NELA 2.0 Project Team


Bonnie C. Fusarelli, Ph.D. is a Professor of Educational Leadership at North Carolina State University and a NC State University Faculty Scholar.She earned a BA in Political Science from the University of Texas at Austin, a Master’s in School Leadership from UT San Antonio and her Ph.D. in Educational Administration from The Pennsylvania State University.Dr. Fusarelli’s research focuses on educational leadership and policy, the politics of school improvement, educational equity, and organizational change, with a particular focus on state-level education reform and leadership development for rural schools (Nearly half of students in North Carolina and one-third of students nationally attend rural schools).To support her work, Dr. Fusarelli has received over $16 million in grant funding from a number of organizations including the U.S. Department of Education, the National Science Foundation, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, and the North Carolina Department of Public Instruction.
She has authored or co-authored over 50 manuscripts which are published in various research journals including: Educational Policy, Journal of School Leadership, Leadership and Policy in Schools, Journal of School Public Relations, The International Journal of Educational Research, Journal of Cases in Educational Leadership, Public Administration and Management, Planning and Changing and the Peabody Journal of Education.Dr. Fusarelli is the recipient of numerous teaching awards both at the K-12 and university level, including being an inductee into NC State’s Academy of Outstanding Teachers.Her current work is primarily focused on her role as Principal Investigator and Director of the Northeast Leadership Academy, an initiative to prepare innovative school leaders for rural schools ( Fusarelli can be reached at

Wirt9.2014Lesley G. Wirt, Ed.D. serves as the Associate Director of the Northeast Leadership Academy (NELA) at NC State University. She earned her undergraduate degrees in psychology and early childhood education from James Madison University in VA. She taught elementary school for two years in VA. She then decided to work in higher education and received both her master and doctoral degrees in Higher Education Administration from NC State University. She has worked at NC State University and Edgecombe Community College recruiting prospective students, advising new and current students, tracking student achievement, planning programs, and enhancing student retention and success. She also assists with grant writing and managing budgets. She greatly enjoys working with the Master of School Administration (MSA) Leadership Academies’ students, faculty, staff, and stakeholders. She can be reached at

DSC_0205Cathy Williams, Ed.D. currently serves as the Cohort VI Director, but has been a part of the NELA Instructional Team since the very beginning. She was born in raised in Chicago, Illinois and began her teaching career in North Carolina in 1990. She retired in 2014 after spending nine years as a classroom teacher, three years as a Central Office administrator, and twelve years as a school administrator. Dr. Williams earned her Master’s Degree in 2002 and her Ed.D. in 2011, both in school leadership, from North Carolina State University. She is the mother of four adult daughters and has six grandchildren.

She can be reached at

Dianne Griffiths

Dianne Griffiths is Project Coordinator for the Northeast Leadership Academy at North Carolina State University. She earned her bachelor degree in Communications from The Ohio State University in Columbus, Ohio. She is an ardent supporter of public education and has served in a variety of educational volunteer positions for many years.

She can be reached at

LeelynnPinionHeadshotLeelynn Pinion serves as Research Associate and Webmaster for the Northeast Leadership Academy. She attended NC State University and earned a Bachelor of Arts in Psychology in 2014 and a Master of Social Work in 2016. Leelynn learned the value of excellent school leaders through her work with schools both in North Carolina and abroad. She served families in need at StepUp Ministry. Leelynn also worked with court-invovled youth as a case manager at Haven House Services in Raleigh, NC. She originally joined NELA as a graduate assistant in 2014.  Leelynn is a current doctoral student in the School Psychology Program at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, where she is completing her graduate fellowship at the Frank Porter Graham Child Development Institute. She is passionate about education, leadership, and promoting student success and is excited to be a part of the NELA team.She can be reached at

Paige Holmes serves as the NELA 2.0 Graduate Research Assistant. Paige graduated from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill in 2014 with a Bachelor of Arts in Psychology and a minor in Medical Anthropology, and was the 2013 Eve Carson Scholar. She is currently pursuing her M.Ed in Counselor Education – School Counseling Concentration at NC State. She is completing her year-long counseling internship at A. B. Combs Magnet Leadership Elementary School in Raleigh (more info here), one of NELA’s partner schools. Paige has background in student affairs, serving as a Residence Director at NC State for the 2015-2016 academic year, earning the campus award of Residence Life Staff of the Month, as well as multiple positions in Campus Life as an undergraduate at UNC. She also has served in various roles serving K-12 youth through the YMCA of the Triangle, Chapel-Hill Carrboro City Schools, and The Engineering Place at NC State. Paige’s desire to serve youth in high-needs settings also stems from her service as a Humanitarian Clown in Guatemala hospitals, nursing homes, orphanages, and special needs facilities with world-renowned physician Dr. Patch Adams.