Board Members

CUSF Leadership Operating Board, 2023-24


Daniel Thies

Daniel Thies, Chair

“As Edmund Burke reminds us, ‘to be attached to the subdivision, to love the little platoon we belong to in society, is the first principle (the germ as it were) of public affections. It is the first link in the series by which we proceed towards a love to our country and to mankind.’ In our democracy, these ‘little platoons’ have often been prominently associated with our local schools, reminding us that community education is the key to cultivating the civic pride, patriotism, and other ‘public affections’ that make democracy possible. This mission is increasingly urgent today, and I’m delighted to be a part of it in some small way through the CU Schools Foundation.”

Daniel Thies is a graduate of Champaign Central High School, and has ancestors who have lived in the county since the early 1830s. After beginning his legal career in Chicago, Daniel has returned to Champaign with his wife Page to raise their five children in one of the best communities in the country. Daniel is an attorney at Webber & Thies, PC, a Champaign-Urbana law firm founded by his great-grandfather.

Michelle Gonzales

Michelle Gonzales, Vice-Chair

“As a former teacher in the Unit 4 School District, I have been both a beneficiary and a witness to what CUSF does to support our future generation and those who impact their lives. The CUSF grant recipients (teachers) have provided students across our community with enriching experiences that last a lifetime. Public education is the foundation for more young people than ever before and especially in these trying times, I am honored to have the opportunity to contribute to our districts’ endeavors.”

Michelle Gonzales works in Public Engagement for the Chancellor’s Office at the University of Illinois. Prior to this position, she was a third-grade teacher in Champaign’s Unit 4 for twelve years, then went on to be the Chief of Staff for State Senator Scott Bennett. Through her involvement with various professional and volunteer groups, she has learned a great deal about what makes Champaign-Urbana the resource rich community that it is. Having worked as a teacher, she hopes to provide valuable insight to support the CUSF work with both districts. She is thrilled to join the board, and looks forward to continuing her trajectory of giving back to this wonderful place she calls home.

Jeff Scott

Jeff Scott, Secretary

“As a former teacher and principal in the Unit #4 schools at Champaign Central H.S., South Side Elementary School, and Carrie Busey Elementary School, I was able to see firsthand the amazing work that CU Schools Foundation does in our schools.  I am thoroughly excited to support inspiring teachers and innovative instruction that motivates students to learn and grow.  Our teachers and students have experienced many challenges over the last few years and I am honored to help support them in any way that I can.”

After spending 23 years serving as a teacher, coach, athletic director, assistant principal, and principal in Unit #4 schools, I transitioned to a new career as the CEO of the Stephens Family YMCA in 2018.  Prior to my career in education, I spent 5 years working in sales and marketing.  I earned a Bachelor of Science in Marketing from Millikin University and a Master’s Degree in Educational Administration from Eastern Illinois University.

DeShawn Williams

DeShawn Williams, Treasurer

“My wife and I are raising two amazing children here in CU and it’s important to us that we are a part of decisions that directly impact the development of their learning. CU Schools Foundation directly represents the mission within our household and I feel as though it’s a great opportunity to reflect that care to our community.”

DeShawn has worked in a variety of banking and investment positions since 2006 including most recently as Assistant Vice President at Busey Bank. In 2021 he was appointed to serve as the Chief Deputy Treasurer for Champaign County. DeShawn is the founder of BlackVest Money, a financial literacy and personal development small business, and Wolf’s Mane Beard Care. He has volunteered on numerous boards including Macon County CASA and 40 North, a local arts and culture non-profit.


Elizabeth Angelo

Elizabeth Angelo

“As a graduate of Champaign public schools and a parent of current students, I am passionate about our schools being a place of opportunity and growth for all learners. I’m excited to partner with teachers, families, administrators, and community members through the work of CUSF.”

A graduate of Champaign Central High School, Elizabeth serves as President of the Carle Foundation. Elizabeth’s nursing career includes experience in medical-surgical patient care, nursing education, quality, clinical outcomes, and nursing leadership positions. Elizabeth previously served as System Vice President of Quality for Carle. She completed her BSN at the University of Illinois-Chicago, MSN at Indiana Wesleyan, and Doctor of Nursing Practice degree at the University of Missouri-Columbia.


Domonic Cobb

Domonic Cobb serves as the Assistant Vice Chancellor (AVC) for Student Success, Inclusion, and Belonging at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign. He is responsible for co-leading a talented team charged with designing and implementing strategies that bolster students’ success and sense of belonging. He also leads the campus’ First-Generation Steering Committee and is the Senior Diversity Officer in Student Affairs.

Domonic holds a bachelor’s and master’s from the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign and is a proud alumnus of Champaign Public Schools and the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign.

“Public education is critically important for preserving democracy. Democracy requires a literate citizenry. Without public education the conditions for a successful democracy are jeopardized. Thus, I believe high-quality, widespread public education is an essential public good.”


Sonya Holley

Sonya Holley currently serves as the Director for Human Resources for Student Affairs Administration at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign. Sonya holds a bachelor’s degree in journalism from Eastern Illinois University and a Master of Education in Curriculum and Instruction from the University of Illinois.

“I am a product of the public education system and I believe we have an obligation to continually assess whether our system and resources have all learners, students, and families in the forefront of all decision making. I look forward to continuing my collaborations in the community and schools as a member of CUSF.”

Matt Kelly

Matt Kelly

“I serve on the CUSF board to bring the community labor force voice to the public school system. I hope to encourage young people to believe that even if their school career has not been typical, there are many valuable and fulfilling careers available in this area that will provide a wonderful life.”

