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Christopher Norwood, J.D.*

Founder of the Florida Association of Independent Public Schools and Governance Institute for School Accountability (GISA)

Norwood is the Founder of the Florida Association of Independent Schools and the Governance Institute for School Accountability (GISA). Norwood is the former Executive Director of Lawyers for Children (Florida), he is certified by the Florida Commissioner for Education to provide Governance Training to Charter Schools. He is sought out by many to represent charter schools with application appeals, terminations and non-renewals before Florida's Administrative Law Judges and School Board Administrative Hearings. In 2003, he established The Norwood Consulting Group (TNCG) to further his goal of community building and education advocacy. TNCG provides tools for public, private and non-profit institutions engaged in Community Development that includes: Public Policy Analysis & Advocacy, Program Management, Board Governance, Compliance 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, administratively housed in Florida's Attorney General's Office.

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Meet our Advisory Board

Eric Hernandez

Hernandez Lee Martinez, LLC

Eric is an experienced trial and appellate lawyer.  His practice focuses on complex business and class action litigation, state and municipal government matters, labor and employment matters, federal government regulatory/corporate compliance matters, whistle-blower representation, and white-collar criminal defense. Eric is an experienced litigator and former Federal Prosecutor and Miami Dade County Attorney. He's clerked for the Chief Judge of the Florida Supreme Court and a Federal Judge. He will serve as our General Counsel.

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Jason Green

Executive Director of Redbird Advanced Learning

Jason Green has dedicated his career to creating positive change in education. As a member of the leadership team with Redbird Advanced Learning, he partnered with Stanford University’s Graduate School of Education to re-envision professional learning. He led the design of the Redbird Professional Learning Platform which now helps prepare thousands of teachers globally for 21st century learning and districts build cultures of innovation and adapt to education’s changing landscape. A Phi Beta Kappa graduate of Morehouse College,  holds an MBA from the Wharton School of Business and an M.S. Ed from University of Pennsylvania’s Graduate School of Education. He is the Co-Author of "Blended Learning in Action, A Practical Guide Toward Sustainable Change".

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Dannie McMillon

Chairwoman of Stellar Leadership Academy

Dannie McMillon is the Chairwoman of Stellar Leadership Academy. Stellar Leadership Academy is a SACS accredited Charter School in Liberty City that opened in 2011. It has over 300 students in grades nine through twelve.  Dannie is one who has a passion for helping children and women to improve their quality of life. She became actively involved in several organizations that helped her to become a stronger advocate for children and youth at home, in school, and the community. Dannie is also the Former President of the Miami Dade PTA.

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Gerri Lazarre, CPA

Managing Partner, Tri-Merge Consulting and Accounting Services

Ms. Lazarre has extensive experience in the realm of accounting and taxation, audit and assurance, financial and management consulting. Ms. Lazarre is the managing partner of TriMerge and oversees all aspects of the firm's administration. TriMerge Consulting Group, PA is a full service certified public accountants and consultants (CPA) firm with offices in Miami and Fort Lauderdale and provides accounting, audit and assurance, tax and compliance and business advisory services.

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* Denotes member of Executive Board

Corey Smith

Law Office of Corey Smith, PA

A native of Palm Beach County and first generation college graduate, Attorney Corey M. Smith worked as an educator in the Palm Beach County School District working with "At-Risk" students in an alternative education setting.  He worked for over a decade as an Assistant Public Defender in Palm Beach County and an Associate Counsel for the School Board of Palm Beach County where he helped design the protocol for Charter School Compliance for Palm Beach Public School. 

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Marie Tuchiaro

Principal of Palm Beach Maritime Academy

Palm Beach Maritime Academy has 1,200 students in K-10. Ms. Marie Turchiaro has been Principal of Palm Beach Maritime Academy for the past 11 years. Marie Turchiaro has been Principal of Palm Beach Maritime Academy for the past 11 years. She began her career as a teacher in New York City, then moved to Florida where she was a teacher, Assistant Principal, and Principal in Broward County. “Ms. T” has always been proud to be a part of PBMA’s amazing Faculty and Staff. She enjoys watching the students grow academically and emotionally from Kindergarten until they walk across the stage at Graduation.

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Dacia Steiner*

Director of Strategic Partnerships at the Center for Social Change

Dacia Steiner is the Director of Strategic Partnerships at the Center for Social Change, where her primary role is to identify and cultivate opportunities for the Center to engage in sector capacity building and direct investment to leverage her expertise in Asset Based Community Development to support and provide guidance to Center projects and partners. She is also involved in the development of a social venture philanthropy fund, the identification of potential impact investment opportunities and assisting to create the ecosystem of investment ready nonprofits and other social enterprises.

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Naija Brown

Intern at Florida Association of Independent Public Schools

Naija is a current student at Spelman College majoring in psychology with a minor in public health. At Spelman, she is Vice President of the Spelman Chapter of Active Minds, Inc., an organization dedicated to reducing the stigma of mental health in the black community. She also is a founding member of The Spelman Continuum, a research journal that showcases black women conducting research. She aspires to become a doctor and help increase health education in disadvantaged communities. 

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Erica Brown*

Manager of Human Resources & Operations at Bloomingdale's

Erica Brown is a Senior Executive at Bloomingdale's. She specializes in talent development, growth strategies, and operational efficiencies. She has been a longtime advocate for underrepresented children’s rights in the New Jersey public school system. As a former student of the Miami-Dade public school system, Erica understands the importance of supporting independent charter schools. She has held GM positions with Saks Fifth Avenue and Lord & Taylor in New York, New Jersey and now South Florida. 

