Verjeana McCotter-Jacobs, Esq.

Verjeana McCotter-Jacobs, Esq., was named NSBA Executive Director and CEO in July 2023. She oversees the association’s operations and initiatives, working closely with state associations of school boards, as well as local school board members, school law attorneys, education professionals, and policymakers to shape education policy, drive innovation, and promote effective governance at the local level.

She is deeply committed to empowering school boards and collaborating with educators, community members, and parents to ensure that all students have access to a high-quality education. She works alongside the NSBA team and NSBA members to advance educational equity, foster student success, and create meaningful change in our nation’s schools and school districts.

McCotter-Jacobs has more than 30 years of experience in education, law, and public safety. For more than a decade, she served as Chair of the Board of Education for Prince George's County Public Schools in Maryland — one of the nation’s largest school districts. During her time as a school board member, she served as president of the Maryland Association of Boards of Education and Chair of NSBA’s Council of Urban Boards of Education (CUBE), demonstrating an unwavering commitment to promoting excellence and equity in education and working tirelessly to enhance educational outcomes for all students. During her time on the school board, McCotter-Jacobs worked for more than 20 years for the Prince George’s County Department of Corrections, retiring as the Division Chief of the Office of Professional Responsibility and Legal Affairs at the rank of Lieutenant Colonel.

McCotter-Jacobs began her tenure at NSBA in 2017, leading the organization’s change around member engagement, as well as building upon the organization’s progress in member services, equity, and social justice to identify discriminatory practices, prejudices, and beliefs in education policy. Under her leadership, NSBA’s CUBE experienced triple-digit growth. She was named NSBA’s Chief Transformational Officer in 2020 and Deputy Executive Director in August 2022.

McCotter-Jacobs received a B.A. in behavioral & social sciences from the University of Maryland and a J.D. from the University of the District of Columbia David A. Clarke School of Law. She maintains license to practice law in Maryland and the District of Columbia.

Liya Amelga, Chief of Staff

Liya Amelga is the Chief of Staff of the National School Boards Association (NSBA). As the daughter of two immigrants who came to the United States for a better life, Liya was raised with an emphasis on the value and promise of a high-quality education. She believes that each child, regardless of their identity or status, should have equitable access to the quality opportunities they want and deserve.

Liya previously served as the Director of Equity and Member Services, managing NSBA’s equity-centered educational programs and facilitating leadership development training. Prior to rejoining NSBA, Liya served as the Managing Director of Strategy and Operations at the Foundation for Excellence in Education, managing the overall operation of the foundation’s policy division. Liya also served as the Special Assistant to the Board of School Commissioners for Baltimore City Public Schools, where she was responsible for overseeing operational functions of the Board Office, including managing the process for adjudicating employee grievance appeals and ethics complaints to the Board.  

A native of Orange County, California, Liya earned her B.A. in Psychology from the University of Maryland, College Park and her J.D. from the University of Maryland, Carey School of Law. She is a licensed attorney in the State of Maryland.

Renée B. Joe, Chief Marketing & Communications Officer

Named as NSBA’s first Chief Marketing & Communications Officer in August 2022, Renée Joe guides teams focused on strengthening organizational brand voice, enhancing experience, and generating revenue. Joe joined NSBA in 2017 to transform the association’s strategic marketing and creative teams, later seeing her role expanded to oversee the Public Advocacy and Communications Departments. In 2021, her role was augmented again to also oversee business development, meetings, and leadership teams as interim Transformation Officer. Since 2020, she has also served as publisher of NSBA’s award-winning American School Board Journal (ASBJ).


Before joining NSBA, Joe worked as as Vice President, Global Membership, Marketing and Services for the International Association of Amusement Parks and Attractions. Under her leadership, the organization saw record worldwide membership levels not achieved in 17 previous years. Previously, Joe served more than 10,000 CEOs in 46 countries as Vice President, Marketing & Communications, of the Entrepreneurs’ Organization, launching global branding, translation, magazine, and highly successful social media initiatives. Similarly, as Managing Director, Marketing, for the Association for Financial Professionals, her customer engagement strategy drove double-digit revenue increases in conference and product sales. Her private sector work includes LexisNexis, The Mead Corporation, and The Eveready Battery Company. Joe earned a Bachelor of Science in Management from Tulane University and a Master of Business Administration from Boston University.


Francisco M. Negrón, Jr., Chief Legal Officer

Francisco M. Negrón, Jr. is the Chief Legal Officer of NSBA. A proud product of our public schools, Negrón is a leading national advocate for public schools, directing NSBA’s nationally recognized Legal Advocacy Program, which files more amicus briefs in the United States Supreme Court and in federal and state appellate courts across the country each year than all national education associations combined. Negrón also leads the 3,200-member Council of School Attorneys, the national network of lawyers representing K-12 public schools.


This council hosts two signature conferences annually for its participants. He is also a member of the Bars of the United States Supreme Court, the District of Columbia, Florida, and all federal circuit courts of appeals. Negrón regularly appears in national media outlets as a spokesperson for public schools. He received his Juris Doctorate from the Florida State University College of Law and holds a bachelor’s degree in international studies from the University of West Florida.


John Heim, Advocacy Officer

John Heim is NSBA's Advocacy Officer. Previously, Heim served as NSBA's Executive Director and CEO from November 2021 until June 2023. Prior to joining NSBA, Heim served as the Executive Director of the Kansas Association of School Boards where, for 11 years, he worked closely with local boards of education on professional development, goal setting, financial stewardship, policy, advocacy, and other strategic issues to advance public education. Over his four-decade career in public education, Heim has worked as a teacher, principal, and superintendent to improve outcomes and opportunities of Kansas students and position Kansas schools for success. 


Heim has a Ph.D. in Educational Administration from Kansas State University and has served as an adjunct professor and guest lecturer and speaker. His passion for supporting the next generation of educational leaders has inspired many to pursue careers in educational leadership.


Heim has received multiple accolades for his work in public education, including the 2022 University of Kansas School of Education and Human Sciences Distinguished Alumni; 2019 Kansas State University College of Education Alumni Fellow; 2008 Kansas Superintendent of the Year by the Kansas Association of School Administrators; the 2006 Outstanding Service Award from the United School Administrators of Kansas; and the 2001 Communicator of the Year Award from the Kansas School Public Relations Association.