Executive Director

Janellen is a New Jersey native from a large, bustling Irish Catholic family. She attended Bucknell University as an undergraduate, and worked in DC for the early part of her career on social policy issues.

Janellen holds a master’s in public affairs from Princeton University’s Woodrow Wilson School and after graduating from Princeton, she participated in the Presidential Management Fellowship in DC, serving at the Department of Health and Human Services and the U.S. Senate Finance Committee. At HHS and the Finance Committee, Janellen worked on welfare reform, youth development and early childhood issues.

Janellen returned to New Jersey to serve as Governor Corzine’s education policy advisor and later his director of policy. During this time, she worked on countless education issues, including the School Funding Reform Act of 2008, the authorization of $3.9 billion for school construction funding and the implementation of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act in New Jersey. She then spent nearly three years at the Newark Charter School Fund working to improve the number of high-quality public school options for all of Newark’s students and foster collaboration between charter schools and the district.

Now that Janellen and her family have settled in New Jersey for the long term, she’s thrilled to serve as the founding executive director of JerseyCAN—an appropriate next step given her long-time commitment to improving educational options for students across the state.

I aspire to be like Hillary Clinton. Here’s why:

As the first lady, as a senator and as the secretary of state, Hillary Rodham Clinton has served her country with a tireless commitment to improving the lives of people both here at home and around the world. I find that relentless pursuit of justice, combined with her indefatigable spirit, inspiring—so much so that I’ve already bought my only niece a copy of “Hillary Clinton: Dreams Taking Flight,” and she’s only a year old!

Why I love my job:

I recently heard that eighth-graders in the Princeton school district now have the option of taking algebra 2. I believe every student in the state should have that kind of opportunity. More importantly, I believe that all students should get the rigorous preparation they need between preschool to seventh grade to take advanced classes like algebra 2 – and beyond – to prepare for college and career readiness. As JerseyCAN’s executive director, I get to wake up every day and work with education leaders across the state to help turn that dream into a reality.

My connection to public schools:

I am a former public school student and a New Jersey parent trying to learn about the best public school options for my sons and nephews and niece. I am also the daughter, daughter-in-law and sister-in-law of teachers, and as such, I get to hear about both their challenges and the amazing things that are happening in their classrooms.

What I’m bad at:

Patience (although yoga is helping me get better). I admit that my lack thereof has earned me a few less-than-flattering nicknames, but it has also helped me to push for progress on the issues I care about most.