Thad Altman

Senator, 16th District; President and CEO, The Astronauts Memorial Foundation

Florida Senator Thad Altman represents Florida’s 16th District.  Altman jumpstarted his political career as Brevard County Commissioner from 1985-1992. During a Special Election in 2003, Altman was voted into the Florida House of Representatives to represent District 30, where he served until November 2008 when he was elected into the Florida Senate.  Altman continues to represent the Space Coast and is a member of the Budget Subcommittee on Higher Education; Education Pre K – 12 Committee; and the Higher Education Committee, among others.  He serves on the Space Florida Board of Directors, the Children with Developmental Disabilities Task Force, and the Gulf States Marine Fisheries Commission. Altman has also volunteered on the Community Advisory Board at Rollins College, the Finance Committee for St. Mary’s Catholic School and is a past president of the American Lung Association Brevard and Volusia Counties Chapter.  Altman graduated from Brevard Community College with an Associates of Arts degree. He attended the University of Houston and later completed his undergraduate studies at Rollins College, where he received a Bachelor of Science.

David Armstrong HeadshotDavid Armstrong

President, Broward College

As the fifth president of Broward College, he leads a diverse, learning-centered community enrolling more than 65,000 students annually. Under Armstrong’s leadership, the college has moved from a traditional community college to an institution that not only continues to offer two-year degree and career certificate programs, to one that also offers baccalaureate programs in targeted areas.  Armstrong is an alumnus of the Leadership Florida Class of 1999-2000 and a graduate of Harvard University’s Kennedy School of Government Program for Senior Executives in State and Local Government.  Specializing in leadership development, management coaching and organizational development, Armstrong served the state of Florida as the former chancellor of the Community College System.  He holds leadership positions in the Florida Chamber of Commerce’s Board of Governors, Workforce Florida’s Strategy Council, Greater Fort Lauderdale Alliance, and the United Way of Broward County Board of Directors. Armstrong also serves as a member of the Broward College Foundation Board of Directors.

AdkinsJanet Adkins

Representative, Florida’s 11th District

Representative Adkins is a full-time lawmaker from Florida’s 11th District of Nassau County.  Adkins has served in the Florida House of Representatives since 2008, and serves as the chair of the K-12 Subcommittee.  She is also a member of the Education Appropriations Subcommittee, and the Education Committee.  Adkins served as a Nassau County School Board member for ten years until her election to the House.  She is an active member of her community, serving as a volunteer in many area schools, Boys and Girls Clubs, and Girl Scouts.  Adkins is a graduate of the University of North Florida with a Masters of Business Administration.

nyla benjaminNyla Benjamin

National Education Consultant with Edmentum

Nyla Benjamin brings more than a decade of management level experience in the education sector. As a national education consultant, Nyla researches, analyses, and communicates education policy and legislation to internal and external stakeholders in an effort to maximize education technology decision making. Nyla is also a master networker and specializes in building partnership capacity. The lion’s share of her career was spent in the Florida Department of Education’s Office of the Commissioner where Nyla consulted in leadership discussions regarding topics including: labor relations, legal affairs, contract negotiations, policy making, legislative issues, risk management, and human resources for the fourth largest state education system in the nation. She understands the higher education arena having also worked for the Florida Board of Governors of the State University System. After dropping out of high school and earing her GED, as a single mother, Nyla went to community colleges and subsequently earned her bachelor’s degree in Public Administration from the University of Phoenix while working full time. She now lives and works in Tallahassee Florida.

BrowningKurt Browning

Superintendent of Schools, District School Board of Pasco County

Superintendent Kurt S. Browning was elected Pasco County Superintendent of Schools in November 2012.  Prior to being elected, Superintendent Browning was named Florida’s Secretary of State by Governor Rick Scott in January 2011. He also served as Secretary of State under the Crist Administration from December of 2006 until April of 2010. Before coming to the Department of State, Secretary Browning spent 26 years serving as the Supervisor of Elections for Pasco County. Browning is a native Floridian, and received a bachelor’s degree in Political Science and a master’s degree in Public Administration from the University of South Florida. His extensive community involvement in Pasco County includes service as President of Downtown Dade City Main Street, Inc., and involvement with organizations including the Pasco County United Way and the Boy Scouts of America. Superintendent Browning is married to Kathy, a Pasco County School Nurse.  They have two grown sons, Keith and Kristopher.

BuckhornMayor Bob Buckhorn

Mayor, City of Tampa, Florida

Bob Buckhorn was sworn in as the 58th mayor of the nation’s 53th largest city on April 1, 2011, and was reelected in 2015 with more than 95% of the vote.

During his first term, Mayor Buckhorn focused on the city and region’s economic leadership, stability, and most importantly, business opportunity. Today, local government is smarter, urban development is centered on the riverfront, and Tampa is recognized as the competitive city it is. Our continued success in those efforts will set the stage for how and why we build in tomorrow’s Tampa.

As mayor, Buckhorn serves on several boards and governing authorities including the Hillsborough County Aviation Authority, the Tampa Hillsborough Expressway Authority and the Tampa Port Authority.  From 2011- 2012, he was also a fellow for the Urban Land Institute (ULI) Daniel Rose Center for Public Leadership in Land Use.

Previously, Buckhorn served as the Special Assistant to former Tampa Mayor Sandra Freedman, and in 1995, he was elected Tampa City Council. In 2003, Buckhorn joined the Dewey Square Group, a nationally known public affairs company, until he opened Buckhorn Partners, a public affairs firm based in Tampa, in 2007.

Buckhorn, 56, graduated from Penn State University in 1980. He is married to Dr. Catherine Lynch Buckhorn, and they have two daughters, Grace and Colleen.

