Board of Directors
Dianne was one of the original people who collaborated with FAST Founder, Dr. Lynn McDonald, to launch and build FAST into the dynamic, growing non-profit organization that it is today. Both a social worker and a lawyer, Dianne has more than 30 years’ experience as a public interest lawyer on behalf of persons with disabilities, especially those with mental illness.
Prior to her retirement in 2010, Dianne was a supervising attorney at Disability Rights Wisconsin, the protection and advocacy agency for persons with disabilities in the State of Wisconsin. She has worked on legislation and policy relating to mental health services for children, guardianship, protective services, employment and housing discrimination, and other issues related to integrating people with disabilities into society. Dianne has a Bachelor’s Degree in Psychology from Stanford University, a Master’s Degree in Social Work from Smith College and a law degree from the University of Wisconsin-Madison.
Dianne talks about the bridge between her public interest career and her work with FAST. “Most of my work focused on the rights of persons with disabilities and training them to be advocates for themselves and others. The principles in FAST are the same, including belief in the individual, respect and empowerment….and I am a very firm believer in empowerment. FAST helps parents and children empower themselves to lead more productive and satisfying lives.”
Alongside his 35+ years of work in corporate America, Bob has always been dedicated to education and addressing racial disparities – starting with his tutoring of young children in inner-city Chicago in the 1960s. The FAST Program’s ability to act on both issues has resonated with him since the time he became one of the organization’s first board members.
“Education has always been important to me,” he says. “I find the FAST model of early parent involvement to be on the button. Our teachers cannot educate our kids without help at home from parents. FAST facilitates this outcome.” Bob also values that FAST is an evidence-based program, and that it is associated with the University of Wisconsin-Madison, where he taught during his career in business. He holds a Master of Arts in English Literature from UW-Madison.
Having spent most of his career at the Oscar Mayer Division of Kraft Foods, where he was Vice President of New Business Strategy and Development for 15 years, Bob says that he considers himself the first “business guy” to join the Families & Schools Together, Inc. Board of Directors. Now “retired” to pursue consulting and teaching, he believes that combining basic managerial skills with the altruistic impulses that drive non-profits will help the latter survive and thrive in today’s competitive environment.
Michael has been involved in education his entire career, starting with a stint as a high school English teacher, and culminating with 20 years leading and advising suppliers of technology and curriculum to schools. As CEO of Wisconsin-based Renaissance Learning, whose initial public offering he led in 1997, he became immersed in educational research, including interpreting the data that show the difficulty of closing student performance gaps associated with poverty.
Michael observes, “Ultimately, schools can do only so much to address these gaps with curriculum and instruction in the classroom itself – the family must be brought into the equation. That’s why the research-based FAST Program appeals to me so much.”
In addition to his work at Renaissance, Michael has held executive positions in franchise consulting, web retailing, and giftware merchandising. He is currently an independent consultant assisting for-profit and non-profit educational organizations. He earned Bachelor and Master of Arts Degrees from Yale University, and an MBA from Northwestern.
As a participant in one of the earliest sessions of FAST more than 20 years ago, Cathy has a uniquely personal stake in the program that she has diligently supported ever since.
“I was single, laid off from my job, and suffered from serious health issues. I was emotionally unavailable to my son, who subsequently acted out in response to the disruptions in his life. FAST turned our life around. Through FAST, I met people who helped me through those hard times – some of these individuals are still my friends today. My son and I became much closer as he felt more secure and understood, and his behavior and grades improved. I was also able to build a strong relationship with his school, which helped me feel empowered to be an advocate for my son.”
After participating in FAST, Cathy took on a leadership role in FASTWORKS and served as a FAST Team Member. She became the editor of the FAST newsletter for several years and was instrumental in organizing a FAST Parent Advisory Council. She went on to earn her Bachelor of Science in Psychology, and her Master of Science in Marriage and Family Therapy from Edgewood College in Madison, WI.
Cathy is a licensed Marriage and Family Therapist and is currently working as a Clinical Lead in the Functional Family Therapy program for Rock County Human Services in Janesville, WI. She is also the Past Board President of the Wisconsin Association for Marriage and Family.
Deirdre has continuously pursued her passion to create pathways for children to succeed through working in a variety of family development roles. She is currently the Executive Director of Human Resources at the Madison Metropolitan School District in Madison, Wisconsin.
