Senior Director, School Performance
Tom Monaghan is a relentless advocate for addressing both the affective and academic needs of adolescents, whose coaching style both challenges and inspires school leaders toward courageous leadership. He joined Houston A+ Challenge in June 2010 to launch A+’s work with students, teachers, principals and families in Challenge Network middle schools. He leads program design and implementation for the initiative, and provides executive coaching to principals and leadership teams at Challenge Network schools and through the Middle School Leadership Academy.
Tom came to A+ with 28 years of experience in Houston ISD, most recently (2005-10) having served as Executive Principal in the Central and West Region, where he coached and supervised principals and leadership teams at 18 elementary schools, eight middle schools, and nine high schools to strengthen leadership capacity and implement strong school cultures with a singular focus on high levels of achievement for ALL students. Prior to his years as an executive principal, Tom was Principal at Lanier Middle School (Houston ISD) from 1998 to 2005. He led the implementation of the school’s Houston Annenberg Challenge Beacon School grant, as well as the work that led to the Lanier’s successful authorization in 2004 as an International Baccalaureate (IB) Middle Years Programme (MYP) school. He was Houston ISD’s Central District Principal of the Year in 2003-04, and the same year was a candidate for Region 4 Secondary Principal of the Year. He served Houston ISD as a mentor for first-year middle school principals from 2000-05, and has a decade of experience (1999-2009) as a Leadership Coach for principals and assistant principals with Houston Annenberg/A+ Challenge. He holds a B.S. in Education from Western Michigan University and an M.S. in Educational Leadership from University of Houston-Clear Lake.
Director of School Performance
Paul Castro is a dynamic school leader with a track record of effective, innovative leadership and collaborative reform in both traditional and public charter schools. As Director of School Performance, Paul serves as founding principal of Houston A+ UP, Houston’s first mobile middle school. He also provides leadership to schools and performance coaches in the A+ Challenge Network and advises the Middle School Leadership Academy.
Paul comes to Houston A+ Challenge from KIPP Houston, where he served as Head of Schools. Under Paul’s leadership, KIPP Houston high schools made significant growth in enrollment and student performance, including significant increases in average ACT scores and matriculation to competitive universities. Before his tenure at KIPP, Paul served in Houston ISD as principal at Lee High School, leading the school to double-digit gains on state tests in three performance areas; and at Westside High school, where he helped to build an AP program that remains a model for comprehensive urban high schools in the state, and led a small-school restructuring that saw Westside spin off two high-functioning small schools within a school. Paul has also served as principal of West Briar Middle School, dean of students at Westside, and high school English teacher and soccer coach. A graduate of Texas A&M University, Paul received his Masters in Administration from the University of Houston. Paul is trained as a Masterful Coach and Cognitive Coach and enjoys every opportunity to discuss teaching and learning with fellow educators.
Assistant Director, School Performance
Shehz Ali is a systemic thinker with a wealth of experience in multi-state school reform, coaching middle school leadership teams, and designing and implementing school transformations. He joined Houston A+ Challenge in 2012, and currently provides leadership coaching and project management in seven Challenge Network middle schools, and helps guide the implementation of our Middle School Leadership Academy. Shehz has helped to create greater alignment within and between our schools in the Network, working primarily with school leaders to ensure their growth in learning and implementation of best practice.
Prior to coming to A+, Shehz worked as a Lead School Innovation Partner for Partners in School Innovation, a San Francisco-based nonprofit working to help transform low-performing public schools. In that role, Shehz focused on middle school reform and saw one of his focus schools gain the highest growth of any middle school in the county, two years in a row. Shehz’s broad base of knowledge also comes from his time as a school evaluator, where he evaluated schools and educational systems in six different States. He has nine years of experience as a teacher and school administrator at all levels. While a middle school teacher, Shehz was nominated for The National Capitol Educator Award for his work with underserved refugees. He has also been a guest lecturer at Brock University in Canada. He holds a B.A. in History from the University of Ottawa (Canada), a B.Ed. in Educational Leadership from Brock University, and a M.Ed. in Education Leadership and Policy from University of Ottawa.
