Pamela Bruening, Ed.D., GA
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 vista 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.
Kathleen Chronister, Utah
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.
Pat Conner, M.Ed.,TN
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.
Dr. Ja’Net Bishop, Ed.D., CPEC SC
Dr. Bishop is an experienced certified School Principal in both a high school and alternative school settings, certified K-12 School Counselor, a Veteran (Army officer), and the CEO and Transition Strategist/Coach in her company, Have Joy LLC.
A native of New York City, she is a former enlisted soldier who later became an Army Reserves and National Guard officer (Captain), having served during Operation Desert Storm. She is a proud Veteran, military spouse, and mother of two adult sons – whom are also veterans.
Dr. Ja’net Bishop presents frequently at national, state, and local conferences on manifesting more joy and living your best life. She works to inspire military females, women’s groups, retreats, churches, community organizations, and social service agencies to enjoy their journey in life while striving for success.
Her life has been one of service and many transitions, which audiences have been able to relate to. Growing up in New York’s housing projects the oldest of 3 children – she was inspired to pursue more and leave the inner city behind her. She was the first female in her family to join the military, to start her own business, and to ultimately achieve a doctorate degree from Georgia Southern University.
Under her leadership, her alternative school has been recognized by the National Alternative Education Association (2013, 2014, and 2015) and the Georgia Association of Alternative Education (2015).
She was recognized in 2017, during Women’s History Month, at the International Heritage Festival by the McCormick, South Carolina Chamber of Commerce, as a “Keeper of the Flame.”
She has also distinguished herself as an adjunct professor at Cambridge College. Her community advocacy has served families in the areas of parenting, substance abuse awareness, child abuse prevention, and juvenile court intervention groups.
As CEO of HAVE JOY LLC launched in 2014, a Training and Personal Development practice, she also launched in 2017 – “Boots to Breakthrough” – a program through Have Joy LLC which empowers military-connected women to transition from military service to civilian success and fulfill their dreams to live their best life. Additionally, she trains leaders in the areas of 7-Dimensions of Wellness and Workplace Resiliency: Managing Stress and Burnout.
Dr. Bishop volunteers on several national, state, and local boards which addresses leadership development. She is an alumni of the Metro Augusta Chamber of Commerce – Leadership Augusta GA.
Now living in Summerville SC, she serves as a Commissioner on Mayor (Charleston, SC) John Tecklenberg’s Commission for Homelessness and Affordable Housing.
She is the author of How Much Joy Is In Your Journey?
A Creative Guide to Your Fearless Vision. She and her late husband William are the proud parents of two sons, William II and Matthew, whom she considers to be the true blessed accomplishments of her life!
Kay Davenport, Ed.S., TN
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.
Mr. Justin DeMartin, is the director of exceptional education at Erie 1 BOCES in Western New York. As part of his supervisory duties he oversees all alternative education, special education, and home/hospital instruction for over 600 students and 200 staff members. Mr. DeMartin has always had a passion for working with at-risk and special education students, and ensuring that everyone has a voice. Mr. DeMartin has served as a teacher of special education and social studies education. He has been an assistant principal of alternative education, a principal of alternative education, associate director of special education and now serves as director.
Mr. DeMartin is a graduate of Buffalo State College, and has received two Masters of Science in Education from Niagara University. Mr. DeMartin is currently pursuing his doctorate in educational leadership and management from Capella University with an action research professional curriculum project focused on the improvement of professional development practices for alternative education faculty and staff.
Mr. DeMartin also serves as a board member for the NY44 health trust, an advisory member of the Western New York Autism Coalition, he is the founding member of the Statewide BOCES Directors of Special Education biannual meeting, and serves on a variety of school district committees.
In addition to Mr. DeMartin’s work in alternative and special education he enjoys spending time with his husband Danny and their twins Parker and Emma. He also loves traveling with his family and spending as much time as possible outdoors in the beautiful Buffalo winters and gorgeous summers.
Edward Lowther, Ed.D., VA
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.
Michael Hylen, PhD
Dr. Hylen currently serves as the Dean of the School of Education at Asbury University. Prior to coming to Asbury, he enjoyed a career as a public and private school educator that spanned over 25 years. During that time he served as a high school math teacher and principal. His most extensive work was as an alternative high school principal for students with emotional disorders and behavior problems. Under his leadership, one of his schools became the first alternative school to be recognized by the National Association for At-Risk Education Network at the silver level.
He worked in both the inner city of St. Louis and in the surrounding counties. He has an earned Ph.D. from the University of Missouri – St. Louis with a specific emphasis on At-Risk Students and Character Education. He has co-authored articles and books that emphasize understanding at-risk students and include strategies for helping problem behavior students understand emotions and their relationship to behaviors.
