School Board Training Speakers

School Board Training Speakers

William “Jeff” Booker, EdD
Chief Operating Officer, Gaston College

Former Superintendent, Gaston County Schools, Gastonia, North Carolina

Dr. Jeff Booker currently serves as the Chief Operating Officer of Gaston College in Gastonia, North Carolina. He previously served as Superintendent of Schools for Gaston County, North Carolina from 2014-2023. Booker was responsible for the overall operation of the school system, which includes 56 schools, approximately 30,000 students, and more than 3,800 full- and part-time employees. He joined the school system in 2009 as the Deputy Superintendent of Operations, where he served in an executive leadership role and was the senior administrator for business/finance, technology, facilities and maintenance, bus transportation, and school nutrition.

During his time as Superintendent of Schools, Booker focused on ways to improve student achievement, provide more technology for the classroom, support employees through professional development, expand school choice and Career and Technical Education programs, increase communication with parents and the community, and enhance school safety. He was named the Southwest Region Superintendent of the Year for 2016-2017 and 2022-2023.

A graduate of the University of Virginia’s McIntire School of Commerce, Booker has a concentration in finance and additional coursework in management and leadership. He obtained a master’s degree and a doctorate degree in education from Gardner-Webb University.

Dr. Cade Brumley, EdD
Superintendent, Louisiana Department of Education

Dr. Cade Brumley is a product of Louisiana schools who has invested his career into improving the lives of students and moving his state forward. Dr. Brumley has served Louisiana as a teacher, coach, school leader, and school system leader. He was appointed Louisiana State Superintendent in May 2020 during the height of the global pandemic. Under his bold leadership, Louisiana has safely reopened schools, accelerated academic recovery, launched a reading revival, and expanded educational freedom.

As State Superintendent of Education, Dr. Brumley has:

  • Earned most significant year-over-year increase on state assessments since 2016, as students increased three points in both ELA and math and Louisiana returned to its pre-pandemic School Performance Score
  • Developed the “Fast Forward” initiative, shifting the high school experience by allowing students to graduate high school while simultaneously earning career credentials, a full apprenticeship, an associates degree, or a coherent set of courses leading to a four-year degree
  • Overhauled K-12 Student Standards for Social Studies around a Freedom Framework that represents the majesty of country, while recognizing the quest to become a more perfect union
  • Expanded school choice options for parents by growing the charter school portfolio as well as supporting increased funding for the Louisiana Scholarship Program

Prior to joining the Louisiana Department of Education, Dr. Brumley served as Superintendent of Jefferson Parish Schools—the largest school system in the state with more than 51,000 students—and DeSoto Parish Schools.

Dr. Brumley holds a Bachelors of Science in Education from Northwestern State University, a Master of Education in School Administration from Louisiana State University - Shreveport, and a Doctorate of Education in School Leadership from Stephen F. Austin State University in Texas.

Steven Bucci, PhD
Visiting Fellow, Phillip N. Truluck Center for Leadership Development, The Heritage Foundation

Born and raised in New York, Steven Bucci attended the U.S. Military Academy at West Point and graduated in 1977 with a bachelor’s degree in National Security. He is a retired Army Special Forces Colonel with extensive command and staff experience across 28 years of service. In his last four years in uniform, he served as the Military Assistant to the Secretary of Defense, Donald Rumsfeld. Bucci also held civilian Pentagon positions as Staff Director of the Immediate Office of the Secretary of Defense and Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Homeland Defense, being responsible for the Department of Defense response to cyber-attacks, domestic terrorism, and pandemics. He now works regularly as a consultant and trainer for school and church safety.

Lindsey Burke, PhD
Director, Center for Education Policy and Mark A. Kolokotrones Fellow in Education, The Heritage Foundation

As Director of the Center for Education Policy at The Heritage Foundation, Lindsey Burke oversees Heritage’s research on issues pertaining to preschool, K-12, and higher education reform. Burke’s research has been presented at academic conferences and published in peer-reviewed journals including Social Science Quarterly, Educational Research and Evaluation, and the Journal of School Choice, and her commentary and op-eds have appeared in numerous magazines and newspapers.

