Board of Trustees

The Creative Minds Board of Trustees comprises 10 volunteers from within and outside the CMI community. The board holds CMI and its mission and future in trust as it creates policy, exercises fiduciary responsibility to the school, and delegates the operational and educational functions of the school to the executive director.

To contact members of the board, please email

Board Meetings

The board of trustees meets once a month, September through June. Meetings happen on Monday from 6:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m.

Each year, the board opens three meetings to the public. The first open meeting of 2019–20 was on October 21, and the second happens on February 24. We’ll announce the dates for the third open meeting later in the year.

This is the board of trustees meeting schedule for 2019–20:

  • October 21: Open Meeting • Read Meeting Minutes
  • November 18
  • December 16
  • January 27
  • February 24: Open Meeting
  • March 23
  • April 27
  • May 18
  • June 22

Read minutes from these meetings earlier in 2019: July 22, August 19, and September 23.

Board Members

Valaida L. WiseValaida L. Wise
Interim Board Chair / Chair of Executive Director Search Committee

Dr. Valaida L. Wise (Val) is an educational consultant and adjunct professor at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, Maryland. An educator for more 20 years, Val received a bachelor’s degree in developmental psychology from Syracuse University; an MAT in early childhood education with a Montessori emphasis from Trinity College, Washington, DC; and a doctorate in educational leadership from George Washington University. A recent Brava Award winner, Val has lectured nationally and internationally, most recently on the topics of early childhood education, Montessori education, leadership, and diversity. She has presented at a variety of national conferences including the National Association of Independent Schools. Val has written several articles on educational leadership in early childhood, as well as Montessori education. Her most recent article, “Critical Absence in the Field of Educational Administration: Framing the (Missing) Discourse of Leadership in Early Childhood Settings,” appeared in the International Journal of Educational Leadership Preparation. She is a trustee on several professional and independent and charter school boards. Val is married with three children. She joined the CMIPCS Board of Trustees in 2018 and currently serves as interim board chair, chair of the Executive Director Search Committee, and on the Academic Excellence, Executive, and Strategic Planning committees.

Jeanelle JohnsonJeanelle Johnson
Treasurer / Chair of Finance Committee

Jeanelle Johnson is a partner in PricewaterhouseCoopers LLP’s Transaction Services practice based in Tysons Corner, VA. Jeanelle has more than 18 years of experience in financial advisory services, including advice and opinions on all aspects of valuing businesses, assets and liabilities, mergers and acquisitions, IPOs, and private placements across a number of industries—including multiple acquisitions in the aerospace and defense and IT consulting industries for a Fortune 1000, DC-metro-based firm supporting the federal government. Jeanelle has assisted clients with a wide variety of financial reporting valuations related to business combinations, goodwill impairment, and long-lived impairments testing. Prior to joining PwC, Jeanelle worked in the valuation team at a Big 4 firm in both London, UK, and Washington, DC, as well as at Legg Mason’s Investment Banking group. Jeanelle has an MBA from the University of Maryland, College Park, and a BBA in finance from the George Washington University. Jeanelle joined the CMIPCS Board of Trustees in 2019 and currently serves as treasurer, as chair of the Finance Committee, and on the Executive Committee.

Matt WalkerMatt Walker
Secretary / Chair of the Governance Committee

Matt Walker is vice president of policy and public partnerships strategy at Teach For America. Originally from Colorado, Matt taught second and third grade for three years in Los Angeles as a TFA corps member; earned a California Multiple Subject Teaching Credential at night, while teaching full time during the day; and was honored by his school district with an Unsung Hero Award for extraordinary work. He was a Capitol Hill staffer for several years, worked on No Child Left Behind and the Affordable Care Act, and served as chief of staff to Rep. Rob Andrews (D-NJ) and as labor counsel to the House Committee on Education & Labor. He also practiced employee benefit law at Sherman & Howard LLC in Denver, Colorado, and was a deputy district attorney in Aspen, Colorado. He is a board member of Buildings & Books, which works to establish children’s community libraries in sub-Saharan Africa. Matt has a BA in philosophy and political science from the University of Southern California; a master’s degree in administration, planning, and social policy from the Harvard Graduate School of Education; and a law degree from Cornell Law School. He joined the CMIPCS Board of Trustees in 2016 and currently serves as chair of the Governance Committee, as secretary of the board, and on the Executive Committee.

