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Our founding team and board consists of community leaders and parents with the following experience: charter school start-up, finance, and operations, Montessori expertise, K-8 instruction, administration and curriculum design and development, special education, school leadership, teacher development, educational technology, child psychology, child advocacy, innovative school design, new school development, educational research and evaluation, arts integration, fundraising, real estate, business planning, public relations, and marketing.
* Signifies member of the Board of Directors
Amanda Klein is the founding Executive Director of Urban Montessori. Previously she was the Program Manager of Teacher Education at Alliant International University, where she developed the Seminar and Workshop Series. She also managed strategic projects and is a part-time literacy coach for Education for Change. Prior to these roles, Amanda was on the founding team at Think College Now Elementary School in Oakland, where she’s taught, been a teacher coach, led the school staffing team, and earned National Board Certification as a Middle Childhood Generalist. Since it began in 2003, the school’s API has grown from 585 to 848. In its fifth year, TCN was named a California Distinguished School and Title I Achievement Award winner.
Amanda also taught at Lockwood Elementary in Oakland and at Belle Haven School in East Menlo Park. She has a Masters in the Arts of Teaching from the University of San Francisco’s Center for Teaching Excellence and Social Justice and holds a Multiple-Subject CLAD credential. Amanda earned a Bachelor of Arts in sociology with high honors from Kenyon College. Amanda lives in Oakland with her husband, Jonathan, and their two children. In her down time, she enjoys cooking, reading, and spending time with family and friends.
Sibyl Buckner* was one of the first teachers hired to open Eagle Peak Montessori Charter School in Walnut Creek in 2000. She continues there with her position as head teacher. Sibyl is also a lecturer at the Montessori teacher education program at Saint Mary’s College in Moraga. She has been there for over 15 years. Prior to joining Eagle Peak, Sibyl was co-owner and director of Das Montessori Kinderhaus, a private Montessori program for infants through fifth grade. The school was located in El Cerrito, Berkeley and Danville. Sibyl received her Masters of Arts in Early Childhood Education from Saint Mary’s College in 1992 and her Bachelors of Science in Business/Marketing from San Francisco State University in 1982. She holds (AMS) Montessori teaching certifications for the Infant-Toddler, Early Childhood and Lower Elementary levels as well as a California State teaching credential.
Bernadette Chi is a Research Specialist at The Research Group at the Lawrence Hall of Science – University of California, Berkeley. She thinks that Urban Montessori provides a unique opportunity to educate future community, scientific, corporate and political leaders with a focus on creativity, compassion and problem-solving. Bernadette has extensive experience in program administration, grants management, research and evaluation of K-12 educational and community-based programs for over 20 years. She received her bachelor’s degree from Stanford University and her master’s degree and doctorate from the University of California, Berkeley Graduate School of Education. Bernadette loved visiting Fairyland almost every week when she was in preschool. She lives with her husband and two children in Oakland, CA.
Erin Hennigan is the founding Director of Instruction for Urban Montessori. Previously he was a lead teacher at Grand Lake Montessori in Oakland, CA as well as a lecturer in the Montessori teacher education program at St. Mary’s College of California (SMC). He received his Bachelor of Arts in Philosophy from U.C. Santa Barbara in 2001 and his Montessori Early Childhood Certificate from SMC in 2006. He completed his Master of Arts in Montessori Early Childhood Education at SMC in 2008 with research into the practices of observation and record keeping among Montessori early childhood professionals. In addition, Erin’s thesis was awarded the “Best Thesis of 2008” by the American Montessori Society (AMS). Erin attended a Montessori school in Ojai, CA from Kindergarten through the sixth grade and continues to be passionate about this approach to teaching children. In his free time, he loves to fly fish, snowboard, camp, backpack, and otherwise enjoy the majesty of the Sierra Mountains.
