Our board consists of a dedicated group of local education champions, including school, business, and community leaders, as well as policy experts and parents. Their collective expertise and shared commitment to equity push EdAllies to help ensure that every young Minnesotan has access to a rigorous and engaging education.
Ginya is currently an Investigator for the Minnesota Department of Education where she investigates allegations of maltreatment against students by school staff. She formerly worked for the Minnesota Department of Human Services and Department of Corrections. She has spent the last 16 years working for the State of Minnesota in different roles focusing on the interpretation and application of MN Statute. Ginya is a graduate of the University of Minnesota – Twin Cities where she obtained a bachelor’s degree in Child Psychology. She is a union steward for the Minnesota Association of Professional Employees and is dedicated to social justice causes. She is a mother of three and is married to a teacher within the Minneapolis Public School District.
Karn Engelsgjerd, Chair
As Director of Development with Great MN Schools, Karn is lucky to serve as a connector between generous investors and remarkable school and community leaders working to make the everyday school experiences of Minneapolis students more equitable. Previously, Karn supported and managed The Achievement Network's midwestern and western sites, as well as the launch of new networks. She led the Eastern Massachusetts ANet team as the Executive Director. Before joining ANet, Karn served as a national and New York regional leader of programs at Teach For America. She began her career as a fourth-grade teacher in Baton Rouge, LA, where she was awarded Teacher of the Year. Karn is a graduate of the University of Wisconsin—Madison and Harvard Kennedy School. When not working, she enjoys walks with friends, exploring the city and state parks with her family, and attempting to make plants and flowers grow.
Simone L. Hardeman-Jones is the founding Executive Director of GreenLight Fund Twin Cities, an organization that partners with community, industry, entrepreneurial, and philanthropic leaders to bring social innovation solutions to the Twin Cities that fill unmet local needs, help break down entrenched barriers, and address deep-rooted disparities in order to create opportunities for children and families to thrive. With 15 years of policy, partnership, and advocacy experience, Simone has a deep understanding of the role that systems play and the impact they have in the lives of some of the most vulnerable and disadvantaged in our communities.
Most recently, Simone served as National Director of Policy and Partnerships at Educators for Excellence (E4E). She served in the Obama Administration for nearly four years in a variety of roles, including Deputy Assistant Secretary in the Office of Legislation and Congressional Affairs at the U.S. Department of Education. Simone spent six years as a policy advisor to United States Senators Senator Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) and Senator Kay R. Hagan (D-NC). She has also spent time working on multiple political campaigns, including as Director of African American Outreach for Senator Klobuchar’s 2006 Senate race.
Ann currently works as a special education teacher with KIPP Metro Atlanta. After starting her career as a primary Montessori teacher, she went on to teach in a variety of public, private, and charter schools in Minneapolis, Charlotte, Atlanta, and Abu Dhabi. Ann has also held a wide range of leadership roles in public education: She served as a Turnaround Program Specialist with Minneapolis Public Schools, Director of Student and Family Services and Interim School Director at KIPP WAYS Academy, School Leader at The Academy of North Minneapolis, and Head of School at Bright Water Montessori in North Minneapolis. She holds a bachelor’s degree in Early Childhood Education from Clark Atlanta University and Master of Literacy Education from Hamline University and an Educational Specialist degree in Educational Leadership.
Holly is the founder and CEO of Sidekick for Good, where she works with senior nonprofit leaders to solve sticky issues, help alleviate burnout, get programs off the ground, and help add more capacity during a time when you are asked to do more with less. Previously, she served as the Deputy Director at Educators for Excellence-Minnesota, where she led programming and fundraising work to ensure educators have a voice in policies that affect their classrooms. Prior to working full-time in education policy, she taught middle school and high school social studies for Minneapolis Public Schools for 14 years. During this time, Holly served as a union steward for the Minneapolis Federation of Teachers, as well as a school captain for E4E. She holds a bachelor’s in Political Science from California Lutheran University and a Master’s of Education from the University of Minnesota.
Before retiring in 2015, Michael O’Connell was the pastor at Church of the Ascension in North Minneapolis and The Basicila of St. Mary. Acknowledged as a visionary leader in the Twin Cities, Michael is the founder of the popular Basilica Block Party and the Jeremiah Program. He is also recognized for his dedication to interfaith relations, often working with the Downtown Interfaith Pastors Association and the Jay Phillips Center for Jewish Christian Learning Board. Additionally, Michael serves on the boards of the Ciresi Walburn Foundation for Children and the Lundstrum Center for the Performing Arts.
Lew is a shareholder at the full-service litigation firm, Bassford Remele, where he has previously served as CEO. He is regarded as one of Minnesota’s leading attorneys, and, among other honors, has been the top vote-getter over ten times in the annual Minnesota Super Lawyers list. Lew is past president of both the Minnesota State and Hennepin County Bar Associations, and the Academy of Court Appointed Special Masters. He is also a Life Fellow of the American Bar Foundation. Lew holds a bachelor’s degree from Harvard University and a J.D. from Creighton University.
Roberta B. Walburn, formerly a partner and of counsel at Robins Kaplan Miller & Ciresi L.L.P., is currently Of Counsel at Ciresi Conlin LLP. She has focused her legal career on complex, high-stakes litigation, and represented the State of Minnesota and Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Minnesota in their groundbreaking lawsuit against the tobacco industry. Previously, Roberta worked as a reporter on the Minneapolis Star-Tribune and the Buffalo (N.Y.) Evening News, as a legislative assistant to U.S. Senator Paul Wellstone, and as a senior fellow at the World Health Organization in Geneva, Switzerland. Roberta is a cum laude graduate of the University of Minnesota Law School, where she served on the law review, and received her undergraduate degree in economics from the University of Michigan. And she is a trustee of the Ciresi Walburn Foundation for Children.
TaShonda Williamson, Treasurer
TaShonda is currently Case Manager for the POWER program at The Link MN. Following a diverse career in the financial and medical fields, she went on to serve as a Family Advocate with Minnesota Comeback—working to close Minnesota’s educational achievement gap. TaShonda has vast experience showing up for and advocating for youth—in her work, as a community member, and as a foster parent. She has worked extensively—navigating complex systems and removing barriers—so that children and families may have the best outcomes.