Team & Board

Our team brings a wealth of experience, expertise and talent

Essence Preparatory Public School - Team & Board
Essence Preparatory Public School - Team & Board
Essence Preparatory Public School: Development

Team

Our dream team is paving the way and building success for today, tomorrow, and the future

Essence Preparatory Public School: Akeem Brown, Founder

Superintendent

Akeem Brown

Akeem Brown (he/him/his) has dedicated his career to serving students living in San Antonio’s Eastside. By founding a school, he seeks to provide his students with the pathways to opportunity he feels are lacking in many areas of the city. His proposed school will utilize a project-based learning model that focuses on public policy. Students will grapple with real-world issues and develop the skills necessary to be effective agents of change. The school will also adopt community-building traditions like morning circle meetings and weekly family gatherings and will use a “whole self” curriculum to teach social and emotional learning skills. “Our school should be an environment where children learn the skills that they need to advocate for themselves and the needs of their communities after graduation.”

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Essence Preparatory Public School: Development

Board

We are advisors and advocates for academic excellence, sharing our strengths to support our students

Essence Preparatory Public School: Board - Brian Dillard

Chairman

Brian Dillard

Committees: Governance, Academic Excellence, Finance

Brian Dillard a third-generation Eastside San Antonio native, currently the Chief Innovation Officer for the City of San Antonio. Mr. Dillard began his career in public service in 2018 as the Smart City Administrator. Prior to joining the local government sector, Mr. Dillard was a Cybersecurity consultant in the private sector working with Shell Oil, Chevron Oil, Lockheed Martin, and Delta Risk Inc. Mr. Dillard began his career as a member of the United States Air Force where he served a ten-year Active Duty as a Cybersecurity Operations Specialist. Upon returning to San Antonio toward the end of his military career, Mr. Dillard became a neighborhood advocate and community leader. Mr. Dillard is the former President of the Dignowity Hill Neighborhood Association and has served as a board member of VIA Metropolitan Transit Authority, the Ella Austin Community Center, the San Antonio Centro Partnership, and the Martinez Street Women’s Center. Mr. Dillard is an alumnus of Leadership San Antonio (LSA43), Leadership SAISD, and the San Antonio New Leaders Council. Mr. Dillard holds a bachelor’s degree in Political Science and currently resides in Dignowity hill.

Essence Preparatory Public School: Board - Kanwal S. Lopez

Vice Chair

Kanwal S. Lopez

Committees: Chair, Academic Excellence, Governance

Kanwal Sumnani Lopez is a district technology implementation specialist and a staunch advocate for STEAM education. She has experience teaching core subjects at the primary level, and mathematics, music, and computer science at the secondary level. Kanwal has served as a grade team leader, has led professional development sessions, has applied for and received multiple grants for arts and technology and coordinated implementation of funds and activities for Title I schools. She has a firm belief that all schools should be equipped with 21st-century skills in an ever-changing global environment and foster a learning community that builds globally aware critical thinkers.

Kanwal lives in San Antonio with her husband, also a fellow educator. She holds a master’s degree from the Johns Hopkins University Graduate School of Education, a bachelor’s degree from the University of California, Los Angeles, and is currently a doctoral student at Abilene Christian University.

Essence Preparatory Public School: Board - Jackie Gorman

Secretary

Jackie Gorman

Committees: Governance, Fund Development, Facilities

Jackie Gorman has a particular interest in the areas of Higher Education, Government, Workforce Development, and Non-Profit organizations, where she brings over 16 years of executive-level management experience. Ms. Gorman is also a specialist in diversity executive searches and can bring to the table the highest caliber of diverse candidates for any organization. Ms. Gorman is known as a well-respected professional adept at dealing with senior decision-makers and a broad customer base. Prior to joining Allen Austin, Ms. Gorman served as CEO of San Antonio for Growth on the Eastside, Inc. (SAGE) a non-profit charged with revitalization and economic development on San Antonio’s Eastside. She is a member of the San Antonio Women’s Hall of Fame and is also an alumnus of Leadership Texas (‘03). Ms. Gorman received her Bachelor of Arts at the University of Michigan and her Master of Business Administration from the University of Texas at Austin.

Essence Preparatory Public School: Board - George Pedraza

Treasurer

George Pedraza

Committees: Finance, Chair, Facilities, Governance

George Pedraza, Senior Wealth Advisor with Covenant, A native San Antonian, Pedraza graduated from Central Catholic High School and later from University of Texas San Antonio. George has developed and maintained banking relationships with Texas-based municipal issuers. He has worked on more than $4 billion of bond financings for Texas clients, including Alamo Community College District, Bexar County, City of San Antonio, El Paso County, El Paso PSB, City of Laredo, Laredo ISD, CPS, SAWS, City of Corpus Christi, City of McAllen, City of San Marcos, Cameron County, TXDOT, Nueces County, Webb County, Williamson County and various other school districts and municipal entities. George served as an Assistant to the City Manager for the City of San Antonio. In addition, he previously worked for Chase Securities, Inc. as a municipal bond investment banker. Prior to Chase, he worked in New York City with the Sumitomo Trust & Banking, Co., Ltd. as a municipal credit associate. He currently serves on the Board of the Texas Charter School Association. He is a graduate of the University of Texas at San Antonio, holds a Master of City & Regional Planning from the University of Pennsylvania and a Master’s in Public Administration from Syracuse University.

