Board of Directors

Members of DFER’s Board of Directors include:

Barbara O'Brien, Chair; former Lieutenant Governor of Colorado; currently serves on the Board of Education for Denver Public Schools; current President of Get Smart Schools, which develops and supports school leaders and leadership teams for public schools that dramatically improve the achievement of all students, especially low-income and minority students in urban school districts; she is also a founding member of the DFER Colorado Advisory Board.


Kevin Chavous, Chair Emeritus; former Chair of the Council of the District of Columbia and Chair of the Education, Libraries, and Recreation Committee; a noted author and national education reform leader, Chavous helped to shepherd the public charter school movement into the nation's capital, with nearly half of D.C.'s school children now attending charter schools.


Peter Groff, Vice Chair; former President of the Colorado State Senate; the first African-American in Colorado to ascend to the post, and only the third African-American in the nation’s history to hold the gavel as State Senate President. His 25 years of public service include serving as a Visiting Fellow at the Johns Hopkins University School of Education and as President and CEO of the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools (NAPCS).


Michael Benjamin, former New York State Assemblyman; an outspoken champion of lifting the charter school cap, Race to the Top education reforms, and school choice while in office, and the former head of the Bronx Board of Elections; he was one of the first elected officials in New York State to endorse President Barack Obama in August 2007.


Terrance Carroll, former Speaker of the Colorado House of Representatives, who was the first African-American to have held the position; serves on the board of trustees for both the Metropolitan State University of Denver and the National Western Stock Show, and is a member of the Executive Board of Denver Area Council and Boy Scouts of America; also a founding member of the DFER Colorado Advisory Board.


Adrian Fenty, former Mayor of the District of Columbia; championed unprecedented initiatives to tackle challenges facing the Nation’s Capital, including urban education reform and the restructuring of District of Columbia Public Schools (DCPS), while in office; his reforms resulted in achievement tests at the secondary level rising an unprecedented 14 points in reading and 17 points in math since 2007.


Craig Johnson, former New York State Senator; a longtime champion of bold education reforms as a Democratic member of the New York State Senate, Johnson is currently a managing director at McKenna Long & Aldridge, LLP and the chairman of the Democrats for Education Reform New York advisory board.



Tony Payton, former Pennsylvania State Representative; during his tenure in the General Assembly, Payton was at the forefront of education reform in Pennsylvania; he introduced legislation to create the Pennsylvania Youth Commission and authored the REACH Scholarship Initiative; he sits on the advisory committees and governing boards of Squash Smarts and the Children’s Crisis Treatment Center, Tech Impact PA, Operation Understanding, and Philly Youth Poetry Movement.


Maureen Stapleton, former Michigan State Representative; the daughter of a police officer and a Detroit Schools administrator, Stapleton was recognized for her advocacy on behalf of the City of Detroit and children during her tenure in the legislature; she was noted as an education reformer and lauded for her work on teacher tenure reform and her sponsorship of a Parent Notification Bill.


Mary Ann Sullivan, former Indiana State Representative; Sullivan coauthored and sponsored bills expanding Indiana’s public charter school law and dramatically changing teacher evaluation and licensure; currently, she serves as a consultant with the Center of Excellence in Leadership of Learning (CELL) at the University of Indianapolis.


Buzz Thomas, former Michigan State Senator and Representative; Thomas spent 14 years in the Michigan legislature, including serving as Democratic Floor Leader in the Senate and as Democratic Leader in the House; he was Co-Chairman of the 2008 Michigan Presidential campaign of Barack Obama; in 2013 he founded and co-chaired Turnaround Detroit, the super PAC credited with electing Mike Duggan, Detroit’s Mayor.