Our Team

With decades of experience leading and crafting effective school cultures, our leaders are ready and excited to partner with you in blazing new paths and growth opportunities for your organization.

Cheryl Hibbeln | Founder and President

Cheryl Hibbeln is the Founder and President of IlluminatED Collective, a group of transformative educational consultants who partner with business, nonprofit, higher education and school districts to support strategic planning and change management in service of equitable outcomes for all. Cheryl spent over twenty years in the San Diego Unified School District where as a principal she was part of the successful transformation of a large urban high school into four award winning small schools, and as an executive director where she designed efforts to align the district graduation requirements to the UC entry course requirements, expanded the dual enrollment program with the colleges, and redesigned secondary master schedule efforts. Cheryl knows what it takes to lead diverse district teams to achieve challenging systemic efforts in service of equity.

In addition, Cheryl built impactful partnerships with business/industry, philanthropic, higher education, nonprofit and cross-district leaders to design transformative experiences for students across the city of San Diego.

See Cheryl’s Full Bio and Recent Projects.

Dr. Suzette Lovely | Senior Associate

Dr. Lovely has spent 38 years serving K-12 schools in every capacity from instructional aide to teacher to principal to central office administrator to Superintendent.

During her role as Superintendent in Carlsbad, California she spearheaded several efforts to support future ready teaching and learning including the implementation of a county-wide Career Pathways grant; transformation of school libraries into Makerspaces; formation of a tuition free dual enrollment partnership with the local community college; and leveraging the state standards, funding, and accountability system to ensure underserved students achieved at higher-than-expected levels of performance.

See Suzette’s Full Bio and and Recent Projects.

Suzanne O’Connell | Associate
With 40 years in public education as a teacher, director, principal, and deputy superintendent, Suzanne O’Connell brings a wealth of experience to the table surrounding curriculum and instruction, master facility planning, fiscal management, progress monitoring, and accountability audits. With a career spanning four states (Pennsylvania, Arizona, New Jersey, and California), Suzanne has overseen a variety of key functions including: teaching and learning; special education; budgets, bonds and finance; and construction management. Suzanne is a skilled capacity builder and team leader. Her strong interpersonal skills enable her to navigate diverse settings as a successful collaborator with educators, parents, city, state and county officials, business leaders, and outside interest groups.

Dr. Candy Plahy | Associate
Dr. Plahy spent 32 years in Placentia-Yorba Linda Unified School (PYLUSD) District as a classroom teacher, administrator, Director of Elementary Curriculum and Instruction, Director of Beginning Teacher Support and Assessment, Assistant Superintendent of Executive Services, Assistant Superintendent of Educational Services, and Deputy Superintendent. Her advocacy for early childhood education along with the Transitional Kindergarten program she launched in PYLUSD has been recognized as a groundbreaking model by the California Department of Education.

Since retiring, Dr. Plahy has been called upon to serve in interim roles to assist Superintendents as they restructure their Educational Services team and transition new leadership into the department.Dr. Plahy completed her undergraduate and Master’s Degree work at Biola University, California State University, Fullerton, and Azusa Pacific University. She received her doctorate in Educational Leadership from California State University, Fullerton.

Dr. LaFaye Platter | Associate

Dr. LaFaye Platter has a passion for helping organizations function more effectively. With a Bachelor’s Degree in Business Administration and a Doctorate in Organizational Leadership, Dr. Platter’s work in the fields of education, finance, marketing, and commercial real estate has enabled her to develop a deep understanding of the political and cultural influences that affect the success of organizations.

In 2017, Dr. Platter retired as the Deputy Superintendent of Human Resource in the Hemet Unified School District in Southern California. She is a highly sought-after speaker, facilitator, and coach that guides teams to analyze problems, think strategically, and develop plans that make life better for all stakeholders.

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See LaFaye’s Full Bio and and Recent Projects.


Jayne Christakos | Collaborator

Jayne Christakos has 25 years of experience in K-12 education in the finance and operations field. Ms. Christakos is a recently retired associate superintendent of business, facilities and operations for the San Bernardino City Unified School District, California’s 9th largest district. She is now the co-owner of VIP Leadership Services, LLC, the director of the California Association School Business Officials (CASBO’s) Business Executive Leadership (BEL) program which prepares current and future CBO’s for the rigorous demands and rewards of being a school business executive leader. Ms. Christakos received her Bachelor of Science degree in Business with a Concentration in Accounting from California State University, San Bernardino and a Master of Arts in Management from the University of Redlands. Ms. Christakos also earned her Chief Business Official Certification.

Vince Christakos | Collaborator

Vince Christakos, the President/CEO of the company, has 48 years in leadership level positions in the US Army, a fortune 250 corporation, and California public schools. The VIP stands for Vision – Integrity – Passion, these are the primary characteristics that Mr. Christakos believes make an exceptional leader. Mr. Christakos is also a trained facilitator through Tennessee Associates International in Managing for Continuous Improvement. He retired from Hemet Unified School District in 2018 after ten years as the Assistant Superintendent of Business Services. He had another six years at Redlands Unified School District as its Assistant Superintendent of Business and six and a half years as the internal business finance and operations at Riverside County
Office of Education. Mr. Christakos received a bachelor’s degree in accounting and economics from the University of Tampa and a master’s in systems management from the University of Southern California. He is also a graduate of the US Army Command and General Staff College, and the Department of Defense Language Institute in Monterey, California. He has been an adjunct instructor at the University of California Riverside for Leadership and Strategic Planning and taught California School Finance classes in the ACSA

School Business Academy for ten years. He is also one of only two people in California to be awarded the International Association of School Business Officials highest honor, the Distinguished Eagle Award for significant contributions to K-12 Public Education.

Ana Diaz-Booz | Collaborator
Ana Díaz-Booz is the Lead Principal at the Kearny High Educational Complex, a public school site composed of four autonomous comprehensive high schools that are thematic in nature. Ana has worked in the San Diego Unified School District for 25 years, starting her career as a secondary bilingual math teacher in the Logan Heights area. At the beginning of her administrative career, she was part of Kearny’s successful transformation from a large urban high school into four award winning small schools. As part of reform efforts, she led a team that created what is now one of the largest dual-enrollment efforts in the county, serving roughly 600 students who benefit from the Mesa College Dual Enrollment Program.

Other shared successes include the creation of master schedules with Linked Learning grade-level cohorts, expansion of project-based, industry supported outcomes and an emphasis on data-driven decisions surrounding literacy, engagement, and access for all. Over the past decade, Kearny High Educational Complex has been highlighted as one of America’s best urban schools by the National Center for Urban School Transformation, a California Distinguished School, a Title I Academic Achievement Award winner, and a featured case study by the UCLA Center for the Transformation of Schools (CTS). Ana holds Professional Clear Administrative and Teaching Credentials from the California Commission on Teacher Credentialing, an MA in School Administration, and a BA in Mathematics.

Candice Fee | Collaborator

Candice Fee has experience as a counselor, teacher, and school administrator. With a bachelor’s degree in Child Development and a master’s degree in Educational Counseling she has dedicated her career to engaging students in experiences that give them the confidence and competence needed for success. Her recent projects include devoping a curriculum and training program for the Community Alliance for Youth Success (CAYS) to help students Discover their Purpose, collaborating with community colleges to develop certification pathways for high school students, and bridging the gap between education and employment through connecting industry partners to classrooms.

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