NAEA Board


Kay W. Davenport, Ed.S.,
NAEA President

Kay has served as a teacher or administrator in Rutherford County for grades K-12 since she began her career in public education.  She opened Smyrna West Alternative School, a school for students in grades 6-12, in 2002.  She leads a team of dedicated faculty who enable students to succeed both academically and behaviorally.  Smyrna West has been recognized on a local and national level for its exceptional service-learning programs and success in keeping students in school.

Kay has served as Rutherford County’s Learn and Serve Federal Grant Co-coordinator, secretary of Leadership Rutherford, President of North Rutherford Soccer League, on the Advisory Board for the Boys and Girls Club of Rutherford County, facilitator at the World Scholar Athlete Games, and Board Member of Smyrna’s Sister City Committee with Zama, Japan. Besides Kay’s active involvement on the NAEA Board, she is presently serving as Chair of the Tennessee Governor’s Advisory Board for Alternative Education and the Coordinator for Rutherford County’s Governor’s Volunteer Stars Awards.

Believing that the education system is the cornerstone of a strong community, Kay works diligently to create strong partnerships throughout the community.  She serves as a liaison with the Rotary Club of Smyrna, a major stakeholder in the school’s success. They provide mentorship to students at Smyrna West through a Job Shadowing Program in addition to financial and in-kind support to the school throughout the year. Kay encourages collaborative partnerships in all areas of education. She embraces a passion for children, communities, education, policies, and exemplary practices, and looks forward to working on a shared vision through the National Alternative Educators Association.

Kay and her husband, Ed, are proud parents of three children and six grandchildren.

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Jacquelyn W
hitt, Ed.S.,
NAEA Vice-President
Smyrna, Georgia

Jacquelyn (Jackie) B. Whitt holds an Educational Specialist degree in Administration and Supervision, a Masters degree in School Psychologist and a Bachelors degree in Spanish and Portuguese. She is an educational consultant who specializes in helping school districts to design and implement effective small learning communities for at risk students. She recently retired after devoting 38 years to the field of education. During her tenure, she worked as a special education teacher, a school psychologist, a vocational evaluator, a bi-lingual administrative assistant, and a principal in several alternative settings. Currently, Ms. Whitt serves on numerous local, state and national boards. She served as President of the Georgia Association for Alternative Education for three years. In 1998, Ms. Whitt organized and founded “Foundation 2000 for Children,” which is a nonprofit philanthropic organization that provides the following support for individuals in Cobb County, Georgia: Scholarships for high school students, teacher impact grants for middle school teachers, and after school care scholarships for elementary students. Ms. Whitt has received many honors and awards for her outstanding contributions to the larger community. She has traveled to Brazil, Japan, Mexico, several European countries, and throughout the Caribbean sharing her innovative ideas to increase student achievement for all students.

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Pat ConnorPat Conner 
NAEA Treasurer

Pat Conner is the Executive Director for the Office of Safe, Healthy, & Supportive Schools for the Tennessee Department of Education. She has been in education for 30 years. She believes that children and youth need safe and supportive learning environments to succeed in school. When children feel physically and emotionally safe their grades, attendance, behavior, and attitudes towards school improve. Pat began her career as a classroom prevention educator for Sumner County, TN schools and from there she created the school system’s department for Safe Schools, Healthy Students totally funded by federal, state, and local grants to meet the needs of at-risk youth. She also established the first zero tolerance alternative program in Sumner County. Specializing in grant writing, over the past 20 years Pat has received over $35 million in grant funds to meet the needs of students and their families. In 2013 she left Sumner County Schools and accepted the position of Executive Director for Safe, Healthy, & Supportive Schools for the Tennessee Department of Education. In her role at the department she provides leadership to 143 school districts on School Safety, Extended Learning, School Climate, Coordinated School Health, Alternative Education, and Project AWARE.

Believing that it is important to give back to her community, she has been recognized for her involvement over the years and is the recipient of the Women Impacting the Community in Education Award, the Tennessean People Making a Difference Award, and the Sertoma Service to Mankind Award. Pat holds degrees from Jacksonville State University, Alabama and is a long-time fan of the Alabama Crimson Tide.

