Founding Board Directors
Mark Welle, Chair
Mark W. Welle was born in Denver, Colorado and was/is the beginning of the fourth generation of Colorado natives in his family. Although raised in Englewood and Littleton, he spent most of his summers working at his Uncle’s ranch in southeastern Douglas County, near his adopted “Hometown” of Castle Rock, Colorado.
After college Mark began his 30 year career with the Xerox Corporation ultimately becoming a Senior Vice-President. His career took him and his family (wife Barbara, son Mark Jr. and daughter Andrea) to temporarily live in California and Washington DC, returning to Castle Rock in 1996. Upon returning to Colorado he became involved with the United Cerebral Palsy Charity, ultimately leading their efforts as Chairman of the Board to establish and build a Charter School Lowery area of Denver.
Mark is currently the CEO of his family’s business, WESCO Laser Machining Company. He is a member of other charitable boards including Castle Oaks Covenant Church, Rocky Mountain Tool and Machining Association, Colorado Association of Commerce and Industry, Colorado Association of Manufacturing Alliance, CORE Leadership for Men and Apex Elementary Charter School.
Kai Szoka, Vice Chair
Kai is an accomplished data analyst, curriculum researcher and licensed administrator in the state of Colorado. He was a founding teacher at a charter school in urban Denver that successfully closed the achievement gap in both minority and English language learner populations. He has classroom and leadership experience in both charter and district settings, including experience in and recognition for his work in a turnaround school.
Kai has curricular expertise and has consulted with schools on curricular decisions, including developing, implementing, and overseeing a writing curriculum that led to consistent and meaningful gains on state assessments for multiple years, He continues to research and recommend curricula for developing charter schools, using collected achievement data from Colorado Schoolview and empirical, peer-reviewed sources in academia
Lori Parker, Secretary
Lori is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker, since 1994, specializing in working with high risk families with children with emotional, behavior, intellectual or developmental difficulties. She has provided direct services to families through assessment and mental health treatment since the beginning of her career in 1989, as well as provided trainings in many areas including: risk assessment, working with difficult families, child development, grief and loss, child welfare services, cultural outreach, special education (IDEA and IEP’s) and intellectual and developmental disabilities. Lori served as a Child Welfare Trainer with the Butler Institute for Families at DU through Co Department of Human Service contract for 17 years. Lori considers herself a child and family advocate. Lori currently works for the Aurora Mental Health Center as a Child and Family Therapist and for the THRIVE Center as Parent Advisor, connecting families to community resources and helping them navigate special education services.
Lori is also the proud mother of three children who are excelling in public education having attended schools in the Cherry Creek, Aurora and Douglas County School Districts. During the seven years of her children’s attendance at a Denver area charter school, she was intricately involved as a volunteer supporting year round fund raising. She was honored with the Volunteer of the Year Award in 2011. Since the birth of her first son with severe and profound disabilities, Lori has experienced first-hand the benefits of services and interventions for children with developmental concerns, including early intervention and special education services. Lori is well-connected in the disability community, serving on the Parent Advisory Board of Parent to Parent (since 2008) and being actively involved in community advocacy. Lori is a trained PATH Facilitator, offering Person Centered Planning for individuals with disabilities. Lori began and currently maintains a metro area support group for families of children with neuro-muscular conditions called CP Connections. In 2014, Lori received a local disability focused organization’s Advocate of the Year Award.
Todd Slechta, Treasurer
Todd was born and raised on the southwest side of Chicago and became a “Coloradan” in 1991, moving to Colorado Springs to take his first position after graduating from North Park University in Chicago. He is currently the Vice President of Education and Communication for PeopleCare Health Services, a statewide company in Colorado providing in-home health services with a unique niche of bringing services to individuals with special needs in rural and remote rural areas. He also sits on the Executive Committee of the Board of Directors for the Home Care Association of Colorado, an association representing over 10,000 licensed health care professionals and care providers throughout the state. His particular focus for the association is working with local and state elected officials to inform health care legislation, policy and regulation.
Previously he was the Principal of a K-8 public school in the Denver metro area with a unique mission centered on the full inclusion of students with a range of disability, implementing policy and procedures that successfully guided the school from the lowest tier of standardized student academic achievement to a place in one of the highest in the district.