Hae-Sin Kim Thomas* has 19 years of K-12 public education experience with the last decade focused primarily on turning around the lowest-performing schools and providing quality options to under-served communities. Her work has been recognized by the Aspen Institute Entrepreneurial Leaders in Public Education fellowship program, of which she is a member. She is currently the CEO of Education for Change Public Schools, a charter management organization based in Oakland. She is the co-founder of Great Oakland Public Schools, an Oakland-based education advocacy group. She has extensive experience working with school districts and charter management organizations to re-create their lowest-performing schools as the CEO of urbanED solutions and as the Director of New School Development for the Oakland Unified School District. She was the founding principal of ASCEND, one of the five original new small and autonomous schools opened in Oakland. She has a MA in Administration, Planning and Social Policy from the Graduate School of Education at Harvard University, a MA in Curriculum and Instruction from University of San Francisco, and a BS in Economics from the University of Pennsylvania. Hae-Sin is also the parent of Kobi and Hana, two incredibly energetic children who keep her on her toes.
Junko Green is an experienced marketer in the education technology sector, currently driving lead generation, marketing operations and product marketing efforts as director of marketing at Teachscape. Teachscape is a company focused on improving teaching effectiveness with observation tools, learning content and professional services. Prior to Teachscape, Junko also ran marketing and customer loyalty programs for the educational division of LeapFrog. Over her career, Junko has managed all aspects of strategic and tactical marketing from PR to marketing operations, at both start-up, mid-size and large companies. Junko received her BA in Psychology from U.C. San Diego. When she is not chasing around her three kids, Junko enjoys reading, time with family and friends, and catching up on her sleep.
Kevin Cuff* is an Academic Specialist who directs the East Bay Academy for Young Scientists program at the Lawrence Hall of Science – University of California, Berkeley. With over 20 years of experience developing science programming used in a wide variety of urban settings, Kevin is nationally recognized as a leading science education curriculum developer and program designer. Kevin holds a Bachelor of Science degree from the University of Hawaii, as well as a master’s degree, and he firmly believes that the educational experiences provided by UMCS will certainly position its students to become highly valued innovators who are well prepared and able to meet the world’s future challenges. Kevin resides in Oakland and is the father of two very spirited sons.
Nadia Kachwaha Comiso is a professional Realtor in the Bay Area, focusing on residential housing in the East Bay. Previously she worked in commercial property management and leasing, directing large commercial renovation projects in the San Francisco area before taking time off to begin raising a family. Throughout her life, she has been involved in social justice work, including education reform. Nadia has long been involved in the community, serving as a mentor to at-risk kids and volunteering at various community non-profits. As a mother of two young children, Nadia became very familiar with Oakland public schools while searching for a quality school for her son. Through that process, she began to work with UMCS as part of the outreach effort to ensure an inclusive student community that truly serves the population of Oakland. Nadia has a dual BA degree in Economics and Latin American Studies with a minor in Spanish from The George Washington University. She currently lives in Oakland with her family.
Nancy McAfee Flemming* considers herself to be “from Oakland.” She had lived in many places while her father was in the Army, but her family settled in Oakland when he retired. After graduating from Oakland Technical High School, Nancy earned a Bachelor of Science in Physical Science at California State University Hayward (now East Bay). From there, she journeyed to the Midwest for medical school at Creighton University School of Medicine in Omaha, Nebraska then to the University of Missouri, Kansas City for residency. Nancy, a natural born caregiver who wanted to be a doctor as a young child, is a physician in Internal Medicine and Pediatrics. She cares for both children and adults at the NorthBay Center for Primary Care in Fairfield.
She is married to the Reverend Curtis B. Flemming and they have two preschool aged sons as well as five adult children. She has a passion for community service and working with young people. Nancy loves to unwind by doing crafts and scrapbooking.
Pamela Briskman is the Director of Curriculum at Galileo Learning, an Oakland-based summer camp company focused on using design thinking to develop innovators who envision and create a better world. She has nearly 20 years of experience in education, primarily at the intersection of curriculum, design and technology. Beginning her educational career as a Teach For America corps member in Oakland, Pamela taught math and science for three years at Bret Harte Junior High serving as the Math Department Head in her second and third years. She then went on to teach 5th - 11th grade math and science at the AmericanSchool of Antananarivo in Madagascar where she was also the Upper School Director. Since then, Pamela has designed curriculum for NSF-funded programs and award-winning educational television, toys and games. Mother of two girls, in her free time Pamela can be found tinkering with soup recipes in the kitchen, playing with math puzzles or dreaming up something new to knit. Pamela is a graduate of Stanford University with a Bachelor of Arts in Design and a Bachelor of Science in Product Design Engineering. She also has a CA Clear Teaching Credential in Secondary Mathematics Education.