Assistant Director, School Performance
Charlotte Parker is a 33-year veteran of Houston ISD with a long track record of improving student success in schools at all levels. She joined Houston A+ Challenge in 2009, and currently provides leadership coaching and project management in seven Challenge Network middle schools, and helps guide the implementation of our Middle School Leadership Academy. During her time with A+, she also provided leadership coaching for five low-performing Houston ISD secondary schools – all five of which improved their academic outcomes and their state accountability ratings at the end of the school year.
Previously, Charlotte spent 17 years as a school principal, including five years at the middle school level. Most recently, she served as principal at Kashmere High School, where she was recruited to help turn the school around after four straight years on the state’s low-performing list. After just 10 months on the job, the school escaped closure as it shed the failed rating and moved up to Academically Acceptable. Charlotte began her career as an elementary school teacher; in 1992, she was appointed to her first principal position at Roosevelt Elementary, where her leadership helped the school attain the state’s Exemplary rating for five consecutive years. She was hosted at the White House by President Bill Clinton, and she and Roosevelt were featured on an episode of the CBS News program “60 Minutes”. The school was identified by the state as a model of excellence and a mentor school, and in 1999 Charlotte was named Principal of the Year by the National Alliance of Black School Educators and a Texas Reading Leader by the Texas Education Agency. She was named Principal of the Year for Houston ISD’s North Central District in 2005, and the next year was named Region 4’s Principal of the Year from Houston ISD’s North Region. Dr. Parker holds a B.S. in Elementary Education, an M.A. in Public Administration, and a Doctorate in Education, all from Texas Southern University.
A+ Unlimited Potential (A+UP)
Cicely Benoit became a teacher in 2003, when she realized that continuing to guide the education of her children was the greatest gift a mother could give. That first year, she taught a classroom of first graders at Peck Elementary in Houston ISD, using high-quality, student-centered, bilingual instruction that introduced Spanish and English as a Second Language (ESL) across all content areas. Over the following three school years, Cicely moved up each year, eventually teaching almost all grade levels in the elementary school. As a constant learner herself, Cicely drew on these experiences to inform her first campus-based teacher leadership role as Instructional Coordinator at Osborne Elementary (Houston ISD). There she designed high-impact lesson plans and modeled effective instruction across all content areas (reading, writing, mathematics and science) for the school's teachers in grades K-5. Next, as a literacy content specialist in Houston ISD's North Region, Cicely spent two years coaching teachers and school administrators to improve classroom instruction through critical thinking, research-based strategies, and analysis of student data.
Cicely joined Houston A+ Challenge in 2010, where she spent two years as an A+ Performance Coach at YES Prep West. There, Cicely taught reading and writing to sixth and seventh graders, and provided instructional leadership and coaching for the school's teachers, as part of Houston A+'s Challenge Network initiative to increase academic rigor and student performance in area middle schools. In 2013-14 she takes on a new role as Learning Coach for sixth graders in A+UP – a new, small technology-rich middle school opening in Houston’s Museum District, and will continue to advise the Challenge Network on technology integration in the classroom. She holds a B.A. in History from the University of Houston.
Post-Secondary Success Coach
Betsy has been involved in school reform and with Houston A+ Challenge since 1996, when she helped to write the original Annenberg Beacon School grant for Poe Elementary. Since that time she has been active in non-profit work in the environmental and education areas. Betsy has served as PTO president at Lanier Middle School and Challenge Early High School in Houston ISD, and worked at the Center for the Reform of School Systems writing teaching case studies and helping to develop training programs for school boards. Betsy earned an MBA from Harvard, worked for Exxon Chemical Americas for 9 years, and co-produced an Academy Award™-nominated documentary about the Apollo lunar missions, For All Mankind.
