Our School Leaders
Our school leaders serve their communities as administrators, educators and role models. We admire the contributions they make to their individual schools as well as the value and knowledge they share with the entire Schools That Can network.
Susan J. Thompson
Executive Director, Academy of the Pacific Rim
Susan J. Thompson has served as Executive Director of the Academy of the Pacific Rim since April 2009. Bringing more than 25 years experience in educational leadership and management to this position, Ms. Thompson has previously taught and served in administrative capacities in Utah, California, Illinois, and Georgia. A native of western Pennsylvania, Ms. Thompson earned her bachelor’s degree in education from Indiana University of Pennsylvania with a concentration in U.S. History. She earned her master’s degree in Human Development, with a concentration in Administration and Women’s Studies, from Pacific Oaks College, Pasadena, CA. In addition to her C.A.S. at Harvard, she did graduate work in European and U.S. History at Syracuse University in Syracuse, NY.
“Student achievement is directly correlated with holding high expectations for all students and helping them meet those expectations.”
Co-Director, Roxbury Prep
“The community takes a lot of pride in having a really successful school that they can say is as good as any middle school in the state.”
President Holy Family Ministries (Holy Family Lutheran School)
Susan Work likes to think of her school as “the school for go-getters.” At Holy Family, the daily message is that life is all about personal responsibility and never giving up. Susan is passionate about educating inner-city children. She knows that kids coming from impoverished areas need to learn more than academics, so the school offers programs that teach spiritual and emotional development, social skills and character education. The result? She believes her school is turning out the future leaders of the community.
“The important thing is to turn out confident, assertive graduates who will continue to “go-get” the skills and experiences they need to succeed.”
Jeanette M. DiBella
Chief Education Officer, Principal, Providence-St. Mel School
“We’re all accountable for the success of our school. Every year we expect to do better than the year before.”
Former Executive Director & Founder, Citizens Academy
Perry White is founder and was longstanding leader of Citizens Academy, an elementary charter school with 400 students in Cleveland, Ohio. In June 2010, Fordham Foundation’s Needles in a Haystack report featured Citizens Academy as one of only eight inner city K – 8 public schools consistently closing the achievement gap in Ohio. In 2007, Perry initiated a process that led, in 2010, to the formation of Breakthrough Charter Schools. Breakthrough is a charter management organization comprised of three Cleveland Schools That Can schools – Citizens Academy, E Prep and The Intergenerational School. In 2009, the Ohio Alliance for Public Charter Schools named Perry Ohio Charter School Leader of the Year. Perry plans to relocate to New York City in spring 2011.
“What is more glorious than developing and sharing one’s gifts in service to others?”
Catherine Whitehouse, Ph.D.
Principal-Teacher, The Intergenerational School
“There’s no limit to what my students can do.”
Founder, E-Prep & The Village Preparatory School
President, Friends of E-Prep Schools
John is the Founder of Entrepreneurship Preparatory School (E Prep)- a grade 6-8 Ohio community school (aka “charter school”) located in the City of Cleveland and authorized by the Cleveland Metropolitan School District. E Prep opened in August 2006 and has successfully boosted the academic performance of the majority of its students despite the fact that 98% are minorities and 84% are low-income. E Prep is currently rated “Effective” (second highest rating) by the Ohio Department of Education, and was named a School of Promise by the State Superintendent of Public Instruction in 2007/08 and again in 2008/09. John is also the Founder of Village Preparatory School- a grade K-5 elementary school that opened this fall with 90 Kindergarteners. Both schools are modeled after other high-performing urban charter schools in cities around the country, and are characterized by high expectations and a “no excuses” attitude toward proving that all children can learn and advance to college.
“We’re an urban public school where 100% of the students are college-bound.”
