Board Members

CUSF Leadership
Operating Board, 2017-2018


Dr. Evangeline Pianfetti, Chair

“I serve on the board to make a meaningful impact in our community through the schools – to help provide opportunities for our future leaders.”

Evangeline Pianfetti is the Education & Grants Director for the IlliniCloud. Previously, she was the Professional Development Coordinator for the Illinois Shared Learning Environment for the Illinois State Board of Education. She worked at the University of Illinois for more than 20 years in a variety of roles related to technologies and digital media. In addition, she is a Smithsonian Laureate for classroom innovation in technology and was elected to the Champaign City Council in 2017.

Ms. Andrea Ruedi, Vice Chair

“Being active in economic development for our community, I know the importance that our area’s education systems have in attracting companies and employees to our area. The role of CUSF is critical in enhancing our area schools and our community. As a CUSF board member, I especially enjoy the exposure to the amazing teachers and administrators we have in our schools and witnessing the impact they are having on young lives.”

Andrea Ruedi is currently CEO of Fox Development Corporation and Managing Broker of its subsidiary, FDC LLC. FDC is the developer of the University of Illinois Research Park and she actively recruits Fortune 500 and high-tech firms to locate in the Research Park. Andrea holds B.S. Degrees in Business Administration and Sociology from MacMurray College and an MBA from the University of Illinois

Mr. J. Steven Beckett, Secretary/Treasurer

“I am a lifelong Urbana guy, who also lived a number of years in Champaign. Public schools are a heart of the community. I am a proud graduate of UHS and feel that CUSF gives me an opportunity to repay all the men and women who were there for me in Urbana Schools.”

J. Steven Beckett is a criminal defense lawyer, but he likes to think of himself as a community person. He has practiced law in Champaign-Urbana since 1973 and appeared in the United States Supreme Court on two occasions. He is a graduate of the University of Illinois College of Law and served on the faculty there from 1987-2017.

Dr. C. Pius Weibel, Immediate Past Chair

“Public schools are one of the foundations of this great country.”

C. Pius Weibel was employed for nearly 30 years at the Illinois State Geological Survey. As a research geologist, his pursuits for acquiring geological information and coffee outlets led him to all corners of the state, and resulted in numerous publications on Illinois geology, but none on coffee. He retired from the Survey as a Senior Geologist in 2014. In 2012, he was elected to the Champaign County Board and, since December 2016, he has served as the Chair of the Board.


Dr. Kayla Banks

“Public education is a vehicle for all children to expand their horizons and reach their highest potential regardless of the circumstances they were born into. I am passionate about education and the role of the community in investing in the future of our students.”

Kayla Banks holds the position of Executive Director of Women’s Health Services and Medical education for the Carle Health System and is adjunct faculty at the UIC College of Nursing in the DNP program. She has worked at Carle in various quality and leadership roles, with a clinical background in Neuro and Trauma Critical Care. She completed her BSN at University of Iowa, and MSN in Nursing Administration and PhD in Nursing Health Systems Sciences at UIC.

Mr. Dennis Donaldson

“As a past student in the public schools, I understand the importance of the public school system within the community and I am aware of the funding deficiencies that occur from time to time. I feel that service to the community, in any capacity, plays an important role in the growth and success of that community. Whether you are employed and provide services to others, or volunteer your time, we all need to realize our potential to make a difference and have an impact.”

Dennis Donaldson is the Director of Planning & Economic Development for the Village of Savoy, and has served in this role since May of 2013. He spent the previous 26 years with Busey, and was a Vice President/Branch Manager in Savoy for 9 years.

Ms. Ashley Dye

“I enjoy serving on the CUSF Board because it is a group of people who care deeply about public education in our community. We are able to help support the students and teachers through classroom grants and scholarships which serve to enhance the high quality public education in Champaign and Urbana.”

Ashley Dye has worked in higher education for over 15 years and is currently the Senior Assistant Dean of Students for Fraternity & Sorority Affairs at the University of Illinois.

