Founder and Managing Director
Michael started his career in 1978 working in the educational community providing financial services to educators. After moving to Dallas in 1980, he quickly attained regional, divisional and national sales leadership positions. In 1990, Michael branched to educational technology working with curriculum, assessment and data management companies in leadership capacities.
School Technology & Educational Program Services, LLC was formed in 2000 as an educational consulting firm to better assist companies in their strategic sales and marketing efforts. Additionally, he works closely with many superintendent and school board associations around the country as a liaison for their corporate partner programs.
Michael studied at Tennessee Technological University where he was collegiate baseball All–American and currently resides in Dallas, Texas.
Founder and Managing Director
Eric spent ten years in the North Carolina State Senate where he chaired the Senate’s technology committee, served as chair of Human Services Appropriations and on the Education Oversight Committee. Prior to the Senate, Eric served on the Raleigh City Council for two terms and has spent most of his professional life focused on public policy issues.
In addition to public policy, Eric served as the General Counsel and Director of Public Affairs for SchoolDude.com, the nations largest provider of online facility management software tools for schools.
Eric’s interest in SchoolDude is directly related to school infrastructure needs and learning environment issues. Eric also advises and consults with government oriented technology companies and nonprofit organizations on issues ranging from criminal justice, curriculum, assessment, student management, and, health and human services.
Eric received his undergraduate degrees from Duke University and his law degree from Wake Forest University. As a 2002 Eisenhower Fellow, Eric studied EU internet economy competition strategies.
Rene V. Martinez
Rene Martinez was born and raised in Dallas, Texas being first generation Mexican American. He was educated in the Dallas Public Schools and attended Southern Methodist University receiving his B.A. in Latin American Studies, Spanish, and History. He did post-graduate work at SMU in Public Administration and received his Master of Education in Educational Leadership from Texas A&M at Commerce.
Martinez has been involved in public education, both as a community advocate and educator for the past 43 years. He was one of the original Tri-Ethnic Committee Chairs, appointed by U.S. District Judge William M. Taylor, to help monitor the School Desegregation Court Order in 1971. He later was the Co-Chair of the Dallas Alliance Task Force that developed the 1976 School Desegregation Court Order for the Court and Dallas Independent School District.
As Education Director for the Dallas Chamber of Commerce, he was instrumental in developing and implementing the White House recognized Adopt-a-School Program and Leadership Dallas. He also coordinated the implementation of the Magnet School Program, creating Townview and the Arts Magnet at Booker T. Washington at Dallas ISD.
He has been an administrator, manager, college instructor, and entrepreneur. He has served on over 50 boards and commissions including MALDEF, Tejano Democrats, the United Way of Dallas, Dallas Museum of Art, and the Dallas Concilio. He was also appointed by various mayors to serve as the Vice Chairman of the City of Dallas Planning and Zoning Commission and Vice President of the Dallas Parks and Recreation Board. In 2006, he was appointed by LULAC to serve as a delegate representing the DFW area on the Instituto de Mexicanos del Exterior, (Institute of Mexicans Abroad), an initiative of the Mexican Government.
Martinez is currently an adjunct professor at the Dallas County Community College District teaching undergraduate courses in Human Development, English as a Second Language, and a Teacher Assistant Program for aspiring teacher aides. He has taught at SMU and TAMUC both at the undergraduate and graduate levels, enabling students to better understand the changing demographics and learning how to engage parents and the community in public education.
Dr. Lizzy Johnson
Dr. Lizzy Asbury has served students in Texas public education since 1996. She began her career as a middle school History teacher in Denton, Texas. Dr. Asbury has served in multiple roles throughout her professional walk as an educator. During her time as a teacher, she also coached High School swimming and taught multiple History subjects at that level. She has worked in rural, suburban, and urban districts mostly in the DFW Metroplex. Her central office roles vary from Executive Director of Secondary Teaching and Learning to Division Director of Secondary Schools. Dr. Asbury was also a Director of Human Resources for Secondary Schools and Central Administration which rounded out her goal of serving in multiple seats at the central office level. Her final stop before TransCend4 was Director of Administrative Services at the Region 10 Education Service Center in the Dallas area. The team that she led was responsible for over 145 ISD’s, charters, and private school administrators. Primarily, Dr. Asbury was a link between the school superintendents and the service center to provide support for any and all district initiatives dealing with leadership. The various positions and years of experience at the campus and district level have only prepared Dr. Asbury for this journey as CEO.