Bob BuesingBob Buesing

Senior Member, Trenam Kemker

Bob Buesing has been with the Trenam Kemker law firm since 1977 and has been a Member since 1982.  He is a member of The Florida Bar and is an Arbitrator for the American Arbitration Association.  He is also a member of the Construction Industry Forum of the American Bar Association and The Florida Bar Eminent Domain Committee, and was Co-Chair and Co-Founder of the Construction Law Committee of the Hillsborough County Bar Association. In the community, Bob has served on the YMCA Metro Board of Directors since 1992 and is the current Chair and the Tiger Bay Club of Tampa Bay Board of Directors. He is also Chair of the Board of Directors of The Children’s Forum and is Secretary of the Early Learning Coalition of Hillsborough County. He is a 1994 graduate of Leadership Tampa, a 1997 graduate of Leadership Tampa Bay, and a 2002 graduate of Leadership Florida. He received his juris doctorate from the University of Wisconsin Law School, and a Bachelor of Arts from the University of Wisconsin.


2012 Carvahlo_DSC_1433Alberto Carvalho

Superintendent of Schools, Miami-Dade County Public Schools

Alberto Carvalho has served as Superintendent of Miami-Dade County Public Schools, the nation’s fourth largest school system, since September 2008. He is a nationally recognized expert on education transformation and finance who has successfully elevated his district’s academic profile and streamlined its business operations and financial systems. A versatile leader, Carvalho is also the self-appointed principal of two award-winning schools—the Primary Learning Center and the iPrep Academy, and has served as President of the Association of Latino Administrators and Superintendents. He has been selected as Florida’s 2014 Superintendent of the Year, as well as the 2014 National Superintendent of the Year and was recently named by Scholastic Administrator as one of “The Fantastic Five” educators making a difference in America. He has been honored by the President of Portugal with the “Ordem de Mérito Civil” and by Mexico with the “Othli Award,” the highest award for a civilian living outside of Mexico. Mr. Carvalho has been featured on CNN, NBC, and ABC and in publications such as The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, District Administration Magazine, and The Christian Science Monitor.

Kathy CastorKathy Castor

Congresswoman, Florida’s 14th Congressional District

Kathy Castor is the Tampa Bay area’s voice in the U.S. Congress.  She is serving her third term representing Florida’s 14th Congressional district, which includes Tampa, St. Petersburg and parts of Hillsborough, Pinellas and Manatee counties. She was originally elected in 2006. Castor is the first woman to represent Hillsborough and Pinellas counties in the U.S. Congress. Before her election to Congress, Castor served as a Hillsborough County Commissioner and chair of the Hillsborough County Environmental Protection Commission. In 2005, Castor was named as the Tampa Bay Business Journal’s Woman of the Year in government. She is the former President of the Florida Association of Women Lawyers and partner in a statewide law firm. Castor is a graduate of Tampa’s Chamberlain High School, Emory University and Florida State University College of Law.

Janice Caluda photo 2016Janice Caluda

Executive Vice President of Florida Cable Telecommunications Association

Janice Caluda has been employed by the Florida Cable Telecommunications Association for 28 years, and for the past 10 as Executive Vice President, where she supervises the Association’s multi-million dollar budget, public relations/public affairs activities, manages personnel and benefits and was the spearhead administrator for the FCTA’s Public Announcement Partnership. Prior to joining the Florida Cable Telecommunications Association, Ms. Caluda had extensive experience in retail management, including stints managing various B. Dalton Booksellers (the largest being the 5,000 square foot flagship store on Canal Street in New Orleans) and in the museum store and gardening businesses, where she oversaw four separate operations. She has served on the national Association of Cable Communicators board and as a final judge of their Beacon Award. She is now a board member of Florida Women in Cable and Telecommunications.

Ms. Caluda was born in New Orleans, Louisiana, locating to Tallahassee in 1987.  Her degree is in English from Louisiana State University.

Big-Brothers-Big-Sisters-LogoJody Clifford

CEO, Big Brothers Big Sisters Association of Florida

Jody Clifford is the CEO of Big Brothers and Big Sisters Association of Florida.  Prior to her position there, Clifford served as the Executive Director of the Maritime and Classic Boat Museum for over two years, and as the Director of Development for the Boys and Girls Clubs of Martin County, Florida for over seven years.  Clifford earned her Bachelor of Arts in Education from Clemson University.

Santiago CorradaSantiago Corrada

President and CEO, Tampa Bay and Company

Santiago Corrada is the president and CEO of Tampa Bay and Company.  He also serves as Convention Center, Tourism, Recreation and Cultural Arts Administrator. Corrada joined the City of Tampa as Administrator of Neighborhood Services in April 2004. Prior to that, Corrada served as the Director of the Parks and Recreation Department for the City of Miami and spent seventeen years in the Miami-Dade County School System. Corrada is the mayor’s representative on several non-profit boards, including the Boards of Trustees of the Florida Aquarium, Florida Orchestra, Gasparilla Festival of the Arts, Glazer Children’s Museum, Lowry Park Zoo, Museum of Science and Industry, NFL/YET Center, H. B. Plant Museum, Tampa Bay History Center, Tampa Museum of Art, and Tampa Theatre. Corrada has a Master of Science in Education and a Bachelor of Arts in Psychology and Exception Student Education from the University of Miami.

christy-daly Christina Daly 

Secretary, Florida Department of Juvenile Justice

Ms. Daly has dedicated the past 17 years to improving the lives of at-risk children.  She has played an integral role in the aggressive reform of juvenile justice under Florida Governor Rick Scott since 2011. During this administration, delinquency has dropped to the lowest level in 30 years through the implementation of the Roadmap to System Excellence. Ms. Daly has held leadership positions for the past seven years at the Florida Department of Juvenile Justice as the Deputy Secretary, Chief of Staff, Legislative Director, and the External Affairs Director. As Deputy Secretary, Ms. Daly oversees the operations of the entire continuum of service delivery.  She has worked nationally with the Annie E. Casey Foundation, the Georgetown University Center for Juvenile Justice Reform, and she serves on the Robert F. Kennedy National Resource Center for Juvenile Justice Probation System Review Practice Network. Prior to joining DJJ, Ms. Daly worked in various positions at the Florida Network of Youth and Family Services, where she led the statewide implementation of the renowned Safe Place program. Ms. Daly received a bachelor’s degree in Social Work from Florida State University and is a proud graduate of Leadership Tallahassee.


