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Commissioners' Biographical Information

Biographies of the Advisory Commission on Charter Schools members.

Brian Bauer | Gary Davis | Ari Engelberg | Dr. Mick Founts | Dr. John Porter
Julie Russell | Mark Ryan | Christopher Thomsen | Curtis L. Washington


Brian Bauer

Represents: Charter Schools

Brian Bauer began his tenure on the ACCS in 2008 and has been its chair since 2010. He is the Executive Director of Granada Hills Charter High School (GHCHS), an independent public school in the San Fernando Valley of Los Angeles. Since its conversion to independent charter status in 2003, the School's API has soared over 100 points to 878 (2012), the highest of any public comprehensive high school in Los Angeles. Granada Hills Charter is top school of choice with over 2,000 students on its annual wait list.

Granada Hills Charter is a 2011 California Distinguished School and an International Baccalaureate World School. The School's Academic Decathlon team claimed back-to-back National Championship titles in 2011 and 2012, the first ever charter school to do so. Signature programs include a required summer transition academy for in-coming 9th grade and new students and a year-round, NCAA-certified virtual program serving over 150 students.

Mr. Bauer is the Chair of the Executive Council of the LAUSD Charter Operated Programs Unit and of the CCSA's Member Council. He was recently named to the CCSA Board of Directors. He has served as an Executive Coach for various charter schools throughout the state and the L.A. Mayor's Partnership Schools. He taught English, Spanish and ESL for seven years in several Los Angeles Unified schools and was an assistant principal for almost three years in various high schools before becoming principal at Granada Hills High School in 2000 before the charter conversion.

He received his BA from Yale, a Masters from CSUDH and UCLA, and is still writing his PhD dissertation at UCLA. Between his teaching and administrative assignments, Mr. Bauer spent two years in Colombia, South America as a Fulbright Scholar, and during the 2007 summer, was on a special educational leadership project in Brazil under the auspices of the U.S. State Department and the Fulbright Association.

Mr. Bauer serves as a trustee on several education, community service, and family philanthropic Boards. He presently resides in Los Angeles. In his "free" time, Mr. Bauer plays paddle tennis at the beach and is an avid traveler.

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Gary Davis

Represents: Parents or Guardians of Student(s)

Gary Davis, of Elk Grove, is serving his second term on the Advisory Commission on Charter Schools. From 2000 to 2004, Davis served as legislative director for Assembly Member Darrell Steinberg. From 2004 to 2006, he served as the program director for the California State University Chancellor. Prior to that Davis was the executive director for the Sacramento State Alumni Association and was a former Natomas Unified School District Board of Trustee. Davis currently serves as the mayor of Elk Grove and as the political director for EdVoice.  He received his bachelor of science degree from California State University at Sacramento. This position has a two-year term.

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Ari Engelberg

Mr. Engelberg is the Executive Director of Bright Star Schools in Los Angeles. Additionally, he sits on the Boards of Valley Charter Schools and 1in6.org. Mr. Engelberg was a founding partner of the Los Angeles Social Venture Partners and has previously held positions on the boards of Bright Star Schools, Ethos Water, eTeamz, CoreObjects Software, the Sherman Oaks Nursery School, the Jewish Venture Philanthropy Fund of Los Angeles, the Literacy Network of Greater Los Angeles, and Jewish Big Brothers-Big Sisters.

In 1996, while attending graduate school at UCLA, Mr. Engelberg co-founded Stamps.com, which is now the Internet postage leader, commanding over 85% market share. Mr. Engelberg was responsible for venture capital relationships, regulatory relationships, and strategic partnerships. In 2000, he left Stamps.com to co-found Archive, Inc., a data storage services provider, which was sold in 2002. Mr. Engelberg then returned to his alma mater, Harvard-Westlake School, to teach American history and coach basketball for several years before becoming Bright Star Schools’ first Executive Director in late 2007.

Mr. Engelberg holds Bachelor of Arts degrees in Political Science and Psychology from UC Berkeley and a Juris Doctor and Masters of Business Administration from UCLA. He was appointed to the ACCS in November of 2012 to fill a two-year term already in progress which expires December 31, 2013.

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Dr. Mick Founts

Represents: County Superintendents of Schools

Dr. Mick Founts is the Superintendent of San Joaquin County Office of Education. He was elected to the Superintendent position in 2010 and has served the county office of education for more than 20 years. Dr. Founts co-founded the San Joaquin County Office of Education’s first charter school and has continued to serve as a leader within the county for the development of high quality charter schools.