In 2021, Burke was tapped to join Governor-elect Glenn Youngkin’s transition steering committee and landing team for education and was appointed to serve on the Board of Visitors for George Mason University. She also serves as a fellow with EdChoice, the legacy foundation of Milton and Rose Friedman, on the board of the Educational Freedom Institute, and is on the advisory board of the Independent Women’s Forum’s Education Freedom Center.

Burke holds a bachelor's degree in politics from Hollins University, a Master of Teaching degree from the University of Virginia, and a PhD in education policy from George Mason University.

Jonathan Butcher
Will Skillman Senior Research Fellow in Education Policy, The Heritage Foundation

Jonathan Butcher is the author of Splintered: Critical Race Theory and the Progressive War on Truth (Bombardier Books, April 2022). He co-edited and wrote chapters in The Critical Classroom (The Heritage Foundation, 2022), discussing the racial prejudice that comes from the application of critical race theory in K-12 schools.

In 2021, South Carolina Gov. Henry McMaster nominated Jonathan to serve on the board of the South Carolina Public Charter School District, a statewide charter school authorizer. He has researched and testified on education policy around the U.S. In 2018, the Federal Commission on School Safety cited comments from his testimony in the commission’s final report. 

Jonathan co-edited and wrote chapters in the book The Not-So-Great Society, which provides conservative solutions to the problems created by the ever-expanding federal footprint in preschool, K-12, and higher education.

He previously served as the education director at the Goldwater Institute, where he remains a senior fellow. He is also a Senior Fellow with The Beacon Center of Tennessee, a nonpartisan research organization, and a contributing scholar for the Georgia Center for Opportunity. Prior to joining Goldwater, Jonathan was the director of accountability for the South Carolina Public Charter School District.

Jenny Clark
Founder & CEO, Love Your School

Member, Arizona State Board of Education

Jenny Clark received a BSBA in Business Economics from the University of Arizona and holds a Master of Divinity from Southern Seminary. She was appointed by former Arizona Governor Doug Ducey to the Arizona State Board of Education in January 2022. She is a member of the Conservative Education Reform Network, a 50CAN fellow, and a Club for Growth Fellow.

She utilizes a variety of schooling options for her five kids. That’s what inspired her to launch Love Your School in 2019. She wants to create an avenue for families to get the direct parent support they need navigating their school options, requesting evaluations, and accessing scholarship programs like ESAs.

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Max Eden
Research Fellow, American Enterprise Institute

Max Eden is a research fellow at the American Enterprise Institute (AEI), where he focuses on education reform, specifically K–12 and early childhood education. Before rejoining AEI, he was a senior fellow at the Manhattan Institute.

In addition to a number of reports and studies on education, Mr. Eden is the coauthor of the Wall Street Journal and USA Today bestseller Why Meadow Died: The People and Policies That Created the Parkland Shooter and Endanger America’s Students (Post Hill Press, 2019). He is also the coeditor, with Frederick Hess, of The Every Student Succeeds Act: What It Means for Schools, Systems, and States (Harvard Education Press, 2017).

Mr. Eden has testified about school violence before Congress and about the “school-to-prison pipeline” before the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights. He has been published in policy journals and the popular press, including in City Journal, Claremont Review of Books, National Review, New York Daily News, New York Post, The Baltimore Sun, The Hill, The Philadelphia Inquirer, The Washington Post, and USA Today.

He has a BA in history from Yale University.

William A. Estrada
President, and Parental Rights Foundation 

William A. Estrada is a husband, dad, attorney, and the President of and the Parental Rights Foundation, two nationwide nonprofits headquartered in Loudoun County, Virginia that have advocated at the local, state, and federal level for the last fifteen years to protect children by empowering parents. 

Kara Frederick
Director, Tech Policy Center, The Heritage Foundation

Kara Frederick is Director of the Tech Policy Center at The Heritage Foundation. Her research focuses on “Big Tech” and emerging technology policy.

Prior to joining Heritage, she was a fellow for the Technology & National Security Program at the Center for a New American Security (CNAS), where she concentrated on high-tech illiberalism, data privacy, and digital surveillance.