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LowtherEdward Lowther, Ed.D., 
NAEA Secretary
Dr. Edward G. Lowther is a professional educator. He earned a Doctoral degree in Education Leadership, an Education Specialist degree in Special Education and Administration & Supervision Prek -12, a Masters degree in Special Education, and a Bachelor in Therapeutic Recreation.  His areas of expertise range from education to therapeutic recreation to music. He has been an education practitioner and leader in the areas of special education, (teacher, administrator and professor) transition coordinator for alternative education, education consultant and presenter, private music teacher, and a high school marching band instructor. Edward resides in Woodbridge, Virginia, (which is located 20 miles south of Washington, DC), with his wife, Angie and their 5 children, triplets Rachel, Joshua, and Emily born in 1994, Aaron born in 2000, and Madeline born 2004. Dr. Lowther is available to share his expertise in the following areas: alternative education, behavior management, curriculum development, and special education.

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BishopJa’net Bishop, Ed.D.,
Board Member, Region 3 

Dr. Ja’net Bishop, a native of New York City, is the Principal of the Columbia County Alternative School (CCAS) in Evans, Georgia.  Previously, she has served as a counselor in both the middle, high, and alternative settings. Her experience includes serving as a an assistant principal at a suburban high school, and principal of a rural high school,

Ja’net is the compassionate and energetic Founder/CEO of HAVE JOY, LLC, through which she shares her expertise as a Personal Development Coach.  Ja’net is a Certified Personal and Executive Coach (CPEC) trained through the nationally accredited coach training program, Coaching and Positive Psychology (CaPP) Institute approved by the International Coach Federation (ICF).  Using her years of experience as a leader/administrator, counselor, veteran, volunteer, and personal development coach, her engaging rapport enables social-emotional development of leadership, self-care, and alternative education. The result for her clients and colleagues includes personal and professional fulfillment.  Additionally, she’s presented at national, state, and local conferences/workshops.

Ja’net, a former Army Captain, has served as a Public Affairs and Finance Officer in the Army Reserves and the North Carolina National Guard.  As an alumnus of the Metro Augusta Chamber of Commerce-Leadership Augusta, she has collaborated with Youth Leadership Programs.  She has had experience in the non-profit sector, as the Executive/Advocate Director of the Augusta Child Advocacy Center, helping victims of child abuse in court cases.  As a consultant, she’s previously developed youth intervention groups for Columbia County Juvenile Court.  As a former Adjunct Professor for Cambridge College in the Counselor Education graduate program, she’s taught, advised, and mentored future school counselors.

Ja’net is the Vice-Commander and Treasurer for the Military Order of World Wars-Augusta Chapter; serves on the Eagle Scout Review Board-Columbia County, and has judged various youth pageants.  These organizations, in varied capacities, works towards developing youth character and leadership.

Ja’net has professionally prepared herself with degrees from Hunter College (New York), Campbell University (North Carolina); and Augusta State University (Georgia) where she was the recipient of its College of Education honor as “Outstanding Graduate Student in Educational Leadership.”  She earned her doctoral degree in Educational Leadership from Georgia Southern University in 2009.

Ja’net and her husband William (an Administrator in the Richmond County School System, Georgia) are the proud parents of two adult sons, William II and Matthew, whom she considers to be the true blessed accomplishments of her life!

