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Board of Directors

Dedication. Expertise. Passion.

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Board Chair 

Kelly Felton

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Board Member

John Phan

John’s passion is to help “close the achievement gap” in underserved communities. His focus has been on advising top preforming schools meet their facilities needs. Over the past five years, he has advised more than 40 charter schools with their facility financings, include two schools in Orange County, California.

John is the Founder and Executive Director of Campanile Group. John began his public finance career over twenty years ago, helping schools, colleges, cities, counties, and water agencies finance their capital projects. 

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Board Member

Cherlynn Mendoza

Cherlynn Mendoza is a tenacious advocate for education, parental school choice, and children with special needs.  Ms. Mendoza’s career has focused on Human Resources and ensuring legal and ethical compliance with the vast array of local, state and federal rules and regulations overseeing the modern workplace, both brick-and-mortar and remote operations, particularly those that have expanded under the COVID pandemic. 


Because a significant portion of a school budget is human resources related, Ms. Mendoza’s experience in employment administration and oversight will be keenly valued.

In addition to her employment administration skills and management, she is an ardent advocate of the arts and for children with special needs.  She has worked closely with Autism Comprehensive Educational Services in its educational and parent programs and continues to coordinate community benefit fairs and resources for families seeking support.  Ms. Mendoza is fully bilingual and a product of public education in California.

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Board Member

Chad Soleo 

Chad Soleo serves as the President & Chief Executive Officer at Green Dot Public Schools. He has also served as the Chief Operating Officer, Vice President of Advancement, an Area Superintendent, prior to which he was the founding principal of Ánimo Pat Brown Charter High School, and an assistant principal at Locke. Ánimo Pat Brown became a California Distinguished High School under his leadership. Chad began his career as an English language arts teacher at Alain Leroy Locke High School through Teach for America. At Locke, Chad ran a college preparatory program that lead to a significant increase in college awareness and graduation rates, while pursuing his graduate degree in Secondary Education at Loyola Marymount University. Chad has also taught within the charter school leadership cohort for Loyola Marymount University’s School of Education administrative credentialing program, and has lead professional development in Los Angeles Unified School District, within the Southern California AVID community, and within the Teach for America organization. Chad earned his undergraduate degree in English Literature from the University of Arizona.

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Board Member

Mike Tardiff

Mike Tardiff is a native Californian - his family’s roots go back 100 years in Orange County. Mike and his wife Mercedes are long time Santa Ana residents - where they raised their 3 daughters who now have families of their own.

Mike attended parochial elementary school and Mater Dei High School. He holds a bachelor’s degree in business management from California State University, Fullerton. Mike owns and operates, along with 2 of his daughters, Tardif Sheet Metal - a Santa Ana metal fabricating and contracting business.

Business Owner successful in operations management, competitive analysis and financial management.  Mike has demonstrated success in growth and innovation. Capitalizing on new trends and technologies to boost business initiatives and reach sales objectives.

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Tom Torkelson

Leading Explore Public Schools

In 1998 Tom Torkelson founded IDEA Public Schools, Inc. along with JoAnn Gama, former Teach For America corps members, in Weslaco.  Its mission was to create charter schools to serve impoverished students, starting in Donna, Texas in the Rio Grande Valley.

By 2008 IDEA had 10 schools and was serving 4,000 students but has since grown to serve over 83,000 students.

U.S. News & World Report High School Rankings listed seven IDEA college preparatory schools, three of which reported graduate rates ranging from 98 to 100% and four of which had no rates listed.


Their Texas state rankings ranged from 15th to 67th. Six of the schools received gold medal rankings.

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