Updates from the Board of Directors:
The following individuals are the Directors for Willow Oak Montessori Charter School, Inc.; Willow Oak Montessori Children's House, Inc.; and Willow Oak Montessori Foundation, Inc.
Elizabeth Bonitz, President
Elizabeth’s involvement at Willow Oak Montessori (WOM) began in 2013, when she enrolled her 3-year old at WOM Children’s House, with her second child following in 2017. Both children have thrived at WOM, inspiring her to give back to the school in whatever ways she can, including serving on the Operations Committee and chairing several PTA fundraisers, along with classroom parent volunteering. Prior to starting a family in Pittsboro with her husband, John, Elizabeth earned a Bachelor and two Masters degrees in Education & English, along with National Board Teacher Certification, which well-prepared her for a successful 20-year career in public education. She especially values how Montessori education empowers initiative, and is excited to serve on the WOM Board this year.
Judy Malloy, Vice President
Judy brings 15 years of engineering and project management experience to the Board. She holds Bachelors and Masters degrees in Engineering, from her native Scotland. After graduating, she joined an international company which took her around the world, where she met her husband, and finally to North Carolina in 2014. Her most memorable projects include upgrades to London Underground’s subway system ahead of the Olympics and rebuilding water treatment plants in Iraq. Her current project, a mum to daughter Evelyn and son Ewan, is her most challenging to date. In her spare time, Judy likes to ride her bike, walk the dog and is learning to play the piano. Judy is comfortable in complex and changing environments. Her project mindset will benefit the development of the school in these uncertain times. She is delighted to have this opportunity to serve Willow Oak Montessori.
Lee Nestlerode, Treasurer & Finance Chair
Lee brings 15+ years of Corporate Finance experience to Willow Oak. He has an undergraduate degree in Finance from Bowling Green State University and an MBA from Loyola Chicago. Lee, his wife, Katie and two children (Margot and Owen) all enjoy being part of the Willow Oak Community. Lee is originally from Cleveland, OH and still follows Cleveland sports. He enjoys the outdoors, especially hiking, biking and skiing.
Andrew Lerner, Secretary
Andrew and his wife Jackie embraced the Montessori philosophy of education when they were living in Berkeley, CA and expecting their first child. Ten years later and across the country, their two children are thriving at Willow Oak Montessori. Andrew is passionate about applying his diverse skill set to serve the Willow Oak community and work toward a world where ever child has access to a high-quality Montessori education. Andrew served in the US Marines as a Russian Cryptologic Linguist, worked for the National Security Agency, and deployed overseas. Andrew obtained a Bachelor’s degree in Chemistry from UC Berkeley and a PhD in Biochemistry & Biophysics from UNC Chapel Hill. He is a life scientist at heart and is interested in pushing the envelope of what’s possible to develop cell and gene therapy cures. His more recent experiences include supporting drug discovery and development, establishing and maintaining partnerships, formulating patent strategies, and evaluating life science technologies for investment. He enjoys getting outdoors, whether it’s mountain biking the local trails and sailing the local lakes with his family, or kitesurfing into the sunset alone.
Janet Ballinger, Board Member
Janet Ballinger (Weed) has been an Educator and Administrator for over 15 years in a variety of roles and settings. She is currently living her dream as a Real Estate Broker with Nest Realty. A highlight of her career prior to having children was creating and leading a Visual Literacy Program for HS students and teachers in Ghana, West Africa. In 2006, Janet started her Montessori journey and has since worked at Heartwood Montessori, Montessori School of Raleigh, Montessori Community School, Raleigh Progressive School, Peace Montessori and many other schools in the area. She was on the Board of Directors at Sterling Montessori Charter School in Morrisville. Janet managed the Triangle Montessori Schools Association, which provides professional development and collaboration to all of the Montessori schools in the area. Janet has taken many certification courses in the Primary and Lower Elementary Montessori levels. Janet went to NYU for both Undergrad (BFA, Drama) and received an Advanced Graduate Certificate in Arts Administration. Before she transitioned to education, she was a professional costume designer on Broadway and Primetime TV. She and her husband live in Durham and have three sons. Janet's boys are proud Montessori kids and are thrilled to be at WOM! In her free time, Janet loves to go to the theatre with her family, attend births as a Doula (birth partner), and slip away to silent Zen Meditation retreats.
Frank Brainard, Board Member
Frank is a native Oklahoman who began his career as a high school history teacher. He transitioned to teaching Montessori at the 3 to 6 age level under the guidance of Margaret Loeffler and Bea Pape, two Montessorians who supported his decision to move to Bergamo, Italy. where he completed his Montessori Elementary credential. A few years after his return to the USA, Frank and his wife, Margaret Borrego, established a Montessori school in the southern Appalachian community of Cashiers, NC. After several years of co-directing their school, Frank completed his EdM at Harvard University and subsequent principal certification through internships in Marblehead, MA, and Auburn, WA. He worked in school leadership positions in Chicago and near Seattle, where he began his doctoral studies at the University of Washington. Frank was Head of School at The Greensboro Montessori School for 17 years. He is a past member of the AMS Board of Directors and the AMS School Accreditation Commission the Montessori Accrediting Council for Teacher Education Board of Directors. Frank has chaired or been a member of over 100 school and teacher education accreditation teams. He is currently on the board of B’nai Shalom Day School and Noble Academy in Greensboro, NC. Frank and his wife are strong supporters of Montessori theory and practice in public and independent schools. He is happy to serve on the Willow Oak Montessori board because of the sense he gets that this board is totally committed to the sustainability and future of this fine member of the Montessori community of schools.
Mike Dasher, Board Member
Mike was born in Toledo, Ohio, and moved to North Carolina in 1989. He and his wife, Selbe Bartlett, arrived in Chatham County in 2004. Mike is a builder and developer and also serves as a Chatham County Commissioner. He is a graduate of Barton College where he earned degrees in Political Science and Finance. After college, Mike joined AmeriCorps and spent a year building houses with Habitat for Humanity and discovered a passion for building, service, and creating community. He continued working for Habitat for Humanity for another 6 years and eventually founded his own company to develop smart, sustainable communities. Mike enjoys spending time with his two children, both of whom attended Willow Oak Montessori. Mike and Selbe have found the Montessori principles reflect their core values of trust, respect, mindfulness, and community.
Jordynn Jack, Board Member
Jordynn was attracted to Montessori education from the time she first encountered Willow Oak students who launched a small coffee stand outside the school at its prior location (the BOLD building) across from her children’s preschool. When her daughter enrolled at WOM for first grade, it was an immediate fit, and her younger son joined Children’s House the following year. Jordynn’s background is in post-secondary education. She has a PhD in English Rhetoric and Composition from Pennsylvania State University and has taught professional writing and rhetoric at UNC-Chapel Hill for 17 years. Her academic research highlights the persuasive strategies used in science and health communication, with current interests in how neuroscience research is shaping public education policy. In her spare time, she enjoys working in her native plant and vegetable garden and doing craft projects with her two children, both WOM students.
Manju Reddy, Board Member
Biography coming soon!