The Rural Trust staff is headed by Executive Director, Robert Mahaffey.  The Rural Trust staff works mostly in home-based offices located throughout the rural U.S., with a small national headquarters staff located in Washington, DC. We strive for diversity of race, gender, age and geographic location in all our hiring decisions.


Leadership and Staff

Robert Mahaffey Robert Mahaffey                               
Executive Director
(202) 822-3919 x117

Susan Jaradat Joyce Sanders
Administrative Assistant,
Capacity Building Program 
(919) 556-7255


Finance and Administration

Susan Jaradat Susan Jaradat
Finance Manager
(202) 822-3919 x101                                            


Senior Fellows

Doris Terry Williams, Ed. D.
Henderson, North Carolina
Rachel B. Tompkins Rachel B. Tompkins, Ed. D.
Marlinton, West Virginia
Greg Smith, Ph.D. Greg Smith, Ph.D., 
Professor, Graduate School
of Education, Lewis and Clark College
Portland, Oregon

Principal Consultants

Doris Terry Williams Doris Terry Williams, Ed. D.
(252) 204-4201
Amanda Adler Julie Bartsch
Julie Bartsch  Gerry Cervenka
Gerry Cervenka Jereann King Johnson
Jerry Johnson   Jerry Johnson, Ed. D.
  Robin Lambert


Rural Faculty

Julie BartschJulie A. Bartsch
Rural Faculty, Capacity Building Program

Julie has served in a number of roles in public education over the past 25 years: teacher, school administrator, college faculty and researcher, school board member, and professional development consultant. During this time, she has assisted a number of school districts throughout New England and beyond in various school improvement efforts including curriculum and instruction, school leadership, youth empowerment, and school-community partnerships.

From 1992-1997, Julie directed a secondary school redesign effort in the Sharon Public Schools (MA), followed by a fellowship at Tufts University where she co-directed the National Institute for School/Community Collaboration. Her 12 years’ experience with the Rural School and Community Trust includes training and technical assistance to numerous schools and communities throughout the country, including a ten-year high school redesign effort in the state of Maine.  Currently, she serves as a school reform coach to districts in Maine and Massachusetts and provides technical assistance to the U.S. Department of Education’s Small Learning Community grantees.

Julie holds advanced graduate degrees in management and education from Lesley University and the Harvard School of Education. At Harvard, Julie worked on the development of a School Leadership Academy and at Lesley, she coordinated the Principal Certification Practicum. She has written numerous articles on education, published Community Lessons, a collection of promising K-12 curricular practices, and served on state and national committees including the Task Force Chair, U.S. Department of Education Blue Ribbon Schools; and Co-Chair, Massachusetts’ America’s Promise, National Service Learning Partnership.

Colleen KarlColleen Karl
Rural Faculty, Capacity Building Program

Colleen has worked in science education over the last 25 years in rural Northeastern North Carolina. She has provided the tools for understanding and implementing placed-based programs that connect educators, student learners, and community leaders.  Colleen has worked as a secondary science teacher, a professional development instructor for statewide programs, and currently serves as an outreach coordinator for science and mathematics for North Carolina State University.

Colleen supports schools and teachers in inquiry-based science activities, using research-based teaching strategies through many different professional development activities.  Her goal as an educator is to construct learning experiences for both teachers and students as pathways for the development of 21st century skills.

As a National Board certified teacher in Adolescent and Young Adult Science, she networks with many educational leaders across the state and nation, and serves on the board for the North Carolina Student Academy of Sciences. Colleen’s education includes an undergraduate Marine Science degree from Southampton College of Long Island University and a Masters of Science Education from East Carolina University.

Laura RichterLaura Richter
Rural Faculty, Capacity Building Program

Laura Richter is a history teacher, civil rights team leader, and technology Integrationist at Maine’s Skowhegan Area Middle School, where she has taught for 26 years. She has been actively involved in the Maine Learning Technology Initiative training both middle level and high school teachers across the state.

In June 2003, Laura was awarded the Apple Distinguished Educator Award, and in 2000 she received the Maine Public Broadcasting teacher of the year award.

Laura has a special interest in place-based learning and has been working closely with the Maine Historical Society to ensure that students become involved in rich community service projects. She has been active as an educational consultant across the country assisting teachers of all levels with technology integration. She received her B.A. from the University of Maine at Orono, and holds a Masters in Computer Education from Thomas College. Laura has 4 grown children and lives in Waterville with her husband, Harry, a violinmaker.

Sharon L. Spencer, Ph.D. 
Rural Faculty, Capacity Building Program

Sharon L. Spencer earned her B.A. (1979) in Early Childhood Education at Guilford College, completed her M.Ed. (1982) in Elementary Education with a focus on literacy at the University of North Carolina, Greensboro, and her Ph.D. (1991) in Curriculum and Instruction at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill.  She taught in the public schools as a Reading Specialist before she joined the faculty and served, most recently, as the Assistant Dean/Director of Teacher Education in the School of Education at North Carolina Central University in Durham, NC. 

Sharon is licensed in elementary, reading, mentoring, curriculum and instruction, and academically and intellectually gifted education. She has received a teaching excellence award. Her writing focuses on mentoring and induction, as well as on pedagogy across the curriculum.

While literacy was her first love, mathematical literacy has also taken a strong hold on Sharon's heart.  She is a mathematics implementation specialist and trainer for the Algebra Project. She has provided professional development and coaching for pre-service and in-service teachers for the last 22 years.