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Established in 2011, as an independent body with statewide chartering jurisdiction and authority, the vision of the Illinois State Charter School Commission is that all Illinois children and families have access to a high quality public education and experience high performing schools and academic experiences. The Commission is currently the authorizer of eight schools (see below) serving more than 3,600 students in Illinois., five in Chicago, one in Grayslake, one in Richton Park, and one in Waukegan.

Comprised of nine appointed Commissioners (see below) supported by a professional staff, the Commission, is guided by a mission of being a respected charter school authorizer with its policies and resources based on national best practices. Governing principles incorporated, by the Commission, include:
  • resolving appeals fairly and timely according to the law;
  • managing its charter schools annually and on renewal on the basis of rigorous and transparent accountability standards to provide high quality public education;
  • serving as an approachable and helpful resource statewide to districts, applicants, elected leaders and the public regarding excellence in authorizing practices and techniques; and
  • leading civil civic discourse on chartering issues, guided by data and the best interests of students.
The Commission seeks to be a resource to school districts becoming charter school authorizers to raise the level of professional practice in the Illinois charter school sector.

 The Commission

Commissioner Biographies

DeRondaWilliams.jpgDeRonda 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, “K​​​IPP,” 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.

CatherineRich.jpgDr. 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​.

BillFarmer.jpgBill 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.

Ratliff.jpgTroy 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.

VanEvera.jpgRichard Van Evera, Civil Litigation Attorney, Barrick, Switzer, Long, Balsey & Van Evera, LLP, Rockford. Mr. Van Evera has been with the firm since 1978. He is admitted to practice in all State and Federal courts in Illinois. He represents businesses, insurance companies, and individuals in civil litigation matters involving injuries and damages cause by dangerous products, motor vehicle accidents, hazards and defects relating to buildings, property, and construction sites, and matters involving insurance coverage, employment disputes and workers’ compensation.  Mr. Van Evera has been recognized as a leading lawyer by the Leading Lawyers Network, a service that rates lawyers through peer reviews.   Mr. Van Evera lives in Boone County and is involved in many community activities there and in adjacent Winnebago County, Illinois, including Growth Dimensions for Belvidere and Boone County (economic development organization), Belvidere Chamber of Commerce, Belvidere Foundation for Excellence (scholarships awarded to high school students), Boone County Community Foundation, the Rockford Area Economic Development Council Business Attraction Committee, Center for Sight and Hearing Development Committee, Belvidere Historical Museum Board of Directors, and the IOU Club of Belvidere. Mr. Van Evera received his B.A. in History and Political Science and was commissioned an Officer of the United States Air Force at Coe College. He served on active duty until 1974 and received his Juris Doctorate from Cumberland School of Law, Samford University.  Commissioner Van Evera was appointed to the Commission in 2015 by Governor Bruce Rauner and currently serves on the ISCSC as a member of the External Relations Committee. 

David.pngDavid 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.

Staff Biographies

Hosanna Mahaley-Jones, Executive Director

Hosanna Mahaley-Jones has over 20 years of executive leadership experience in leading efforts to promote student achievement with extensive experience in urban public school districts. Most recently, she serves as the Executive Director for the Illinois State Charter School Commission where she is responsible for the professional oversight of all Commission related functions.

Additionally, Hosanna has also served as the State Superintendent of Education for the District of Columbia for two years. Under her leadership, the Office of the State Superintendent of Education (OSSE) won a waiver from the most burdensome provisions of the federal No Child Left Behind law and was recognized by the U.S. Secretary of Education for its community engagement in the waiver application process. Hosanna also led the district to success in regaining control of its own school buses and winning the dismissal of a 17-year law suit over the transportation of D.C. special education students.

Prior to her role as state superintendent, she served as Chief of Staff to U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan during his tenure as chief executive of Chicago’s Public Schools. She has also served as President of the Atlanta Education Fund and as Executive Director of Social Justice for Wireless Generation. In addition, she has six years of experience at Harvard Business School as a facilitator in the Public Education Leadership Project (PELP) working with superintendents and their leadership teams to develop strategic plans and build high performing teams.

