Board of Directors & Education Council

Board of Directors


President                    Thomas O’Neill,  SVP and General Counsel, Exelon Corporation

Vice President            Dee Dee Chesley


Secretary                      Nicole Toalson, Owner, Green Bean Day School


Treasurer                     Jordan Hadelman, Founding Chairman, Witt/Kieffer


Parent Representative     Jenny Perez


Board Members:

Rolando Acosta, Attorney at Law

Adnan Assad, Senior Vice President, First Midwest Bank

Ronit Barrett, Partner, Eimer Stahl LLP

Robert Buono

Anthony Chimino, President, Assurance Agency, Ltd.

JoAnne Cicchelli

Jeff Kemerley, Multi-Family Segment Lead, James Hardie

Dan Lynch, Managing Director of Corporate and Government Affairs, United Airlines

James Morgan, Executive Director, Genesys Works Chicago

Nana Owusu, Northfield Police Department

Stephen Raquet, Vice President, Institutional Equity Sales, RBC Capital Markets

George Reimnitz, Senior Vice President, Lending, Wintrust Community Banks

David Rodin, Managing Director, Deutsche Bank Trust Company Americas

Rick Smirl, Chief Operating Officer, Investment Management Division, William Blair & Company

Gregory Spitzer, Partner, Paul Hastings

Barbara Stewart, Bowe-Stewart Foundation

Corey White, Kellogg Board Fellow, Northwestern University

Kimberly White

Elizabeth Whitehorn

Thomas Woodrow, Partner, Holland and Knight

Cindy Zelby

For more information on our leadership contact our Development Department here, or click here for the schedule of meetings in FY17.

Education Council Members

The Education Council makes recommendations to the Christopher House Board of Directors regarding achieving academic excellence, adhering to the school’s charter, and devising clear and consistent measures to monitor the school’s performance. The Council works closely with the Board of Director’s Program Committee to assure there is consistency and integration between the elementary school’s priorities and plans and the entire organization.

Volunteer Educators

Shari Berland, Education Consultant

Shari Berland is a freelance consultant specializing in public education reform initiatives. She has spent the last nine years working on strategic planning, program evaluation, research, and policy analyses to support district redesign and new school development efforts in Chicago, New York City, and across the nation.

Ms. Berland consults for organizations that support innovative education initiatives, including the Renaissance Schools Fund (RSF), the Raza Development Fund (Raza), the National Association of Charter School Authorizers (NACSA), and SchoolWorks. At RSF, she has managed the replication of high performing schools, participated on multiple panels to approve new schools, and provided strategic counsel to RSF’s CEO and COO. Ms. Berland’s work with Raza includes a project for the Walton Family Foundation (WFF), identifying resources available to charter schools within urban districts across the US to inform WFF’s charter funding structure. At NACSA, she works with a team of national experts to evaluate charter school authorizer quality and provide recommendations for improvement. At SchoolWorks, Ms. Berland is developing a charter school accountability toolkit for the New York State Education Department. She has also consulted directly with Chicago Public Schools to help draft and implement the district’s RFP process to attract high caliber design teams and sustainable school models. She brings a comprehensive understanding of best practices in school administration, leadership recruitment, and Chicago and national education networks to the Christopher House council.

Kate Cicchelli, Principal and Chief Academic Officer, Bennett Day School

As the Principal and Chief Academic Officer of Bennett Day School, Kate Cicchelli utilizes her more than thirteen years of education experience to develop and implement effectual curriculum. Her professional background includes work in school administration, elementary education with specialty in mathematics, the successful launch of a new school.

Prior to joining Bennet Day School, Ms. Cicchelli was a teacher leader at the Francis W. Parker School. At Parker, she has served on the school’s Corinthian Council, where she provided input in administrative activities related to staff professional development, admissions, hiring, and various school-wide initiatives. She also served as the Lower School Representative for Parker’s Board of Trustees. In her classroom, Kate created compelling and engaging curricula for her students, and believed in building strong relationships with other teachers, school members, and her students’ families. Interested in opportunities to improve and innovate her curriculum, she was at the vanguard of efforts to utilize a math curriculum developed in Singapore, recognized by the Programme for International Assessment (PISA) as a leader in global education.

Ms. Cicchelli has served as a visiting evaluation team member on multiple occasions with the Independent Schools Association of the Central States (ISACS) for schools completing their accreditation processes. She holds a B.A. in English from Kenyon College.

