DeRonda Williams, Founder/President, DGW Consulting Group, Long Grove. Ms. Williams has a national perspective and understanding of charter school finance and experience, having served as Network Finance Director for the highly regarded charter school organization, Knowledge is Power Program, “KIPP,” for 5 years. Before joining KIPP, Ms. Williams worked at Pearson Education as a business unit CFO of the K-12 and college divisions for over 11 years, ultimately becoming Vice President and Director of Finance for Scott Foresman. Currently, Ms. Williams is the Founder and President of DW, Inc., a national consulting firm that provides executive search, project management, professional development and financial analysis services to education and non-profit organizations. Ms. Williams has a B.S. in Industrial Engineering from Northwestern University, and an MBA in Finance from the University of Chicago, Booth School of Business. Commissioner Williams was appointed to the Commission in 2013 by Governor Pat Quinn and currently serves as the ISCSC Chair and ex officio on all committees.
Dr. Catherine Burns, Chief Academic Officer, Accelerate Institute, Chicago. Dr. Burns has dedicated her career to closing the achievement gap by developing high impact school leaders. She is a thought leader on leadership development, executive coaching, and change management. Following her own career as a highly-effective teacher and principal, she now plays a critical role developing leaders to hold the mindset and skill set to be transformational in the toughest environments in the nation. During her 17-year career in education, Catherine has worked with over 100 leaders across the country from high-needs cities such as Chicago, New York, Newark, Milwaukee, Memphis, and Los Angeles. It is through this work that leaders have founded and turned around schools to provide opportunities for the highest-needs students in this country, dramatically changing the trajectory of their lives. Dr. Burns holds a Doctorate and M.A. in Education Leadership from Roosevelt University, an M.A. in History from Eastern Michigan University, a B.A. in History from Northern Illinois University. Commissioner Burns was appointed to the Commission in 2015 by Governor Bruce Rauner and currently serves as the ISCSC Vice-Chair and a member of the Schools Committee.
Bill Farmer, Teacher, Evanston Township High School Evanston.
Mr. Farmer began his career in public education as a science teacher at Evanston Township High School in 2003 where he continues to spend part of his time in the classroom. As an Instructional Coach, he works closely with fellow educators to support curriculum development and enhancement of instructional practices. During the summer months, Mr. Farmer serves in an administrative capacity as the Director of Summer School. He serves as President of his local affiliate of the Illinois Education Association and National Education Association and chairs the IEA Legislative Committee. Through collaboration with organizations including the NEA, Teach Plus and the Center for Teaching Quality, Mr. Farmer actively works to empower early-career educators as advocates for effective education policies that strengthen public schools to ensure equitable and excellent opportunities for all students. Mr. Farmer holds an M.A. in School Leadership and Administration from Concordia University, and a B.A. in Biology and Secondary Education from Northwestern University. Commissioner Farmer was appointed to the Commission in 2014 by Governor Pat Quinn and currently serves as the ISCSC Secretary and Chair of the Schools Committee.
Troy Ratliff, Vice President and Executive Director, Joseph Kellman Family Foundation, Chicago. Mr. Ratliff assumed this position upon retiring from a career in municipal and state government. The Kellman Foundation supported the creation of the Joseph Kellman Corporate Community School, and is often recognized as a forerunner of the corporate school initiative. Through the work of the foundation, Mr. Ratliff continues to play a role in providing financial support to innovative programs at the Kellman School. Mr. Ratliff has served as a director of the Noble Charter School Network for 10 years. As chairman of the network’s facilities committee he brought his experience as an administrator in the City of Chicago’s Building Department to the process of expanding the network, which has grown to encompass 16 campuses with plans to increase the number in the near future. Mr. Ratliff holds a Bachelor’s degree in Political Science and Master’s Degree in Public Administration from Roosevelt University. Commissioner Ratliff was appointed to the Commission by Governor Bruce Rauner in 2015 and currently serves on the ISCSC as Chair of the Operations Committee.
Melissa Connelly, Chief Program Officer, OneGoal, Chicago. As the Chief Program Officer at One Goal, Ms. Connelly partners with the President to ensure all internal stakeholders are invested in the organization’s vision for the program delivery model. She serves as a key member of the Executive Leadership Team and partner with the CEO, Board of Directors, and Regional Executive Directors to ensure tight alignment on all programmatic communication and messaging. Ms. Connelly also manages a National Program Team of 15 and acts as a leader for all regional program team members across the organization. Ms. Connelly is a first-generation college graduate who, in spite of starting high school in a truancy program, obtained three college degrees with a 4.0 grade-point average. She has spent over a decade in education leveraging her experiences, empathy and drive to make certain her accomplishments are not an anomaly, but the norm, for at-risk youth in Chicago. Ms. Connelly’s career includes service as the Managing Director of STEM Teacher Leadership at Teach For America where she was featured in a national management case study for establishing strong team culture and accomplishing ambitious academic outcomes. Melissa was also a founding teacher and school leader at a Chicago charter school which was awarded Top Ten Most Improved Schools in Illinois. Melissa implemented an innovative Algebra program and earned the Teacher of the Network Award. Melissa graduated Summa Cum Laude with a Bachelor of Arts from University of Illinois-Chicago, and received a Masters of Arts in Teaching and a Masters of Arts in Education Administration from Dominican University. Melissa is most proud of her “A-team,” comprised of her husband Allen and their two children, Ashland and Addae. Commissioner Connelly was appointed to the Commission in 2017 by Governor Bruce Rauner.
