2016 Conference Speakers


MK will be the opening Keynote Speaker for the 2016 conference. A dynamic, powerful speaker, MK will talk about his experience in a small school and how it set him on his path to become who he is today.

MK Asante is a bestselling author, award-winning filmmaker, rapper, and professor who CNN calls “a master storyteller and major creative force.”

Asante is the author of four books, including Buck: A Memoir, which was praised by Maya Angelou as “A story of surviving and thriving with passion, compassion, wit, and style.” Buck made the Washington Post bestseller list in 2014 and 2015 and is a NAACP Image Award finalist.

Asante is a Sundance™ Feature Film Fellow for the movie adaptation of Buck. He directed the prize-winning Starz TV documentary The Black Candle and wrote/produced 500 Years Later, winner of five international film festival awards.

Asante studied at the University of London, earned a B.A. from Lafayette College, and an M.F.A. from the UCLA School of Theater, Film, and Television.

Asante has given distinguished lectures at Harvard, Yale, Stanford, as well as hundreds of other universities. He has toured in over 40 countries and was awarded the Key to the City of Dallas, Texas.

Called “the voice of a new generation” by Essence, he has been featured on the CBS Early Show, NBC News, BBC, Revolt, NPR, BET, The Breakfast Club, and MTV. He was selected as “100 History Makers in the Making” by MSNBC The Grio and his inspirational story “The Blank Page” is featured in the #1 New York Times bestseller, Chicken Soup for the Soul: 20th Anniversary Edition. Asante’s essays have been published inUSA TodayHuffington PostSan Francisco Chronicle, and the New York Times.

Described by Vibe magazine as “brilliantly complex,” Asante is a rap artist who has performed on 4 continents. He is featured on the song “Bangers” on the album Indie 500 by Talib Kweli and 9th Wonder.

Asante is a tenured professor of creative writing and film in the Department of English and Language Arts at Morgan State University.


Keynote Speaker: Jill Davidson

Jill will be our closing Keynote Speaker for the 2016 conference. The author of the wonderful book, Small Schools, Big Ideas: The Essential Guide to School Transformation, we are so pleased to have Jill at the conference!

Jill Davidson is the Managing Director of the Coalition of Essential Schools. Jill first became part of the CES staff in 1989 as a research assistant. Inspired by the extraordinary teaching and learning she witnessed in Essential Schools, she became a high school humanities teacher. Jill was then was pulled into the Silicon Valley internet explosion. After experiences as a website producer at Edmunds.com and E*TRADE, Jill rejoined CES for a decade as the Editor of Horace, Communications Director, and Managing Director. After serving as the Director of Communications and Publications at Engaging Schools, she has resumed the joyful and challenging work of directing CES, collaborating with the amazing and inspiring network of Coalition schools and organizations during the Year of Demonstration. She's also an education consultant with clients that have included Big Picture Learning, the Education Alliance at Brown University, and the Rhode Island After School Plus Alliance.

Jill attended Wooster School in Danbury, Connecticut; Brown University; and the Harvard Graduate School of Education. A widely published writer, she's the co-author of Small Schools, Big Ideas: The Essential Guide to School Transformation. Jill works and lives in Providence, Rhode Island, with her husband and three sons.

Liz Dover Baker 

has been walking the walk and talking the talk for progressive education for nearly 20 years. This is Liz’s second year as Head of School for The GreenMount School in Baltimore, Maryland, a school that has welcomed her vision, leadership, and commitment to empowering students to make good decisions about themselves and their learning. She holds degrees from University of Delaware and Johns Hopkins University.

Liz is a native Baltimorean and a proud city dweller. She can parallel park anywhere. She and her husband have a 10-year-old son, and they spend free time rock climbing, biking, and being amazed by nature.

John Barrengos

After working as a commercial banker to schools, hospitals and other non-profits, John's independent school career began in 1990, when he served as development director at his alma mater, Moses Brown School. He currently serves as admission director at the Putney School where he and his family live and work. In between his first and his current positions, John taught at Miss Porter's and ran their summer program, served as Associate Director of CITYterm, an experiential semester program at The Masters School (NY), earned his Ed. D. in Organizations and Leadership from Columbia University Teachers College, and served as Head of School at The Independent Day School (CT) for six years.

John is especially interested in the dynamic across the human layers of schools - faculty, students and families - which leads to his persistent curiosity about both an individual's contribution to a group's dynamic and the collective responsibility essential to living well in community.

John also serves as a trustee for Stoneleigh-Burnham School (MA), for Hilltop Montessori School (VT), and for AISAP (the Association of Independent School Admissions Professionals).

Jill Goodman

has been happily forwarding the mission and goals of schools through marketing and fundraising for 20 years as both a volunteer and a professional. Motivated by an entrepreneurial spirit, she has most recently crafted a complete development program, created a culture of philanthropy, spearheaded marketing and design standards, and managed scores of fabulous volunteers for The GreenMount School in Baltimore, Maryland.

Jill and her husband have two grown daughters, and enjoy biking, hiking, and appreciating the arts and cultural wonders that Baltimore has to offer.

Brad Rathgeber

is the Executive Director of Online School for Girls, a non-profit consortium of more than eighty-five leading independent schools. He has been in independent schools his whole life, having attended Mooreland Hill School (a small school in Connecticut that his
 sister is now the Head of) and The Hotchkiss School, and worked at the Holton-Arms School.  Brad is a leading voice in quality online, blended, and personalized learning, having been quoted in the Washington Post and Wall Street Journal, and on PBS.

Starr Snead

is the founder and principal of Advancement Connections, a firm dedicated to serving advancement professionals and volunteers in schools throughout the United States and internationally. Based in Charleston, South Carolina, Advancement Connections provides fundraising, constituency relations, marketing/enrollment, strategic planning and communications services exclusively to PS-12 schools. 

Starr is a frequent speaker at CASE and NAIS conferences. Her popular workshops and seminars offer practical solutions to today's development, enrollment and advancement challenges, combining more than 40 years of personal and professional experience with the "best practice strategies" of many of our nation's leading independent schools.

Chill Expeditions

Crawford Hill (Chill), of Chill Expeditions, has been guiding wilderness expeditions since 1974, when he led climbing and backpacking expeditions in the Alps while in college. Growing up in a family of avid backpackers and adventurers, in July of 1971, at 19, he became the youngest person (then) to summit Denali- Mt. McKinley (20,300′). Chill was soon leading his own trips with family, friends, colleagues, and eventually students.

After 35 years of teaching biology, running a wonderful science department, coaching wrestling and rock climbing, wilderness exploration, and travel of many kinds, Chill is well positioned to run Chill Expeditions. From 1999-2010, he led 700 students and 35 teachers from his school as a client of Costa Rican Adventures, which became Chill Expeditions when he and Eddie Rodriguez bought the business in 2010. Since then, the duo has expanded to other amazing destinations that met their exacting criteria. In all of his educational efforts, the goal is simply to give his students pause about why they do what they do.