Who We Are

With deep expertise in developing high-quality schools, Great MN Schools unites committed funders and schools in the shared work of dramatically improving the opportunities available to Minneapolis kids. In partnership with MN Comeback, we will increase access to great schools and close the opportunity gap for 30,000 Minneapolis children.

MN Comeback complements our work with schools by investing in support systems that are critical to school growth and success. Through the efforts of a diverse coalition, MN Comeback is increasing the number of extraordinary leaders and teachers working in our schools, fostering deep community and parent engagement, advocating for supportive public policy, and helping schools access quality facilities.

 

Explore our first-ever joint MN Comeback-Great MN Schools annual report, featuring early indicators of progress and profiles of changing-the-odds schools!

Our Board of Directors:

Beth Finch

Beth Finch

Beth Finch

Beth Finch

Beth is the founder of CharterSource, a provider of board governance support services for Minnesota charter schools. Prior to launching CharterSource, she was the Board Chair of KIPP Minnesota (2010-2015). She also is a founder of Lake Country Academy, a K-8th school based in Wisconsin, proven to consistently score in the top charter schools in the State. In addition to her work in education, she serves on the Board of Trustees at Mounds Park Academy in St. Paul and Wilderness Inquiry.

Her passion and the cornerstone of her work is to support schools and to close the achievement gap in Minnesota. She is a graduate of the College of St. Benedicts and resides in the East Metro with her three children.

Alberto Monserrate

Treasurer

Alberto Monserrate

Alberto Monserrate

Treasurer

Alberto Monserrate

Alberto is co-founder and CEO of NewPublica, a public relations and strategic communications firm focusing on new audiences and new communications. Alberto is a leading authority on multicultural communications and marketing in Minnesota. As the CEO and co-founder of Latino Communications Network (LCN), now NewPublica, he produced the weekly Spanish newspaper La Prensa de Minnesota and the weekly Spanish publication Vida y Sabor. LCN also operated 24-hour Spanish radio stations 1400 and 1470 AM La Invasora, between 2005 and 2013.

Alberto is a seasoned expert on marketing to the Latino community and is a regular commentator in the Star Tribune, Pioneer Press, Minnesota Public Radio and other Minnesota business media. Alberto was elected to the Minneapolis School Board in 2010, serving as chair from 2012 to 2014. Alberto is the former board chair of Hiawatha Academies and served on the founding boards of KIPP Minnesota and Twin Cities Academy. He served on the board of the Minnesota Broadcasters Association and currently serves on the advisory editorial board of Minnesota Business Magazine. His professional work included roles in Radisson Hotels International, Ameriprise Financial, Wells Fargo Advisors, Latino Communications Network, Minnesota Senate and Minneapolis Public Schools.

Phil Soran

Phil Soran

Phil Soran

Phil Soran

Phil Soran 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 being recognized as the Entrepreneur of the Year by Ernst and Young in 2008 and El Dorado Ventures in 2007 and being selected as one of 40 Minnesotans on the Move in 2009. Phil cofounded Flipgrid in 2015, 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 dollars in 2011.

Previously, Phil served as chief executive officer and president of XIOtech Corp, a network storage vendor that he co-founded in his basement in 1995. XIOtech was purchased by Seagate in January of 2000 for $360M. Phil also held various management, sales, marketing, and technical positions at IBM for 10 years.

Phil serves on the board of Piper Jaffray, SPS Commerce, Help Systems, and also served on the board of directors of Stellent and Hutchinson Technologies prior to their acquisitions. He is currently a Trustee for the U of Minnesota Foundation.

Sean Walker

Sean Walker

Sean Walker

Sean Walker

Sean joined the GMS board in May 2016. Sean is a senior vice president at General Mills, and currently leads the company's Corporate Strategy efforts. He has been with General Mills since 1989, and has served in roles of increasing responsibility across multiple divisions and countries. His roles have included Vice President Finance, Vice President Marketing, and President. He has lived and worked in Brazil, England, Switzerland, Jamaica, Canada, and the USA. Sean has volunteered and been on the boards of multiple non-profit and education based organizations in Minneapolis, Toronto, Miami and São Paulo. Sean resides in the Twin Cities with his family.

Ben Whitney

Board Chair

Ben Whitney

Ben Whitney

Board Chair

Ben Whitney

Ben 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 the Silicon Valley. Ben spent several years managing statewide political campaigns. In 2005 Ben was nominated by President George W. Bush as Ambassador to the Kingdom of Norway where he served until mid-2009.

