Staff and Board

The following staff, officers and board members of Side by Side, representing various churches in the Laurel community and beyond, believe Jesus has called us together to work on behalf of children, families and schools.


Executive Director: Joe Murchison

Joe graduated from Princeton University and earned a master’s in English literature from the University of Virginia. He taught in public and private high schools in North Carolina and Virginia before becoming a journalist. He ended his 29-year journalism career with a 17-year stint as editor of the Laurel Leader, winning numerous press awards. In 2007 Joe became principal founder of Side by Side. He has been chosen to participate in two nonprofit leadership programs: the Nonprofit Incubator Program of Nonprofit Prince George’s, and the LEAD program of the Community Foundation for the National Capital Region (now Greater Washington Community Foundation).

Assistant Director: Danielle Allen

Danielle majored in education at Towson University and taught grades K-6 in elementary schools for 21 years, 17 of those at Scotchtown Hills Elementary School in Laurel.  She also spent four years at John H. Bayne Elementary in Capitol Heights. Aside from teaching, she enjoys reading poetry, watching movies and cheering on both of her sons’ baseball teams. “I am thrilled to be able to bring my knowledge of the classroom and the dynamics of educating children to the Side by Side organization. I am excited to learn about the inner workings of a successful nonprofit while providing the needed academic support that so many of our area families need.”


PresidentNancy Rico

Nancy was born in Mexico. She earned a college degree in administration, with a certification in teaching English, at the University of Morelia in Mexico. She moved to the United States in 2009 to pursue opportunities for herself and her daughter, Michelle. Nancy currently works as a dispatcher for a construction company. She attended Side by Side workshops when Michelle was attending Laurel Elementary School, and joined a team of parents that we assembled to write a “Hispanic Parents’ Guide.” She was elected to Side by Side’s Board of Directors in 2012. She plays a particularly crucial role in Side by Side’s work with Spanish-speaking families.

Vice President: Renee Cort-Sutton

Renee is a professional school counselor at Scotchtown Hills Elementary School in Laurel. She was a double major in Early Childhood Education and Elementary Education, with a Minor in Art and History, from Lincoln University in Pennsylvania. She earned master’s degrees in Guidance and Counseling from Bowie State University, and Administration and Supervision from McDaniel College. Renee has worked in the Prince George’s County Public Schools since 1992, as a teacher at Calverton Elementary until 2002 and a professional school counselor at Cora L. Rice Elementary from 2002 till 2012, when she came to Scotchtown Hills. “What brought me to Side by Side was the desire to work with Great Start and behavior parent workshops that service Scotchtown Hills E.S.,” she says. “I love that Side by Side is a religious community outreach organization. They support the education of our children – our future – and their families.”

Treasurer: Grace McKitty

Grace is an accountant for the federal government.

Secretary: Linda Engstrom

Linda is a real estate investor and a former teacher. She was one of the founding directors of Side by Side.

Other directors:

Grace Catchings

Grace has retired from 35 years as an elementary teacher in Prince George’s County Public Schools. She spent her last 11 years teaching 4th to 6th grades at Bond Mill Elementary in Laurel. She earned a B.A. in Sociology from Wayne State University and a Maryland teaching certificate from Bowie State University. She has held a number of leadership positions at her church, St. Mark’s United Methodist in Laurel. “Since I have been retired, my passion has been to assist parents and their children with problems involving school activities and learning,” she says of serving with Side by Side.

Jenny Laure

Jenny is a property manager for Southern Management Corp. and a former parent engagement specialist at Scotchtown Hills Elementary.




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