School Improvement Partnership includes subject matter experts in the fields of charter school finance, academics, operations and leadership. They are collaborative, looking to build upon each charter school’s or CMO’s unique mission and strengths.
Alan F. Wohlstetter, Esq., CEO
Alan serves as President of School Improvement Partnership, a consulting firm bringing national best practices to charter schools and traditional public schools. Alan is also a partner in the Philadelphia law firm of Zarwin Baum DeVito Kaplan Schaer Toddy P.C., where he heads the Public Finance and Education practice groups. Alan’s work with charter schools started in 2001 when then-Mayor Street of Philadelphia 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. Alan has trained over a dozen charter school boards on their legal and financial responsibilities and has assisted and has helped countless charter schools navigate charter renewal and leadership change.Email
Victoria White, COO
Victoria White is the Chief Operating Officer for School Improvement Partnership’s Denver, Colorado’s office. Prior to joining the team, she was a Vice President at BB&T Capital Markets for thirteen years. Victoria has experience working with a diverse clientele, including cities/towns/states, non-profit organizations, renewable energy organizations, hospitals/senior living organizations, and charter schools. During her time in the charter school group, she has worked with schools across the country, start-up schools, stand-alone schools, and many charter management organizations. She was also the groups senior credit analyst, office manager, and Chief Operating Officer.
Mrs. White currently holds her Series 7 and 63 licenses and will do so through 2021. She has fine tuned her craft with the help of New York University. Mrs. White is in talks to be a board member of a pending Colorado charter school in Colorado Springs in the near future, pending approval.
She enjoys spending time with her loving husband Chris and her two troublemaker cats. She is an avid hiker and kickboxer.
Tressa Pankovits, Director of Comm.
Tressa Pankovits serves as Director of Communications for School Improvement Partnership and authors the organization’s critically acclaimed newsletter “Charter School Investor,” which is published approximately every two weeks. (You can subscribe here). A non-practicing attorney, Tressa is also an award-winning former broadcast journalist with CBS and CLTV in Chicago, Illinois, WRIC in Richmond, Virginia and WPRI in Providence, Rhode Island. She served as Director of Communications for the Lieutenant Governor of Illinois and Chief of Staff for a nationwide education nonprofit. Tressa has consulted on education projects in Haiti, Chile and New Orleans, and is a respected, self-motivated senior leadership team professional with more than 15 years’ experience setting direction and executing organizational vision, goals and business strategies.
Melanie S. Grant, J.D., Board Member
Melanie previously served as Chief Operating Officer of School Improvement Partnership, overseeing process and product development. As a member of the National Association of Corporate Directors (NACD), Melanie participated on a panel about Non-Profit Board Best Practices and facilitated a group discussion about Diversity in the Boardroom: The Power of Perspective with women leaders from NJ Government, Campbell’s Soup, Silicon Valley and an organization dedicated to preparing women for the boardroom. Melanie held instrumental leadership roles for various private equity owned portfolio companies. As an operating executive, she led a global team to form Archroma, a $1.1 B chemical manufacturer operating in 47 countries and led the business transformation of Burlington Coat Factory, moving the organization from a $1.3 B family-owned business to a $4.3 B scalable retail organization. Additionally, she has served as Assistant General Counsel for ARAMARK and as a corporate attorney for Morgan Lewis. Melanie started her career with significant capital markets experience at Goldman Sachs in New York. She holds a JD from the University of Virginia and a BA from Rutgers College.
Steve Halpern, Board Member
Steve Halpern is President of Woodland Management (www.wmfio.com), a Pittsburgh, PA-based family investment office. Prior to joining Woodland Management in 2005, Steve was involved in the acquisition, board oversight and eventual sale of several private companies. He also spent 17 years as a franchise owner and operating executive at TeleCheck, a leading payments company. Steve received his BS and MBA degrees from The Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania. He is also a CPA by background.
Steve is active in community service, having served as board chair of the Jewish Association on Aging, a senior living continuum, and the Jewish Healthcare Foundation, and as a long-time board member of the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center and Shady Side Academy. He and his wife Linda, a social worker by background, have two adult children Jonathan (27) and Allison (23).
