- Jim Nelson, AVID Executive Director
- Mark S. Tanner, Chief Operating Officer, Executive Vice President
- Robert Gira, Executive Vice President, Quality, Communications & Research (QCR)
- Granger B. Ward, Executive Vice President
- Michelle Mullen, Executive Vice President, Curriculum and Learning
- Dr. Dennis Johnston, Vice President, Quality, Research and Outreach
- Robert Markee, CPA, CHAE, Vice President of Business Services
- Dr. Barbara Smith, Vice President, Government Relations & Equity
Jim Nelson is the former superintendent of the Richardson Independent School District. He served as a board member and officer for Ector County ISD in Odessa, Texas from 1984 through 1995, twice serving as board president. During that time he also served as a board member and in several officer positions for the Texas Association of School Boards, including state president in 1993.
In 1996, he was appointed to the newly-created State Board for Educator Certification (SBEC), by then-Governor George W. Bush where he served as chairman until 1999, when he was appointed by Governor Bush as the Texas Commissioner of Education.
During his time as commissioner, Mr. Nelson managed the more than 800 Texas Education Agency employees who worked to implement state education policy for the approximately 1,100 Texas school districts. The agency's major challenge and achievement during his period as commissioner was the continuing development and implementation of the current Texas school accountability system, including the development of new assessments for grades 3-11.
While commissioner, he also served simultaneously as Executive Secretary of the State Board of Education.
In the spring of 2002, Mr. Nelson departed state service to become Senior Vice President of State and Federal Relations for Voyager Expanded Learning Systems in Dallas.
In the spring of 2003, at the request of the White House and Department of Defense, Mr. Nelson traveled to Baghdad, Iraq as a Senior Advisor to the Iraqi Ministry of Education to assist with the rebuilding of the Iraqi school system.
He briefly returned to Voyager after his service in Iraq until the beginning of his duties as Richardson ISD Superintendent in the summer of 2004. In 2006, the district achieved Recognized status under the Texas accountability system for the first time in the district's history. More recently, it was named the outstanding large school district in Texas by the HEB Foundation. He joined AVID as Executive Director in the summer of 2006.
Professionally, Mr. Nelson was a member of the Texas Association of School Administrators and served on its Legislative Committee. He is a life member of the Texas Business and Education Coalition (TBEC) board of directors, and a board member for StandardsWorks, a Washington, D.C.-based nonprofit organization committed to improving standards-based education in American schools.
In addition, he also worked as a practicing attorney for 24 years.
He earned a degree of Bachelor of Business Administration from the University of Texas at Arlington in 1972, and in 1976 earned a Juris Doctorate from the Texas Tech University School of Law.
He and his wife Karen have three adult sons and three grandsons.
As COO of AVID Center, Mark S. Tanner is responsible for overseeing the strategy development and execution, as well as the operations and administration of AVID, a national educational non-profit that assists students in realizing their college dreams. Typically the AVID student is the first in his/her family to attend college. AVID students have over a 90% acceptance rate to 4 year colleges and universities. AVID operates in 47 states and 15 foreign countries.
Mr. Tanner has an extensive business background having previously worked as Chief Financial Officer for: Pepsi International; the 2002 Olympic Winter Games, and Mrs. Fields Famous Brands. In addition, he was Vice President of Strategic Planning for two of the world's best known brands, viz., Pepsi Cola and Pizza Hut. Mr. Tanner also worked for 10 years for United Technologies Corporation where he led the corporate development function (mergers and acquisitions) wherein he completed over $1 billion of transactions.
Prior to joining AVID, Mr. Tanner provided senior strategic and financial expertise to companies in transition as Chief Financial Officer (CFO) with Executive Interim Management (EIM) in New York City. Mr. Tanner was first elected to the Carlsbad Unified School District Board of Trustees in 2002 and reelected in 2006. He currently is serving his second term as Board President. Mr. Tanner has a B.A. from Stanford and an MBA from UCLA. He and his wife Ann have five children and three grandchildren.