Matt grew up in the Champaign schools, and was named to the News Gazette’s 2018 Class of 40 under 40 outstanding community business leaders. He is a strong labor advocate and has served as the President of Champaign County AFL-CIO since 2014. Matt Kelly currently serves as the Business Manager/Financial Secretary of Local 149 Plumbers and Pipefitters. Before becoming business manager, Matt worked as a plumber/pipefitter for the University of Illinois.


Charles Larenas

Charles has been a Professor of Education at Parkland College for 15 years. Prior to that, he taught for a combined 12 years in Champaign and Urbana public schools. Charles has a Bachelor of Science in Advertising, a Master of Education, and a Certificate of Advanced Study in Curriculum and Instruction from the University of Illinois.

“I know the power of public education through my personal experience as the son of a factory worker and a housekeeper/seamstress/factory worker. Education allowed me to work as hard as they did, but in a way that helped me have a better life that I could then pass on to my children.

Having worked in the local public schools, I have seen firsthand the positive impact CUSF can have on our teachers, students, and school communities.”

Pam Lau

Pam Lau

“Quality public education is core to the well-being of our community as a whole as well as the families and students who call Champaign-Urbana home. The work of CUSF in supporting our school districts dovetails with the mission of Parkland College to engage the community in learning. As a CUSF board member, I will support the work of our area schools in educating students, helping them realize their potential, and preparing them for college and careers.”

Pam Lau is currently the President at Parkland College. She has served at Parkland College since 1995 in various roles ranging from faculty to Vice President for Academic Services/Chief Academic Officer. She completed her B.A. at the University of Singapore, M.A. in Philosophy at the University of Chicago, and Ed.D in Community College Leadership at Ferris State University.


Misha Shah

Misha is the Senior Lead, Program Manager at Rivian and oversees the Rivian Innovation Center at UIUC. Misha is an MBA Alumni of UIUC and has a Bachelor’s of Science from Towson University in Business Administration and Healthcare Administration. Misha has been a mentor of the CU One-to-One program for the last 3 years. She has called Champaign, IL home for the last 10 years after growing up in New Jersey.

“As an industry professional, I strongly believe in the importance of public education and serving on CUSF Board. Public education is a fundamental pillar of our society, providing every child with the opportunity to learn, grow, and reach their full potential. As a board member I have a unique opportunity to contribute to the betterment of our schools and ensure that all students receive a quality education that prepares them for success in life. By supporting public education, we are investing in the future of our community and empowering the next generation to thrive.”

Yavonnda Smith

Yavonnda Smith

“I have been in public education for 25 years. I am an advocate for the public school system.  I believe that all students are entitled to quality education, and our school system is preparing students to reach their greatest potential.  CU Schools Foundation builds on the partnership that is needed to support our staff and students in our public school system.”

A graduate of Illinois State University, Ms. Smith began her career in District 116 and has served as a kindergarten teacher, principal, Director of Curriculum and Instruction, and currently as Director of Professional Development. She earned her master’s degree in Education Administration from the University of Illinois in 2005.  As Director of Professional Development Yavonnda mentors, supports, coaches and builds relationships and partnerships that support new hires and colleagues in District 116.  She recognizes that CUSF provides opportunities for district staff to enhance their instructional practices, and build student success.

James Rod Wyatt

James “Rod” Wyatt

“The children that we support ARE our future leaders, educators, scholars, etc; and it is our responsibility to provide them with the resources needed to guide them to greater levels of understanding, respect, and justice as citizens of not only the United States but the world. Service on the CUSF Board aligns with my core day-to-day responsibilities, my personal goals, and my lifelong commitment to educating the next generation of leaders. A close colleague of mine constantly poses this question which is pinned on a board in my office. It sums up why I am interested in serving on this board: ‘What Have You Done Today to Help a Child Learn?’

EDUCATION MATTERS and It Changes Lives!”

James “Rod” Wyatt, serves as the Assistant Chancellor for PreK-12 Initiatives at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign responsible for initiating, coordinating, and advancing the work aligned with the university’s PreK-12 educational initiatives. “I have been blessed to serve over four decades in various roles at higher education institutions and volunteering to work with young men and women to enhance the quality of their lives through education.”

Sheila Boozer

Dr. Shelia Boozer, Superintendent, Champaign Unit 4 Schools

“We are committed to ensuring that Unit 4 is a premier school district providing high quality, equitable educational experiences for each and every one of our students. The CU Schools Foundation fully supports us in these efforts.”

Dr. Boozer joined Champaign Unit 4 Schools from Springfield District 186 where she served as the Director of Teaching & Learning and Technology for seven years. She spent a total of 22 years with the district. Last year, Dr. Boozer received her Doctorate from Illinois State University. Her research was focused on Restorative Practices and its impact on racial inequities in prek-12 schools.


Dr. Jennifer Ivory-Tatum, Superintendent, Urbana District 116

“A public-school education helps us prepare students for the real world, for college, a career or a skill.  We provide students diverse opportunities to learn 21st Century skills in a multicultural environment. We are pleased to have a strong partnership supporting our teachers and students with CUSF.”

Superintendent Jennifer Ivory-Tatum began her career at Urbana School District #116 in 2005 as principal of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Elementary, and then advanced to her position as Urbana School District #116’s Deputy Superintendent in 2013. In 2017, she transitioned into her role as Assistant Superintendent for Champaign Unit 4. After two years, Superintendent Ivory-Tatum returned to Urbana School District #116 to assume the role of the district’s Superintendent in May 2019. Superintendent Ivory-Tatum is continuing her transformative work with Urbana School District #116, including the 6th-12th grade restorative practice initiatives she first introduced to the district during her appointment as Deputy Superintendent.

Past CU Schools Foundation Board Chairs