became a national model. Connett became hooked into the education space and spent the next six years as a middle school administrator both as Dean of Culture & Students and Assistant Principal. In these roles, Connett was a leader in staff development around social emotional learning and trauma informed care; led and coached building leaders and staff on restorative practices; and collaboratively worked in the visioning, planning, and implementation of a new school (turnaround), which later exhibited high growth scores and increased community and student satisfaction. Before joining CEI, she was a project manager and interim Chief of Staff for the Career and College Success Department for Denver Public Schools. She is deeply committed to reshaping K12 education in a more equitable way. 

Katie Kraft, Manager, Career Connected Learning (CCL) – K12, postsecondary, and career-connected learning practices, systems, and partnership

As Manager of Career-Connected Learning, Katie Kraft works to foster partnerships and work being done across K12 and postsecondary institutions. This work assists districts in designing, implementing, and expanding career-connected learning opportunities and pathways to graduation, postsecondary education, and meaningful careers for students across the state. Kraft joined the CEI team with 15 years of experience working in secondary and postsecondary education with an intense focus on expanding opportunities and access for traditionally underserved populations. Kraft’s passion for this work began while employed with Chicago Public Schools as a School Counselor in a school with high degrees of trauma and poverty. After moving to Denver, she worked for the Denver Opportunity Youth Initiative, a Collective Impact Initiative funded through the Aspen Institute, designing and implementing a career and workforce navigation model for disconnected or under-connected young adults. Before joining CEI, Kraft worked at Denver Public Schools developing career exploration, internship, and work-based learning opportunities for special populations.