Board of Trustees

 

The Urban Prairie Board of Trustees is the planning and oversight body for the school. The Board keeps the school’s mission central in all of its processes. The Board is accountable for the fiscal and legal health of the school.

The 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 6:30 p.m. and are open to the public prior to closed sessions. There is no meeting in July or December.

Minutes for the monthly meetings are available to the community.

Catherine Francis

Catherine Francis

Board Member
Catherine Francis

Catherine Francis

Board Member

Catherine Francis (she/her/hers) joined the Board in June 2017 and has been a member of the Urban Prairie Waldorf School Facilities Committee and the American Waldorf Schools of North America (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 student in the graduating class of 2021 at UPWS. In her free time, she likes to swim, bike, run, and keep active outside.

Danila Miranda

Danila Miranda

Board President
Danila Miranda

Danila Miranda

Board President

Danila Miranda (she/ella) is the project coordinator and bookkeeper for Gonzalez Liquors, which has long donated to our fundraising events. For over a decade, she was a program director in the School of Continuing Studies at UIC, served on the board of Hyde Park Suzuki Institute, and serves as a non-scientific member of the Institutional Review Board at Lurie Children’s Hospital. As co-chair of UPWS’s Finance Committee, Danila has helped drive scenario planning and cultivate our relationship with the Rudolf Steiner Foundation, our primary financial partner. A longtime member of the Development Committee, she served on the school’s governance task force and the Interim DoA search team. Prior to the Board, Danila was a longtime room parent and parent organization delegate. She and her husband, Ruben Gonzalez, have three children, including two UPWS Alumni who graduated in 2020 and a student in the graduating class of 2023.

Erica Moriarty

Erica Moriarty

Toddler Play Group & Early Childhood Teacher/Board Faculty Representative
Erica Moriarty

Erica Moriarty

Toddler Play Group & Early Childhood Teacher/Board Faculty Representative

Erica Moriarty (she/her/hers) is the lead Toddler Playgroup and Prairie Roots teacher. She strives to offer families an introduction to Waldorf education in a warm, creative space for parents/caregivers and their children. Erica has a baccalaureate in Psychology with a minor in Art from Northern Illinois University. She has a Waldorf Foundations Certification from the Center for Anthroposophy and an Early Childhood Certification from LifeWays North America. She and her husband and three children support families with children fighting cancer via the Dainty Warrior Project. Outside of the classroom, Erica enjoys teaching group fitness classes, painting, and making crafts with her children.

Jeff Smagley

Jeff Smagley

Board Member
Jeff Smagley

Jeff Smagley

Board Member

Jeff Smagley (he/him/his) joined the board in September of 2021.

Jen Kang

Jen Kang

Director of Curriculum and Instruction
Jen Kang

Jen Kang

Director of Curriculum and Instruction

Jennifer Kang (she/her/hers) is an educational leader who has led and taught for 15 years in American public schools and in international schools in Morocco, Lebanon, and Myanmar. Jen also homeschooled her own four children for six years, and she taught adults to design and build rainwater harvesting systems through a non-profit she founded in Texas. Before becoming an educator, Jen worked on economic development, salmon, and spotted owl issues for the State of Oregon in a public relations capacity, and she worked for five years as a journalist in Korea. Jen holds a master’s in Curriculum with a concentration in Educational Leadership from the University of Southern New Hampshire, as well as an MBA from the University of Oregon and a BA in Behavioral Science from the University of Chicago.

 

Karen Trine

Karen Trine

Board Member
Karen Trine

Karen Trine

Board Member
Karen Trine (she/her/hers) has served on the board since 2019 and continues to help support Community Connection, the UPWS parent community volunteer group. Karen has three children at UPWS in classes 2023, 2025 & 2028.  Karen transitioned from an earlier career in environmental geochemistry to teaching chemistry and now works right up the road from UPWS at Whitney Young high school.  She loves swimming and spends summers with her family fishing in Alaska.
Mike Grill

Mike Grill

Board Secretary
Mike Grill

Mike Grill

Board Secretary

Mike Grill (he/him/his) has served as the Secretary of the Board of Trustees since 2018. He joined the Urban Prairie community in 2015 when his oldest child began first grade at the Urban Prairie location on Lexington. He and his wife, Cody, now have two children at the school. Mike is a business litigation attorney with the law firm of Holland & Knight, where he focuses on disputes between owners of family and closely-held businesses and serves as the pro bono partner for the firm’s Chicago office. He also serves his community as an executive council member for Cara Chicago, and as a longtime member of his condominium board.

Nisreen Al-Qamari

Nisreen Al-Qamari

Board Vice President & Finance Chair
Nisreen Al-Qamari

Nisreen Al-Qamari

Board Vice President & Finance Chair

Nisreen Al-Qamari (she/her/hers) joined the Board in the Fall of 2018 and has been a member of the City Garden-Urban Prairie community since 2014. Her background is in Finance and she started her career doing Business Valuation. After taking a few years off, she now works in the Budget Department at the Chicago Transit Authority(CTA), which is challenging work considering the financial situation of the city and state!  She has 3 children attending UP - two in the graduating class of 2024 and one in 2025.

