Will RichardsonCo-Founder, Big Questions Institute
Will Richardson has spent the last 15 years developing an international reputation as a leading thinker and writer about the intersection of social online learning networks, education, and systemic change. Most recently, Will is a co-founder of the Big Questions Institute which was created to help educators use “fearless inquiry” to make sense of this complex moment and an uncertain future. In 2017, Will was named one of 100 global “Changemakers in Education” by the Finnish site HundrED, and was named one of the Top 5 “Edupreneurs to Follow” by Forbes. He has given keynote speeches, lead breakout sessions, and provided coaching services in over 30 countries on 6 continents. He has also authored six books that have sold over 200,000 copies worldwide, and given TEDx Talks in New York, Melbourne, and most recently Vancouver.
Amanda RipleyInvestigative Journalist and Bestselling Author
Jeff ShieldsPresident and CEO, NBOA
Jeff Shields, FASAE, CAE, has served as president and CEO of the National Business Officers Association (NBOA) for more than ten years. NBOA is the premier national association serving the needs of business officers and business operations staff at independent schools. Shields, an active member of the American Society of Association Executives (ASAE), is a member of the 2008 Class of ASAE Fellows (FASAE) and has earned the Certified Association Executive (CAE) designation. He currently serves as a member of ASAE’s board of directors as well as a trustee for the Enrollment Management Association (EMA). Previously, he served as a trustee for One Schoolhouse, an innovative online school offering supplemental education to independent schools, and Georgetown Day School in Washington, DC. He holds a B.A. from Shippensburg University and an M.A. from The Ohio State University.
Homa TavangarCo-Founder, Big Questions Institute
Homa Tavangar’s work has addressed themes of culture, innovation, leadership, global citizenship and global competence, and deep diversity, equity, belonging and inclusion. Homa’s clients range from Fortune 50 corporations to public, international, and independent K-12 schools around the world; from an Ivy League university to Disney Channel and numerous not-for-profit public and multilateral organizations and professional associations. Co-founding the Big Questions Institute represents a natural extension of her work, especially during a time of unprecedented global challenges. Homa is the author of widely-acclaimed Growing Up Global: Raising Children to Be At Home in the World, Global Kids, The Global Education Toolkit for Elementary Learners, contributor to Mastering Global Literacy and the 3-book Take-Action Guide to World-Class Learners series.
Lawrence AlexanderDEI Practice Leader, Carney, Sandoe & Associates
Lawrence Alexander serves as the practice leader for Carney, Sandoe & Associates’ Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion practice. The practice is responsible for leading retained searches for school leaders and providing consultative support for boards, executive leadership, and faculty and staff. He provides guidance related to board governance, strategic planning, climate assessment, and inclusive hiring. Lawrence started his career in higher education before spending a decade at independent schools working as a college counselor and as a director of equity and inclusion. Lawrence also serves on the editorial board for INSIGHT Into Diversity magazine. Lawrence received his bachelor’s degree in finance from Kean University and his master’s in counseling from Montclair State University.
Palmer BallExecutive Director, PAIS
Palmer Ball is the assistant to the head for finance at St. Joseph’s Catholic School in Greenville, SC and served as business manager at Spartanburg Day for 21 years. Palmer taught the school finance class at Klingenstein (Columbia University) with NBOA and is the executive director of PAIS, representing independent schools in SC. She also consults with independent school financial operations. Palmer received NBOA’s prestigious Ken White Award, served two terms on NBOA’s Board of Directors, and was elected to ABOIS. She has served on the faculty of NBOA’s Business Officer Institute multiple times, will serve as a faculty mentor for NBOA’s 2021-22 Leadership Academy with Vanderbilt University, and has given numerous presentations at national and regional conferences.
Anne-Marie BalzanoSenior Governance Strategist, Mission & Data
Anne-Marie Balzano is Mission & Data’s senior governance strategist. In her role, she designs learning opportunities for heads of school and boards and leads the Board Chair Support Program. A former teacher, head of school, associate professor, and most recently, director of leadership and governance at NAIS, she possesses a unique and multi-leveled perspective of the educational landscape and the complex demands of supporting leadership and governance development across multiple contexts. Anne-Marie is a trusted advisor to schools across the country, facilitating board retreats and educating boards of trustees on effective governance practices, governance trends, polarity management, and building a positive board culture. She earned her bachelor’s degree from American University and her doctorate from Mills College.
