Founders

Ingrid Askew is an African American actress, director and cultural activist. Ms. Askew uses the performing arts and the principles of popular education as a vehicle to address issues of oppression and social justice. Her commitment to building community and working with young people has impacted programs and projects in Amherst and Springfield, MA, Connecticut, New York and as far away as South Africa. Ms Askew served on the founding committee for the Pioneer Valley Performing Arts High School in South Hadley, MA. She taught a theatre for social justice class in the school’s inaugural year. She has recently returned to the U.S. after living in South Africa for ten years where she worked with local artists, activists and township youth. She now resides in Holyoke, MA.

Bob Brick has thirty-five years of experience as the lead administrator in social services, health care and education organizations. He received his BA in Education from the University of Massachusetts and his Ed. M from Harvard University. He is the co-founder of the Pioneer Valley Performing Arts Charter Public School (1996) and currently serves as its Executive Director.

In addition to his fifteen years of experience successfully operating PVPA Charter Public School he has also been the leader of 200 units of public housing in inner city Springfield, and the leader of a broad continuum of mental health and social service programs in Holyoke.

Dr. Charles Hopkins As an educator with 40+ years working in public education Charles has had the opportunity to see how education can transform the lives of students. Charles supports the Paulo Friere Social Justice Public Charter School because it recognizes that connections between family, community and individuals are necessary to helping individuals develop their fullest capacities. Public schools are a space in which this can occur. Paulo Friere identified language and literacy as key elements to human development. Unless individuals realize the antecedents and conditions that circumscribe their lives, they will lack the power to change their lives for the better. They remain dependent upon others and become increasingly alienated from society. Charles’ guiding principle as an educator has been that decisions in the classroom or in administration should be directed at helping individuals become independent, cooperative members of society. This is a first step in creating social justice.
He believes a school for social justice must address issues of wealth, power and social status. The creation of social justice is most likely to occur when people can participate in the ongoing conversation of what it means to be human in its fullest sense. Participation in that conversation requires that individuals are literate. The individual who can describe and reflect on the circumstances of his or her life is given the potential to engage in cooperative action with others for bettering the condition of all. For children who come from broken homes, or lives constrained by poverty and low status, a school of social justice, by emphasizing personal literacy, becomes a path to realizing their human potential by providing the community a space and means of initiating change.
It is Charles’ hope that the Paulo Friere Social Justice Public Charter School can be this path to literacy and positive change in the world.
Charles’ Qualifications:
• 40+ years of work in education as both a teacher and district level administrator working in a variety of capacities. He has been certified in elementary education, special education, earth science. Additionally he has held certificates as an elementary principal, special education director, assistant superintendent, and superintendent.
• Has taught high school science in a community undergoing social and cultural transition.
• Has been responsible for the custody of 35 to 40 children placed in Division of Child Guardianship’s custody by reason of parental abuse or neglect; also represented the Division in court, supervised foster home placements, and developed social histories and referrals for
• Has taught special education at the K to 6 level with an interest in learning disabilities and their remediation.
• Has had responsibility for the operation, scheduling, and planning of a small school serving the American and foreign community in the Soviet Union for grades K to 9; my instructional duties involved teaching a self-contained grade 4 to 9 classroom in all subject areas.
• As a public school district administrator he has had responsibility for staff development, curriculum, and instruction; administration and writing of grants; working with staff curriculum committees; initiated an integrated “mapping” of the curriculum for future curriculum work; and he has assisted in the oversight of district goals including staff involvement; and assisted with supervision of professional staff; district budgeting and hiring.
• As a Director of Special Education for a 2400 student school district, Charles has been responsible for the special education, homeless, ADA and 504 services of 400+ students located at up to 16 different service sites; including budgeting; coordinating and assisting in the supervision of 28 professional staff, 50 paraprofessionals, and negotiating for services with over 70 private vendors.
• During his first year as a Special Education Director, Charles successfully addressed numerous non-compliance issues and subsequently reorganized the special education department to ensure that virtually all children were mainstreamed at the elementary level;
• Charles has also worked to maintain positive parent involvement in a Special Education Parent Advisory Council and has been directly involved in establishing a ToughLove parent group in response to the social and emotional needs of families.
• Positions have included overall grants management, organization of Health Education Advisory Council, special projects, and curriculum development.
• Charles was selected to be a member of the Massachusetts Statewide Curriculum Advisory Council and participated in the development of the initial frameworks for the state curriculum.
• At Mt. Holyoke College, Charles was asked to teach a semester long upper level undergraduate course, Learning Differences, Education 234, to a section of 47 undergraduates. It was a course that focused on the practice of teaching and responding to a diverse population of students with understanding and clarity of expectations.
• As a doctoral candidate, his primary interest was examining why some teachers become excellent teachers in spite of the many ups and downs of public education. As a professional Charles has been committed to the idea that teaching is a profession that achieves excellence by being collaborative, reflective, and open to new ideas.

Ljuba Marsh has been involved in educational programs for over 35 years, ranging from pre-school to college age students, in public, private and institutional settings. Each of these educational opportunities provided a unique understanding of how individuals learn, and helped her to determine the elements necessary for achieving excellence in education.

Fifteen years ago, the State of Massachusetts requested detailed proposals for the initiation of twenty-five charter schools. Her submission emphasized many of the important values she identified and worked with in the past; these included: educational excellence, multiple learning styles, creative and critical thinking, integration of information, arts-infused education, multi-cultural awareness, social curriculum, and community building. She was granted one of the first twenty-five charters and put together an award-winning regional middle and high school that currently serves 400 students from 60 different cities and towns in the Pioneer Valley.