John Frusciante

John Frusciante

Retired Judge, 17th Judicial Circuit Court

Judge John Frusciante sat on the bench of the 17th Judicial Circuit Court for 20 years.  He sat in all the Divisions and was Chief Judge of the Juvenile and Dependency Divisions.  He was honored in 2010 with the William E. Gladstone Award, an award given to a Judge or General Magistrate in the State of Florida “who has significantly advanced the welfare and protection of our State’s children” and advocated “for the dignity of children.”  Though he retired in 2010, Frusciante still works with the National Center for Trauma in Children and attends meetings with the Children and Family Leaders Association of Broward County (CFLA), in addition to being a Board Member of the Florida Chapter of the National Council of Juvenile and Family Court Judges (FCJFCJ).  He has a Bachelor of Music and Master of Science degrees from the Juilliard School of Music. While his goal was to be a concert pianist, a broken finger and spinal fusion led him to law. He has a Juris Doctorate degree from Nova University (now Nova Southeastern) Law School.

Zackary GibsonZackary Gibson

Florida’s Chief Child Advocate; Director, Office of Adoption and Child Protection

Zackary Gibson serves as the Chief Child Advocate for the state of Florida, and also is the Director of the Office of Adoption and Child Protection within the Executive Office of the Governor.  Gibson has ten years of experience in a broad range of children’s programs, and also has a tremendous enthusiasm  for children’s issues.  Gibson also assists in the operation of the Florida Children and Youth Cabinet.

Mayor Photo_Colin_headshotAndrew D. Gillum

Mayor of Tallahassee, Florida

Andrew D. Gillum, a Florida A&M University graduate, former FAMU student government president and board trustee was elected to the Tallahassee City Commission February 2003. He was elected in August 2014 to serve a four-year term as Mayor for the City of Tallahassee. He has served lead roles for the Financial Viability; Long Range Planning; and, Innovation and Engagement Target Issue Committees as well as the Joint Planning Board for Human Services Partnership. Major community initiatives include Nims Middle School Digital Harmony, Landlord Tenant Mediation, Code Enforcement Amnesty, Palmer Munroe Teen Center, commercial utility deposit rebates, and seven-day guarantee permitting.

Mayor Gillum serves as the Director of Youth Leadership Programs for PFAWF which oversees three program areas: Young People For, the Front Line Leaders Academy, and the Young Elected Officials Network (YEO). YEO offers elected officials age 35 and under public policy support and leadership development training. He’s a Board Director for the Schott Foundation for Public Education, the New World Foundation, and is a member of numerous other organizations. Andrew, his wife R. Jai, and their one year old twins Jackson and Caroline, reside in Tallahassee, Florida.

Glenton Bio columnsGlen Gilzean

Vice President, Step Up for Students

Glen Gilzean is the Vice President of Advocacy and Outreach for Step Up for Students organization.  Gilzean was appointed to the Pinellas County School Board in January 2012.  Gilzean also served as the Regional Field Director for the Florida Department of Education.  Gilzean earned his Bachelor of Science in Biomedical Sciences from the University of South Florida.  He also has a Master’s Degree in Entrepreneurships from the University of South Florida’s Center of Entrepreneurship.

Michael Grego

Superintendent, Pinellas County Schools

Michael A. Grego, Ed.D., has served as Superintendent of Pinellas County Schools since 2012. Before joining the Pinellas County School District, Dr. Grego served as associate professor at the University of Central Florida. An educator with more than three decades of experience in public education, Dr. Grego spent five months as Florida’s Interim Chancellor of K-12 Education in 2011.  A New York native, Dr. Grego earned a Bachelor of Science degree in Technology Education from the State University of New York in Oswego. He holds two master’s degrees, one in Industrial Technology Education from Illinois State University and another in Educational Leadership from the University of South Florida. He also holds a doctorate degree in Educational Leadership from the University of South Florida.  Dr. Grego has received numerous recognitions and awards, including two in recent years for his efforts to promote arts education. In 2010, the Florida Alliance for Arts Education recognized him with an annual Superintendent Leadership Award for his efforts to promote arts education, and the previous year, the Florida Music Educators Association named him Superintendent of the Year for his ardent support of music education.

James GriffinJames Griffin

Principal of the Year, Lauderdale Lakes Middle School

James Griffin is the Principal of Lauderdale Lakes Middle School in Lauderdale Lakes, Florida.  Griffin was the 2010 Broward County Principal of the Year, and the 2010 Florida Principal of the Year.  Griffin strives to bring his students opportunities to learn in a high-tech environment.  He also ensures that his teachers have an active support team of substitute teachers, parent volunteers, and tutors to assist students in reading, mathematics, and writing.

Mindy HaasMindy Haas

Owner of Haastle Martial Arts Academy, Florida PTA President

Mindy and her husband, Russell Haas, are the owners of Haastyle Martial Arts Academy in Boca Raton. She is a Martial Arts instructor and has had many years of positive influence of the children within her community. Mindy has served as President Elect and Vice President for Regions and Councils on Florida PTA and has sat on many state committees in her years with PTA. Mindy is currently serving as President for Florida PTA. Mindy’s responsibilities are to lead the association and fulfill the mission of the association. Mindy has been successful in developing PTAs first statewide event “PTA day in the Park” and reinvent the Florida PTA Legislation Education Conference held at the state capital during the state legislative session. Mindy began the Health and Wellness initiative with the Florida PTA and the message began to resonate across the state.


randy-hannaRandy Hanna

Former Chancellor, Division of Florida Colleges

Randy Hanna was named chancellor for the Florida College System in November 2011. Most recently, he held the role of Managing Shareholder of Bryant Miller Olive since 1997, where he served as special counsel to numerous governmental units and represented clients before state agencies. With a tremendous higher education background, Mr. Hanna previously served as Chair of the Florida State Board of Community Colleges and the Florida College System Foundation and member of Tallahassee Community College’s governing board. He is a current member of the Board of Trustees for the University of West Florida and has served as a trustee for Florida A & M University. His civic involvement also includes serving as Chairman of the Florida Board of Bar Examiners and is the current Chairman of the Chamber of the Tallahassee Area Chamber of Commerce. Chancellor Hanna received a Bachelor of Science degree from the University of Florida and a M.B.A. from the Goizueta Business School at Emory University.

