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Board of Directors

David Seitz, Chair

David Seitz is the Manager of Strategic Initiatives at Apple Computer Inc. where he focuses on implementing the vision of one-to-one learning in Michigan and across the country. He is a strategic change agent who has specialized in education policy but has broad experience in major state and federal policy areas. Apple Computer Inc. is a vendor for some charter schools in Michigan. His previous work history includes serving as Deputy Policy Director for House Speaker Rick Johnson where he coordinated the Speaker’s budget strategies and developed long and short-term strategic policy initiatives for the Speaker and the caucus. He has also worked as the education policy advisor for the Michigan House Republican Policy Office and on the congressional staff of U.S. Senator Spencer Abraham.

Samuel "Buzz" Thomas, Vice Chair-Elect

Samuel "Buzz" Thomas has formed a new public affairs company - Thomas Consulting Group - that offers public relations, strategic planning, and governmental consulting to companies and non-profits. Before working on this venture, he served Detroit's 4th District on the Michigan Senate for 8 years. He was elected by his colleagues as the Senate Democratic Floor Leader and was the only African-American in Michigan with a leadership position. Prior to his work with the Senate, Buzz represented Detroit's former 10th District in the Michigan House for six years. There his colleagues unanimously elected him as the Michigan House Democratic Leader, where he served as the youngest legislative leaders in Michigan history. Buzz is an established leader in the field of energy and technology, health policy, and urban development. He is also an avid supporter of the arts and culture community. Thomas has a diverse background in business, working as a homebuilder in metro Detroit, where he was Construction Manager for Parkside Building Company and Avis Tech Park partners, managing both commercial renovations and single-family, residential construction.

Greg Handel, Immediate Past Chair

Greg Handel is currently a charter school board member and professionally he is the Senior Director for Workforce Development at the Detroit Regional Chamber. He has worked at the Chamber for 20 years and has been responsible for the Chamber’s K-12 Education and Workforce Development policy for the past sixteen. In this capacity Greg has helped develop and advocate policy related Detroit Public School governance, state-wide education funding and school choice. He also takes the lead in planning the education and workforce sessions for the Chamber’s Mackinac Policy Conference every year and plays a similar role with the Leadership Detroit Education Session. Prior to working at the Chamber, Greg was a United States Peace Corps Volunteer for two and a half years in Botswana, Africa.

John Cleary, Treasurer

John Cleary has worked to develop three new charter schools and is the Vice President of Finance and Real Estate for The Thompson Educational Foundation and is responsible for real estate and construction activities along with Contract Administrator duties for the Public School Academies of Detroit. Prior to work at The Thompson Foundation, John was the Vice President of Finance at DeMaria Building Company and directed accounting and finance functions for General Contractor/Developer with sales in excess of $100 million.

Don Cooper, Secretary

Don Cooper is a partner at the National Charter Schools Institute. Simply put, the Institute’s mission is to inspire hearts and minds and to provide the programs, tools and services people need to win for kids. He brings with him a passion for achieving great results for kids gained from more than a decade of experience shaping education policy. Don has served as an education policy advisor in the Michigan House of Representatives; leading the public policy work of one of the nation’s leading authorizers, Central Michigan University; and, most recently, helping lead the government relations team for one of the nation’s premier charter school operators, National Heritage Academies. During that time he has been involved in a wide range of legislation, including multiple legislative victories to expand the charter community in several states. This includes being part successful efforts to establish a “smart cap” on charters in Michigan and the eventual phase-out of that cap through subsequent legislation; the elimination of the charter cap in North Carolina and the subsequent enactment of laws intended to facilitate charter growth; and legislation to empower five new entities in Wisconsin with the ability to authorize charter schools.

Ralph Bland

Ralph Bland is founder of Detroit Edison Public School Academy, one of 4 schools now managed by New Paradigm for Education – an entity that Ralph formed to manage schools. Ralph is a board member of Excellent Schools Detroit and has gained national recognition for the performance of the schools they work with.