Junior BernadinDean of Students and IT Director, The Ron Clark Academy
Junior Bernadin is the dean of students and IT director at The Ron Clark Academy (RCA). He has helped train over 80,000 educators from around the world in-person at RCA, while also helping to provide 200,000 educators online training to learn better ways to engage students, increase academic rigor, and create a climate and culture for success. Junior serves on the board of directors for Dance Canvas and Building Future Leaders. He has been recognized as a Walmart Community Playmaker, Florida State University Thirty Under Thirty, Georgia Trend Magazine 40 Under 40, the Forbes Technology Council, an Inductee of Alpha Sigma Nu National Honors Society, a Creative Research Fellowship for the 7th District of Omega Psi Phi Fraternity, Inc., and one of the People Behind the People sponsored by McDonald’s and TVOne. He was recently accepted into the Leadership Atlanta Class of 2021.
Ari BetofCo-Founder & Partner, Mission & Data
Ari Betof is a nationally recognized expert in independent school financial sustainability and organizational stewardship. Ari has served as an independent school trustee, head of school, director of institutional advancement, director of enrollment management, director of strategic planning, and faculty member. He has been an instructor in University of Pennsylvania’s PennGSE Mid-Career Doctoral Program in Educational Leadership and Leadership Master’s Program. He has served as a mentor in Harvard University’s School Leadership Program and faculty member in the NAIS School Leadership Institute. Ari earned his doctorate in educational leadership from the University of Pennsylvania with a focus on financial and organizational sustainability and MBA from Cornell University’s Johnson Graduate School of Management where he was an Emerging Markets Institute Fellow.
Alex BraggUpper School Teaching and Learning Specialist, Woodward Academy
Alex Bragg is the teaching and learning specialist for the upper school at Woodward Academy in Atlanta, GA. She has experience in public, private, and charter schools. In 2016, she opened a new charter school in the Atlanta area as the founding assistant principal. Alex is a passionate advocate of innovation in schools and has led numerous interactive workshops and coached educators and teams in engaging instructional strategies, visible thinking, design thinking, curriculum design, and authentic assessment design. Driven by her passion for transforming schools, Alex was invited in the spring of 2014 to attend a White House Social with Dr. Jill Biden, Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, and other senior White House officials to discuss education reform. She has a B.S. in secondary education from Auburn University and a M.A. in teaching from The University of West Alabama.
Allen BroylesAssistant Head of School for Academics, The Children’s School
Allen Broyles is the assistant head of school for academics at The Children’s School in Atlanta, which serves three-year-olds through 8th grade children in a progressive exploratory environment committed to childhood, anti-bias work, and to each person showing up as their authentic selves. Allen has held leadership positions at the lower, middle, and school-wide levels as well as teaching positions at all school levels. He currently serves on the faculty of NAIS’s Diversity Leadership Institute, a week-long summer experience in which participants explore identity, cross-cultural communication, privilege and power, and leading and managing diversity initiatives.
Peggy Campbell-RushSpecialist, U.S. Fulbright Specialist Program
Peggy Campbell-Rush is a nationally and internationally recognized education expert who has presented around the world for over 33 years. Peggy provides educational consulting in the U.S. and abroad with teacher coaching, mentoring, and instructional support for teachers and students. Peggy retired as the head of the lower school at the Bolles School, Jacksonville, FL, in 2021. She has been in education for 46 years and has taught primary grades and has been an administrator in both the United States and England. She has sailed around the world twice studying global education on the Semester at Sea Program. Peggy has been honored as a Fulbright Specialist, Fulbright Fellow, and two-time National Teachers Hall of Fame finalist, USA Today All-American Teacher Team award, two-time New Jersey Teacher of the Year finalist, and was named Wal-Mart Teacher of Year twice.
Stephanie CantilloChief Human Resources Officer, Pace Academy
Stephanie Cantillo is a graduate of Florida State University, where she double majored in multinational business operations and hospitality administration. Prior to joining the Pace Academy staff in 2020, Stephanie spent 5 years leading the human resources department at St. Martin’s Episcopal School; her professional experience also includes time at The Atlanta Opera and Four Seasons Hotels. Stephanie earned her PHR certification from the HR Certification Institute in 2019 and serves as the chair of member orientation for the Society of Human Resource Management’s Atlanta chapter. She received the chapter’s 2018 Exemplary Volunteer Award.