Before CNAS, Kara helped create and lead Facebook’s Global Security Counterterrorism Analysis Program. She was also the Team Lead for Facebook Headquarters’ Regional Intelligence Team in Menlo Park, California. Prior to Facebook, she was a Senior Intelligence Analyst for a U.S. Naval Special Warfare Command and spent six years as a Counterterrorism Analyst at the Department of Defense.

She is a regular guest on Fox News and Fox Business and has been interviewed on CBS’s 60 Minutes, CNBC, C-SPAN, NPR, BBC, Voice of America, and other national and international programs. She has been published in The Wall Street Journal, Foreign Affairs, Foreign Policy, War on the Rocks, Manhattan Institute’s City Journal, and C4ISRNet.

She received her Master of Arts degree in War Studies from King’s College London and her bachelor's degree in Foreign Affairs and History from the University of Virginia.

Mike Gonzalez
Angeles T. Arredondo E Pluribus Unum Senior Fellow, The Heritage Foundation

Mike Gonzalez writes on critical race theory, identity politics, diversity, multiculturalism, assimilation and nationalism, as well as foreign policy in general. He spent close to 20 years as a journalist, 15 of them reporting from Europe, Asia, and Latin America. He left journalism to join the administration of President George W. Bush, where he was speechwriter for Securities and Exchange Commission Chairman Christopher Cox before moving on to the State Department’s European Bureau.

Gonzalez is a widely experienced writer and public speaker. He has written for National Affairs, The American Interest, Foreign Policy, The Claremont Review of Books, City Journal, Quillette, The Wall Street Journal, The Washington Post,, The Hill,, USA Today, The Guardian, The National Interest, The Daily Signal, National Review and others. Gonzalez has appeared on Fox, MSNBC, PBS, the BBC, CNBC, NPR, C-SPAN, The Voice of America, Television Española, Canal Plus, as well as many other networks and stations in the United States, Europe, Asia and Latin America.

He went to work for Agence France-Presse in 1987, reporting from around the globe for the news agency for six years. He logged 11 years with The Wall Street Journal, writing a column on the stock market in New York before being posted to Hong Kong in 1995 as Deputy Editor of the editorial pages of the newspaper’s Asia edition. Between 1998 and 2003, he served in the same capacity for the European edition in Brussels, before returning to Hong Kong as chief editorial page editor.

Gonzalez holds a bachelor’s degree in Communications from Boston’s Emerson College, and a master's degree in Business Administration from Columbia Business School.

Katherine Haley
Vice President, Arizona State Board of Education

Founder and Partner, Oak Rose Group

Katherine Haley has more than 20 years of experience in public policy and philanthropy. Over the course of her career, she has established extensive networks across the country and expanded education opportunity, built coalitions to advance policies that improve school choice and workforce readiness, and mobilized resources to strengthen civil society.

Before founding Oak Rose Group, Katherine served as the vice president of programs and senior director of K-12 programs at the Philanthropy Roundtable. She also spent 13 years working for members of Congress to advance policies that lead to human flourishing, including seven years advising former Speaker John Boehner on education, workforce, antipoverty, and global health issues.

Katherine currently serves as vice president of Arizona’s State Board of Education and on the boards of 50CAN, Love Your School, and The Trinity Forum, is a member of AEI’s Leadership Network and Conservative Education Reform Network, and is currently a Pahara Fellow.

tiffany justice
Tiffany Justice
Co-Founder, Moms for Liberty

Tiffany is a wife and mom of four school-aged children. In 2016, she stepped up to serve for 4 years on the School District of Indian River County, FL School Board. She believes that kids in public school deserve innovation and parents have the right to know the union interference and government bureaucracy that is keeping that innovation from happening in their children's district.

Emilie Kao
Vice President and Senior Counsel, Alliance Defending Freedom

Emilie Kao is a national authority on religious freedom, which she has defended for almost two decades. She joined the Alliance Defending Freedom as vice president and senior counsel, where she focuses on protecting life, speech, parental rights and religious freedom for all. Previously, she served as the director of the DeVos Center, leading Heritage’s policy work on life, cultural issues, and religious freedom.