Wanda Smith West is a dynamic keynote motivational speaker, who has spent most of her years in education working with the under-served and gifted populations. Her experiences and presentations solidify her work and experiences as a retired/former superintendent and educator. Dr. West has served as a classroom teacher, adjunct instructor, curriculum director, director of staff development, certified leadership/teacher coach with Georgia’s Leadership Institute). She has provided school improvement workshops for district, school, leadership and teacher development needs. West has served as keynote speaker presenter and/or consultant for The Georgia Staff Development, Title One, School Improvement, Alternative Education, Turn Around Schools. Communities In Schools; school districts, universities, colleges, businesses, governmental, organizational and community partners. Today, she serves as the Special Program Manager for the Adult Education Division of Central Georgia Technical College (a division of the Technical College System of Georgia). Dr. West develops and leads adult education initiatives to get young people off the streets and re-enrolled in school, while promoting a Georgia’s Certified Literacy Community Partnership Connections to support students who need to complete the GED, job connections , life skills, accelerated opportunities for engaging in their preferred Career and College Pathways.
Her award-winning career and continued success, as a passionate practitioner, has provided an integrated and unique platform that compliments and promotes the future work of drop-out prevention, with a focus on the needs of the students and the total community. West’s work in rural, urban and suburban counties has provided the implementation of a myriad of strategies designed to unify efforts around existing systemic organizational conduits, connections, and collaboratives. West’s work brings educational systems, businesses, governmental, and community/grass root leaders to the table to re-think and re-evaluate what is done to encourage students to return to school, address the needs, provide wrap around services through relevant partnership networks to include and connect with the grass root needs. Dr. West shares the partnership models and grass roots solutions at all levels. The model reflects and promotes a leadership grass root discussions and connections with and among city and county government officials, chamber groups, key leaders inclusive of school districts, social service agencies, businesses (public and private sector) , other educational agency representatives from every zone of each community.
Over the years, Dr. West has made presentations to School Districts, Colleges, Universities, educational organizations, businesses, community groups at all levels (National, State, Local). She has provided services to reflect the relevance of rethinking “what we do to address the 21st Century needs and services” of all descriptions of traditional students, leaders, and community organizations serving pre-natal through life-long adult lea learning.
Dr. West is a graduate of Morris Brown College, (B.S) Atlanta, Georgia; Mercer University (M.S.)-Macon, Georgia. University of Georgia(Ed. S), Athens, Georgia; South Carolina State University(Ed.D); Georgia’s Professional Development Institute for Superintendents; and most recently, certified with the John Maxwell International Team. Dr. West’s work has been honored/recognized by the Georgia House of Representa-tives; Governors: Zell Miller, Roy Barnes and Sonny Purdue and various educational, governmental, service organizations, colleges and universities
Coby Davis, AR
Dr. Coby Davis currently serves as the assistant principal for Archer Learning Center, the sole alternative high school within the Springdale Arkansas School District, one of the largest districts in the state. He is a proven leader in education and a passionate and engaging educator with global perspective and inter-cultural savvy with demonstrated results in both adult and childhood learning forums.
Dr. Davis began his career nearly 20 years ago as a public school elementary teacher in Williamson County School district in Middle Tennessee. He later transitioned into higher education where he spent 9 years at Lipscomb University in Nashville before returning to public school as a middle school math teacher in the Springdale School District. Having taught in a traditional elementary and middle school setting, led in a teacher education program at the college level, and operated as a behavior interventionist in an alternative education setting has allowed Dr. Davis the opportunity to build his expertise in providing public school teachers with tools, experiences and confidence to support advancements and adoption of 21st century learning techniques and technologies.
Dr. Davis is community-focused and participates in several professional activities. He currently serves on the board of directors for the Northwest Arkansas NAACP chapter as the vice-president. Previously, Dr. Davis served as the Middle Tennessee Representative and Treasurer of TACTE (Tennessee Association of Colleges of Teacher Education), and he served on an accreditation review team. He routinely presents at various national conferences and has been requested to speak at numerous education workshops. Dr. Davis has served as a mentor for a struggling school and has worked with schools located in the Bronx, in South Dakota on the Pine Ridge Reservation, and in Nigeria.
Dr. Davis earned his bachelor’s degree in Education from Freed-Hardeman University in Henderson, Tenn., his M.Ed. in Administration and Supervision from Tennessee State University in Nashville, Tenn., and his Ed.D in Leadership and Professional Practice from Trevecca Nazarene University in Nashville.
