The Compass Academy Network is exactly that: a network. Click below to learn more about the other members of our network dedicated to supporting student growth.
Compass Academy Network’s expert faculty and staff team provide individualized support and attention to help students grow and find joy in learning.
Our dedicated team supports and challenges students to make the most of their abilities. Our highly qualified staff model CAN’s Mission and help students develop a strong moral compass. Our team is dedicated to working collaboratively to deliver the best possible learning experiences for students enrolled in the Compass Academy Network Program.
Our leadership team works year-round to ensure that students attending Compass Academy Network programs develop into empowered learners who are willing to take risks in order to learn and grow.
Director of Recruiting and
Site Liaison Coordinator
Debra is the Founder and CEO of CAN and has been involved in education policy and management for over 30 years. She currently serves on the Board of Thomas Jefferson Independent Day School in Joplin, Missouri, which she and her husband co-founded in 1993 and where she has led the school’s strategic initiatives. Debra also serves on the Board of Brooklyn Law School, where she has sponsored scholarships for women and helped found the BLS Center for Urban Entrepreneurship, providing BLS students with opportunities in business and social entrepreneurship. Debra received her Bachelor of Arts in Classics from New York University, her law degree from Brooklyn Law School, and her LL.M. (Graduate Tax Law) from NYU. Debra believes that “the purpose of education is to develop students to become effective communicators, critical thinkers, life-long learners and active and engaged citizens capable of participating in, sustaining, and indeed being leaders not only in their communities but also in our democratic republic.”
Mary joined the CAN team in 2021 as a curriculum consultant and data analyst. In April of 2022, she took over as CAN’s Executive Director. She has worked in education for 11 years as a math instructor, counselor, and most recently as the principal at Lawrence Gardner High School in Topeka, KS. She and her husband recently relocated to Decorah, Iowa, where they enjoy access to fishing, floating, and hiking. Mary was drawn to CAN for the focus on finding joy in learning and confidence to explore. A graduate of Thomas Jefferson Independent Day School, McDonald holds a Bachelor of Arts in Math from Grinnell College, a Master’s in Applied Statistics from Penn State, and a Master’s in Educational Leadership from the University of Kansas.
Gabriel joined the Compass Academy Network team in 2019 as a Peer Mentor. As Marketing & Technology Director, he manages photography, marketing, and internal communications for CAN and supports the program with IT infrastructure and technology in the classroom. He holds degrees in Film & Media Studies and Theater from Lafayette College.
Laura serves as Head of School of Thomas Jefferson Independent Day School in Joplin, Missouri. For over 22 years, Laura has devoted her career to helping students make the most of their abilities as a math and science teacher, coach, College Counselor, Dean of Girls, and in several other leadership capacities. She holds a Bachelor’s degree in Biology from Kenyon College and a Master’s degree in Education from Missouri State University. She is excited for Thomas Jefferson to host the CAN summer program and support public schools in the rural areas surrounding Joplin.
Kelli helps in all aspects of operations and, in particular, coordinates the application process, communication with school administrators, and supports interested students and their families. She graduated from Missouri Southern State University with a Bachelor of Arts in Communications with an emphasis in Public Relations. Kelli is excited about working with CAN because it will allow her to help students build on their experiences and evolve into stronger students and citizens.
Clayton ensures that the daily program is meeting the larger vision of CAN by working collaboratively with the teachers, Peer Mentors, and others to create and implement the curriculum, build a schedule that supports all the goals of the program, and align all parts of the day to make a smooth and successful experience for the students. Clayton began his career as a middle and high school English teacher at Thomas Jefferson Independent Day School and now enjoys teaching Reading and Writing at the elementary level, as well as coaching cross country and track. Having grown up in Southeast Kansas, the mission of CAN is near and dear to his heart. Clayton holds a Bachelor of Arts in Literary Studies from Missouri Southern State University and a Master of Arts in Teaching with a focus on middle and high school English from Missouri State University.
Margot joined the Compass Academy Network team in 2019 and taught the Civics curriculum through the 2022 before taking the position of Columbus Program Director. A graduate of Joplin schools, Margot received her Bachelor of Arts degree in Biology from Drury University and her Master’s of Library and Information Science degree from Dominican University.