Executive Leadership


Dr. Sandy Husk, Chief Executive Officer

Dr. Sandy Husk, Chief Executive OfficerDr. Sandy Husk joined AVID Center as Chief Executive Officer in January 2014, bringing more than 17 years of experience implementing AVID in the three districts where she has served as superintendent, most recently in Salem-Keizer, Oregon, the second largest district in that state. As CEO, Sandy is responsible for implementing AVID’s strategic imperatives, which include furthering its mission of closing the achievement gap and preparing all students for college, accelerating the scalability of AVID as a schoolwide and districtwide system, developing student-centric technologies to enhance and sustain the student experience in AVID, and determining how AVID can best serve urban districts.

As superintendent of Salem-Keizer Public Schools in Oregon, her leadership resulted in the implementation of a districtwide strategic plan with an accountability system for all schools and departments. In addition, she worked closely with the school board to adopt a policy governance system that allows a laser-like focus on student achievement. Under Sandy’s leadership, the Salem-Keizer School District experienced consistent gains in student academic achievement.

Prior to Salem-Keizer Public Schools, Sandy served five years as the director of schools for the Clarksville-Montgomery County School System in Clarksville, Tennessee. In addition, she previously served as superintendent for Mapleton Public Schools in Colorado. She also served as the executive director of Learning Services in Westminster, Colorado; principal of an elementary and alternative middle school; staff development coordinator; elementary school counselor; and teacher.

Sandy earned her Ph.D. in Administration, Curriculum & Supervision from the University of Colorado, Denver; her M.A. in Guidance and Counseling from the University of Colorado, Boulder; and her B.S. in Elementary Education from the University of Georgia, Athens.


Robert Gira – Executive Vice President, Quality, Communications, and Research

Robert Gira – Executive Vice President, Quality, Communications, and ResearchRob joined AVID Center in 1994 and is currently responsible for overseeing AVID Center's research, communications, and quality teams. During his tenure at the AVID Center, Rob has led a variety of curriculum and professional learning projects, including the 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. Rob is committed to AVID Center's communication outreach, including AVID Alumni Association and social media. In addition, he oversees the quality and research teams that help schools ensure fidelity to the AVID College Readiness System and participate in conducting evaluation projects to assure AVID’s continued leadership.

Rob has provided instruction at AVID Summer Institutes for administrators as well as for AVID National Demonstration Schools, and has conducted tutor trainings throughout the U.S. Rob created AVID’s journal ACCESS in 1994 and has been its lead writer and interviewer. He is also currently the lead contributor for AVID's blog Adventures in College & Career Readiness. Rob writes regularly about equity, student development, the brain, resilience, and school culture, among other topics.

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, 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 10 years.


Michelle Mullen – Executive Vice President, Curriculum and Learning

Michelle Mullen – Executive Vice President, Curriculum and LearningMichelle oversees the professional learning, leadership, IDEA (Instructional Design & E-Learning Arts), curriculum, English learners, and publications teams. 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. Together, these teams are responsible for coordinating staff developers and program managers for Summer Institute and National Conference, providing professional learning for internal and external clients, and developing and publishing all of AVID’s learning materials, both print and digital.

Michelle previously 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 AVID Center in 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 California State University San Marcos 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 received her master’s degree in Curriculum and Instruction, her BA in English, and her 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.

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. Besides her work at AVID Center, Michelle is a long-time volunteer with Girl Scouts, San Diego; her local YMCA; and within her local educational community. With her husband, she is also raising two daughters. 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.


Mark S. Tanner, Chief Operating Officer, Executive Vice President

Mark S. Tanner, Executive Vice President Operations and AdministrationAs COO of AVID Center, Mark is responsible for overseeing  AVID’s  strategy development and execution, as well as the operations and administration. 

Mark has an extensive business background having previously held the office of 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 - 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, Mark provided senior strategic and financial expertise to companies in transition as Chief Financial Officer (CFO) with Executive Interim Management (EIM) in New York City. 

Mark was elected to the Carlsbad School Board in 2002, reelected in 2006, served as President, and completed his service in 2010. Mark has a B.A. from Stanford and an MBA from UCLA.  He and his wife Ann have five children and four grandchildren.


Granger B. Ward, Executive Vice President

Granger B. Ward, Executive Vice PresidentAs the Executive Vice President at AVID, Granger oversees all AVID divisions worldwide. His responsibilities include the expansion of AVID Elementary, AVID for Higher Education, AVID National Demonstration Schools, and AVID Center partnerships with philanthropic organizations to generate grants and foundation work for AVID. Granger oversees implementation strategies and expansion for all school districts and other institutions offering the AVID System. Additionally, he supports AVID Summer Institutes, and contributes to the development of AVID Center’s national legislative relations.

Granger 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.B. 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.


Dr. Dennis Johnston, Vice President, Quality, Research and Outreach

Dr. Dennis Johnston, Vice President, Quality, Research and OutreachDennis 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 Markee, CPA, CHAE, Vice President of Business Services

Robert Markee, CPA, CHAE, Vice President of Business ServicesRobert 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 & Equity

Dr. Barbara Smith – Vice President, Government Relations & EquityDr. 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.