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Board of Directors

Engin Blackstone Headshot
Engin Blackstone
Superintendent, Gateway Science Academy

Engin Blacktsone currently serves as the Superintendent of Gateway Science Academies in St. Louis. Engin started his career in education as a Mathematics teacher, and has been serving in charter public schools since 2000. He was actively involved in the start-up of four charter schools within the Concept Schools network. He was named School Leader of the Year by MCPSA in 2016 and has served on MCPSA’s board of directors since 2016.
       Jim Brigham Headshot
Jim Brigham
Partner, Warson Capital Partners

With many years of experience in finance, investments and entrepreneurial management, Jim provides a wealth of knowledge and years of success in private equity as a partner with Warson Capital. Jim received his Bachelor of Arts degree from Duke University and a Master of Business Administration from the University of Chicago. As well as MCPSA’s, he also serves on the board of directors of Vertebal Technologies, Inc. of Minneapolis and Asclepius Laboratories, Inc. of Boston. Jim is Chairman of the Board of Nest and President of the Board of North Side Community. He has served on the boards of numerous charitable organizations in New York and St. Louis. Jim joined MCPSA’s Board in 2018.
  Kate Casas Headshot
Kate Casas
Partner, Nexus Group

Kate began working in politics at the age of 20 when she led grassroots advocacy and lobbying at a non-profit in Washington, DC while finishing her undergraduate degree. Kate is now one of the premier lobbyists in Missouri. She has tremendous experience in negotiating complicated and controversial issues for multiple stakeholders. As a result of her background in public service and lobbying, Kate has relationships with key legislators and regulatory officials which help her maximum advantage in advocating for her clients’ interests. In 2018 Kate co-founded Nexus Group – a full-service government affairs firm headquartered in Jefferson City. Kate joined MCPSA’s Board in 2016.
Paul Fedchak Headshot
Paul Fedchak
KIPP: St. Louis (St. Louis, MO)

Paul has extensive experience in directing and managing the business operations of school districts. He spent most of his professional career serving Clayton School District as their Chief Financial Officer. Paul has served as a school finance consultant since 2007 and has performed services in various capacities for schools in the St. Louis metropolitan area. He served for four years as the Interim Chief Financial Officer for Riverview Gardens School District where he successfully transitioned the school district’s finances from a position of nearing financial stress to one with an enviable fund balance. Paul has worked with various charter schools in the St. Louis metropolitan area, serving as CFO for St. Louis Language Immersion Schools, and Director of Finance/CFO for KIPP St. Louis. Paul joined MCPSA’s Board in 2015.
Shanika Harris Headshot
Shanika Harris
Charter School Liason, University of Missouri-Columbia

Shanika joined the University of Missouri – Columbia’s staff in 2013, in a part-time capacity and became full-time in 2014.  She was born and raised in St. Louis, educated in both the Catholic and public school systems. Shanika is a proud graduate of Beaumont High School. While she left for higher education, her heart stayed home and she returned to invest over 11 years in social service and not for profit agencies. A large part of that time was spent preparing both elementary and high school students for long-term educational success and employment. Shanika has a lifetime of experience working in and with the St. Louis community from neighborhoods and schools to coordinating with state and federal agencies. She is committed to continuing to invest in her home communities. She holds a Bachelor of Arts in Criminal Justice, a Master of Arts in Legal Studies, and a Masters of Business Administration. Shanika joined MCPSA’s Board in 2016.
       Mike McShane
Director of National Research, EdChoice

Mike is the editor of New and Better Schools, the author of Education and Opportunity and coeditor of Educational Entrepreneurship Today, Teacher Quality 2.0 and Common Core Meets Education Reform. His analyses and commentary have been published widely in the media, including in the Huffington Post, National Affairs, USA Today and The Washington Post. He has also been featured in education-specific outlets such as Teachers College Commentary, Education Week, Phi Delta Kappan and Education Next. In addition to authoring numerous white papers, McShane has had academic work published in Education Finance and Policy and the Journal of School Choice. A former high school teacher, he earned a Ph.D. in education policy from the University of Arkansas, an M.Ed. from the University of Notre Dame and a B.A. in English from St. Louis University. Mike joined MCPSA’s Board in 2018.
 Kirsten Lipari-Braman
Kirsten Lipari-Braman
Chief Executive Office
Kirsten Lipari-Braman is the Chief Executive Office for Gordon Parks Elementary. Previously she worked as the Finance Director for multiple Kansas City charter schools as a Charter Analyst with EdOps. She has served as the Director of Federal Programs for the Kansas City, Missouri School District, and Federal Supervisor with DESE. During these positions she assisted with the coordination and implementation of compliance mandates as well as the analysis and evaluation of their effectiveness. Mrs. Braman participated in developing administrative guidelines and policies for federal programs, working with transportation and service providers, and acting as liaison to parents ensuring federal regulations were followed. Throughout her 25 years in education, Mrs. Braman has served as a Reading Specialist and classroom teacher serving teachers and students in preschool through 6th grade, including gifted and talented. Kirsten is a military wife of 25 years, has four amazing children and 2 beautiful grandchildren.
 Jon Otto
Jon Otto
Jon Otto is an attorney at Bryan Cave Leighton Paisner, LLP and works in the law firm’s Structured Finance 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 of science in mathematics from Clark Atlanta University. As an advocate for public education, he was appointed to serve on the Académie Lafayette charter school board in 2010 and served as Board President from 2018 to 2021. He also serves as a member of the school’s 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, the UMKC Law Alumni board, 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 and Kansas City, Missouri public schools.
* All board members are unpaid.
** Board members also serve as directors of Missouri Charter Public School Association (MCPSA)