Urban Prairie Waldorf School

Board Study & Meetings

The Urban Prairie Board of Trustees welcomes all members of our community to its monthly study and meeting. Board meetings are held the second Thursday of the month at 7 p.m. and are open to the public (exclusive of executive sessions, when applicable). Meetings are held in the UPWS Orchestra Room, 3rd floor, 1220 W. Lexington.  Zoned parking restrictions are waived for Board meetings, but please allow time for parking. There is no meeting in July or December. If the annual Board retreat is held in the summer, the August meeting takes place during that special weekend session at an off-site location. For a list of readings for past and upcoming board studies, click here. Questions? Use the following links to contact the appropriate UPWS board member about:

Board of Trustees

The Board of Trustees of Urban Prairie is the decision-making, guiding, and planning body for the school. The Board keeps the school’s mission central in all of its processes. The Board is responsible for strategic planning and initiatives based on identified goals developed with the school’s mission in mind, using input from various stakeholders. Individuals who take on leadership roles for the school do so in the spirit of servant leadership, guided by the principle of service to the whole. Urban Prairie exists by virtue of the support of a wide community of parents and friends and all who share our vision of Waldorf education. The health and growth of our school depends on the strength of these relationships.

2019-20 Board of Trustees

Shannon Callahan - President

Shannon is a career nonprofit executive working across sectors specializing in campaign fundraising, strategic planning, and board development. As such, she got a ring-side seat for the amazing fundraising prowess and generosity of the Urban Prairie community with the whirlwind 72-hour new building campaign – a career highlight. Shannon is a Vice President for the National Audubon Society where she enjoys exploring wild places and learning about birds, while raising a bit of money. Shannon, her husband and son moved to Chicago in 2014 after 10 years in London and are happily ensconced in the Hyde Park neighborhood. Upon moving to Chicago, their first (and best) decision was to join the City Garden Waldorf School community by sending their then three-year-old son to join Ms Hellesoy’s class. The Callahan family is excited to deepen their relationship with this incredible community.

Catherine Francis - Vice President

Catherine Francis joined the Board in June 2017 and is a member of the UPWS Facilities Committee and AWSNA Committee Chair.  Catherine has spent her career working in child welfare, managing projects mostly in the area of youth residential care and psychotropic medication monitoring for the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services (IDCFS).  Catherine currently works at the Institute for Juvenile Research at the University of Illinois at Chicago on efforts to improve access and quality of mental health services for children with public insurance.  She has a Master’s of Public Policy from the University of Chicago Harris School with a focus in Child and Family Policy.  She has been a parent at Urban Prairie since the spring of 2016.  She and her husband, Ryan, are parents of a 6th grader at UPWS.  In her free time, she likes to swim, bike, run and keep active outside.

Peg Kern

Peg Kern is starting her third year as a member of the Board of Trustees and has been a member of the Committee on Board Development, the AWSNA accreditation committee, and the Development committee. She is an active parent at our sister school, City Garden, where she has co-chaired the last three Yuletide Festivals. She is also an avid promoter of the cross-school weekly Beach Days during the summer. Peg has a B.A. in Italian and an M.A. and Ph.D. in Italian literature. After teaching at the University of Chicago, she left the academic world to join The International Kitchen, a tour company specializing in culinary tours, which combines her loves of food and travel. After stepping back for a few years to have a family, she rejoined the company in 2014 and assumed co-ownership last year. Her experience in the academic and business worlds has equipped her with a number of skills relevant to working on the Board. Peg has two sons who attend Urban Prairie.

Michael Levine

A founding Board member, Michael has served the school since 2009. Michael was the first President of the Board, serving in that capacity from 2009 – 2012. During his tenure, he has also served on the Executive Committee (former chair), Marketing Committee (former chair and former member) and Strategic Planning Committee (former and current chair), lead the school’s search for it’s first full-time Administrator and provided IT support for all areas of the school. Founder and president of AppAbility, a software development consulting firm here in Chicago, Michael has over 20 years of experience in team leadership and strategic decision making. His son, Benjamin, attended City Garden and was a part of Urban Prairie’s inaugural 2009 class.

