Ben became the Executive Director in 2011. Prior to the State Board of Education, Ben worked six years for the Washington State House of Representatives as a non-partisan Senior Budget Analyst for the Ways and Means Committee, staffing the K-12 education budget. During his time in the legislature, Ben staffed the Joint Task Force on Basic Education Finance and resulting legislation, including ESHB 2261 (2009), which redefined the constitutionally-protected program of “basic education,” and implemented a new school funding framework to support it.
Prior to his time in the legislature, Ben worked as staff to the School Finance Redesign Project at the University of Washington, a multi-state research project designed to help policymakers develop school funding frameworks that support the implementation of evidence-based teaching and learning strategies. He also served as Director of the Office of State-Operated School Districts in the New Jersey Department of Education. There he worked with struggling school districts in receivership status with the state education agency, and helped implement school finance reforms associated with the Abbott vs. Burke case, a landmark New Jersey school funding adequacy court decision.
Ben holds B.A. degrees in both English Literature and Political Science from Linfield College in McMinnville, Oregon, and a M.A. in Education Administration and Policy Analysis from Stanford University. He enjoys traveling with his family, coaching youth sports, watching college football, and collecting vintage college pennants. He lives with his wife and three children in Olympia, where his children attend North Thurston Public Schools.
Director of Policy and Partnerships
Kaaren joined SBE in 2016. She has spent the majority of her 25-year educational leadership career in Oregon: teaching, designing, founding/leading regional and state-level education initiatives, programs and nonprofit organizations - all supporting high-quality options within the public school system - and advocating in Oregon’s legislature for sound educational policies, particularly for historically underserved children. An Olympia-area native, she clerked during several legislative sessions for the Washington state Senate early in her career. Kaaren has a Master of Science in K-12 Policy and Administration, a B.A. in English, and certification in both in K-12 Administration and Secondary Teaching.
Director of Career- and College-Ready Initiatives
Linda Drake joined SBE in 2012. For over 10 years she worked at Pierce County Careers Connection as a project manager and as director. She led projects and initiatives supporting college-readiness and the successful transition of high school students to post-secondary education and careers, including the Tech Prep Dual Credit program for Pierce County. Linda holds a master’s degree in geology and geophysics and has experience in environmental consulting and in teaching university-level geology and oceanography.
Wilson joined SBE in 2016. In Olympia, he’s worked for The Olympian newspaper, the Office of the Governor, the State Senate, and the State Auditor’s Office. Over the years, he’s worked on issues across the public policy spectrum through writing, editing, photography, videography, social media and data display. Born in Spokane and raised in north Idaho, Wilson had a high school graduating class of 22. He earned a bachelor’s degree from the University of Idaho and a master’s degree in communication and leadership from Gonzaga University.
Research and Data Manager
Andrew joined SBE in 2013. He moved to Olympia from Nevada where he most recently worked for the Department of Education’s Assessment and Accountability division. Andrew played a key role in the development and rollout of the Nevada School Performance Framework and the Nevada Growth Model. Prior to his work at the department, Andrew was a middle school classroom teacher, where he taught science and math. He earned his Ph.D. in Educational Leadership from the University of Nevada, and his research interest centers on the educational outcomes of mobile or transient students.
Denise joined SBE in 2012. Prior, she held administrative and meeting planning support positions, including Professional Development Coordinator for the Association of Washington School Principals for 10 years. Denise earned an Associate of Arts Degree with a concentration in Social Science from South Puget Sound Community College.
Parker joined SBE in 2013. Parker has worked as operations and data coordinator, special assistant and communications consultant for SBE, a registration specialist at South Puget Sound Community College, an advertising manager at the SPSCC newspaper, and an initiative checker for the Office of Secretary of State. Parker earned his Master of Public Administration degree with a concentration in Public Policy from The Evergreen State College. He enjoys kayaking and international travel.
Tamara joined SBE in 2012. Tamara has worked as an Executive Assistant for SBE, a paraoptometric technician and administrative assistant for Olympia Vision Clinic. She attended Washington State University and earned an Associates of Arts Degree from South Puget Sound Community College. Tamara has been a Licensed Practical Nurse since 1999 and enjoys volunteering for local charities. Tamara can frequently be found on the sidelines of her son's various sports activities, cheering the loudest.