Parker Thomas is an entrepreneurial problem solver, business starter and get-things-done(er). In a past life, he started and sold two small companies and is currently starting a new business for Intuit. In his words: “I had my own Montessori experience several years ago while apprenticing under a master mechanic to learn how to build an airplane. This man, while never Montessori trained, instinctively understood what I now know to be student-centered and self-directed learning. More importantly, he somehow knew exactly how to teach ME. He was an extraordinary teacher. Under his guidance, I finished the airplane, flew it around the country and finally understood HOW I really learn, why I have so much passion for what I want to know and why I never did very well in schools with rows of desks. Montessori is built for people who learn like me. Since my children, Hana (5) and Kobi (3), will probably learn the way I do I want to create a school where these students can THRIVE. And it would be great if it changes the education system for the better.”
Peter Laub* is an Executive Vice President of EdTec, a firm providing business and development services to charter schools. He is an experienced manager and entrepreneur in the education and arts fields. He began his career as the Executive Director of Opera New England, which presented condensed versions of operas for school-aged children. He subsequently worked as a product manager at an e-learning venture and founded a non-profit online arts education company. For the past seven years, Peter has been in charge of client management and finance at EdTec. He has helped launch more than 50 charter schools around California and managed the finances for over 75 schools. He is a regular presenter on charter finance, operations, and governance at state and national charter conferences. Peter lives in Oakland with his wife and two boys, and loves camping and exploring the outdoors with his family. He earned a BA from Yale in History and Music, and an MBA and MA Ed. from Stanford.
Rebecca Reynolds has been providing governance, management, and fund-raising leadership to non-profit organizations for over 10 years. She has proven expertise in board development, strategic planning, system and capacity building, marketing and communications, major gift campaigns, grant writing, and special events. Rebecca, through her work with multi-service and education organizations focused on under-served youth and children, has addressed community development and organizing, educational equity and reform, violence intervention and prevention, homelessness and housing, social and economic justice, and youth and family support. She has been an executive team member at PACT in San Jose, Big Brothers Big Sisters of Santa Clara County, and YWCA in Santa Clara Valley, as well as an independent consultant. At PACT, Rebecca was part of a team who helped create three parent/teacher-initiated small schools in East San Jose, and a new organization dedicated to supporting these and future district-sponsored and charter schools. While pursing her degree, Rebecca interned with a grassroots womens’ organization in Nigeria, where she interviewed female micro-entrepreneurs and documented an indigenous micro-lending association. Rebecca has a BA in International Studies from the University of Oregon, and lives in Alameda with her husband and two children. She enjoys gardening, cycling, and exploring new places.
Randy Weiner* is an education and software entrepreneur and consultant with nearly 20 years of experience in the field. An Oakland resident for 15 years, Randy taught in a combined 4th/5th grade Bilingual Spanish classroom at Webster Academy in East Oakland for three years as a Teach For America Corps Member. He went on to teach children from all over the world at the American School of Antananarivo in Madagascar for two years, serving as the Director of the Elementary School in his second year. Randy returned home to earn a Master’s Degree from the Stanford University School of Education before beginning a career in educational technology. With deep operational and managerial experience, Randy has led teams ranging in size from five to well over 100 with budgets ranging into the double-digit millions. Father to two daughters, in his spare time Randy tends the family garden, hacks away at his guitar and enjoys pretending he is a graphic designer and data visualizer. Randy is a graduate of Middlebury College, with degrees in Philosophy and Spanish.
Susie Wise* is a strategic designer and innovation catalyst at Intuit. She is also a lecturer at the Hasso Plattner Institute of Design at Stanford where she founded the K-12 Learning Lab to bring design thinking to K-12. Her research focuses on how people learn through design and learning in informal environments. She has taught masters-level courses in learning design, product design, qualitative research methods, and museum studies. Prior to Stanford, Susie was the Senior Producer for Interactive Educational Technologies at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art. She has also developed educational multimedia for McGraw-Hill Home Interactive, Knowledge Universe Interactive Studio, and Morgan Interactive and done educational programming for the Bay Area Discovery Museum, The Exploratorium, SF Film Society, and the SF Department of Public Health. She has a BA in History from the University of Pennsylvania and a PhD in Learning Sciences and Technology Design from Stanford University. She lives in Oakland with her filmmaker husband and their young daughter.