CAST Schools Staff

Maria Luisa Cesar

Maria Luisa Cesar

Storyteller

Maria Luisa is the founder of Greater Good, a communications consulting firm rooted in storytelling. She previously worked in the Office of Mayor Ron Nirenberg as a senior policy advisor and deputy communications director. She kicked off her professional career as a journalist for the San Antonio Express-News, where she covered all things education. As a former education reporter, she’s convinced that CAST Schools have found the secret formula to making high school engaging, relevant, and immensely rewarding. Cesar was born in Caracas, Venezuela, and received a bachelor’s degree in print journalism from the University of Texas at Austin. Her work focuses on bringing student, parent and partner voices to light and helping better tell the story of how CAST Schools are impacting families and the larger community.

Carol Harle

Carol Harle

Leadership Coach

Dr. Carol Harle is a longtime educator and community volunteer with a Ph.D. in curriculum studies from the University of Texas at Austin and a focus on Japanese Lesson Study. Dr. Harle has served as a top administrator in curriculum and instruction in the Harlandale, Northside, North East, and San Antonio independent school districts. At CAST, she coaches principals and teachers and leads a Lesson Study pilot at CAST Med. “I have always been passionate about teaching, learning, coaching, and caring for children and the adults that are with them in schools and homes,” she said. She recalls the words of American writer and former teacher Margaret Wheatley, “at some time in your life, your heart leapt out and you had no choice but to work with children.” Dr. Harle is a UTSA College of Education professor, Northside ISD school board president, Alamo STEM Ecosystem lead, SA2020 commission on education member, State Board of Education steering committee member, Communities in Schools volunteer, and chair of the Ronald McDonald House ‘share your heart’ campaign.

David Holt

Data Analyst

David Holt will graduate in December 2019 with a Master’s Degree in Public Administration from the University of Texas at San Antonio’s College of Public Policy. A military veteran, Mr. Holt has lived in Puerto Rico, Italy and Germany and was inspired to focus on education as a vehicle to change the lives of children he met along his journey. “Kids are just kids and they all deserve to have opportunity,” he said. “I think the CAST Schools model is helping to provide that bridge between students and their potential future employers in the career of their dreams.” Mr. Holt has worked and volunteered at the Boys and Girls Club of Greater Houston, an experience that allowed him to better understand key functions of community-oriented nonprofit organizations. Mr. Holt works to analyze CAST Schools data and provides programmatic support to all the schools. He graduated magna cum laude from St. Edwards University, where he received a Bachelor’s Degree in accounting.

Jen Maestas

Leadership Coach

Jen Maestas started her teaching career 20 years ago with a heart for students that have been traditionally underserved. Since then, she has served the urban core of San Antonio as an instructional coach, assistant principal, and campus principal. Working as a school design coach allows her to facilitate conversations with school leaders and community partners that result in new opportunities for students. She believes that innovation requires a mindset shift to challenge the way things have always been done and knows that CAST network is doing exactly that. She has a bachelor’s degree in Interdisciplinary Studies and a master’s degree in Educational Leadership and Policy Studies from the University of Texas at San Antonio, is the co-founder of SALT, and hosts the education podcast “Miss Education”. “Great schools happen when students are given an opportunity to use their voices to shape their educational experience and school leaders are given the reins to teach with passion and creativity,” she said. “CAST Schools give teachers the flexibility they need to do their jobs with heart, while inviting students to have a place at the table and encouraging business leaders to help guide the process.”

Carol Mendenhall

Carol Mendenhall

Director of Program Design & Professional Development

Carol Mendenhall is an educator with 45 years of experience who has done everything from teach high school English to direct professional development for a nationally recognized school district. Mrs. Mendenhall’s commitment to equity was forged in her first teaching experience in Jacksonville, Florida but continued through her many jobs as an assistant principal, leadership coach, and educational consultant. She is passionate about student voice and believes that CAST Schools are transforming the education model by giving students the best resources and support to “determine their own path in life.” Mrs. Mendenhall has been involved with opening 40 new high schools through the Asia Society (globally focused schools) and through Educate Texas (STEM focused schools). She is a national facilitator for the Courage to Teach and Courage to Lead programs and believes all teachers deserve to take the time to remember why they became educators in the first place. Mrs. Mendenhall most recently worked as a leadership coach for Trinity University and was part of the founding design team for the Advanced Learning Academy. She now tackles a similar role for the CAST Network. “Young people are transforming themselves every day,” she said. “At CAST schools, we give them the space and support they need to develop their creativity, their problem-solving skills, and their desire to make a difference.” Mrs. Mendenhall has a Master’s in Anthropology from the University of Texas at San Antonio and Master of Science in Supervision from the University of Florida.

pauline moench

Pauline Moench

Special Projects Coordinator

Pauline Moench has worked for H-E-B, The Pearl, and the Holdsworth Center and has more than 20 years of experience as an executive assistant supporting top level executives in a corporate environment while taking on special projects. Throughout her career, Ms. Moench has worked as a coordinator, event planner, and critical liaison. She is excited about helping to grow the CAST Schools Network by spearheading a number of community outreach and community engagement events intended to help grow knowledge of our schools. “I think education is such a powerful tool in creating equity,” she said.

Jeanne Russell

Jeanne Russell

Executive Director

Jeanne Russell began her nontraditional career in education as a teacher, reported on education as a journalist, and shifted into public policy work to improve not just the classroom but the system. Her commitment to equity was shaped through early work in Oakland, East Harlem and Central America, where she also learned the value of giving students’ ownership of their own learning. She has helped create some of San Antonio’s most innovative education initiatives, including Café College, PreK4SA, Upgrade and SA Works. She joined Kate Rogers as part of the founding team that conceptualized CAST and was recently named executive director of the growing network. Her personal passion is for student voice, and she led the San Antonio Youth Commission in the year that it presented the first youth-informed public policy agenda to City Council, also introducing the citywide civics fair Speak Up Speak Out! to San Antonio. She has a bachelor’s degree in anthropology from the University of California-Berkeley, a master’s degree in education from the University of California-Davis and a joint master’s degree in journalism and Caribbean and Latin American Studies from New York University. Both of her children attend CAST Schools.

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