Urban Prairie Waldorf School

Board Study & Meetings


The Urban Prairie Board of Directors welcomes all members of our community to its monthly study and meeting. Board meetings are held the second Thursday of the month at 7 p.m. and are open to the public (exclusive of executive sessions, when applicable). There is no meeting in July or December. Meetings are held in the UPWS Faculty Lounge, 3rd floor, 1220 W. Lexington. Please allow time for parking.

For a list of readings for past and upcoming board studies, click here.

Questions? Use the following links to contact the appropriate UPWS board member about:

Board of Trustees

The Board of Trustees of Urban Prairie is the decision making, guiding and planning body for the school. The Board keeps the school’s mission central in all of its processes. The Board is responsible for strategic planning and initiatives based on identified goals developed with the school’s mission in mind, using input from various stakeholders.

Individuals who take on leadership roles for the school do so in the spirit of servant leadership, guided by the principal of service to the whole. Urban Prairie exists by virtue of the support of a wide community of parents and friends and all who share our vision of Waldorf Education. The health and growth of our school depends on the strength of these relationships.

2014-15 Board of Trustees

Heather Berhalter

Heather Berhalter, a Board member since 2009, is a member of the Committee on Board Development, Enrollment Growth Task Force and Tuition Assistance Committee. She has also served on the Admissions Committee, Marketing Committee and the Three Year Plan Working Group. Before moving to Chicago, she served in the State Department Foreign Service in several overseas posts and in Washington, D.C. as a Special Assistant to Secretary Madeleine Albright. She is also a La Leche League Leader.  She and her husband, Jay, have 3 sons, including UPWS 4th and 1st graders and a City Garden student.

Mary Cowen

Mary is a classroom teacher at City Garden Early Childhood Center. She serves as the Board’s study leader, a member of the Committee for Board Development, and previously served on the Teacher Search and Support Committee. Mary received her Waldorf education from Arcturus Teacher training program in Chicago and was previously a grades teacher at the Chicago Waldorf School. She has a daughter attending Urban Prairie and a daughter attending City Garden.

NaTasha DeNeal

NaTasha DeNeal is co-owner of Smart Vending Systems (SVS). SVS was created with a mission to provide healthier vended snacks and beverages to every community globally. NaTasha’s efforts in providing a healthy option in the vending industry holds a special place with being a committed wife and inspiring mother with the intent  of  using her creative , natural and learned skill sets to make a difference in the world by touching lives on a collective level. NaTasha has over 15 years of experience in the credit card/banking, telecommunications and transportation security industries, including merger integration, e-strategy, credit card operations, group relations, and business development with an emphasis on project management, marketing, telesales, customer service issues, testing and sales.  NaTasha is parent to a UPWS second grader and City Garden kindergartner.

Jone Hellesoy

Jone Hellesoy is the Director of City Garden and a Lead Early Childhood Teacher. Prior to opening City Garden, Jone taught at the Chicago Waldorf School (CWS) for more than 20 years, educated adult students at the Arcturus Rudolf Steiner Education Program, and mentored many teachers along the way. At CWS, she served on the College of Teachers, the Boardof Directors, and in a leadership capacity on numerous committees. Born in Norway, Ms. Hellesoy herself was educated in the Waldorf tradition.

Peg Kern

Peg Kern is an active parent at our sister school, City Garden Early Childhood Learning Center, where she recently co-chaired the 2013 Holiday Fair. Peg has a B.A. in Italian and an M.A. and Ph.D. in Italian literature. After teaching at the University of Chicago, she left the academic world in 2004 and joined The International Kitchen, a multi-million dollar tour operator specializing in culinary tours. She quickly progressed from Tour Coordinator to Vice President. In 2010, after the birth of her second child, she stepped back from her career, although she remained a consultant for the company and has recently rejoined part-time. Peg’s experience in the academic and business worlds has provided her with a number of relevant skills. In the academy she worked with the big picture issues of program development, assessments, and enrollment, as well as with the detailed work of planning and running staff meetings, creating budgets, and writing handbooks. In the professional business sphere her work has included sales, marketing, personnel management, and on-site visits. Peg has a City Garden kindergartner and a preschooler.

Michael Levine - Vice President

A founding board member, Michael has served the school since 2008. Michael was the first President of the board, serving in that capacity from 2009 – 2012. During his tenure on the board, he has also served on the Executive Committee (former chair), Marketing Committee (former chair and former member) and Strategic Planning Committee (former and current chair), lead the school’s search for it’s first full-time Administrator and provided IT support for all areas of the school. Founder and president of AppAbility, a software development consulting firm here in Chicago, Michael has over 20 years of experience in team leadership and strategic decision making. His son, Benjamin, attended City Garden and was a part of Urban Prairie’s inaugural 2009 class.

