Administrative Staff

Kieran Connolly

Executive Director

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I was born and raised in Troy, NY across the Hudson River from the state capitol of Albany.  After completing a journalism degree in college I moved out west to try something different, experimenting with good-government lobbying, environmental restoration work and a few other things, eventually resulting in an opportunity to run the Youth Tree Corps program for Friends of Trees.  Up until that point I had always avoided working with youth, I knew I didn’t want to be part of an authoritarian system, and hadn’t realized that there were other ways of teaching. When I approached teaching from a collaborative standpoint on my first day, the adjudicated youth responded in an amazing way.

What followed was an incredible, fun and powerful summer that helped me to understand what I wanted to do with my life. Over the next four years I learned more my education philosophy through working as an instructional assistant in the Reynolds School District, an environmental educator in Maine, a Youth Conservation Corps crew leader on Mount Hood, a ropes course facilitator on Orcas Island and a garden program coordinator in Guatemala.  Though these were all dramatically different experiences they helped continue to inform my perspective on the power of collaboration and democracy when working with people.

My travels eventually led to an alternative school in Hood River where I set out to bring a Democratic Education model to a school that served adjudicated youth.  In five years at the school I moved from teacher to administrator and incorporated a school-wide program that embraced democracy and real world experiences including a magazine written, edited and published by our students a garden program that actually fed our students and foster parents, and a collaborative council of staff and students that made important school-wide decisions and policy.

I completed my Master’s Thesis through Prescott College documenting my work at the Klahre House. I concluded my thesis by asking what Democratic Education would look like in a larger school model? Now, at Trillium, I am thrilled at the opportunity to collaborate with the Trillium community to find the answer to that question.

During my education journey I’ve come to love and respect the work of Paolo Freire, Myles Horton, Debra Meier, Nanci Atwell, Michael Apple and Alfie Kohn. I believe to educate Democratically is always to emphasize working with people, rather than simply doing something to them.  This approach has guided and continues to guide my actions and belief in my career in education.
When I am not working I love to get back out to the Gorge for long hikes, ride my bike around Portland, cook and eat great food and fiddle around on my bass guitar.


Jess Brooks

Co-Head of Upper School

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Jess is also known as Jessie to her family or Jessica Leigh Brooks when she’s in trouble or trying to act official. She was born in Chicago and raised in Ohio where she narrowly escaped in 2000. She took up sanctuary in the northeast at a small university called Alfred, in the town of Alfred right down the road from a place called Alfred Station. Apart from that it really was in the middle of nowhere, which was perfect for Jess’ favorite pastime of playing in wooded, rocky and water-like areas. Jess was known as Jessbrooks in those days. She became Czar of an outdoor organization called the Forrest People, started an activist group, became president of the ever so cool Math Club and sat on the Judicial Board. She also became the Astronomy TA somehow, although knows very little about the subject.

After Alfred, for some unknown reason, Jess traveled west with a college friend for the city of Portland. Then, as it turns out, Portland agreed with her and she’s been there since. Here she’s fallen in love, created a pottery studio, retreats to a bountiful garden and obtained a healthy bike collection. Her first job here was as a bike mechanic, before plummeting into the world of Math tutoring and education. She began taking Graduate Math Education classes at PSU in 2005. Also in 2005 she began working for Pacific Crest Community School as their Algebra 2 teacher and in 2006 she started working for Trillium Charter School. In 2010 she finally completed her masters program graduating with a MST degree.

Maryliz Herron

Co-Head of Upper School

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I found my love for learning while counseling at Outdoor  School during my high school years. As I was trying to help sixth grade students understand why measuring the slope of the land can be an important tool fro land use, or why a spider would spin it’s prey with silk, made my own “light bulb” go on. It was a big “a-ha” for me, I had a real reason to learn something so I went crazy trying to figure things out well enough to help students create their own understandings.


Outdoor School provided another significant experience; being involved in collaborative learning between instructor and student. I discovered the power and depth of of authentic learning experiences that are combined with strong emotional connections. That discovery in high school led me through a series of work experiences at summer camps, the Youth Conservation Corps and federal youth employment programs. I eventually realized that a teaching degree would enable me to continue to help youth find their own paths to knowledge and their own unique place in the world. My certification is in Social Sciences and Health at the secondary level.


Nearly all of my teaching teaching endeavors have involved connecting students to their community, whether through community service, working as counselors at Outdoor School, as interns in elementary schools or internships within a wide variety of professional experiences. I have found that I am most happy when connecting students and mentors through the internship experience. So I am very excited to be a part of Trillium’s new Internship Program and look forward to connecting students to an authentic learning experience in the community that is driven by their passions and interests!

Ashley Brown

Head of Lower School

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I am thrilled to join the Trillium Community as the Head of Lower School. I recently relocated to Portland from Minneapolis, Minnesota where I taught third grade at a community charter school.  Before I moved into the classroom as a teacher, I worked for the U.S. Department of Education as a lawyer, helping to support schools across the country in improvement efforts.  I also worked on neighborhood revitalization initiatives at the Department of Housing and Urban Development.  I am originally from Farmington Hills, Michigan, just outside of Detroit.  I enjoy all things Michigan, including beautiful fall weather, the Great Lakes and the University of Michigan Wolverines.

I love working with students, and being around children is fulfilling to my soul.  I believe that the work teachers do is invaluable and I am excited to be in a role where I can support them on a daily basis.  I am even more excited to do this work here at Trillium, a place where we engage students as unique individuals and work to help them develop their critical thinking skills and take charge of their own learning.
When I’m not at school, I enjoy being with my family and my dog, Gracie.  I love spending time outside, practicing yoga, reading, trying new restaurants, and experimenting with recipes in my own kitchen.

