Wendy Swanson Choi currently serves as the full-time Executive Director. Wendy's depth of experience ranges from board and school administration to school and education program development. Prior to working for NEO, Wendy served as a School Improvement Specialist for Minneapolis Public Schools. She also provided school start-up leadership for Venture Academy, a blended-learning charter school in Minneapolis, and served as a Venture Academy board director for four years. She has also served as Interim Executive Director and board member at Nova Classical Academy, providing leadership for the high-school program and site expansion, and as an instructional leader and leadership coach in high-performing charter schools.
Tu Nguyen serves as our primary Systems Analyst responsible for ensuring that NEO most effectively and efficiently implements systems and procedures including data analysis and school performance monitoring, school document review, and use of technology. Tu has previously worked in a charter school as a Special Education teacher, case manager, and educational assistant, and has his Masters Degree in Special Education. He also brings experience to the team in teaching through distance learning.
Adam Myhand serves as our second Systems Analyst responsible for ensuring that NEO most effectively and efficiently implements systems and procedures including information flow, board observations, new school readiness to open, and school site visits. Adam has also previously worked at a charter school as a Special Education educational assistant.
To assist in effectively and efficiently monitoring the progress of each new school, the Executive Director coordinates and oversees the work of the NEO Advisors comprised of experts in charter school and student performance, charter school operations and finance, and charter school governance.
The Executive Director, the Administrative Assistant, and the NEO Advisors monitor and document progress with the pre-operational and operational indicators and the school and student performance indicators as outlined in the authorizer-school contract. NEO contracts for specialized work with NEO Advisors and budgets annually for their work by July each year. As charter authorization volume increases, additional Advisors with expertise in the areas of oversight and technical expertise are added based on the school and authorizer needs.
Dr. Charles Speiker serves as an expert in education finance, facility, and management as well as governance. Dr. Speiker, a former Superintendent, retired from the MDE where he oversaw the work of the MDE Finance Department for many years. He has worked and continues to work extensively with authorizers in Minnesota to improve the quality of feedback that schools receive regarding charter school and student performance, operations and finance, and governance. He is widely recognized for his leadership in developing and implementing the MN School Finance Award that provided a set of measureable financial standards for public schools to utilize in progress monitoring to improve fiscal health.
Dr. Daniel Jett serves as an expert in educational leadership and governance having received his PhD from the University of Maryland in Educational Planning, Policy, and Administration. His dissertation title is "Teachers' Knowledge About and Attitudes Toward a Performance Assessment, The Maryland Writing Test". He has a MS in Education Administration and Supervision and a BS in Secondary Education. Dr. Jett holds a MN Superintendent license.
Dr. Jean Neuman serves as an expert in academic and organizational oversight and evaluation. Dr. Neuman served as a teacher and coach in St. Paul Public Schools for ten years, a middle school principal and a high school principal in Anoka Public Schools for five years, and a principal in Minneapolis Public Schools for more than twenty years. Dr. Neuman has led, designed, developed and restored innovative elementary school programs including Windom Spanish Immersion and Seward Montessori and high school programs including Broadway High School. Her PhD is in Education Administration: Preparation of the Urban Principal.
Dr. Willie Jackson serves as an expert in the areas of early learning programs and education program development and evaluation as well as mediation. She has her Ed D. in Education Policy and Administration specializing in Curriculum Design and Industrial Relations and MS in Education and Counseling. She is a licensed District Superintendent, School Business Officer, Director of Special Education, Elementary and Secondary School Principal, and Elementary Education Teacher specializing in Specific Learning Disabilities. She is certified as a Mediator under MN Rule 114, a hybrid civil mediator and as a National Principal Mentor and Parent Consultant.
Anita Dualeh serves as an expert in the areas of charter school governance and operations and charter school and student performance, having worked at the Minnesota Department of Education providing oversight and managing the development and implementation of the performance assessments for English learners. Anita has her Masters Degree in Teaching ESL.
Rod Haenke serves as an expert in all areas of charter school oversight, having served over the past twenty years as a teacher, principal, instructional leader, academic coach, author, educational technology developer and professional development and technical assistance service provider to school leaders and teachers across the nation. Rod has his Masters Degree in Curriculum and Instruction.
Jennifer Borgeson serves as an expert in technology, academic, and organizational oversight and evaluation. Jennifer served as a testing coordinator and administrative intern at Park Center IB World School in Brooklyn Park, Assistant Principal at Connections Academy in St. Paul, Instructional Leader and Data Coach at Broadway High School in Minneapolis, and Staff Development, Assessment, Media, and Technology Specialist in Osseo Public Schools. Her Master of Science is in Information and Media and Technology. She is licensed in Minnesota as Principal, Library Media Specialist, and Elementary Teacher and has National Certification for Online and Blended Teachers.
Maria Nezami serves as an expert in charter school governance and education programming. She has served on the founding team of a successful charter school and worked in a Special Education Department with children on the autism spectrum, providing teaching assistance and student supervision along with administrative support in classroom discipline and control, physical classroom maintenance, student management, directing of independent study, interlingual rendition, interpretation, parent-teacher conference management, administering examinations, and providing one-to-one tutoring.
Review start-up charter school applications for approval or rejection by the Board of NEO
Review existing charter school applications for change of authorizer
Monitor the activities of authorized schools
Review the annual reports of authorized schools
Recommend technical assistance to authorized schools
Review authorized charter schools for renewal of contracts
Conduct or arrange for formal reviews of authorized schools
Attend authorized charter schools’ board meetings
Monitor finances of authorized charter schools
Remain current with charter school procedures and related statutes
Board Of Directors
Dr. Salman Mitha (Board Chair)
Dr. Salman Mitha is a scientist and an entrepreneur. He has experience in launching startup companies, managing small organizations and raising money. He worked in Silicon Valley with people from all over the globe and saw the necessity of a good education in today’s world. Dr. Mitha is passionate about ensuring that all of Minnesota’s children have access to excellent schools. He holds a B.S. in Physics from Caltech and a Ph.D. in Applied Physics from Harvard University.
Dr. Ann Mabbott
In 2018 Dr. Mabbott was announced an English Language Specialist by the U.S. Department of State and continues to share her expertise around the globe during her retirement.
Before retiring and being named emeritus in August, Mabbott was an accomplished Professor within Hamline’s School of Education for over two decades. In addition to securing the ELM grant, she was the Director of the Center for Second Language Teaching and Learning from 1996-2009, and was invited to speak nationally and internationally as an expert in how to teach English as a second language.
Magdy Rabeaa is a charter school director with expertise in academic performance and school management. He has worked with English Language programs, special education, and district-level assessment and testing programs. Having served for many years as an administrator in high-performing charter schools, Magdy brings much relevant expertise to the NEO board. He holds a Master in education from Hamline University, and he has served on two other charter school boards, prior to joining NEO.
Dr. Nabeel Syed
Dr. Nabeel Syed has his Doctor of Pharmacy from the University of Minnesota. He provides experience and expertise to NEO in organizational management and regulatory compliance. He spent nine years overseeing and managing radiopharmaceutical production and ensuring compliance with all regulatory agencies and three years overseeing peritoneal dialysis products distribution to home healthcare patients. He is currently responsible for manufacturing of high energy radioisotopes, radiochemistry, quality control and commercial distribution of diagnostic products.
Wafa is a pediatric dentist. Her main focus is on educating children and their families, especially those who are marginalized by mainstream care, how to improve and maintain their oral health. She has served as the President of Minnesota Association of Pediatric Dentistry. She provides experience and expertise to NEO in organizational management, oversight and regulatory compliance.