HughesRoxanneRoxanne Hughes

Director, Center for Integrating Research and Learning at the National High Magnetic Field Laboratory

Roxanne Hughes serves as the Director of the Center for Integrating Research and Learning at the National High Magnetic Field Laboratory.  Prior to her work at the lab, Hughes was a professor at the Florida State University in the Department of Educational Leadership and Policy Studies.  She also was a high school science teacher for Bishop Eustace Preparatory School in New Jersey.  Hughes champions research in the STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) fields, and has been recognized for her paper titled “What are the Factors Affecting Women’s Persistence in STEM?”  Hughes earned her Bachelor’s degree in Biology, and her Master’s in Secondary Education from LaSalle University, before earning her Ph.D. in Educational Leadership and Policy Studies from the Florida State University.

Shevrin JonesShevrin Jones

Representative, Florida’s 101st District; Research Specialist, Broward Sheriff’s Office

Representative Jones has served in the House since 2012.  He sits on many committees, including Health and Human Services, Healthy Families, and Veteran and Military Affairs.  Jones has served on the School Board of Broward County Diversity Council since 2009, and is the chair of the South Florida Youth Summit.  He has been recognized as Yound Democrat of the Year by Broward Young Democrats for five years, is a Honorary Mentee of 5000 Role Models of South Florida, and an Top 40 Under 40 Leader by Legacy magazine.  Jones earned his Bachelor’s Degree in Biochemistry and Molecular Biology from Florida A&M University in 2006.


Adrain LaffitteAdrian Laffitte                     

Executive Director of NASA Education Foundation

Adrian Laffitte is the Former Director of Florida Government Relations for Lockheed Martin Space Systems Company.  Laffitte is responsible for establishing and maintaining effective relationships with state and local government officials in support of Lockheed Martin programs and activities.  Laffitte has over thirty years of experience in aerospace engineering, and has served in management positions for the Atlas, Titan and Space Shuttle teams.  Laffitte is a graduate of the University of Texas at Austin with a Master’s in Structural Engineering.

PLannonPam Saylor Lannon

President and Consultant, Saylor Lannon Associates

Pam Saylor Lannon is the President of Saylor Lannon Associates and serves as an education and legal consultant to the education community. She served as School Superintendent for the School District of Lake County, in leadership roles for the school boards of both Martin and Indi- an River Countys, and as Dean of the College of Education at Lynn University in Boca Raton. Prior to becoming Superintendent in 2000, Pam served as a high school teacher in Miami-Dade County, and as a guidance counselor, district administrator and staff attorney in Lake County. She has served as a mentor and learning partner to new Florida superintendents, as an adjunct in School Law at the University of Central Florida, and as an ardent supporter of all children’s issues. Pam earned her Bachelor of Government from Skidmore College and a Master’s degree in Education and a Juris Doctor degree from the University of Miami.

D LawrenceDavid Lawrence, Jr.

Publisher, Miami Herald, Retired; President, Children’s Movement of Florida

David Lawrence Jr. served as the publisher of The Miami Herald from 1989 to 1999. During his tenure, the paper won five Pulitzer Prizes. He was inducted into the Florida Newspaper Hall of Fame in 2010. Prior to his time at The Miami Herald, he was publisher and executive editor of the Detroit Free Press, editor of the Charlotte Observer and held reporting and editing positions at four newspapers. He was inducted into the Florida Newspaper Hall of Fame in 2010.  He curreently serves as president of The Early Childhood Initiative Foundation and “University Scholar for Early Childhood Development and Readiness” at the University of Florida. He leads The Children’s Movement of Florida.  He is a graduate of the University of Florida, having been named “Outstanding Journalism Graduate”, and subsequently from the Advanced Management program at the Harvard Business School. He holds 12 honorary doctorates.

Bio for Dr. Lee.pdf - Adobe Acrobat StandardDr. Joseph Lee

Assistant Superintendent, The School District of Palm Beach County

Joseph Lee is the Assistant Superintendent of the School District of Palm Beach County.  Lee is responsible for the administration of many departments within the Division of Educational Alternatives and Interventions, including Afterschool Programming, Choice and Career Options, and Middle School Afterschool Programs.  Lee earned his Doctorate of Educational Leadership from Nova Southeastern University.  He also has a Master’s Degree in Educational Leadership and a Bachelor’s of Science in Broadcast Journalism, and Criminal Justice.

Rodney MackinnonRodney MacKinnon

Executive Director of Office of Early Leaning

After graduating with a bachelor’s degree in business administration from Florida State University, St. Petersburg native Rodney MacKinnon began his career in early learning in 2002 as the external auditor for the Juvenile Welfare Board of Pinellas County, a children’s services council. While working during the day, he attended Stetson University College of Law at night and earned a Juris Doctor in 2006. He joined the Office of Early Learning as a compliance analyst in 2007 serving in that position until 2010. Again he attuned school while working, earning an MBA from FSU in 2009. Rodney served as assistant general counsel for the Office of Early Learning from 2010 to 2012 and inspector general from 2012 to 2014. In December 2014, he was named interim executive director and was appointed executive director seven months later. In that role, Rodney serves on the Governor’s Children and Youth Cabinet and the Medicaid and Public Assistance Fraud Task Force. A member of the Florida Bar and a certified inspector general, Rodney is also active in the community, serving as treasurer of the Tallahassee Soccer Association. He is a member of Trinity United Methodist Church.

