Zakiyah Ansari & Marina Marcou-O’Malley Named Interim Co-Executive Directors
ALBANY, N.Y. – Public education advocacy organization the Alliance for Quality Education today announced the impending departure of Executive Director Jasmine Gripper, effective mid-November. Gripper will be taking on the role of Co-Director at the New York State Working Families Party, partnering with Ana Maria Archila.
During this transitional phase, AQE will be in capable hands as Zakiyah Ansari and Marina Marcou-O’Malley, two distinguished figures with over 30 years of collective experience at AQE, who will step in as interim Co-Executive Directors. Ansari, the current Advocacy Director overseeing the New York City office, and Marcou-O’Malley, the current Policy and Operations Director, have been instrumental in shaping AQE’s policy and advocacy initiatives across the state. Their unparalleled expertise will navigate AQE through this exciting new chapter.
The AQE board of directors, resolute in its support for Ansari and Marcou-O’Malley’s leadership, will spearhead the quest for a new Executive Director. Through this transitional phase and beyond, AQE remains steadfast in its commitment to the pursuit of educational justice and racial equity. The organization will persist in its mission to ensure that all children and families have access to high-quality public schools in every neighborhood. Through grassroots mobilization and leadership development, AQE will continue to empower Black, Brown and low income families to reshape education policy, fostering the kind of schools that New York’s children not only need, but deserve.
Gripper admirably served as AQE’s Executive Director for three years and has been an integral part of the organization for over a decade, and will be remembered for her exemplary leadership. Starting as a temporary statewide organizer in 2013, she rapidly grew to oversee the organization’s legislative advocacy strategy. Hailing from Queens, she is a proud product of the New York City public school system and a graduate of CUNY’s Hunter College.
Under Gripper’s remarkable stewardship, AQE led successful campaigns that secured record funding for New York’s public education system, historic child care funding, and navigated the unprecedented challenges brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic. In doing so, AQE cemented its position as the preeminent statewide coalition dedicated to equity and racial justice in public education.
“AQE has a small but powerful staff who are strategic, dedicated, and uncompromising in their fierce determination to ensure that New York’s youth receive an exceptional education. Jasmine Gripper has been a fearless leader who exudes integrity and established a culture of joy in the struggle for justice. While she will be missed, the AQE board has complete confidence in Zakiyah and Marina to lead us in shaping the next iteration of AQE,” said Rosemary Rivera, Board Chair of the Alliance for Quality Education and Executive Director of Citizen Action of New York.
“Jasmine’s tenure with AQE leaves some pretty big shoes to fill. I am excited to be given the opportunity to co-lead this transition at AQE alongside Zakiyah, and determined to continue the fight for our children. Thanks to Jasmine’s leadership, AQE is stronger than ever, and I know that the movement for racial and social justice is going to be even stronger with Jasmine co-leading the Working Families Party,” said Marina Marcou-O’Malley, Policy and Operations Director, Alliance for Quality Education.
“Since she stepped into the role of executive director in 2020, Jasmine has led us from the front and between her and a phenomenal staff, alongside parents and educators from all across the state, what we thought would never happen happened: we are now celebrating in 2023 the final phase in of the Foundation Aid formula which took almost 30 years. The legacy that Jasmine leaves behind in her short time as executive director here at AQE is one that she will no doubt carry forward at WFP with Ana Maria. While we are sad to see Jasmine go, we’re also excited about the next phase of her journey, which will absolutely be connected to our continued fight for education justice. With Jasmine as co-director, WFP will have a stronger educational context and perspective than ever before. As we have in the past we will continue to work side by side with WFP. This is not the end, it’s just another path of the journey toward educational justice and justice for all New Yorkers,” said Zakiyah Ansari, Advocacy Director, Alliance for Quality Education.
“Jasmine Gripper is one of New York’ most important progressive leaders. Her remarkably effective and resolute leadership culminated with AQE winning long owed Foundation Aid for New York’s public schools; her legacy will be felt for many years to come as tens of thousands of New York’s most low-income public school students graduate from fully funded public schools. We will miss her leadership terribly but congratulate her as she embarks on her next chapter,” said Lucas Sanchez, Co-Executive Director, New York Communities for Change.
“It is a pleasure to see Marina and Zakiyah step up into this role to lead AQE, and I have full confidence that they will capably steer the organization through the upcoming state budget fight and beyond. These women strengthened and supported my leadership and growth at AQE. Thanks to their many years with the organization, they hold vast knowledge and experience of the issues, have good instincts — and most importantly, are fully dedicated to improving our public schools and communities for our children. My time with AQE was truly formative to my development as an advocate and a leader, and I will miss the dynamic team at AQE. I look forward to continuing to build progressive power across the state with Ana Maria as I step into this new role with the New York Working Families Party,” said Jasmine Gripper, Executive Director, Alliance for Quality Education.