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George Cabrera*

President/CEO of Aspira of Florida, Inc. (former)

ASPIRA is one of the largest youth agencies in the United States that serves thousands of Hispanic and other minority youth through innovative and creative youth leadership programs and charter schools. A landmark presence in Florida (Miami-Dade, Broward and Palm Beach) for over thirty years and nationally for more than fifty years, ASPIRA has helped transform the lives of hundreds of thousands of students, as well as their families and communities. ASPIRA has three schools in Miami Dade (North Miami, Wynwood, and homestead) - with 2,000 students. 

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Bill Diggs*

President of the Mourning Family Foundation

Bill served as the Chief Executive Officer for The Miami Dade Chamber of Commerce from 2005 until August of 2013 and is an expert on Small Business Development. The Mourning Family Foundation (MFF) is a not-for profit 501(c)(3) public fundraising foundation created by Alonzo and Tracy Mourning. The Mourning Family Foundation was created to inspire others through advocacy, education, and enrichment services and allows donors with varied interests in children’s issues the benefit of giving to several charities from their one contribution. Since 1997, Mourning Family Foundation has raised over $20 million for various programs that aid in the development of children and their families.

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Glen Gilzean

CEO of Urban League of Central Florida

Gilzean is the former Vice President of Family and Community Affairs at Step Up For Students, a St. Petersburg-based nonprofit that oversees a scholarship serving 77,000 of the state’s most economically disadvantaged students, Glen previously serves as a Regional Director for the Florida Department of Education and served as Chairman of the Early Careers Academy Charter School. Glen was appointed by Governor Scott to the Pinellas County School Board and Florida A&M University Board of Trustees. Gilzean has served on the Florida Department of Education School Choice Parent Advisory Committee and as chair of the Hillsborough Head Start/Early Head Start Policy Council.

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Curtis Peterson

Principal of Caring and Sharing Learning School

Curtis has over 25 years in Education. In 2017, he was awarded the National Blue Ribbon Award by the U.S. Department of Education as the Principal of Caring and Sharing Learning Academy in Gainesville. He holds an Educational Specialist Degree in Educational Leadership. He has been a Teacher, Behavior Resource Teacher, Assistant Principal and Principal. He has worked in Alachua, Sarasota and Pinellas Counties in Florida and DeKalb County, Georgia. Curtis has a proven track record with high performing schools as well as closing the achievement gap in struggling schools. Caring and Sharing Learning School was a 2010 National Title 1 Distinguished School and has received many accolades for closing the achievement gap in education as well as the 2017 National Blue Ribbon Award winner.

Kendall Artusi

Founder of Bright Futures Academy

Kendall is the founder of one of the first charter schools in Palm Beach. Bright Futures Academy Charter School (BFA) is a public school located in Northern Palm Beach County, serving students in grades K-8. Founded in 2001, BFA has grown from 48 students to 800 students who are served on three different campuses. The school focuses on core academics with an emphasis on international awareness, social tolerance and environmental conservation whikle educating the whole child - mind, body and character.

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Mark Gotz*

Co-Founder of Miami Community Charter School

Mark was a co-founder of Miami Community Charter Schools. He was also responsible for obtaining bond financing and developing a new middle/high school facility in Florida City, Florida for the Miami Community Charter School, which opened August 2011. A champion of the charter school movement for over 16 years, Mark has been a co-founder of nine charter schools located in Miami-Dade, Broward, Palm Beach and Lee Counties which educate over 2,500 students and employ over 250 teachers. He has also assisted charter schools with their facility needs in Florida, Texas, Nevada, Louisiana, Georgia, Ohio, California, Colorado, and Alaska.

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Lety Carvajal

Founder of Springview Academy

Springview Academy operates three day-care centers and two private schools in Miami-Dade. Lety is a former Miami-Dade County Charter School teacher with over 13 years of experience in the field of early childhood.  She also has a Master of Science in Educational Leadership, but one of her greatest accomplishments has been as a parent to a special needs child. Her combined professional and personal experience has helped her craft a learning environment that uses a combination of traditional and avant-garde strategies within the classroom. 

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Miguel Diaz de la Portilla

Florida State Senator (Former)

Miguel Diaz de la Portilla is a partner in the Miami office of Arnstein & Lehr LLP. He is co-chair of the firm’s Municipal & Governmental practice group and a member of the firm’s Property Tax Appeals and Land Use practice groups. Mr. Diaz de la Portilla is also a State Senator in Miami-Dade County, where he has served since 2010.

Joe Davis

Chief Marketing Officer at Florida Healthy Kids Corporation

Florida Healthy Kids: a public/private organization providing quality health insurance to Florida's children. Forida Healthy Kids Corporation administers the Florida Healthy Kids program for children ages 5 through the end of age 18. The Corporation also determines eligibility for the non-Medicaid parts of the program, collects monthly premiums, and manages the customer service call center. Mr. Davis previously served as the Chief of the Bureau of Family and Community Outreach at the Florida Department of Education (FDOE) and Executive Director of the Florida Afterschool Network after having begun his career as a teacher at Augusta Raa Middle School, in Tallahassee, Florida. 

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