• Our Story
  • Our Mission
  • Our Goals
  • Our Staff

Since its founding in 2015, the School and State Finance Project has established itself as a “go-to” nonpartisan policy organization for accurate data and information, independent analysis, and creative, thoughtful solutions for some of Connecticut’s toughest education funding and state finance challenges.

The School and State Finance Project works with stakeholders and communities across Connecticut, and aims to serve as a trusted resource for state and local policymakers, school district officials, community leaders, and all people looking for transparent, accessible, and approachable information about education funding and state finance.

The School and State Finance Project is a nonpartisan, nonprofit policy organization, focused on education funding and state finance issues, with a commitment to providing independent analysis, building public knowledge, improving transparency, and developing fair, sustainable solutions.

To learn more about our organization, including our structure and funding, visit www.ctschoolfinance.org/about.

  • Serve as an independent and trustworthy source of high-quality research and analysis about Connecticut’s education finance policies and state budget.
  • Improve transparency around Connecticut’s education and state finances by providing access to timely, accurate, and easy-to-understand data and information.
  • Build public knowledge about Connecticut’s finances, budget, and economy, and elevate conversations about how to strengthen the state’s fiscal health.
  • Increase awareness about Connecticut’s education finance system and the need for an equitable, unified funding formula that treats all students fairly and strengthens schools and communities.
  • Develop thoughtful, data-driven solutions that address Connecticut’s education funding and state finance challenges by working collaboratively with state and local policymakers, community groups and leaders, and other key stakeholders.
  • Provide technical assistance to partner organizations seeking to solve education finance-related challenges.
Lisa Hammersley Executive Director
Patrick Gibson Deputy Executive Director for Data, Policy, & Special Projects
Michael Morton Deputy Executive Director for Communications & Operations
Erika Haynes Director of Community Engagement
Claudio Melendez-Cooper Senior Data Analyst
Morgan Considine Senior Data Analyst
C.J. Strand Government Relations & Policy Associate
Nisha Gandhi Community Engagement & Communications Associate
George Sinclair Communications Associate
Jen Nakos Community Engagement Fellow
Ashley Robles Data Fellow

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Lisa Hammersley

Executive Director

As Executive Director, Lisa Hammersley is the chief executive of the School and State Finance Project and is responsible for overseeing the direction, work, and external affairs of the organization. She is also charged with leading, supporting, and coordinating efforts to execute and fulfill the organization’s mission and goals while maintaining relations with state and local policymakers, organization funders, and other external stakeholders.

A veteran Connecticut budget and policy advisor, Lisa has more than a decade of experience, knowledge, and leadership in state budget analysis, policymaking, and legislative affairs. Lisa joined the School and State Finance Project as the organization's Deputy Executive Director in December 2018 after working in Connecticut’s legislative and executive branches.

Previously, Lisa served as a senior staff member for the Republican Caucus of the Connecticut State Senate for over eight years, including four years overseeing all of the Caucus’ budget and policy work as its budget director and chief legislative analyst. During her time working for the Caucus, Lisa analyzed state budgets and policy changes, formulated budget proposals, wrote legislation and amendments, and was instrumental in spearheading policy initiatives and working across the political aisle to pass legislation, including two bipartisan state budgets in 2017 and 2018.

In addition to her work in the Connecticut General Assembly, Lisa’s breadth of budget and policy experience includes nearly five years at Connecticut’s Office of Policy and Management (OPM), which serves as the governor’s budget office. During her time at OPM, Lisa worked as a budget specialist and analyst and was responsible for formulating portions of proposed gubernatorial budgets, presenting budget recommendations to policymakers, and prioritizing and recommending capital projects for Connecticut’s State Bond Commission.

Lisa holds a Master of Public Administration degree from the University of Connecticut and a Bachelor of Arts in Political Science and Government from Central Connecticut State University. She and her family reside in Southington, Connecticut.

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Patrick Gibson

Deputy Executive Director for Data, Policy, & Special Projects

One of the original staff members of the School and State Finance Project, Patrick Gibson specializes in quantitative public policy analysis, and serves as the organization's Deputy Executive Director for Data, Policy, and Special Projects.

As Deputy Executive Director, Patrick leads the School and State Finance Project’s data and policy teams and oversees the development of all the organization's data and policy content, including analyses of state, local, and federal data, and the development of accessible and informative tools and data visualizations. 

Additionally, Patrick spearheads the organization’s work in providing custom data analysis for state and local policymakers and other external stakeholders, and works closely with the School and State Finance Project’s Executive Director and Deputy Executive Director for Communications & Operations to chart the organization’s strategic direction.

Patrick is also charged with leading and coordinating the organization’s consultant and fee-for-service work. In leading this work, Patrick has helped an array of partner organizations — including school districts, state working groups, nonprofits, and news publications — advance their missions and meet their goals and objectives.

Patrick holds a Master of Science in Public Policy and Management from Carnegie Mellon University, and a Bachelor of Arts in Political Science and Business Administration from Muhlenberg College. At Carnegie Mellon University, Patrick worked with a team to model the economic impact of a proposed brownfield redevelopment in Pittsburgh.