Nina MarksNina Marks

Superintendent, Franklin County School District

Superintendent Marks began her teaching career in 1976 at Chapman Elementary, Apalachicola,Florida. She has been actively practicing her teaching profession in the Franklin County School District since that time except for a short break in 1987 to be a stay-at-home Mom. She progressed
in her profession from teacher to Assistant to the Principal and then Dean of West Campus PreK-8 School in the consolidation process until her election in 2008. She holds a bachelor’s degree from Radford University and a master’s degree from Florida A&M University.

Liza McFadden

Liza McFadden

President, Barbara Bush Foundation

Liza McFadden is president and founder of Volunteer USA Foundation. Volunteer USA manages a growing portfolio of brand name nonprofit programs, including innovative holdings as Teen Trendsetter Reading Mentors™, where teen volunteer leaders mentor thirdgraders to improve reading skills with the ultimate goal of impacting state graduation rates.  McFadden is best known for her work in the development of creative and sustainable public-private partnership efforts that respond to critical community needs.  McFadden’s volunteer efforts to support education include her appointment by President George W. Bush and confirmation by the Senate to serve on the National Institute for Literacy Board. In her home state of Florida, McFadden has served as volunteer chairman of the Florida Schools of Excellence Board, designed to sponsor and approve charter schools at the state level. She has also served on Governor Rick Scott’s Education Transition team in Florida.

FrankMessersmithFrank Messersmith              

Communites in Schools of Fl Board Member

Frank Messersmith is the Chair of the Communities in Schools of Florida Board of Directors.  Messersmith has served CIS of Florida for over 30 years.  Messersmith also served as a Florida representative for five consecutive terms, and serves as a lobbyist for the Florida Sheriff’s Association.  Prior to his experience in the Florida Legislature, Messersmith was Community Relations Officer for the Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Office, and served as a reporter for Palm Beach Post and Times.  Messersmith has also been a member of the Tallahassee Community College Board for 13 years.  He is a graduate of Southern Illinois University with a dual Bachelor’s in Communications and Advertising.

montford2Bill Montford

Senator, Florida’s 3rd District; CEO, Florida Association of District School Superintendents

Senator Bill Montford was first elected to the Florida Senate in 2010 and served as Minority Whip from 2010 to 2012.  He was re-elected in November 2012 and now represents Senate District 3.  As a member of the Florida Senate, Senator Montford serves as Chair of the Senate Committee on Agriculture, Vice Chair of the K-20 Appropriations Subcommittee on Education and Vice Chair of the K-20 Education Committee.  Senator Montford also serves as the CEO of the Florida Association of District School Superintendents (FADSS).  Prior to becoming CEO of FADSS in July 2006, Senator Montford served as School Superintendent in Leon County for ten years.  Senator Montford began his career as a math teacher at Belle Vue Middle School and went on to serve as a school administrator for 26 years.  He also served two terms as a Leon County Commissioner.  He attended Florida State University, where he earned a Bachelor of Science Degree in Mathematics Education and a Master of Science Degree in Administration and Supervision.  He is also the recipient of an Honorary Doctorate of Laws from Flagler College.

MuoioMayor Jeri Muoio

Mayor, City of West Palm Beach

Jeri Muoio was first elected Mayor of the City of West Palm Beach March, 2011 and re-elected in 2015. She previously served on the West Palm Beach City Commission for four years, having been reelected twice by voters.

During her administration, Mayor Muoio has presided over the important first stages of an economic resurgence in the city.  Her focus on strengthening the economy has led to hundreds of new jobs in the city since taking office. Mayor Muoio has pledged to make the City of West Palm Beach more business friendly, understanding that progress and growth are the keys to the city’s future.  She frequently tells business and industry leaders that the City of West Palm Beach is not only open “for” business, but also open “to” business.

Mayor Muoio is a strong advocate for open, transparent government.  Her ongoing “Open Access” campaign has led to numerous town hall meetings, neighborhood chats, and outreach efforts.  She is the first mayor in the city’s history to make herself available for a weekly “no question off limits” press briefing. She is also the first mayor to reach out directly to residents with a Twitter Town Hall.

Since taking office, Mayor Muoio has fulfilled her pledge to make government more responsive.  She reorganized several departments, and demanded they focus on customer service. In addition, under her leadership, a strategic plan for the City, a 10 year budget plan, and short and long term water plans were developed.

Mayor Muoio has worked to make the City of West Palm Beach a great place to live, work and raise a family. She has led the fight against unnecessary roads and has been instrumental in the building of fire stations to serve the communities which were underserved. The creation of a vibrant Downtown, the maintenance of safe, beautiful neighborhoods and the open communication with constituents are all priorities for Mayor Muoio.

Mayor Muoio holds a doctorate in Education Leadership from Syracuse University and worked for many years as a school district leader.  She resides in West Palm Beach with her husband Charles and is the mother of Jessica and grandmother of Jordan, Jada and Julian.

Christopher Norwood Christopher Norwood, J.D.

Principal Consultant of The Norwood Consulting Group

Norwood has dedicated himself to community service and has made youth development and advocacy a life long passion. Having lost his parents at an early age, he was exposed to the issues of foster care. That experience taught him that government – and the role it plays in our daily lives – really matters for children. In 2003, he established The Norwood Consulting Group and the Governance Institute for School Accountability (GISA) to further his goal of community building and education advocacy. Norwood’s work as a consultant extends to several agencies providing children’s services in Florida, including the The Children’s Trust initial strategic planning after its historic voter referendum in 2002. Norwood Consulting provides tools for public, private and non-profit institutions for Community Development that includes: Public Policy Analysis & Advocacy, Program Management, Board Governance and Community Organization. Norwood Chair’s the City of Miami Education Advisory Board and serves on the Audit and Budget Committee of Miami-Dade Public Schools. On February 1, 2007, Speaker of the Florida House of Representatives Marco Rubio (now U.S. Senator) appointed Norwood to serve on the Council on the Social Status of Black Men & Boys, in 2008 he was nominated Chairman by Frank Peterman then Secretary of Juvenile Justice.

