Our dedicated staff of professionals works to advance equity and excellence in the public school system. Click on photo to see individual bios. Click here for a staff directory.
"Kids need to know people care and believe in them."
A former corporate and securities attorney turned community organizer, activist and advocate, James joined the A+ Schools staff in September 2012 as communications director. Raised by a single mom in San Francisco, James attributes his success in life to excellent, caring teachers with high expectations. “She did her best, but it took more than my mom to help raise me. Kids need to know people care and believe in them,” he says. James, who has extensive experience working on political and advocacy campaigns, first began working with A+ Schools as a Board Watch volunteer when the program launched in January 2009. Before joining the A+ Schools staff, he worked in Pittsburgh as community engagement manager for Communities for Teaching Excellence. Prior to that, he worked as a consultant with the Power of 32 regional project and served as coordinator of the United Way of Allegheny County's "Govern for Kids" initiative, helping child advocates and parents discuss issues with gubernatorial candidates. He also served as field organizer for the Obama-Biden 2008 campaign in Pittsburgh's Southside neighborhoods. For three years, James worked at Gunderson Dettmer, a leading Silicon Valley law firm. He also mentored with First Graduate, a San Francisco program for children who are the first in their families to attend college. In addition, he taught middle school students in San Francisco, Sacramento and Washington, D.C. as a teacher with the Breakthrough Collaborative (formerly known as Summerbridge) — a program that inspired him as a teenager. James earned his undergraduate degree from Georgetown University and a law degree from UC Hastings College of the Law. He completed the Coro Fellows Program in San Francisco in 2000 and the Coro Leaders in Learning Program in Pittsburgh in 2010. He and his wife, Mara, live in Friendship.
"As the newest staff member to A+Schools, my vision is to build a community where opportunity is abundant for youth to speak their truth."
Growing up in an enormous family as the middle child of 5 in The Hill District, Tia is known for possessing a boisterous attitude. Tia speaks her mind on social issues that affect the well being of her fellow students and community members. Joining TeenBloc in her freshman year of high school propelled her to speak about issues that not only affected my community but also the education inequalities among her peers. As a current graduating senior at Robert Morris University, Tia still believes in the power of student voice and the need for a high-quality education.
“One is not limited by their finances, yet by the limitations to be innovative and creative with their mind.”
Born and raised in the Pittsburgh area, Lamar Davis is a Parent Engagement Specialist with the A+ Schools team. He brings a diverse background into this challenging field, ranging from criminal justice to social services. Lamar is a graduate of Geneva College with a Bachelor of Science degree in Human Service. Lamar has worked with a variety of young men through many social service networks such as Family Link, The Academy Charter School and with Allegheny County as A Youth Support Partner. Through his work and personal experience, Lamar has a clear view on the unbalance in the educational field and the vast lack of opportunities facing many families of color. Lamar is currently working with the Parent Nation department of A+, in hopes to help build and create teams of strong parent volunteers. Lamar brings a high level of alacrity to A+ and is focused on serving youth, and helps educate families on ways they can give their child the best options. Lamar believes literacy and comprehension have become major factors in the leaning process of children, and that there can be more done to expand the young mind through books and learning new words. Lamar also believes that volunteering and networking opens the door to learn more about others and also about one’s self in order to give back to those who are in need. Lamar currently works personally on videography and has made several documentaries on trips he has taking across the world.
"We have a moral imperative to fight for increasing power of those with less.”
Carey has been with A+ Schools since its inception, serving first as co-director, then deputy director before her appointment as executive director in May 2007. Under her leadership, the organization has grown to reach and mobilize Pittsburgh residents through its publications, programs, events and community discussions. Key projects launched during her tenure include the nationally recognized Board Watch program, School Works community action research program, TeenBloc youth organizing program, and the recently introduced parent-organizing program called Parent Nation. A first generation college student and Pittsburgh native, Carey has spent her career pushing for social justice in poor communities. Compelled by the abject poverty she saw surrounding her college campus in Philadelphia, she has been driven ever since by “a moral imperative to fight for increasing power of those with less.” Prior to joining A+ Schools in October 2003, Carey worked with two other western Pennsylvania non-profit organizations promoting community development and affordable housing in struggling neighborhoods. She served five years as executive director of South Side Local Development Company — a nationally known community real estate developer that helped spark the revitalization of South Pittsburgh. She also was a community organizer at the Mon Valley Initiative — a coalition of community development organizations. Carey is a graduate of Temple University and holds a Master of Social Work and a Master of Public and International Affairs from the University of Pittsburgh. She is a certified Economic Development Professional and a fellow of the Education Policy and Leadership Center (EPLC). She serves on the board of the Birmingham Foundation. She resides on the South Side with her husband John Werling and their three children Audrey, Lilly, and Jamie — all of whom are students in the Pittsburgh Public Schools.