Peggy Lofgren - Administrator

Administrator Peggy Lofgren previously served as chair of the Finance Committee and Treasurer, responsible for  budget management and providing her financial administrative expertise in the preparations for the recent move to Little Italy. She joined UPWS with a wealth of expertise in administration and finance in the luxury hospitality and wellness industry. She has managed P&Ls for the last 15 years from $2M to $20M in revenue. She has been administrator of the 900 North Michigan Surgery Center, vice president of operations at Red Door Spas in Chicago, and general manager of Peninsula Spa Chicago. She has international experience in the luxury spa business and has led key corporate initiatives using strategic planning and analytical skills. She has launched multiple new properties and collaborated with corporate leadership in marketing, human resources, design and construction, training, and finance. A grade 2 and 4 parent, she is committed to Waldorf education and is passionate about Urban Prairie.

Elisa Mangual - Assistant Secretary

Elisa Mangual, a bank regulatory and acquisitions attorney at The Northern Trust Company, joined the board in 2010. She serves as Assistant Secretary for The Northern Trust Company and Secretary for one of Northern Trust’s subsidiary banks, corporate governance experience that she brings to her position as Urban Prairie Board Secretary. Moreover, Elisa brings 16 years of sound legal experience and judgment to her role, having worked both in large private law firms and in-house law departments of major financial institutions. As secretary, Elisa has overseen an overhaul of the school’s by-laws and revised the method of recording meeting minutes. Additionally, she has served on the Strategic Planning Committee as well as the Executive Committee. In other board experience, she has served on two local not-for-profit boards. Elisa has a strong interest in handwork and can knit at the speed of light. She is the parent of a UPWS student and a City Garden pre-schooler.

Brandy Masoncup

Brandy Masoncup has spent a great deal of her life traveling as the daughter of an airline family so it was no surprise when she started learning other languages and ended up with a degree in International Studies with minors in Business and German. Her career began at a start-up private investment firm before solidly traveling into various sales and marketing positions: first in property management in Arizona, then on the merchant side of the credit card business with Diners Club International. Brandy found herself back in start-up mode in 2004 when she and her husband decided to go into business for themselves and started Geppetto’s Toy Box in Oak Park, IL. Her roles at GTB have been rooted in marketing, event planning, web development, financial and organizational management, and HR. She still finds time to travel and explore (and appreciate) other cultures. Last year she added Asia to her list of continents visited leaving only the penguins and elephants to go!  She has also visited 45 of our 50 states.  She has a strong interest in child development as well as health and nutrition, both of which have heavily influenced both her work and personal life. When she’s not traveling, you can find her hiking, in the garden, cooking, or nestled up with a good book.

David McClellan - Finance Chair

Finance Committee Chair and founding parent David McClellan is a Director for Albridge, an affiliate of Pershing, a BNY Mellon company, where he is responsible for business strategy and execution for Pershing’s Albridge and Managed Investments business units. He sits on the executive committees of both businesses. David has more than 20 years of experience, primarily on the business side of financial services technology, with a focus on driving revenue growth. Previously, David was the general manager of the financial services vertical at an early-stage information security and data authenticity software firm. He spent six years with Morningstar’s advisory business in a variety of institutional sales, product and business development roles. Acting as an entrepreneur-in-residence, he launched software solutions for advisors related to retirement income planning and mutual fund suitability. He has also been a consultant with The Cambridge Group, a demand strategy firm, and Price Waterhouse, where he advised clients on reengineering. He has been part of the senior management team of several start-up companies. David began his career as a systems engineer at EDS. David earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in Economics and History, with honors, from the University of Texas and a Master of Business Administration degree from the University of Chicago with concentrations in Strategy, Marketing and Finance. David is very involved in philanthropic activities. He served on the board of the Alliance for the Great Lakes from 2005-2010. For the past two years he has acted as the Event Chair for Swim Across America Chicago, a cancer fundraising event benefiting Rush University Cancer Center, for which he has grown fundraising by more than 140%. David  was a founding board member and has served on the finance, strategy, and marketing committees.

Mat Riendeau - Faculty Chair

Mat is a grades teacher at Urban Prairie and serves as Faculty Representative on the board. Trained at the Arcturus Waldorf teacher training program in Chicago, Mat taught at Water’s Edge Waldorf School in Wauconda, IL before coming to Urban Prairie. Prior to realizing his calling as a Waldorf teacher, he completed two tours of service with the United States Peace Corps. He taught English for two years in Sichuan Province, China, and spent two years working at a rural health clinic in Burkina Faso in West Africa. Mat is a member of the Facilities and Strategic Planning committees.

Jesus Ruiz-Velasco - Secretary

Jesus Ruiz-Velasco, the founder of Ruiz Velasco, Immigration Law, provides legal representation in the area of immigration and nationality law to businesses, individuals and organizations in the U.S. and abroad.  In addition, Jesus serves as legal counsel to the Government of Mexico within the jurisdiction of the Consulate General of Mexico in Chicago. Jesus is a frequent speaker at  professional conferences, most recently the American Bar Association, National Litigation Conference and community events. Jesus’s daughter is in 2nd grade at Urban Prairie.