Sean Hollas, KS
Sean Hollas is the principal of Goddard Academy, an alternative high school in Goddard, Kansas, and Lakeside Academy, a school located in a child in need of care facility in his district. He also oversees the district’s virtual school.
Mr. Hollas grew up in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, and after high school, enlisted in the U.S. Army to be a diesel mechanic. After serving for nine years as a mechanic, motor sergeant, and recruiter, Sean left the Army and settled in Kansas, where he attended Newman University to become a history teacher and eventually earned a master’s degree in educational administration.
Sean considers himself fortunate to have spent his entire educational career in the Goddard school district. During his years in education, Sean has served as a social studies and computer science teacher and coached track and football. Following his time as a classroom teacher, he served as an assistant principal/athletic director and became the Goddard Academy principal in January of 2013.
Sean has been married to his wife Danielle for 32 years. Danielle began her career as a math teacher and was also an assistant principal, principal, and assistant superintendent in a neighboring district. She currently works at Wichita State University as an advisor. Together they have two daughters who have both gone into what they call the “Family Business,” teaching. Katie is an English teacher and Michelle is a fourth-grade teacher.
In his spare time, Sean enjoys working on cars and follows the Pittsburgh Steelers, Pirates, and Penguins. As empty nesters, he and Danielle plan to start traveling during the summers.
John E. Holmes, D.Min., M.Ed., MS
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.
Valinda (Val) Jones has worked in public education serving students and families K-12 for 28 years. After earning her BA in Applied Psychology from Eastern Washington University Val began her career in Southern California working as a substance abuse therapist at a 90-day adolescent in-patient program. Recognizing that true prevention lies in education, Val moved back to her home state of Washington and began her career in Franklin Pierce School District, her alma mater. Val has held various positions in the district, and supported K-12 education through initiating systems of response. Upon receiving her master’s degree in educational leadership from the University of Puget Sound, Val was invited to become the Assistant Director of Guidance and Counseling. Shortly thereafter, Val was promoted to Director of Alternative Education and Principal of GATES Alternative High School. As a highly diverse, low-income school, GATES requires the absolute best in leadership and administration, and Val readily acknowledges that GATES’ recent growth and success is equally attributable to the caring and highly-skilled GATES team.
Val has devoted her entire career to serving the disenfranchised and building an institutional, community response to meet the needs of students and families who experience non-academic barriers to academic success. In 2001, Val co-founded the non-profit organization Franklin Pierce Youth First Community Coalition, which still serves as the only local coalition for the students of Franklin Pierce.
Coming from a background of personal trauma, Val is most proud of her family. Val has been happily married to her husband Jeff for over three decades. Together, they are both very proud of their son Ryan, who works an attorney in Port Orchard, Washington, and their daughter Lindsay who is a first-grade teacher. Val and her husband have recently discovered the joys of cycling and traveling abroad European countries. Val and her family also enjoy taking local trips around the beautiful Pacific Northwest, as well as reading, cooking, and hiking. If you are ever looking for a good book to read, Val always has her list of recent reads available to share!
Richard K. Thompson, M.Ed., MI
Technology & Branding
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 – https://www.smore.com/4q9j3
Frances Gooden, MO
Advocacy & Research
For the past 12 years, Dr. Frances Gooden has been serving as the director of Finley River School with the Ozark, MO school district. She and her staff have worked hard to successfully change the school from a program where students are “sent” to a program where students request to attend. The graduation rate increased from an average of 3 students per year to over 20 annually. The school has become well known in the community by working with other schools and agencies throughout Ozark. Other responsibilities within the district include working with at-risk program initiatives including PBIS and RtI. She developed the Community Action Team as a collaborative partnership among public and private agencies to support children and families in the community. Prior to working in Ozark, Frances was a special education teacher in Bay Point, CA and Springfield, MO for a total of 9 years before spending 4 years in Springfield as the director of at-risk programs at Parkview High School.
Dr. Gooden received her Ed.D. in educational leadership from St. Louis University with a dissertation studying best practices in alternative education. She also received an Ed.S in Ed. Leadership, M.A. in Special Education, and B.S. in Psychology. As an adjunct professor for Lindenwood University, Frances teaches classes in behavior management at the Master’s level. She has served on the Missouri Alternative Education Network as the board president for the past two years and the advocacy chairperson the previous two years.
Frances and her husband live on 20 acres outside Fordland, MO with their 3 dogs and numerous cats. Her spare time is spent either running or reading. She has 2 wonderful grown children and 3 brilliant grandsons.