Graham Mulqueen is our Community Organizer. Check back in for full bio.
“Empowering students to grapple with the tough questions of identity and purpose through the lenses of grace and tenacity energizes me. I count it as privilege to walk alongside students as they flesh out what catalytic leadership looks like in their schools and communities. “
As an elementary school student in Youngstown, Ohio, Sarah’s voracious appetite for reading was fueled by supportive parents and compassionate teachers. Sarah began volunteering as a reading tutor during her high school and college years and discovered an instinctive desire to help students become engaged in the learning process in a way that was relevant to their life experiences. After studying at Cedarville University, she worked as an after school program site coordinator for several years before relocating to Pittsburgh. She is new to A+ Schools this year and looks forward to coaching a new cohort of TeenBloc student leaders through the organizing process. She currently lives on the Northside.
Originally from Pittsburgh, Chris returned to the city in 1997 after spending 10 years in Tennessee where he earned a bachelor’s degree in Economics from Maryville College and began his career in trust administration and pension consulting. Once resettled on Pittsburgh’s North Side, he became actively involved in non-profit volunteer and board appointments with social justice and community development organizations including the Northside Leadership Conference, Northside Community Development Fund, Thomas Merton Center, Gay and Lesbian Community Center and The Midwife Center for Birth and Women’s Health. In 2010, he redirected his career path to non-profit administration to realize the greater satisfaction he received from his non-profit volunteer responsibilities. He initially served as the Operations Manager/CFO at The Midwife Center, then Director of Finance and Operations at Persad Center, Ins. As Director of Operations with A+ Schools, Chris hopes to create an efficient work environment for his co-workers allowing them to continue their work to improve Pittsburgh Public Schools.
"If not me, then who?"
“If not me, then who?” These words have resonated with Brandi since the year 2008, when she returned to her home in Pittsburgh. She became interested in and committed to her community to bridge the many gaps. As a participant in the 2012 CORO, Next Leaders Northside, Brandi first introduced her idea/class project of working with young single mothers to empower their growth and fostering a positive mindset change. It was then, that she realized this was her calling. While completing coursework at Community College of Allegheny County, Brandi began working with Black Political Empowerment Project (B-PEP) as a Community Liaison where she continued to make connections with community organizations, political and public figures, as well as school administration and students. As the Community Liaison for B-PEP, she successfully organized an Anti-Violence Youth Summit with five area High Schools within Pittsburgh Public Schools. Brandi is currently a Parent Organizer with A+ Schools where she recruits parents to be the voice for children in education justice. She also works part-time with Gwen’s Girls as a Community Outreach Specialist and sits on the Board of The Northside Coalition for Fair Housing in support of low income housing. She strongly believes that she is a part of a small group of committed citizens who can change the world. She is passionate and dedicated to empowering parents. From her education to her involvement in the nonprofit sector, this work is her life.
"Every students deserves to be heard and listened to. When we listen, we take action"
Nancy recently joined A+ Schools and brings to her position extensive experience as an executive assistant and office manager. Nancy’s experience includes work in the private sector, and immediately prior to joining A-Plus Schools, she worked for multiple partners of Ernst & Young LLP. Nancy has spent the majority of her career working for non-profit organizations, and brings her insight and knowledge of non-profits to her current role. Nancy worked at the Pittsburgh Oratory where she was the office manager and administrator, and was responsible for the operations of the Ryan Newman Center and served as the liaison with the Catholic Diocese of Pittsburgh. Prior to her work at the Pittsburgh Oratory, Nancy was an integral member of the team at Holy Family Institute in Philadelphia where she worked for the St. Mary’s Villa for Children and Families in a dual role of, executive assistant and fund raising, working closely with their Board of Directors. A Pittsburgh native, Nancy is looking forward to bringing her organizational skills and enthusiasm to help attain A+ Schools goals with regard to its strategic plan to ensure Educational Equity and Great Teaching for every Pittsburgh Public School student.
