Innovative Quality Schools not only strives to authorize schools that are innovative, it also has both an innovative management leadership as well a professional staffing structure. IQS directly employs no staff, nor does IQS have a physical office. Yet IQS authorizes up to 35 schools with a thorough vetting process, has expert level oversight and evaluation, provides highly competent assistance to schools, conducts conferences attended by both the chartered and district sectors of public education and is recognized as a highly competent authorizer.
Management Leadership Team
The management leadership for IQS is provided by StrategicTREC, LLC. The Board of IQS contracts with StrategicTREC, LLC to provide the day to day leadership to carryout the vision, mission and goals of the IQS Board.
Laurie Schroeder, Managing Partner, began her career as a middle school teacher in the Twin Cities. She then moved 'across the pond' to work as a teacher and instructional coach at a private school in London, England. She and her husband moved back to his hometown of Hutchinson, where Laurie spent eight years working in student support programming, including coordinating elementary and secondary Response to Intervention programming, Title 1, ADSIS and Gifted Education. Laurie is a licensed elementary and middle school teacher, has a masters in Educational Leadership, and earned a Principal and Superintendent License through the University of Minnesota.
Heather Ross, Associate Partner, began her career in education as a classroom teacher, serving in both private and public schools in the Twin Cities. She is a licensed 7-12 Social Studies teacher with a Masters in Education from the University of Minnesota. Ms. Ross has experience in the charter sector as a parent founder of a charter school, a charter school board member, and joins the IQS Management Leadership Team from another Minnesota authorizing organization.
Cadre of Professionals
IQS contracts with a Professional Cadre of experts to review applications to be authorized, provide oversight of authorized schools and provide assistance to schools in their specific areas of expertise. The Cadre include:
The following persons are the Cadre of Consultants for IQS:
Harry Adler, School Board Mentor
Harry Adler has over 30 years of experience in education, financial and program management. His efforts as the Executive Director of a Minnesota Charter School led to significant growth in fund balance, enrollment, retention and the successful delivery of the school’s mission. He served in leadership roles at several Minnesota Private Schools and an education related non-profit. He taught math, science, and experiential electives for eleven years. Prior to earning his education licensure at University of St. Thomas, Harry held financial management and systems engineering roles at FMC. He holds undergraduate and advanced degrees from the University of Virginia. .
Sawsan Natsheh, Cadre Member and Support Specialist
Sawsan Natsheh is a highly motivated and dedicated educator experienced in preparing and implementing school start up and improvement plans. Over 10 years of experience in the academic landscape, with expertise in school operations, and providing leadership in staff recruitment, finance, advancement and community partnership. Previously, she was a co-founder and head of international school for 6 years. She values the mission of charter schools in general, which is focusing on the individual needs of the students and preparing them for future success. Presently, Sawsan is the Executive Director for MACSA (Minnesota Association of Charter Schools Authorizers ) and serves as a board member at Global Academy.
Emily Edstrom Moore
Emily Edstrom Moore has worked with another authorizer, Pillsbury United Communities, for over five years. Her time there has included managing evaluation processes, acting as a school liaison, executing governance reviews, advancing policy and advocacy work, and monitoring compliance. Prior to entering the world of authorizing, Emily worked at a charter school, various non-profits, a law firm, the Minnesota House of Representatives, and many youth programs. She has a Master of Public Policy in Education Policy from the Humphrey School of Public Affairs and a BA in History from Beloit College.
Michael Mignard, Ph.D.
Michael has over 42 years of experience in Education. He has been a Teacher, Athletic Director, Dean of Students, and Principal. He has served on numerous accreditation teams, and has done independent school consulting. He is currently the Director of Education Clinical Practice, and Associate Professor of Education at Bethel University in St. Paul.
James has been working at Stenmark Financial Services in Bloomington for over 5 years. Stenmark is a finance and payroll company helping charter schools with all of their accounting needs. He also owns a Farmers Insurance agency in Chaska and Belle Plaine which provides insurance needs for personal and business clients.
Glory spent thirteen years at the Minnesota Department of Education (MDE); six of those years were in the School Choice Division (as Program Specialist/Director/Supervisor), working directly with charter schools. Since Glory’s departure from MDE Glory has been involved in a plethora of work with charter schools, both in MN and nationally. This includes involvement with the charter school application and renewal process, director of an authorizing organization providing oversight to charters, and many hours in schools doing site visits and evaluations.