Fabiola Saucedo

Fabiola Saucedo has fifteen years of pharmaceutical sales experience, of which six years have been in the oncology-hematology market place. She has a track record of exceeding company revenue targets through developing and implementing a targeted sales plan and has successfully launched five oncology products. Fabiola, who heads the Diversity Committee in her sales region, was born in Mexico City, and has lived in Bogota, Colombia and Montpellier, France. She is fluent in English, Spanish and French. During her years in Mexico City, she ran her own business teaching business English to high-level executives of Fortune 500 companies. Fabiola has lived in the Little Italy/UIC area for over 12 years and has worked with Alderman Solis and his staff on various community projects. Fabiola’s daughter joined UPWS mid-year this year and is entering grade 2. At her daughter’s previous school, she actively worked with multiple committees and projects, including the Diversity Committee and gala fundraising.

Ted Shieh

A Board member since 2011, Ted Shieh is the Chairman of Emergency Medicine & Immediate Care at DuPage Medical Group. As a member of Practice Greenhealth, he speaks nationally on environmental sustainability in healthcare.  Ted was formerly the UPWS Marketing Committee Chair as well as the Chief Medical Informatics Officer, Performance Improvement Chairman, Green Team Chair, and EMS Medical Director at Westlake Hospital.  He brings his experience in environmental sustainability, informatics, and performance improvement to his Board positions as the Chair of the Urban Prairie AWSNA Committee and as the founding member of the Urban Prairie Sustainability and Wellness Working Group. Ted is a scuba diver – you may have seen his underwater animal feeding presentations in the Caribbean Reef at the John G. Shedd Aquarium where he also serves as a member of the Medical Advisors Group. In his free time, Ted is in the kitchen baking bread, canning pickles, fixing the chicken coop or working with his wife, a Chicago Conservation Corp (C3) leader, on the next green project. He is the parent of an Urban Prairie second grader.

Sharla Stewart - President

A founding board member who has served the school since Spring 2008, Sharla Stewart serves on the Long-term Facilities and Faculty & Staff Compensation Strategic Planning Task Groups. She previously served as Vice President of the Board for four years. Sharla has served on the Executive and Board Development committees, as well as many early Board committees that have since become part of Administration, including Teacher Search & Support, Marketing, Admissions, and Development. She contributed to the initial drafting of the school mission, as well as the decisions to change the school name and revise the school mission. She contributed to the school’s three-year plan to attain status as a Developing School through the Association of Waldorf Schools of North America. Sharla is formerly a writer and associate editor of The University of Chicago Magazine. She is one of three TriYoga instructors in Chicago and writes poetry and fiction. A member of the vestry of St. Paul & the Redeemer Church in Hyde Park, she also enjoys cooking, bicycling by the Lake, and backpacking in the Olympic Peninsula with her husband, David. They have 3 sons, including a UPWS sixth grader and third grader and a preschooler at City Garden.

Board structure

Standing committees of the board include:

Interested in joining our effort?

Urban Prairie is always interested in talking with individuals interested in helping further the mission of the school. If you have an interest in the Board of Directors or board committee work please email  NaTasha DeNeal or Peg Kern, co-chairs of the Committee on Board Development (COBD).


We seek big-picture, strategic and creative thinkers with Waldorf experience or a commitment to deepening their understanding of Waldorf. Thinking toward the future, we seek community-building candidates with strong leadership potential.

Board members serve in the model of servant leadership and work together in service to the school and its mission.  Parent board members must acknowledge their inherent conflict of interest as parents and strive to act out of a non-parent, big-picture governing vision consistent with the mission of the Board of Directors and the goals and insights of the Waldorf educational philosophy.

Term Expectations & Description

All candidates will be presented with a detailed outline of board membership. First-time board members serve a one-year term; returning board members are expected to serve two-year terms. At the end of each year, COBD and board members jointly evaluate the strengths, weaknesses, and needs of the board as we seek to form a strong and effective constellation of board members.  At this time, the board does not have term limits. Board members attend monthly study and board meetings and are active on at least one committee.  We encourage all interested candidates to attend a board meeting and study.


Should you wish to suggest a friend, colleague, or yourself as a candidate, please submit your suggestion to committee co-chairs  NaTasha DeNeal and Peg Kern.  Please include a brief description of the candidate’s strengths that lend themselves to board membership, as well as their experience with Waldorf education.  The vetting process has three stages: 1) all candidates will be considered by the full committee; 2) based on the above-mentioned qualifications, the committee will select potential candidates for an informal interview with a member of the committee; 3) COBD will formally interview final candidates.  The committee then presents a slate of board nominees to the full Board of Directors for election.