Dr. Neal BrownDr. Neal Brown

Dr. Neal Brown has served as the head of school at Green Acres School since 2008. Green Acres is a progressive independent school, serving prekindergarten through 8th-grade students, in North Bethesda, Maryland. During Neal’s tenure, Green Acres has developed service-learning partnerships with local nonprofits; become a certified MAEOE Green School; launched a pre-K program; extended diversity and inclusion initiatives; and integrated technology, including a one-to-one laptop program and middle school classes in engineering and robotics. Bringing Green Acres to prominence as a model progressive school, Neal had Green Acres host a national conference of the Progressive Education Network for 500 educators in 2009. Neal also worked to form a local consortium of progressive schools, and he has published articles for Independent School magazine and writes regularly about progressive education and school leadership for school publications. Neal earned his BA and MAT from Brown University. He taught at Brimmer and May School in Chestnut Hill, Massachusetts, and at the Kokrobitey School in Accra, Ghana. Neal facilitated a network of independent schools and consulted with public schools across the country while working for the Coalition of Essential Schools and the Annenberg Institute for School Reform—organizations dedicated to progressive educational philosophy. Neal’s doctoral work at the Harvard Graduate School of Education focused on the professional culture of schools and the induction of beginning teachers.

Dionne Tyus GarvinDionne Tyus Garvin
Chair of Strategic Planning Committee

Dionne Tyus Garvin has had an extensive advisory and management consulting career. With a portfolio of clients spanning both public and private sector organizations, Dionne has more than 12 years of experience creating human capital strategies and solutions for talent management, change management, and workforce strategy and planning. In addition to her management career, Dionne has spent more than 20 years serving as a passionate advocate for children, K–12 education, and student achievement. As a Broad resident, Dionne spent three years supporting Prince George’s County Public Schools building human capital solutions and creating business partnerships for innovative career pathways for high school students. She holds a BS in business administration from Florida A&M University, an MA in communication & culture from Howard University, and an MS in educational leadership from the Broad Center for the Management of School Systems. Dionne’s wealth of experience brings exciting insights to support CMI’s goals. She is also a passionate supporter and patron of the performing arts, particularly ballet, opera, and theater arts for children. Dionne joined the CMIPCS Board of Trustees in 2016 and currently serves as chair of the Strategic Planning Committee, on the Executive Committee, and on the Executive Director Search Committee.

Lynn C. JenningsLynn C. Jennings
Chair of the Academic Excellence Committee

Dr. Lynn C. Jennings directs strategy and advocacy initiatives as senior director of national and state partnerships for the Education Trust, a leading national organization to committed to eliminating education inequities, in P–12 and higher education, that disproportionately impact students of color and students from low-income backgrounds. In this role she has led the organization’s growth into states by building and sustaining advocacy networks in 10 states, including establishing two Ed Trust state-based education hubs. Under her leadership, the Ed Trust has worked with communities, educators, policymakers, experts, and other key stakeholders on issues such as funding equity, educator diversity, college affordability, and accountability. Lynn developed her expertise in federal and state education policy as an education lobbyist and senior program manager at the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation. Currently, Lynn serves as president of the PTO at John Burroughs Elementary School. She joined the CMIPCS Board of Trustees in 2018 and currently serves as chair of the Academic Excellence Committee and on the Executive, Executive Director Search, and Strategic Planning Committees. Prior to entering the education policy space, Lynn taught American literature, African American studies, and women’s studies courses at varied institutions of higher education, including Spelman College, Columbia College Chicago, and the University of Wisconsin-Madison. She earned a BA in English from Spelman College and her PhD in English from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Lynn lives in Washington, DC, with her husband and two sons.