Karl Nurse

Karl Nurse

City Council Member, City of St. Petersburg

Karl Nurse is the City of St. Petersburg elected city council member. He has held the position since 2008. In addition, he is President of Baby Tech Label, a specialty printing company. He has also held served as a legislative aide in the Florida State Senate and House. He is very active in the community. He is the former vice chair of the PSTA and current board member and founder and board member of Pinellas Living Green, Inc.  He is the recipient of the 2010 NAACP President Award. Nurse has a Bachelor of Arts in political science from University of South Florida.

jacob.headshot[1]Jacob Oliva

Superintendent, Flagler County School District

Jacob Oliva, the incoming Superintendent for Flagler County Schools, is a native Floridian.  He has been an educator in the Flagler County School District for fourteen years.  Mr. Oliva received his master’s degree in education in 2005 and is currently studying for his doctorate in education.  Mr. Oliva started his educational career in Flagler County as a teacher at the elementary level working with special needs students; he was promoted to a high school assistant principal where he developed and implemented the crisis manual for the high school.  He was again promoted to be the principal of one of Flagler County’s premier elementary schools and then the principal for Flagler Palm Coast High School where he improved the school grade from a “D” to a “B” and implemented the positive behavior support system.  He has been an integral part of the development and implementation of the 1:1 student to computer initiative for grades 5 – 12 for all students in Flagler County Schools.  He has also been instrumental in implementing the turn-around leadership project for reforming the lowest performing schools in the District.  Under this plan the District wide achievement has increased from 22nd in the State to 11th.  Mr. Oliva is focused on achieving the District’s vision of being the Nation’s Premier Learning Organization, focusing on individual student achievement by creating learning environments where students will acquire the skills they need to be college and career ready.

kelley-pic (1)Kelley Parris

Executive Director, Children’s Board of Hillsborough County

Kelley Parris has been working in the field of prevention for twenty-five years.  Parris served as Director of Safe House of Shelby County, a shelter for abused women and their children; founded Harriet’s House, a domestic violence shelter serving five counties in west Alabama; served as Executive Director of West Alabama Mental Health, a regional mental health center for chronically mentally ill adults and children, substance abuse and intellectual disabilities; Director of Children First Foundation and her most  current position as Director of the Alabama Department of Child Abuse Prevention.  Parris served as Chair of the child welfare Citizens Review Panel and sits on numerous boards dedicated to the wellbeing of children and families.  Parris has presented at the National Women in Government Conference and regularly speaks on issues related to children’s services.  While serving as Executive Director for West Alabama Mental Health she received the 2008 Community Partners Award from the University of Alabama for her role in the development of the Coalition for a Healthier Black Belt and is a past recipient of the Sister Thea Bowman Award for African American outreach, a member of the Leadership Alabama Class XXI and most recently received recognition from the Auburn University’s Center for Government for Innovative Programs in Government.

Debra Prewitt

Director of Children’s Policy, Juvenile Welfare Board

Debra Prewitt is the Director of Children’s Policy for the Juvenile Welfare Board (The Children’s Service Council of Pinellas County). The JWB ensures positive development and well-being of all children and families in Pinellas County through the prudent investment in solutions that work. She has twenty years of experience in public policy analysis and application, and her areas of expertise include state and federal legislative policy and budgets.  She has served in an elected capacity as a mayor and Florida State Representative.  She has also served as the Executive Director of Deaf Service Center of Pasco County. During her decade of service she elevated the agency’s public image and enhanced the professionalism of the staff drastically improving client services.  She has systems knowledge in the provision of services to children and adults with disabilities.  She holds a master’s degree in Public Administration from the University of South Florida and a bachelor’s degree in Business Management from Eckerd College.

Jackie_PonsJackie Pons

Former Superintendent, Leon County Schools

Jackie Pons was elected superintendent of schools in Leon County in 2006.  Pons began his teaching career at private schools in Tallahassee and Quincy. In 1987, he moved to Rickards High in Tallahassee, where he coached the varsity boys’ basketball team to a state championship in 1992.  Pons continued his career as a school administrator at Rickards before moving to Godby High as an assistant principal. In 1999, he was named Deerlake Middle’s principal.  Pons was named Leon County Principal of the Year during his tenure at Deerlake, and also was at the helm when the middle school was designated a “No Child Left Behind Blue Ribbon School” — one of only 12 in the nation.  In 2006, he was elected superintendent of Leon County Schools.  Pons earned a Masters degree in Educational Administration and Supervision from Florida A&M University and a Bachelors in Physical Education from the Florida State University.

PhilipDr. Celeste Philip, MD, MPH

Surgeon General of Health and Deputy State Health Officer for Children’s Medical Services, Florida Department of Health

Dr. Celeste Philip serves as Deputy Secretary for Health and Deputy State Health Officer for Children’s Medical Services (CMS), Florida Department of Health (DOH).  Dr. Philip is a board member of the Florida Healthy Kids Corporation and was recently named to the Health Initiatives Committee Advisory Group to the Florida Board of Governors. Dr. Philip is board certified in family medicine as well as preventive medicine and public health. She is also a board member of the American Heart Association’s six-state Greater Southeast Affiliate (GSA) and chair of GSA’s Health Equity Committee. Dr. Philip served at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) as an Epidemic Intelligence Service (EIS) officer.  Dr. Philip graduated from Howard University in Washington DC magna cum laude, with a bachelor’s degree in English and Spanish. She later received a Master of Public Health in maternal and child health and a Doctor of Medicine from Loma Linda University in California. She completed her family medicine residency at Florida Hospital in Orlando and preventive medicine residency with the CDC.