Betsy joined the staff of Houston A+ Challenge in 2007 and currently provides coaching and implementation support for the eleven K-12 school districts and eight community colleges participating in the Gulf Coast PASS initiative, in partnership with the University of Texas-Austin and the Institute for Evidence-Based Change. She also provides post-secondary success resources and technical support to A+ Coaches who work with educators in A+'s Leadership Academy and Challenge Network.
Performance Coach – Numeracy
Torrey Conerly is a former math major whose love for children drew her from the financial sector into the classroom. After five successful years as a middle school mathematics teacher, she became a teacher of teachers, working as a Math Content Specialist to serve four middle and elementary schools in Houston ISD from 2007 to 2010. In this role, Torrey provided model lessons, formal and informal teaching assessments, interventions, coaching and mathematics leadership to teachers and grade-level teams. She is a certified trainer for Laying the Foundation/Advanced Placement Strategies, and has served on a TEA Data Review Committee to evaluate state-level mathematics assessments. She holds a B.S. in mathematics from the University of Houston, and an M.A. in Education Administration from Lamar University.
Torrey joined Houston A+ Challenge in 2010 and currently provides A+ mathematics coaching at Killough MS and Olle MS in Alief ISD, Teague MS in Aldine ISD and KIPP Liberation.
Performance Coach - Numeracy
James Dirden is a passionate and dedicated educator who relishes the opportunity to help students maximize their full potential to become productive and successful citizens. James was Math Department Chair during his time at E.O. Smith Education Center (Houston ISD) and was named Teacher of The Year in 2003 (EO Smith Education Center) & 2012 (Phillis Wheatley High School). He has taught resource mathematics and general education mathematics from 6th grade through Algebra I and holds Texas Teaching Certifications in Special Education (EC-12), Mathematics (4-8), and Mathematics (8-12). Prior to his career in education, he attained his Bachelor of Science degree in Biochemistry from Xavier University of Louisiana and contributed to 5 scientific publications as a researcher for Xavier University and Morehouse School of Medicine.
James joined Houston A+ Challenge in 2013 and provides mathematics coaching at Albright MS in Alief ISD and Grantham MS and Plummer MS in Aldine ISD.
Performance Coach - Numeracy
Dana Enriquez-Vontoure comes to Houston A+ Challenge with more than 14 years of experience in education. She began her teaching career through Teach For America as a Kindergarten teacher in Houston ISD and later became a middle school math teacher. Dana then served as a math content specialist serving 15 schools, and as a Curriculum Manager for the district, where she worked with almost 200 schools supporting curriculum, instruction and assessment. For the past three years, she has been selected to review and write assessment items for TAKS/STAAR, NAEP (the Nation’s Report Card), and PAARC (Common Core). She currently sits on the Mathematics Advisory Board for The Houston Children’s Museum, Council of Great City Schools, and the Texas Education Agency.
Dana joined Houston A+ Challenge in 2013 and provides mathematics coaching at Shotwell MS in Aldine ISD; Sanchez Charter School, KIPP Polaris and KIPP Spirit.
Performance Coach - Literacy
Jeni Fowler has 14 years of classroom experience as a middle school reading teacher in Houston ISD, including roles as a cluster leader and department chair until 2007. She was named teacher of the year at Pershing Middle School and engaged in some curriculum writing for the district in reading and writing. After two years as a campus-level middle school literacy coach, she moved to Houston ISD’s West Region as a content specialist. In that position, she worked with 15 secondary schools to improve their literacy programs, provided model lessons, instructional strategies and student data reviews for teachers. During this time, Jeni worked alongside and was coached by Donna Santman, a nationally known reading consultant and trainer from Columbia University Teachers College. She also arranged and participated in learning opportunities with literacy experts such as Randy Bomer, Gaby Layden and Isoke Nia for teachers in the West Region. She holds a B.A. in Education from Texas A&M University and an M.A. from University of Houston.