Ornella NapolitanoOrnella Napolitano
Executive, Governance, and Finance Committees

Ornella Napolitano is a senior executive with over twenty years of global finance, operations, and management experience across various industries and geographies. She has worked in small and large, domestic and multinational, and public and private organizations. As a senior executive with Nortel Networks, she managed large and diverse projects and staff groups across vast matrix organizations, often with competing objectives and priorities. In her most recent position as VP of finance and treasurer for a publicly traded telecom company, her responsibilities encompassed many of the traditional financial functions, as well as legal and contract management, billing, marketing, and stakeholder relations, and afforded her the opportunity to redesign key business processes. Ms. Napolitano’s career also includes working for various multilateral institutions in Washington, DC, and starting her own consulting firm and an export-import business, as well as several financial positions with Hewlett-Packard and Bristol-Myers Squibb. She holds an MBA and BSBA from the American University in Washington, DC; speaks numerous languages; and dedicates a portion of her free time to DC schools. She joined the CMIPCS Board in 2014 and served as board chair from 2017-19. She currently serves on the Executive, Governance, and Finance committees.

Navin NayakNavin Nayak
Executive Director Search and Governance Committees

Navin Nayak has more than 15 years of experience in advocacy and elections with several organizations. Currently, he serves as the executive director of the Center for American Progress Action Fund. In that capacity, he oversees day-to-day management of the organization and helps create new programs and projects that will help the organization fulfill its mission. Previously, Navin served as the director of opinion research for Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign, where he oversaw all of the campaign’s message research. He worked for eight years at the League of Conservation Voters, where among several roles, he served as senior vice president for campaigns, overseeing all of the organization’s electoral work. In addition to his advocacy experience, Navin worked as a donor advisor at Corridor Partners, where he provided strategic guidance to donors on their advocacy and electoral investments. He has a bachelor’s degree from McGill University in Montreal and a master’s in environmental studies from York University in Toronto. Navin has two children at Creative Minds and joined the Creative Minds Board of Trustees in 2019. He serves on the Executive Director Search Committee and the Governance Committee.

Prita PatelPrita Patel
Finance and Governance Committees

Prita Patel is the associate vice provost for academic administration at American University, a private, nonprofit, higher-education institution in Washington, DC. In her current role, Prita manages the consolidated budget for the Division of Academic Affairs, leads the development and implementation of key strategic partnerships, and oversees financial and administrative matters for academic units. Prior to joining American University, Prita was senior director of budget, finance, and risk management at Columbia University Medical Center, in New York. Throughout her career in higher education, Prita has utilized her analytic and financial management experience to advance the greater mission of learning. Prita started her career at Morgan Stanley as an equity research analyst for the healthcare sector, where she developed broad and deep knowledge of financial markets. Prita holds a BS from New York University’s Stern School of Business and an MS from the Imperial College Business School in London, England. Prita is a coordinator for the Imperial College London DC Alumni Chapter. She joined the CMIPCS Board of Trustees in 2017 and currently serves on the Finance and Governance committees.

Jennifer WallaceJennifer Wallace
Strategic Planning and Race, Diversity, Equity & Inclusion Committees

Jennifer (Jenni) Wallace is deputy director of the Office of Sustainable Fisheries, NOAA Fisheries Service. As deputy director, her role is to manage and lead fishery conservation and management activities to ensure sustainable fisheries through effective national and office-level programs and policies. She started at NOAA Fisheries in 2002, as a presidential management intern. Jenni holds a BS in marine biology from Eckerd College and a master’s of environmental management from Duke University. She lives in the Petworth neighborhood of Washington, DC, with her husband, Mike, and daughter, Evelyn, a student at Creative Minds. Jenni served as president of the Creative Families Association during the 2018–2019 school year and currently serves as the immediate past president. She joined the Creative Minds Board of Trustees in the fall of 2019, as a parent member, and serves on the Strategic Planning Committee and the Race, Diversity, Equity & Inclusion Committee.

CMI’s Open Board Meeting Policy

The Board’s overall objective is to conduct school business in a transparent manner; many Board documents, including financial statements, are available for view online. While many Board meetings deal with personnel issues, awards, or other matters of confidential nature, we will hold a minimum of one open Board meeting in the Fall per school year. We will announce the date of this open meeting on the CMI website, and in an email to the CMI community, at least ten days in advance. This schedule complies with CMI’s bylaws, which specify there shall be at least ten meetings of the Board held each year. Members of the CMI community who wish to contact the Board are welcome do so at any time.