New England Secondary School Consortium


David Ruff, Executive Director
David Ruff is executive director of the Great Schools Partnership, where he leads a wide variety of school-improvement initiatives. David earned a B.A. in English from Dartmouth University in 1985. He began his career in education as an English teacher at Thornton Academy in Saco, Maine, where he worked for seven years with students of all academic abilities. David was also a member of the Maine Commission on Secondary Education, the task force that crafted Promising Futures, and he has served on the Executive Board of the Coalition of Essential Schools and on the National Foxfire Coordinator Board for the Foxfire Fund. He lives in Portland, Maine, with his wife and two children. >> email David

Mark Kostin, Associate Director
Mark is associate director of the Great Schools Partnership. Mark joined the Partnership in 2003 and provides direct support to state education agencies and supports districts and schools across the country. He has led a number of large-scale projects including the NextGen Personalized Learning initiative. Mark has supported the NESSC since its official inception in 2008. He currently is the NESSC liaison for the Maine Department of Education and the Vermont Agency of Education and helps coordinate Leads and Council meetings. Mark’s professional interests include collaborative school improvement, the role of schools in a democracy, the educational challenges facing boys, and equitable access to knowledge for all students. Mark earned his BS in chemistry and a DipEd in secondary education from McGill University in Montreal, in addition to a MEd in administration and planning and an EdD in leadership and policy studies from the University of Vermont. He has served on local, state, and national boards and has been involved in supporting teaching and learning since 1989, when he began teaching science in a large high school in Toronto, Canada. Mark was formerly associate principal at Middlebury Union High School and an assistant professor of secondary education and director of partnerships and field experiences at Georgia Southern University in Statesboro. He lives in Yarmouth, Maine, with his wife and three children. >> email Mark

Duke Albanese, Senior Policy Advisor
Duke Albanese is senior policy advisor for the Great Schools Partnership. His career in education has spanned forty years, including service as the Commissioner of Education for the State of Maine (1996–2003) and a long tenure as the superintendent of schools for the Messalonskee School District in the Belgrade Lakes Region of Maine. Duke is a nationally sought-after adviser and speaker on educational issues and policies, and a founding director of the Sports Done Right initiative at the University of Maine. Originally hailing from East Providence, Rhode Island, he attended public schools before earning a B.A. from Bowdoin College and an M.Ed. in guidance and counseling and a C.A.S. in educational administration from the University of Maine. Duke and his wife, Nancy, live in Brunswick, Maine, and have two grown children, Derek and Kelsey, and two grandchildren. >> email Duke

Sarah Linet, Policy Specialist
Sarah Linet is a project specialist with the Great Schools Partnership. Her professional interests include increasing equity and access in public education. Sarah graduated with a B.A. in Politics from Brandeis University and a Master’s degree in Urban Education Policy from Brown University. During graduate school, Sarah was a research assistant at the Annenberg Institute for School reform working on a variety of community engagement and policy projects. She has also worked for the Muskie School at the University of Southern Maine and the Center for Education, Policy, Applied Research, and Evaluation also at the University of Southern Maine. She lives in Portland where she enjoys walks around the back cove, summers in the ocean, and spending time with her family. >> email Sarah

Gwen Merrick, Project Associate
Gwen Merrick is a project associate with the Great Schools Partnership. Gwen works on a wide variety of Partnership and NESSC programs. A member of the League of Innovative Schools team, Gwen manages LIS membership, activities, online resources, and produces member webinars. In addition to coordinating events for members of the NESSC leadership teams,  Gwen contributes to the production and design of new proficiency-based learning tools and resources.
Gwen graduated with a BA in media studies from the University of Southern Maine. Gwen enjoys reading novels, writing nonfiction, and making to-do lists. She lives in South Portland. >> email Gwen

Aaron Townsend, Senior Associate
Aaron Townsend has been an educational leader and innovator for over 20 years with the goal of transforming educational outcomes for underserved students and communities. Aaron started his career in the classroom in Karasu, Kazakstan as a Peace Corps Volunteer, and since that time, he has been a teacher, school leader, and district leader in Maine and California. Aaron was the founding principal of Coliseum College Prep Academy in Oakland, CA. Under his leadership, CCPA was transformed from a low performing middle school into one of the leading secondary schools in the city. Following his time at CCPA, Aaron supported the transformation of four district middle schools through the district’s Office of School Transformation. Based on the educator effectiveness work launched through this office, Aaron joined the district human resources division to transform it into a Talent Development Division that finds, keeps, and grows extraordinary adults for Oakland students and families. Aaron served as the Deputy Chief of Talent Management and was responsible for the development of new teacher and school leader evaluation systems in addition to other talent strategy. Most recently, Aaron has leveraged these varied experiences to support school transformation across California and Massachusetts as a Senior Consultant with Pivot Learning. Aaron’s combination of school design and talent development work anchors his beliefs about how we produce transformative results: powerful, innovative school designs with educators who have the capacity to enact them.>> email Aaron