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Pam Bruening Ed.D.,

Board Member
Dr. Pamela L. Bruening is the President and CEO of Progressive Bridges, Inc., an educational services company that empowers educators nationwide through cutting edge professional development, consulting, and curriculum research and product design.  She is also the Founder and CEO of DeeperDive Learning, Inc., publisher of EdQuest, an innovative online professional development library for educators.  Dr. Bruening has had extensive experience in consulting with more than 10 educational product companies nationwide to support cutting edge product development for effective data analysis and intervention in K-12 classrooms, specifically in social-emotional learning (SEL).  Formerly the Collier County, Florida’s Coordinator of Response to Intervention (RtI) and Positive Behavior Support (PBIS), Dr. Bruening oversaw the planning, implementation, data collection, and monitoring of one of the nation’s most accomplished and acclaimed RTI/MTSS programs. Dr. Bruening holds a Doctorate of Education in Organizational Leadership and Human Resources Development and a Masters of Education degree in Reading.  An educator for 30 years, Dr. Bruening is recognized as one of the nation’s preeminent experts in RtI/MTSS, PBIS, behavior initiatives, intervention, curriculum development, and alternative education.   Dr. Bruening spent much of her education career in alternative schools, opening and leading a juvenile detention center and an expulsion program, as well as consulting to numerous juvenile justice programs and detention centers around the country.  She has presented at many state and national conferences over the past 6 years and teaches graduate level alternative education courses through New England College.  While serving on the National Alternative Education Association Board of Directors, Dr. Bruening has supported the development of a growing Florida state organization and regularly promotes NAEA across the nation through her consulting opportunities.  She also serves on boards of companies such as Continental, Inc. and Innovative Technologies in Print.

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Kathleen Chronister, MEd
Board Member

Kathleen Chronister is the Alternative Education Principal in Davis School District, UT. In her current role, she has responsibility to lead and supervise nine campus locations with a variety of programs for at-risk students including Mountain High School, Renaissance Academy, and Davis Adult Learning.

Ms. Chronister has served on numerous district and state committees. She is the past president of the Utah chapter of ASCD and has served as the special purpose school representative for the Utah Association of Secondary School Principals. She has been active in advocacy in the state of Utah and was instrumental in guiding policy makers to better understand the mission of alternative schools which resulted in an appropriate accountability system for alternative high Schools in Utah.

She is married with 3 children and 5 grandchildren. She is active in her community and church with projects focused on serving the needs of refugees, women, and children. She is a graduate of Brigham Young University and earned her Master of Education in Educational Administration from Idaho State University. Her philosophy on personal happiness is to spend two minutes each day sending a positive email, text, or personal note of gratitude to at least one person.

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John Holmes, DMin
Board Member

John E. Holmes received his B.S. Degree in Business Administration, a Master’s Degree in Guidance and Counseling, a Master’s Degree in Educational Administration, all from Jackson State University, from which he was a Phi Kappa Phi Graduate and graduated with distinction and honor. He holds a Doctorate of Divinity Degree and has completed all but the dissertation at Nova Southeastern University to earn a doctorate in Higher Education Administration. Holmes, is a state certified school administrator. Under his administrative leadership, the Yazoo City Alternative Learning Center was bestowed the Exemplary Practices Award for Standards of Quality during 2012.  Currently, Holmes, serves as an educational consultant for Jackson State University’s “Call Me M.I.S.T.E.R. Program. The mission of the Call Me MISTER (acronym for Mentors Instructing Students Toward Effective Role Models) Initiative is to increase the pool of available African American male teachers to teach among the State’s lowest performing elementary schools. He also provides guidance, meaningful activities and teachable moments to all participants.  He also facilitates – the “S.T.A.R.S. Program”  – empowering single mothers to provide equitable outcomes for their sons through school readiness, early literacy, and positive self-concept activities (Sistas Teacher and Raising Sons)

Prior to joining the district, Holmes held other administrative posts including assistant vice president for academic affairs, associate professor of education, assistant principal, counselor/chief advisor, and teacher. He has been in the field of education for over 28 years, has published numerous articles regarding alternative education and was recognized for his collaboration with the Mississippi Consortium for International Development (MCID) for co-publishing a “Pre-service “C” Curriculum Certification” for the Liberia Teacher Trainers College, with Dr. Corinne Anderson, which was funded by the U.S. International Development Department.  He has served as a national speaker at many conferences. John has been trained as a trainer of school administrators by the Mississippi Department of Education, has conducted various leadership and effective communication workshops, alternative education, and is available to conduct professional development in other educational areas as well. In addition, he is a member of the Mississippi Association of School Administrators, the Alliance of Educators, 100 Black Men, where he served as education coordinator, and a former board member of Bethany Christian Adoption Services. For many years, he has served as an adjunct professor.

