The National Charter Schools Institute’s mission is to transform public education and power performance, productivity and accountability breakthroughs that help people win for kids. Our team is made up of passionate professionals who are committed to excellence and known for their integrity. We envision a day when all students will have access to a diverse marketplace of exceptional schools where they can learn, grow and prepare for success in college, work and life.

The Institute is governed by a nine member board of directors and is led by its President & CEO, James N. Goenner, Ph.D. Jim is highly respected in the education reform community and was inducted into the National Charter Schools Hall of Fame in 2010. Under his leadership, the Institute is focused on winning hearts and minds, influencing policy and practice and delivering great programs, tools and services designed to power breakthrough, rather than incremental improvements.

We see the charter schools movement as a way to expand choice and competition and drive the transformation of public education into a more market-based system of schools. We believe this emerging educational marketplace needs transparent and trustworthy academic, fiscal and operational performance measures that parents can use to make informed decisions, and the public can use to ensure accountability.

The Institute was founded in 1995 as the Michigan Resource Center for Charter Schools by former Michigan Governor John Engler and Central Michigan University. Its original mission was to support and guide the implementation of Michigan’s newly adopted charter schools law. Based on its impact and the need for its services nationally, the United States Congress provided $1 million in 2001 for the Institute to legally separate from the University and expand its scope of services. The Institute is a Michigan non-profit corporation with federally recognized 501(c)(3) status.

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Our Team


James N. Goenner, Ph.D.

President and CEO

Leading the way toward a day when all students have access to a diverse array of exceptional schools where they can learn, grow and prepare for success, Jim Goenner serves as President and CEO of the National Charter Schools Institute. Jim joined the charter schools movement in 1995, and has played a prominent role in developing and strengthening the performance of the charter schools sector in Michigan and across the nation ever since. In 2010, Jim’s pioneering efforts and commitment to excellence earned him an induction into the National Charter Schools Hall of Fame. Prior to joining the Institute, Jim served as the Executive Director of The Center for Charter Schools at Central Michigan University, where he led the first and largest university authorizer of charter public schools in the nation. Under Jim’s leadership, CMU became known as the “gold standard” for charter school authorizing. Jim currently serves on the board of directors of the Charter Schools Development Corporation. He helped found the National Association of Charter School Authorizers and chaired its board of directors (2007-2010). He also helped found and chaired the board of directors of the Michigan Council of Charter School Authorizers (2002-2010), and served as the first President of the Michigan Association of Public School Academies (1996-1998). Jim earned his Doctorate in Educational Administration from Michigan State University, Master of Arts from Central Michigan University and Bachelor of Business Administration from Grand Valley State University. Jim and his wife, Theresa, have seven children.


Darlene Chambers, Ph.D.

Senior Vice President for Programs and Services

A national leader in education reform, Dr. Darlene Chambers joined the Institute team as Senior Vice President for Programs & Services in the spring of 2016. Darlene brings over 40 years of education experience working nationally and internationally with schools, boards, authorizers, universities and corporations. Prior to joining the Institute, Darlene served as the CEO of the Ohio Alliance for Public Charter Schools. Darlene also served as the Executive Director of the Ohio Council of Community Schools, one the first and largest authorizers in Ohio. In 2013, she was elected as the President of the Ohio Association of Charter School Authorizers and also participated in the National Association of Charter School Authorizer’s (NACSA) leader’s program. She is a highly sought after speaker, consults with authorizers around the country and serves as an executive leadership coach for NACSA. Darlene was also a member of the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools State Leader’s Council and was a founding board member of the Cleveland Transformation Alliance, an advocacy group for the Cleveland Metropolitan School District and its partner charter schools. Recently, Darlene played an instrumental role in Michigan’s Authorizer Accreditation Review program developed in conjunction with AdvancED and also developed a series of board training modules for the statewide Ohio charter school board membership organization. Darlene did doctoral work in higher education and organizational development at Oregon State and Bowling Green State Universities. She received her Masters from San Francisco State University and Bachelors at Ball State University.


Cheri Shannon

Vice President for Performance and Accountability

Committed to the core mission of ensuring students are prepared for success in college, work and life, Cheri has dedicated her career to strengthening leaders, growing networks and impacting students. Cheri joined the Institute team in 2017 as the Vice President for Performance and Accountability. A steadfast believer in education reform, Cheri began her work in the reform movement in 1995, serving as Executive Director of the Coalition for Essential Schools. She was quickly tapped to serve in top school leadership positions in the charter sector in Kansas City. Following 6 years of service within charter schools and being recognized as an emerging leader in the field, Cheriwas chosen to lead the Missouri Charter Public Schools Association in 2009, followed by the Florida Charter Schools Association in 2011. In her tireless work to advance the charter movement and continue to make a difference in the landscape, Cheri founded and became the Executive Director of University Preparatory Academies, Inc., in 2012. Throughout Florida, Cheri’s talents in new school development became widely recognized and she quickly gained a reputation for her instrumental work in growing and launching schools, inspiring her to serve as an educational consultant to others in this capacity. Most recently, in 2016, Cheri served as the Senior Director of Charter Development for Pathways Management Group in California. Sherry earned her Master of Science Degree in Educational Leadership and Policy from Arizona State University and Bachelor of Science in Education from Southwest Missouri State University. Cheri has completed the coursework for her Doctorate of Philosophy in Educational Leadership from the University of Nebraska and her Education Specialist Degree from the University of Missouri. Combined with her rich experience in public education, Sherry is recognized as an expert in the industry and has contributed much thought leadership through numerous roles and opportunities throughout the nation.