Superintendent, Detroit Edison Public School Academy
Ralph C. Bland is CEO of New Paradigm for Education and Superintendent of Detroit Edison Public School Academy-DEPSA (Charter) a self-managed school with 1100 students and a staff of 110. Under Ralph’s leadership the school has been named by the Center for Education Reform, one the top 51 charter schools in the nation. In addition, to being an award winning K-8 grade school, Ralph led DEPSA into being the first charter school in Michigan to win the prestigious- Michigan Blue Ribbon Award. This award is only bestowed upon schools that are exceeding state and national academic standards. While Ralph has spent the last eight years leading Detroit Edison Public School Academy into award winning and national status, he/DEPSA has also, been recognized by The Michigan Quality Council, Michigan Association of Public Charter Schools, and North Central Association (NCA) Commission on Accreditation and School Improvement. Ralph has always had a passion for education. Over the years, Ralph has served in many leadership positions- Lead Teacher, Athletic Director, Community Resource Director and Principal. As a first grade teacher, Ralph won the Booker T Washington Teacher Award. Ralph is also a successful “Social Entrepreneur”, who sits on the advisory council of the United Way Education Preparedness Division and is a founding member of the coalition For Excellent Schools Detroit. Ralph, in his spare time, serves as a mentor for a school in Northwest Ohio.
“Excellence in Education is not an option. Clearly if we are to transform America, we must transform how we educate children. No longer can we allow the adult dismay to create overwhelming obstacles that impede children from access to or benefiting from a high quality education. We hold these truths to be self evident.”
Former Superintendent, Detroit Service Learning Academy
Eylastine Green-Davis has been involved in public education for 31 years. Her experience includes serving as a special education teacher, school social worker and administrator. She has worked in magnet, alternative, partnership and charter schools K-12. She retired in June 2010 after leading Detroit Service Learning Academy for six years. She was named 2010 Administrator of the Year by the Michigan Association of Public School Academies. She is a graduate of the University of Michigan. She is an avid reader and loves theater and world travel.
“In this challenging world of education, as school leaders, we have an absolute obligation to embed hope for tomorrow into our students. After we embed hope we then must prepare them to be competitors in a global society.”
Principal, Detroit Service Learning Academy
Prior to becoming Principal in 2011, Robert joined DSLA in 2004 as a teacher and become AP in 2008. He is an alumnus of Wayne State University and Cornell University, and he completed the Limited License Instruction Program at his Alma Mater Renaissance High School in Detroit. Before heading into the classroom, Robert was the North American Manager for Labor Relations for Textron Automotive Company. His experiences in corporate America ignited his passion for educating others. While working in human resources, he saw how “woefully unprepared were” and thought he “could do something on the front end of the equation.”
“Remember, your future is brighter than your today.”
School Administrator, New Branches Public School
Ms. Duffy is the School Administrator at New Branches Public School Academy. She has been involved in education for over 25 years. Ms. Duffy holds a Master’s Degree from Western MI University in Educational Leadership and undergraduate degrees from Lake Superior State University. Prior to becoming the principal in 2005, Pam taught third grade for 15 years. Under her direction, New Branches School has been recognized as one of 50 charter schools in MI with increased MEAP scores for free/ reduced lunch students.
Quote:“We need to take children where they are and get them where they need to be. A big part of accomplishing this task is caring about each child as an individual.”
Head of School, The Oaks Academy
Andrew has served as the Head of School at The Oaks Academy in Indianapolis for thirteen years. After receiving his Bachelor of Arts from Washington & Lee University and his Master of Business Administration from the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, he worked as a legislative assistant in Washington, DC for Rep. Frank R. Wolf. Prior to The Oaks Academy, Hart was a visiting instructor at the University of Bucharest, Romania, served as a management consultant for Price Waterhouse, and was a business development manager for Eli Lilly and Co. He is a member of the Independent School Association of Central States, and is a member of Redeemer Presbyterian Church.
“Oaks seeks to serve as a catalyst for urban renewal, a high performing school that draws people back into cities.”
Co-Founder, Wilder’s Prep
“I tell my kids that in order to be successful in any endeavor you need to start with a good education.”
Superintendent, St. Marcus Lutheran School
Henry Tyson, a native of Great Britain, moved to the United States in 1990 to attend Northwestern University in Evanston, Illinois. After graduating from Northwestern with a degree in Slavic Studies, Mr. Tyson worked for Habitat for Humanity in Chicago for three years. That job led him to develop an interest in urban education. Having earned a Masters of Education degree from Depaul University, Mr. Tyson worked as a sixth grade teacher in the Chicago Public Schools for one year. Following that, he was employed by the Niles Township Schools where he taught Social Studies to high school students. In 2002, Mr. Tyson moved to Milwaukee to become the Assistant Principal at St. Marcus Lutheran School. Since 2002, Mr. Tyson has served as assistant principal and principal and is currently serving as the Superintendent at St. Marcus. St. Marcus serves 420 students, 85% of whom participate in the Milwaukee Parental Choice Program. In addition to his work at St. Marcus, Mr. Tyson serves as the President of the Choice Schools’ Association and on the boards of Wisconsin Lutheran High School and the Sophia’s Heart Foundation.
