ACTS Founders

Peter Murrell, Ph.D., Professor of Urban Education, Loyola University
Co-Founder and Senior Associate for Research and Development

In Memorium, 1952-2015

Dr. Murrell lead the design and delivery of the Alliance’s Circle of Practice professional development programs. He was a nationally recognized expert in the development of culturally grounded curriculum and instruction.

Peter C. Murrell, Jr. was a Professor of Urban Education at Loyola University Maryland. He was the Founding Dean of the School of Education and served as dean until June of 2011. As an ACTS Co-Founder and Senior Associate for Research and Development, he lead the design and delivery of the organization’s Communities of Practice professional development programs. Dr. Murrell consulted with urban school districts in major cities across the country to develop systematic solutions to the challenges of elevating the quality of teaching and learning in diverse urban schools and communities. Dr. Murrell’s research focused on the role of social identity in academic proficiency and intellectual developing in learners as well as their

Dr. Murrell consulted with urban school districts in major cities across the country to develop systematic solutions to the challenges of elevating the quality of teaching and learning in diverse urban schools and communities. His research focused on the role of social identity in academic proficiency and intellectual development in learners as well as their teachers, and showed how to promote the development of academic and racial/cultural identities in the varied social contexts in urban schools and communities.

Dr. Murrell has authored several books, numerous articles and book chapters on the theory and practice of building culturally centered learning communities for teachers and students, including The Community Teacher (Teachers College Press), African-Centered Pedagogy (SUNY Press) and his most recent monograph Race, Culture and Schooling: Identities of Achievement in Multicultural Urban Schools (Lawrence Erlbaum). As a member of the American Association for Colleges of Teacher Education’sTEAM-C (Teacher Education as a Moral Community) and working committees of the American Educational Research Association (AERA) and National Council for the Accreditation of Teacher Education (NCATE) he was actively engaged in the development of new models of teacher preparation and professional development.

A former middle school and high school teacher (Milwaukee Public Schools), college-access program administrator (Marquette University), psychology department chair (Milwaukee Area Technical College), and Professor of Psychology and Education (Alverno College), Dr. Murrell earned his bachelors degree in Psychology from Carleton College; his masters degree in Cognitive Psychology at the University of Wisconsin-Madison; and his Ph.D. in Urban Education and Educational Psychology at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee.

 

Jessica Strauss, M.Phil., L.G.S.W.
Co-Founder, Former Senior Associate for Program Design & Development

Jessica Strauss is the Co-Founder and Former Senior Associate for Program Design and Development of the Alliance for Community Teachers and Schools. She has been an independent consultant for 16 years, focusing on school and community partnerships. In those years, she has provided research, planning facilitation, program design, initiative design and policy development for Government agencies, Foundations, and Non-Profit organizations. She is expert in school partnerships, family and community engagement, human services for urban children and families, and organizational development for schools and grassroots organizations.

Ms. Strauss worked for eight years as a Consultant for the National Center for Community Schools of the Children’s Aid Society, where she served as a consultant to several communities as they planned and expanded community schools, and as project manager for the 2009 roll-out of capacity-building methodology and a compendium of materials, developed over 15 years by NCCS staff.

Ms. Strauss co-founded and led Baltimore Community School Connections, an intermediary technical assistance center, from 2003 to 2007, developing and supporting Baltimore’s 26-school initiative. Her prior clients have included Family Support America, where she served as Senior Advisor for Family Support in Schools for three years, and authored a number of magazine articles and a handbook on Shared Leadership: A Process for Family and Community Engagement. She spent ten years as a half-time Consultant with the Annie E. Casey Foundation, where she provided research and development for new portfolios and edited a series of monographs, Elders As Resources for Youth.

She was Co-Chair of the Urban Initiatives Network of the national Coalition for Community Schools from 2005 – 2010, and has been active over the years in developing the Coalition’s federal policy, evaluation, and strategic initiatives. Prior to her consulting career, Ms. Strauss was founding Director of a comprehensive family development center in East Baltimore and Adjunct Professor of Political Science and Philosophy at Essex Community College. She holds degrees in Social Work from Morgan State University (M.S.W., 2011), Political Philosophy from Oxford University (M.Phil., 1980), and Political Science from Wellesley College (B.A., Wellesley Scholar, 1977); she was post-certified in the doctoral program (ABD, 1984) at The Johns Hopkins University.