RainsMark Rains

Superintendent, Dixie County Schools

Mark A. Rains was elected Superintendent of Schools in Dixie County in 2008.  Rains began his teaching career as a classroom teacher at Dixie County High School in 1980, where he also coached football and basketball until he was appointed Assistant Principal in 1990.  In 1994, he became Principal at Ruth Rains Middle School, the school named after his mother.  He continued his career as a school administrator until 2001 before moving to the district level as the Executive Director for Support Services, the position he held until his election as Superintendent.  Rains earned a Master of Science degree in Educational Leadership from Nova Southeastern University and a Bachelor of Science degree in Physical Education from the University of Florida.

Ryan, MichaelMayor Michael Ryan

Mayor, City of Sunrise, Florida

Michael J. Ryan was elected Mayor of Sunrise in August 2010.  He holds a B.B.A., majoring in Finance, from The George Washington University, and a Juris Doctorate, summa cum laude, from The Case Western Reserve School of Law. Prior to being elected, Mayor Ryan served as a PTA President for two years and as an Executive Board Officer for an additional two years; two terms as Chair of the Education Advisory Board for the City of Sunrise; a member of the Diversity Committee for the School Board for Broward County. Mayor Ryan has been a long term volunteer coach for youth sports.   Mayor Ryan has also served as Chair of the Broward League of Cities Public Safety Committee; co-Chair of the Broward County Consolidated Communications Committee; Co-Chair of the Broward County League of Cities’ Joint School Resource Officers Task Force; a member of the Broward County Regional Planning Council; a participant in the Broward Chiefs of Police Association Committee on Domestic Violence Injunction Process in Broward County.  Mayor Ryan is a partner in the law firm of Krupnick Campbell Malone in Fort Lauderdale and is a frequent author on issues of public interest, including matters involving education.

unnamedRobin Safley

Executive Director of The Florida Association of Food Banks (FAFB)

In her role she oversees the lead organization in Florida with a statewide network of 14 member food banks and over 2,500 partner agencies that feed every community every day. Safley works to raise awareness of hunger, acquire food and financial donations, as well as work with state policymakers to garner additional support to find solutions to end hunger. Safley has over 15 years of experience in promoting health within the education realm and over 20 years of experience implementing legislative development on behalf of various government organizations. Previously the Director for the Division of Food, Nutrition and Wellness under Commissioner Adam Putnam, Safley integrated Child Nutrition Programs from the Florida Department of Education and The Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services. As a result, the Food Distribution merged into a new Division dedicated to enhance the National School Lunch Program, the Summer Food Program and the Florida food system. As a graduate of Florida State University, Safley holds a Bachelor of Science degree in Communications as well as a Juris Doctor degree from the FSU College of Law


JAS PhotoJerry Scarborough

Superintendent of Schools, Suwannee County Schools

Jerry A. Scarborough, Superintendent of Schools for Suwannee County, graduated from Branford High School in 1966 and started his career in public service as being elected as State FFA President. He then graduated from the University of Florida in 1971 with a degree in Journalism. He was elected Suwannee County Clerk of Circuit Court in 1973 and served in that capacity until 1987. After leaving the Clerk of Circuit Court’s office, he managed the Daniel Crapps Real Estate Agency from 1987-1989. In 1989, Jerry was selected to serve as the Executive Director of the Suwannee River Water Management District (SRWMD). In 2008, Jerry left SRWMD to seek the office of the Superintendent of Schools for Suwannee County. Jerry has also served as the Editor of the Suwannee Democrat and the Manager of the Suwannee County Chamber of Commerce.

Judith Schaechter, M.D. PediatricsJudith Schaechter, M.D., M.B.A.

Interim Chair of Pediatrics, University of Miami Miller School of Medicine

Dr. Schaechter serves as the Interim Chair for the Department of Pediatrics, as well as an Associate Professor of Pediatrics, at the University of Miami, Miller School of Medicine.  Dr. Schaecter’s research interests include injury and violence prevention, community pediatrics, injury surveillance, access to care, and school health.  In addition to her commitment to afterschool, Dr. Schaechter serves on several boards, including the Florida Children and Youth Cabinet and Florida Healthy Kids Corporation.  Dr. Schaechter earned her undergraduate degree from Brown University before receiving her M.D. at Standford University, where she also completed her residency.  She recently earned her M.B.A. in Health Administration and Policy from the University of Miami.

scottCaptain Winston Scott

Former NASA Astronaut; Senior Vice President for External Relations and Economic Development for Florida Institute of Technology

Winston E. Scott is currently the Senior Vice President for External Relations and Economic Development at Florida Institute of Technology (Florida Tech), Professor of Aeronautics in the College of Aeronautics, and Professor of Music in the College of Psychology and Liberal Arts. He most recently served as the Dean of the College of Aeronautics at Florida Tech. He is a retired U S Navy captain and naval aviator.  Captain Scott was selected to become an astronaut by NASA in 1992. Serving as a mission specialist, he flew two space shuttle missions. Flying on space shuttles Endeavour and Columbia he has logged over 24 days in space; including 3 spacewalks totaling over 19 hours.  Captain Scott earned a BA degree in music and an MS degree in aeronautical engineering. He holds honorary doctorate degrees from Florida Atlantic University and Michigan State University.

Ralph SmithRalph Smith

Executive Director and Founder, Computer Mentors Group, Inc.

Ralph Smith is the Executive Director and Founder of the Computer Mentors Group, an organization that brings computer training to inner-city children and disadvantaged youth.  Prior to founding the Computer Mentors Group, Smith was a computer consultant and developed and wrote marketing analysis software for a firm in Orlando.

PamStewartPam Stewart

Commissioner, Florida Department of Education

Commissioner Pam Stewart began teaching in Hillsborough County in 1975 before moving to Marion County where she spent 25 years in education. She rose from Ward-Highlands Elementary School teacher in 1981 to guidance counselor then district testing and research specialist, assistant principal, then principal.  In 2004, she was named Deputy Chancellor for Educator Quality at the Florida Department of Education. She served in that position until 2009 when she moved to the St. Johns County School District to become Deputy Superintendent for Academic Services. She returned to the department in 2011 as Chancellor of Public Schools, where she oversaw K-12 student achievement; curriculum, instruction, and student services; school improvement; and educator quality.  Commissioner Stewart holds a Bachelor of Arts in Elementary Education/Early Childhood from the University of South Florida and a Master of Education in Counselor Education from the University of Central Florida. Stewert earned her certification in Educational Leadership from Stetson University.

