Jenny Gillet currently leads a team of coaches to advocate for and strengthen how school districts support educators. She believes sustainable change can only happen when people are afforded the time to reflect, share and grow. Self-identified as a life-long-learner, she is constantly seeking out ways to center equity in her work, how to best support students, and build honest relationships. Jenny is an aspiring bailaora and avid yoga practitioner. She received her MAT from Lewis and Clark in 2003 and spent 10 years teaching incredible kids in the D.C. Metro area and David Douglas School District.
Whitney Grubbs has more than a decade of experience in education, public policy, and cross-sector collaboration. As former chief of staff to the Oregon Education Investment Board and senior staff to Oregon Governor John Kitzhaber, Grubbs provided strategic guidance to policy makers and successfully moved significant public policy aimed at improving education outcomes, reducing disparities, and supporting educators. She is an avid champion of public education and lives in Portland with her husband and her two children, both of whom are students in Portland Public Schools.
Mike Kalkofen, our finance director, has nearly 20 years of accounting and finance management experience in organizations ranging from less than $1 million in revenue to more than $70 million. Mike is driven by his love for people, and for solving big humanitarian problems. He is an active volunteer for ONE, an organization that mobilizes to end extreme poverty and preventable disease. He lives in Beaverton, with his wife Kelly, daughter Grace and his rambunctious dog, Bella.
Bahia Overton knows that the divisions we experience in our culture are based on a lie, and she works every day to dismantle that deceit. In her role as Chalkboard Project's Director of Equity and Partnerships, Bahia is able to operationalize her values by elevating and aiding the important work being done by community organizations throughout the state. She craves genuine connections, deep understanding, and justice as the path to unity. Bahia’s greatest accomplishments are her two children, and 1 that will soon be adopted. Her goal is to help her children develop into compassionate, justice-oriented adults who are committed to providing service to humanity. Bahia holds degrees in psychology and social work, and is currently a doctoral candidate at Portland State University.
Our communications director, Perla Sitcov, works tirelessly to understand all of the pieces of our work and make them accessible to many audiences, which is both exciting and challenging. She is an artist, and that shows up in both her visuals and in the curiosity and critical lens by which she approaches her work. Perla deeply values spending time with her family, getting to know her neighbors, and making the world a better place for her beautiful daughter Paloma. In another life, Perla dressed models during New York City’s fashion week.
Deputy director Julie Smith leads Chalkboard Project’s programming. She connects educators, government leaders, community members, and students with the goal of shifting mindsets around one of her core beliefs: if we can all truly believe in abundance for self and others, we can heal. Julie holds compassion for the enormity of Chalkboard’s vision and realizes that to accomplish our dreams for students in Oregon, there will be sacrifices and many, many hours of dedicated hustle. Julie has an incredible sense of humor and an even bigger heart. She received her Masters in Education with Administrator License from Washington State University, and teaching credentials from Monterey Bay, California.
Janet Soto Rodriguez
Janet Soto Rodriguez's life path began in a small village in Mexico, where she was raised in a large, loving family. She emigrated to the U.S. at a young age, and quickly began setting her own rules and writing her own story, with relationship-building at the center. In her work, Janet re-imagines the world and helps enact policies that more fairly serve all of us. She is most excited to work with colleagues, foundations, and community members to generate policy ideas the look at issues in new ways, rather than the old top-down, status quo approach. When the going gets tough, she holds on to her core belief that we're all deserving of love and compassion, and occasionally returns to her roots as an artist, which was one of her earliest passions.
Annie Tronco joined the Chalkboard staff in 2015 after previously serving as a CLASS Project coach. In addition to coaching multiple school districts with their School District Collaboration Fund grants, she currently facilitates the advocacy work of the Distinguished Educators Council and is involved in developing Assessment Literacy throughout Oregon. Prior to joining Chalkboard, Annie was heavily involved in mentoring early career teachers and provided leadership for the Oregon Mentoring Program. She began her career teaching middle school language arts and social studies and has worked on behalf of public education for more than 20 years. Annie holds a bachelor’s degree in Politics and Government and an M.A.T. from the University of Puget Sound.
Ashley Walker is Chalkboard Project’s office coordinator, and is affectionately known around the office as a professional thought partner, lending her ideas, knowledge and expertise to all staff members. She's a relationship builder, creator, advocate, writer, and educator, who is committed to learning more about the relationships that in-classroom experience and policy making can have in bettering the human experience for children in schools. With a master’s degree in early childhood and elementary education from George Fox University, she comes to this role at Chalkboard Project with more than fifteen years of teaching, teacher training, parent education, and administrative experience. Ashley is a writer, a parent, and a member of the Confederated Tribes of the Colville Reservation.