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 principal 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.

2017-18 Board of Trustees

Heather Berhalter - Director of Community Development

Heather Berhalter, a Board member since 2009, is a member of the Committee on Board Development, Enrollment Growth Task Force and Tuition Assistance Committee. She has also served on the Admissions Committee, Marketing Committee and the Three Year Plan Working Group. Heather currently works as the Admissions and Enrollment Coordinator for UPWS.  Before moving to Chicago, she served in the State Department Foreign Service in several overseas posts and in Washington, D.C. as a Special Assistant to Secretary Madeleine Albright. She is also a La Leche League Leader.  She and her husband, Jay, have 3 sons, including UPWS 7th, 4th, and 1st graders.

Shannon Callahan

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 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.

Elisa Davis

Elisa Davis, a bank regulatory and acquisitions attorney at The Northern Trust Company, joined the board in 2010. She serves as Assistant Secretary for The Northern Trust Company and Secretary for one of Northern Trust’s subsidiary banks, corporate governance experience that she brings to her position as Urban Prairie Board Secretary. Moreover, Elisa brings 18 years of sound legal experience and judgment to her role, having worked both in large private law firms and in-house law departments of major financial institutions. As secretary, Elisa has overseen an overhaul of the school’s by-laws and revised the method of recording meeting minutes. Additionally, she has served on the Strategic Planning Committee as well as the Executive Committee. In other board experience, she has served on two local not-for-profit boards. Elisa has a strong interest in handwork and can knit at the speed of light. She is the parent of two UPWS students.

Catherine Francis

Catherine Francis joined the board in June of 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 degree 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 5th grader at UPWS.  In her free time, she likes to swim, bike, run and keep active outside.

Karen Hartz

Karen Hartz joined Urban Prairie in the summer of 2015 and became the faculty representative on the Board. With degrees in English and secondary education, Karen has worked in a variety of public and private high schools in Illinois and Wisconsin. She has taught all levels of high school English, from remedial to AP, and has coached forensics and directed theater. After the birth of her son, a friend encouraged her to read an article on educating the “heart, head, and hands.” Finding a philosophy of education that resonated with her own, Karen joined several Steiner study groups before enrolling in Waldorf teacher training and serving as a full-time second grade aid to a master Waldorf teacher. A year later she had the opportunity to take up her own class. Karen has since led four middle school classes, at Prairie Hill Waldorf School in Pewaukee, WI, and the Chicago Waldorf School. In addition, Karen served as full-time faculty chair and was a board member at Prairie Hill.

Peg Kern - Vice President

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 Early Childhood Learning Center, 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 a City Garden rising kindergartener and a rising second grader.

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 on the board, 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 Operations and Finance

Administrator 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 2 and 4 parent, she is committed to Waldorf education and is passionate about Urban Prairie.

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 1st grader.  If it involves playing soccer, bicycling, hiking, grilling, or essentially doing anything outdoors, so much the better.

Dan Ryan

Dan Ryan is a proprietary commodities trader. After twenty years toiling on the trading floors of various commodities exchanges, Mr. Ryan now trades from his basement utility room. In 2013, Ryan worked with the UPWS Finance Committee brainstorming a financing program for the school’s move from Halsted St. to Our Lady of Pompeii. In 2015 he joined the Board of Trustees.  Marveling at the spectacular success of Urban Prairie Waldorf School, Mr. Ryan’s objective is to help with decision making involving the growth of our student body. Dan and his lovely wife, Debbie, have a daughter in Ms. Spalding’s class. While he has an innate fear of singing and self-reflection during Board of Trustee Group Study sessions, Dan does enjoy music and dance.  He recently received a vigorous high five from Ms. Rhode for his graceful moves in a Eurythmy workshop.

Ted Shieh - President

A Board member since 2011, Dr. Shieh is a practicing physician at DuPage Medical Group and previously served as the Chairman of Emergency Medicine & Immediate Care. A physician for twenty-five years and a pioneer in greening the delivery of medical care, he speaks nationally on environmental sustainability in healthcare. Ted formerly served as Chair of the UPWS Marketing Committee, the AWSNA Committee, the UPWS Green Team, as well as the Chief Medical Informatics Officer, Performance Improvement Chairman, Green Team Chair, and Emergency Medical Services Medical Director at Westlake Hospital. Ted is a scuba diver – you may have seen his underwater animal feeding presentations in the Caribbean Reef at the John G. Shedd Aquarium where he also serves as a member of the Medical Advisors Group. In his free time, Ted is in the kitchen baking bread, canning pickles, fixing the chicken coop or working with his wife, a Chicago Conservation Corp (C3) leader, on the next sustainability project.

Sharla Stewart

A founding board member who has served the school since 2009, Sharla Stewart oversees Board agenda setting and is a member of the Leadership Circle with the Administrator and Pedagogical Director. She chairs the Strategic Planning Task Group for Long-term Facilities. She previously served as Vice President of the Board for four years. Sharla contributed to the drafting of the school mission and vision. She contributed to the school’s three-year plan to attain status as a Developing School through the Association of Waldorf Schools of North America. Sharla is formerly a writer and associate editor of The University of Chicago Magazine. She is one of three TriYoga instructors in Chicago and writes poetry and fiction. A member of the vestry of St. Paul & the Redeemer Church in Hyde Park, she also enjoys cooking, bicycling by the Lake, and backpacking in the Olympic Peninsula with her husband, David. They have 3 sons, including a UPWS eighth grader, fifth grader and a first grader.

Dan Trainor - Finance Committee Chair

Dan Trainor joined the Board in March 2017 and is a member of the Finance Committee.  He has more than twenty years of business experience in the automotive, mapping, and location technology industries with expertise in corporate finance and strategy, technology and IP licensing, M&A, and business development. Dan is presently Director of Corporate Development for HERE Technologies, where he leads strategic partnership and alliance development with a focus on accelerating the company’s high-definition mapping platform for autonomous vehicles. Previously, Dan held various management roles in Corporate Finance and Strategy with General Motors and Chrysler, including an expatriate assignment in Brussels, Belgium.  Dan holds a Master of Business Administration in Finance and a Bachelor of Arts in Marketing, both granted from the Eli Broad College of Business at Michigan State University. Dan has been a member of the City Garden-Urban Prairie community since 2013.  He and his wife, Claudia, have a daughter in the first grade at Urban Prairie and a son attending the early childhood program at City Garden.  When not working, Dan enjoys cooking, contract bridge, golf, cycling, and playing just about any type of sport or game with his children.  Perhaps most of all, Dan loves traveling and exploring the many sights and wonders of the world with his wife, children and extended family.

Board structure

Standing committees of the board include:

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).


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.


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.