Lizzy earned her Doctorate in Educational Leadership from the University of North Texas. She also earned her Masters in Educational Administration from UNT and her Bachelors of Arts in History from Texas Tech University. Dr. Asbury has presented at various state and national conferences during her career to promote sound educational transformation. She is also involved in research with two other colleagues who share her passion for investigating techniques and solutions to help students learn at a higher level.
Dr. Gabe Soumakian
Dr. Gabe Soumakian earned his doctorate at Azusa Pacific University (APU) in Educational Leadership focusing on technology staff development and change leadership. He has taught at the doctoral level at APU on organizational change and building communities, as well as, courses for teacher and administrator preparation for using instructional technology. He has been actively involved and presented at numerous leadership organizations, including ACSA, AASA, CSBA, CALSA, Partnership for the 21st Century, TICAL on topics of Personnel, 21stCentury Learning, eLearning Summit, Personalized Learning Summit, and Linked Learning Convening.
Most recently, Dr. Soumakian serves on the CoSN Superintendent’s Advisory Council, Future Ready Leaders Panel of Visionary Educators in August, and EdSurge CDE “Tech for Schools” Summit in August. Dr. Soumakian was recognized as one of ten Superintendent who was accepted as a Lexington Education Leadership Award (LELA) Fellow in conjunction with EdElements. Dr. Soumakian was a feature speaker on High School Redesign at the Model School Conference this summer in Atlanta.
Dr. Soumakian has over thirty-eight years of experience in education, including 14 years of service at Loyola and St. John Bosco as a high school teacher and a coach. His public education experience has been primarily serving as a High School Principal and as an Assistant Superintendent of Human Resources in Burbank USD prior to serving as Superintendent in the Oxnard Union High School District.
Dr. Wayne Blanton
Dr. Wayne Blanton was the Executive Director of the Florida School Boards Association, a position he held since 1985. Prior to that, Dr. Blanton served as Assistant Director for 10 years. During his 40 years of representing school boards, he has worked closely with local, state, and federal education officials and legislators to promote public education throughout the state of Florida.
Dr. Blanton has written extensively on education issues and finance for numerous publications, and has been a vocal supporter of our schools, having given hundreds of presentations before school boards, PTA groups, legislative committees, and business groups. He is an active member of his community having served as local and state president of the Florida Association for Retarded Citizens, United Cerebral Palsy of Florida, and President of the FSU College of Education Alumni Association. He is a veteran of Vietnam and the proud father of two children who attended public schools and Florida State University.
He received his Ph.D. from Florida State University, his Masters Degree from Florida A & M University, and his undergraduate degree from Florida State University. He has received the Distinguished Alumni Award from the Florida State University College of Education, and was recently awarded an Honorary Doctor of Laws Degree from Flagler College.
Dr. John E. Sawyer
- Superintendent of HCDE 2002-2014
- Superintendent of La Porte ISD 1994-2002
- Assistant superintendent for business and finance in Fort Worth ISD
- Assistant superintendent for business in Alvin ISD
- Principal and business manager at Santa Fe ISD
- Classroom teacher, assistant principal and principal
- Member of many professional organizations (i.e., TASBO, TASA, ASCD, AASA, etc.)
- Member of the La Porte-Bayshore Chamber of Commerce
- Former adjunct professor for the University of Houston, School of Education
- Formerly on the Board of Directors for the La Porte Chamber of Commerce, and the
Board for Boys and Girls Harbor
- Former member of the La Porte Rotary Club
- Oberholtzer Award — University of Houston, 1987
- National Superintendent’s Workshop, Columbia University, 1994
- Texas Superintendent’s Academy, Lamar University, 1997
Betty has more than 30 years of experience in public education. She has served as a teacher, principal, and administrator in large urban, suburban and rural districts throughout Texas. Betty’s last position in a Texas public school system was Deputy Superintendent for teaching and learning in San Antonio Independent School District (SAISD). Before joining SAISD, Betty served as Associate Executive Director of Instructional Support and Leadership Development for the Texas Association of School Administrators (TASA). She is an independent specializing in leadership development and strategic planning for results-oriented organizations.
