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Out-of-state educators need a clear and fair path to Minnesota classrooms. Tell your legislators, the Minnesota Board of Teaching, the Minnesota Department of Education and Gov. Dayton that you want to open the door to great teachers.

Our local advisory board of respected, bi-partisan community leaders help guide our work.

Director, Brightwater Montessori Elementary School

Ann Johnson, board chair
Ann Marie Johnson has worked extensively in the field of public education with a special interest in closing the achievement gap for students of color. She is currently the Director of Brightwater Montessori Elementary School in North Minneapolis. Prior to this role, Ann served as a Turnaround Program Specialist with the Minneapolis Public Schools, Director of Student and Family Services and Interim School Director at KIPP WAYS Academy and School Leader at The Academy of North Minneapolis. She began her career as a primary Montessori teacher for MPS, and has taught in various public, private and charter schools in Minneapolis, Charlotte and Atlanta, as well as Abu Dhabi. Ann holds a bachelor’s in Early Childhood Education from Clark Atlanta University and a master's in Literacy Education from Hamline University. She has completed multiple Montessori trainings and holds additional certificates in Cultural Dynamics and Cognitive Coaching Training. She has served on several boards, including the Minnesota chapter of the National Association of Multicultural Education and a special education advisory council for the Minnesota Department of Education.

Dean of Academic Foundations, MCTC

Dr. Keith Brooks
Dr. Keith S. Brooks is a longtime educator of educators. After earning his undergraduate degree at Xavier University, he attended the University of Minnesota for graduate school and then went on to teach educational equity for seven years at Bethel University. Now, he serves as the dean of academic foundations at Minneapolis Community & Technical College. Dr. Brooks is excited to bring his passion for and experience in teacher preparation to the MinnCAN board. He is also eager to look at root causes to help identify solutions to the current inequities in education, and to better support educators, parents and students. 

Senior Product Manager, Exact Software

Ashley Chirrick
Ashley has a bachelor's from the University of Minnesota-Duluth with a focus in marketing, and completed her M.B.A. from the University of St. Thomas in spring 2015. She brings this educational background, her passion for learning and development and nine years of experience in the software industry to the MinnCAN team. With her extensive background in technology, including project management and quality assurance, she hopes to offer a unique perspective to MinnCAN's work. In her spare time, Ashley also volunteers at events and fosters dogs through No Dog Left Behind, a non-profit dog rescue in the Twin Cities.

Partner, Ciresi Conlin LLP

Michael Ciresi
Mike, one of the country’s top trial lawyers, began his legal career in 1970. First hired as a clerk, Mike moved up through the firm’s ranks and is now a partner, served on the firm’s executive board for 25 years, and as chairman from 1995 to 2008. Mike represented the State of Minnesota and Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Minnesota against the historic tobacco industry trial, which led to a $7 billion settlement. Active in the community, Mike also sits on the boards of Children’s Hospitals and Clinics of Minnesota, Public Radio International, Parent Aware for School Readiness, St. Thomas Academy, University of St. Thomas School of Law, as well as the board of trustees for the University of St. Thomas. He’s also board president and chairman of the Robins, Kaplan, Miller & Ciresi Foundation for Children, which supports Minnesota children in education, advocacy and protection from abuse, while promoting equal opportunities. Mike attended the University of Minnesota Law School.

Vice President, 3M

Alex Cirillo, Jr.
Alex joined 3M in 1979 and held a number of titles throughout his career there: technical director of the Commercial Graphics Division, staff R&D executive for the Health Care Markets, president and general manager of 3M Canada, division vice president of the Commercial Graphics Division, and lastly vice president of Community Affairs and vice president of the 3M Foundation. Alex has extensive mentoring experience both inside and outside 3M, including mentoring in the MENTTIUM 100 program. He received an A.B. in chemistry from Catholic University in Washington, D.C., and both an M.S. and Ph.D. in chemistry at the University of Wisconsin – Milwaukee. In addition, he was a post-doctoral student at the Centre Nationale de Recherche Scientifique Laboratory in Orleans, France. Alex also served six years in the Army Reserves.

