With over twenty former District Superintendents, charter school CFOs, Chief Academic Officers, HR executives and curriculum experts, the School Improvement Partnership helps public and charter schools achieve sustainable change. The School Improvement Partnership team includes: the former head of three of the country’s largest urban school districts, the external CFOs for twenty charter schools in three states, and finance, design and construction specialists involved in over thirty charter school financings in five states, the former Coordinator of Science Education for Pennsylvania’s fourth largest school district and the largest provider of educational and therapeutic services for children with learning, developmental, behavioral and emotional needs in Philadelphia. The School Improvement Partnership team is compassionate, collaborative and experienced in public education and intent on building the capacity of your leadership team.
Alan is the President and founder of School Improvement Partnership. Alan’s work with charter schools started in 2001 when then-Mayor Street hired him to make recommendations on charter school funding to mitigate their effect on The School District of Philadelphia. In 2003, Alan then helped finance the first Philadelphia charter school expansion through the issuance of tax-exempt bonds. Since then, he has been involved in over thirty charter school financings in five states. He closed a $32 million bond financing for Philadelphia charter school while keeping an existing New Market Tax Credits financing in place. He also represented the underwriter of an $11 million bond financing for Research Triangle High School in North Carolina – the fifth state in which Alan has completed a charter school financing. Alan has helped charter schools in Philadelphia and Delaware through the charter renewal process, and has helped countless other charter schools navigate leadership change.
When the Superintendent of The School District of Philadelphia was faced with an operating deficit, Alan designed and helped finance an early retirement program for The School District of Philadelphia through the issuance of taxable bonds. He served as Bond Counsel on a bond financing for an early retirement program in Luzerne County, Pennsylvania as well. When GASB 45 required school districts in Pennsylvania to fund Other Post-Employment Benefits on an annual basis, Alan served as counsel in creating the Pennsylvania OPEB Trust, allowing school districts in the Commonwealth to fund their other post-employment benefits for retirees on a tax-deferred basis.
Alan is a partner and shareholder at the law firm of Zarwin Baum DeVito Kaplan Schaer Toddy P.C., where he heads the Education and Public Finance practice groups. Alan has a B. A. in History from Dartmouth College, and a J.D. and M.A. in Foreign Affairs from the University of Virginia.
Alan Wohlstetter: Founder
Ajoa Abrokwa: Parent/Family Involvement and Community Engagement
Paul Augello: BoostEd
Richard Binswanger: The ClearView Group, LLC
Alison DiFlorio: Human Resource Management EXUDE Inc.
Cheryl Rush Dix: Pathlight Associates
Marcos Lopez: EXUDE Inc.
Arthur Mitchell: STEM Education and Teacher Effectiveness
Tressa Pankovits: The Vallas Group
ShaVon Savage: Special Education and Education Management
Tracy Silverman: Special Education
Michelle Thornton: The Thornton Group
Paul Vallas: The Vallas Group
Mario Zacharjasz: PZS Architects
Scott Zuckerman: Domus Construction
Dr. Joseph Youngblood: Leadership Development and Curriculum Review
Sonia Dawkins: SD Prism Dance Theatre, award winning choreographer
Dr. York Williams: Special Education and Culturally Responsive Teaching
Jason Entezari: Foundations, Inc.
Christopher Veney: Southwest Leadership Academy Charter School
Geoff Middleberg: Dark Horse Strategy Group
Josh Brown: DP Strategies
Ajoa A. Abrokwa has been involved in education for the past nine years and her qualifications include a Bachelors of Arts in Political Science from Temple University and Masters of Science in Health Administration and Health Education from Saint Joseph University and K-12 Global Studies Programming at Harvard University. In addition, she has led early childhood education programming with multicultural low-income populations. Ajoa has also led organizational culture context efforts promoting mission and values-driven practices. In addition, Ajoa is a graduate and undergraduate adjunct professor in the Health Services Department at Saint Joseph’s University teaching courses in the areas of Health Education and Health Administration. Ajoa has led global public health and education efforts in Ghana, West Africa, Consuelo, Dominican Republic and Mecca, Saudi Arabia, supporting under-resourced communities work towards sustainability.