With a wide range of experience in curriculum, instruction and professional learning at all levels, Betty has shared her knowledge through presentations at national and state conferences. Well known for her expertise in leadership development of campus and district administrators, she was awarded the 2011 Excellence in Educational Leadership by the University Council for Educational Administration.
Dr. Don Tylinski
Dr. Donald Tylinski brings with him over 35 years of experience in education. Dr. Tylinski served as Superintendent of Schools for the Seneca Valley School District in Pittsburgh, PA. Under his leadership, the district was recognized for drastically improving it’s ranking for academic achievement in all of Western Pennsylvania. Additionally, Dr. Tylinski led two other school districts to many accolades including recognition as being National Blue Ribbon Schools and top 100 schools in the nation.
During his tenures, Dr. Tylinski has been the recipient of numerous awards with most notable being Superintendent of the Year for Innovation in Instruction and Use of Technology and Superintendent of the Year for Instructional Leadership. Dr. Tylinski holds a Doctorate in Education as well as certifications in Guidance, Secondary and Elementary administration. He also earned a BS in General Science and Elementary Education.
Sheri Sides applies 30 years of educational experience to her work as a trainer and consultant. Her experience assists districts and organizations throughout the country in developing leaders, improving climate, and long-rang planning.
Sheri retired from public education in 2009 where she served as teacher, counselor, director, assistant superintendent, deputy superintendent and superintendent. Her last position before retirement was as Deputy Superintendent at Allen ISD.
In addition to working with High STEPS, LLC, Sheri facilitates strategic planning, leadership training, and teacher selection.
Dr. Valerie M. Browning-Thompson
Dr. Valerie M. Browning-Thompson served students in Ohio public education for 31 years. She served eight years as an English and Social Studies teacher as well as teaching Gifted Education. She began her administrative career as a district Gifted Education Coordinator. In 1996, Valerie took her first principalship and served as a middle school and elementary principal in two districts for nine years. Her first superintendency began in a small rural district in 2005. She later moved to a suburban district near Cincinnati where she served as superintendent for six years. After three years as the superintendent of a large suburban district near Columbus Valerie retired from public Education in 2017.
During her career in public education, Valerie has shared her knowledge of effective leadership and practices through presentations at national and state conferences. She has also been an active member of many professional organizations and has served in leadership positions on several boards and community organizations. She assisted the State of Ohio in the development of the Ohio Principal Evaluation System and Superintendents Standards. Additionally, she served on the State of Ohio Standards Board.
Dr. Browning-Thompson received her Bachelor of Science and Master of Education degrees from Wright State University. In 2003, she earned her Ph.D. in Educational Leadership from the University of Dayton.
Dr. Bob Watkins
Bob Watkins is the Director of the Kansas/Missouri Superintendents Leadership Forum which is a professional development program for approximately 90 Superintendents from the two states. Since retiring as Superintendent from the Independence, MO school district he has conducted over one hundred Superintendent searches from Missouri School Districts. He spent thirty-four years in public education as a Superintendent, Deputy Superintendent searches for Missouri School Districts. He spent thirty-four years in public education as a Superintendent, Deputy Superintendent, high school Principal and taught school finance for the University of Missouri-Kansas City for over ten years. He has also worked with Boards of Education as a facilitator and consultant.
Dr. Johnny L. Veselka
Dr. Johnny L. Veselka has nearly 50 years of experience in public education. He retired June 30, 2018 as Executive Director of the Texas Association of School Administrators, a position he held for more than 32 years. A former classroom teacher in the North East Independent School District (San Antonio), Veselka joined the TASA staff in 1974, and became Executive Director in January 1986. From 1979 to 1981, he participated in the Cooperative Superintendency Program, a doctoral superintendency preparation program jointly sponsored by The University of Texas at Austin and the Texas Education Agency, earning his Ph.D. in educational administration from UT-Austin in 1982.
Under his leadership, TASA became a major voice for school administrators on legislative issues and state policy matters, and became the leading provider of professional development programs for school system leaders in the State of Texas.
Veselka has received numerous awards for his service, including the Key Communicator Award (2009) from the Texas School Public Relations Association and the Golden Deeds for Education Award (2003), presented annually by Texas A&M University and TASA. Under his leadership, TASA acquired the annual Midwinter Conference from TEA and transformed it into the most significant statewide education leadership conference in the nation, and assumed responsibility for the Texas Teacher of the Year Program. He created a corporate partner program through which more than 50 education-related companies contribute more than $1 million annually to support the association. In recent years, Veselka guided the development of the Texas Public Accountability Consortium and organized the work of the TASA 2025 Task Force to create a Strategic Framework that will propel TASA forward to it centennial anniversary in 2025 and beyond.