Mohamad Issa

Mohamad Issa, and the Issa family, are very successful and respected in business.  Mohamad is a community leader in Ann Arbor and southeast Michigan.  Mohamad's expertise is in real estate and retail property management.  His concern about the quality of local schools lead him to open a charter school in 1996. Mohamad co-founded Global Educational Excellence in 1998 with a vision for offering the highest quality educational services to public school academies throughout the State of Michigan.  As a graduate of the CMU Business School, Mohamad is able to provide business and management expertise that enables schools to maximize their resources. Drawing on his extensive experience in working with start-up schools, Mohamad measures success as an equal balance of academic achievement, and the constant care to maintaining an economy-proof, fiscally responsible plan.

Jennifer Jarosz

Jennifer Jarosz is a small business owner of a family restaurant in St Helen’s Michigan. As a community leader she helped apply for and found the Charlton Heston Academy in St Helen. (Named after the famous Charlton Heston who actually lived in St Helen as a boy.) She currently serves on the Board of the school and is a parent there as well.

Greg McNeilly

Greg McNeilly currently serves as COO for the Windquest Group, a Grand Rapids based company privately held by Dick and Betsey DeVos. It is an investment management firm with diversified projects in technology, manufacturing, clean-tech and nonprofit solutions. In 2006, McNeilly served as campaign manager for Michigan gubernatorial candidate Dick DeVos. In 2005, he served as Recruiting & Strategy Director for the National Republican Senatorial Committee under the leadership of then U.S. Senator Elizabeth Dole (R-NC). During the reelection campaign of President George W. Bush (R), McNeilly served as Executive Director of the Michigan Republican Party, then under the chairmanship of Betsy DeVos. In 2002, McNeilly served as communications consultant to Don Carcieri’s winning gubernatorial campaign against Myrth Yorkin Rhode Island. In 2001, he was the Executive Director of Choices for Children a Michigan-based education reform advocacy group supporting greater taxpayer accountability in state-run k12 schools. In 2000, he served as Communications Director for the Michigan statewide ballot proposal “Kid’s First Yes!” which sought to legalize k-12 school vouchers for children in underperforming school districts.

Annis Stubbs

Annis Stubbs currently serves at the Executive Director for Teach For America in Detroit. A Detroit native, Annis was inspired by her experience in the Detroit Public School system to become a teacher. After earning her education degree at Michigan State University she joined Teach For America as a corps member in New York City. After her corps experience, she returned to Michigan State for her Ph.D. in curriculum, teaching, and educational policy. Since then, she has taught undergraduate courses at Michigan State, trained incoming teachers for The New Teacher Project, and was elected national chair of the American Educational Research Association’s graduate school governance program. Annis is also involved with Detroit’s Future Teachers for Social Justice, which encourages students to teach in Detroit Public School after college, and also with the Skillman Foundation’s Good Skills initiative, which aims to provide high-quality learning opportunities for Detroit students. Currently, Annis is also a member of the Public School Academies of Detroit (PSAD) Board that governs the University Preparatory Academy - a charter school with campuses in Detroit.

Tim Wood

Tim Wood is the Special Assistant to the President for Charter Schools at Grand Valley State University. Prior to joining the GVSU team, Dr. Wood was the Superintendent of Saugatuck Public Schools and has served as the principal of Northview High School in Grand Rapids and of Lakewood High School in Lake Odessa. In total, he brings more than twenty years of school administrative experience to the GVSU Charter School Office. AdvancED Michigan and the North Central Association awarded Dr. Wood the 2011 Excellence in Education Award for the State of Michigan. He received a BA from Hillsdale College, an MA from Central Michigan, and a Ph.D. from Michigan State University. His son Greg is a Michigan State graduate, while daughter Ashley holds a BA from the University of Michigan. They both live and work in Chicago.

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