Presently, resides in Clinton, MS, and has been married to his college “sweetheart” Carolyn Fairley for 35 years. They have two children, Melody and John Jr.

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Denise RileyDenise Riley, M.S.
Board Member
Denise Riley is an educational consultant for Educational Teaching Connections. She retired in 2011 from her position as the Assistant Director of the Oklahoma Technical Assistance Center (OTAC) in Cushing, Oklahoma. She has been in education since 1965 and employed with OTAC specifically since 1989 where she provided technical assistance and evaluation for the alternative education programs in the state of Oklahoma. Prior to 1989 she was an elementary education teacher, developer and coordinator of the gifted and talented programs for Okemah school district, and she developed outdoor classrooms in six districts in Oklahoma that received state and national recognition.  She also served on the Alternative Education Advisory Board for the Oklahoma State Department of Education, The Okemah School Foundation, and the Oklahoma School of Math and Science. Denise has made numerous presentations in Oklahoma, Tennessee, and Arkansas as well many national conferences. Some of the topics have included: Alternative Education: Do It the Right Way,  Designing Alternative Education and Evaluation That Works, It’s a Wide Ride: Creating State-Wide Support for Alternative Education, Collaborative Teacher Evaluations, and Common Core State Standards.

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Amy Schlessman, PhD
Board Member

Amy Schlessman, PhD, has dedicated her professional and personal life to education and human services.  Dr. Schlessman’s interests include the development of creative and innovative intelligence in learners of all ages from diverse cultural backgrounds and socio-economic levels.  Fortune 500 companies, as well as not-for-profit organizations including schools and community collaboratives, have benefited from her contributions to their programs.  Her publications and presentations illustrate a range of contributions from theory to practice.

Amy’s recent research, policy analysis, and advocacy focus on education for overaged and under-credited youth.

Amy has worked relentlessly during the past decade in the Rose Operating System for Education®, a leading alternative education system in Arizona that effectively serves overaged and under-credited students.  She led the alternative education campuses in Arizona in founding the Arizona Alternative Education Consortium, a U.S.  Affiliate of the National Alternative Education Association.

Dr. Schlessman’s peers have elected her to leadership positions internationally, nationally, and at the state level.  She has served as President of an international education association, Teachers of English to Speakers of Other Languages (TESOL); Chair of Research and Evaluation with the American Educational Research Association; and founding, 2010 – 2014, plus currently, 2017, President, Arizona Alternative Education Consortium.

Amy loves her circle of family and friends, who represent the diversity – ethnicity, socio-economic level, life circumstances, age, religion, sexual orientation, and whatever label you can imagine –  that makes us powerful. Our strength is shared differences.  Amy firmly believes that each of us make democracy stronger.

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Richard Thompson2

Richard Kerry Thompson
Board Member

Richard Kerry Thompson currently serves as the Dean of Students for the Swartz Creek Academy, an alternative education program in Swartz Creek, Michigan. A charismatic and visionary leader, he has pioneered the use of the Michigan Seat-Time Waiver, online learning platform and technology to help students advance in their education and achieve high school graduation. Richard utilizes a holistic approach to student development and strives to provide an array of opportunities for students to advance academically, prepare for career success and excel as leaders and community servants.  He has consulted with school districts and administrators nationwide and shares his expertise as a member of the Michigan Board  and National Alternative Education Association (NAEA). In October 2016, Richard was honored with the Resilience in Action Award from the WhyTry Program (founded by renowned social justice advocate and author Christian Moore).

Giving back is something inherent to Richard. In addition to readily imparting his knowledge and serving his profession, he is committed to helping his surrounding community. A pure Irish tenor, he shares his talent as a member of the Flint Male Chorus and the duet Brother2Brother, with whom he works to regularly honor military veterans and raise both attention and financial support for a variety of community efforts. A proud father of six children, Richard strives to teach both them and the students he leads to think beyond themselves and embrace the words of Nelson Mandela:  “What counts in life is not the mere fact that we have lived. It is what difference we have made to the lives of others that will determine the significance in the life we lead.”

Please find below a link to RKT’s digital portfolio –





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