Advisory Council

Office of Public Charter Schools Advisory Council

Pillsbury United Communities Advisory Council meets quarterly to review applications for new charter schools, review performance of current schools and provide direction regarding the Office of Public Charter Schools.  Members include:

Aaliyah Hodge Aaliyah Hodge is a consultant for the Coalition of Independent Charter Schools and the Program Coordinator for the University of St. Thomas Authorizing Program. Previously, Aaliyah was Compliance Director for the Harvest Network of Schools, a 6th grade special education paraprofessional, and she spent a year working with the National Association of Charter School Authorizers and Audubon, a local authorizer, evaluating academic, financial, and operations charter data for 34 schools in Minnesota. Aaliyah has a Masters in Masters in Social Policy and Community and Economic Development from the Humphrey School of Public Affairs at the University of Minnesota Twin Cities. She is also the current president of People for PSEO.

Adam McFarlane For eight years, Adam McFarlane served as a teacher, a substitute teacher, a community education supervisor, and a paraprofessional in schools across Minnesota. He’s an active member of the Minnesota School Public Relations Association. He worked with Minneapolis Public Schools on making schools safer and more welcoming. During the 2013-14 school year, he was a policy intern for the Minnesota Alliance with Youth. He earned a B.A. at Gustavus Adolphus College. Also, he earned an M.P.A. from the University of Minnesota’s Humphrey School of Public Affairs.

Bruce Seal has been a teacher, an education administrator and mental health professional for 45 years.  In those years, he served as a general and special education teacher, and as a Director of Special Education for a Minnesota independent school district and for over 45 charter schools across the state. He began work with charter schools in 2002.  He assisted charter school directors and teachers in creating supportive services for families who seek improved education opportunities.  Since 2010, Bruce works at Designs for Learning as the Special Education Component Lead and have served on the Designs Leadership team since 2014.  Bruce is devoted to the development and implementation of special education and school support services to Minnesota charter schools. 

Mohamed Abdurahman For the last twelve years, Mohamed has been working with public charter schools as a Dean of Students, a charter school start-up team member, school counselor, board member, and charter school administrator. From 2011 to present, he has been fortunate to serve as Assistant Director at STEP Academy Charter School in St. Paul, MN. Mohamed obtained his Master’s Degree in Education from the University of Wisconsin- River Falls. Also, he is a licensed Minnesota K-12 school counselor. Currently Mohamed is doing his second Masters in Leadership in Education, concurrently with the PK-12 Administrative Licensure program, at the University of Minnesota.

Lacy Lee Johnson is a senior solutions analyst in the Business Systems department of Xcel Energy. He has over 30 years of experience in various engineering, project management, and management positions. While CEO at UrbanEd, he advocated for Choice in Education and started up New Salem Elementary School, a charter school specifically designed to address the educational needs of at-risk students and their families.  As a longtime and proud resident of North Minneapolis, Lacy served as president of the Irving Terrace Block Club; trustee of New Salem Missionary Baptist Church; program director of Hospitality House Youth Directions; prison ministry volunteer for Amicus USA; Program Committee chairman for the Bloomington-Richfield chapter of Kappa Alpha Psi fraternity; and Marketing Committee chairman for the Twin Cities Chapter of BPDA.  He also wrote, produced, and hosted “The Flipside,” a weekly radio show as part of the award-winning Radio Theater for Black People on KUXL radio.

Ismail Ahmed works as an assistant director for curriculum & instruction at Ubah Medical Academy.  Before that, he served as a data & development coordinator and dean of academics at MN International Middle Charter School.  He previously taught social studies, served as a director of a charter school, and served on several boards that catered for a variety of community needs especially health, community development, and education. Ismail has a Master’s in leadership and organizational studies from the University of Southern Maine, an educational leadership and specialist degree from Concordia St. Paul; and currently a doctoral student at Concordia University St. Paul.

Brandie Burris-Gallagher is a policy director with Ed Allies, an education advocacy nonprofit which seeks to provide every student access to an excellent education. Brandie started her career in education as a second-grade teacher and education entrepreneur in Louisiana. After her time in the classroom, Brandie worked in education policy at the Louisiana Department of Education where she helped create and implement policies to turnaround the state’s low-performing schools. Most recently, Brandie served as the founding policy director to launch the Educators 4 Excellence chapter in Connecticut. Brandie now calls Minnesota home, and joined Ed Allies to lead its school choice and charter policy and advocacy. Brandie is a graduate of the College of William and Mary, majoring in public policy analysis.


Ad Hoc Members

Chanda Smith Baker, President and Chief Executive Officer of Pillsbury United Communities.