President & CEO
Judi Steele is President & CEO of The Public Education Foundation. She is one of the founders of the nonprofit organization and also has served local, national and international education and business communities as an educator, business owner, consultant and executive coach.
Judi, who has championed public education and the arts, is a respected thought leader guided by an entrepreneurial spirit and the courage to challenge conventional wisdom. She was active in the civil rights movement and is a champion of equal rights and human justice. Judi has worked tirelessly to improve the quality of teaching and learning for all public school children.
She was born and raised in New York City and received her Bachelor of Arts degree in sociology and elementary education from Hunter College. Judi began her distinguished education career as a fifth grade teacher at P.S. 171 in East Harlem.
Before beginning her career with the Clark County School District, she taught elementary and middle school in Providence, Rhode Island, where she began her graduate studies at Brown University. She completed her Master of Education degree in secondary and adult education from the University of Nevada, Las Vegas.
Her career with CCSD began as a classroom teacher at C.V.T. Gilbert Prestige School. She also served as Integration Consultant with the Intergroup Education Department under Dr. Claude Perkins and worked with Claude Parson. She was a Team Leader for Teacher Corps, Summer School Site Administrator, and was the first teacher of the Academically Talented Program and the first coordinator of Child Find.
As the Director of Special Education Programs and Services for the District, she developed and implemented procedures and staff development activities to ensure that all disabled students received a free, public and appropriate education. She was responsible for district-wide programs for the visually, orally and emotionally challenged, learning disabled and academically talented.
Judi designed CCSD’s first Individualized Education Program; established multi-disciplinary team processes; and supervised speech and language therapists, school nurses and teachers of the academically talented.
In 1987, she took a leave of absence to assist with some political campaigns and became President of Steele & Associates, a management consulting firm in which she also provided executive coaching. In 1991, she returned to CCSD and served in a dual role as Manager of the Office of Development and Education Improvement for CCSD and Executive Director of the newly incorporated Clark County Public Education Foundation, an independent, nonprofit organization established to improve public education in Southern Nevada.
In 2001, she retired from the District and was named President of The Public Education Foundation. Since its inception, the Foundation, working collaboratively with CCSD, has been a leader in creating and sponsoring innovative, results-driven initiatives to improve student performance, demonstrate accountability and support educational excellence.
Judi has received numerous honors and awards for her lifelong service to children, education and the community. In 2006, the Clark County Board of School Trustees honored her, as she became the namesake of the Judith D. Steele Elementary School.
She also has been inducted into the CCSD Educational Excellence Hall of Fame. Judi has served on numerous boards of directors, advisory boards and was the Founder and President of the Arts Council of Henderson and “Nevada Shakespeare in the Park.”
In 2014 and 2015, she was included among “Las Vegas’ Top 100 Women of Influence” in MyVegas magazine and, in 2014, she received the 1st Distinguished Endeavor Award in Education presented by Distinguished Women in Nevada.
Judi has a daughter, Elyse, a son, Arthur, and two granddaughters, Taylor and Haley.
With vision, passion and boundless energy, Judi has lived by the Talmudic philosophy: “If not now, when? If not me, who?”
Chief Administrative Officer
Kirsten Searer advocates for equity and access for all children through public education. She recently joined the Public Education Foundation because she believes strongly in the need for our community to come together to push for improvements in public education, and to support every student.
She most recently served as the Chief Communications and Community Engagement Officer at the Clark County School District, overseeing all eternal-facing departments, including media relations, government relations, family engagement, marketing and events, and school-community partnerships. Under her leadership, the Community Engagement Unit enacted a plan to deepen the district’s partnerships throughout the community, including increasing social media interactions, assisting every school to develop its own marketing plan, ensuring every school is adopted by at least one community partner, taking more family engagement programming “on the go” into the community, and recruiting 1,000 mentors in five years.
Kirsten has served as an executive and spokesperson for several political and non-profit organizations. She is a former newspaper journalist who specialized in political and education coverage.
Kirsten is the daughter of a lifelong teacher who served students in Arizona for more than 35 years.
After growing up in Arizona, Kirsten braved the Chicago weather and obtained her Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees in Journalism at Northwestern University.
Executive Assistant to the President
Alaina Adams, Executive Assistant to the President, joined The Public Education Foundation in 2017.
Prior to joining the Foundation, Alaina spent many years in the hospitality industry. She was Store Manager at We Olive & Wine Bar in Reno from its opening in early 2015. She coordinated many charity fundraisers, corporate gatherings and political events.