Pat King has over twenty-five years of experience working at the school, district, charter and state level in Minnesota in numerous leadership capacities. She is an experienced leader in supporting school and student performance and facilitating school improvement initiatives. Pat has a proven track record working with leadership teams to focus on equity, collaborative problem solving and ensuring all voices are heard.
Bruce is currently the Director of Business Services for Marshall Public Schools. Bruce oversees the budget, finance, HR/payroll and general operations of the school district. He is the current chair of the Southwest/West Central Service Cooperative School Group Insurance Pool Advisory Committee. He has been an active member of MASBO (Minnesota Association of School Business Officials), serving on the board from 2009-2015 and as the MASBO president during the 2013-2014 school year.
Educator and research analyst with 20+ years of experience in teaching, data analysis and program evaluation. Specific training in mathematics education, AVID, International Baccalaureate Middle Years Program, Responsive Design, project management and program evaluation. Currently the Math Interventionist with Lakeville Area Public Schools. Prior teaching experience includes Edina Public Schools, St. Paul Public Schools, and East Metro Integration District.
Josh Mahlen, M.B.A. Cadre Leader
Josh leads an accounting firm that specializes in charter school consulting for many aspects of business management and financial management. He trains school boards in financial matters and has developed training materials to support strong financial practices. Josh also manages the financial workload and reports on his clients’ financial activities to their boards, authorizers, grantors, and MDE.
Rochel Perna, CPA, Inactive Certificate, IQS Cadre Leader, IQS Category Lead
Rochel graduated from the University of Minnesota, Carlson School of Management with a degree in Business Administration, earned her CPA and became licensed through a local accounting firm. She has 29 years’ experience in school finance in traditional and charter school settings with 15 years as a Business Manager and is currently a financial consultant. Rochel has been an active member of MASBO for 29 years and has served on the MN Trust Board of Trustees. Rochel's passion has always been with small companies and school districts where variety is the fare of the day.
James Redfield has 30 years of experience in education in MN. He was director of Soul Academy Charter School and Odyssey Charter Schools after retirement from serving as school superintendent in number of schools in MN. He also served as consulting director for Pine Leadership Academy. He has been teaching communication and graduate education classes the last few years at different colleges and universities.
Lawrence Ronglien, Cadre and New School Mentor
Larry Ronglien is a retired high school principal, teacher and coach. Larry has been getting up to go to school for 59 straight years! Larry's undergrad and Masters is from the University of Minnesota - Twin Cities. He completed his Ed Specialist from Minnesota State Mankato in 2009. Larry's experience includes 13 years as a special education teacher for Northeast Metro Intermediate School District, 7 years as the coordinator of the St. Louis Park Area Learning Center, 2 years as the Academic Services Coordinator at Hazel Park Middle School in St. Paul. His administrative experience includes one year as an administrative dean at Hazel Park, then 3 years as principal in the Onamia School District and 3.5 years with Minnesota Transitions Charter School. Since "retiring" in December, 2016, he's worked as a school consultant for Success Academy Charter School in Bloomington and St. Cloud from 2017 - 2022. Larry joined IQS in 2018 and serves as one of the new school mentors.
Julie Hill has over 20 years of teaching experience in elementary education, from district schools to charter schools and from traditional settings to progressive and democratic school models. She has also supervised teacher candidates with the University of Minnesota since 2011. Julie’s focus and expertise is in critical pedagogy and critical literacy, narrative and authentic assessment, developmental movement, and building liberatory educational spaces grounded in the lived experiences of students, teachers, and the broader school community. Julie has an MA in Social Justice Education from Goddard College and an MS in Literacy from Fordham University.
Paul Scanlon, Cadre Leader
Paul Scanlon has ten years of experience as a 7-12 educator and five years of distributive leadership experience as a teacher leader and school administrator in public, charter, and private schools. He is experienced in the research and implementation of education reform initiatives – including turnaround models and working with urban learners - and works with leadership teams to focus on equity, community, student voice, and collaborative problem solving.
Nathan has spent eight years teaching in the Twin Cities metro area, and currently works as Head of the Math Department at the International School of Minnesota. Nathan, along with two colleagues, won Solution Tree’s 2014 Redefining Excellence in the Classroom Award while at a performing arts charter school. He has completed a Nonprofit Management graduate program at the Humphrey School of Public Affairs and serves as a member of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation Teacher Advisory Council.
Sam Neisen, M.Ed.