"I believe that the inclusion of the family unit is a strong component of supporting and nurturing a child's academic success."
Amie Matson is a recent graduate of the University of Pittsburgh, where she obtained her Masters in Social Work and a certificate in Human Services Management. She has been actively involved in the nonprofit arena for over ten years in multiple cities including San Jose, Los Angeles, and Pittsburgh. Her work has primarily focused on school readiness and school-aged activities and engagement for the entire family. The central component of Amie's recent work has included conducting outreach in numerous neighborhoods to promote Kindergarten Registration, as well as to enroll families in various programs and services. "I believe that the inclusion of the family unit is a strong component of supporting and nurturing a child's academic success. I am a strong believer in the concept that it takes a village, so I'm always looking for ways to work together with the schools, community, and family to ensure each child excels in their own way." As Community Organizer at A+ Schools, Amie plans to continue working towards strengthening the relationships between the schools, community, and families, while also engaging in policy work to facilitate efforts to create a larger change.
“When students are partners throughout schools they learn more about the necessity of active citizenship in their schools throughout their lives.”
Pam came on board the A+ Schools staff in 2011 as parent and family organizer and was named youth organizer and TeenBloc coordinator in August 2012. She supports the work of A+ Schools by engaging and organizing high school students to improve Pittsburgh Public Schools. “These students are our leaders of tomorrow. They deserve the opportunity to elevate their voices about their education. Who else knows better what they need?” she says. “When students are partners throughout schools they learn more about the necessity of active citizenship in their schools throughout their lives.” Prior to joining A+ Schools, Pam spent five years as the director of parent education for Beginning with Books, a literacy outreach education program for children in Pittsburgh. During that time, she also volunteered at A+ Schools as a School Works interviewer and Board Watch observer and helped to facilitate roundtable discussions. Pam currently serves on the board of directors of the Pittsburgh Promise. She holds an undergraduate degree in English from Connecticut College and a master’s degree in writing from Sarah Lawrence College. The parent of two Pittsburgh Public Schools students and a recent graduate, Pam resides with her family in the North Side.
"Practices at a school can change outcomes for students."
A California native and former military “brat” who attended seven public schools while growing up on the east and west coasts, Amy now calls Pittsburgh home. She came to A+ Schools in 2009 as a Carnegie Mellon University graduate student through a work-study position doing data entry and analysis of Board Watch report cards. After graduation, she began working full time as a data analyst. In June 2012, she was named director of research and data analysis. At A+ Schools, Amy leads community action research programs and informs the organization’s work through research on current local and national policies affecting public school students. Amy’s passion for providing equitable educational and leadership opportunities for youth emerged while working with students through various programs in San Francisco’s public schools. She spent five years as program manager and program director of San Francisco Urban Service Project supporting student leadership development and successful learning through community service. She also worked two years as a staff member at the James Lick Middle School’s Beyond the Bell after school program and Summer Bridge enrichment program. Amy later worked two years as service learning coordinator at June Jordan School for Equity, San Francisco’s first small school by design. Her work at June Jordan School “opened my eyes to how practices at a school can change outcomes for students,” says Amy. “That work inspired me to go into public policy to advocate for practices that provide opportunities for all students to succeed.” At A+ Schools, Amy hopes to help families, students and community members use research-based data to improve Pittsburgh Public Schools. Amy earned undergraduate degrees in biological sciences and psychology at Northwestern University and a master’s degree in public policy and management at CMU’s Heinz College. She lives in Lawrenceville.
"I am passionate about education reform and doing what I can to help children succeed and head on to college."
Mollie came to A+ Schools in 2011 through AmeriCorps’ Public Allies program. Mollie is focused on recruiting volunteers for Board Watch, School Works and other A+ programs. A Pittsburgh native, Mollie is a graduate of Taylor Allderdice High School. As a high school athlete competing at other schools within the district and in the suburbs, she became painfully aware of the disparity between schools. She recently graduated from Rollins College where she earned a bachelor’s degree in sociology with a minor in women’s studies. It was through her college coursework that she began to understand the significance of the achievement gap and the impact of limited resources and opportunities. “I became passionate about education reform and doing what I can to help children succeed and go on to college,” Mollie says. She currently lives in Regent Square.