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.
Danila MirandaBoard 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 MoriartyToddler 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.
Jen KangDirector 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.
Mike GrillBoard 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-QamariBoard 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 ManigaultBoard 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.
Robert WelcherClass Teacher/Board Faculty Representative
Rob Welcher (he/him/his) began his Waldorf teaching career in 2011 during Urban Prairie's nascent years in the storefront at 16th and Halsted. He taught math and science (7th-12th grades) at Chicago Waldorf School from 2012-2019, where he was also a high school class advisor. Throughout his treasured time as a high school teacher, he always held in his heart that the grades were where he eventually hoped to share his love for the curriculum and regale younger students with stories. So, he was delighted to rejoin the Urban Prairie community in 2019 to become the class teacher for the class of 2027.
Outside of the Waldorf world, Rob has strong interests in dance, swimming, and biomechanics. Among his many adventures, he was a college professor and swim coach (University of Wisconsin – Eau Claire, 2000-2006), a Chicago Dancemakers Forum Lab Artist (2018), and has taught and performed contact improvisation dance in the Chicago area, around the country, and a couple times abroad.
Rob holds a Waldorf teaching certificate from Arcturus Rudolf Steiner Education Program, a B.A. in Mathematics (Minor: Dance) from Potsdam College of State University of New York, an M.S. in Kinesiology from the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, and has completed Post-M.S. studies in exercise science biomechanics at Arizona State University.
Sharla PaulHead of School
Sharla Paul (she/her/hers) is responsible for the overall operational management and vision of Urban Prairie. She oversees the school’s financial health, shepherds its governance policies and procedures, and works in collaboration with pedagogical leadership to ensure robust educational programs to meet the students and families who are drawn to Urban Prairie. Sharla chairs the Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Justice Team. Together with the Board, she led the Sustainability Team's successful effort to reduce Urban Prairie's carbon footprint by nearly 70% and receive the 2022 US Department of Education's Green Ribbon Schools Award. As a co-founder of Urban Prairie, she has been engaged in the life of the school since 2008 through strategic planning, fundraising, creating its visual and written identity, and establishing its people processes. Sharla holds a BA in English language and literature from Grinnell College and completed her Waldorf Foundations certification in 2018. She has 25 years of nonprofit communication experience, including her work with the University of Chicago Magazine and the National HeadStart Association. Sharla enjoys river paddling, biking the Chicago lakefront, and backpacking remote trails. She has three sons, including UPWS alumni in the classes of 2017 & 2020 and a student in the class of 2024.
Valerie FairchildBoard Member
Valerie Fairchild (she/her/hers)