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VVS Board of Trustees

The Verde Valley School Board of Trustees is the governing body of the school.  The diverse group comes from a broad cross-section of the country and is comprised of former students, parents, faculty, local Sedona residents and people from across the country who have skills and values aligned to the school’s vision.

At Verde Valley School we welcome individuals willing to serve on the Board of Trustees, in particulars those who possess a specific skill set, such as financial, business, legal, or fundraising skills.


VVS GOVERNANCE

The Board of Trustees is composed of not less than nine nor more than eighteen members. Board members serve a term of three years, beginning July 1. Board members are limited to three consecutive terms of three years (except the immediate past president, who serves no less than one year past the end of her or his term). Board members must attend eight telephonic board meetings per year and two on campus meetings. On campus meetings are held in January and June. The Board of Trustees works closely with the Head of School, and the relationship should be one of trust and transparent communications. It is not the role of the Board to be involved in the day to day operations of the school, such as specific management, personnel, or curricular issues.

Current Board Members


The Role of the Verde Valley School Board of Trustees

The Board of Trustees is the governing body of the School. Its role is to perform the following duties:
  • Policy development and approval
  • Hiring and regularly evaluating the head of school
  • Approving an annual budget
  • Developing and implementing a strategic plan
  • Overseeing financial accountability
  • Ensuring that in broad terms the school is fulfilling its mission
  • Fundraising and promoting the image of the school
  • Ensuring the school is following good governance models
  • Responsibility for filling board positions and ensuring those individuals are committed to the mission of the school
  • Ensure all actions are transparent, observe appropriate confidentiality, and are in furtherance of the best interests of the school
The obligations of a VVS Board of Trustees Member include:
  • Regularly attend board and committee meetings.
  • Actively serve on at least one, preferably two, board committees.
  • Donate time and expertise to the school.
  • Financially support the school in an amount that trustee can afford and help with fundraising. 100 percent board financial support is required.
  • Understand the duties of a board member:
    • Policy development and approval
    • Hiring the head of school
    • Approving an annual budget
    • Developing a strategic plan
    • Overseeing financial accountability
    • Ensuring that in broad terms the school is fulfilling its mission
    • Fundraising and promoting the image of the school

BOARD COMMITTEES

Verde Valley School Board of Trustees serve on six standing committees: Finance, Executive, Governance, Education Program & Services Committee, Advancement Committee and Head of School Annual Evaluation and Compensation Committee.

The Finance Committee is commissioned by and responsible to the Board of Trustees. It has the responsibility for working with the Head of School and Chief Financial Officer (CFO)/ Business Management Provider to create the upcoming fiscal year budget; presenting budget recommendations to the Board; monitoring implementation of the approved budget on a regular basis and recommending proposed budget revisions; recommending to the Board appropriate policies for the management of the School’s assets. The finance committee shall be assisted by the Head of School and CFO/Business Management Provider.

The Executive Committee is chaired by Richard Greenberg. Members are limited to President, Vice President(s), Secretary and Treasurer of the Board. The Executive Committee is responsible for general oversight of the Board; offers guidance and support to the various Committees and the Head of School on an ad hoc basis. 

The Governance Committee is chaired by Frances Smith-Hawley and is commissioned by and responsible to the Board of Trustees to assume the primary responsibility for matters pertaining to the Board of Trustees, orientation, training, and evaluation in accordance with the bylaws of the school as well as established policies and practices approved by the Board of Trustees.  The Governance Committee also vets nominees to the Board of Trustees and makes recommendations to the Board as a whole.

The Education Program & Services Committee is chaired by Johanna McPherson and is commissioned by and responsible to the Board of Trustees to assume the primary responsibility for working with the Head of School to define academic excellence, ensure that all Board Members know the educational promises that were made to the Community, understand the applicable accreditation processes, and to devise clear and consistent measures to monitor these goals.

The Advancement Committee is chaired by Akshay Agrawal and assumes the primary responsibility for Board of Trustees recruitment and nominations, alumni relations and raising non-grant funds to support the School’s Mission. The Board president, Vice-president(s), and Secretary, as well as several board members of the VVSF serve on this committee. Non-Board members can serve as advisory members.

The Head of School Annual Evaluation and Compensation Committee shall be comprised of President, Vice President(s), Secretary, Treasurer of the Board and a Board Member who is a professional educator. 

VVS Board of Trustees

Chris Means, '75

Board of Trustees

I hope to contribute to VVS as a board member or consultant as a means of giving back for all that it has done for me and my goal is to help with the building improvements for the school and enhance the VVS experience for students and faculty.  I found my passion for building early in life. I have been working in construction since 1977. I have been a general contractor for the last 39 years in both residential and commercial projects in my home town of Santa Rosa, CA. I have had the pleasure my having both of my sons work with me on their journeys to their own careers.  I enjoy active outdoor activities, mushroom foraging, home winemaking, cooking, and collecting Native American art.