Arthur Mitchell, Board Member
Arthur Mitchell is the Senior Director of Programs at the Center for Collaborative Education (CCE) in Boston, MA. There he guides the work of professionals in District and School Design and Quality Performance Assessment. Through his work at CCE, schools and systems are guided through and supported in their journeys to deconstruct barriers for all learners to attain equitable educational outcomes. Two major initiatives that he oversees are the Massachusetts Consortium for Innovative Educational Assessment (MCIEA) and the Essex County Learning Community (ECLC). In his prior work, the core of Arthur’s activities centered on issues dealing with equity and access for underserved populations, especially in addressing the “leaky pipeline” to STEM careers for those students. In addition to his work with the schools and districts, he is a member of the Pennsylvania State STEM Advisory Committee and serves on the advisory board for Washington State LASER.
He has served in K-12 education for over 25 years, working in the most impoverished urban and the most affluent suburban districts in the Mid-Atlantic 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. Arthur gained his most valuable experiences in learning how to plan and deliver effective professional development as a fellow in the WestEd National Academy for Math and Science Leadership. He also became skilled in influencing policy through being a fellow in the Pennsylvania Education Policy Fellowship Program and as a member of the Council of State Science Supervisors.
Jonathan Tapper is an experienced campaign staffer with on the ground experience from Colorado to DC. Jonathan began working in the political arena while working for Congressman Ed Perlmutter in Colorado’s 7th District. Currently, Jonathan serves as the lead team member for all public sector projects and clients for DP Strategies Group, a full-service marketing and general consulting firm based in Washington, DC. At DP Strategies, Jonathan has assisted in the execution of a variety of strategic marketing campaigns comprised of video production, graphic design, and website development. Additionally, Jonathan has gained substantial experience in campaign management including, communications strategy, voter targeting, grassroots organization, and fundraising on both the state and local level. Jonathan graduated with honors from the University of Colorado Boulder with a degree in Sociology.
Alexis Turner manages the business operations for School Improvement Partnership, adding innovation and streamlining to workflow processes. Since joining SIP, she has worked with the team overseeing workflow on the evaluation of a five-school charter management organization in Philadelphia, completely restructured the company data organization platforms, and made changes for efficiency to the invoicing process. She also oversees financial tasks including managing budgets, payroll, and reporting on financial metrics. Alexis has previously gained experience working with charter schools during her time in the Juvenile Division of the District Attorney’s Office managing Communication and Outreach.
Additionally, Alexis has experience planning events, including fundraisers, campus-wide productions, and college visits on behalf of charter schools. She has also received honors for her past research experience. Most recently, she presented original research at the invitational Symposium for Undergraduate Research and Creativity.
Alexis graduated with honors from the university’s Honors Program with a degree in Global Affairs, focusing both on global economy and security. She also has minors in Psychology and Italian.
Paul Augello, Jr., CPA
Paul Augello is the CEO and Co-Founder of boostED Finance. Prior to founding boostED Finance, Augello served as the Chief Financial Officer of Victory Education Partners, where he oversaw the day-to- day management of Victory’s finances, and worked with charter school partners on budgeting, financial reporting, financial projections and budget analysis. Prior to joining Victory, Augello worked for the Interpublic Group of Companies where he spent five years as the Internal Audit Manager, and then as the North American 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 acquisitions and special projects. Earlier in his career, Augello was a Senior Accountant with the publishing company Random House and the Big Four Accounting firm Deloitte, where he earned his C.P.A. Augello graduated with a B.S. in Accounting from Villanova University in 1988.
Josh is an entrepreneur, campaign manager and marketer with over a decade of experience telling compelling stories and moving people to take action. He got his start in the political arena managing campaigns around the country. He has worked on more than two dozen political and advocacy campaigns at all levels of government.
Josh has worked with more than 70 companies and organizations to develop and execute marketing campaigns that produce results. Josh is a skilled videographer, photographer, web developer and graphic designer.
Josh has spent time in government working on Capitol Hill and at the Council of the District of Columbia. He graduated with honors from The George Washington University. He currently resides in Washington, DC with his wife and dog.
Alphonso Evans, Sr., Ed.D.
Alphonso Evans Sr. is an educational leader and author whose purpose in life is to create pathways to success for youth through ingenuity and innovation by investing back into this region’s communities, as he is the product of the communities of Philadelphia that generously invested in him. Mentorship is the essential tenant of his philosophy and practice, viewing the quest for education as a key means to a successful life.
