Board of Directors
Eric Herron, Board Chair and Treasurer. Herron is a financial planning and analysis executive at Target Corporation in Minneapolis. In his current role, Eric has primary accountability for the financial business strategies and capital investment of Target’s IT division as it expands into Canada. He previously implemented Project & Portfolio Management for the IT division, set sales and margin goals for Target’s on-line merchandising, and optimized the supply chain expenses of Target’s distribution network.
Before joining Target, Herron worked as a business development analyst for Siemens in Paderborn, Germany, and designed distribution centers for Fortune 500 companies while based in Chicago. A resident of south Minneapolis, he serves on the board of the Southern Theater and is on the steering committee of the Minneapolis Chamber of Commerce Leadership Twin Cities program. As a member of Venture’s board, Herron assists with financial oversight and technology planning.
Brian Jones, Vice-Chair. An attorney, Jones was the former general counsel of the United States Department of Education. From 2007 to this year, he served as a member and for the last three years as chair of the District of Columbia Public Charter School Board, the public entity that oversees all charter schools in Washington, D.C. Jones is currently senior counsel for Strayer University, a private university that serves more than 50,000 students in over 20 states.
Lisa Graham Keegan. Keegan is the principal partner at the Keegan Company, where she consults, writes and speaks on critical issues in American education. She is founder and president of the Education Breakthrough Network, a national “one-stop-shop” and online community supporting school choice. Keegan was CEO of the Education Leaders Council (ELC) from 2001 until 2004. She was the elected state schools chief of Arizona from 1995 to 2001. From 1991 to 1994, she served as vice-chairman and chairman of the Arizona House Education Committee and authored much of Arizona’s education reform legislation in the early 1990′s. Keegan is a graduate of Stanford University.
Christine Nelson. Nelson is currently chief of staff of Denver School of Science and Technology (DSST), a growing Denver multi-campus charter network serving predominantly low-income students in grades 6-12. DSST’s flagship Stapleton campus is one of Colorado’s highest growth and highest proficiency schools. Nelson previously worked as a program manager at the National Conference for State Legislatures, where she advised legislators across the country on policies impacting children and families. She was director of the Office of Citizen Outreach for former Minnesota Governor Jesse Ventura, a nearly successful candidate for St. Paul City Council, a co-founder of Yinghua Academy charter school in Minneapolis, and a recipient of a German Marshall Fund Fellowship.
Betsy Ohrn. Ohrn is the 4th-grade reading teacher for Hiawatha Leadership Academy in south Minneapolis. She previously taught 7th-grade reading, writing and science as a Teach For America corps member at YES Prep Gulfton in Houston, part of the nationally renowned middle-high charter network. At YES Prep, Ohrn led her students to make average growth of two years in reading; 95% of her students scored proficient in the Texas state reading exam and 100% in writing. She is a graduate of Rice University.
Jeff Robbins is an attorney at the Minneapolis firm of Messerli & Kramer and coordinator of the AngelPolleNation network, with an extensive background in entrepreneurship and angel early stage investment in Twin Cities start-up firms.
Wendy Swanson-Choi, Lead Education Advisor. Swanson-Choi is executive director at Novations Education Opportunities (NEO), one of Minnesota’s leading authorizers of public charter schools. For six years, she was the instructional leader of the school (TiZA) with the nation’s highest 2009 NWEA-MAP growth. A licensed English Language Learning and English Language Arts teacher, Swanson-Choi most recently served as school improvement specialist for the Turnaround office of Minneapolis Public Schools and an instructional leadership coach to urban charter schools. She also served as executive director of Nova Classical Academy and as a member of Nova’s board of directors.
Community Partner Representative: Antonio Cardona, Pillsbury United Communities. Cardona is Director of Pillsbury’s Urban Institute for Service and Learning, focused on developing the leadership capacity of Twin Cities residents–both youth and adults–through a variety of activities and programs. Founded in 1879 as a pioneering urban settlement house, Pillsbury is a Minneapolis nonprofit working to create choice, change and connection for people from all walks of life and build meaningful relationships. With four neighborhood community centers and a professional live theatre, Pillsbury serves more than 35,000 people annually.
Founding Board Members Emeriti
Verne Johnson, Co-Founder. In 1952, Johnson became the youngest elected state representative (representing the city of Minneapolis) in the Legislature, beginning a distinguished career that included long stints as executive director of the Citizens League (1958-67) and as vice-president for planning at General Mills (1967-82). An early supporter and volunteer for the Black Alliance for Education Options (BAEO), Twin Cities Rise and Youth Frontiers, Johnson was the founding chair of the Civic Caucus, a nonpartisan Minnesota policy discussion and innovation group. Verne Johnson died on November 2, 2012.
Daniel Bonilla. Until recently, Bonilla directed (2007-12) the Latino Economic Development Center’s (LEDC) Latino Academy training program, which serves over 500 small and mid-size Latino entrepreneurs and their businesses annually. Bonilla is a native of Costa Rica.
Cathy Lund. Lund works with the Walton Family Foundation. She recently served as Project Lead The Way’s (PLTW) Vice President and Senior Director of Engagement. Prior to joining PLTW, Lund worked for the Walton Family Foundation (WFF) for 14 years in a national role with direct impact on K-12 policy and reform. She worked across all three of WFF’s education reform initiatives: Shape Public Policy, Build Quality Schools and Improve Existing Schools.
Dr. Dennis Morrow, Board Chair. Morrow was widely recognized as an innovative change-maker during his nearly 40 years of service and leadership in education. He was a Minnesota public high school teacher and coach, a principal of four schools (three Minnesota public schools and the Hong Kong International School), and the superintendent of Brooklyn Center Public Schools. After a post-doctoral Bush Leadership Fellowship at Harvard University studying model schools nationwide, Morrow served as dean of graduate studies at Bethel University, associate executive director of Reach Global, and executive director of Daystar University in Nairobi, Kenya. A graduate of Minneapolis’ Marshall-University High School, he received his Ph.D. in education administration from the University of Minnesota-Twin Cities.
Scott Thomas. Thomas is currently the CFO of Pacific Charter School Development in Los Angeles, where he manages a large charter school-related real estate investment portfolio focused on southern California. In his current role, Thomas advises the 20-school Alliance charter network, which launched the pioneering ATAMS blended learning high school last fall. His deep roots in urban education began with his work as a science teacher at an inner-city school in Los Angeles.