Hosanna Mahaley-Jones holds a Bachelor's degree in History from Marquette University, a Master's degree in Middle School Education from California State University, and an MBA from the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University.

Shenita Johnson, General Counsel/Managing Director

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.

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.​​

 Commission Schools


Amandla Charter School | 6820 South Washtenaw Avenue, Chicago, IL  60629 | 773-535-7150

Grades Served in 2017-18:  6 - 12

Preparing Chicago's students for college and beyond.

Link to school website:  http://amandlacharterschool.org/

Link to Illinois State Report Card for Amandla Charter School.


Betty Shabazz International Charter School

Betty Shabazz Academy |7823 South Ellis Avenue, Chicago, IL  60619

Barbara A. Sizemore Academy | 6547 South Stewart, Chicago, IL  60621 | 773-651.1661

Grades Served in 2017-18:  Kindergarten - 8

The mission of this African centered school is to provide an academic and culturally relevant program that integrates and balances cultural knowledge and improves competencies in reading, oral and written language, mathematics, science, technology, social studies, and the arts and humanities.

Link to school website:  http://www.bsics.org/index.jsp

Link to Illinois State Report Card for Betty Shabazz International Charter School.

 CBronzeville Academy Charter School

Bronzeville Academy Charter School | 4930 South Cottage Grove, Chicago, IL 60615 | 773-285-8400
Grades Served in 2017-18:  Kindergarten - 8

The mission of Bronzeville Academy Charter School is to prepare our scholars for success beyond college through rigorous, innovative, engaging and culturally rich STEAM instruction across all core subject areas coupled with high quality sports programming.

Link to school website:  http://www.bacsk8.org/

Link to Illinois State Report Card for Bronzeville Academy Charter School.


Horizon Science Academy – McKinley Park | 2245 West Pershing Road, Chicago, IL  60609 | 773-247-8400

Grades Served in 2017-18:  Kindergarten - 12

We foster an environment of inquiry and a love of learning so students are prepared to thrive in STEM-focused high school, college, and the world.

Link to school website:  http://www.hsamckinley.org/

Link to Illinois State Report Card for Horizon Science Academy - McKinley Park.


Horizon Science Academy – Belmont | 2456 North Mango Avenue Chicago,  IL 60639 | 773-237-2702

Grades Served in 2017-18:  Kindergarten - 8

We foster an environment of inquiry and a love of learning so students are prepared to thrive in STEM-focused high school, college, and the world.
Link to school website:  http://www.hsabelmont.org/

Link to Illinois State Report Card for Horizon Science Academy - Belmont.


LEARN 9 Waukegan | 1200 Glen Flora Avenue, Waukegan, IL  60085 | 847-377-0690

Grades Served in 2017-18: Kindergarten - 5

Our mission is to provide children with the academic foundation and ambition to earn a college degree.

Link to school website: http://www.learncharter.org/

Link to Illinois State Report Card for LEARN Charter School Network.


Prairie Crossing | 1531 Jones Point Road, Grayslake, IL 60030 | 847-543-9722

Grades Served  in 2017-18:  Kindergarten - 8

We believe that children are our best hope to improve the world

Link to school website:  http://prairiecrossingcharterschool.org/

Link to Illinois State Report Card for Prairie Crossing.


Southland College Prep | 4601 Sauk Trail, Richton Park, IL 60471 | 708-748-8105

Grades Served in 2017-18:  9 – 12

Southland is committed to the following: 

  • Preparing all students to select, enroll in, and succeed in graduating from a four-year college or university
  • Communicating clearly and openly with students and families
  • Creating an environment that enables all students to achieve their educational potentials, incorporating data-driven strategies proven to support the maximization of student learning
  • Creating relevant, rigorous and interactive learning experiences
  • Assisting students in intellectual, social and emotional development
  • Stimulating inquiry and discovery
  • Tailoring curriculum to meet the students' interests and needs
  • Providing immersion in workplace and cultural experiences
  • Treating students and their families with the concern, compassion and respect which befit our shared commitment to one another as we guide our children on their educational journeys.

Link to school website:   www.scphs.org

Link to Illinois State Report Card for Southland College Prep.

 SCSC Decisions

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