Paul Augello is Co-founder and Chief Financial Officer of boostED Finance. Prior to becoming CFO in March 2003, Augello served as the organization’s Controller, where he oversaw the day-to-day management of boostED Finance’s cash balances, and worked with charter school partners on budgeting, financial projections and budget analysis. Prior to joining boostED Finance, Augello worked for the Interpublic Group of Companies where he spent five years as the Internal Audit Manager, and then as the North America Controller of Initiative Media. Before that, Augello was the General Audit Supervisor for the New York Times Company, where he was an active project team member for all phases of the Company’s three printing plant construction projects and received a Chairman’s Recognition Award for his work on acquisition and special projects. Earlier in his career, Augello was a Senior Accountant with the publishing company Random House and the accounting firm Deloitte, where he earned his C.P.A. Augello graduated with a B.S. in Accounting from Villanova University.
Richard is a lifelong educator, working in K-12 schools and other educational enterprises for over 35 years in a wide variety of capacities including Principal, Teacher, Coach, Advisor, Development Leader, Technology Director, Board Member, and Board Chair. Currently, he serves on three charter school boards, Russell Byers Charter, Wissahickon Charter, and Education Plus Cyber Charter. Richard is the CEO and Co-founder of A Way To Donate, an organization that offers a new no-cost revenue stream to Non-profits and schools by getting their supporters to consider shopping at participating vendors for things they were going to buy anyway.
Josh is an entrepreneur and seasoned campaign manager with over a decade of experience building organizations big and small. Josh has started up multiple successful businesses and worked with more than a dozen companies to put together and execute aggressive marketing and sales plans resulting in significant growth and expansion. Specializing in working with first time political candidates, Josh has started up, held senior roles and managed nearly two dozen campaigns at all levels of government from the District of Columbia to California. Josh has also spent time in government working on Capitol Hill and at the Council of the District of Columbia for the Committee on Housing and Community Development. Josh graduated with honors from The George Washington University with a degree in political science.
Alison DiFlorio, PHR is the Co Founder and President of the HR Division at eXude, Inc. She co-founded the division in 2006 after more than 20 years in HR/Training & Development roles in the corporate sector. Her practice group specializes in the mission driven business sector, providing expertise in the areas of HR compliance/compensation/process/practice, training and development as well as on-site HR consulting/placement. With the belief that an organization’s greatest resource is its human resource, the focus of her practice group is to help the mission driven business reduce risk and effectively manage the people side of the business so they can build capacity and grow their mission.
Alison is a graduate of The George Washington University where she earned a BA in International Studies. She holds certifications in Professional Human Resources (PHR) and Certified Master Trainer of Myers- Brigg Type Indicator (MBTI,) She is a member of both the American Society for Training and Development (ASTD) and Society for Human Resources Management (SHRM.)
Jason Entezari’s experience is wide ranging in the public education and charter school sector. Jason has over 8 years of experience in operations and charter school business management, and brings a wealth of knowledge in school operations and budgeting to the team. Jason’s experience includes various layers of charter school operations and finance, including accounting clerk, junior business manager, director of operations of finance, and school business manager.
Jason is a frequent guest panelist at Temple’s Fox School of Business. He offers his expertise for new and existing Global MBA students in one on one and group settings. Jason holds an MBA with a concentration in Accounting from Temple University’s Fox School of Business, and a BA degree in Economics and Business Administration from Ursinus College.
Tracy is certified in Special Education, Elementary Education, and Early Childhood. She is degreed from University of Delaware and Widener University where she continues to work and study. Her training and work experience covers all age ranges and disability categories. She has been active in the field of education for over 25 years as a teacher, consultant, advocate, and supervisor. Her most recent years have been in higher education dedicated to teaching future teachers how best to support students with special needs. She teaches courses on Special Education Foundations, Legislation, and Teaching Strategies, IEP writing, Learning Disabilities, and Issues of Diversity and Collaboration among others.
Michelle Thornton, Managing Member of the Thornton Group has over 20 years of experience in tax, accounting, and business management services. She earned a Bachelor of Science degree in Business Administration with a concentration in Finance from Drexel University. She also holds a certificate from Harvard Graduate School of Education for Educational leadership. Within the past 15 years, the Thornton Group has serviced clients over a broad range of industries including education, sports, and a variety of profit and non-profit organizations.
