Renée Burgess

Secret Talent: Shooting Freethrows
EQ Value that defines you: Tenacity
Why EQ: “I ferociously pursue equity in education and I know that with this team, we can make real progress to end systemic inequities. Why EQ? Because we cannot fail. Not when the stakes are this high for so many kids.”

Renée leads the organization’s work in ensuring the organization’s mission and priorities are met in order to provide excellent and equitable access to education for kids who need it the most.
Prior to her work at EQ, Renee worked in the public, charter and non-profit sectors with a passion for creating innovative solutions to improve outcomes for kids. She has been the Executive Director of Secondary Instruction in a public school district, responsible for district school improvement and turnaround. Renee worked for a national non-profit organization that partnered with school districts to open small schools for students placed at-risk. While there, she oversaw curriculum and instruction efforts for over 32 schools across the country and helped launch over 12 new schools. Renee has also been a principal, instructional coach, athletic director and teacher.
Renée graduated from the University of Michigan (“Go Blue”) with a Bachelor of Arts in English and Sociology and a certificate in Secondary Education and completed her Masters of Arts work at George Washington University in Educational Leadership, Policy and Human Development. She is crazy about her kids, horses, camping, all things Christmas, and Murder She Wrote.

Sarah Campbell
Managing Director of Programs

Theme Song: Don’t Stop Me Now
EQ Value that defines you: Tenacity
Why EQ: “I tried a lot of other options but I feel like at EQUITY, the adults value each other and want what’s best for students.”

Sarah joined EQUITY Education in July 2015 and is Managing Director of Programs. In this role, she works at the intersections of operations, finance, and academics supporting the organization’s capacity to allocate resources in a way that maximizes their impact for students and families.
A Michigan native who resides in Detroit, Sarah has education experience in both charter and traditional public schools. Sarah started her career with as a high school Social Studies teacher with Baltimore City Public Schools where her students scored over 20 percentage points above the city average on the state government exam. Following her teaching in Baltimore, Sarah has worked in a variety of capacities including Acting Principal, Instructional Coach, Dean of Teaching, and Data Analyst. Sarah was also a participant in the selective Achievement First School Leader Immersion Program in New York City. She attended both Illinois Wesleyan University and Johns Hopkins University.
While not at work, Sarah explores museums, gluten-free eating in Detroit, and walking her dog, Bea.

Jerry Giordano
Managing Director of Innovation

Dream Vacation Spot: Cusco
EQ Value that defines you: Initiative
Why EQ: “I was frustrated as a teacher. When EQ came along, it felt like, this was a better option for kids.”

Jerry leads EQUITY’s data quality and analysis, evaluation tools and systems, and strategic initiatives and pilot projects. Before joining the Home Team, he taught science at Detroit Leadership Academy where his students consistently achieved gap-closing growth.
Jerry earned his B.A. in EnvironmentalStudies, Political Science, and Philosophy from the University of Richmond, as well as his M.Ed. in Educational Leadership and Policy Studies from Wayne State University. He also has his Michigan K-12 School Administrator Certification.
Jerry is an outdoor enthusiast, early childhood education advocate, and avid bike rider. In his spare time, he is learning the piano, grows over 50 species of plants in his Detroit apartment, and reads about the chemistry and genetics behind bioluminescence.

Gary W. Meier
Chief Executive Officer

EQ Value that defines you: Quality

Gary W. Meier has spent over 30 years as superintendent of four school districts focusing on providing strong operational support and financial stability. Meier has a BA in Business Administration and a MA in Educational Administration. Gary established a consulting company in 2009 to support traditional public and public charter schools in opening new and managing existing schools. A primary client of Gary’s has been Michigan Future, Inc. specifically in the areas of supporting new school founders in the development of school implementation plans, budget development, planning year and launch activities, and non-academic school operations. Through his work with Michigan Future Schools, Gary worked with several founding teams of Detroit-based high schools. This work led to his desire to start EQUITY Education.

Casey Paulus Crews
Senior Managing Director of Academics

Dream Vacation Spot: Greece
EQ Value that defines you: Quality
Why EQ: “I feel passionate about making high quality education a reality for kids.”