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Michael Morton

Deputy Executive Director for Communications & Operations

A member of the School and State Finance Project team since its founding, Michael Morton serves as the organization's Deputy Executive Director for Communications and Operations, and is responsible for overseeing all of the organization's communications, public outreach, and internal operations.

With expertise in public affairs, media relations, and communications strategies, Michael is in charge of the final development, production, and release of all materials produced by the organization, and is responsible for ensuring all materials are accessible and approachable for their specific audiences. Michael also manages the organization’s websites and is coordinates all organizational messaging, legislative testimony, press releases, and public communication. 

In addition to his communications roles, Michael acts as a chief of staff for the School and State Finance Project's Executive Director. In this capacity, Michael oversees all internal operations of the organization, leads the School and State Finance Project's strategic planning process, and assists the Executive Director in managing the organization's budget and resources. He also works with the Executive Director and Deputy Director for Data, Policy, and Special Projects to develop the organization's policy priorities.

Previously, Michael worked for the global communications firm H+K Strategies and was a member of its public affairs practices in Washington, DC and Austin, Texas. At H+K, Michael was heavily involved in government relations, policy research, media relations, stakeholder engagement, and message building. Over the course of his tenure at H+K, Michael helped lead accounts for a prominent federal consulting group, an international tire manufacturer, and a leading company uniform supplier.

Michael holds a Bachelor of Journalism degree and a Bachelor of Science in Communication Studies degree from The University of Texas at Austin.

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Erika Haynes

Director of Community Engagement

Erika Haynes brings to the School and State Finance Project more than a decade of community leadership, parent engagement, and experience navigating the state’s public school systems.

In her role as Director of Community Engagement, Erika meets with parents, teachers, students, community leaders, and interested residents across Connecticut to help them better understand the state’s school finance system and how it impacts their communities. Erika regularly gives school finance presentations to community and school groups, and offers a number of workshops for those interested in learning more about education funding and how they can increase their civic participation. In addition to trekking around the state, Erika is responsible for developing and executing the School and State Finance Project’s community engagement plan, and for nurturing and maintaining connections in communities.

A longtime resident of Willimantic, Connecticut, Erika is a former member of the Windham Town Council and has served as both a community representative on the Windham School Readiness Council and as a board member for the Windham Parent Network.

As a proud mother of four, Erika has experienced the gamut of Connecticut’s public school systems. In addition to homeschooling for a period of time, her children have attended local public schools and magnet schools. The journey of her children through school, and her unique experiences as both a community leader and parent, have fueled her passion for working with communities to support their students and schools.

Erika’s commitment to education and community is demonstrated through her past work assisting parents and guardians through special education Planning and Placement Teams (PPTs) and her founding of the Windham chapter of Blessings in a Backpack, a program that sends food home to roughly 500 Windham-area children each weekend.

Erika holds a Master of Education degree in Early Childhood Education from the University of Hartford and a Bachelor of General Studies degree from Eastern Connecticut State University. From 2000-2016, she also served as an adjunct professor at The Hartt School at the University of Hartford, where she led the nonprofit component for Performance Arts Management and Music Management majors.

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Claudio Melendez-Cooper

Senior Data Analyst

Claudio Melendez-Cooper brings experience with economic modeling and quantitative analyses to the School and State Finance Project and its data work.

In his role as a Senior Data Analyst, Claudio is responsible for analyzing state, local, and federal data; creating interactive data tools and visualizations; and providing custom data analysis for state and local policymakers. Claudio also works closely with members of the School and State Finance Project’s data and policy teams to develop and present policy solutions.

A first-generation American and son of Peruvian immigrants, Claudio holds a Master of Arts in Economics from the University of Connecticut, as well as a Bachelor of Arts in Economics and Bachelor of Science in Molecular and Cell Biology from UConn.

Claudio is a longtime resident of Waterford, Connecticut, and a native Spanish speaker.

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Morgan Considine

Senior Data Analyst

Morgan Considine brings to the School and State Finance Project experience in quantitative policy analysis and program evaluation, along with a familiarity with state government operations and departmental functions.

As a Senior Data Analyst, Morgan helps analyze state, local, and federal data as well as create interactive data tools and visualizations. Additionally, Morgan helps develop policy solutions and works with fellow members of the School and State Finance Project’s data team to present solutions in ways that are accessible and approachable for audiences of varying levels of expertise.

Prior to joining the School and State Finance Project, Morgan completed a variety of internships focused on public policy and data, including stints at the Connecticut Department of Children and Families and the State Department of Education.

Morgan holds a Master of Public Policy, with a concentration in public finance and budgeting, from the University of Connecticut, as well as a Bachelor of Arts in History and Political Science from Eastern Connecticut State University.

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C.J. Strand

Government Relations & Policy Associate

C.J. Strand brings to the School and State Finance Project more than a decade of government relations and policy experience working in both the Connecticut General Assembly and the state’s executive branch.