Rachel Manigault

Rachel Manigault

Board Member
Rachel Manigault

Rachel Manigault

Board Member

Rachel Manigault (she/her/hers) joined the Board of Trustees at Urban Prairie Waldorf School in the Summer of 2020, where her husband of 9+ years, Dan Galat, co-directs the Orchestra Program. Rachel’s background is centered in the Tech Industry and she currently works at Kin + Carta, a global consulting firm, as a Sr. Manager across two roles: technical product owner for the firm’s global Professional Services Automation system, and business intelligence lead for delivery operations in the Americas region. Colleagues often describe her as a positive, energetic, and collaborative person where her greatest strength is found in producing order from chaos. At home, Rachel enjoys artistic hobbies such as painting, poetry writing, baking sourdough bread, making kefir, and even home roasting her own coffee. Aside from her crazy 10-year old cat named Monkey, her main love is discovering new systems of organization and planning, and then sharing out those useful tidbits of practical application with others.

Ravi Parakkat

Ravi Parakkat

Board Member
Ravi Parakkat

Ravi Parakkat

Board Member

Ravi Parakkat (he/him/his) is an Engineer and an MBA with business and board experience, Ravi is the Vice President of Digital Transformation at Junior Achievement of Chicago helping this impactful non-profit embrace digital to help young people succeed in life.

In a career in consulting spanning 20+ years, 3 continents and several industries notably Financial Services, Energy and Utilities, and Manufacturing, Ravi has had the privilege of working with industries and organizations during transformative years. Ravi has successfully built and managed large globally distributed teams to solve complex problems. He has also set up and managed profitable multi-million dollar projects and businesses.

Ravi was elected to the 7-member Oak Park Village Board for a 4-year term in April 2021. Ravi was the highest vote-getter in a keenly contested municipal election campaign with the COVID 19 pandemic as its backdrop. In this role, he along with his board colleagues set the policy direction and budgetary priorities for the village’s $150+ million annual budget. Ravi serves on the Finance and Reinventing the Government village board committees and has previously served as a commissioner on the Energy and Environment Commission for the Village of Oak Park.

In 2020 in response to the COVID 19 pandemic Ravi started Takeout 25, a platform to bring the community together and help save local restaurants. This initiative has saved local businesses and jobs and Ravi was named Oak Park Villager of year for 2020 by the local media (Wednesday Journal). This initiative is now formally a not-for-profit focused on economic development, sustainable food systems and food insecurity, with Ravi serving as its founder and board president.

Ravi lives in Oak Park, IL with his wife Amy and their two daughters Rowen and Reva.

Robert Welcher

Robert Welcher

Class Teacher/Board Faculty Representative
Robert Welcher

Robert Welcher

Class Teacher/Board Faculty Representative

Rob Welcher (he/him/his) is the class teacher for the class of 2027.

Shannon Callahan

Shannon Callahan

Board Member
Shannon Callahan

Shannon Callahan

Board Member

Shannon Callahan (she/her/hers) is a senior non-profit executive with international experience in strategic and financial planning, fundraising, communications, board development, staff management, and public speaking. She has overseen fundraising programs in the $10s of millions, most recently for the National Audubon Society. In addition to serving on various UPWS Board committees, Shannon was the creative energy behind last year's 10th-anniversary celebration. She led the Board’s decision for the school to offer Variable Tuition, which has been pivotal to our growth this year. She also spearheaded updating the school's bylaws to embed the new governance structure and better serve the professional organization it is today. She and her husband, Michael Brown, have a student in the graduating class of 2025.

Sharla Paul

Sharla Paul

Head of School
Sharla Paul

Sharla Paul

Head of School

Sharla Paul (she/her/hers) is Urban Prairie's Head of School, a new leadership position created in Spring of 2019 and approved by the Board in June of 2019 as part of the 2019-20 governance restructuring. A founding board member, Sharla, has a decade of experience as a leader at Urban Prairie. She fostered the strategic planning initiatives to establish long-term financial modeling, to build reserves, and to create our middle-school-into-high-school plan, and led the school's long-term facility search, culminating in a $600k capital campaign and our 13th and Ashland home. Sharla’s experience in education communications and planning includes her work for the University of Chicago, which has won a Grand Gold Award from the Council for the Advancement and Support of Education. In 2019 she wrote the National HeadStart Association project plan 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 two UPWS alumni from the graduating classes of 2016 & 2020  and a student in the graduating class of 2023.

Valerie Fairchild

Valerie Fairchild

Board Member
Valerie Fairchild

Valerie Fairchild

Board Member

Valerie Fairchild (she/her/hers)