Ensuring the same quality education for all students
We're committed to transforming schools for our kids and our city
Every student deserves grade-appropriate curriculum and strong instruction, provided by teachers who are engaged, prepared, and supported. They deserve a learning experience that meets their academic, social emotional, and cultural needs.
Students at Northeast College Prep
We believe that great schools are the cornerstone of a just and thriving community:
Results for kids, schools, families.
Purpose with bold optimism and belief in all kids.
Integrity with our partners, our investments, our decisions.
Humility learning and working together, with community.
Commitment to our city and our future.
Board of directors
Our board of directors plays a critical role in developing our strategic plan and ensuring we meet the ambitious goals we set in service of kids, families, and schools.
Rob is a principal and founder of Alternative Strategy Advisers, a boutique investment firm based in Minneapolis. Prior to this, he was the president of EW Blanch Asset Management, an asset management business. Rob has also worked for Cargill Financial Markets and the LEK Partnership.
Stan serves as the chief of communications and partnerships for Vitals Aware Services. Previous roles include communications at Tunheim, chief of communications for Minneapolis Public Schools and, in North Carolina, director of communications for Buncombe County Schools and public relations officer for Wayne County Schools.
Julie is a long-time champion of high-quality education for all young people, from preschoolers to college students. She currently serves as a trustee of The Minneapolis Foundation, is an emeritus member of Way to Grow’s board of directors, and a former member of the board of directors for the Greater Twin Cities United Way. Julie has been a mentor to first generation students at both Edina High School and the Doherty Family College at the University of St. Thomas.
Prior to her work as a community volunteer, Julie held senior marketing positions at Procter & Gamble and The Pillsbury Company. She holds a bachelor’s degree in Public Policy Studies from Duke University. She and her husband have three adult children.
Rosita is a planning analyst at Hennepin County, specializing in family advocacy. She also supports Latino families through the Latino Youth Development Collaborative, empowering parents with information and advocacy skills. Rosita is a graduate of Universidad de La Salle.
Sarah is the executive director for EquaSpace, a start-up nonprofit center that will house 30-40 small to mid-size organizations in downtown St. Paul. Prior to EquaSpace, she served as the executive director of Northside Funders Group, a funder collaborative that makes strategic investments in North Minneapolis, as well as the executive director for the Domestic Abuse Project, where she helped establish an innovative and transformational birth-to-3 therapy program and engaged in projects with Hennepin County and the City of Minneapolis to end gender-based violence. In addition, Sarah served as executive director of Joyce Preschool, which was awarded the Nonprofit Excellence Award in 2013.
Sarah serves as chair of Propel Nonprofits and Pollen Midwest and is on the boards of Gender Justice and Serve Minnesota. She also served on Mayor Hodges’ Cradle-to-K Cabinet and the Governor’s Council on Law Enforcement and Community Relations. She was a founding local advisory board member for Educators for Excellence-Minnesota.
Ieesha McKinzie Collins*
Ieesha McKinzie Collins is a passionate educational equity advocate. She currently serves as the Managing Director of ConnextMSP. Ieesha has experience across many sectors including K-12 education, nonprofit, corporate and philanthropy. She has worked for Teach For America, Breakthrough Collaborative, KIPP Texas Public Schools, and General Mills, including at the Foundation where she engaged with dozens of local and global grantees. Ieesha is a proud first-generation college graduate and HBCU alumna who earned a B.A. in journalism from Hampton University, a M.S. in integrated marketing communications from Northwestern University, and a second master’s in educational leadership from the Broad Center for Urban Education. She has also served on several nonprofit boards which aligns with her deep commitment to educational equity.
Becky is the executive director of the Carolyn Foundation, which has assets of $32 million and conducts grant-making in Minneapolis and New Haven, Conn. Becky has been with the foundation for 15 years and previously was a principal with the Philanthropy Consultancy and vice president of community relations for The Pillsbury Company.
Al served as executive director for MN Comeback and Charter School Partners, and worked at General Mills—in various marketing and sales positions—at Accenture, and with numerous organizations in the areas of technology, systems development, and strategic planning. Al serves on the board of trustees for The Minneapolis Foundation and on the national board of directors for College Possible.
