About Us » Our Board

Our Board

L. Michael Russell, Chairman

Principal and chief legal officer, AquaNano LLC

Mr. Russell is the founder, executive vice president, and chief legal officer of AquaNano LLC, a startup company that employs newly developed advanced materials technology to purify and filter water. He was formerly the deputy general counsel of the Los Angeles Unified School District. Before his employment with LA Unified, Mr. Russell was the executive vice president, secretary, and general counsel of the International Rectifier Corporation. Prior to joining International Rectifier, he was the general counsel of the Consumer & Industrial Segment of Teledyne Inc. and Teledyne’s chief international lawyer. Mr. Russell is a founding member of the Legal Advisory Committee of the Legal Defense Fund of the California Charter Schools Association. He also previously served as the chair and treasurer of the Board of Trustees of St. James’ Episcopal School in Los Angeles. Mr. Russell, who is a native of Los Angeles, received his undergraduate degree from Stanford University and his law degree from Yale Law School.

Robert O. Kaplan, Secretary 

Entertainment attorney

Mr. Kaplan is an entertainment attorney and former independent film producer. He was the executive in charge of business affairs at Warner Brothers in London, supervising all production activities outside the United States. Currently, he practices on his own and represents feature film writers, directors, and producers, particularly in the arena of independent film financing. He also is a founding principal in ScreenBridge, a company specializing in packaging and financing independent films. Credits include Krush Groove (executive producer), Night of the Comet, Papillon (associate producer), The Adventures of the American Rabbit, and Southern Cross (executive producer).

Cindy Lee Smet, Treasurer

Banker (retired); volunteer board member for multiple nonprofit organizations

Ms. Smet is the chair of the board of Camino Nuevo Charter Academy and has served as a board member since 2001. Her interest in education developed while her three sons were in the public elementary schools in Hermosa Beach. For 12 years, Ms. Smet also served as a founding trustee for Vistamar School, an independent high school in El Segundo. Through the John H. and Cynthia Lee Smet Foundation, she and her husband fund the Onward Readers and Onward Scholars programs, which provide opportunities for deserving students who attend Catholic elementary schools in LA. In 2018, the Archdiocese of Los Angeles recognized Ms. Smet for her philanthropic work. Before becoming a parent, Ms. Smet had a career in banking and finance. She holds a bachelor’s degree in economics from the University of Virginia and an MBA from the University of California, Los Angeles.

Patricia Artigas

Senior vice president, Capital International Research Inc. (retired)

Ms. Artigas is retired from Capital International Research Inc., where she served as senior vice president. Her research responsibilities focused on consumer sectors and electrical utilities in Latin America and on retail, beverages, and media in Eastern Europe. Prior to joining Capital International in 1995, she was head of research for Bankers Trust Argentina. Ms. Artigas received a master’s degree in finance from the Centro de Estudios Macroeconómicos de Argentina.

Dr. Philip J. Lance

Psychologist, private practice, (founder, board president emeritus)

Dr. Lance is a nationally recognized leader in the field of community development, with extensive experience in community organizing, fundraising, and nonprofit management. In addition to being a founder of Camino Nuevo Charter Academy, Dr. Lance served as president of its board for 16 years. He also founded and led Pueblo Nuevo Development, then a nonprofit community development corporation, from 1993 to 2016. In this capacity, he raised $32 million from private philanthropy to help build the Camino Nuevo school facilities. Dr. Lance is an ordained minister in the Episcopal Church and currently works as a licensed clinical psychologist in private practice.

Shiho Ito

Community organizer, event planner

Ms. Ito is a community organizer and founding director of Pueblo Nuevo Development, the grass-roots community development group that began in 1992 and in 1999 founded Camino Nuevo Charter Academy. As an immigrant and English learner, she is passionate about educational access and equity. Ms. Ito has led outreach initiatives at Larchmont Charter School, chaired the education committee at Ikar, an egalitarian Jewish community, and organized a nonprofit foundation to support Millikan Middle School Math Academy. Prior to the birth of her children, she worked in film production and acquisitions for the Japanese market. She earned her undergraduate degree from Yale University, where she majored in English and East Asian studies. 