Alaina graduated with a Bachelor’s of Science Degree in Marketing with a minor in Information Systems from the University of Nevada, Reno in 2016.
She was born and raised in Las Vegas and graduated from Bonanza High School in 2012 from the Clark County School District.
Alaina enjoys spending time with her family, friends and dog in her free time.
Chief of Staff
Ashlee Redden, who joined The Public Education Foundation in 2011, is Chief of Staff. Previously, she was Executive Assistant to the President and, prior to that, was an office specialist and worked as a coordinator for the Foundation’s literacy program and the Foundation’s Leadership Institute of Nevada.
Before coming to the Foundation, Ashlee obtained several years of experience working for the Las Vegas-Clark Library District.
She earned her B.S. in Human Services from University of Phoenix, with a concentration in children and family services.
Ashlee, who was born and raised in Las Vegas, is a proud graduate of Advanced Technologies Academy in the Clark County School District.
Dr. Mariama Grimes
Senior Advisor to the President: Community Engagement & Strategic Partnerships
Dr. Mariama Grimes joined the Public Education Foundation in 2018 and serves as Senior Advisor to the President, Community Engagement and Strategic Partnerships.
Since she was a toddler and lining up her stuffed animals and dolls to teach them the alphabet, Mariama has long nourished a passion for community-empowered education.
She completed her doctoral residency in Boston, Massachusetts as Director of Community Initiatives for Strategies for Children, a nonprofit focused on increasing access to high-quality early education services for more children. In this capacity, Mariama developed and implemented a strategic framework for the launch of the new community initiative. She also led the development of the “Brockton Community Leadership Team” to drive support of a common vision promoting the early learning system throughout Brockton.
Prior to moving to Cambridge, Massachusetts to attend Harvard University, Mariama served as Director of Charter School Sponsorship at Saint Louis University– where she administered the University’s charter authorization office. She also engaged on three charter school boards as an ex-officio member, facilitating high-achieving education programs, and served as Charter School Grant Reviewer for the Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education.
In 2007, Mariama took on the role of Special Assistant to the Senior Advisor at New Schools Venture Fund in San Francisco, where she combined her passions for leadership development, curriculum design, and education equity to support the design and launch of the inaugural fellows of the Aspen Institute – NewSchools Entrepreneurial Leaders for Public Education.
During her time in California, Mariama also served as Senior Advisor to the Board President and the Manager of Community Engagement for St. HOPE Public Schools. In these roles, she played a key role in transitioning Sacramento High School to St. HOPE management as one of the first conversion charter high schools in the state.
Mariama holds a Doctor of Education Leadership from Harvard University, a Master of Public Administration from the University of Southern California, and a Bachelor of Arts in Political Science from the University of California in Los Angeles. She is an avid reader and has been journaling since the first grade (and still has the journals to prove it!).
Chief Financial Officer
Francisco Torres joined The Public Education Foundation in 2018 and its Chief Financial Officer.
For the past 13 years, Francisco has held a variety of Finance positions throughout Nevada and tribal gaming entities. These positions include Director of Planning and Analysis at Foxwoods Resort and Casino, and Director of Finance for Hard Rock Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas.
Most recently at Foxwoods, Francisco was an integral piece of development team to ensure the sustainability and enterprise growth of the resort & casino, which is a major contributor to the finances of the Mashantucket Pequot Tribal Nation. As Director of Finance at the Hard Rock his experience included the preparation and review of financial statements, SEC reporting, budget preparation, and gaming compliance.
He was born and raised in Las Vegas, is a proud graduate of Bonanza High School and earned his B.S. in Accounting from the University of Nevada, Las Vegas
SVP of Transformational Leadership
Jeremy Hauser joined The Public Education Foundation in 2016 and is the nonprofit organization’s Vice President of Entrepreneurial & Empowered Leadership. Jeremy brings a wealth of experience to his work at the Foundation.
Prior to joining The Public Education Foundation, he worked for the Clark County School District for three decades in a variety of roles: in the classroom as a teacher, in school leadership as a principal and as a district-wide administrator.
His passion and deep understanding for the work related to school empowerment led to his appointment as Special Assistant to the Deputy Superintendent to implement school empowerment reform district wide through the “Empowerment Schools” program.
Jeremy began as a 4th grade elementary teacher in the Clark County School District in 1986, then moved on to become a special assignment teacher, assistant principal and eventually a principal at Matt Kelly Elementary School, Edythe & Lloyd Katz Elementary School and Linda Rankin Givens Elementary School.