Kao has worked on behalf of victims of religious freedom violations in East Asia, the Middle East, Europe and South Asia at the State Department’s Office of International Religious Freedom as well as at Becket Law. Before that, she worked at the United Nations and Latham and Watkins. Kao also taught international human rights law at George Mason University Law School as an adjunct law professor.

Chris Neeley
Superintendent, South Carolina Public Charter School District

Chris G. Neeley is the Superintendent of the South Carolina Public Charter School District where he leads a network of 38 unique public charter schools with an enrollment of more than 17,000 students across the state of South Carolina. Chris is a former charter school leader at the Meyer Center, a special charter school that specializes in therapies and educational programs for primary age students with disabilities. He is a former Presidential Appointee and Chairman of the President's Committee for People with Intellectual Disabilities (PCPID) from 2018-2021, where he advocated for expanded freedoms and the full integration of people with disabilities in the workplace, schools, and communities. He previously served as a Gubernatorial Appointee for South Carolina Governor Henry McMaster as Commissioner of the South Carolina Department of Disability and Special Needs (DDSN) where he advocated for the removal of red tape and bureaucratic processes and regulations that hampered people with disabilities’ easy access to services and supports to meet their needs.

Chris is the former founding Director of Americans for Prosperity in North Carolina, a member of the State Policy Network (SPN), a public affairs director for two Fortune 500 companies, and entrepreneurial founder of the American company, Made in USA Works! He is a veteran of the United States Navy and the United States Army and is a recipient of the Bronze Star Medal for meritorious service.

Chris holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in Political Science at the University of South Carolina, a Master of Public Administration at Clemson University, and is currently in year two of the Ph.D. in Policy Studies program at Clemson University, where his research interest is expanding school choice options in rural America for special populations.

Sarah Parshall Perry
Senior Legal Fellow, Edwin Meese III Center for Legal and Judicial Studies, The Heritage Foundation

Sarah Parshall Perry is a Senior Legal Fellow in the Edwin Meese III Center for Legal and Judicial Studies at The Heritage Foundation where she focuses on civil rights, constitutional governance, regulatory policy, and the proper role of the courts.

She is former Senior Counsel to the Assistant Secretary for Civil Rights at the U.S. Department of Education where she focused on policy reform, technical guidance, and the Department's annual report to Congress, among others. Prior to that, she served as In-House Counsel and Development Director at a multi-million-dollar advertising agency and began her legal career as an associate in the field of complex civil litigation, focusing on maritime/admiralty, False Claims Act (“Qui Tam”), and Title VII employment discrimination law.

Sarah is a policy consultant and widely published author with publications on topics ranging from law and public policy to education, parenting, disability advocacy, and the arts. She managed education reform initiatives at the Family Research Council and has written widely on the fight against the industrialized education complex. In addition, Sarah served as the regular stand-in host on “Washington Watch,” a nationally syndicated current events radio program heard on 425+ stations nationwide. She is herself a frequent media guest and public speaker on law and policy and has testified multiple times before the U.S. House Judiciary Committee.

Sarah has a law degree from the University of Virginia School of Law. She holds a bachelor's degree in Journalism with honors from Liberty University. Sarah is the mother of three children, and the author of just as many books on the trials and triumphs of parenting children on the autism spectrum.

Ryan Petty
Founder, WalkUp Foundation

Ryan lost his daughter Alaina in the tragic school shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School on Valentine’s Day 2018. Alaina was one of 14 students and 3 teachers killed. Ryan was appointed by Governor Rick Scott to serve on the Marjory Stoneman Douglas Public Safety Commission which investigated the tragedy, and later appointed by Governor Ron DeSantis to the Florida State Board of Education where he currently serves as Vice Chair. Ryan is a board member of Stand With Parkland and is the co-founder, along with his wife Kelly, of The WalkUp Foundation which is actively involved in the public policy arena as advocates for improving school safety, through early identification, and intervention of potential threats.