Executive Vice President, Quality, Communications & Research (QCR) With nearly 20 years at AVID, Rob is responsible for overseeing AVID Center's quality, research and communications teams. During his tenure at the AVID Center, Rob has led a variety of curriculum and professional learning projects, including schoolwide Path materials, tutorial curriculum, critical reading, and leadership trainings. He has also been instrumental in creating the AVID’s equity, English language learner, schoolwide & AVID for Higher Education initiatives. He is currently responsible for AVID Center's communication outreach, including alumni outreach and social media. Rob also oversees the quality and research teams, that help schools ensure fidelity to the AVID College Readiness System and participate in conducting research and evaluation projects to assure AVID’s continued leadership in the field.
Rob still provides instruction at AVID Summer Institutes for administrators as well as for AVID National Demonstration Schools, and has conducted tutor trainings throughout the U.S. Beginning in 1994, Rob created AVID’s journal Access and has been its lead writer and interviewer. Rob writes regularly about equity, student development, the brain, resilience, and school culture, among other topics. He is currently the lead contributor for AVID's blog Adventures in College & Career Readiness.
Rob received his B.A. in English from University of California Santa Barbara, a teaching credential from San Francisco State University, and his M.A. and administrative credential from San Diego State University. Before joining AVID in 1994, he was an administrator at two high schools in San Diego County, Rancho Buena Vista High School and Vista High School. He taught English in the Vista Unified School District for ten years.
Granger B. Ward is the Executive Vice President for AVID, Advancement Via Individual Determination. As AVID's Executive Vice President, Mr. Ward oversees all AVID divisions worldwide. The AVID system is now in place in more than 4,500 middle and high schools serving more than 400,000 AVID students throughout the U.S.A. and Department of Defense schools worldwide.
Mr. Ward's responsibilities also include the expansion of AVID Elementary, AVID's Higher Education program, AVID Demonstration Schools throughout the AVID world, and AVID Center partnerships with philanthropic organizations to generate grants and foundation work for AVID.
Through AVID Center - the non-profit agency that guides the international dissemination of AVID - Mr. Ward oversees implementation strategies and expansion for all school districts offering AVID programs. Additionally he supports AVID Summer Institutes, and contributes to the development of AVID Center's national legislative relations.
Mr. Ward was formerly superintendent of both the Manhattan High Schools in the City of New York, and the Grossmont Union High School District in San Diego. He attended public schools in New York City and received his B.S. from the State University of New York, College of Environmental Science and Forestry, in Syracuse. His M.S. degree is from Syracuse University and his Administrative Credential from SUNY at Oswego.
Michelle most recently served as AVID’s National Director of Curriculum Initiatives, leading the implementation and expansion of AVID’s English Learner College Readiness (ELCR) work across the country and supporting the development of AVID’s blended learning approach. She has a long history with AVID, starting as an AVID teacher and coordinator in 1991, and then working as a district mentor teacher, curriculum writer, staff developer, consultant, and finally as director with the AVID Center in 2012.
In fall 2012, Michelle was named as the Executive Vice President for Curriculum and Learning. She oversees the professional learning, leadership, IDEA (Instructional Design & E-Learning Arts), curriculum, English learners, and publications teams. The professional learning team coordinates the efforts of more than 400 staff developers for AVID’s Summer Institutes and manages the programs for National Conference. This team also provides professional learning for AVID District Directors, Coordinators and Teachers, and AVID Center staff who support our clients. Likewise, the leadership team develops and conducts leadership-building experiences for site and district administrators and school teams, paying special attention to systems thinking and schoolwide transformation for college readiness. The IDEA, curriculum, English learners, and publications teams are responsible for developing and publishing all of AVID’s learning materials, both print and digital, including AVID Weekly, the Write Path books, professional learning materials, Summer Institute e-learning launches and boosts, AVID teacher- and district-level on-demand modules, and the AVID Excel course curriculum.
Michelle received her Master’s, Bachelor of Arts, and teaching credential from the University of San Diego, and her administrative credential from California State University, San Marcos (CSUSM); she was also Nationally Board Certified in English from 2002-2012.