Jeni joined Houston A+ Challenge in 2010 and currently provides A+ literacy coaching for Alief MS in Alief ISD, Atascocita MS in Humble ISD, KIPP Polaris, Sanchez Charter School, and Teague MS in Aldine ISD.
Post-Secondary Success Coach
June Giddings comes to A+ from Houston Independent School District, where she was most recently Manager of P-16 College Readiness. Her work at Houston ISD included planning, implementation, and evaluation of career and college readiness services designed for all students. She developed and monitored transition programs for Pre-K, elementary, middle, high school, to college and ensured that their design would help to bridge previous successes, remove barriers to learning and promote academic and social/emotional success for all students. June previously worked as program director for I Have a Dream Houston, and she has spent years in the Houston region developing relationships with education institutions and service providers. For the past four years, June has served as chair of the Houston National College Fair, working to connect students with admission representatives from hundreds of colleges and universities at no-cost. In October 2013 she begins a three-year term on the Standing Committee on National College Fairs for the National Association for College Admission Counseling (NACAC).
June joined Houston A+ Challenge in 2011 and currently provides coaching and implementation support for the eleven K-12 school districts and eight community colleges participating in the Gulf Coast PASS initiative, in partnership with the University of Texas-Austin and the Institute for Evidence-Based Change. She also provides post-secondary success resources and technical support to A+ Coaches who work with educators in A+'s Leadership Academy and Challenge Network.
A+ Unlimited Potential (A+UP)
Jen Mascheck began her education career as a mathematics coordinator for the Upper School at St. Stephen’s Episcopal, a private school located in Houston’s Museum District. The school was brand-new when she started, so in that role she contributed to the growth of the school and as well as the development of curriculum, assessment tools, and professional development for her fellow teachers. During her decade in the classroom at St. Stephen’s, she also gained experience teaching all levels of middle school and high school mathematics, from Pre-Algebra through AP Calculus. She then spent a year as a Secondary Numeracy Curriculum Specialist in Houston ISD, where she coached and mentored 24 teachers and three administrators at two campuses.
Jen joined Houston A+ Challenge in 2010, and currently provides A+ mathematics performance coaching for teachers and middle schools in Alief, KIPP Houston and YES Prep Public Schools. In 2013-14 she takes on a new role as Learning Coach for sixth graders in A+UP – a new, small technology-rich middle school opening in Houston’s Museum District, and will continue to advise the Challenge Network on technology integration in the classroom. Jen also serves as a developer and presenter for A+'s Middle School Leadership Academy, which prepares principals and leadership teams for the Challenge Network. She served from 1992 to 1995 as a non-commissioned officer and engineer in the U.S. Navy, after graduating with a B.S. in Psychology from the University of Houston. She expects to complete her M.Ed. in Curriculum and Instruction from Texas A&M University and her and Master Teacher Certification from the State of Texas in 2013.
Performance Coach - Literacy
Erica Milson brings to the A+ team strong experience as an educator in Houston ISD and a deep commitment to enriching the lives and learning of middle school students. During her six-year tenure as a middle school English Language Arts teacher, she also served as an ELA department chair, cluster leader and extracurricular coach. Her classroom was one of two selected to model the Readers/Writers workshop pilot at Pershing Middle School. Erica later supported teachers as a literacy coach and testing coordinator at McNamara Elementary, working in coordination with New York-based literacy consultant Gaby Layden. As a Teacher Development Specialist for Houston ISD, Erica modeled lessons, analyzed data, provided writing camps, assisted with creating assessments, and provided professional learning opportunities for teachers during and after school. Erica also worked as a Faculty Advisor for Teach for America, providing instructional support for first-year teachers during their Summer Institute and intern year. She holds a B.A. in Education from Prairie View A&M University.
Erica joined Houston A+ Challenge in 2013 and currently provides coaching at Drew MS, Plummer MS and Stovall MS in Aldine ISD.