Dr. Founts was awarded his Doctorate of Education from University of the Pacific in 1995. He earned his Master of Arts degree in education, administrative credential, and pupil personnel services credential from California State University, Stanislaus and his Bachelor of Arts degree, cum laude, in English from Humboldt State University.

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Dr. John Porter

Represents: District Superintendents

Dr. John Porter is currently the Superintendent of Schools in the Franklin-McKinley School District in San Jose, California. Formerly, he held the same position in Ridgewood, New Jersey as their Superintendent. Prior to his New Jersey experience, he was the Director, America's Choice School Design: High Schools at the National Center on Education and the Economy, a nonprofit organization dedicated to changing and enriching education and human resource institutions through policy analysis and development, institutional design, and technical services. There he led the implementation of the America's Choice School Design in 32 high schools and twelve districts around the country. He also coordinated three regional educational reform initiatives with business leaders and higher education partners. Most recently, he co-designed the Franklin-McKinley Children's Initiative (FMCI), which is a comprehensive educational reform and wrap-around service model within a cluster of schools in the highest poverty area in the district with over 40 agencies and community partners.

In addition to the above activities, he has studied and conducted tours of the workforce development and educational systems in Denmark, Germany, England, and Scotland. It is through these experiences that he learned the value of having a portfolio concept of different school designs within a jurisdiction all leading towards high standards (which is now Board policy in the Franklin-McKinley School District).

He is the past Chairperson, Santa Clara County Superintendent’s Association, and currently a member of ACSA’s State Superintendents Council.

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Julie Russell

Represents: State Superintendent of Public Instruction

Julie Russell is the director of the Charter Schools Division. Prior to her current role, she was the administrator of the Regional Coordination and Support Office in the District and School Improvement Division of the California Department of Education. She served as the coordinator for the Statewide System of School Support (S4), focusing on building district and school capacity. She has worked with regional county offices of education to support various programs under the No Child Left Behind Act, including Enhancing Education through Technology (EETT) and 21st Century Community Learning Centers (CCLC). She worked on the development and support of policies to implement corrective actions in Title I local educational agencies and in schools that have advanced in program improvement. She earned a master’s degree in education administration from Sacramento State University.

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Mark Ryan

Represents: Charter Schools

Mark is currently the Superintendent of the Oakland Military Institute College Preparatory Academy.  He has taught at the elementary, middle, and high school levels for more than 20 years in both catholic schools and public schools and he has been an elementary vice principal, high school vice principal, and high school principal.  He was the principal of St. Matthias High School in Downey, CA when they were recognized as a National Blue Ribbon School of Excellence.  Mark holds a BA in Liberal Arts and Masters in Educational Administration, both from Mount Saint Mary's College in Los Angeles, and a Ph.D. in Curriculum and Instruction from the University of Southern California.  He is an adjunct professor in the School of Education at Loyola Marymount University's Bay Area Teach For America program.

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Christopher Thomsen

Chris Thomsen was elected to the board of the Sequoia Union High School District in 2009.  The district serves more than 9,000 students in southern San Mateo County, who attend four comprehensive high schools, four charter schools, and a continuation high school within the district.  He is also a member of the Delegate Assembly of the California School Board Association.

Thomsen is the executive director of the Institute for Research in the Social Sciences at Stanford University, an organization he helped launch in 2004.Over the past 15 years his focus has been largely on institutional planning efforts of the University, leading initiatives such as the President’s Commission on Technology, Teaching and Learning. For three years he took leave from Stanford to serve as a principal in an early-stage investment group. Capitalizing on technology transfer from UC Berkeley and UC San Francisco, he co-founded four biotech companies, and served as president and CEO of one of these, Tao Biosciences.

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Curtis L. Washington

Represents: Teachers

Curtis L. Washington, an educator for 23 years, is a physics teacher at Mills High School in Millbrae in the San Mateo Union High School District.

Mr. Washington was reappointed to the ACCS for another two-year term commencing January 2013. Washington is a strong advocate for public education and a former member of the California State Board of Education.

His work with the California Teachers Association (CTA) includes serving as chair of the union’s high school restructuring task force, as a member of the CTA workgroup on educational change, and as the union’s liaison to Cal-OSHA. He was appointed by former State Superintendent of Public Instruction Delaine Eastin to a committee on the state’s high school exit exam.

He earned his teaching credential and a bachelor’s degree in engineering from Princeton University, and a master’s degree in business administration from Stanford University. He is a former engineer for United Airlines and a former management consultant.

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Questions: Charter Schools Division | charters@cde.ca.gov | 916-322-6029 
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