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Board of Directors

Sue Bennett


Sue Bennett is the Manager of Marketing Analytics at The Davey Tree Expert company, a national tree and landscape company.  She has a Bachelor's Degree in marketing from Northern Illinois University and a Master's of Business Administration from Lake Forest Graduate School of Business.  Sue lives in Streamwood with her wife Kim, Daughter Ellie, Son Murray, a very large puppy Blue and two new kitties.  Ellie will be a fourth grader at EMSA and Murray will be starting his education at EMSA as a Kindergartner for the 22/23 school year.  Sue is co-president of the EMSA Parent Teacher Crew with Bethea Lane.  Her passions are volunteering on multiple boards, spending time with her family and hitting a tennis ball every so often. 

Akash Gandhi


Akash Gandhi is an EMSA parent with a rich professional and educational background. Akash possesses diverse educational background, having graduated with dual bachelor's degrees in Finance and Marketing, along with a minor in International Business from the University of Illinois at Chicago in 2008, followed by earning a Juris Doctorate from John Marshall Law School (now University of Illinois at Chicago Law School) in 2014. His career trajectory has been guided by a desire to make a meaningful impact within the community. Akash's career began as a compliance attorney and later as an international trade attorney, eventually settling into a generalist position at the same nonprofit. Throughout his career, Akash has been involved in significant projects, from advising large corporations on international business operations to focusing on enhancing safety practices within the United States. Akash's approach to decision-making and problem-solving is rooted in thorough understanding, ensuring he grasps the background and context before reaching resolutions. In his current role, Akash has gained valuable insights into the legal intricacies of nonprofit organizations, particularly the requirements of a 501(c)(3). Looking ahead, Akash aspires to continue leveraging his professional expertise to contribute positively to his community.

Adam Gray

Mr. Gray manages H&R Block sites in Illinois and provides extensive budgeting, investment and financial management experience to the EMSA team. He has led major investment decisions through customer negotiation, internal appraisal and approval, legal agreement and practical implementation for companies such as Castle Leisure. He helped accelerate growth through prudent investment management of Scotland’s largest independent operators including Saltire Taverns. He earned his degree at Napier University, Edinburgh.

Doree Haight

Ms Haight is the owner of The Haight event space in downtown Elgin, and has held senior account positions at various advertising agencies and companies in the metropolitan Chicago region. She has played an integral role in the development of EMSA’s marketing plan that will drive and sustain long-term growth for EMSA, while expanding and strengthening partnerships externally and internally. She earned a Bachelor of Science Degree in Marketing and Communications from Carthage College.

Kerry Kelly

Ms. Kelly is a local attorney and provides contract analysis and legal advice to the EMSA design team. In addition, she has a personal passion for education, in particular science education. As a founding member of the EMSA design team, she led the initial development of the organization, driving the initiative forward and galvanizing a diverse and dynamic team of volunteers toward a shared vision for EMSA. Her efforts resulted in the selection of the school model, community outreach, board development and charter proposal development. She has served as Board Chairperson for The Larkin Center and NorthEast Neighborhood Association. She earned a Bachelor of Science Degree in Genetics & Development at University of Illinois, and her Juris Doctorate Degree from the John Marshall Law School in Chicago.

Bethea Lane


Mrs. Lane has been an EMSA parent since the school’s inception and is an EMSA PTC founding member. She participates on several committees for the EMSA Board of Directors as the current PTC co-representative. She teaches 6th grade in another local district and holds a bachelor’s degree in Education, a master’s degree in Teaching & Leadership, as well as having an ELL endorsement. Throughout her career as a teacher, she has and continues to participate in many committees and councils related to curriculum development, new teacher mentorship, leadership development, and Equity, Inclusion and Diversity. She is also a district representative in several state- and national-level organizations related to teaching and education, including the IEA and NEA. As an active community volunteer through Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc., her church, her own community group Raising Just Kids, and other local organizations, she is regularly involved in planning and executing community service projects. Additionally, she frequently participates in professional and personal development conferences and classes.

Kimberly Shaw

Experienced Financial Aid Counselor with a demonstrated history of working in the higher education industry. Skilled in Microsoft Excel, Customer Service, Financial Aid, and Admissions. Strong student service professional with a Bachelor of Arts (BA) focused in Sociology from Northern Illinois University.

Paul Stagen


Mr. Stagen comes from a strong banking and financial background at First Mid Bank & Trust. He volunteers as a Coach and Mentor to a Scholar and Student through Harper College via the One Million Degrees Program. Additionally, he volunteers as a Presenter to Elementary School Students via Junior Achievement. These are activities that Mr. Stagen enjoys through the opportunity to mentor and teach these students and scholars.


Gary Swick

Mr. Swick is an instructor in the College of Education at Northern Illinois University and is a retired High School Environmental Science teacher for District 300. During his educational career, he earned many state and national level awards, including a Milken Family Foundation Fellowship, National Environmental Education Foundation’s Bartlett Award, and the President’s Environmental Science Teacher Award. He is President of the Board of Directors of the nonprofit Friends of the Fox River. He earned a Bachelor of Science in Natural Resource Management from the University of Wisconsin in Stevens Point and holds a Masters of Science Degree in Outdoor Teacher Education from Northern Illinois University.

Melanie Toth


Combining clinical medical experience and non-profit leadership skills, Melanie joins the board leading as a Co-President of the EMSA Parent Teacher Crew (EPTC) along with Bethea and Sue. She joined the EPTC at its inception assisting with the teacher appreciation committee and school theatre program. Melanie's youngest Maddy, began attending EMSA when it launched in 2017, beginning as the first kindergarten class. Melanie was born and raised in Chicago and attended Wilbur Wright College in the city. She is a resident of Elgin today raising two children with her husband Ben of 17 years. 

calendar, meetings, agendas, minutes, & public documents:

Board On Track

Our board serves our community on a volunteer basis.

EMSA is a nonprofit 501(c)(3), independent, public K-8 charter school with a local Board of Directors composed of area educators, business leaders, and parents.

Interested in serving along side of us? Contact our Board Co-Chair, Kerry Kelly, for more information!