aboutusPhotos Courtesy of Ian Halperin/Mesquite ISD

“Friends” Board of Directors: 2016

Friends of Texas Public Schools is driven by devoted board members and backed by strong supporters and advisors. When you get involved with FOTPS, you are joining a resilient network of individuals and companies to strengthen the goals of public education in Texas.

Scott Milder, Founder and CEO
Principal, SHW Group Architects
Scott’s experience stems from various educational venues, as well as media. His resume includes credentials as the public information officer in Galena Park Independent School District, media relations director for the Mesquite Independent School District, and a newspaper reporter and photographer. He earned his bachelor’s degree in journalism and his master’s degree in public relations, both from the University of North Texas. Scott is currently a principal with SHW Group, an international architectural firm specializing in school and university building planning and design. Most importantly, SHW Group donates 50 percent of Scott’s time to run Friends of Texas Public Schools!

Leslie Milder, Co-Founder
LeslieMilderLeslie Milder is a public school teacher, the founder of Friends of Texas Public Schools, CEO of Common Sense Communications, and author of Hello My Name is Public School and I Have an Image Problem, a book she released in 2012 to help educators unite as ambassadors for their students and profession. Her work revolves around restoration of pride and confidence in America’s public schools by letting Americans know their children are in good hands and that great things are happening in classrooms and schools across the country. “Failure is the anomaly, not the norm,” Leslie says. “The nature of news is negative because negative sells. We don’t hear much about public school achievements because they are prevalent, not the anomaly, and therefore not news.”

John Costilla, President
John currently serves as Director of Strategic Partnerships in Texas for myON, a personalized digital literacy platform that creates collaborative learning opportunities to reduce the literacy gap. John is also the current board president of Friends of Texas Public Schools – a state association focused on supporting district leaders, promoting public school achievement and celebrating what’s right with our schools. John’s career spans over 25 years as an educator, curriculum specialist, professional development and executive leader. He is a graduate of Texas Tech University with emphasis in Secondary Education. John is based in Austin, Texas.

Steve Risser, Vice President
Director of Business Development, Gallagher Construction
Gallagher Construction has been involved with the improvement of educational facilities in Texas since 1968. Gallagher is one of the few construction services firms in Texas with a primary emphasis on educational facilities. While they work with municipalities, the majority of their work is specifically focused on Texas public schools. Steve has been in business development in the design and construction industry since 1997. His passion and service for school facilities began in 2010. Since then, he has assisted many districts across the state with successful bond and facility planning. He understands the importance of supporting the industry of education, and celebrating the accomplishments of our public schools. There is a direct correlation between the quality of K-12 education, college attendance and graduation, and local economic growth. Texas has it all, and it all begins with excellent K-12 education. “I feel that it is my responsibility as a parent and professional to play an impactful role in the support and recognition of public education.”

Charlie Davis, Secretary
Schneider Electric
Charlie serves as Business Development Manager at Schneider Electric. We have helped over 140 school districts in Texas capture utility dollars they are currently spending and reinvesting them into facility improvements. I have been with Schneider Electric for almost three years and have been on the Board of Friends of Texas Public Schools for two years. We have helped over 140 school districts in Texas capture utility dollars they are currently spending and reinvesting them into facility improvements. I am a graduate of Abilene Christian University in Abilene, TX, where I received a Bachelor of Science degree in Communications.  In my free time I like to spend time with my family and play golf.

Dave Irby, Past President
Sr. Partner Relations Consultant, Northwest Evaluation Association
Dave has been in educational sales and consulting in Texas for over 20 years working with districts across the state to implement quality curriculum, assessment and professional development programs. His resume includes positions with Computer Curriculum Corporation, Educational Testing Service and McGraw-Hill. In his current position with the non-profit, NWEA, Dave works with districts to implement quality computer adaptive assessments that monitor student growth and inform classroom instruction. He has a BBA in management from the University of Georgia and a MDIV from Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary. His wife is a teacher in Burleson ISD. Both their son and daughter are graduates of Burleson High School.

