Board of Directors
Académie Lafayette is governed by an independent Board of Directors that oversees the operations of the school and makes sure it is financially sound and follows the law. The Board also helps to create the vision for how the school should operate and develops the strategic plan. Read the school bylaws.
There are two types of Board members, appointed and parent-elected. Appointed Board members serve three-year terms that can be renewed. Parent-elected Board members are elected by the parents to serve three-year terms. All Board members must pass background checks prior to their election on the Board. Below, get to know our Board members, read about our committees, and learn how to speak at a Board meeting.
Our Board Members
Committee Membership: Finance, Governance
Bio: Jon Otto is an attorney at Bryan Cave Leighton Paisner, LLP and works in the law firm’s Structured Finances practice group, focusing on public finance, commercial real estate transactions, and corporate transactions. Prior to joining Bryan Cave, Jon was an attorney with Polsinelli working in the financial services practice group. Before becoming an attorney, he worked as an actuarial analyst at General Electric Insurance Solutions (later Swiss Reinsurance Corporation) and as an IT project manager at General Electric Capital Corporation.
Jon received his juris doctorate from the University of Missouri–Kansas City and his Bachelor’s in mathematics from Clark Atlanta University. He was appointed to serve on the Académie Lafayette Board in 2010, elected President in 2018 and also serves as a member of the Finance and Governance Committees. In addition to his service to Académie Lafayette, Jon serves as a board member for Truman Medical Centers, Child Protection Center, and is an advisory board member for the Urban Land Institute of Kansas City.
He is married and has four children, all of whom attended Académie Lafayette.
Committee Membership: Finance, Leadership Review (Committee Chair)
Bio: Michael Bland is a community economic development professional at Travois, a housing and economic development firm specializing in American Indian, Native Hawaiian and Alaska Native projects. He estimates community impacts of potential New Markets Tax Credit projects and documents investment impacts once funded. Michael was previously employed by the Defense Intelligence Agency in Washington, D.C. Before his work with the federal government, he was an Arabic language instructor at the University of Texas and Trinity Washington University in D.C.
Michael holds a bachelor’s degree in history and Middle Eastern studies from the University of Virginia and a master’s degree in Middle Eastern studies from the University of Texas. He was appointed to serve on the Académie Lafayette Board in 2017 and serves on the finance committee and chairs the leadership review committee. He is married and has three children, all of whom attend Académie Lafayette.
Committee Membership: Diversity, Governance (Committee Chair)
Bio: Beth McCarthy has been PREP-KC’s College & Career Program Coordinator since 2006 and works closely with Kansas City’s urban schools to support the implementation of research-based strategies to increase college and career readiness for urban students. Her responsibilities include building partnerships with 192 businesses & 32 postsecondary institutions to create opportunities at scale for students to explore college & careers and identify the “right fit” for after high school. She also has experience in new small school development.
Beth brings a wealth of urban school experience to her work with PREP-KC. As a field trainer with the Vera Institute of Justice- Project Affirm, Beth trained school staff & administrators to decrease violence levels in what had been labeled New York City’s 10 worst schools. Her work in the Los Angeles Unified School District helped build community support for the district’s plan to build 85 schools in 5 years. She is an alumna of Kansas City Tomorrow, a local civic leadership program through the Civic Council of Greater Kansas City and earned a Bachelor’s Degree in Social Work from Kansas State University.
Beth joined as a parent-elected member to serve on the Académie Lafayette Board in 2017 and also serves as chair of the Governance Committee as well as a member of the Diversity Committee. She is married and has 2 children at Académie Lafayette.
Committee Membership: Development, Diversity (Committee Chair)
Bio: Kelly Baker is a business professional currently working as a Project Manager for United Health Care and has 15 years of experience working with KC Communities through the Health Department and Neighborhood Housing Department for the City of Kansas City. She graduated from Baker University with a Bachelor’s degree in Business Administration, spent 15 years with the City of Kansas City, MO as a Business Office Manager, and has five years of project management experience with United Health Care. In addition, Kelly has experience in Corporate Partnership Management, Communications and Stakeholder Resolution and Coordination and Delivery of Training Curriculum.
Kelly was appointed to serve on the Académie Lafayette Board in 2018 and also serves as chair of the Diversity Committee as well as a member of the Development Committee. Together with her husband Arthur, she resides in downtown Kansas City, Mo, where she raised two boys, London and Antonio, and one daughter, Meredith, all graduates of the Kansas City, MO area.
Committee Membership: Development Committee
Bio: Tanja Heinen brings 30 years of professional experience spanning the fields of public relations, communications, marketing, fundraising development and management. She has held multifaceted senior-level roles in the education, medical research and health care sectors. A Certified Fund-Raising Executive (CFRE) since 2000, Tanja also earned her MBA degree from Rockhurst University in 2002 after graduating from Mizzou with a Bachelor’s degree in broadcast journalism. In 2014, Tanja became a Fellow in Charitable Estate Planning (FCEP). A collaborative leader, Tanja serves as a consultant to nonprofit boards and executive leaders. A native of Kansas City, Missouri, she attended public schools.
Tanja was appointed to serve on the Académie Lafayette Board in 2018 and also serves as a member of the Development Committee. She and her husband work as entrepreneurs and have two daughters.
