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.
My goal is to help parents understand policy.
Graham was born and raised here in Western Pennsylvania. Growing up in and around Pittsburgh, Graham saw the wide difference between school districts and saw these inequities as a major hindrance to giving everyone a fair shot. Graham graduated from Indiana University of Pennsylvania in 2012, and went on to work on a variety of political campaigns. It was there that Graham saw just how important education policy is in addressing inequities that exist in society. Graham came to A+ Schools in 2014 to help with the voter education and parent organizing efforts. His goal is to help parents and families better understand education policy so as to become better advocates for not just their children, but all of the children in Pittsburgh.
“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.
"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.
"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.