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 26 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. The Partners of StrategicTREC are:
Tom Tapper Ed. D., Managing Director, has more than forty years of experience in and around public education. He began his career as a classroom teacher and has held building level leadership positions as a school assistant principal and principal, and district office positions as director of finance, human resources, and school superintendent. His related experiences include facilitating and guiding private sector, church organizations and schools through strategic planning processes. He has also served as a "senior examiner" for the National Malcolm Baldrige Quality Award Program. Tapper currently holds a position as Senior Educational Planner for a leading architectural planning firm as well as working as a consultant/advisor for schools in the development of their strategic plans and as an adjunct instructor for Concordia University St. Paul.
Milo Cutter Ed. S., Director, has more than twenty-five years of experience in public education. In addition, Milo has extensive experience in the private sector. She began her career in education as a classroom teacher; including experience in an international setting. Cutter has held the leadership position as the director of the St. Paul City Academy. Her related experiences include serving as an adjunct professor at the College of St. Catherine, St. Paul, and as a member of the CIS Faculty at the University of Minnesota. In addition, she has extensive experience as a grant writer.
Stephen O'Connor Ed. D., Director, has more than thirty-five years of experience in public education. He began his career as a classroom teacher and has held leadership positions as director of curriculum and instruction, and instructional technology. His related experiences include facilitating and guiding school districts in the implementation of instructional technology. Stephen has extensive experience in planning for, and organization of, professional development for school districts across Minnesota. He has also served as an "examiner" for the National Malcolm Baldrige Quality Award Program. Stephen was the Program Chair for the graduate education program at Argosy University and now serves as an assistant professor for graduate studies in the Ed.D and Ed.S. Education Leadership Programs at Concordia University St. Paul.
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:
Dave has worked as a School Improvement Specialist and Alternative Programs Specialist at the Minnesota Department of Education. After retiring from MDE, he worked as the AdvancED Director for Minnesota and Wisconsin assisting schools and districts with accreditation by North Central Association (NCA). In addition to teaching middle school English and gifted learners for over 27 years, Dave worked as a staff development coordinator, community education coordinator and teacher mentor. He currently works with charter school authorizers and charter schools providing professional learning for school improvement initiatives.
Carrie Bakken was hired with a team of teachers to open Avalon School in St. Paul, Minnesota, 2001. As Program Coordinator and teacher at Avalon, she developed expertise in the areas of charter school governance, project based learning, school operations, and collaborative leadership. Over the last few years, Carrie completed a two year Aspen Institute Teacher Fellowship and won an Outstanding Educator in Ethics Education Award sponsored by the WEM Foundation. She has a Master of Arts degree in Teaching from the University of St. Thomas and a Juris Doctorate from Hamline University. Currently, Carrie also serves as an ambassador for the Teacher-Powered Schools Initiative, sharing information and resources about teacher-powered schools across the country.
Mary M. Funk
Mary has just shy of 30 years of experience in education with both traditional and charter schools. She began her career as Gifted and Talented coordinator and teacher for a small rural school district in 1989. In 1994 she joined a team of committed people to begin a charter school. The school opened in 1996 and during her tenure she served on the board as board chair for 12 years, and Deputy Superintendent of Curriculum and Instruction. She has extensive experience with writing grants. Most recently she served as Start Up Coordinator for the charter school CHOICE.
Rebecca Graetz, Ed.D.
Rebecca is a distance learning expert with emphasis on Universal Design for Learning and accessibility in online and blended courses. She is a Quality Matters (QM) peer reviewer coaching instructors on developing quality student centered courses for teaching. Dr. Graetz also is a national presenter on captioning videos for distance learning as it pertains to student success.
Stephen Kemp is a math teacher at Eastview High School. Previously, he taught at math at a performing arts high school in Saint Paul. Stephen has spent three summers as the Director of Programming of EXPLO at Yale, a summer enrichment program for high school students from around the world. He is currently pursuing his Masters degree in Mathematics.
While his entire career has centered on education, beginning as a high school English, speech, and drama teacher and later working with educational technology and marketing products like Oregon Trail. Currently, he serves as an educational consultant with a number of non-profit organizations and charter schools and as a member of LoveWorks Academy school board. He holds a bachelors degree in Education from Winona State University and a Masters in Business Communications from St. Thomas University.
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.
Mark Krug, MA Ed.
Mark has over 35 years in education, working primarily in special education as a teacher, due process specialist, and Director. He was with Northeast Metro 916 for 20+ years, providing service and support to member districts seeking educational options for high needs students. He was a Due Process Peer Monitor with MDE for 8 years. He was the Director of Special Services with Owatonna Public Schools. He is currently with Designs for Learning, an educational consulting firm providing a host of services to Charter Schools. Mark is the Director of Special Education for nine charter schools.
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.
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 Manders, CPA, Inactive Certificate
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 23 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 23 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.
Gale Mason-Chagil, Ph.D.