Peggy Lofgren - Director of Finance and Operations

Peggy Lofgren previously served as chair of the Finance Committee and Treasurer, responsible for  budget management and providing her financial administrative expertise in the preparations for the recent move to Little Italy. She joined UPWS with a wealth of expertise in administration and finance in the luxury hospitality and wellness industry. She has managed P&Ls for the last 15 years from $2M to $20M in revenue. She has been administrator of the 900 North Michigan Surgery Center, vice president of operations at Red Door Spas in Chicago, and general manager of Peninsula Spa Chicago. She has international experience in the luxury spa business and has led key corporate initiatives using strategic planning and analytical skills. She has launched multiple new properties and collaborated with corporate leadership in marketing, human resources, design and construction, training, and finance. A grade 5 and 7 parent, she is committed to Waldorf education and is passionate about Urban Prairie.

Sharla Paul - Director of Administration

Sharla Paul has a decade of experience as a leader at Urban Prairie, where she fostered the strategic planning initiatives to establish long-term financial modeling and reserves, our middle-school-into-high-school plan, and our long-term facility search, culminating in a $600k capital campaign and our new home. Sharla’s experience in education communications and planning includes her work for the University of Chicago, which this spring won a Grand Gold Award from the Council for the Advancement and Support of Education. Most recently, she wrote the project plan for the National HeadStart Association to draft ethical guidelines for Artificial Intelligence and technology in early childhood education, and she serves on the year-long working group for that initiative. Sharla enjoys river paddling, bicycling by the Lake, and backpacking in the Olympic Peninsula. She has three sons, including a UPWS alumnus and current 8th and 4th graders.

Rey Phillips Santos - Secretary

Rey A. Phillips Santos has been a member of the City Garden-Urban Prairie community since 2015.  Rey is a Senior Counsel with the City of Chicago’s Department of Law in the Legal Counsel Division, and has been with the City since 2006.  Rey’s background includes environmental law, hotels, finance, education, and history.  When not at work, Rey enjoys nothing more than being with his wife, Sarah, and son, Javier, who is a UPWS 2nd grader.  If it involves playing soccer, bicycling, hiking, grilling, or essentially doing anything outdoors, so much the better.

Board structure

Standing committees of the board include:
  • Accreditation  (chair: Catherine Francis)
  • Board Development  (chair: Peg Kern)
  • Executive  (chair: Peg Kern)
  • Finance  (chair: Danila Miranda)
  • Strategic Planning: convened as task groups and chaired accordingly

Interested in joining our effort?

Urban Prairie is always interested in talking with individuals interested in helping further the mission of the school. If you have an interest in the Board of Directors or board committee work please email Peg Kern, chair of the Committee on Board Development (COBD). Qualifications  We seek big-picture, strategic and creative thinkers with Waldorf experience or a commitment to deepening their understanding of Waldorf. Thinking toward the future, we seek community-building candidates with strong leadership potential. Board members serve in the model of servant leadership and work together in service to the school and its mission.  Parent board members must acknowledge their inherent conflict of interest as parents and strive to act out of a non-parent, big-picture governing vision consistent with the mission of the Board of Directors and the goals and insights of the Waldorf educational philosophy. Term Expectations & Description All candidates will be presented with a detailed outline of board membership. First-time board members serve a one-year term; returning board members are expected to serve two-year terms. At the end of each year, COBD and board members jointly evaluate the strengths, weaknesses, and needs of the board as we seek to form a strong and effective constellation of board members.  At this time, the board does not have term limits. Board members attend monthly study and board meetings and are active on at least one committee.  We encourage all interested candidates to attend a board meeting and study. Process Should you wish to suggest a friend, colleague, or yourself as a candidate, please submit your suggestion to committee chair Peg Kern.  Please include a brief description of the candidate’s strengths that lend themselves to board membership, as well as their experience with Waldorf education.  The vetting process has three stages: 1) all candidates will be considered by the full committee; 2) based on the above-mentioned qualifications, the committee will select potential candidates for an informal interview with a member of the committee; 3) COBD will formally interview final candidates.  The committee then presents a slate of board nominees to the full Board of Directors for election.