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

Our values

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.

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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.

Chair

Alberto Monserrate

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.
Vice Chair

Stan Alleyne

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.

Alvin Abraham

Alvin is the founding dean of the Dougherty Family College at the University of St. Thomas. Alvin started his career as an elementary educator with Teach For America and then continued teaching in Houston. A proven leader, Alvin quickly ascended into educational administration as an assistant principal, then principal, in Houston. He relocated to Minneapolis in 2012 to lead KIPP MN. Alvin holds a B.S. from Texas A&M University and a M.Ed. from the University of Houston. He is on the board of Children’s Hospitals and Clinics of Minnesota and serves on the national advisory board of Teach For America–The Collective.

Rob Albright

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.

Rosita Balch

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.

Becky Erdahl

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 Fan

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 leadership council for Generation Next.

Ethan Gray

Ethan is a partner at The City Fund, a nonprofit organization that supports city-based efforts to help more children access great public schools. Ethan was previously the founder and CEO of Education Cities, a national nonprofit network that supported and advised city-based education organizations on their efforts to improve public education. Before his role at Education Cities, Ethan served as vice president of The Mind Trust in Indianapolis, where he helped develop the ‘Opportunity Schools’ plan for transforming Indianapolis Public Schools.

Aimee Guidera

Aimee is the former president and CEO of the Data Quality Campaign, a national, nonprofit organization leading the effort to empower educators, students, parents, and policymakers with the information they need to make the best decisions to improve student outcomes. Aimee believes that data has the power to transform education to ensure every child in this country is prepared for success in college and careers.

Bernadeia Johnson

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.

Tad Piper

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 Ryan

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 ending a cure for diabetes.

Phil Soran

Phil is a serial technology entrepreneur who was inducted into the 2016 Minnesota Business Hall of Fame. He is the recipient of numerous awards and honors, including Entrepreneur of the Year by Ernst and Young and El Dorado Ventures in and being selected as one of 40 Minnesotans on the Move. Phil co-founded Flipgrid, and serves as the executive chairman. He was also the founder, president, and CEO of Compellent Technologies, a company that was one of the fastest-growing storage companies in the world before acquisition by Dell for $960 million in 2011. Previously, Phil served as CEO and president of XIOtech Corp, a network storage vendor that he co-founded—it was purchased by Seagate for $360 million.
Phil serves on the boards of Piper Jaffray, SPS Commerce, and Help Systems, and is a Trustee for the University of Minnesota Foundation.

Sandy Vargas

Sandy served as the president and CEO of The Minneapolis Foundation from 2007-2016. During her tenure, the foundation’s grant-making more than doubled, from $37 million to $80 million each year. Before joining the foundation, Sandy had been the Hennepin County Administrator.

Ben Whitney

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.

Staff

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.

We're hiring! Join the Great MN Schools team—we're accepting applications for a Director of Development.

CEO

Jen Stern

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.

Director of Talent

Cay Adams Kimbrell

Motivated by the amazing teachers in her life, Cay supports the goal that every child feel the joy of learning and resulting confidence that great teachers nurture. Previously, Cay and her family lived in New Orleans for 15 years, where she worked with New Orleans Public Schools, the Louisiana Board of Regents, and the Recovery School District. Her experience includes improving the conditions and support needed to retain and develop great teachers, and to provide high-quality pathways into the profession for aspiring educators. While at MN Comeback, Cay focused on supporting current and aspiring teachers and school leaders in dramatically increasing student success.

Director of Community Partnerships

Osman Ahmed

Osman has organized and convened broad constituencies, and worked on successful political campaigns that range from school board to the federal level. Most recently, Osman served as housing and community outreach director for Sen. Tina Smith; his experience includes also working on campaigns for and/or in the offices of Sen. Al Franken, Mayor Betsy Hodges, and Rep. Keith Ellison.

Operations Coordinator

Nouf AL-Masrafi

Nouf comes to us via New Sector Alliance; she’s part of its 2020 fellowship for emerging leaders entering mission-driven organizations. Nouf has outreach and operations experience that spans her time at St. Olaf College—she earned degrees in studio art and race & ethnic studies—and as a young professional: assistant stage manager for the New Arab American Theater, advocate for a sexual assault resource network, program coordinator for the Ricardo Levins Morales Art Studio. Nouf also knows four languages.

Chief of Staff

Nicholas Banovetz

A native of the Arrowhead, Nicholas is a proud father of two and a longtime advocate of strengthening education. He steered the incubation of MN Comeback from concept to reality while at The Minneapolis Foundation. Previously, he served as director of new sites and expansion at 50CAN and deputy director of MinnCAN—where he was a founding executive committee member of MinneMinds—and a senior account executive at Padilla. Nicholas serves on the board for the Boundary Waters Conservation Alliance and the development committee for Dodge Nature Center.

Director

Morgan Brown

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.

Senior Manager of Projects and Analytics

Rosie Lais

An alumna of Minneapolis schools, Rosie spent the first years of her career working in post-secondary education in the international development space. She was an education volunteer in the Peace Corps in Panama (2013-2015), where she served as the national coordinator of the Leadership Development for Global Education program.

Director

Melissa Long

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.

Director

Sheilah Kavaney

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.

Director of Development

Kristen McKittrick

Kristen began her development work in education while serving as an AmeriCorps VISTA at Citizen Schools New Jersey. Upon returning home to Minnesota, she worked at the Children’s Hospital Foundation, then MN Comeback, before joining the team at Great MN Schools.

Funders

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, Kristen McKittrick, to learn more: kmckittrick@greatmnschools.org.

Access a list of our funders in our 2019 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)