Sam Neisen is an award-winning high school social studies teacher who believes in the power of all young people to learn about, make decisions in, and shape the world and future in which we all live. Sam is committed to bringing learner-centered educational opportunities to all students by engaging with all stakeholders to re-think how and why we do school. Locally, Sam serves as a board member of the Hennepin County Library Board, the Minnesota Council for Gifted & Talented (MCGT), and the East Minneapolis Exchange Club. Sam is the start-up coordinator and outreach director at Exploration High School, a participant in Education Reimagined’s Learning Lab, and a Minneapolis Education Ambassador at Great MN Schools.
Bondo Nyembwe has worked for 11 years in charter schools. Seven as Executive Director at Academia Cesar Chavez and Richard Allen Math and Science Academy and 4 years as a turn-around principal at St. Paul City School. He is dedicated to school transformation and focus on creating common practices that build a positive school climate for teaching and learning. He believes that improving scholars’ achievement for all is a moral imperative. Bondo enjoys reading and translating research into practice in schools. He has authored an article “Teachers of Color Face Shortage: What does it mean to our growing numbers of minority students?”
Kristi has worked as a Spanish teacher for ten years. She has taught grades K-6 and 9-12, developed language curriculum and was trained in the International Baccalaureate Primary Year Program. Kristi facilitated international academic opportunities for high school students in Guatemala, El Salvador, Chile and Spain. In addition to teaching, Kristi is a licensed Social Worker. She has experience within the field of domestic violence, as a Bilingual Home-School Liaison and as a School Social Worker. Kristi holds a Bachelor's Degree in Latin American Studies and Spanish. As a graduate student, she earned a Masters in Social Work and Public Policy at the University of Minnesota and her teaching license through the University of St. Thomas.
Nora Whalen, Cadre Leader
Co-Founder of the Avalon School; Current Advisor/Program Coordinator at Avalon; Project Based Learning; EdVisions Cooperative; Developed Curriculum and Training Modules to support start-up schools; Expertise: (1) Project Based Learning (2) Teacher Led Schools, (3) School Design
Jim Zacchini, MA, EdD, Cadre Leader
Jim Zacchini is an educator and consultant who has worked throughout the United States and the Pacific Rim.Most recently Jim served as the Manager of Special Projects for World Savvy, and as the Project Manager for theGlobal Competence Certificate Program, a graduate-level program in global competence education, developed in partnership with Teachers College and the Asia Society. Prior to that, he was the Assistant Program Director at the Minnesota Humanities Center focusing on cultural programming throughout the state’s diverse communities.Jim also serves as Treasurer on the Board of City Stay, which works to break down cultural and economic barriers through experiential education, and is the 2017 Minnesota Council of Nonprofits recipient of the Anti-Racism Initiative Award. Jim holds a Bachelor of Arts in History and American Studies from ProvidenceCollege, a Masters in History and American Foreign Policy in Asia from Marquette University, and an EdD inOrganizational Development and Leadership from the University of St. Thomas (Minneapolis). Expertise areas include: project based learning, experiential learning, design thinking, evaluation, mission/strategic development, appreciative inquiry and strengths based change, and mindfulness leadership.
Lisa has worked in the early childhood field for 26 years. After earning a Bachelor's degree in family life and child development from Mankato State University, she moved onto working in direct care. She spent several years working in center based childcare, as a nanny, in ECFE, and family child care. She is currently teaching parent education classes in Hutchinson, MN. In recent years since closing her family child care program she has turned to advocacy work and strives to share the true meaning and value of play in the lives of children as well as advocate for more time spent in nature.
Walt Stull - MBA
Walt brings both education and business experience to the IQS cadre team. He has over twenty years of experience as a teacher, administrator and consultant and twenty-five years of experience in the private sector in training, instructional design, marketing, and management. His education experience includes both traditional public and charter public schools including serving as executive director at two charter schools in Minnesota. He has an MBA from St. Thomas University, St. Paul and Superintendent License from the University of Minnesota, Twin Cities.
Megan Schwaegerl, MA
Megan has worked as a third grade teacher for eight years. During this time, she has served as the Positive Behavior Intervention Support (PBIS) Facilitator and a Professional Learning Community (PLC) Leader. These roles required reviewing and analyzing schoolwide data with the goal of problem solving on a regular basis. She has backgrounds in utilizing reading interventions and best classroom management practices through multiple curricula. She holds a Bachelor's Degree from University of Minnesota, Duluth with dual licensure in Early Childhood- General and Special Education. Megan moved her education forward with a Master’s Degree in Differentiated Instruction from Concordia St. Paul.