Previously the Vice President of Workforce Development, Inclusion and Retention at the Urban League of Greater Madison, Deirdre understands the importance of employment stability for a family and the well-being of children. She worked for many years at St. Mary’s Hospital in Madison, with positions ranging from Diversity and Inclusion Advisor to Team Leader and Leadership Development where she focused on the education and professional development of the staff members.
Deirdre explains her passion for the FAST Program: “FAST has a long-standing track record and commitment to children and families, and I am always looking for opportunities for community partnerships. I believe that collaboration paired with action is the key to success in addressing education, career, and advancement issues in our community. I’m excited to support an organization that does so much to engage families and improve learning for students.”
Deirdre has served as a member of the Board of Trustees at Edgewood Campus School and on the Board of Directors for the Rainbow Project. Passionate about the importance of inclusion within our communities, Deirdre is Co-Chair of the Madison Area Diversity Roundtable. She holds a Bachelor of Science in Business Management and Communications and an MBA from the University of Wisconsin-Madison.
Education and youth development have been a career focus for Derek, as he has worked in a range of roles that center on students and youth. A FAST participant himself when in elementary school, he is currently the Director of Freshman Admissions at Edgewood College in Madison, Wisconsin. Derek was formerly a Director for the Center for Diversity and Inclusion at the College, as well as an Admissions Counselor.
Derek’s strong ties to non-profit organizations demonstrate his passion for helping children reach higher standards, and he explains his unique perspective on how FAST truly makes a difference. “As a participant in FAST years ago, I can honestly say FAST helped shape me into the person I am today. I know first-hand how the program inspires and empowers families, and how it helps families build better relationships with schools. And now, FAST is needed in our schools more than ever. It is a proven program to help ensure the child – very importantly – is at the center of everything.”
Earlier in his career Derek served as both a manager and lead mentor for Phredum Mentoring, an organization for at-risk youth with a focus on mentoring and tutoring services, and which also connects youth and their families to positive community resources and educational opportunities. He also has worked with the Urban League of Greater Madison as a Volunteer Coordinator and Career Development Specialist. Derek earned a Bachelor’s degree in Sociology from the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater, and a Master of Arts in Education from Edgewood College.
Jerry’s ties to FAST date back to 1988, when he was an advocate for the early implementation of FAST in the Madison, WI area, and his support of the organization has continued ever since.
Jerry served in a wide range of positions during his 34 year career with the Madison Metropolitan School District (MMSD): early on as an elementary school teacher and sports coach, and later as a principal of numerous elementary and middle schools. Jerry developed and supervised various pilot programs – FAST among them – for at-risk students at the elementary and middle school levels. He was a member of the Early Childhood Advisory Council for eight years, and a member of the Council of Exceptional Education for five years.
From the early days of FAST, Jerry understood the program’s power of connecting parents with schools. As he explains, “I have been a big fan of FAST since I met Dr. McDonald years ago, because the organization centers around many of the principles and focus areas I know make a critical difference for our youth today. We cannot underestimate the importance of positive and engaged parental and school involvement to ensure a bright future for all our children.”
His tireless support of the program earned him a special award presented at the FAST 25th Anniversary Conference: “First Principal to Support FAST in Madison.” Jerry holds a Bachelor of Science and Master’s Degree in Educational Administration from University of Wisconsin-Superior, and completed post-graduate work at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.
Jim expands the fiscal leadership of the Families & Schools Together, Inc. (FAST) Board with his impressive 35-year career in Business Management and Accounting. With expertise in strategic planning, process improvement, risk management, procurement, and contract negotiations, Jim adds a unique business and financial perspective to the Board. Jim has spent the past 30 years of his professional career at Alliant Energy Corp. serving as Senior Auditor, Fuel Portfolio Manager, and most recently as the Manager of Fuel Supply and Transportation.
Jim’s philanthropic commitment to community is demonstrated by his wealth of Board leadership roles, including Treasurer of the Kilowatt Credit Union Board, Chair of the Supervisory Audit Committee for Heartland Credit Union, as well as both Treasurer and Chair of the Endowment and Chapel Funds for Lakeview Lutheran Church Council. In his free time, he has spent countless hours volunteering for various Boy Scout and team sport activities with his two sons. Jim says “I am extremely honored to join the FAST Community and to be able to contribute to the mission as a catalyst for positive change in the lives of children and their families.”
Jim holds a BBA in Accounting and Business Management from the University of Wisconsin-Madison and an EMBA in Business Management from UW-Milwaukee.