She has also been involved in training and dissemination. She has provided educational programs for parents, teachers, administrators, and commissioners, and has published articles focused on values-based systems and curricula. She provided training for the Charter Association, was able to lead summer in-service programs, and, as part of the reform movement, provided in-school trainings throughout the Pioneer Valley.

Ljuba also has many years of experience in urban environments. She began her teaching in New York City and was a team member of the pilot project for Headstart in the South Bronx. She also taught in an experimental program in Harlem. When she moved to the Boston area, she taught in Roxbury and Dorchester. All of these programs built a clear belief that all students are capable of excellence in education.

Dr. Heyda M. Martínez Heyda has dedicated more than 30 years to make the education and mental health systems more responsive to culturally diverse people. Heyda has worked as an educator, school psychologist, individual, and group psychotherapist in a variety of settings. She has worked twenty of those years in Western Massachusetts. With a doctoral degree in education from the University of Massachusetts Amherst in the Department of Pupil Personnel Services, with a concentration in Social Justice Education; and a masters in Clinical Psychology from the University of Puerto Rico, Heyda has also conducted research on the experience of emigration of Latino women and their families as it intersects with issues of race, class, gender, and minority status. For the past four years Heyda has been providing services as an educational assessment and intervention specialist at a K-8 Charter School in Holyoke, and as an Autism consultant for different school systems and community organizations.
Heyda has a strong commitment to social justice and embraces Paulo Freire’s philosophy on education. As a member of the Founding board of the Paulo Freire Social Justice Charter School she will have the opportunity to work with a community of participants to ensure a sound education for Holyoke children, where knowledge is constructed with a community of learners utilizing the best practices of modern educational pedagogy.

Vivian Pappas As an educator working for the past fourteen years in Chicopee, Vivian has been an advocate for improving public school education. She believes it is important to teach to the “whole” child and inspire a love of learning. Vivian believes learning is active and energizing and she creates a fun and productive learning environment. Her students are encouraged to find their own voice, to take ownership of their learning, and to become independent contributors. Her goal is to have her students embrace learning and grow into intelligent and productive members of the community.
Vivian has lived in Chicopee all of her life and attended Chicopee Public Schools. She graduated from Our Lady of the Elms College and now teaches for the Chicopee Public School System, as her way of giving back to her community.
Several years ago, she signed up for a summer teachers’ institute with Pioneer Valley Performing Arts. Their “Arts in Education Program” was a great opportunity for her to gain experience in a wide range of arts and academic modalities. It was her first association with charter schools and she was very impressed. Vivian felt it was such an important experience that she returned almost every summer and worked with the program as a mentor to other teachers.
When she needed a great high school for her son to attend, she selected PVPA and was so pleased with her decision. Vivian’s son, who has learning difficulties, thrived at PVPA and was able to succeed in regular classes. He was able to accomplish so much academically, and it really helped to build his self-esteem.
When Vivian discovered that a new charter high school was proposed for Chicopee, she was so elated. Chicopee needs as many public high school options as possible. When she discovered that the founding members of the Paulo Freire Social Justice Charter Public School were former board members, administrators, teachers, and parents of PVPA, she knew she wanted to become involved.
Vivian wants students in Chicopee to have an opportunity to attend a school with high academic standards and strong committee values. Vivian believes the Paulo Freire Social Justice Charter School will help prepare Chicopee students for college, have pride in their accomplishments, and become responsible and successful members of our society. Vivian is delighted to commit her time and energy to the Paulo Freire Charter School and will do her best to help the school meet all its goals and objectives.

Keith Purcell is currently a partner in a local CPA firm and has been in public accounting over 20 years. During this time he has provided accounting, tax and advisory services to non-profit charter schools, low-income housing projects and other non-profit organizations in the greater Springfield/Holyoke area. Keith believes that Commitment to the local community is an important aspect of being a CPA, and has served on Boards of nonprofit organizations including those that provide educational services to children and youth in difficult situations. In addition to Board service, he has been involved in fund-raising campaigns, charity events for Big Brother, Big Sisters and Junior Achievement and speaking engagements discussing the importance of a good education.

Elaine Reall grew up and went to college in Western Massachusetts. Prior to attending and graduating from Syracuse University’s College of Law, she volunteered for 2 years as an Intern and Family Law Paralegal at Western Massachusetts Legal Services. Working in the heart of Winchester Square in Springfield confirmed, and clarified, her commitment to Social Justice. She has practiced law for the past 31 years; primarily in the area of Labor and Employment law. Throughout her legal career, Elaine has taught in an adjunct capacity at the college and law school level. She has also been involved in education at the high school level as a founding board member of the Pioneer Valley Performing Arts Charter School.

Ruben Sepulveda likes to consider himself a late bloomer. He started his education in the fall of 2008 at 33 years old. He received his Associates in Arts and Science from Holyoke Community College. He is currently a full-time student at Amherst College working on his Bachelors degree in Psychology. He is also a board member of the Massachusetts Justice Project. Ruben was a tutor at the Holyoke Community College/Adult Learning Center in Holyoke, Ma, and he continues to stay involved with the program as a speaker for the program on the importance of education.

Rhonda Soto is currently program coordinator of Class Action’s race and class intersections program. Through her work in social justice, she has built collaboration and expanded coalition between various diverse communities and individuals across the nation. She is currently a national trainer on race and class intersections, and a consultant around issues of cultural diversity. She provides education and resources through published writings, trainings, speeches, consultations, presentations, and interviews in the media. This includes, but is not limited to facilitating cross-class/cross-race dialogue groups, leading support groups, and workshops and developing and leading educational programs specifically around issues of race and class intersections. Her long-standing interest in social justice keeps her committed, and dedicated towards social justice. .

She remains a board member for the C.A.R.E Center of Holyoke since 2002, and currently holds a seat on Holyoke Community College’s Alumni Council since 2004.