“At St. Marcus, every child succeeds. There are no excuses for failure. We believe that every child can be successful and we work tirelessly to equip every child to live up to their God-given potential.”
Founder and Principal, Milwaukee College Preparatory School
“Some people say we will not change education unless we change poverty…I’m here to tell you that we will never change poverty unless we change education.” Jean Desravines – New Leaders’ Chief Officer for Cities & Policy
Co-Founder and Co-Leader, Discovery Charter
Co-founder and Co-leader of Discovery Charter, Dr. Irene Hall earned her doctorate in Education from Harvard University, has over 30 years of experience in the education field, and was integral in establishing Discovery Charter School in Newark, New Jersey. Dr. Hall currently teaches and develops curriculum at the school. She also teaches new teachers through New Jersey’s Provisional Teacher Program at Rutgers University. She strongly believes in developing positive, respectful relationships with students and families, multi-age grouping, and the mutuality of both discipline and creativity in the learning environment. At her school, she hopes her students graduate with an attitude of respect for others, a curiosity about the world, and an eagerness to embrace challenges.
“In order to feel pride in oneself, you must do something to be proud of.”
Head of School, Link Community School
Ms. Paradiso joined Link in 2002 and was named Head of School in February 2010. She began her work with urban youth at the New Jersey State Museum’s Education Department while developing and implementing a comprehensive afterschool and weekend program using the Museum’s collections as a springboard for artistic expression, literacy, and cultural exploration. She developed her fundraising experience while serving as Coordinator of Corporate and Foundation Relations for the New Jersey State Museum and as events manager for former United States Senator Bill Bradley’s 1990 re-election campaign. Additionally, Ms. Paradiso practiced family law with the Middlesex County Legal Services Corporation and consumer law with the Passaic County Legal Aid Office after clerking for United States Magistrate Judge John J. Hughes. She holds a J.D. from Rutgers Law School – Newark , where she was very active and highly engaged in public interest law, and a B.A from Montclair State University, where her studies focused on political science and secondary education.
“Every day you are struggling through hard family situations and achievement gaps in the classroom, but there are wonderful opportunities there as well. You can impact students in dramatic ways.”
Founder and Former Superintendent, Democracy Prep
Mr. Andrew is a teacher, school administrator, consultant, and graduate of the New York City public school system who was born and raised in Upper Manhattan. Seth is founder and Superintendent of Democracy Prep Public Schools. Previously, Seth founded and served as Head of School for Democracy Prep Charter School, which after just three years, ranked as the highest performing public school in Harlem, and ranked 14th out of more than a thousand schools across the entire city of New York. As Founder and Superintendent, he brings a background in and passion for special education and civics, both of which are unique aspects to Democracy Prep’s rigorous college preparatory focus. As a firm believer in the “no excuses” approach to behavioral and academic standards, Mr. Andrew has closely studied high-performing schools across the country. Prior to opening Democracy Prep, he was a Fellow at Building Excellent Schools, where he trained under the best school leaders in the country to open Democracy Prep. Mr. Andrew holds a bachelor’s degree in Education and Public Policy & American Institutions from Brown University. He has completed coursework at the Harvard Business School and earned a Masters Degree in School Leadership & School Development from the Harvard Graduate School of Education.
Founder and Head of School, Harlem Academy
Vinny Dotoli, head of school (7 years), holds an M.A. in educational administration from Teachers College, Columbia University, and a B.S. in psychology from Union College. He began his career at South Bristol School and Camp Kieve in mid-coast Maine. Vinny also taught at the Pennfield School (R.I.), taught at Buckingham, Browne & Nichols School (Mass.), and spent 17 summers at Camp Timanous (Me.) directing the wilderness trips and counselor-training programs.
