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Board of Directors

Eric Herron, Board Chair. Herron currently works in International Finance at 3M providing financial counsel to 3M subsidiaries worldwide. Prior to 3M, he held several finance roles at Target Corporation driving strategic initiatives for international expansion, technology investment, e-commerce, and supply chain optimization. Herron has also 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.

Scott Davis is the CEO of QONQR (pronounced conquer), a mobile gaming company focusing on location-based games. QONQR has been the winner of Startup Weekend and finalist in the Minnesota Cup, SXSW Accelerator, and MHTA Tekne awards. Davis has been a software developer since 1999 and an entrepreneur since 2001, serving as a founding member of five companies. Before starting his own consulting company, he held a position as district Manager at Fujitsu Consulting, managing as many as 50 direct reports across a seven state district. Davis holds an MBA in New Venture Management from the University of St Thomas in St Paul, MN and is an adjunct faculty member at St Mary’s University in Minneapolis in the Information Technology Management master’s program.

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 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.

David Mirelez is a Vice President Merchandise Manager for Target Corporation in Minneapolis, managing a $3 Billion Perishables and Food Service Division, Target’s largest growth platform. Mirelez previously served as divisional merchandise manager, merchandise planning director, senior buyer and buyer for Target. He earlier was a management consultant at Bain & Company and a manager and engineer for Exxon. Mirelez received his MBA from Northwestern’s Kellogg School of Management and an undergraduate degree in mechanical engineering from the University of Minnesota.

Christine 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 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.

Brian Peterson, Treasurer, recently left his position as an IT project manager for UnitedHealth Group to launch a new social entrepreneurship venture. As a University of Minnesota freshman in 2003, Peterson co-founded and for nearly a decade served as co-executive director of Students Today Leaders Forever, now a national service and leadership development agency serving more than 4,000 students annually from 13 states. Under Peterson’s co-leadership, STLF won the Minnesota Social Entrepreneur’s Cup.

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.

Megan Zlatos is a co-founding learning coach (teacher) at Venture Academy, where she leads the English Language learning program. Two-thirds of Venture’s founding trailblazers are English learners. Zlatos joined the Venture team after a two-year stint as an English learning teacher in the Indianapolis Public Schools. She entered teaching after five years in tech startups, including Pure Visibility, Justin.tv, and as an award-winning trainer for Google in California and Michigan. Zlatos received her master’s in teaching from Marian University and her B.A. (summa cum laude) from Yale University.

 

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.

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