Prior to that, he served as the Executive Director/Instructor for a small college in Calgary, Alberta, Canada; a 10-year stint that included relocating to La Merced, Pinchinchia, Ecuador in South America to give oversight for the startup of the colleges first non-North American campus.
Christie McGovern, Board Member
Christie is a licensed Speech Language Pathologist who has been working in Special Education within public schools since 2004. Since 2012, Christie has worked in Aurora Public Schools in special education as a special education consultant, most recently guiding the specialized instruction and special education compliance at eight of the district's elementary schools and one of the K-8 Core Knowledge charter schools. Previous to 2012, Christie held the position of Student Services Coordinator at an inclusive Core Knowledge charter school in Denver for three years. Christie received her Master's Degree from Indiana University with a degree in Speech and Hearing Disorders and in 2013, received her Colorado Principal License after completing the Executive Leadership for Successful Schools program at Morgridge College of Education at the University of Denver. Originally from Southern California, Christie has traded the ocean for the mountains of Colorado, making this state home for her and her three children.
Jacqueline Hooper, Board Member
Jacqueline is a mother, wife, small business owner, and educator, currently teaching graduate courses in health promotion and health behavior change. Jacqueline and her family came to Colorado in 2008, with her family expanding to three children with the birth of their youngest child, Nathan, in 2009. In addition to Nathan, Jacqueline and her husband Ron are parents to Gabrielle and Deidra…with all three kids very involved in scholastic and extra-curricular activities that include Lego, chess, choir, guitar, basketball and soccer.
Jacqueline worked as an Organizational Development leader in health care companies in Colorado for seven years. She was responsible for high-potential leader development programs and succession planning for four different business divisions and their Vice Presidents. Additionally, she was responsible for Division-wide interviewing, selection, and onboarding practices for leader and staff roles. She is certified in a number of high-potential leader assessments and team and organizational development workshops.
Prior to coming to Colorado, Jacqueline worked as a faculty member in sport/exercise/health psychology programs in Missouri, Washington state, and in Sydney Australia. Jacqueline lived and worked in Sydney for three years, including during the time of the Sydney Olympics – something that was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for her, given her doctoral work in sport psychology and performance enhancement. She holds a Ph.D. in Education from the University of Virginia, a Master’s of Science from Florida State University, and a Bachelor’s of Arts degree in Psychology from the University of Minnesota. Jacqueline takes a “what’s-right” approach to her work with individuals, teams, and organizations and utilizes practices from positive psychology and Gallup in order to drive engagement and performance. She is certified as a Health and Wellness coach through Wellcoaches©, endorsed by the American College of Sports Medicine.
Julie Fairley, Advisory Board Member
Julie’s career in public education has included roles as director of secondary education, high school principal, assistant principal; and teacher at the middle, high, and adult alternative levels in both inner-city and suburban schools. She has also been a college instructor in leadership studies. As a consultant, Julie counts many school districts, the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, Arizona State University, and the State of Washington among her clients. Her background includes a B.S in Mass Media and an M.S.in Educational Administration. She was awarded the Phi Delta Kappa Educator of the Year award for Colorado and has authored three published books on the topic of leadership.
Julie has served on school review teams for five years and also attended C.D.E. training in the U.I.P. evaluation process. Her roles as an educator and also as a grandparent of two special needs children, have afforded her broad-based experience with Tiered Intervention processes. Often smiling as she tells interviewees that she “comes in peace,” Julie is sincerely dedicated to providing an honest, collaborative review process with the ultimate goal of improving student achievement.
Meghan Klassen, Advisory Board Member
Meghan earned her Bachelor's degree in Journalism and Marketing from Creighton University. She spent one year as a Jesuit Volunteer in San Antonio, as the Lead Teacher of a Mothers' Day Out program for low-income families of children with special needs. She earned her Master's degree in Early Childhood Special Education from the University of Texas-Austin in 2005. She taught one year of bilingual first grade at a Title I school, and completed her practicum at The Rise School of Austin, where she taught for three years, before starting a family. She came to the Rise School of Denver in 2011 and taught the Pre-K class before becoming the Executive Director in 2012. A Denver native, Meghan enjoys spending time with her family, running, cooking, reading, doing yoga, and traveling.