Alva StriplinAlva Striplin

CEO Big Brothers Big Sisters of the Big Bend, Leon County School Board

Alva Striplin was elected to the Leon County School Board in August 2014. She is also Interim CEO of Big Brothers Big Sisters of the Big Bend in Tallahassee, Florida. She has served in several different capacities for non-profits including the Florida Bankers Association, Florida Dental Association, and The Able Trust. Dedicated to the advancement of her community, Ms. Striplin is a member of the United Way Capital Campaign Committee and the Greater Tallahassee Chamber of Commerce Total Resource Campaign Committee. She was appointed Co-Chair of the Family Friendly Workplaces Task Force and member of Leon County Adjustment Board. She also serves on the Board of Council of Culture and the Arts. She is a member of Alpha Delta Pi sorority and holds a degree from Florida State University.

Shane Van der Kooi

Shane Vander Kooi

Executive Director, Green Mouse Academy

Shane Vander Kooi is the executive director, and founder of Green Mouse Academy.  Prior to establishing the academy, Vander Kooi had a successful 10-year career with one of Canada’s largest computer and career training college franchises, becoming its youngest Vice President.  In 2003, Vander Kooi shifted focus to help launch a franchise network specializing in developing and delivering unique applied technology programs for kids.  In 2004, Vander Kooi founded Green Mouse Academy, introducing young people to creative technology arts activities like robotics, video game design, animation, digital art and exergaming. The organization has grown steadily, with Shane and his team supporting programs for thousands of students attending after school sites across seven states.  Vander Kooi attended Trinity Western University in British Columbia.

waltersWansley Walters

Florida Children & Youth Cabinet Chair; Partner at Ballard Partners

Wansley Walters is the former Secretary for the Florida Department of Juvenile Justice. As a nationally recognized leader in the field of juvenile justice and a long standing child advocate, she pioneered the reform of the largest comprehensive juvenile justice system in the country in the administration of Governor Rick Scott. Wansley currently serves as the Chair of the Florida Children and Youth Cabinet. In November 2012 she was one of eight recipients of the 2012 Juvenile Justice Without Borders International Award presented by the International Juvenile Justice Observatory (IJJO) during the International Youth Justice Convention in London.

Lisa Williams-Taylor 3-15 Photo 1

Dr. Lisa Williams-Taylor

CEO, Children’s Services Council of Palm Beach County.

As CEO, she oversees a wide range of prevention and early intervention services that help Palm Beach County’s children grow up healthy, safe and strong. Last year, the Council served 77,000 local families through nearly 60 programs and numerous public education and outreach campaigns. Prior to becoming CEO, Dr. Williams-Taylor served as Chief Program Officer at the Council, overseeing the areas of knowledge management, system and program performance, and program operations. In that role, she was responsible for strategic planning. Dr. Williams-Taylor has extensive experience working with local, state and national policymakers to build evidence-based systems of care. She has written more than 25 publications. Prior to focusing on early childhood intervention, Dr. Williams-Taylor studied research and evaluation in the areas of education, addiction, mental health and criminal justice. She holds a Master’s Degree in Forensic Psychology and Criminal Justice, as well as a Doctor of Philosophy Degree in Criminal Justice, specializing in forensic psychology.

Judy WinchJudith Winch

Former Principal, Westside Elementary School, Volusia County

Winch is the principal of Westside Elementary School, Daytona Beach, Florida in the Volusia County School District.  She was the Volusia County Principal of the Year in 2008, and a finalist for Florida’s Principal of the Year.  Westside is a recipient of a 21st CCLC grant for the school’s afterschool program, “Westside’s Night Alive”.  The purpose of this program is to educate the whole child by providing academic opportunities before and after school, as well as facilitating recreation, character buiding, and social outreach programs.  WNA has been awarded the 21st CCLC Site Award, Student of the Year Award, and Business Partner Award.  In 2012, Westside was thrilled to announce that they were ranked 3rd out of 1,800 elementary schools in the state of Florida in “Learning Gains in Math”.  Westside Elementary is a Title 1 school, with over 94% of students on free/reduced lunch.  The entire community strongly supports, and is proud of the success of their elementary school.  Everyone has “Jumped on Board the Train to Success” at Westside.

paulawrightPaula Wright

School Board Member, Duval County

Paula Wright has served on the Duval County School Board for over two years.  Wright has held multiple positions prior to her election to the school board, including a newspaper publisher, a radio talk show hostess, and an educator in post-secondary and public school education.  She was as administrator for the High School Acceleration Programs Office in Duval County, and also a District Literacy Coach and Specialist in the Academic Services Department.  Wright earned her Bachelor’s of Arts degree in English from Jacksonville University.

YostGenelle Yost

Superintendent, St. Lucie County Schools

Genelle Zoratti Yost is currently the Superintendent of Schools in St. Lucie County, FL.  She was appointed in August 2013.  She has been working in St. Lucie Public Schools for over 38 years.  During her 32 years as a SLPS administrator, Mrs. Yost served as a Deputy Superintendent, Assistant Superintendent of Federal Programs, Assistant Superintendent of Schools, Principal (Fairlawn Elementary, ESE Center Schools – Means Court Center/St. Lucie School/ Anglewood Center,  Dale Cassens, and Dan McCarty Middle School), and ESE Administrative Assistant.  She is a board member for various community organizations:  Roundtable of St. Lucie County, Children’s Services Council, Economic Development Council, United Way, Education Foundation of St. Lucie County, and St. Lucie County Chamber of Commerce. Mrs. Yost is a graduate of the University of Florida (B.A.Ed.) with a concentration in the area of Exceptional Student Education.  Her educational leadership degree was obtained from Florida Atlantic University (M.Ed.).