ShaVon Savage is a school administrator with teaching and legal experience, having spent her career working in public education and school law. Ms. Savage spent the first years of her career as a middle and high school teacher in public and charter schools. After earning her J.D., she practiced first as a public finance attorney and later expanded her practice to include all aspects of school and education law. She then returned to the education sector, serving as a special education administrator for a large suburban school district and a charter management organization. Ms. Savage is currently a school administrator and teaches graduate level courses in Education Law, Policy and Politics.
Ms. Savage earned her M.S.Ed. in Elementary Education from the University of Pennsylvania Graduate School of Education, her J.D. from the University of Pennsylvania Law School, and her Principal Certificate from Saint Joseph’s University. Ms. Savage also earned a Politics Certificate from the Fels Institute of Government at the University of Pennsylvania.
Mario Zacharjasz, AIA is a founding partner of PZS Architects, with over 25 years of experience in the architecture and construction industry and extensive knowledge in architecture and the design-build fields. As Principal-in-Charge for many of the firm’s projects, Mario manages each project from concept to completion. He works with clients, project architects, and consultants to ensure each project meets the client’s goals, conforms to the design criteria, and stays within budget.
Mario graduated from Temple University with a Bachelor of Architecture in 1985. Since founding PZS Architects in 1992, he has guided the firm’s growth, engaging in many exciting secondary education projects in Philadelphia, including Esperanza Middle School, Esperanza Charter High School, Pan American Academy Charter School, Luis Munoz Marin Elementary School, Frances E. Willard School and Benjamin Franklin High School. Mario has also worked on several higher education projects including Villiger Hall, a new student residence at St. Joseph’s University; Morgan Hall, a new student residence and dining complex at Temple University; and an expansion at Esperanza Junior College, which included a renovation for classroom space, new laboratories, and a student services center and student lounge.
Mario is committed to serving the community, supporting many non-profit organizations and actively serving on several boards and committees throughout the city, including the Greater Philadelphia Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, the Salvation Army of Greater Philadelphia, and the Salvation Army Kroc Corps Community Center in Philadelphia. In each of these capacities, Mario focuses his energy on community sustainability, encouraging his partners, staff, and colleagues to do the same.
Arthur Mitchell has been serving in K-12 education for over 25 years. Over his career, he has worked in the most impoverished urban and the most affluent suburban districts in the region as a teacher and administrator. Outside of direct district experiences, he has also held positions at the county and state level dealing with curriculum, instruction, professional development, innovation, industry and higher education partnerships, and charter school support. The majority of his work has been focused in Science, Math, Engineering, and Technology (STEM) education where he has been instrumental in consulting with and leading statewide federal grants designed to improve teaching and learning systems. The core of Arthur’s work is centered around issues dealing with equity and access for underserved populations, especially in addressing the “leaky pipeline” to STEM careers for those students.
Dr. Joseph Youngblood II is the vice provost and dean of the John S. Watson School of Public Service and former director of the John S. Watson Institute for Public Policy of Thomas Edison State University. Dr. Youngblood has spent the past seventeen years working in public education, law and public policy. He joined the Watson Institute after serving as Special Assistant to the Superintendent for Leadership Development and Director of School Based Youth Services for the Trenton Public School District. The Watson Institute is an organization that seeks to respond to the needs of public-sector and non-profit decision-makers across New Jersey. Dr. Youngblood serves as Policy Adviser to the New Jersey Urban Mayors’ Association (NJUMA) and the Watson Institute provides applied research, analysis and other assistance in response to the public policy needs of its partners that include 24 urban municipalities, state and local non-profits and grassroots/community-based organizations.
Dr. Youngblood earned his Ph.D. from the University of Pennsylvania, where he was a Crawford Fellow and received an interdisciplinary doctorate that combined anthropology, human development, public policy and education to study issues of race, culture, identity, and inequity in schools, political systems and society. In 2006, Dr. Youngblood was named as one of three finalists for the position of New Jersey Commissioner of Education by Governor Jon S. Corzine.
