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.

Carol A. Osborne | Associate

Carol Osborne, is a retired educational leader. She served as the Associate Superintendent of Learning Support Services for Poway Unified School District until June 2023. As a District leader, she provided guidance and direction for leadership development, professional learning for staff, oversaw instruction and curriculum, all in support of continuous improvement of student learning for the District’s 35,000 students. Carol began her career as an elementary teacher, became a school administrator in San Diego Unified, then Poway Unified, and supported leaders across San Diego County as an Executive Leadership Coach for San Diego County Office of Education. She frequently reminds people that as an administrator we are still teachers, however, our classrooms are just much larger. In her 35 years of experience as an educator, she has consistently been an advocate in standing up for the needs of each and every student. She frequently explains to others why she uses the phrase, ‘each and every student’ rather than all. “When we say, ‘all’ some kids get lost, we must see and value each and every child for who they are in the world.” As an equity focused leader, Carol led the development of Poway Unified’s Comprehensive Racial Equity and Inclusion Plan. She has organized Racial Equity Community Conversations for parents/guardians to share their experiences and work together for a more inclusive community that fights racism on all school campuses.

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.


Mary Ryan | Associate

Mary Ryan has over 40 years’ experience in education as a PreK-2nd grade teacher, Program Manager (for Title 1, English Learners, and coaching teachers), and Director of Early Education in Alvord Unified School District. She has a BA in Liberal Arts with a concentration in Child Development/Psychology from CSU San Bernardino, and an MA in School Leadership from La Sierra University. Over her career, she has served as a Mentor to new teachers, trained teachers in hands-on Math, Science of Reading (Reading First), served as a model class and trained teachers in NGSS (wrote science units for Transitional Kindergarten), and Preschool Director for AUSD’s State Preschool Program. Mary is certified in CLASS, as well as trained in DRDP, GLAD, MTSS, and Conscious Discipline. Her passion is developing strong teachers and programs.


Marylou K. Wilson, Ed.D. | Associate

​Dr. Marylou Wilson has over 35 years of public-school experience covering a wide area of the state of California, her career culminating in the superintendency of St. Helena Unified School District. She began her career as a paraeducator and classroom teacher, moving up to assistant principal in a K-8 school, elementary school principal, and then on to Coordinator of Special Projects, Director of Instructional Support Services and Assistant Superintendent, Human Resources before becoming Superintendent.

Dr. Wilson earned her B.A. in liberal studies and her multiple subjects teaching credential and M.S. in Curriculum and Instruction at San Diego State University. She earned a clear administrative credential at National University and her doctorate in organizational leadership at the University of La Verne.  Dr. Wilson’s passion for education and building leadership capacity in others continues through her retirement. She is currently a Cohort Mentor/Instructor/Dissertation Committee Member in the Doctorate in Organizational Leadership program at UMASS Global and mentors/coaches a variety of leaders throughout the United States.

Conference presentations Dr. Wilson has made include the following:  The Art of Story Telling (as a co-instructor, UMASS Global Immersion; Human Resources – Preparing for an Interview, as a co-instructor, ACSA Curriculum and Instruction Academy; Transformation Change in the Human Resources Department, ACSA CEL State Conference; and Transformation Change Program Improvement – How to Make a Difference, ACSA Annual Conference.

As a transformational leader, Dr. Wilson is experienced in change management, systems thinking, building and sustaining positive working relationships, board governance, and leading a district during turbulent times. 

Dr. Wilson enjoys the following professional affiliations:  American Association of School Administrators (AASA), where she is a mentor for aspiring female superintendents; Association of California School Administrators (ACSA); Association for Supervision & Curriculum Development (ASCD); and the University of La Verne Doctorate Alumni Association.

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.

Dr. Genevieve Clark | Collaborator

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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 is an educational 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 developing 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.

Nate Howard | Collaborator

Nate Howard is a professional speaker, poet, educator, and social entrepreneur. In May 2013, Nate made the front page of the LA Times for sparking a movement against racial profiling after 79 LAPD officers shut down his event at USC. Realizing someone was attempting to tell his story, he founded Movement BE, a non-profit organization that helps young people discover their story.