Sarah Valentine

Lower School Student Support Specialist

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Education, photography, and dance have been passions of mine for as long as I can remember. I studied dance for 13 years and my first teaching job was teaching tap, jazz, and ballet to three-eight year olds. Oregon State University is where I received my BS degree in Human Development and Family Science with an emphasis in Early Childhood and Elementary Education. Continuing on with my education I receive my Master of Arts in Education.

Upon graduation, teaching positions were few and far between. I knew I wanted to stay in education and was lucky to find a job which allowed me to supervise before and after school programs in Portland and Hillsboro. My next opportunity led me to oversee the Education Service Area for a Head Start program serving over 800 children a year.

I love being a part of the Trillium community. Trillium is a place where education is collective, restorative practices are valued, and youth are actively involved learners and problem solvers. When I’m not at work you can find me taking lots of pictures, playing on the coast, hiking, cooking, reading, writing, and spending time with friends and family in and out of town.


Ry Browne

Upper School Student Support Specialist

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Ry joined our Trillium community as the middle school science teacher at the beginning of the 2015-16 school year. After graduating from Harvard University, his adventurous spirit led him to Portland, Oregon where he knew that he wanted to pursue a job in teaching. Ry has a background in Gender Studies and African American Studies as well as strong academic interests in Chemistry and Biology.
As part of the Trillium staff, Ry hopes to inspire the next generation of innovators, inventors and engineers. He hopes to accomplish this by designing a creative science curriculum that is primarily led by student questions and curiosities. Ry also hopes to bring his anti-oppression work into the classroom by continuing important conversations around the systems of power that privilege some and disempower others. Along with colleague Patrice Mays, Ry has started a Multicultural Collective for students of color in the upper school to meet up once a week for lunch and discuss their racial identity.
In his free time Ry enjoys biking, reading/writing poetry and cooking. He also loves playing the guitar, piano and ukulele and is always down for a jam session


Debra Lazzaretti

Operations Manager

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I am a native Portlander. I attended Portland State University, majoring in business and psychology. I received an AS in paralegal studies at PCC in 2011. I lived in Lake Charles, LA for two years and Port Moresby, Papua New Guinea for two years. In PNG I worked for the YWCA buying and selling artifacts and handcrafts in the country’s only two gift stores that funded a vocational school for young women.My earlier career was in political campaign and nonprofit management and fundraising. My campaign work included governor races, senatorial fundraising, statewide ballot measures and presidential visits for Oregon candidates. I managed thirteen annual events for the March of Dimes at one point and was a member of the committee that raised the $35,000 seed money for the PPS Foundation. As a single mom, I purchased homes to rent, then live in and refurbish. I kept my hand in fundraising through nonprofit work and school auctions, chairing advertising and raffle committees. My daughter is going off to college soon and I am reclaiming my life. I love working with the staff and families at Trillium, watching us evolve into a sustainable model of democratic education.

Sharon Mabaet


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I am originally from North Carolina, a real Southern Belle!  I moved to Portland in 1993 with my husband Virgilio, who is from the Philippines.  I have one child a daughter named Cipriana and a Lhasa Apso Dog named Charlie.  I have worked in many service positions through the years, with my most recent being the Receptionist, Office Assistant with the Multnomah Education Service District here in Portland.  I have also acquired my Associates Degree of Applied Science in Paralegal Studies  and i worked for a Bankruptcy Firm in Portland for about 4 years.  I was fortunate to work at Freightliner for a couple of years when my daughter was little and they provided the opportunity for me to return to school to obtain that Associates Degree.  In my spare time i enjoy spending time with my family, camping, reading and volunteering with my church and the Thespians at Milwaukie High School.  Thank you for giving me the opportunity to serve the families in this environment


Dave Coffman

Accounting Consultant

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I’ve been working with Trillium since February 2012 on a contract basis through my business as the people’s accountant (  I’ve been working in Accounting and Finance for over 15 years, with the last four years spent exclusively in the Portland non-profit community.   Prior to joining the non-profit community, I spent time working with public schools in the State of Ohio and public corporations both in Ohio and here in Oregon.

I believe that  every organization deserves and benefits from high-level financial analysis and professional accounting expertise.  Additionally, I believe that timely and reliable financial information is a critical aspect of managing the scarce resources that exist in today’s educational and non-profit environments.  My goal is to provide Trillium with that in-depth, high-level and reliable financial analysis and reporting that is critical for sound financial decision-making and ultimately the fulfillment of the organization’s mission.

I am excited to be working with the Trillium community and have been very impressed with the love and dedication folks have for the School as a whole.  It’s clear that Trillium is an important part of this community and I am grateful to have the opportunity to be a part of this collective effort.

When I don’t have my nose in a set of financial statements, you might find me on my bicycle, working in my yard, or cooking up a batch of home-brewed beer.  My partner, Sarah, and I moved to Oregon from Columbus, Ohio in 2005 and are having a hard time picturing ourselves anywhere else.

Eduardo Gonzales

Building Maintenance Coordinator

My career has been focused on building maintenance in all its many forms. I have been at Trillium for going on 6 years. Prior to that I was a maintenance supervisor for many years. I have a daughter and a son and a wife that is an incredible cook that keeps us all very happy with home cooked meals everyday. I am an avid collector and gardener. Lately, I am especially proud of my kite collection. Trillium is in need of much support in the way of building and grounds maintenance and I appreciate the help I get from volunteers. If you’d like to help with working on the building, please catch up with me after school is out for the day, I work in the evenings.




Jessica Butler
Cook / Chef
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Bio Coming Soon!