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|Board of Directors|
Greg Handel, 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.
Jessie Kilgore, Jr., Immediate Past Chair
Jessie Kilgore Jr. is the Chief Administrative Officer for Plymouth Educational Center. Before coming to Plymouth Educational Center, Jessie served as teacher, athletic director and assistant principal at Wayne State University Public School. Because of his positive impact on the students Jessie was offered the principalship at Plymouth Educational Center. During his tenure as principal, Jessie managed the school’s growth from 150 K-4 students to over 800 in grades K-8. After serving as principal for five years, Jessie was unanimously selected by the board of directors to fulfill his current role as Chief Administrative Officer. During his years in administration, Mr. Kilgore has developed numerous partnerships with community organizations and businesses, written several successful proposals for school programs totaling over one million dollars and helped numerous students locate summer employment.
Barbara Barrett, Secretary
Barbara currently serves as a regional vice president for The Leona Group, LLC, and supervises public school academies educating students throughout Michigan. Barbara has worked in both the education and business fields. Her career spans teaching, administration and executive leadership, including work in national and international arenas and the public and private sectors. After Michigan passed charter school legislation, she co-founded and directed the Michigan Center for Charter Schools, a technical assistance organization, the first of its kind in the nation. Barbara provided extensive support for the fledgling movement, and was responsible for guiding many of the pioneers in the Michigan movement through the chartering process.
Nawal Hamadeh, Treasurer
Nawal Hamadeh is the founder, superintendent and CEO of Star International, Universal Academies and Universal Learning Academy in Dearborn Heights and Detroit. She is also the Founder and President of Hamadeh Educational Services, Inc. which manages the schools. Nawal has an extensive background in education and is dedicated to improving the quality of life for children by providing them with the time, commitment and quality education.
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 currently serves as the Government Relations Manager for National Heritage Academies (NHA). NHA is one of the nation's largest educational management organizations, and currently manages 71 charter schools in 9 states, serving a total of 45,000 students. In this capacity, Don leads NHA's legislative advocacy in states across the nation, and at the federal level. Don also assists in the development and opening of new schools. Prior to joining NHA, Don served as the Director of Public Policy at The Center for Charter Schools at Central Michigan University (CMU). From January 2002 to December 2006, Don worked in the Michigan House of Representatives where he served as the education policy advisor during most of that time in the majority policy office under two Speakers of the House. Through Don's combined experience at the Michigan House, CMU, and NHA, he has been involved in most every major education policy issue in Michigan over the last 10 years--including establishing the state's graduation requirements in 2005, creating the "smart cap" on charters in 2009, and the successful cap lift effort of 2011. He has also been involved in a successful cap lift effort in North Carolina in 2011, as well as numerous other bills in Michigan and other states affecting the day-to-day operations of charter schools.
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.
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.
Carmen N'Namdi grew up in Cincinnati, Ohio and attended Ohio Sate University. It was there that she received her BS in secondary education in 1971. In 1974, while living in Ann Arbor, Michigan, the N'Namdi’s second child, Nataki Talibah N'Namdi, died at the age of fourteen months from a tragic accident. In an effort to immortalize Nataki Talibah, Ms. N'Namdi founded the Nataki Talibah Schoolhouse of Detroit in 1978. Prior to the opening of the school, Ms. N'Namdi entered graduate school at Wayne State University and received a Masters in Education and an endorsement in elementary education. Under N’Namdi’s leadership, the Nataki Talibah Schoolhouse student body has grown from the inaugural 18 in 1978 to the current enrollment of 475 and has moved from a private school to a charter school. Mrs. N’Namdi has been recognized by numerous organizations for her “unconventional” teaching style.
Bill Pistulka was hired in April 2007, as the charter schools officer for Northern Michigan University. He brings 27 years of experience in public education to the position. His résumé includes nine years of experience as a superintendent in three different school districts in the Upper Peninsula: Gladstone, Big Bay de Noc and Mid Peninsula. Previously, he has educational experiences as a principal, teacher and coach in Rapid River and Clinton, Iowa.
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.
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.
Samuel "Buzz" Thomas
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.