As CEO of the Chicago Public Schools, Paul eliminated a $1.25 billion budget gap while implementing the nation’s then-largest school construction program. He also led dramatic improvements in the Public Schools of Philadelphia while overseeing that district’s largest construction program ever. He also managed the implementation of the $1.8 billion FEMA reconstruction settlement and created the country’s first 100% choice district in post-Katrina New Orleans.
Born in the Philadelphia suburbs, Geoff embodies the Philly spirit. As a graduate of Drexel University Thomas R. Kline School of Law & the George Washington University, Geoff acquired the knowledge necessary to deliver. A veteran of campaigns and the PA Democratic Party, Geoff has been on the ground to conduct and put research to work in the day-to-day of a campaign. Geoff has also contracted with other research firms, going any distance to collect records and delivering quality information to clients. As a self-described policy wonk, Geoff is passionate about regulatory issues. He advised a U.S. Senator on telecommunications & intellectual property issues. Geoff previously worked as a political reporter giving him the background to understand how to take issues from their dry, technical prose, and bootstrap the research into the right messaging to make the maximum impact. Geoff just does not give up when it comes to delivering for our clients. From morning till night, Geoff is driven to finding the answers that make the difference.
Tressa has managed school rebuilding and reformation projects in Haiti, Chile and the US, coordinating policy research, advocacy materials and grant applications for governmental, NGO, and philanthropic audiences. Previously, Tressa practiced law in Chicago and has managed multiple political campaigns in Illinois. Tressa also enjoyed a distinguished career as an Emmy-award winning journalist.
With an Engineering – Teaching – Administration career trajectory in roughly equal arcs, Cheryl brings laboratory, engineering, teaching and administrative and team leadership experience to solving complex education problems. Her professional experience spanning urban schools, major corporate grants and leading professional learning in organizations such as the Smithsonian Science Education Center fuels her desire to exercise leadership, expand her scope of partners and improve instructions for all students. Cheryl Rush Dix is a Fulbright Research alumna who investigated instructional practices and school reform in Finland and a Mid-Atlantic Alliance for Performance Excellence Examiner. Cheryl is a graduate of Gannon University and Mercyhurst University having completed degrees and graduate certifications in Chemistry, Organizational Leadership, teaching, administration, superintendency and program evaluation at the University of Pittsburgh.
Solar States was founded in 2008 by Micah Gold-Markel. After running a successful software business for 13 years Micah was looking for a new challenge. After attending a speech by Green For All advocate Van Jones, a light went on in Micah’s head: connect sustainable energy, education, and economic development using solar energy as the basis to tie it all together. Soon after its founding, Solar States installed one of the largest rooftop solar arrays in the city of Philadelphia at that time.
Solar States is taking the opportunity to affect positive environmental and economic change by making a commitment to solar energy project implementation and education. In addition to developing solar projects on schools, homes, and commercial buildings, Solar States is working on connecting Philadelphia students with the green-collar economy through training and jobs. As owners of a Philadelphia-based business, we’re committed to investing in the region’s future and local economy.
Sonia Dawkins is the founder and artistic director of Sonia Dawkins|Prism Dance Theatre. She is a graduate of The University of the Arts and received a Master’s in Dance/Kinesiology & Choreography from SUNY Brockport. Ms. Dawkins has been a faculty member at Pacific Northwest Ballet (12 ½ years) in Seattle and Duke Ellington School of the Arts in Washington D.C. She has also been an Artist-in Residence at Alvin Ailey American Dance Theatre School, University North Carolina School of the Arts, University Oklahoma, Cincinnati Ballet School and Jones -Haywood Dance School. Ms. Dawkins has performed extensively with choreographers and companies in the United States and the Caribbean She has received Gypsy Rose Lee Award for choreography for Brother Size, 2011 and was nominated for the same award for Pullman Porter Blues, 2012. She is a member of the Stage Directors Chorographers Society and The International Dance Council.
York Williams, Ph.D., Associate Professor of Special Education & School Leadership at West Chester University, conducts research primarily in culturally responsive teaching, special education leadership, school law and urban school choice reform. Dr. Williams is the author of “Urban Charter Schools: African American Parents’ School Choice Reform” (2013) and has written over two dozens of research papers and articles and presented them at numerous conferences and workshops nationwide.
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