Elizabeth H. Michelson

Executive director, The Wonder of Reading (retired)

Ms. Michelson served for seven years as the executive director of The Wonder of Reading, a children’s literacy nonprofit that built libraries and brought reading mentor programs to nearly 200 underserved public elementary schools throughout Los Angeles County. Ms. Michelson currently sits on the board of The Music Center and on the advisory board of the Beverly Hills Literary Society. She is a member of Center Dance Arts, Blue Ribbon, and the Council of the Library Foundation. Ms. Michaelson was a judge for the Music Center BRAVO Awards and a past director for the Venice Art Walk. With her husband, she is an active participant in Young President’s Organization. She received her undergraduate degree from Princeton University, graduating summa cum laude, and has an MBA from Columbia University. She is the proud parent of two daughters and sons-in-law, and enjoys spending time with her two grandchildren.

Alicia Maldonado

President, Mockingbird Communications

Ms. Maldonado is president of Mockingbird Communications in Los Angeles, a public affairs company that provides a full range of services with a focus on social reform initiatives. She consults with private companies and nonprofit organizations to develop viable strategies to enhance and improve communities, particularly the most underserved. She is a senior consultant to the Campaign for Grade-Level Reading and formerly served as the senior director of communications for the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund and is a member of the Los Angeles Area Chamber of Commerce Education and Workforce Development Council. She served as a commissioner for the Housing Authority of Los Angeles from 2008 until 2012.

Tamara Ritchey Powers

Board member, The Boys and Girls Clubs of the Los Angeles Harbor; founding board member, The Children’s Partnership

Since her retirement from work in marketing and market research 25 years ago, Ms. Powers has focused her nonparenting efforts on championing education and children’s well-being. In addition to her work with Pueblo Nuevo EDG, Ms. Powers supports the work of other local nonprofits. She has been actively involved for over 20 years with The Children’s Partnership, an advocacy and research organization. She also is active with the Richstone Family Center, an organization that focuses on preventing and treating child abuse. Ms. Powers has served on the board of The Wonder of Reading, a literacy organization that helped build over 200 libraries in local public elementary schools. She also sat on the boards of the Boys and Girls Club of the Los Angeles Harbor, Get Lit-Words Ignite, and Planned Parenthood Los Angeles. In 2013, she chaired the Grant Screening Board for the Everyday Foundation, a women’s foundation that makes a $1 million grant each year to a child-based organization in the LA area. Ms. Powers holds a bachelor’s degree in economics from Stanford and an MBA from Stanford’s Graduate School of Business.

Barbara E. Wagner

Education consultant

Ms. Wagner is an education consultant in the greater Los Angeles area. A native of Michigan, she taught music in a public school there for three years. Following the completion of a graduate degree program at the University of Colorado and a year as an instructor there, she joined the staff at Graland Country Day School in Denver, where she served successively as music instructor, chair of the fine arts department, head of the middle school, assistant head, and interim head of school. In 1989, Ms. Wagner became the director of the upper school at the Marlborough School, and in 1990, she accepted the position of head of school. In that role, Ms. Wagner expanded the academic and extracurricular vision of the school, as well as its campus, overseeing the construction of several large projects.

John B. Wagner

Founder and principal, Camden Asset Management LP

Mr. Wagner is the founder and the principal portfolio manager for Camden Asset Management LP. He holds several degrees in science from the University of California, Los Angeles, where he completed his academic career as a doctoral candidate in high-energy nuclear physics. Before founding Camden Assets, a hedge fund company, he was responsible for investing half a billion dollar as a portfolio manager for Westridge Capital. He is also a trustee of The Ahmanson Foundation and a board member for the Weingart Center in downtown Los Angeles.