Charmagne E. Campbell-Patton, Cadre Leader
Charmagne E. Campbell-Patton is an independent evaluator with over fifteen years of experience evaluation and assessment across a range of fields, including K-12 education and youth-focused programming. Formerly, she served as the National Program Manager at World Savvy, a global education non-profit. She holds an MA from American University and a BA from Grinnell College.
Lulzim (Luli) Axhijaj, MAEd
Traci Hess has over 20 years of experience working in education. She holds a 7-12 English license, a K-12 reading licence, and a K-12 administrative licence. Traci is grateful to have started her career as a preschool teacher and the practical understanding of how a child's formal education journey begins. While she has spent most of teaching years at the middle school level, she has worked with every level of learners. Traci has a passion for literacy and a commitment to both the art and science of teaching. She currently works in the metro area as an instructional coach.
Lora Lepisto Brown is starting her 44th year in education. She has taught at all elementary levels in various schools in the Midwest. She taught kindergarten – second grade and later served as an instructional-literacy coach and RtI Coordinator at Milaca Elementary. She earned her MA in Education in 1998 and her doctorate in 2008. She has also served as a School Improvement Specialist and Grant Writer through MDE grants. Her most recent ‘SIG’ school was New Discoveries Montessori Academy in Hutchinson, Mn. For the past 7 years Lora served as a ‘Master Coach’ for Minnesota Reading Corps, ensuring accountability and fidelity in the interventions implemented for students’ reading success. Lora and her husband Jerry live just east of Foley. They have recently converted 18 acres into natural Minnesota wild flower & grass! The wildlife is outstanding! Jerry and Lora enjoy 7 grandchildren and 5 adult children. Life is good on the ‘ranch’!
doubling enrollment, stabilizing a long term budget, and quadrupling the waiting list. Mr O’Brien as extensive experience creating strong community partnerships; creating excellent communication strategies for communities; obtaining federal and independent grants to support the stability of school operations; setting clear standards for excellent school leadership; and establishing model systems for school governance and accountability.
Kayla Tessmer has worked as a teacher for 12 years and has a passion for alternative education. Kayla is dedicated to creating student-centered curriculum and opportunities that meet the needs of all learners. She currently teaches English at her district’s Area Learning Center and Night School program. Kayla earned her masters in Curriculum & Instruction, with a reading emphasis, from Concordia University, Portland.
Tracy Quarnstrom has served as the director of Wolf Creek Online High school since 2003. Wolf Creek is Minnesota’s only hybrid online high school which offers students an online experience while still offering the advantages of face to face interactions several days per week. Quarnstrom has been very involved in the creation of online learning legislation in the state of Minnesota as well as in organizations that promote quality online choices for students and families. She currently serves as secretary for the MNOLA K12 Online Learning Alliance and works as an adjunct professor for administrative leadership courses at Hamline University.
Julie began her career in elementary education moving up the ladder from teaching assistant to mental health practitioner and then eventually moving on to obtain her second degree as a special education teacher. Julie has her K-12 Special Education License for Emotional and Behavior Disorders. For nearly a decade she worked as a teacher administrator in a charter school with a teacher powered model. Julie runs her own business as an Educational and Administrative Consultant assisting schools with effective operations and strategic planning. She has a passion for giving teachers a voice in education as well as finding alternative ways to educate that allows students to thrive.
Jolene Pearson, Ph.D.
Jolene Pearson has 40 years of experience in the field of early childhood education. Jolene began her career as an ECFE teacher during the pilot phase of the program in Minnesota in 1976. She was a Peace Corps Volunteer in Jamaica serving as an early childhood teacher trainer, a lead teacher in Mount Holyoke College’s child development center, spent twenty -seven years in early childhood education in Minneapolis Public schools including serving as an Interagency Facilitator in early childhood special education. For the past ten years she has served as an associate professor of early childhood education at Bethel University. She excitedly joins the IQS team to support the early childhood programs and their staff.
Carrie Bakken is a Program Coordinator and a founding teacher of Avalon School, a project-based charter school in St. Paul, With over 20 years of experience in charter school governance and innovative school models, Carrie has supported a number of schools in developing and sustaining student centered learning programs. She has served as an IQS cadre member for over 5 years and holds a Master of Arts degree in Teaching from the University of St. Thomas and a Juris Doctorate from Hamline University. She also completed her undergraduate work at Beloit College.
Krissy Wright Quinn
Krissy is the director at Jennings Community School and serves on the boards of Education Evolving, Edvisions Cooperative, and Minnesota Association of Alternative Programs. She is also a MN Network Co-Leader for Teacher Powered Schools.