Marvin Lyman has served on the Académie Lafayette Board since 2013, first as a parent-elected Board member. In 2015, he was appointed to serve on the Board. Marvin graduated from Kansas City Public Schools and later earned his bachelor’s degree from St. Cloud State University. He has served as a Governor’s Fellow at Ferris State University in Michigan and a congressional intern for the Senate Republican Conference. Marvin is a former high school and middle school teacher and is the President of Kansas City’s oldest community development corporation, the Black Economic Union.
Marvin is the proud father of Madison and Morgan Lyman, both Académie Lafayette students. In addition to serving on the Board at Académie Lafayette, Marvin serves on the Truman Medical Center Board of Directors with governance duties on the fiscal responsibility and capital improvements committee. Likewise, he serves on the Planned Industrial Expansion Authority for the City of Kansas City, Missouri and is a committed community servant.
Committee Membership: Development (Committee Chair)
Bio: As owner of EAG Advertising & Marketing, Michele works with growing companies and non-profit organizations of all sizes, primarily in the Kansas City metro area. She has decades of experience that she can share with others to help them grow, including previous roles as president of a large national advertising agency, and as owner of a 3-location boxing franchise in the Dallas area. Michele is also currently president of the KC Chapter of ANA Business Marketing after a 2-year term as a Board Member and Officer, was a previous board member of the Local Search Association, and was a co-op officer during her tenure as a franchise owner. With vast experience in organizing priorities and making decisions that benefit all stakeholders, she brings a balance of compromise and conviction to all that she does, and has a true passion for the mission of this school for the families and community it serves.
Michele was appointed to serve on the Académie Lafayette Board in 2020 and also serves as chair of the Development Committee. A native of KC, Michele attended public schools, is married and has a 3rd grade daughter at Académie Lafayette as well as a son who will join in 2021.
Committee Membership: Leadership Review
Bio: Carla Mebane currently serves as the Director of the dual credit program at University of Missouri-Kansas City. UMKC’s dual credit program allows high school students to earn college credit from within their high school from their high school teacher. Prior to moving into higher education, Carla taught elementary and middle school in the North Kansas City School District.
A William Jewell graduate, Carla holds an Ed.D. in leadership and policy analysis from University of Missouri-Columbia, an M.A.Ed. in school Leadership and an M.S.Ed. in curriculum and instruction.
Carla was appointed to serve on the Académie Lafayette Board in 2018 and also serves as a member of the Leadership Review committee. Born and raised in the Kansas City area, Carla has two daughters and loves to travel.
Committee Membership: Finance (Committee Chair), Leadership Review
Bio: Harriett’s commitment to Académie Lafayette dates back to the late ‘90s when she and her husband, Ed Rucker, founded the school. The original charter was written at the dining room table in their Hyde Park home.
Harriett has a Bachelor’s in finance from Drake University and a Master’s from Rockhurst University. Harriett is also a real estate agent with Reece & Nichols, and also serves as the chair of the Board at the Ward Parkway Preschool in Kansas City.
Harriett was appointed to serve on the Académie Lafayette Board in 2012 and also serves as chair of the Finance Committee and a member of the Leadership Review Committee. All three of Harriett’s children, Mary (2002), Barnett (2006), and Ben (2009) are graduates of Académie Lafayette.
Committee Membership: Leadership Review
Bio: Dr. Gwen Poss is the Director for the Career Education Consortium (CEC), serving Center, Grandview, Hickman Mills, Independence, Lee’s Summit, and Raytown School Districts, and Metropolitan Community College. The CEC represents a diverse learning community working to leverage career opportunities for all students to meet the workforce development needs of the Kansas City region.
Dr. Poss is an innovative visionary who led key initiatives for the Olathe School District, serving over 30,000 students in Metro Kansas City. In 2003, she opened Olathe Northwest High School with two specialized programs in Aerospace and Engineering and eCommunication with strands in graphic design, web design, animation and entertainment/broadcast journalism. Prior principal positions include Olathe South High School, Green Springs Elementary school in Olathe and a rural K–8 school in Onaga, Kansas.
Dr. Poss holds graduate and advanced degrees in Curriculum and Administration from Kansas State University. She is passionate about College and Career Readiness for All students and trained principals in AVID’s (Advancement Via Individual Determination) Leadership for College Readiness. Gwen is an alumna of Greater Missouri Leadership Challenge, a statewide year-long leadership program providing a unique introduction to the complex issues facing our communities, state, and nation. She has been in many leadership roles at the district, state, and national levels.
Gwen joined the Académie Lafayette Board in 2019 bringing over 30 years of experience in elementary, middle, and high schools, and serves on the Leadership Review Committee. Gwen is married and loves serving the Académie Lafayette school community.
Committee Membership: Diversity
Bio: Renee is a Kansas City native who currently works as Assistant Director of Northland Dependency Services, a locally-owned company focusing on Alcohol and Drug treatment, offender education as well as probation and pre-trial supervision. After graduating high school, she lived and studied in Niort, France for a year before pursuing dual Bachelor’s Degrees in Criminal Justice and History. She received her MA in History from UMKC in 2005 and taught American History at the college level for 10 years before accepting her current position. In addition to her professional career, Renee has volunteered for the March of Dimes since 2008 and has previously served on their NICU family support board at St. Luke’s Hospital.
Renee joined as a parent-elected member to serve on the Académie Lafayette Board in 2019 and serves on the Diversity Committee. She is the proud mom of one future and three current Académie Lafayette students.
Read more about the committees in which Board members participate.