Corinna da Fonseca-Wollheim

Board of Trustees

Corinna da Fonseca-Wollheim is a contributing classical music critic for the New York Times and the founder and artistic director of Beginner’s Ear, where she curates listening experiences combining meditation and music.
 
Corinna has won honors for her fresh writing and for her ability to demystify classical music with empathy and humor.  She is the recipient of the 2015 Cremona Mondomusica Prize in Communication and was the critic in residence at the American Academy of Rome in 2018. Before joining the team of Times critics she contributed articles to the Wall Street Journal, the Jerusalem Post, Tablet, the Classical Review, Symphony Magazine, and other publications.  
Since creating Beginner’s Ear in 2019, Corinna has led live music meditations for a diverse range of listeners in places including a yoga studio, a high school, a federal detention center, a sunken garden and a dance studio. Corinna uses meditation and sound to help people become better at listening – not just to music, but to themselves and each other.
 
Born to German parents in Brussels, Corinna obtained a B.A. in music and psychology from Royal Holloway College (University of London), an M.A. in Renaissance Theory and Culture from Sussex University and a doctorate from Cambridge University. She wrote her Ph.D thesis on the 17th-century Jewish Venetian poet Sara Copio Sullam. In February 2020 she completed the Mindfulness Teacher Training Program through MNDFL in New York City.
 
Corinna lives in Westchester with her husband, three children, and a goldendoodle named Lucky.

Gregg Ramer, '85

Board of Trustees 

Gregg Ramer was born in Los Angeles, CA, but was re-born in Sedona at VVS.  Following his graduation from VVS in 1985, Gregg returned to Los Angeles, establishing a diversified career in the entertainment industry, ranging from personal management to motion picture production and development, culminating in his career as an entertainment transactional lawyer practicing over two decades with some of the premiere law firms in the industry.

Gregg proudly counts among his best friends fellow VVS alums, and when approached to join the VVS Board of Trustees, could not say “yes” fast enough, feeling that giving back to the place and community that gave him so much was really the least he could do.  

Aside from his legal career and service to VVS, Gregg spends his time with his life-long, reunited love Caschia Jones (VVS, class of 1986), raising 2 dogs, 7 tropical fish, 26 koi, and a 140 lb. giant sulcata land tortoise, while working on his cooking skills (which are strong) and his golf game (which is weak).  

Jeneda Benally '92

Board of Trustees

Jeneda Benally plays bass and sings with her brother Clayson Benally in the multi-award-winning duo Sihasin. In 2012, they formed Sihasin, the Navajo word for “hope”, releasing their Ed Stasium-produced debut album, Never Surrender, in 2012 to critical acclaim and numerous awards on the American Indian Music scene, and received the honor of being called the "#1 Freedom Fighting Band to Get You Through the Trump Years” byThe Huffington Post in December 2016. Sihasin’s latest album “FIGHT LIKE A WOMAN” has also won numerous awards internationally and nationally. They also collaborated on the song “Sister Moon and Brother Sun” for the 2017 Grammy-nominated album by roots children’s duo The Okee Dokee Brothers. Their punk rock version of the Christmas classic, “Winter Wonderland” was featured in an ad campaign with Tony Bennet for Hyundai. Jeneda has had a long musical career that first began with her brothers in the Native American iconic punk band “Blackfire” formed in 1990.

Jeneda Benally also performs in the internationally acclaimed family's dance troupe, The Jones Benally Family. Benally has toured throughout the world to share her Dine’ (Navajo) culture as a means to build respect and understanding for Indigenous Nations. Not only does Jeneda advocate for indigenous teachings, she is a traditional practitioner of Navajo medicine and works alongside her father, Jones Benally, a Navajo medicine man.  Benally is also well-known for her work as an advocate for human rights, sacred sites, youth empowerment, and environmental and animal rights. Jeneda was part of the Delos Convention for the United Nations in Greece and was a plaintiff in the federal court case against reclaimed wastewater in order to protect the Sacred San Francisco Peaks.  Benally has been featured on NPR, as an actress in Nanobah Becker's film The Sixth World, and has appeared in numerous TV specials and in national and international media formats.
 
"Verde Valley School deepened my values and core commitment to ideals that I didn’t realize extended beyond the embrace of my family. These values of being connected to our global community, appreciation for nature, the creative force of art, the beauty of diversity and the thrill of education connected me to a bigger family, my Verde Valley School family. I carry these values with me everyday. I am still supported by that embrace of a growing global family as I consistently work as a positive change maker to build bridges of respect and unity."
 