Mark J. Weinberg

Vice President for Leadership and Learning

Driven by a passionate belief that all children deserve a quality education, Mark leads our initiatives focused on measuring, supporting and helping people achieve breakthrough performance in the areas of leadership and learning. Mark has been an advocate and leader in the charter and larger public education community for over 20 years. Before joining the Institute, Mark was charged with leading U.S. operations for an international educational management company, served as the Director of Improvement and Accountability for a Michigan-based management company, and launched a virtual school. Prior to that, Mark worked at The Governor John Engler Center for Charter Schools at Central Michigan University for 10 years, leading their academic performance and accountability team, and serving as a school leader and teacher, nationally and internationally, prior to becoming an authorizer. Mark brings a wealth of experience and a steadfast commitment to ensuring those children in greatest need receive the quality education they deserve. Mark has played a key role in broadening the charter sector’s capacity to influence practice and advance public education, impacting the educational opportunities for students in Michigan and throughout the nation. Mark earned his Master of Arts in Educational Administration from Central Michigan University and Bachelor’s degrees from the University of Western Ontario and Brock University.


Ray P. O’Laughlin


Fueled by a belief that successful organizations must invest in their people and offer excellence in client service, Ray leads our initiatives focused on client care, strategy and performance. Prior to joining the education sector in 2010, Ray served as an executive with a global, leading edge company for much of his career. Launching his career with McDonald’s Corporation in 1980, Ray quickly assumed leadership roles and responsibilities. As a results driven leader, Ray swiftly retooled low performing businesses and turned them into success stories, ramping up their market share and profitability through a team approach and shared vision. Having gained extensive knowledge and management experience, Ray was tapped to assume a leadership role in operations. His early commitment to client service, operations excellence, systems and people development at local, state and national levels, largely contributed to his success. Ray’s passion for people development is evident in his commitment to community and personal desire to positively impact the lives of children and young adults. His rich history of volunteering with organizations such as Junior Achievement, Ronald McDonald’s Children Charities, the Michigan Department of Corrections and the Kent County Juvenile Detention Center speaks volumes to his dedication to making a difference in the lives of those around him, and winning for kids.


Jill K. Urban

Chief of Staff / Secretary to the Board

A faithful steward to the mission of transforming education, Jill leads our Human Resources initiatives focused on growing capacity and building a team composed of passionate professionals, known for their integrity and desire to win for kids. Positioning the team for success, Jill is responsible for providing leadership in serving as a liaison to staff and external publics and carrying out a wide range of day-to-day functions on behalf of Dr. Goenner, President and CEO of the Institute. Before joining the Institute, Jill worked in the authorizing industry for 14 years, where she oversaw the Human Resource initiatives for The Governor John Engler Center for Charter Schools at Central Michigan University, managed administrative functions for the Office of the Executive Director, and previously coordinated charter contract development initiatives. Jill earned her Master of Arts in Educational Administration from Central Michigan University and Bachelor of Arts from Michigan State University.


Jacklyn S. Mullikin

Vice President for Finance and Administration

Having an extensive background in the financial and administrative sectors of business, Jackie brings a wealth of knowledge to our fiscal and administrative operations. She is responsible for managing the business functions for the organization and oversees the budgeting, internal controls, contracting and financial operations for the Institute. Prior to joining the Institute, Jackie launched her career in the hospitality industry, where she dedicated 22 years of service to LaBelle Management. Jackie earned her Associates Degree in Business Administration from Mid-Michigan Community College.


Shelly Veenstra

Finance Manager

Dedicated to ensuring the Institute’s internal controls are sound and carried out with integrity, Shelly coordinates a variety of fiscal and administrative functions. Having extensive experience in various accounting roles in the business industry, Shelly brings an abundance of invaluable knowledge to our operations. She is responsible for coordinating numerous processes for the office, ranging from payroll to new hire processing to account reconciliation. Prior to joining the Institute, Shelly launched her career in the business sector, where she dedicated 25 years of service.


Michelle Wilson

Board Services Coordinator

Joining the team in the fall of 2015, Michelle Wilson is charged with handling the day-to-day responsibility of ensuring service excellence in the areas of board policies and administrative guidelines. Michelle joins us with a background in legal studies, having recently worked in the legal arena as a manager for Schneiderman and Sherman, P.C., and Trott and Trott, P.C., prior to that. Michelle earned her Bachelor of Science in Legal Studies in 2002, from Grand Valley State University.


Justyne Swiercinsky

Administrative & Accounting Assistant

Joining the team in February 2016, Justyne Swiercinsky is charged with handling the day-to-day responsibilities of providing business management and accounting assistance.  In this capacity she effectively touches all aspects of internal administration.  Justyne joins us with a background in accounting and office management, having worked in this arena with a local business start-up.  Justyne earned her Bachelor of Science in Business Administration in 2013, from Central Michigan University.


Christina Musinski

Creative Services Manager

Joining the team in the fall of 2011, Christina Musinski leads the Institute’s graphic design initiatives. Her passion for visual creativity and design strategy is evident across all aspects of the organization. In addition to being an accomplished photojournalist and designer, Christina is a dedicated advocate for children and young adults through providing leadership and service as a community volunteer. Her talent, touch and thoughtful ideas are an inspiration to all. Christina earned her Bachelor of Arts in 2009, from Saginaw Valley State University.