“Our challenge is to be demonstrative enough to have a strong influence over the children while at the same time helping them internalize good decision making and personal drive so that when they go into a less structured environment they will be able to succeed there.”
Principal, P.S. 69 Journey Prep
Executive Director, The Harbor School
“Children don’t want to go home when they’re sick. They want to be here.”
Dr. Patrick Taharally
Principal, Transfiguration School
“The idea of service is deeply engrained in our students.”
Principal, Co-Principal and Chief Operating Officer, Trey Whitfield School
“It’s an honor and a privilege to serve so many great boys and girls.”
Founder and CEO, Trey Whitfield School
For over a quarter of a century, Janie C. Whitney has been a trailblazer in delivering the highest quality education for inner city children in New York. Being one of the foremost pioneers of early childhood education Ms. Whitney founded Bethlehem Academy in the East New York section of Brooklyn. The Academy was later renamed Trey Whitfield School, where she steadily galvanized her philosophy, “Love is Learning…Learning is Love.” It has been and continues to be the norm for many graduates of Trey Whitfield School to achieve academic excellence, experience success in their careers and lead rewarding lives through Ms. Whitney’s approach. In addition, she actively secures educational scholarships for inner city students to New England Prep Schools as well as to New York City Schools, continuing to build on their strong learning foundation. Over the years, this has caught the attention of leaders in education both locally and nationally where Trey Whitfield School has gained media attention and praise. Ms. Whitney was born in Cuthbert, Georgia. She moved with her family to New York where she attended high school and then studied accounting at Long Island University. Her career in the finance industry was lucrative, but her calling in life started to beckon. When she was Assistant Controller at Dowell & Company, she established a Day Care and After School program in Bushwick, New York to help working parents. Eventually her humanitarian spirit drew her toward working more with people and helping them. Ms. Whitney’s love for children was the driving force in helping her make a career change and inspired her to become involved in the field of education, where she continues to set a high benchmark of excellence.
“We start reading and writing programs very early. Our children can handle it.”
Former President and CEO, GESU School
Christine Beck has worked with inner city kids for over 35 years. At the Gesu School, her accomplishments include adding 20,000 square feet of learning space and expanding the school’s scholarship program. But she’s most proud of the school’s focus on enrichment classes which give students entrée into disciplines they may not be exposed to in their own homes. The school has full-time art, music, physical education and computer teachers. This gives students the opportunity to develop confidence in art or music class, not just math and English, giving them a better chance to learn, develop and succeed.
“Believing in something enables you to make things happen.”
CEO, Young Scholars Charter School
Lars Beck has been at Young Scholars since 2003. Initially, he worked with the Young Scholars Board on expansion efforts and, in February of 2005, he was asked to serve as the school’s Chief Executive Officer. Mr. Beck has more than 15 years experience in management and marketing of both non-profit and for-profit companies, including founding the Boulder, Colorado chapter of Stand Up For Kids, a national non-profit. Mr. Beck has completed two Ironman Triathlons, enjoys exercise of all types and is an avid lover of the outdoors (specifically the mountainous outdoors). Mr. Beck is a graduate of Duke University.
“Every student when held to high expectations and placed in highly structured, vibrant center of learning can and will succeed.”
CEO, Independence Charter School
Jurate Krokys is the Founding Principal and the current CEO of Independence Charter School. Independence Charter is a K-8 school in Philadelphia’s center city bringing students from 46 zip codes through a lottery to a school where global education and second and third language acquisition is the norm. Starting in Kindergarten through 8th grade, the students study about the world, its people, cultures and histories, challenges, conflicts and successes. Through this process, the children also learn how to be better people, better citizens locally and globally. Jurate has been an urban educator for over 30 years first in the Private then Public Schools. She was a Fulbright Scholar to the Republic of Lithuania in 1992-1993 and worked with educators and leaders in a post-Soviet nation while her children attended local schools.
“It is a blessing to be able to work with a team of amazing educators on a daily basis committed to the excellence and the potential of all of our students, no matter what their challenge, no matter what their gift.”
President, The Neighborhood Academy
“We want our kids to understand that they are in fact masters of their own universe that their choices can guide and direct their lives.”