Vicki Rosenbluth, Preschool Teacher

Though recently retired, Vicki served as the lead teacher at the Mary Meyer School for 16 years.   In that role she was responsible for curriculum development and its implementation, teacher training, and parent/teacher communication. Vicki embraces the  process that encourages and fosters autonomy;promotes interpersonal growth; and builds learning skills based on a child’s innate curiosity.  She also participated in ongoing professional development workshops through Erickson Institute, NAEYC, and Seventh Generations Ahead. Vicki graduated in 1973 from Michigan State University with a degree in Multidisciplinary Social Science.  She has attained over 20 hours in Early childhood education through a variety of Chicago institutions, including National Louis and The City Colleges of Chicago. In 2000 Vicki developed a summer program for ages 5 through 10, where children are immersed in the growing of organic vegetables. She has served as the Director of Granor Farm Camp in Three Oaks, Michigan ever since.

Amy Rasmussen, Executive Director, Chicago Arts Partnerships in Education

Amy Rasmussen joined Chicago Arts Partnerships in Education in 2000 and now serves as its Executive Director. She has guided CAPE through a period of substantial programmatic and financial growth. Under her tenure, CAPE has quadrupled the number of schools its serves, its staff and budget. Through her work in education, she has developed expertise in school administration, data and assessment, professional development, and early childhood and elementary education with a focus on the arts.

Ms. Rasmussen holds a Bachelor’s in Music from DePaul University and a Master’s in Arts Entertainment and Media Management from Columbia College. She is committed to improving the policy environment for arts education. Ms. Rasmussen serves on the Advisory Committee for the Chicago Arts Learning Initiative as well as on the Illinois Creates Committee of the Arts Alliance Illinois.

Cheri Richards, Volunteer Educator

Cheri Richards has seventeen years of experience as an attorney in Illinois. She represents a variety of business and non-profit clients on general corporate matters (including profit and non-profit governance issues), employment issues and contract and transactional matters. Her experience includes advising directors and officers of entities on legal and related financial matters. Ms. Richards also represents commercial and residential property owners on commercial leasing and landlord-tenant litigation matters.

Ms. Richards is a certified school teacher and taught for three years at Passages Charter School before returning to the practice of law. She worked extensively with the former members of the Passages’ teaching and administrative staff on applying for a new charter school in 2009. Ms. Richards has previous board experience and has served as the President, Vice-President, and Secretary of a non-profit council (board). Her experience has provided insight to Christopher House in the areas of curriculum, board governance and human resources.

Ms. Richards received her Master of Education from Erikson Institute and also completed her Juris Doctor at Harvard Law School.

Dr. Daphne Sajous-Brady, Director of Student Support, The Ancona School

In her position at Ancona, Ms. Sajous-Brady provides support for students, teachers, and families in order to meet the individualized academic, social, and emotional needs essential to each student’s success.

Dr. Sajous-Brady is also an Adult Diagnostic Clinic Supervisor at Northwestern University, where she works to diagnose learning disabilities through comprehensive psycho-educational evaluations. For over a decade, Dr. Sajous-Brady has maintained a private practice in which she provides individualized instruction and support for students with diagnosed learning disabilities in kindergarten through high school. With these experiences, she brings a wealth of knowledge on developing and coordinating the most effective educational and support services for children with special needs. Her expertise is a great asset to Christopher House as we seek to foster achievement and perseverance in children of all ability levels.

Dr. Sajous-Brady has more than ten years of special education teaching experience in Illinois and Haiti. She received a Bachelor of Science in Communication Sciences and Disorders, a Master of Arts in Learning Disabilities, and a Ph.D. in Philosophy in Communication Sciences and Disorders from Northwestern University.

Amy Torres, Director of Curriculum and Instruction, Victory Education Partners

Ms. Torres, formerly the founding principal at Chicago International Charter School, currently works to support principals and develop a cohesive network-wide instructional vision which envelopes four Chicago International Charter School campuses. Aligned with Christopher House’s priorities, she is an advocate for using both quantitative and qualitative data-based strategies to provide high-quality education for all learners. Ms. Torres is also a current Leadership Consultant for the Illinois Network of Charter Schools, where she regularly provides professional development and support to schools in the process of opening new charter schools.

As the founding principal of Chicago International Charter School’s Irving Park Campus, Ms. Torres successfully developed a brand new school into the top-performing elementary charter school in the city in just four years. Her experience in creating an inclusive learning environment focused on student achievement and family engagement is an invaluable asset to Christopher House.

Ms. Torres holds a Bachelor of Arts in Spanish Literature from Knox College and a Master’s in Educational Leadership and Administration from National Louis University. She is currently pursuing an Ed.D. in Educational Leadership from National Louis University.