Jennifer CarrollAttorney, Fisher Phillips
Jennifer Carroll is an attorney with Fisher Phillips’ Fort Lauderdale office. She handles all types of employment-related matters including defending employment-related lawsuits and administrative complaints encompassing a variety of issues. As a member of the firm’s Education Practice Group, Jennifer represents independent and private educational institutions in employee, student, and board issues, working with many of the accrediting agencies and school associations. She earned her B.S. from Cornell University and J.D. from the University of Miami School of Law.
Mike ConnorPresident, Connor Associates Strategic Services
Mike Connor is the founder and president of Connor Associates, a communication, marketing, enrollment management, fundraising, and leadership search advocate for charter and independent schools. Mike has worked with hundreds of clients spanning four continents and 26 states since 1998. Before founding Connor Associates, he was an experienced teacher, coach, counselor, academic dean, admission director, development director, director of communications, and director of advancement.
Keith EvansPresident, Westminster Schools
Jamie ForbesCEO, Learning Courage
Jamie Forbes is the founder and leader of Learning Courage. His experience includes nearly two decades in the private sector in both finance and marketing roles, where he honed his business acumen, strategic thinking, and creative approach. Jamie has also consulted with, helped start, and been involved in board leadership of other nonprofit organizations. His work with schools began when he shared the story of his own abuse as a student at Milton Academy. During the investigation, he observed first-hand how important and challenging it can be for survivors and school leaders to support healing. Learning Courage came out of his work with schools, as Jamie observed many of the same recurring issues. The Learning Courage name speaks to the K-12 school audience which focuses on education and learning and also to the necessity to always learn about how we can do this work better.
Clay Gibney Director of Technology, SAIS
Clay Gibney joined the SAIS staff in May 2019. He brings over three decades of hands-on technology support experience, including nine years as the IT director at an international association, where he worked remotely alongside 75% of the staff. After a brief foray in the corporate world, he is excited to return to association work. He is comfortable in a dual-platform environment, adores Microsoft Excel (to the point it was included in his wedding vows!), and also has experience being the only man on an otherwise all-female staff. He has been described as “a tech geek with personality” and enjoys hiking, wine festivals, playing guitar, and riding his motorcycle.
Autumn Graves Head of School, St. Anne’s-Belfield School
Autumn Graves is head of St. Anne’s-Belfield School. Before assuming her current role, Autumn held leadership positions at several prestigious independent schools, including head of Girls Preparatory School, upper school dean at Sidwell Friends School in Washington, D.C., assistant principal at Friends Seminary in New York, and president of Girard College in Philadelphia. She is involved in supporting independent schools through her board service for The Heads Network and SAIS. Autumn received her bachelor’s degree in rhetoric and communications studies with a minor in history from the University of Virginia. She earned a master’s degree in educational administration from Columbia University and a doctoral degree in education in higher education management from the University of Pennsylvania.
Grace LeePartner, Venable
Grace Lee focuses her practice on employment law, risk management, and other compliance and regulatory matters that impact independent schools and nonprofit organizations. She previously served as vice president, legal affairs with the National Business Officers Association. At NBOA, Lee developed and taught online courses, was a frequent contributor to NetAssets Magazine, and co-authored the book Culture Meets Compliance: The NBOA Guide to Assessing Human Resources at Independent Schools. Lee received her J.D. from George Washington University Law School and her bachelor’s degree from Northwestern University.
Julie LucasChief Advancement Officer, Darlington School
Julie Lucas joined Darlington’s advancement office in 2007 and was named chief advancement officer in 2016. Previously, she has served as director of development, director of giving programs, and campaign director for Darlington’s Second Century Campaign. Julie holds a B.A. in communication from Loyola University New Orleans.
Natalie LukeMiddle School Dean, Athens Academy
Natalie Luke has served as middle school dean at Athens Academy for seven years. Previously, she taught 7th grade English at Athens Academy for 14 years and 7th grade language arts at Clarke County Public Schools. She received her bachelor’s degree in English and M.Ed. in English education from the University of Georgia.
Marsha Maxwell Head of Technology and Innovation, Atlanta International School
Marsha Maxwell is a neuroscientist, teacher, and technology specialist. For the past 20 years, Marsha has been involved in developing deployment strategies for web-based technologies for educational clients in both the K-12 and corporate environments. Her work has been used in projects for institutions as varied as NASA and Sony. Marsha’s focus has been transforming neuropsychological findings into practical applications. She creates innovative environments and applications that harness the power of new technology and neuroscience to enhance a teacher’s reach and better engage students and foster a culture of innovation in an organization. Marsha holds a master’s degree in biology and a Ph.D. in neuroscience from the California Institute of Technology.