Since then he has dedicated himself to developing several non-profits with a strong focus on education reform. In 2013 Ben earned a Master in Public Policy Management with a focus on education policy from Georgetown University. He has worked with Leadership for Equity in Education, EMPOWER, MN Comeback, school board races, and many other education projects. Ben serves on the boards of the Minneapolis Foundation and Ed Allies, and is the Vice Chair of the Harvest Network of Schools.

Al Fan

Al Fan

Al Fan

Al Fan

In May 2015, Mr. Fan was named as the new Executive Director for MN Comeback, a funder collaborative that has a goal of ensuring all children in Minneapolis are enrolled by 2025 in rigorous and relevant schools that prepare them to thrive in college, career, and community. Previously, Mr. Fan was the founding Executive Director for Charter School Partners and led the nonprofit for six years in its work to support the startup, growth, and expansion of high quality schools. In 2013 Mr. Fan was named by the Walton Family Foundation as one of the national “Ed Reformers to Watch”.

Prior to this, he worked for 16 years at General Mills, a global food manufacturer based in Minneapolis, in various marketing and sales positions in the areas of Brand Management, Category Management, Consumer Research, and Strategic Planning. Prior to General Mills, Mr. Fan was at Accenture, a global strategic consulting firm, and worked with numerous organizations in the areas of technology, systems development, and strategic planning.

Mr. Fan currently serves on the Board of Trustees for The Minneapolis Foundation and on the Leadership Council for Generation Next. He has also served on the boards of the Cookie Cart in north Minneapolis, Social Venture Partners/MN, Hiawatha Leadership Academy, and was the founding board chair for KIPP MN. Mr. Fan has been a volunteer for Best Prep, Junior Achievement, and Big Brothers and Big Sisters.

Mr. Fan has an undergraduate degree in Industrial Engineering and Operations Research from the University of California, Berkeley and a Masters of Business Administration degree from the Haas School of Business at the University of California, Berkeley. He has been married for 28 years and is the proud father of three daughters who have officially left the nest.

Alvin Abraham

Alvin Abraham

Alvin Abraham

Alvin Abraham

Mr. Alvin Abraham is the founding dean of the Dougherty Family College at the University of St. Thomas, which welcomed its inaugural class of students in August 2017. Abraham started his career as an elementary educator with Teach for America and then continued teaching in Houston, Texas. A proven leader, Abraham quickly ascended into educational administration as an assistant principal then principal in Houston. Abraham relocated to Minneapolis in 2012 to lead KIPP Minnesota. Abraham holds a B.S. from Texas A&M University and a M.Ed. from the University of Houston. He is on the board of directors of Children’s Hospitals and Clinics of Minnesota, on the leadership council of MN Comeback, and serves on the national advisory board of Teach for America – The Collective.

Our Staff:

Morgan Brown

Associate Director

Morgan Brown

Morgan Brown

Associate 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, nonprofits, and public policy organizations. Prior to joining Great MN Schools, he served as Director of Partner School Relations at Charter School Partners (2010-15), as an Assistant Commissioner (2008-2010) and Director of School Choice and Innovation (2003-06) 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 (2006-08). Morgan received his B.A. from Carleton College and was a Policy Fellow at the University of Minnesota’s Humphrey Institute.

Sheilah Kavaney

Associate Director

Sheilah Kavaney

Sheilah Kavaney

Associate Director

Sheilah Kavaney

Sheilah has over 20 years of experience in education. She began her career as a Teach for America corps member in Houston, Texas. After two years in the classroom, she co-founded YES (Youth Engaged in Service) Prep and led the school to Texas’ highest school rating, exemplary status. In 2004, Sheilah built the Charter Management Organization(CMO) structure allowing YES PREP, and subsequently KIPP Austin, both to grow in size and quality. Sheilah 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. Sheilah holds an MBA from Boston University.

Jennifer Stern

CEO

Jennifer Stern

Jennifer Stern

CEO

Jennifer Stern

Jennifer has over twenty years of experience leading innovative, transformational strategic initiatives, including over ten 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 (DPS), where she oversaw the district’s human capital strategies for teachers and principals, including strategies 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. Jennifer began her career in education reform at the New York City Department of Education, leading work for the CEO of Human Resources on business transformation and the customer experience. Prior to entering the world of education reform, Jennifer spent several years at American Express, where she worked in Strategic Venture Capital before leading marketing teams in loyalty and acquisition marketing. She began her career at Bain & Company, a top strategy consulting firm.

Jennifer earned a bachelor’s degree in economics, magna cum laude, from Pomona College and a master’s degree in business administration from the Harvard Business School.

Rosie Lais

Project Manager

Rosie Lais

Rosie Lais

Project Manager

Rosie Lais

An alumni 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 from 2013-2015, where she served as the national coordinator of the Leadership Development for Global Education Program. Rosie holds a Master’s in Public Affairs from Princeton University.