David Baldner M.S., Board Member
David Baldner has been involved in public education since 1982. Beginning in the classroom, David served as a teacher, assistant principal, principal, and as a director of elementary schools in Galena Park ISD located in the Houston area. He then served at a regional level both in the Houston and Lubbock regional centers in the area of leadership and overseeing many programmatic areas in curriculum, instruction, and administration.  David’s work with Cambridge began in 2001 as the regional center desired to develop a strategic plan. He became an internal coordinator for the center, and was part of the team that developed and implemented two strategic planning cycles. David has worked with other centers or districts who desired more meaningful strategic plans and strategic plan processes, and his work in the area of quality management and process management have given him a unique perspective state- and nationwide with other education systems.

Fred Bentsen, Board Member
Director of Business Development, Source4Teachers
For over 25 years Fred has helped district and campus leaders find dynamic and creative solutions for the strategic and operational challenges they face daily. Fred has led sales, marketing and operations for some of the most successful organizations in education including Source4Teachers, The American Productivity and Quality Center, Vantage Learning and The Princeton Review.  Fred is a frequent presenter at K12 Education Conferences and has authored white papers focused on best practices for education transformation. He regularly volunteers his time for Education-related causes. In addition to serving on the Board for Friends of Texas Public Schools he is also a regular volunteer in Cypress Fairbanks ISD where his two daughters attend school. Fred graduated from Rice University with a Bachelor of Science degree in Mechanical Engineering and later studied at the Jones Graduate School of Business at Rice University.

John Blackburn, Board Member
Managing Director, Government Capital Securities
John has been an advisor in the Municipal Market for 7 years and has been able to serve the financing needs of many public school districts throughout that time.  His specialization with public schools is based around conducting and successfully passing public school bond elections and bond sales, in order to help districts maintain the facilities they need to keep up with today’s ever changing school environment.  John is a proud supporter, and product, of the Texas public school system and is pleased to be serving on the board FOTPS.  He was raised in Southlake, Texas and is the Son of a third grade teacher at Carroll ISD where as a youth he played football for the Dragons… John holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Political Science from Texas A&M University with a minor in Business, and has followed that education into the Municipal Finance industry.  John is a licensed financial agent maintaining a Series 7, Series 63, and Series 50 licenses…

Dalane E. Bouillion, Ed.D., Board Member
Educational Planner/Senior Associate VLK Architects
Dalane has spent her career committed to public education, and knew she wanted to be a teacher in the first grade. She received all three of her educational degrees from Stephen F. Austin State University in Nacogdoches, Texas. Her 23 year public education career began as a second grade teacher in Galena Park ISD. She also served the district as an assistant principal and principal. She then served Spring ISD as the Associate Superintendent of Curriculum and Instruction. In 2015, Dalane had an opportunity to bring her educational experience to the private sector, becoming a member of the design team at VLK Architects. Dalane now enjoys the ability to impact learning from a design side, creating ideal learning environments for students and teachers as she engages them in the planning process for their future facilities. She is driven by authentic student engagement, and believes we have the responsibility to make decisions in the best interest of students in order to perpetuate our democracy. Her husband, Kurt, is an English teacher and Debate coach in Goose Creek CISD. They have a daughter, Magailie, who attends North Shore Senior High School in Galena Park ISD. VLK Architects supports Dalane’s belief in Friends of Texas Public Schools, and allows her needed time to volunteer for the worthwhile efforts they leverage on behalf of the public education vocation.

Dan Carter, Board Member
Panorama Education
Daniel joined the leadership team at Panorama Education in 2017 and is responsible for new business generation, partner relations and client retention. Panorama Education is a Boston based technology company that helps schools measure concepts like growth mindset and school safety. Schools leverage our analytics tools and coaching to understand insights from student, teacher, and community feedback data. Today we reach over 4 million students across 7500 schools including some of our country’s largest districts.  We’re a team of 70, with $16mm in funding from YCombinator, Spark Capital, Mark Zuckerberg, SV Angel, and others. We’re searching for new team members who are intrigued by building tools and services that will have a direct impact on millions of students and educators.

Cari Ledesma, Board Member
Director, Operations for Texas Rural Education Risk Management Cooperative
Cari has spent the last 15 years serving staff and students of public schools. She started her career as an Admissions Counselor for Texas A&M University, recruiting and helping high school students through the college application process. Currently, she serves as Director of Operations for Texas Rural Education Risk Management Cooperative (TREA RMC). Their focus is on providing the best risk management services for rural schools across Texas including: property, liability, auto and workers compensation coverage. Cari graduated from Texas A&M University with a Bachelor of Science Degree in Journalism and serves her community as a Board Member of the Hays CISD Education Foundation.