He served as the academic manager over a variety of CCSD programs, such as School Improvement, Turnaround Schools, Professional Practice Schools, Dual Language Schools and Empowerment Schools. He also was associate superintendent over the Operational Service Division and was responsible for Maintenance, Operations, Food Service and Transportation.
SVP of Academic Initiatives
Kristine Minnich joined The Public Education Foundation in 2018 and currently serves as the Senior Vice President of the Educational Reform Programs and Initiatives Unit with the goal of fulfilling the belief of The Public Education Foundation: that every child deserves a quality education.
Kristine brings extensive experience to this position, as evidenced by over 25 years in public education. Beginning her career as a general education teacher, she expanded her role to include the instruction of students identified as gifted. After more than a decade of teaching, she accepted the challenge of balancing the ever present needs of students with the demands of a large urban school district when she accepted the position of Assistant Superintendent. Throughout her career, Kristine has demonstrated an unwavering commitment to support the local school community in providing ALL students optimum opportunities for learning and options for post-secondary education.
After earning a Bachelor of Science Degree in Elementary Education from the University of South Florida, Kristine obtained a Master of Education Degree in Instructional and Curricular Studies from the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, as well as a Master of Education Degree in Educational Leadership from the University of Nevada, Las Vegas.
Vice President of Technology & Design
Thomas Zimmerman, Vice President of Technology & Design, specializes in educational technology and user-interface design for the web and Internet applications. He also is The Public Education Foundation’s art director for various multimedia events, web and print projects.
Prior to joining the Foundation in 2007, Thomas served as a project manager for the Clark County School District, developing and managing projects for educational technology and distance education. Thomas also developed the information architecture and user-interface design for the school district’s website and Internet applications. Additionally, he taught visual art and design for 11 years in CCSD.
Thomas holds a bachelor of fine arts degree from the University of Illinois and a bachelor’s degree in Art Education from Illinois State University. He has taken master’s level classes in educational technology from Western Governors University.
Dr. Beverly Mathis
Vice President of Teacher Engagement & Early Learning
Dr. Beverly G. Mathis, who is Vice President of Early Learning, Literacy and Family Engagement, joined The Public Education Foundation in 2011.
In 1976, Beverly relocated to Las Vegas from Tennessee, where she was an elementary school teacher for two years. Upon her arrival to Nevada, she taught 17 years in the classroom, three years as assistant principal and, from 1995 to 2011, served as the principal at Kermit Roosevelt Booker Sr. Elementary School, a post she held for 16 years until her retirement.
Among many recognitions of her commitment to excellence, Beverly received The Public Education Foundation’s Lifetime Education Achievement Award in 2015, was selected in 2010 as School Administrator of the Year by the Nevada Association of School Boards, was a recipient of the 2000 Milken Family Foundation Education Award, and has been inducted into CCSD’s Excellence in Education Hall of Fame.
In 2015, Governor Brian Sandoval appointed Beverly to Nevada’s Spending and Government Efficiency Commission for K-12 public education.
Beverly obtained her bachelor’s degree in Elementary Education and a master’s degree in Administration and Supervision from the University of Tennessee, Martin, and she obtained her doctorate in Educational Leadership from Nova Southeastern University.
Vice President of Teacher EXCHANGE®& Property Operations
Tim McCubbin is Vice President of Teacher EXCHANGE® & Property Operations.
Prior to joining The Public Education Foundation in 2011 to oversee the operations of the Teacher EXCHANGE, Tim served on the Foundation’s Board of Directors from 2002 to 2011.
He has more than three decades of experience in distribution, transportation, warehousing, inventory management, human resources and customer service. Tim spent over 25 years with Levi Strauss & Co. in various leadership roles and led the opening and operation of its state-of-the-art 800,000-square-foot Henderson Distribution Center. He also led the opening and operation of a 250,000-square-foot distribution center for Murray Feiss Lighting in North Las Vegas and its 15,000-square-foot showroom in the World Market Center in Las Vegas.
Tim received his bachelor’s degree in Business Administration from Eastern Kentucky University. His wife is a teacher in the Clark County School District and his two sons are both graduates of Clark County public schools. One son graduated from UNLV and the other from UNR.
Dr. Brian Myli
Vice President of Leadership and Innovation
Dr. Brian Myli, Vice President of Leadership and Innovation, has more than two decades of experience in public education.