Mr. Brett Hays

“I want to be involved in the development of youth in our area. Public schools and the people involved with them are the direct line to the future of the children of the world. The majority of a kid’s life is spent in public schools, so there is nothing more important to who they become than the public school system. I enjoy being involved in the behind-the-scenes workings of the CUSF programs. It’s been an honor.”

Brett Hays has been producing films for over ten years and is an owner of Shatterglass Studios, an Emmy award-winning production company in Champaign. Brett is also the co-founder and member of the board of directors for the CU Film Society, a 501c3 that is known for their Pens to Lens K-12 screenwriting competition & film festival.

Ms. Margo Hunter

“I agree with the education researchers Wirt and Kirst, 1982 – Public schools are important because they serve the individual which in turn serves the common good. Public schools enrich the individual by giving them more tools to be successful therefore improving the society in which they live.”

Margo Hunter worked in public school education for 30 years in 5 school districts across the USA. During that time, she made presentations on diversity in Chapel Hill Schools. In addition, she worked as a financial advisor for 8 years, primarily serving teachers and school administrators. She adds, “Being a mother to 6 children has been my primary occupation.”

Ms. Gayle Jeffries

“I am an advocate of the public schools system. I think that it is important that we support our educational system during these challenging times.”

Gayle Jeffries recently retired from Urbana School District 116, after serving as a classroom teacher, principal and administrator. She is the Treasurer of Theta Lambda Zeta Chapter of Zeta Phi Beta Sorority, Inc., where she is involved in service projects to the local community. Theta Lambda Zeta raises scholarship funds for women in Champaign County who demonstrate hardship for attending college. In addition, they mentor students and children, adopt a school annually, and support a family in need during the holidays.

Ms. Deborah Katz-Downie

“I volunteered for many years in the classrooms of our three children in the Urbana School District and I saw firsthand the dedication of the teachers and the excitement of the students engaged in learning. I am honored to serve on the CUSF Board whose grants to our teachers provide dynamic educational opportunities to all of our Unit 4 and District 116 students.”

Deborah Katz-Downie is a Research Associate in the Department of Plant Biology at the University of Illinois.

Dr. Gioconda Guerra Pérez

“We are far away from being a society where equity and equality are the pillars of our future. Public education is one of the few institutions that can help us to achieve this goal. I believe public education helps to secure a more equitable society because individuals are given the opportunity to receive an education in this contributes to the betterment of the larger community.”

Gioconda Guerra Pérez is director of La Casa Cultural Latina and Native American House which provides advocacy and support for students at the University of Illinois. Before joining La Casa, Gioconda served as visiting assistant professor at Indiana University.

Mr. Trevor Taylor

“Public schools are important because my kids attend them and my kids’ futures are riding on their schooling!”

Trevor Taylor is an SBA Lending Specialist at Busey. Although he is new to this role, he has been at Busey for over 11 years. He enjoys learning every day and helping customers.

Dr. Susan Zola, Superintendent, Champaign Unit 4

“Public Schools are a cornerstone of any community. They provide a common platform to ensure all children have access to a strong academic and social emotional curriculum. I am excited for the work ahead and our partnership with CU Schools Foundation.”

Superintendent Susan Zola began her career as a first-grade teacher in Urbana School District 116. In 1990, she joined Champaign Unit 4 School District and became the Principal of Dr. Howard Elementary School. She later served as the Director of Title I/Literacy, Director of Choice, Principal of Jefferson Middle School, and Assistant Superintendent of Curriculum and Instruction. Dr. Zola most recently served the District as the Assistant Superintendent for Achievement, Curriculum, and Instruction. After 27 years in the Champaign School District, she started her duty as Superintendent on July 1, 2017, leading Unit 4’s 10,000 students and 1,900 staff members.

Dr. Donald Owen, Superintendent, Urbana District 116

“Public education is the foundation of our democratic society. CUSF elevates excellence by investing in teachers and students.”

Superintendent Donald Owen is entering his 28th year as an educator, historian, and educational leader in Urbana School District #116. He is the proud parent of one UHS graduate, and one UHS current student. He is married to Meg DeLand-Owen, who is a speech language pathologist at Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Elementary School in Urbana.

Urbana School District #116 News

    Champaign Unit 4 Schools News