Casey leads the design and implementation of EQUITY’s academic strategy across all K- 12 schools. In this role, she manages the instructional team and works to ensure all EQUITY students receive a high-quality and equitable academic experience that affords them freedom in choosing their future endeavors.
Prior to joining EQUITY, Casey worked as a school turnaround consultant, supporting efforts across the country through principal development, teacher effectiveness support, and school improvement initiatives. Her work has positively impacted teams and students in Columbus City Schools, Cleveland Metropolitan School District, Montgomery County Public Schools, Metro Nashville Public Schools, Syracuse City Schools, Baltimore City Schools, Boston City Schools, and numerous charter school networks coast to coast.
Casey began her career in urban education as a Teach for America corps member and teacher in Miami-Dade, Florida. She then set a course for school leadership, working with the Breakthrough Collaborative, KIPP Columbus, and as the turnaround school leader of a K-8 charter school in Cincinnati, Ohio.
While Casey cherishes the work she gets to be a part of in Detroit with EQUITY, Casey is a lover of all things Ohio and lives there with her husband, Trevor. When not at work, Casey is usually spending time with her family, playing with her labs Karalee and Annie, or contemplating projects around the house. She loves a good road trip, high-energy gospel music, and cheering on the Cleveland Cavs.

Michille Roper-Few
Managing Director of Schools

Favorite Charity: Special Olympics
EQ Value that defines you: Tenacity
Why EQ: “EQUITY stands up for kids and I’m not sure many other organizations are true advocates and look at the whole child. EQ understands that to educate a child, they need to be emotionally and socially cared for.”

Michille Roper-Few is a Special Educator with over 20 years of experience in Public andCharter Schools. She graduated from TheUniversity of Texas at El-Paso and received her teaching certificate in Learning Disabilities from Wayne State University. Michille’s passion for working with students with disabilities started in high school where she would volunteer assisting students who were in need. As a Special Educator, Michille has fought and advocated to make sure all students were given the same opportunity to receive a quality education.
During her tenure, Michille has had a wealth of experience working with students from different backgrounds and diagnosis. Starting as Resource Teacher, she has progressed to a senior leadership role that includes overseeing schools and principals for Equity Education. In her former roles, Michille has ensured compliance of all Federal, State, and local requirements, organizes/facilitates professional developments, and coaches/supports staff, students, parents, and community on Special Education, Section 504, and the Mckinney -Vento Act.
Michille’s professional and personal belief is simple; never stop believing, because when we do, all hope is gone. While Michille is not at work, you can find her courtside cheering on her son, Dan, as he follows in Michille’s footsteps as a center on the basketball court.

Tyler Shaw
Managing Director of Partnerships and Growth

Favorite Movie: Good Will Hunting
EQ Value that defines you: Unconventional
Why EQ: “I want to work somewhere I am valued for what I bring to the table. I like being a part of solving the consuming and catastrophic problem of failing education systems.”

Tyler Shaw joined the EQ home team in 2016 with a depth of experience in urban public education at all levels.
Tyler began her career as a special education teacher within a Title I high school in the Baltimore County Public School System and as a graduate of the alternative certification, Baltimore County Teacher Residency Program. In addition to her role in the classroom, Tyler embraced a variety of leadership opportunities which included serving as a school-based PBIS team lead working to develop a program for positive behavioral supports. The program became a model for improving school climate in schools with urban and transient populations as recognized at the National PBIS Leadership Forum in 2012 and the International Conference on Positive Behavior Supports 2013. Tyler left the classroom to serve at the district level as a consultant teacher for the Peer Assistance and Review (PAR) program in Baltimore, MD; a pilot program to systematize and improve the teacher evaluation process across the district. In 2013 Tyler relocated to Detroit, Michigan where she continued her coaching and leadership experience as a Professional Lead for Teaching and Learning at a public charter schooI. She also served as a leadership coach, responsible for fostering growth in teacher leaders as they drive student achievement through Leading Educators national non-profit in partnership with the Education Achievement Authority of Michigan. Tyler holds her undergraduate degree from West Virginia University and a Master's in Teaching from Goucher College.
When Tyler is not in the pursuit of equity and excellence with her EQ team she's spending time with her husband and daughter, traveling, and exploring all that Detroit has to offer.