Christopher House Board Members Also Serving on the Education Council

Rolando Acosta, Attorney at Law, Acosta, Kruse, Raines & Zemenides

Mr. Acosta has served on the Board of Directors for more than ten years. He currently serves on the Board of Directors Outcomes Task Force which was developed to increase the effectiveness of the agencies data-driven program evaluation. He is an active member of the Education Council for the Elementary School. He was also involved in the development and acquisition of the Logan Square Family Resource Center which now provides educational services to more than 200 students each year.

Mr. Acosta has more than twenty years of experience representing private clients before local and state governments. His practice focuses on the development of real estate and the issues associated therewith. He has represented clients in over fifty municipalities in the suburbs of Chicago as well as handled numerous matters in the City of Chicago. His active practice involves not only land use approvals but also economic development incentives and the acquisition of property owned by the government. Mr. Acosta has represented clients in some of the most significant and complex cases in the Chicago area. He also has represented clients before the City of Chicago and County of Cook in lobbying efforts not related to the development of real estate. Among his clients have been large multi-national corporations, large developers and single site owners.

Mr. Acosta graduated cum laude from Loyola University of Chicago in 1985, where he was Managing Editor of the Law Review.

Robert Buono

Mr. Buono has been on Christopher House’s Board of Directors for more than 20 years and has played a leadership role in fundraising efforts, expansion initiatives, and recent construction projects. Mr. Buono’s leadership has been a critical component to the success of our capital campaign and the development of our Logan Square Family Resource Center.

Mr. Buono’s career includes a progression through government, law, real estate development and philanthropy. Between 1996 and 2006 he was a principal owner in a venture that completed more than $700 Million in Chicago based real estate development projects. Relevant projects included: 3,000 beds of students housing; 650 condominium units, primarily in mixed-used high-rises; over 250,000 square feet of central business district and neighborhood retail; and over 2.5 Million square feet of industrial buildings. Prior to real estate development, Mr. Buono practiced law at Kirkland & Ellis concentrating in real estate, finance, and legislative affairs. Preceding this, Mr. Buono worked for members of the Chicago City Council and U.S. House of Representatives.

Mr. Buono received a B.A. from the University of Wisconsin-Madison and a J.D. from Loyola University School of Law. He presently serves on the Board of Directors of Christopher House, The Marwen Foundation, and the Francis Parker School.

Gregory Spitzer, Partner, Paul Hastings

Mr. Spitzer joined Christopher House’s Board of Directors in 2007. Mr. Spitzer and his firm have provided countless hours of pro-bono legal services related to human resources and real estate. Mr. Spitzer is a partner in the real estate department of Paul Hastings’ Chicago office. He represents public and private companies and private equity firms in connection with acquisition, disposition, and financing transactions, including all aspects of commercial real estate acquisitions and dispositions, development, leasing, financing and re-structuring matters. Mr. Spitzer is especially knowledgeable in the areas of commercial lending work and structured financing, including synthetic leasing, sale-leaseback and leverage lease transactions.

Mr. Spitzer previously served on the board of directors of a public real estate and securities company. He also previously served as an Adjunct Professor of Law at the University of Minnesota School of Law and as a guest lecturer at DePaul University School of Law. He has authored or co-authored numerous articles and publications in the commercial real estate area.

Mr. Spitzer received a J.D. from Northwestern University School of Law (1989) and a B.S. in finance (highest honors) from the University of Illinois – Urbana – Champaign (1985). Prior to practicing law, Mr. Spitzer served as a Certified Public Accountant in both a public accounting firm and with a private company.

Tom Woodrow, Partner, Holland & Knight

Mr. Woodrow has been a part of Christopher House’s Board of Directors for more than 10 years and current serves as Board President. Mr. Woodrow has led the board in the development and revision of governance policies, bylaws, conflict of interest statement and whistleblower policies.

Mr. Woodrow focuses his practice on litigation matters, primarily complex product liability, toxic tort/asbestos, and commercial cases. He has handled and tried cases in several state and federal trial courts and has supervised and coordinated local counsel in numerous venues across the country. He also manages a toxic tort/asbestos docket of over 100 cases in Illinois.

Mr. Woodrow has also written and spoken on the topics of product liability and settlement strategy. He has lectured and made presentations to a number of domestic and international organizations, including the ABA Dispute Resolution Section, the San Antonio ACCA Chapter, the CPR Center for Conflict Resolution, the International Academy of Mediators, the Danish-American Business Forum, and the Brazil-US Chamber of Commerce.

Parent Advisory Council (PAC) Agendas