Nishant MehtaManaging Director & K-12 Schools Practice Leader, Storbeck Search
Nishant Mehta is a partner at Storbeck Search where he heads the firm’s independent schools practice, recruiting transformational leadership for private, charter, and mission-driven schools across the country. He also offers consulting on strategy and DEI, as well as leadership and governance coaching and training for education and nonprofit organizations. Prior to entering the search industry, Nishant was head of school at The Children’s School. He currently serves on the advisory boards of the Woodruff Arts Center’s Alliance Theatre and the Children’s Museum of Atlanta, and on the boards NBOA and Asheville School. He is a former board member of NAIS and CSEE, where he was board chair. He also serves as a script advisor to the show “Sesame Street,” and is the founder of The Inclusive Leader Book Club which meets to discuss issues of equity and inclusion in school cultures and communities.
Dave MichelmanPrincipal, Global Connect
David Michelman has spent over 30 years in educational leadership. Most recently, he was head of Duke School, a 500 student progressive PS-8 in Durham, North Carolina, for 14 years before changing careers in July of this year. Dave has served on the SAIS board, presented at numerous NAIS and SAIS conferences, and has facilitated board retreats on good governance practices. He received his B.A in English from Hamilton College and J.D from George Washington University.
Donna Orem President, NAIS
Donna Orem was named president of NAIS in November 2016. Orem served as COO for 11 years before becoming president. Orem joined NAIS in 1998 as the VP for educational leadership and later became the VP for strategic initiatives and research. Prior to NAIS, she was the VP for products and services development at the Council for Advancement and Support of Education (CASE). In her 15 years at CASE, she also served as the VP for independent schools. Earlier in her career, she served as associate director for the American Association of University Women. She is co-author of the NAIS Trustee Handbook and contributes regularly to Independent School magazine, the Independent Ideas blog, the NAIS Trendbook, and Looking Ahead. She holds a B.A. in English from St. Joseph’s University (PA) and attended graduate school at the University of Maryland School of Journalism.
Dottie Pak Trustee, The Altamont School
Dottie Pak is a trustee of The Altamont School. She also serves as general counsel for the UAB Health System and welcomes the chance to bring those skills to bear in the areas of board governance and other legal matters that independent school boards face. She received her bachelor’s degree in English and J.D. from Vanderbilt University.
Shelly Peters Principal, CRANE | Atlanta
Shelly Peters fosters empowering relationships as the strategic and organizational leader of CRANE. In addition to Shelly’s longevity and agility across a number of roles at CRANE since 2007, her nonprofit education consulting and corporate management experience provide her with a broad context for understanding clients’s challenges. She holds a dual bachelor’s degree in psychology and educational studies from Emory University and studied learning and organizational change at Northwestern University.
Shannan Schuster Consultant, ISM
Shannan Schuster is a consultant at ISM. In addition to her consultation and coaching services, Shannan’s responsibilities at ISM focus on writing for ISM’s advisory letter Ideas & Perspectives; leading school-head focused workshops and webinars; and offering ISM content, quick tips, and tools via LinkedIn, YouTube, and Twitter. Shannan was head of school at The Swain School from 2016–2020. Shannan was also the assistant head of school at Friends’ Central School. She has been a dean of faculty, assistant principal, and department chair. Shannan has a bachelor’s degree in mathematics from Vanderbilt University. She earned her master’s degree in educational administration, specialty in private school leadership, from Columbia University, and her Ed.D. from the University of Virginia.
Clare Sisisky Executive Director, Global Education Benchmark Group (GEBG)
Clare Sisisky is executive director of GEBG. Prior to beginning her tenure in 2018, she spent eight years at the Collegiate School in Richmond, VA, as the founding director of the Institute for Responsible Citizenship, the director of strategic planning, and the director of global education. She previously worked as the director of a humanities magnet high school, for the National Committee on U.S.-China Relations in Beijing, and was on the faculty at Phillips Academy Andover. Clare has an undergraduate degree from George Washington University and a graduate degree from Harvard University. She is currently a doctoral candidate in educational leadership at the University of Pennsylvania. She was a founding board member of GEBG, served two terms as a board member of CSIET, and currently leads the K-12 working group for the World Council on Intercultural and Global Competence.