Kerri Smith
Vice President

Favorite Charity: St. Jude’s
EQ Value that defines you: Tenacity
Why EQ: “I feel strongly that we have fair practices, we give people the chance to learn and grown. We are willing to take that risk.”

At EQUITY, Kerri supports the organizations Operations & Business Operations teams through the use of evaluation rubrics and professional learning communities. She works directly with the organization’s President, and collaborates regularly with members of the Senior Leadership Team.Throughout her tenure at EQUITY, Kerri has spent time as a Director of Academics as well as a high school Principal. Before coming to EQUITY, Kerri began her career in education as a home school teacher, special education paraprofessional, and secondary teacher of English and English as a Second Language. Kerri holds a B.A. in International Relations from James Madison College at Michigan State University, and a graduate degree from Wayne State University.
Kerri represents EQUITY because she believes that, regardless of zip code, access to remarkable education is the foundation to success in life. When not working, she enjoys playing volleyball, cooking, and boating. Kerri is the oldest of five children and spends time traveling with her siblings and their families. Kerri is also a karaoke enthusiast.

JR Stearns
Managing Director of Talent

Personal Hashtag: #itsGonnaBeGreat
EQ Value that defines you: Empathetic
Why EQ: “Walking to school is really important, every kid should have a remarkable neighborhood school and experience.”

JR Stearns joined the EQUITY team in 2014as a high school English teacher at DetroitLeadership Academy. Her passion for supporting the social/emotional growth of her students and her experience planning and facilitating adult learning led to her transition to Advisory Coordinator and then Director ofCulture at EQUITY’s home office. In her current role as Managing Director of Talent,JR is dedicated to continually supporting employees across the network in pursuing their professional goals. Over the course of her career in education, JR prides herself on her accomplishments in developing trusting relationships with students and colleagues, enabling students to successfully demonstrate their knowledge and growth, and, as a cheerleading coach, providing a space for girls to sustain positive relationships and build confidence.
JR is a proud graduate of Michigan State University, where she obtained her B.A. in English. She went on to earn her M.S. in Education and Social Policy from Northwestern University, and though she loves Willie the Wildcat, she will always bleed green.

Chris Czochara
Director of Operations and Special Projects

Favorite Movie: Big Fish
Why EQ: “I want to work somewhere where I have the freedom and encouragement to try new ideas and projects.”

LaRonda Moore
Director of K-12 Humanities

Secret Talent: Creative Writing
Why EQ: “Because I believe every student in the city of Detroit deserves a quality education!”

Jonathan Orr
Director of Family and Community Engagement

Secret Talent: Stand Up Comedy
Why EQ: “I’m happy to work in a place where I can utilize my strengths and skills to work towards our mission.”

Valerie Raspberry
Business Operations Assistant

Favorite Charity: Make a Wish Foundation
Why EQ: “When you work on a great team, why would you work anywhere else.”

Heather Schmidt
Director of K-12 STEM

Favorite Movie: Scouts Guide to the Zombie Apocalypse
Why EQ: “As an EQ teacher I felt like I was surrounded by likeminded individuals. I want to continue to work in a place with a family atmosphere, where I know we are all mission driven.”

Joseph Spivey
Director of Information and Technology

Dream Vacation Spot: Bora Bora
Why EQ: “I want to see increased student outcomes for our urban population, I know this is the place!”

Jenna Timar
Family Service Coordinator

Favorite Song: Celebrate Good Times
Why EQ: “I want to help make a difference.”

Anita Tucker
Director of Human Resources

Secret Talent: Hula Hooper
Why EQ: “I like being a part of a team of people who work hard, everyday.”

Vernetta O. Woods
Administrative Assistant

Favorite Movie: The Godfather
Why EQ: “I like being a part of the EQ family and working with a great team.”