Prior to joining AVID Center, Michelle was the Director of the Single Subject Credential Program and an adjunct professor in the College of Education at CSUSM from 2000-2006. While at the university, Michelle helped conceptualize and develop an integrated and forward-thinking teacher preparation program that included partnerships with local high schools, a focus on action research, an interdisciplinary approach to curriculum design, and blended learning. She also launched the part-time credentialing program geared to professionals seeking a career change into education, developed and published a guide for literacy in mathematics and CSU-wide principles of secondary literacy guide, and contributed to a secondary teacher education textbook.
Michelle believes passionately in the potential of our young people and she is energized by work that builds student and educator capacity, opportunity, and hope. While her personal and professional efforts have been focused on helping others recognize and live up to their potential, she sees her role at AVID Center as the perfect place to enact those efforts on a large scale. The curriculum and learning team’s primary goal is to advance AVID’s mission of student college readiness and success in a global society by creating, delivering, and refining quality resources and professional learning that support educators and students.
Dennis is currently the Vice President, Quality, Research and Outreach at the AVID Center in San Diego. He is responsible for overseeing AVID Center’s research agenda and coordinating the certification processes of the various components of the AVID College Readiness System. Prior to joining AVID, Dennis held the position of Director of Assessment, Accountability and Research at the San Diego County Office of Education, was the Director of Assessment and Evaluation at Grossmont Union High School District, the Senior Research Associate of the Comprehensive Adult Student Assessment System, and was part-time faculty at the College of Education at Temple University and the University of Pennsylvania. Dennis has authored or co-authored articles in the area of scale development and validation, educational program implementation, and the use of data to inform instruction. Dennis holds a bachelor’s and master’s degree in Clinical Psychology and a doctorate in Educational Psychology with an emphasis on scaling and psychometrics.
Robert oversees the accounting, contracts, human resources, procurement and travel teams. He has over 30 years of experience in financial reporting, audit, accounting and human resources and has managed budgets ranging from $10 million to $400 million. Robert has also been an instructor at the University of Utah, teaching basic financial accounting. Robert received his Bachelors of Arts in Accounting from Seattle University; earned his CPA in Washington State in 1980; and his CHAE designation in 2004. He has one daughter and one grandson.
Dr. Barbara Smith, Vice President, Government Relations and Equity, works under the leadership of the Quality, Communication and Research (QCR) Executive Vice President to advance AVID’s College Readiness System. In this role, she supports AVID’s key imperatives through leveraging and increasing AVID’s alliances with external organizations. Barbara also monitors key education legislation and develops advocacy guides to support AVID legislative briefings and events.
Barbara collaborates with AVID for Higher Education and Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) to launch key initiatives to promote pipelines that will exponentially increase the college graduation rates of students of color. A significant component of this work includes the launch of an AVID Alumni Association.
Dr. Smith previously served as the AVID Eastern Division Director from 2000 – 2007 and was responsible for the leadership and management of the division. Dr. Smith worked with education, business, and legislative leaders to build statewide infrastructures for over 780 AVID sites in the eastern region of the United States. Prior to the Eastern Division Director work, Barbara served as director of professional development for AVID National Center in San Diego. She was responsible for coordinating and collaborating with AVID colleagues to design staff development modules and support structures.
Prior to her work with AVID, Barbara served as a senior associate with the Center for Leadership in School Reform (CLSR) to develop results-oriented leadership modules. The major part of Dr. Smith’s work in education was with the Georgia Department of Education as Executive Director of the Metro School Service Centers and DeKalb County School District where she served in capacities ranging from Assistant Principal for Instruction, Biology teacher, and Anatomy and Physiology Instructor. Barbara also served as an adjunct instructor at Georgia State University.
Dr. Smith served a six-year term on the Executive Board of the National Dropout Prevention Network and the Executive Board of Health Education and Human Development at Clemson University. She is an active member of the Georgia Women Policy Council and the National Women Law Center.