David Feinberg, Managing Director, IFF, Regional Real Estate Services. As Managing Director of Regional Real Estate Services, Mr. Feinberg oversees strategy and implementation of IFF’s real estate work in its regional offices and aligns IFF’s real estate consulting work to other departments and initiatives throughout IFF. Prior to joining IFF, Mr. Feinberg led the real estate development of more than 10 charter school campuses, totaling more than $125M in facilities projects and impacting more than 5,000 students on a national footprint. He also provided real estate and facilities strategy and consulting for more than 15 charter schools. He previously served as the CEO of the non-profit, Charter School Support Services, was a co-founder of the non-profit Launchpad Development Corp, and served as a Regional Director of Turner-Agassi Charter School Facilities Fund. Mr. Feinberg is passionate about educational equity and community redevelopment. He began his career as a public school teacher in South Phoenix, teaching 3rd grade and middle school, and designing an after-school program for at-risk youth. After obtaining his graduate degree in urban planning, he began focusing on the intersection of educational equity and community redevelopment in charter school real estate and operations. He currently serves on the board of directors of Jewish Council of Urban Affairs and as the Secretary of the Pulaski LSC. He holds a B.A. in creative non-fiction from Hampshire College, a M.Ed. from ASU, and an MPL from USC. Commissioner Feinberg was appointed to the Commission in 2016 by Governor Bruce Rauner and currently serves on the ISCSC as a member of the Schools Committee.
Lisa Schuchart, Senior Talent Consultant, Chicago. Lisa Schuchart is a passionate, energetic, strategic Marketing and Human Resources leader with over 20 years of diverse experience in Education, Financial Services, Insurance, and Technology-Start Ups. She has a record of success in helping companies increase their public footprint via strategic planning, branding and communications, as well as achieving a high performance workforce through talent acquisition, management and development, and fostering a diverse and inclusive corporate culture.
Throughout her career, she has been affiliated with numerous professional organizations such as the National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE), Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM), and the United Negro College Fund (UNCF). Ms. Schuchart also has numerous philanthropic involvements such as leading a tutoring program for youth in grades K-8, participates in Girls’ Nights to help build skills and self-esteem, and holds college prep sessions for students in grades 9-12 at the Blessed Sacrament Youth Center. Lisa is also actively involved in Gateway Green and the Special Olympics. Lisa holds a Bachelor’s degree in Communications, with a focus in Personnel Management from Bowling Green State University.
Commissioner Schuchart was appointed to the Commission in 2016 by Governor Bruce Rauner and currently serves on the ISCSC as a member of the Operations Committee.
Carlos Perez, Community Organizer, Parent Advocacy, Chicago. Carlos Perez has dedicated his career to social justice, community service, building people power and leadership. His background is in community-based advocacy for both education and political campaigns.
Mr. Perez recently served as Executive Director of Charter Parents United; organizing parents across various charter school networks around issues of school quality, educational equity, and parent and community empowerment and advocacy. He previously served as the CEO of the New Jersey Charter Schools Association. Prior to that, he was the Director of Public Policy for the Illinois Network of Charter Schools and a community organizer. Before working to support charter schools, Carlos worked to organized new immigrant and Latino communities in Virginia, Minnesota, and Missouri. His political organizing work extended beyond Illinois to Louisiana. After working to bring new people into the political process, Mr. Perez began organizing in charter schools to build a community network of school leaders, parents, students and civic groups to advocate on behalf of charter schools. As an executive leader, Mr. Perez has built relationships with members of the community, political, civic, and educational leaders. Public speaking engagements include a national audience, town-halls, panels, legislative committee, and in media with television and radio interviews. Carlos is proud to have mentored and coached many colleagues in the areas of organizing, advocacy, policy, and communications. Carlos received a MA in Public Services from DePaul University and is a graduate of Truman State University. He lives in his childhood neighborhood, Logan Square, with his wife, and their two daughters.
Commissioner Perez was appointed to the Commission in 2017 by Governor Bruce Rauner and currently serves on the ISCSC as a member of the Schools Committee.