National Policy Manager, Educators 4 Excellence

Holly Kragthorpe
After moving out west for her undergraduate degree in political science from California Lutheran University, Holly returned home to Minnesota where she began teaching and earned her master's in education at the University of Minnesota. After teaching in Minneapolis Public Schools for 14 years, she first joined the staff at Educators 4 Excellence as an advocacy fellow in Minnesota and, later, as the national policy manager. During her time in the classroom, Holly was active in education advocacy, serving as a MinnCAN blogging fellow, MinnCAN's first-ever teacher policy fellow, a union steward for the Minneapolis Federation of Teachers and a teacher leader for Educators 4 Excellence.

Former Pastor, Church of the Ascension

Father Michael O’Connell
From 1999 to 2015, Father O’Connell led Church of the Ascension, a multi-cultural faith community in the Northside of Minneapolis. He also served as rector of The Basilica of Saint Mary in Minneapolis for 17 years. He is the founder of the popular Basilica Block Party and The Jeremiah Program and has worked closely with clergy and congregants of Minneapolis' Jewish, Christian and Islamic congregations to promote interfaith dialogue. Fr. O’Connell’s board service also includes the Hazelden Foundation, Friends of Ascension Grade School Board, Lundstrum Center for the Performing Arts, Robins, Kaplan, Miller & Ciresi Foundation for Children, Summit OIC Advisory Board, Aim Higher Foundation Board, Habitat for Humanity Philanthropic Leadership Council and the Northside Achievement Zone.

President & CEO, SMIF

Timothy Penny
Before joining SMIF in 2007, Tim represented Minnesota’s First Congressional District in the U.S. House of Representatives from 1982 to 1994 and served in the Minnesota State Senate from 1976 to 1982. While in Congress, he served on the education and labor, agriculture and veterans’ affairs committees; he chaired the Subcommittee on Veterans’ Education and Training and the Foreign Agriculture and Hunger Subcommittee. Throughout his congressional career, Tim prioritized budget issues, including chairing the Democratic Budget Group and the Porkbusters Coalition. Tim has also co-authored three books: “Common Cents,” “The 15 Biggest Lies in Politics” and “Payment Due.” Born and raised in southeastern Minnesota, Tim received his bachelor’s in political science from Winona State University. Most recently, Tim was a senior counselor at Himle Horner and a senior fellow at the Humphrey Institute.

Former Chairman & CEO, Piper Jaffray & Co.

Addison Piper
Tad retired from Piper Jaffray in 2006 after serving the company for more than 35 years through a variety of positions. Active in the community, Tad has served on a number of boards and is currently on the boards of Minnesota Public Radio, American Public Media Group and St. Olaf College (chair). Former board commitments include Abbott Northwestern Hospital (chair), Minneapolis Downtown Council (vice-chair), Allina Health System and former trustee of the Guthrie Theater. Tad holds a bachelor’s degree in economics from Williams College and an M.B.A. from Stanford University. 

Shareholder, Bassford Remele

Lew Remele
Lewis A. Remele, Jr. (“Lew”) is a well-respected litigator who has served as Bassford Remele’s chief executive officer and has been recognized by the international research firm, Chambers & Partners, as a top business litigator. In addition, he is in the Minnesota Lawyer Circle of Excellence, having been selected as an Attorney of the Year in 2007 and 2011. He is past president of both the Minnesota State and Hennepin County Bar Associations and the Academy of Court Appointed Special Masters, as well as a Life Fellow of the American Bar Foundation. Lew is a Harvard graduate and received his J.D. from Creighton University.

General Partner, Argus Management, Ltd.

Benson Whitney
Ben has 25 years of experience as an ambassador, venture capitalist, campaign manager, attorney, advisor and community leader. Notably, he served as the U.S. ambassador to the Kingdom of Norway from 2005 to 2009, where he increased student exchange between the United States and Norway and advanced several policy issues from NATO to energy and the Arctic. Ben has a BA from Vassar College, a JD from the University of Minnesota Law School and is a candidate for a graduate degree in policy management from Georgetown University. He also serves on the boards of Mastery Public Charter School (vice chair), Humphrey Institute of Public Affairs, Venture Academies and the Whitney and Persephone Foundations.