Bernadeia is an assistant professor at Mankato State University; she previously served as superintendent of the Minneapolis Public Schools and oversaw academic achievement for 36,000 students and 7,000 staff members. Bernadeia is a former fifth grade, National Board Certified teacher who has also been a building principal. She also serves on the board for the National Council on Teacher Quality.
Alberto is co-founder and CEO of NewPublica, a public relations and strategic communications firm focusing on new audiences and new communications. He was elected to the Minneapolis School Board in 2010 and served as chair, 2012-2014, is a former board chair of Hiawatha Academies, and served on the founding boards of KIPP MN and Twin Cities Academy. Alberto currently serves on the advisory editorial board of Minnesota Business Magazine. His work also included roles in Radisson Hotels International, Ameriprise Financial, Wells Fargo Advisors, Latino Communications Network, Minnesota Senate, and the Minneapolis Public Schools.
Before retiring in 2015, Michael was the pastor at Church of the Ascension in North Minneapolis and The Basilica of Saint Mary. Acknowledged as a visionary leader in the Twin Cities, Michael is the founder of the popular Basilica Block Party and the Jeremiah Program. He is also recognized for his dedication to interfaith relations, often working with the Downtown Interfaith Pastors Association and the Jay Phillips Center for Jewish Christian Learning Board. Michael serves on the boards of the Ciresi Walburn Foundation for Children, the Lundstrum Center for the Performing Arts, and EdAllies; he is a former board member of the Northside Achievement Zone and the Jeremiah Program.
Tad retired from Piper Jaffray having served as vice chairman of Piper Jaffray Companies since its spinoff from US Bancorp. He also served as CEO of Piper Jaffray for 17 years and as chairman for 15 years. Tad currently serves on the boards for numerous nonprofit and publicly traded organizations.
Pat worked at Ryan companies for 35 years, including serving as its president and CEO for a decade. He now serves as the chairman of the board. Pat is also the board chair of the University of St. Thomas, past president of YPO and a current member of the World Presidents’ Organization. His further work within the community includes serving as a board member of Children’s Hospitals and Clinics of Minnesota, and trustee of Children’s Cancer Research Fund. He is also a founder of Cristo Rey Jesuit High School—an inner-city college preparatory school for under-resourced children and is chair of the Spring Point Project, which is focused on finding a cure for diabetes.
Sondra is the President & CEO of the Northside Achievement Zone, a collaborative of over 30 partner nonprofits and schools. Along with parents, students, partners, and staff, Sondra is leading a revolutionary culture shift in North Minneapolis focused on ending multigenerational poverty through education and family stability. The NAZ Collaborative is working toward a single goal—to prepare low-income North Minneapolis children to graduate from high school college- and career-ready. NAZ has scaled up in support of over 1,000 parents and 2,300 students as they turn the social service model on its head and lead the creation of a college-bound culture throughout the community.
Phil is a serial technology entrepreneur who was inducted into the 2016 Minnesota Business Hall of Fame. He was awarded a Life Time Achievement award by the MN High Tech Association in 2019. Other awards that Phil has received include the Ernst and Young Entrepreneur of the Year, 2017 Outstanding Board Director, El Dorado Ventures Entrepreneur of Year, and the MSP Business Journal selected Phil as the inaugural inductee to the Titans of Technology Hall of Fame. Phil co-founded three different technology companies: Flipgrid is an ed tech company purchased by Microsoft in 2018; Phil was CEO of Compellent Technologies, which went public on the NYSE in 2007 and was acquired by Dell in 2011; and Phil was CEO of Xiotech, which was purchased by Seagate in 2000. Phil serves on the boards of Piper Jaffray, SPS Commerce, Claros, Spineology, and Foodsby. He serves as a Trustee for the University of Minnesota Foundation and University of St. Thomas. Prior to his technology career, Phil was a junior high math teacher.
Ben is the founding dean for the St. Catherine University School of Business. He began his career as an attorney with the Popham, Haik law firm specializing in regulatory affairs. He spent over a decade in the venture capital field as general partner of the Gideon Hixon Fund which invested in early stage software, information services, and medical technology companies in Minnesota and Silicon Valley. He spent several years managing statewide political campaigns. In 2005, Ben was nominated by President George W. Bush as ambassador to Norway, where he served until 2009. He has served on the boards of The Minneapolis Foundation, EdAllies, and Prodeo Academy.