Stephen G. Reel, PhD
Head of School, Mitchell Road Christian Academy
Managing Member, Graybeal & Associates

Stephen Reel has served for 36 years in Christian school education as a teacher, principal, superintendent, adjunct professor and Interim President for the Association of Christian Schools International (ACSI). He is currently serving as the Head of School for Mitchell Road Christian Academy in Greenville, SC. He is also the managing member of Graybeal & Associates, a Christian school board consulting firm. Prior to his Christian school career, he served two tours of duty in the United States Marine Corps as an infantry sergeant, tactics instructor, marksmanship instructor, and competition shooter.

Dr. Reel holds a Bachelor of Arts in Bible from Columbia Bible College, a Master of Education in educational administration from Columbia International University, and an Educational Specialist and Doctor of Philosophy in educational administration from the University of South Carolina.

Stephen is the author of Clear Focus: Rediscovering the Most Important Aspect of Christian School Ministry (2015) which has also been published in Indonesian, Portuguese, and Spanish.


Jay W. Richards, PhD
Director, Richard and Helen DeVos Center for Life, Religion, and Family, and William E. Simon Senior Research Fellow, The Heritage Foundation

Jay W. Richards, PhD, is Director of the Richard and Helen DeVos Center for Life, Religion, and Family and the William E. Simon Senior Research Fellow in Religious Liberty and Civil Society at The Heritage Foundation. He also is a senior fellow at the Discovery Institute and Executive Editor of The Stream. Richards is author or editor of more than a dozen books, including two New York Times bestsellers, and Money, Greed, and God, winner of a 2010 Templeton Enterprise Award.

Erika Sanzi
Director of Outreach, Parents Defending Education

Erika Sanzi is the Director of Outreach at Parents Defending Education. She is a former educator and elected school board member. Erika currently serves on the advisory boards of the Independent Women's Forum's Education Freedom Center and The Boys Initiative. She is the mother of three teenage sons.

Benjamin Scafidi, PhD
Professor of Economics and Director, Education Economics Center, Kennesaw State University
Friedman Fellow, EdChoice
Senior Fellow, Georgia Public Policy Foundation

Ben Scafidi is a professor of economics and director of the Education Economics Center at Kennesaw State University. He is also a Friedman Fellow with EdChoice, a senior fellow with the Georgia Public Policy Foundation, and was recently appointed by Governor Brian Kemp to serve a second stint on the Georgia Charter Schools Commission. Previously, he served as the Education Policy Advisor to Governor Sonny Perdue and as a staff member to both of Governor Roy Barnes’ Education Reform Study Commissions. He received a BA in Economics from the University of Notre Dame and a PhD in Economics from the University of Virginia.

Penny Schwinn, PhD
Former Commissioner, Tennessee Department of Education
Vice President for PK-12 and Pre-Bachelors Programs, University of Florida

With over two decades of demonstrated success in mobilizing organizational resources in pursuit of strategic priorities, Dr. Penny Schwinn has served as a State Commissioner of Education, a known government and community affairs leader, a national education leader, and a board director. Her professional accomplishments include:

  • Restructuring a $9B Tennessee school finance system, which required 100+ legislative engagements, drafting required statutory changes with bipartisan approval, designing the financial model and implementing the training and professional support structures for all constituents statewide
  • Leading the federal apprentice initiative, nationally recognized and lauded by the First Lady of the United States, the U.S. Secretary of Labor and the U.S. Secretary of Education for redesigning the teacher preparation market, making it free for candidates to become a teacher, while they are paid to do so
  • Designing, launching and implementing the largest and most comprehensive COVID recovery and student acceleration program in the country, covering literacy, mathematics, tutoring, and summer programming
  • Restructuring the $75M+ student assessment and accountability systems in both Texas and Tennessee to maximize performance (99.9% accuracy and efficiency metric) and increasing usership by 1000%

Her work has been featured in numerous national, state, and local publications and media outlets and she has been an invited speaker for two presidential administrations, the U.S. Senate, the U.S. Congress, and for multiple state legislatures and national organizations.

She holds an undergraduate degree from UC Berkeley, a master’s from Johns Hopkins University, and a PhD from Claremont Graduate University.