Dr. Gale Mason-Chagil completed her doctoral degree in the Department Anthropology, University of Minnesota with a minor in educational policy and administration. Her doctoral research explored the relationships of Hmong parents and schools staff in the education of Hmong children, and highlighted how their concepts of roles and responsibilities aligned, or not. She has been an independent evaluator for the past 20 years. Her interests focus on evaluations of K-12 education programs, including school climate, tutoring programs, reading programs, career development, and racial disparities in disciplinary policies and academic achievement. She also evaluates boarder initiatives that focus on creating social change, including community wealth building and community asset development. Her evaluation clients include public school district’s Research Evaluation and Assessment offices, regional foundations, community-based non-profit organizations, and others. She is active volunteer with Minnesota’s professional evaluators, from 2009-2014, she served as the secretary and president Minnesota Evaluation Association (MNEA) board of directors, the local affiliate of the American Evaluation Association. She also contributes to her community in other ways. She currently serves as the board secretary for the Roseville Area Schools Foundation and as a board member for Minnesota International NGO Network. She served on the board of the Hmong Culture Center for 12 years from 2001-2013, and provides on going support to the Guatemalan Society of Minnesota.
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.
Steven J. Rippe, Ed.D.
Dr. Steven J. Rippe has over 20 years of experience working with educators and school leaders designing and implementing innovative schools and governance boards throughout the United States. A successful teacher, principal and University administrator, Steven works with community members and educators to create nationally recognized schools and works with struggling schools to reinvent themselves into high performing, dynamic learning organizations. Steven has a doctorate in Organization Development and is skilled in team-based school reviews, strategic planning, experiential learning and all the design elements of project-based/STEM/STEAM schools.
Vivian Robbins serves as the Student Progress Coordinator at City Academy High School in Saint Paul. She has worked in education administration in both K-12 and higher education. She is particularly experienced with assessment, research, strategic planning, governance, organizational structures, and program evaluation.
Educational administrator with proven success in school development and management of charter schools in Minnesota. Career spans nearly twenty years in charter school service and administration. Process-oriented leader with experience in implementing innovative practices.
Gretchen is one of the co-founders of Avalon School with fifteen years of experience in Project Based Learning and Teacher Powered Schools. She has a BA in Language Arts/Education and MS in Experiential Learning. At Avalon Gretchen has served as an advisor and a program coordinator, with specific responsibilities throughout the years for testing, enrollment, marketing, and leading the personnel team. Gretchen has also served as an advisor for other charter schools, both through Edvisions as well as through the Guild. Expertise: project based learning, teacher powered schools, staff evaluations, mission/vision development, experiential learning.
Jessie Saul, Ph.D.
Jessie Saul is President & CEO of North American Research & Analysis, Inc., an independent consulting firm that focuses on helping individuals and organizations use information more effectively. Through her work, Jessie provides a bridge between research, evaluation, analysis, interpretation, and communication; helping clients identify what information is most relevant to their needs, design methods to collect new data streams or analyze existing ones, interpret results for both scientific and non-scientific audiences, and communicate those results in ways that maximize both use and impact. Specialized services include research synthesis, presentation, and interpretation; research and evaluation design and execution (both quantitative and qualitative methods); and meeting facilitation and strategic planning.
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.
Laurie is currently the Gifted Education Coordinator for Hutchinson Public Schools. Her experiences include large and small public school districts in MInnesota as well as international private school settings. Focus: curriculum, assessment, student/school achievement.
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.
David Thompson, Ed.D.
David D. Thompson, Ed. D. has over 39 years of experience in education in Minnesota. Dave is currently the Superintendent of Stewartville Public Schools, a position that he has held for the past 17 years. His experience in education includes positions as a teacher, coach, athletic director, middle school principal, high school principal, and superintendent. Dave is also a certified Baldrige Evaluator and has been an adjunct professor for St. Mary’s University in the Principal Licensure Program for the past 20 years. Dave has been recognized with many education awards including Principal of the Year for Southeast Minnesota, the MASA Kay E. Jacobs Award, the Administrator of Excellence Award and the National Superintendent of the Year from the National Association of Education Office Professionals. During his tenure as principal of Farmington Middle School, the school was awarded the National Blue Ribbon School of Excellence.
Stacie Toal, Ph.D.
Stacie Toal has spent the past decade working on evaluations, statistical analysis, institutional research and capacity building through staff training and coaching. Through her work on a National Science Foundation (NSF) research grant and as the external evaluator on other NSF and Minnesota Department of Education grants, she has gained insight into building useful evaluations in multi-site and single-site settings. Stacie has also served as an evaluation consultant for the Minnesota State Colleges and Universities Developing Effective Student Success Initiatives Project where she built internal evaluation capacity by coaching project teams in evaluation design and implementation. Her skills include research and evaluation design, implementation, and both qualitative and quantitative analysis. Most of all she enjoys engaging others in the process, so that they can better understand and use the results. Stacie earned her doctorate in Educational Policy and Administration – Evaluation Studies at the University of Minnesota in 2007. She also has a master’s degree in Organizational Communication from Michigan State University and a bachelor’s degree in Public Relations from Bradley University.
Mary is finishing 36 years in the financial industry. Her focus has been working with high net worth individuals and families in achieving their goals. In addition, she taught for seven years in the elementary grades. She has a degree in law, a B.S. in Education, and a Master’s in Education. She serves as chair for the Ethics Committee in Ramsey County.
Tom Watkins, Ph.D.
Tom is the Coordinator of Data and Assessment, Osseo Area Schools. Tom designs, manages, and reports on a wide variety of accountability and school improvement indicators. He also trains school data teams, and conducts program evaluations and impact studies.
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