Originally from Iowa, Brian came to the Clark County School District in Las Vegas in 1994 as the College Preparatory Counselor at Durango High School. From there, he spent eight years as the Counseling Department Chairperson and Coordinator at the College of Southern Nevada High School. In 2004, Brian joined the CCSD Guidance and Counseling Department as the Coordinator of College Readiness Programs and Initiatives.
Brian joined The Public Education Foundation in 2010 to participate in the Executive Leadership Residency. In 2012, he was named the Vice President of Leadership and Innovation, which includes directing the Foundation’s Leadership Institute of Nevada.
He holds a bachelor’s degree in psychology from Arizona State University, a master’s degree in educational counseling psychology from the University of Denver, a Nevada administrative endorsement in educational leadership, and a doctor of education (Ed.D.) degree in educational leadership from the University of Nevada, Las Vegas.
Director of Strategic Brand Development and Communications
Katie Bowen is a Marketing Communications Professional and lifelong Nevadan, who has spent much of her career working in political affairs, issue advocacy, and nonprofits.
Ms. Bowen received a bachelor’s degree in Political Science and Marketing from the University of Nevada, Las Vegas in 2012; a Master of Professional Studies in Integrated Marketing Communications (IMC) from Georgetown University in 2017; and, a Post-Baccalaureate Certificate in Intelligence from Johns Hopkins University in 2018.
During her time in Washington, D.C., Katie served as a Cause Consultant for the Association of Zoos and Aquariums’ Saving Animals From Extinction (S.A.F.E.) initiative; as well as for the More Than Me Foundation, an organization that empowers girls and social change through education in Liberia. As a Research Assistant for Georgetown University’s Center for Social Impact Communication (CSIC), Katie conducted research and analysis on the future of storytelling.
Outside of work, Ms. Bowen is passionate about voluntourism, animals, and experiencing different cultures. Her love of travel has taken her to more than forty countries (and counting).
Director of Policy and Analytical Leadership
Resident Fellow, Leadership Institute of Nevada
Zhan Okuda-Lim joined The Foundation in 2017 and serves as Director of Policy and Analytical Leadership and as Resident Fellow with the Leadership Institute of Nevada. As Director, he collaborates with colleagues, policymakers, community leaders, and national partners to explore policy priorities for Nevada’s students. As Resident Fellow, Zhan oversees and guides teacher leaders, principals, senior school district administrators, business leaders, and state government officials in the Leadership Institute on researching and tackling pressing problems of education policy and practice.
A native Nevadan and graduate of the International Baccalaureate program at Valley High School, Zhan’s passion for education and public service was sparked during the Great Recession through significant public education budget cuts. As a Student Council leader, Chair of the Clark County School District (CCSD) School Board Student Advisory Committee, Student Representative to the Nevada State Board of Education, and Chair of the Nevada Youth Legislature, he mobilized fellow students to advocate for public education funding and elevate students’ voices to local and state policymakers.
Working for CCSD during his college summers, Zhan engaged in various education policy and equity topics, including collaborating with colleagues in 2014 to draft Guidelines for Serving Students in Foster Care to streamline the delivery of supports to foster students in accordance with state and federal laws. The Guidelines served as a blueprint for the Nevada Blue Ribbon for Kids Commission, led by then-Nevada Supreme Court Justice Nancy Saitta, to advance legislative reforms to Nevada’s child welfare system.
Zhan earned his Bachelor of Arts (A.B.) in Public and International Affairs from Princeton University’s Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs, Master of Education (Ed.M.) in Education Policy and Management from the Harvard Graduate School of Education, and Master of Public Administration (M.P.A.) from the University of Pennsylvania’s Fels Institute of Government. For his senior thesis, he examined the relationship between CCSD school start times and adolescent student achievement; and for his M.P.A. capstone, he collaborated with CCSD to develop a research plan to examine the relationship between student achievement and school-based budgeting, a major aspect of CCSD’s reorganization under chapter 388G of Nevada Revised Statutes.
Zhan is an inaugural recipient of the United States Senate Youth Alumni Association’s Early Career Public Service Recognition Award, presented to United States Senate Youth Program alumni with promising and remarkable early careers in public service. At Princeton, he earned the David F. Bowers Prize in American Studies, which is awarded to the student who does the best work in the conferences and seminars of the Program in American Studies. Zhan volunteers as an alumnus mentor with the Nevada Youth Legislature and Nevada Association of Student Councils and is an active volunteer with the Princeton Alumni Schools Committee.