Essence Preparatory Public School: Board - Henrietta Muñoz

Henrietta Muñoz

Committees: Academic Excellence, Fund Development

Dr. Henrietta Muñoz, is currently the executive director of Texas A&M University-San Antonio’s Institute for School and Community Partnerships. Dr. Muñoz oversees the SB-1882 school partnerships within Edgewood ISD, whose mission is to design an equitable quality school pipeline for students in the south and west sides of San Antonio, Texas. Dr. Muñoz has over 20 years of nonprofit experience and 15 years of school-community partnership experience all within the west and east sides of San Antonio. Previously, Dr. Muñoz served as the senior VP for research and evaluation (2018-20) at the United Way of San Antonio and Bexar County with oversight of all data collections, analysis, research and evaluations for the United Way and many private and public grants. Muñoz was also part of the design and backbone organizational role of a two-generational initiative on San Antonio’s Eastside, the Dual Generation Initiative with support from the Annie E. Casey Foundation and the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation. In 2012, she became the first director for the Eastside Promise Neighborhood, a $23.7 million Department of Education award for the Eastside of San Antonio, where a feeder pattern approach to campus change was designed and implemented within San Antonio ISD. Muñoz is a proud Annie E. Casey Foundation Children and Families Fellow (2009-10), and is part of a Community Advisory cohort of the Dallas Federal Reserve. Muñoz received her PhD from the University of Texas at San Antonio in Culture, Literacy and Language in 2009, where she served as adjunct faculty until 2013.

Essence Preparatory Public School: Board - Kim Abernethy

Kim Abernethy

Committees: Chair Fund Development, Finance

Kim Abernethy has over 30 years’ experience in nonprofit administration, management, grant writing, marketing, budget development, finance management, and program start up. Ms. Abernethy is the President & CEO ChildSafe, Bexar County’s only Children’s Advocacy Center. She took over the leadership of ChildSafe in September 2010. Under Kim’s leadership: ChildSafe is now providing only trauma focused services and is the only Children’s Advocacy Center in Texas that provides both Trauma Focused Crisis Intervention and Trauma Focused Cognitive Behavior Therapy and serving more children and their non-offending family members than ever before – over 6,000 clients last year. Over the last 10 years ChildSafe has received state, national, and international recognition for their programs; created an exceptional Prevention and Awareness Department, training thousands individuals in the community every year to recognize and report child abuse; developed a trauma focused curriculum and training for schools and working with local school districts to be aware and understand trauma and its effect on students and staff; and created our child abuse awareness project, Cardboard Kids, that has engaged millions of people through social media and distributed over 550,000 Cardboard Kids throughout the community in five years.

Essence Preparatory Public School: Board - Mike Frisbie

Mike Frisbie

Committees: Chair Facilities, Finance

Mike Frisbie with over 30 years of engineering-related, community-related work experience, his priorities are faith, family, work, and then hobbies. Mr. Frisbie has a heart for the underserved, stands up for what is right, and is not willing to be on the sidelines when injustices are occurring. With a variety of experiences throughout his career in planning, designing, building, operating, and maintaining thousands of projects including facilities, parks, roadways, and drainage systems. Mr. Frisbie worked alongside the NAACP leaders in San Antonio to support African American- owned design and construction companies with over $30 million in contracts. Mr. Frisbee values outcomes and life-long relationships that resulted with NAACP leaders and many others. Mr. Frisbie has a heart for teaching and a heart for youth. He has served as the ACE Mentor Program San Antonio (Architecture, Construction, Engineering) Board Chair for 8 years. Mr. Frisbee has been married to the love of his life and best friend, Lisa, for 30 years. They have three adult children – Jacob, Zach, and Macey.

Essence Preparatory Public School: Board - Marques Mitchell

Marques Mitchell

Committees: Facilities, Finance

Marques Mitchell is the Director of Strategic Growth & Development for the largest General Contractor in the US, Turner Construction. He is focused on ensuring revenue goals are met and the company is strategically aligned to increase market share in South Texas for years to come. Prior to joining Turner Construction, Mr. Mitchell was the Director of Planning & Development for Brooks Development Authority in San Antonio, Texas. He oversaw more than $500 million in development projects on Brooks’ emerging mixed-use 1,300-acre property, including: hotels, residential options, retail, commercial, industrial, educational facilities and an urban linear park. Mr. Mitchell holds a Bachelor’s of Science Degree in Business from Hampton University and has an active Real Estate license. He is passionate about mentorship, leadership development, small business advocacy, and community service.

Essence Preparatory Public School: Board - Mary Gradney

Mary Gradney

Committees: Academic Excellence, Fund Development

Mary Gradney, born and raised in San Antonio, TX. As a native of San Antonio, she has the ability to introduce the human aspect to any business venture and makes you remember the real reason that exists behind any profession: the relationships and connections we all share. Her background in the Non-profit world allows her a unique perspective into the process of marketing and her passion to serve and instinct for true talent. Mary began to nurture her intrinsic ability in 2001 to create opportunity with her work with the Texas Department of Human Services in San Antonio Texas. As a Texas Works Advisor she initiated the process for low-income individuals and their families, which allowed them to obtain state assistance. Subsequently, she then conferred her aptitude upon San Antonio Independent Living Services. With her work as a Benefits Specialist, she increased beneficiaries, and provided benefits planning to Social Security beneficiaries. Additionally, she provided technical training to state, federal, and other agency employees and assisted in the implementation of the Work Incentives Act of 2001. Mary’s constant business sense and unparalleled understanding of the needs of others has made her successful in her professional service and also beyond within her community. She has served on the Mayor’s Commission for Women’s Issues as well as served as Board Member for the San Antonio Housing Trust. Currently, she is a board member on the City’s Bond Oversight Committee for City Council District Two. She knows that it is only in sharing our strengths with the world around us that we can truly become the change we should see in the world. As a Wife and Mother to three beautiful and successful daughters her personal legacy persists and in the deferment of those values into her professional career, countless others will continue to benefit from her gifts and wealth of knowledge.