 
Jeneda Benally: musician/advocate/cultural consultant/mom/1992 VVS alumni

Melissa Shanahan, '83

Board of Trustees

With over twenty years experience working with adolescents and their families, Melissa and her company Educational Pathways, have over twenty years experience working with adolescents and their families.  Her work focusses on offering a personal approach to navigating the best possible educational pathway for a child, whether in a more traditional school setting, therapeutic environment or wilderness program. As a counselor in drug and alcohol programs, residential treatment facilities, public high schools and outdoor education programs, Melissa clearly understands the turmoil students face today and the need for parents to stay committed to keeping their children on track. Melissa works face-to-face with families all over the United States, regularly tours schools and programs, and attends conferences in order to stay current with the various issues and special needs that affect students today. Melissa earned a M.A. in Counseling Psychology from the University of Denver and lives in Boulder, Colorado with her husband and two children.

Pat Goudvis, '71

Board of Trustees

Pat was born and raised in a small town in Ohio. After Verde Valley she studied photography and film at the California College of Arts and Crafts and some years later completed an MA in Latin American Studies from the University of Texas at Austin. She is fluent in Spanish.
 
She credits her Verde Valley experience with sparking her interest in crossing borders and exploring other cultures. She became a photojournalist and then an independent documentary filmmaker, focusing primarily on the struggle for human rights and social justice in Central America. She is done with filmmaking but still active in organizations working on human rights and mental health and the conservation of tropical ecosystems in Central America. She is a volunteer interpreter for lawyers representing asylum seekers and unaccompanied minors.
 
She lives in Cambridge, MA in a cohousing community where she much prefers doing physical labor as opposed to attending meetings, another characteristic she attributes to her VVS days. She has two grown children.

Peter Nelson

Board of Trustees


Peter Nelson grew up in Southern California with family in the entertainment industry with a lot of international travel, but the most important growth came from experiences of four years at
Verde Valley School. Strongest interests were in several fields of science, sustainability, the spirit of the VVS culture, and what became the start of incredible discoveries in spirituality that
were investigated over the VVS years with the disciplines of science. These peaked near graduation in ’73 in what can only be called ‘The Gift of Awe’, an epic story.  From the picturesque, wide open vistas of Arizona Peter went to The Evergreen State College in Olympia, Washington for interdisciplinary educational experiences. This environmental change was significant; the open vistas were replaced with dense growths of trees always just outside the windows and the overcast sky seemed to start just above the tree tops. After graduation it was nice to return to California, first to attend graduate school at UC Berkeley and live closer to family members who also relocated. From there Peter enjoyed sailing, began a career in technology, got married, raised two kids and continues to live in the Bay Area.

Shawn Krause

Board of Trustees & VVS Foundation Board 

Shawn Krause grew up in St. Louis MO. He graduated from the University of Missouri, Columbia, where he earned a degree in Art and a Minor in Art History and Archaeology. He went on to study Character Animation at California Institute of the Arts (Cal Arts), and after a year continued on to his career at Pixar.

Shawn joined Pixar Animation Studios during Toy Story. He worked as an animator on a number of Pixar’s feature films including A Bug’s Life,  Toy Story 2Monster, Inc., CarsFinding Nemo, and The Incredibles.

Krause served as directing animator on the Academy Award®-winning feature, Up and as a supervising animator on Disney•Pixar’s Academy Award®-winning feature Inside Out.  He is a member of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.

Shawn is married to Hamilton and Babs Warren’s granddaughter, Fiona. They currently live in the San Francisco Bay area with their two young children.

Tamara Cook

Board of Trustees, Chairman


Born in La Paz, Bolivia to parents in the U.S. foreign service (State Department), Tamara Cook (aka, Tammi Nydell), is a four-year graduate of Verde Valley School, Class of ’83.  During her four years, she served as Class President and helped start “Student Government.”  It only made sense that she would go on to receive degrees in Political Science and Latin American Studies from the University of Arizona, and, in 1991, a Juris Doctor from Syracuse University College of Law.    
 
As for experience she brings to the VVS Board, Tamara is a trial attorney with three decades of legal and business experience.  She is presently the co-owner and founder of Williamson Law Group Arizona.  Over the course of her career, her diverse law practice has focused on issues concerning employment law, commercial litigation, business litigation, risk management and safety assessment, insurance coverage and bad faith, medical malpractice, and personal injury.  Beginning July 2020, Tamara is certified by Maricopa County Superior Court as an arbitrator and Judge Pro Tempore.
 
June 2022 starts Tamara’s third time on the Board of Trustees.  Like so many others, Tamara is passionately dedicated and devoted to VVS and its Mission.  From a place of trust and respect, she intends to work tirelessly with her Board colleagues and the VVS family near and far, new and old, to ensure VVS survives and thrives, and that the vision of Hamilton and Babs Warren is shared with many more generations of our youth.
Verde Valley School is an International Baccalaureate boarding and day high school for students in grades 9-12.