*Investment Committee only
Our team includes individuals with extensive experience serving families and schools, locally and nationally. We share a deep commitment to our community and transforming education equity for students of all races, means, and origins.
Morgan has 20 years of experience working on K-12 education reform, school choice, and family outreach at a variety of government agencies, and nonprofit, and public policy organizations. Prior to joining Great MN Schools, he served as director of partner school relations at Charter School Partners, as an assistant commissioner and director of school choice and innovation at the Minnesota Department of Education, and as assistant deputy secretary for the Office of Innovation and Improvement at the U.S. Department of Education. Contact Morgan at mbrown[at]greatmnschools.org.
Erick Castellanos is a Move for America Fellow. He is from Minneapolis, born and raised, and attended public schools here through most of his life. Most recently, Erick graduated from the University of St. Thomas with a bachelor’s of science in Data Analytics with a concentration in American Politics and a minor in Applied Statistics. Outside of work, Erick loves listening to new music, cycling, and learning new languages.
Eddie Driver joins the team as a part-time administrative assistant. In this role, Eddie supports both the CEO, Jen Stern, with calendar management, as well as the Senior Director of External Affairs, Karn Engelsgjerd, with development administration. Additionally, Eddie supports other team members with scheduling and executing meetings and conferences. Eddie is a recent graduate of Carleton College (‘22), where he majored in political science / international relations and minored in both public policy and history. His studies primarily focused on social movement theory, with a particular concentration on the intersection between race, class, and politics. While at Carleton, Eddie spent summers working at Wellspring Philanthropic Fund as a Grants Management Intern and Temporary Assistant. Eddie lives in the Marcy-Holmes neighborhood of Minneapolis with two of his close friends and ultimate frisbee teammates, and his cat, Tulip!
Karn has more than 20 years of K-12 education experience, ranging from teaching fourth grade—she was awarded Teacher of the Year at Forest Heights Elementary in Baton Rouge, La.—to supporting strong classroom instruction as ANet’s vice president of networks. Spanning her time there and as a national leader of program at Teach For America, she has effectively cultivated and developed relationships to advance the mission and work of the organization so that schools work for all students. Karn and her family live in the Seward neighborhood of Minneapolis. Contact Karn at kengelsgjerd[at]greatmnschools.org.
Bailey Johnson will be responsible for the communications plans and deliverables that support Great MN Schools’ goals. Bailey has more than 10 years of experience working for nonprofit organizations in the areas of communications, marketing, and project management. She holds a degree in Communication Studies from Luther College and a certificate in Graphic Design from Minneapolis College. Bailey lives in South Minneapolis with her husband Paul, toddler Mirae, and dog Curry.
Sheilah has 20 years of experience in education. She began her career as a Teach For America corps member in Houston. After two years in the classroom, she co-founded YES Prep and led the school to Texas’ highest school rating, “exemplary status.” In 2004, Sheilah built the Charter Management Organization structure allowing YES Prep, and subsequently KIPP Austin, both to grow in size and quality; she developed phasing to build efficient and effective CMO staffing, school growth, and facility utilization. Sheilah has also built and managed financial models for strategic decision-making. As an early leader in CMO growth, YES Prep and KIPP Austin strategic plans, facilities development, and staffing structures are now shared widely among successful charter school networks nationally. Contact Sheilah at skavaney[at]greatmnschools.org.
An alumna of Minneapolis schools, Rosie has seen firsthand the difference that a great school makes. After graduating from the University of Wisconsin-Madison with a political science degree, she joined the Peace Corps in Panama and served as the national coordinator of the Leadership Development for Global Education program. Interested in learning how public systems can better serve all people, Rosie earned a Master’s in Public Administration from the Woodrow Wilson School at Princeton University. Rosie is the Director of Community Resources at Great MN Schools. In this role, she operates as a deep listener and collaborative problem solver, blending her strategic and relationship-building skills to ensure every family has the resources and tools they need to navigate the K-12 system for their children. Rosie lives with her family in the Longfellow neighborhood, loves to cook, speaks Spanish fluently and loves to cook. Contact Rosie at rlais[at]greatmnschools.org.