Natalie Skinner Senior Vice President, CCS Fundraising
Natalie Skinner is in her tenth year with CCS. She serves as an education, faith-based, and association sector leader and is a mentor for Mid-South Atlantic team members. Natalie is a member of the Association of Fundraising Professionals (AFP), facilitates training courses for CCS directors, and presents fundraising sessions at AFP conferences. She has provided guidance on campaigns that have raised more than $750 million for capital, endowment, and programmatic causes. Prior to CCS, Natalie worked at Sallie Mae where she participated in a management development program and rotated through major business areas, performed extensive project research, and presented recommendations to executive leadership. Further, Natalie established the infrastructure for a Sallie Mae vendor to perform critical operations, and she managed an operational team and vendor relationships.
Jeff Stachura Director of Middle School, Athens Academy
Jeff Stachura has been director of the middle school at Athens Academy since the 2014-2015 school year. He joined the Athens Academy faculty in 2005 and has served as the English department chair, grade level coordinator, and college counselor. Jeff is a graduate of Augusta Preparatory Day School and received his bachelor’s degree from Furman University and an M.Ed. from the University of Georgia. He served as English teacher, grade level coordinator, and senior project director at The Lovett School in Atlanta for a decade before relocating to Athens. Over the course of his 20-year career in education, Jeff has been named STAR Teacher four times, including state-level STAR Teacher honors in 2000. He has received the Faculty Award for Professional Excellence at Athens Academy twice, in 2006 and 2013.
Amber Stockham Director, Human Resources Programs, NBOA
Amber Stockham, SPHR holds bachelor of arts degrees in social sciences and psychology from Bard College and brings over 15 years of experience in human resources to her role at NBOA. Amber has worked in a variety of industries, including education, social services, and manufacturing. Prior to joining NBOA, Amber served as the director of human resources at Miss Hall’s School. Her strong working relationship with the school’s legal counsel lead Amber to a volunteer position as a recruitment consultant for the Berkshire County (MA) District Attorney Transition Team. Her experience with organizational planning, compensation, and benefits system construction and risk assessment also brought her to serve in a volunteer capacity as finance committee chair of Captivated Health and on the board of the New England Educators Insurance Association.
Sonja Taylor Assistant Head of School, Charlotte Latin School
Sonja Taylor has been the assistant head of school at Charlotte Latin School since 2019. She transitioned into the assistant head’s role after serving as Latin’s director of diversity and inclusion for two years. Prior to Latin, Sonja held several roles in public schools, including diversity and inclusion leader, department chair, and high school teacher of chemistry and physics. Sonja also spent more than 12 years working in educational publishing both as a science content writer and a manager of curriculum and assessment projects in several states. Early in her career, Sonja worked as an analytical chemist in industrial settings and in consulting firms.
Vince Watchorn Principal, Watchorn Education
Vince Watchorn is an independent leader with nearly thirty years working directly with boards of trustees. He is a consultant to NAIS, a partner in the strategic diversity and inclusion firm Haakmat Consulting, and president of Watchorn Education LLC. He served as head of the Providence Country Day School (RI) from 2011-2019. Vince is nationally respected for his work in head of school leadership development and as a school strategist, particularly in leadership transition and innovative governance structures. His educational writing has appeared in Independent School Magazine, The Providence Journal, The Head’s Letter, The Trustee’s Letter, and the Jewish Voice and Herald, among others.
Bob Weston Practice Lead, Independent Schools, CCS Fundraising
Bob Weston brings to CCS over 30 years of independent school experience and expertise as an educator, administrator, and fundraiser. Over the span of his career, Bob has held several senior administrative positions and worked extensively on hiring and recruiting faculty, collaborating on institutional strategic planning, and directing annual, major gifts, and capital campaign fundraising programs. Bob received his M.A. in English literature from Middlebury College’s Bread Loaf School of English and his B.A. in English from Amherst College.
Debra WilsonPresident, SAIS
Debra Wilson joined the SAIS staff as president in July 2019. She grew up in Connecticut, where she graduated from the Williams School, an independent school located on the campus of Connecticut College. Debra received her B.A. in English from Sewanee, The University of the South, and her J.D. from the University of South Carolina at Columbia. She previously served as general counsel for NAIS for 19 years. Before joining the NAIS staff, Debra was a tax litigator at the Department of Justice. Her past and current board service includes EMA-The Enrollment Management Association, GEB-Global Education Benchmarking, MISBO-Mid-South Independent School Business Officers, and NNSP-National Network of School Partnerships. She is an avid reader, photographer, and cook who loves to be outdoors in the low country of South Carolina.