Shenita Johnson, Executive Director/General Counsel
Shenita Johnson has worked in the public and private sectors with diverse groups and various constituency levels for almost 15 years. She is an effective consensus builder and a manager of group and interpersonal dynamics. As General Counsel/Managing Director, Ms. Johnson manages and ensures legal compliance for SCSC as an independent public entity and as a statewide charter school authorizer.
Ms. Johnson previously worked with the National Association of Charter School Authorizers (NACSA), managing the high-profile charter authorization work in Detroit and New Orleans, post-Katrina. She also worked for the Chicago Public Schools New Schools Development Department for five years. Throughout her time at Chicago Public Schools, Ms. Johnson coordinated recruitment of high-quality school operators, guided and supported applicants and conducted community outreach. She also played a pivotal role in the launch and
implementation of Renaissance 2010, Chicago’s initiative to close low-performing schools and reopen 100 high quality, high-performing public school options.
Ms. Johnson currently serves as a board member and committee chair for Young Women’s Leadership Charter School of Chicago and is a member of the Chicago Public Library Foundation Junior Board Society and various bar associations. Ms. Johnson holds a Bachelor of Arts in journalism from Howard University, a Master of Arts in public administration from Baruch College in New York, and a Juris Doctor from Chicago-Kent College of Law. She is currently participating in the prestigious Surge Institute Fellowship program, recently completed the NACSA Leaders Program and will matriculate in fall 2017 into the Kellogg Executive MBA program. Shenita lives in Chicago with her son, who is 6 years old.
Robbie Curry, Director of Portfolio Performance
Robbie began his career in public education as a special education teacher working for the New York City Department of Education in the South Bronx. He is a first-generation college graduate who has dedicated his career to closing the achievement gap by focusing on the development of teachers and school leaders. Following his time as a classroom teacher, Robbie coached and developed special education teachers as Director of Special Services at Achievement First before becoming an elementary school principal with Chicago International Charter School. In his current role, Robbie is responsible for monitoring the performance of the Commission’s schools to ensure students, families, and communities continue to have access to high-quality, public education. Robbie earned his bachelor’s degree from Pitzer College and holds a Master’s degree in Education from Bank Street Graduate School of Education. Whether as a classroom teacher, a school principal, or in his current role, Robbie believes in ensuring equity for all children.
Teresa Diaz, School Accountability and Compliance Manager
Teresa Diaz is a native of Chicago, Illinois and has been in the education area for more than 25 years. She is a passionate reformer and believes that every student deserves a high quality education.
Prior to joining the SCSC, Teresa worked in the President’s Office of the all-girls high school, Queen of Peace, where she assisted in the areas of Recruitment, Development, Athletics and Operations. Preceding Queen of Peace High School, Teresa worked for the Chicago Public Schools for 25 years. For the last 11 years, as the Compliance Coordinator monitoring more than 100 charter schools as it relates to the federal, state and local laws, rules and regulations.
As the SCSC School Accountability and Compliance Manager, Teresa serves as primary contact for the nine SCSC campuses, develops and manages annual compliance dashboards, and annual performance reviews, and manages responds to parent inquiries.
Alexandra Rodriguez, Administrative Analyst
Alexandra Rodriguez is a Noble Charter School Alum from the Little Village neighborhood in Chicago. She began her studies at Saint Xavier University to major in Business Administration with a focus in Management at their Graham School of Management, a school accredited by the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business (AACSB), along with a minor in Writing. Alexandra is continuing to earn her BBA at Robert Morris University.
Prior to joining the Illinois State Charter School Commission, she served in the customer service industry for several years, which provided her the experience to be able to conduct the role of an Administrative Analyst at the Illinois State Charter School Commission. As an Administrative Analyst at the Illinois State Charter School Commission her tasks include reviewing and processing invoices, processing staff reimbursements for travel, and handling reception.
B.R. Hammed-Owens, National Urban Fellow/Authorizer Resource Manager
Bukola Rashedat (B.R.) Hammed-Owens is a career educator, advocate, and change-maker with domestic and international experience organizing communities and resources for youth and socioeconomic development. Ms. Hammed-Owens previously directed community relations and government affairs for New Haven Public Schools by special appointment of the Office of The Mayor. She went on to serve successive terms as Director of Strategic Partnerships in Connecticut, and as District Director in Washington, D.C. at The National Black Alliance for Educational Options, Inc.
B.R. earned dual bachelor’s degrees in Anthropology and Women’s & Gender Studies from Yale University, and is currently pursuing a Master in Policy Management degree from Georgetown University. Related to her studies, she was awarded a National Urban Fellowship, leading to her current placement at the Illinois State Charter School Commission. Prior to this, B.R. resided in Baltimore County, where she worked as a special education teacher and programs consultant for Baltimore County Public Schools. B.R. remains passionate about making an impact in urban education commensurate to the legacy of civil rights and social justice.