Dr. Alice Owen
Dr. Alice Owen has more than 46 years in public education and non-profit association work. She recently retired from her position as Executive Director of the Texas Education Technology Leaders (TETL) association, the state chapter of the Consortium of School Networking (CoSN), which supports school district technology leaders throughout Texas. Her last public school district position was Division Director of Technology in Irving ISD where she oversaw all aspects of technology operations including infrastructure, information systems, technical services, instructional technology, libraries, and career & technical education (CTE). She managed one of the first 1:1 laptop programs in the nation.
She graduated from Austin College with a B.A in Spanish, M.A in elementary education, and earned a Ph.D. from the University of North Texas in educational administration and political science. She has also been a bilingual teacher, principal, staff development director, adjunct professor, and executive director of the Texas Computer Education Association (TCEA). Throughout her career, she gained a wide background in curriculum and instruction, professional development, educational technology, program evaluation, and project management.
Dr. Owen has served on the CoSN Board, chaired the CoSN Certification Governance Committee, and chaired the International Society for Technology in Education’s (ISTE) Special Interest Group, SIG 1to1. She was presented with a Lifetime Achievement Award for Technology in Education from TCEA and ISTE’s Outstanding Leader for 2012. She was recently honored by having the TETL Student Scholarship Program named for her.
Dr. Michael Grego
Dr. Michael Grego is an innovative leader who served in public education in the state of Florida for 42 years. He served twenty-eight years in Hillsborough County in a variety of positions that included Assistant Superintendent of Technical, Career and Adult Education followed by leading the Curriculum and Instruction division. He also served as Florida’s Chancellor of K-12 Education and an Assistant Professor at the University of Central Florida followed by serving as the Superintendent of Schools in two districts, three years in Osceola County and his last ten years in Pinellas County. Dr. Grego moved both school districts forward through innovative programming and partnerships, never losing sight of the vision of 100 percent student success.
A nationally recognized administrator, Dr. Grego served as the 2020-2021 president of the Florida Association of District School Superintendents and was the 2018 Florida Superintendent of the Year. Under Dr. Grego’s leadership, Pinellas County Schools earned districtwide accreditation, achieved record-high graduation rates and successfully narrowed achievement gaps between minority students and their peers. During his tenure, Pinellas realized tremendous growth in magnet, STEM and career education programs.
Dr. Grego’s accomplishments earned him numerous honors and awards including:
- The USF College of Education Dean’s Lifetime Achievement Award
- In 2018, the Florida Association for Career and Technical Education Superintendent of the Year
- In 2019, the Florida Music Education Association Superintendent of the Year Award for his ardent support of music education
- In 2020, the Administrator of the Year for the National Association for Gifted Children and one of the Tampa Bay Business Journal’s 25 People to Watch
- And in 2021, the Magnet Schools of America Superintendent of the Year for his efforts to increase choice options for families and make magnet programs a priority.
Dr. Karla Burkholder
Dr. Karla Burkholder began her career as a business education teacher, and quickly discovered a passion for teaching and learning with technology. With over 30 years as a Texas educator, she has served as a teacher, instructional technologist, instructional technology coordinator and director, and is currently the Director of Technology in Schertz-Cibolo-Universal City ISD and adjunct professor at Baylor University. Throughout her career, Dr. Burkholder has led award-winning technology and digital learning initiatives recognized at both the state and national levels. She has a strong background in both the instructional and technical sides of educational technology and works to ensure that technology initiatives are aligned with district priorities. Dr. Burkholder is a past president of TCEA serving on the Board of Directors for eight years, and she currently serves as the Chair of the Learning Counsel’s User Interface Group. She is a recipient of the ISTE Making IT Happen Award, the Texas Council of Women School Executives Bravo Award for Innovation, and was named to the EdTech Digest 2019 Top 100 Influencers in EdTech.
Dr. Burkholder holds undergraduate and graduate degrees from the University of North Texas in Business Administration and Computer Education and Cognitive Systems, respectively, and a Doctorate in Educational Leadership from Nova Southeastern University.