La Lee Lo
The tactical use of data to tackle people-focused issues fuels La Lee. After graduating from Saint Paul Public Schools—and benefiting from college access programs, including College Possible and LEDA—and receiving a bachelor’s degree from Princeton University, La Lee spent the first three years of his career accruing expertise in real world applications of quantitative and qualitative data in the marketing industry. Prior experiences also include working with DC Water, Sustainable Princeton, and Breakthrough Twin Cities. Contact La Lee at llo[at]greatmnschools.org.
Melissa has 15 years of experience working toward quality education for all kids as a teacher, instructional coach, school administrator, and within education nonprofit organizations. After five years of teaching, Melissa became a founding leader at DC Prep Edgewood Elementary School (a National Blue Ribbon school), where she served as the instructional coach and the assistant principal. Melissa also worked as a director of school support and as the managing director of partnership design at the Achievement Network, a nonprofit organization dedicated to ensuring that every child has access to an excellent education. Contact Melissa at mlong[at]greatmnschools.org.
Kyle is an experienced Diversity, Equity, Access, and Inclusion practitioner with a demonstrated history of working in cultural institutions, multicultural groups, and community engagement roles. He spent the first decade of his career working at the Minnesota Historical Society, ultimately serving the organization as the Head of Inclusion and Community Engagement. Most recently, he served as the Director of Alumni Affairs and Giving at Breck School. He is skilled in community relationship building, large group facilitation, budgeting, administration, and recruiting from diverse communities. He is a Certified Project Manager, GE Workout Champion, and Qualified Administrator of the Intercultural Development Inventory. He holds additional certifications in Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion, as well as Situational Leadership. Kyle speaks publicly on topics centered on race, intergenerational differences, and understanding intercultural communication in professional settings. Currently, he enjoys the opportunity to contribute to the Friends of the Hennepin County Library Board and the Summer Festival Camp leadership team.
Michelle has worked in K-12 education for 13 years as an educator, instructional coach, and human resources professional. Her experience spans a variety of districts and charter networks, including D.C. Public Schools, Distinctive Schools in Chicago, and Prodeo Academy in Minneapolis. Michelle joined Great MN Schools after working as an HR project coordinator with Minneapolis Public Schools, where she supported financial operations and strategic projects. Michelle knows the best places to enjoy dessert across Minneapolis.
Jennifer has 20 years of experience leading innovative, transformational strategic initiatives, including 10 years as a national education reform leader. She was the president of Spark Strategic Consulting, providing strategic support to a variety of national and local education organizations. Jennifer served as the executive director of Talent Management and Strategic Programs for Denver Public Schools, where she oversaw the district’s human capital strategies, including for recruitment, development, evaluation, and retention of high-performing educators. Prior to DPS, Jennifer was vice president at the Charter School Growth Fund, a national venture philanthropy organization designed to provide financial and strategic resources to replicate high-quality charter schools serving students from low-income households. She began her career in education at the New York City Department of Education, leading work for the CEO of Human Resources on business transformation and the customer experience. Previously, Jennifer spent several years at American Express, where she worked in Strategic Venture Capital before leading marketing teams in loyalty and acquisition marketing, and began her career at Bain & Company. Contact Jen at jstern[at]greatmnschools.org.
Hiring: Senior Manager of Community Engagement
Hiring: Operations Coordinator
We launched a new initiative at Great MN Schools to involve more voices in the fight for K-12 equity and systems change: Minneapolis Education Ambassadors.
As the only organization focused solely on developing and sustaining high-performing schools in Minneapolis—for all students—we are deeply grateful to our funders and partners who share that commitment and make our work possible through their investment.
To join us in transforming education in our city, please connect with our director of development, Karn Engelsgjerd, to learn more: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Access a list of our funders in our 2021 annual report.
Thank you for generously supporting great schools
We’re grateful to the many foundations, individuals, and corporations that help to ensure every child in Minneapolis has access to a rigorous and relevant education.
Community members at Hope Community in Minneapolis (Bruce Silcox)