Steve Levy, Board Member
Vice President of Education, Cadence McShane Construction
SteveLevyA construction professional with 32 years in the business, Steve has been involved in the construction of public schools since 1995. Having spent six years in a leadership role at Balfour Beatty, he recently joined Cadence McShane Construction to run their Education business in North Texas. He is an advocate for the public school system having put three kids through Plano ISD and enjoys building facilities that make the Texas public schools as good as any in the country. He serves on the board of The Construction Education Foundation and is a Planning and Zoning Commissioner in his hometown of Murphy Texas. In his spare time he enjoys golf, staying fit and vacationing with the family.

Shelby McIntosh, Ph.D., Board Member
Managing Director – SOUTHWEST
In her role as managing director for K12 Insight, Shelby partners with school district leaders across Texas to leverage research and technology solutions that help these leaders connect with their communities. She began her career in education as a high school English teacher in Flower Mound, Texas. After earning her bachelor’s degree in secondary education from Oklahoma State University and her master’s degree in educational leadership from Dallas Baptist University, she relocated to Washington, D.C., to research education policy at the Center on Education Policy at George Washington University. Shelby completed her doctorate in education policy at George Mason University in 2013. Her areas of expertise include community engagement; strategic planning; and local, state and federal education policy, specializing in student assessment policy, college and career readiness and school improvement.  Shelby returned to Texas in 2016 with her husband and two sons to be closer to her school district partners and to raise their children in Texas public schools.

Blake Powell, Board Member/Past President
Founding Partner, Powell & Leon, LLP
Blake has dedicated his career to the practice of school law and advocacy for public education. He earned his Bachelor of Arts Degree in English and his Degree of Juris Doctor from Baylor University in 1987 and 1990 respectively. In 1996, Blake founded the law firm of Powell & Leon, LLP. Today, Powell & Leon serves as general or special counsel to approximately 250 public school and community college districts, regional education service centers, charter schools, and special local government districts across Texas. A product of Texas’ public schools, Blake is a 1983 graduate of Copperas Cove High School and the son of a former public school teacher and administrator. www.powell-leon.com

John Tanner, Board Member
John Tanner is an educational thinker and writer specializing in the structures that drive the educational enterprise. In his book, The Pitfalls of Reform, John outlines how a number of those present structures—most notably tests, standards, and the quality determination for schools—all possess the similar characteristic of having been designed for purposes outside the goal of educational excellence. As a result, educational excellence occurs not because of the formal systems of accountability, but in spite of them, and when it does an educator is at heart of the change. John has served as a state test director, an executive at a leading assessment publisher, and the director of standards and assessments for one of the leading educational organizations in the country. As the Executive Director of Test Sense he works with and supports educators attempting the mind-shift from a stand-and-deliver-test-based culture to one that will actually be good for the student. John lives and works from San Antonio, TX.

Blake Cooper, Executive Director
blake-cooperBlake W. Cooper, recently retired superintendent of the Commerce Independent School District, began his role as Friends of Texas Public Schools Executive Director on August 1. Prior to his 8 years as Commerce ISD superintendent, Cooper served as an assistant superintendent at Kaufman ISD and in multiple roles at Edgewood High School, including head football coach and principal. Cooper has also been a teacher and coach at the Winnsboro, Garland, Sulphur Springs, and Sheldon school districts, and he’s served as an instructor and coach at East Texas State University, now Texas A&M University-Commerce.

Jennifer Storm
FOTPS Director of Business Operation and Fund Development
Jennifer Storm is responsible for the day to day operations of FOTPS including: meeting/event planning, membership development, communications, as well as financial and administration management.  Prior to joining FOTPS, Jennifer served for four years as the Senior Director of Planning and Administration for Texas Retailers Association where her role was diverse and included: association management; finance/book keeping; social media/website; support government relations activities; event planning; payroll/human resources; and board/committee management; communications to name a few; a role that touched every aspect of the Association.  Jennifer is a native Texan, raised in Premont on Storm Nursery, her family’s tree farm. She is a graduate of Texas A&M University – Corpus Christi with a Bachelors of Business in Marketing. She is married to David Nuckels and together they have two boys, Landon (6) and Barret (2).