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.
Ann-Marie ViganoBoard Member
Ann-Marie (she/her/hers) joined the board in September of 2021.
Catherine FrancisBoard 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 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.
Jeff SmagleyBoard Member
Jeff Smagley (he/him/his) joined the board in September of 2021.
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.
Karen TrineBoard Member
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.
Ravi ParakkatBoard 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 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.
Shannon CallahanBoard 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 PaulHead 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 FairchildBoard Member
Valerie Fairchild (she/her/hers)