After graduating from Temple University in 1999 with a BS Degree in Early Childhood and Elementary Education, Evans immediately entered the classroom as a fourth-grade teacher. He quickly rose through the administrative ranks in the School District of Philadelphia and at twenty-six was granted a leadership role in the district. Evans earned his Masters Degree in Educational Leadership in addition to a Principal Certification from Gwynedd Mercy University in 2004 and earned a Doctoral Degree in Educational Leadership from Gwynedd Mercy University in May of 2019. Evans has a vast experience in educational leadership, working as a classroom teacher, an academic coach, a dean of students, a director of support services, a principal, and a chief academic officer. He spent five years working as the CEO of a Philadelphia charter school, where he successfully led the school to an increase in academic performance, school culture and accreditation. He currently serves as the Assistant Superintendent of the Middle Schools for a charter in Chester, Pa.
Robert has over twenty years of founder and executive experience in public education services, specifically though founding, leading operations in start-up education ventures and through integration of school operations across multiple sites and states. Robert is the current board President of the Pennsylvania Coalition of Public Charter Schools and is considered a thought leader in personnel development, school culture and climate. Robert also currently supports schools in Camden and Newark NJ, Wilmington, DE.
Robert started his career as a police officer for five years where he was a field-training officer, crimes against children investigator and gang officer. In 2013, he co-founded Executive Education Academy Charter School (EEACS) after founding Success Schools and serving as Chief Operations Officer from April 2010 to August 2013 (acquired by Specialized Education Services Inc “SESI” in 2012). Post-acquisition, Robert served as Chief Operations Officer for the Alternative Education Division of SESIS, responsible for company culture and oversight, business development, management and accountability for school operations across the country. As co-founder of Camelot Education from February 2004 to 2010, he had broad responsibilities including supervision of 3000 students, 250 employees, and twelve schools. He managed human resources, budget, facility management, academics, support services and supervising the twelve campus directors for the division.
Josh Moreau is the CFO and COO of boostED Finance. Prior to becoming CFO in December 2012, Moreau served as the organization’s Director of Accounting and Finance and was responsible for oversight of the accounting and finance department, while maintaining close relationships with the partner schools’ boards of trustees. Moreau was Director of Accounting at Victory Schools, Inc. While at Victory, Moreau’s duties included the oversight and management of all accounting functions, monthly financial presentations to Board of Trustees, development of annual financial budgets, and preparation and review of monthly, quarterly and annual financial statements. Moreau also managed the annual financial audits for all school clients, including governmental audits. One of Moreau’s major accomplishments in this role was the design and implementation of a federal and state grant reconciliation process, including schedules for financial statement reporting, and state and federal expenditure reimbursement reporting. This enabled schools to gain access to federal entitlement dollars in a regular, expedient manner. Moreau is a graduate of DePaul University in Chicago.
James (Rocky) Query
James (Rocky) Query is the Principal of Query & Associates, a financial management consulting and advisory firm focused on strategic issues faced by education, non-profit and municipal organizations. His experience combines more than thirty years in the industry as a senior public finance investment banker, an independent registered municipal financial advisor, and as a senior administrator for municipal and educational institutions. His work focuses on development and execution of successful business plans and financing strategies for both new ventures and organizations requiring restructuring and new direction. School clients have included large systems such as New York City, the Philadelphia School District, and the Virginia Public School Authority, as well as individual institutions. He is a graduate of the Yale School of Management and the University of Chicago.
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.
Paul G. Vallas
As CEO of the Chicago Public Schools, Paul eliminated a $1.2 billion projected five-year structural deficit and left the district with almost $1 billion in cash balances and twelve bond rating upgrades. His tenure in Philadelphia saw dramatic improvements in the public schools, the balancing five of six budgets, and the development and implementation of the largest school construction and repair program in the district’s history. As head of the Louisiana Recovery School District, he played a principal role in rebuilding the public school system in New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina and negotiating the $1.8 billion FEMA settlement that helped place students in either new or completely renovated schools. In New Orleans Paul helped created the nation’s first 100% choice district.
Lisa Weinberger is the founder and creative director of Masters Group Design, a Philadelphia-based design studio that develops creative assets for change-makers. Lisa’s 30 plus years of experience in the field enables her to thoughtfully solve problems using creative strategy paired with small teams of talent. In her capacity as creative director, she has developed hundreds of visual identities for socially-minded organizations both locally and nationally. She frequently lectures and conducts workshops on the power of branding. Lisa is also the co-creator of the 2017 national non-partisan campaign, American Values, Religious Voices: 100 Days, 100 Letters, and co-author of the book (University of Cincinnati Press) of the same name.
Mario Zacharjasz, AIA
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 America 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 of 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.