With the motto of “Tell Your Story Before They Do,” Movement BE has directly impacted thousands of students across the country and even the world. Nate was selected on the inaugural NBCBLK28 list as one of the top 28 black leaders in the nation under 28 years old. He was later featured on the Today Show as one of the “Best and Brightest: Game Changers Making History.” Most recently Nate was honored in his hometown of San Diego as the “Young Entrepreneur of the Year.”

Nate’s belief is that we should focus our activism on education, empowering youth to create change so that the movement is proactive and sustainable. Seeing poetry as a means of self-expression, he challenges school systems to see its use as vital for the development of youth, giving them the courage to find their story to challenge the status quo. Nate has recorded his poetry on songs with artists Ty Dolla Sign, Kendrick Lamar and Dr. Cornel West.

Veronica Ortega | Collaborator

Veronica Ortega is an Operations Specialist who brings expertise in secondary classified support and transcribing international credits. She has worked in the San Diego Unified School District for over 30 years, supporting all levels of K-12 schools and central office management. She is a consummate professional and proactive leader committed to student success and equity. Veronica’s passion is empowering classified staff by building capacity and providing paramount support to our students and families.

Veronica leads professional development for all secondary classified staff, specializing in registrar and site technician support. Her guidance ensures that sites are able to complete reporting practices that support our UC-aligned graduation standards. Some of the professional developments she spearheads include: Transcript evaluations and transcription of credits/grades from out-of-state/country; Transcription of college coursework credit; State policies & procedures pertaining to student graduation options, such as modified diplomas and partial credits; Managing and verifying early grads, alternative site grads, and graduation data; Operations of Grad Docs and diploma distribution; District policies and procedures pertaining to student records, “all” graduation, and “anything” transcripts, and Grade storing, grade changes and appeals, and graduation verifications.

Veronica’s educational qualifications and affiliations are a testament to her expertise. She holds a Bachelor’s degree in Business Administration from the University of Phoenix and an MBA from National University. In addition, she is a respected member of the Executive Board of the Administrators Association of San Diego (AASD), the United Administrators Southern California (UASC), and the American Federation of School Administrators (AFSA AFL-CIO).

 

Zoë Randall | Collaborator

Zoë Randall co-lead the STEAM initiative at San Diego Unified School District, where she cultivated a community of curious, creative changemakers. As a curriculum writer and professional learning facilitator, her experience is grounded in the Next Generation Science Standards, Design Thinking, and Project-Based Learning. Zoë earned a B.A. in Visual Arts, Media from the University of California San Diego and an M.Ed. in Educational Leadership from High Tech High Graduate School of Education. She’s passionate about designing equitable and joyful experiences where all learners flourish.

Deann Ragsdale | Collaborator

Deann Ragsdale is an accomplished education professional with a diverse and extensive background in educational leadership and student support services. With over two decades of experience in various leadership roles within school districts across Southern California, Deann has consistently demonstrated her unwavering commitment to fostering positive learning environments and supporting students’ holistic growth.

Currently serving as the Deputy Superintendent of Educational Services for the La Mesa-Spring Valley School District, Deann leverages her profound expertise to enhance curriculum development, instructional strategies, and educational outcomes. In this role, she continues to drive positive change and innovation in education, building upon her prior positions as the Assistant Superintendent for Educational Services and Student Supports within the same district.

Before her tenure at La Mesa-Spring Valley, Deann made significant contributions to the San Diego Unified School District as the Executive Director of Special Education, working diligently to ensure inclusive education for all students. Her leadership was also instrumental in the Chula Vista Elementary School District, where she held roles such as Executive Director of Special Education, Instruction, Services, and Support and Director of Early Childhood Education. During her time there, she played a vital role in shaping comprehensive support systems that catered to diverse student needs.

Deann’s passion for educational excellence has been evident throughout her career. Her journey began in the Alpine Union School District, where she progressed from a classroom teacher, to a Teacher on Special Assignment to the Principal at Boulder Oaks Elementary School. Her leadership evolved further as she became the Director of Special Education, Pupil Services, and Educational Projects, followed by Director of Pupil Services and Human Resources.

With her strong foundation in education, Deann has consistently embraced challenges and implemented positive change. Her dedication to students’ well-being and her strategic leadership have left a lasting impact on the educational landscape. As she continues to serve as a trailblazer in educational leadership, Deann Ragsdale’s career stands as a testament to her unwavering commitment to creating enriching educational experiences for students and fostering collaborative environments for educators.

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