Aditi Rao is a committed educator with a passion for utilizing technology to improve learning in the 21st century classroom. She has worked as a technology integration specialist at the Emery/Weiner School and developed a path-to-college education program for the nonprofit Breakthrough Collaborative Houston. Aditi holds an M.S.Ed in Instructional Technology from Johns Hopkins University, where she conducted educational technology research under the direction of Dr. John Castellani. Prior to this, she graduated with a B.A. in English and received her teaching certification in English Language Arts (grades 8-12) from the University of Texas at Austin. The culmination of her undergraduate career resulted in a faculty-directed study on the implications of developing the skill of empathy in educational settings, centered on research she conducted in Ahmedabad, India.Aditi joined Houston A+ Challenge in 2013 and currently serves as Technology Coach for A+ Unlimited Potential, where she helps Learning Coaches discover, analyze, and integrate the best tools and curriculum to personalize learning for 40 middle school students. . She also works with A+ Performance Coaches to bring technology for learning into Challenge Network schools.
Performance Coach – Literacy
Susanna Reid has a varied background as a middle school teacher, a writer, a communications professional, and an international learner. She came to the teaching profession as a Teach For America corps member, and spent two years teaching reading and writing at Sharpstown Middle School before moving to Pin Oak Middle, both in Houston ISD. At Pin Oak, she served as chair of the ELA Department, and an advisor and extracurricular coach for students. She also worked two summers as a Resource Room Specialist at Teach For America’s Houston Institute, where she supported corps members and institute staff with instructional materials, classroom management strategies and assessment writing. She holds a B.A. in journalism from American University (Washington, D.C.), including a semester of study abroad at Peking University in Beijing, China, and has experience in media relations, providing editorial, research and production assistance at a firm in D.C. for media, authors, corporate executives, members of Congress and Administration officials. Susanna is co-leader of the American University Houston Alumni Chapter.
Susanna joined Houston A+ Challenge in 2012 and currently provides A+ literacy coaching for Killough MS in Alief ISD, KIPP Liberation, KIPP Spirit and Shotwell MS in Aldine ISD.
Performance Coach - Literacy
Gwynne Sullivan's expertise in literacy education was honed over eight years as an educator in Houston-area public schools. Most recently, Gwynne served as 7th and 8th gradeTitle I Reading teacher in Alief ISD, utilizing data, individualized learning plans and best practices to increase reading mastery for struggling readers. During Gwynne's tenure as a 7th and 8th grade English Language Arts teacher in Katy ISD, students in her classroom consistently outperformed or matched the state average and closed the achievement gap between upper- and lower-income students. She also has served as grade level team leader and coach to new teachers, and was selected to serve on district-wide curriculum and technology pilot teams. Gwynne holds a B.S. in Speech Communication from the University of Texas at Austin and a teaching certificate in English Language Arts (grades 4-8) and special education (grades pre-K through 12). She is pursuing an M.Ed in Curriculum and Instruction with a focus in Adolescent Literacy from Concordia University.
Gwynne joined Houston A+ Challenge in 2013 and provides literacy coaching for Albright MS, O'Donnell MS and Olle MS in Alief ISD and Grantham MS in Aldine ISD.
Performance Coach - Numeracy
Dave Weldon’s gift for connecting with students and fellow teachers was cultivated during his 29 years in the middle school classroom. He began teaching reading and English Language Learners in 1982 at Jackson Middle School (Houston ISD), and in 1986 moved to Lanier Middle (also HISD), where he was named Teacher of the Year in 1995-96 and again in 2006-07. He is certified as a teacher for English Language Learners, and has worked extensively with this population of students in the classroom. He holds a B.A. in English from the University of Toledo, and a B.Ed. in elementary education and a J.D. from the University of Houston.
Dave joined Houston A+ Challenge in 2011, and currently provides A+ mathematics coaching for Alief MS in Alief ISD and Drew MS and Stovall MS in Aldine ISD.