Matt Sharp
Senior Counsel, Director of Center for Legislative Advocacy, Alliance Defending Freedom

Matt Sharp serves as senior counsel with Alliance Defending Freedom, where he is the director of the Center for Legislative Advocacy and focuses on state and local legislative matters. Since joining ADF in 2010, Sharp has authored federal and state legislation, regularly provides testimony and legal analysis on how proposed legislation will impact constitutional freedoms, and advises governors, legislators, and state and national policy organizations on the importance of laws and policies that protect First Amendment rights. He has testified before the United States Congress on the importance of the Religious Freedom Restoration Act.

Sharp has also worked on important cases advancing religious freedom and free speech. He has won cases upholding the rights of students to form religious clubs, invite classmates to church, and even perform a religious song at a school talent show. He authored an amicus brief to the U.S. Supreme Court on behalf of nearly 9,000 students, parents, and community members asking the Court to uphold students’ right to privacy against government intrusion.

Andy Smarick
Senior Fellow, Manhattan Institute
Former President, Maryland State Board of Education

Andy Smarick is a senior fellow at the Manhattan Institute. His service includes: legislative assistant at the Maryland legislature and U.S. House of Representatives, aide in the White House Domestic Policy Counsel, deputy assistant secretary at the U.S. Department of Education, New Jersey deputy commissioner of education, chair of the Maryland Higher Education Commission, president of the Maryland State Board of Education, and regent of the University System of Maryland. He was a Morgridge Fellow at the American Enterprise Institute and helped found the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools and a college-prep charter school. He has authored or edited four books.

Smarick graduated, summa cum laude and with honors, from the University of Maryland and earned a Master of Public Management from the Maryland School of Public Policy.

Mark Stout, PhD
Head of School, Gaston Christian School
Associate, Senior Consultant, Graybeal & Associates

Dr. Marc Stout has been involved with Christian schools for over 40 years. After his tour of duty in the U.S. Air Force, Dr. Stout began teaching and coaching at Rocky Bayou Christian School in Niceville, FL, where he served for 10 years.

In 1989, Marc was asked to be the Headmaster of Westminster Christian Academy in Opelousas, LA, where he served for 7 years. Since that time, he has served as Head of School for three other schools and has been Head of School at Gaston Christian School in Gastonia, NC since 2010.

Marc’s focus at Graybeal & Associates—a Christian school board consulting firm—is Head of School Search and Executive Coaching.

Amy Swearer
Senior Legal Fellow, Edwin Meese III Center for Legal and Judicial Studies, The Heritage Foundation

Amy Swearer is a Senior Legal Fellow in the Edwin Meese III Center for Legal and Judicial Studies, where her areas of focus include the Second Amendment, overcriminalization, school safety, and mental health policy.

She has become a leading conservative voice in national conversations on gun policy and is routinely asked to testify before state and federal legislative bodies. She runs The Heritage Foundation’s Defensive Gun Use Database and was a primary author of the recently published Heritage Foundation ebook, “The Essential Second Amendment.”

Swearer was the 2022 recipient of The Heritage Foundation’s Joseph Shattan Award for “writing that presents conservative ideas in a powerful and compelling fashion to policymakers and the American people,” and was also named the Second Amendment Institute’s 2022 Gun Rights Champion.

She received her law degree from the University of Nebraska College of Law, where she was a member of the Nebraska Law Review and nationally successful moot court teams. She holds a bachelor’s degree in Criminology and Criminal Justice with highest honors from the University of Nebraska.

Laura Zorc

Director of Education Reform, FreedomWorks

Laura Zorc brings years of experience and expertise in the subject of education reform and an unparalleled devotion to putting power back in the hands of parents and families. Her focus shifted to education when her children began public school in Florida. Desiring a quality education for her children, Laura served in multiple positions on the parent-teacher board of her children’s schools, was elected twice as president of her county’s parent-teacher association, and co-founded Florida Parents Against Common Core (FPACC), one of the largest parent-led advocacy groups in the state. Additionally, she served on former Florida Governor Rick Scott’s Education Committee as the parent representative before being elected to the Indian River County School Board.