As a Government Relations and Policy Associate, C.J. is responsible for developing and maintaining relationships with state and local policymakers, informing legislators about the work and positions of the School and State Finance Project, and ensuring the organization is aware of the latest legislative developments. C.J. also works with the organization’s Executive Director to develop and implement a comprehensive government relations strategy that is reflective of the organization’s priorities and goals. In addition to his government relations work, C.J. is a member of the organization's policy team​ and serves as the lead researcher and writer for many of the School and State Finance Project’s reports and policy briefings.

Prior to joining the School and State Finance Project, C.J. spent more than three years as a legislative liaison for Connecticut’s Department of Transportation where he was responsible for developing and advocating for the department’s legislative priorities, researching key legislative issues impacting the department’s policies and programs, and fostering and maintaining relationships with policymakers and stakeholders.

Before his tenure at the Department of Transportation, C.J. worked in the Connecticut General Assembly serving first as the clerk for the legislature’s Transportation Committee and then later as a legislative aide. In both positions, C.J. worked on a number of legislative initiatives and was responsible for researching legislative proposals and advising on policy issues.

A native of Connecticut, C.J. holds a Bachelor of Arts in Political Science degree from the University of Connecticut. C.J. and his family reside in Bristol, Connecticut.

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Nisha Gandhi

Community Engagement & Communications Associate

Nisha Gandhi comes to the School and State Finance Project with experience in communications, policy analysis, community relations, and education policy research.

As a Community Engagement and Communications Associate, Nisha serves as a bridge between the organization’s community engagement and communications teams and is responsible for building and maintaining relationships with community members and partners, and creating materials to inform the public and key stakeholders about education funding and state finance issues.

Prior to joining the School and State Finance Project, Nisha worked as a policy consultant for the City of Providence where she helped create a backbone nonprofit organization to house information about the work of nonprofits across Rhode Island.

She also previously worked as a research consultant for the Providence Children & Youth Cabinet where she developed professional development trainings for teachers, parents, and administrators about best practices for building trauma-sensitive schools. Additionally, Nisha has served as the social media and communications coordinator for the organization Run for Something, which is a national nonprofit dedicated to providing resources for young, progressive candidates running for office.

Nisha holds a Master of Arts degree in Urban Education Policy from Brown University and a Bachelor of Arts degree in Education Policy from Quinnipiac University.

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George Sinclair

Communications Associate

George Sinclair joins the School and State Finance Project with several years of experience in legislative affairs, public policy, and communications.

In his role as Communications Associate, George is responsible for developing and implementing the organization’s social media strategy and establishing ways to effectively message the organization’s materials to its various audiences. Additionally, George helps prepare legislative testimony, press releases, and other forms of public communication.

Previously, George worked as a government relations associate, connecting organizations and businesses with the appropriate legislators in the Connecticut General Assembly. From this experience, George gained extensive knowledge about the legislative process and a wide array of public policy areas.

George also worked as an assistant clerk for the legislature’s Appropriations Committee, where he received significant first-hand experience in the state budget process. In addition to his legislative and government relations experience, George worked as a research assistant on Connecticut’s Racial Profiling Prohibition Project where he helped analyze statewide traffic stop data in order to identify potential disparities.

George holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in Politics and Government from the University of Hartford.

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Jen Nakos

Community Engagement Fellow

Jen Nakos comes to the School and State Finance Project with a passion for social justice, education, and volunteering.

Currently working toward her Master of Social Work from Sacred Heart University, Jen serves as a Community Engagement Fellow and works with communities across the state to help Connecticut residents better understand the state’s education finance system and how it impacts their local schools. In addition to her academic studies and community engagement work, Jen is actively involved in the PTA for her children’s elementary school, including serving terms as its president and treasurer.

Prior to moving to Connecticut in the early 2000s, Jen lived in Hong Kong for five years where she was a freelance English language teacher and a network associate for Chase Manhattan Bank. She holds a Bachelor of Arts in Economics from Boston College and previously worked as an operations analyst for The Boston Company and Fidelity Investments.

Jen lives in Fairfield with her husband, their three children, and their family dog.

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Ashley Robles

Data Fellow

Ashley Robles comes to the School and State Finance Project with a background in data analysis and experience examining and evaluating retirement and benefit plans.

She is currently pursuing her Master of Public Policy from the University of Connecticut with a focus area of public finance and budgeting. As a Data Fellow, Ashley analyzes education funding and state finance data to help the organization create tools and resources that are transparent and understandable for users of all knowledge levels.

Prior to joining the organization, Ashley worked for USI Consulting Group where she focused on defined benefit and defined contribution clients, and evaluated accounts and budgets for monthly benefit payments.

Ashley holds a Bachelor of Arts in Mathematics and Statistics from the University of Connecticut. She is scheduled to earn her master’s in May 2021.

Our Consulting Services

In addition to its independent policy work and knowledge building in communities, the School and State Finance Project offers a variety of for-hire consulting services to organizations that align with our mission, focus areas, and goals. Through this work, we harness the data and policy experience of our staff to provide partners with the assistance and support needed to achieve their goals. Click the button below to learn more about the consulting services we offer, and for examples of our previous work.

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