The essence of Leona Group is the cumulative passion, dedication, and expertise of its people. Every Leona team member is an integral part of the continued success of its students. Founded by Dr. Bill Coats, a national leader in education reform, Leona continues to change the landscape of public education. When you partner with us, these faces and more than 2,000 others work collectively to bring your school’s mission and vision to life and to improve the nation’s education landscape.
William (Bill) Coats, Ph.D., has worked to improve public education throughout his career as a school superintendent, university professor, foundation director, and now chief executive officer of The Leona Group.
As superintendent of public school districts across the nation, Dr. Coats worked within the system to allow parents freedom and choice within the schools, empower teachers and staff, and promote the idea that all children can learn.
Dr. Coats holds a Master’s Degree in Educational Psychology and a Doctorate in Research Design and Data Analysis in Education from the University of Michigan.
Dr. William Coats
Kris Ann Geeraerts
Chief of Staff
As chief of staff for Leona’s midwest operations, Kris Ann Geeraerts has overarching responsibilities for our day-to-day corporate operations. She also serves as director of grants and provides leadership support for technology. Her grant administration responsibilities include grant applications, assistance during onsite program and fiscal audits, grant budget management and grant records retention. Kris leads the technology team as they provide support for office and school operations and network and support services for instruction. Prior to becoming a part of The Leona Group team, Kris spent 10 years in criminal justice as a 9-1-1 dispatcher. During her 23 years at Leona Group, she has served as an executive assistant, grants coordinator and budget manager prior to her present position.
Vice President of Academics
Jean Chlebek helps school leaders in the midwest improve the quality of instruction at an aggregate scope and classroom and student level. Ms. Chlebek supports instructional coaches in planning and delivering high-quality professional development by giving feedback, sharing best practices, and providing resources. She oversees all instructional systems and academic initiatives and supports all schools through the reauthorization process, accreditation, and turnaround planning.
In addition to Jean’s academic role, she also manages company-wide communications and marketing efforts. She supervises social media, press releases, media interaction, promotional materials, and supporting academies with public relations within her communications and marketing role.
Ms. Chlebek is a graduate of Eastern Michigan University with a Bachelor of Science in Elementary Education and a Master of Arts in K-12 Administration. Jean is a career educator with a true passion for education reform and student academic success.
Vice President of Finance
Melinda Benkovsky has overall responsibility for the budget and finance function supporting midwest operations, including compliance, budgeting, financial reporting, auditing, and accounts payables. She advises the department members on any issues, such as cash management, procurement, state and federal guidelines, procedural updates, borrowing, etc. She and members of her team work closely with school leaders and other leadership team members on any budget and finance issues to ensure the fiscal well-being of the academies with which they work.
Melinda obtained her Bachelor of Arts in Accounting from Spring Arbor University. She has 14 years of experience in school budgeting and finance, and has held a key role in the department of budget and finance for Leona’s midwest.
Prior to joining The Leona Group's corporate team, Ms. Rodgers was a teacher, instructional coach, and school leader at Allen Academy in Detroit, and has been with the company since 2003. She holds a Bachelor of Arts and Master of Arts in Curriculum and Instruction from the University of Detroit Mercy.
As executive vice president, Ms. Rodgers manages effective coordination and communication among The Leona Group's midwest schools, corporate offices, regional core teams, and other high priority stakeholders. She ensures our schools are provided with strong leadership and support and the execution of Leona’s vision, mission, and operational plans.
Executive Vice President
Mingcoria Minter started with The Leona Group 20 years ago. As vice president of the midwest, she has overarching responsibilities as a core team leader and as the director of exceptional student services, which primarily include working collectively with all stakeholders to ensure compliance with state and federal requirements. She provides direct onsite support to building administrators and special education personnel to ensure quality programs and services are delivered for a positive result in student achievement. In addition, she creates and executes targeted professional development for administration, teachers and ancillary support staff. Prior to joining the corporate team, Ms. Minter was a school social worker and an assistant school leader.
Ms. Minter is a graduate of Wayne State University with a Bachelor and a Master of Social Work, Education Specialist Degree, Central Office Certification and Special Education Directorship.
Vice President of Human Resources
Wendy Willis has overarching responsibilities for Leona’s human resource midwest operations, including compliance, recruiting, payroll, benefits, compensation, labor relations, employee orientation, and employee records retention. She advises school leaders and other members of the leadership team on any HR issues such as employee relations, legal compliance, hiring, discipline and termination, etc.
She obtained her Bachelor's Degree in Criminal Justice at Michigan State University and her Master’s Degree in Administration and Human Resources from Central Michigan University. She is a member of the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) and has her Professional Human Resources (PHR) certification. She has nearly 30 years of experience in human resource management.
Michelle Thomas, general counsel, has an impressive background and comes from a family of educators. She has a B.S.E. from the University of Michigan, M.B.A from Eastern Michigan University and a J.D. from Wayne State University Law School. She is committed and passionate about her work and making a difference. Ms. Thomas provides day to day legal assistance, including but not limited contract review and drafting, interpretation and application of laws, regulations, and policies, legislative tracking, responding to requests for disclosure of information and oversight of outside counsel. Ms. Thomas also serves as the Title IX Coordinator for schools managed by The Leona Group in the midwest. She has been with The Leona Group since 2017.
Vice President of Property Management
Adam Schnelker is the vice president of property management, which includes site development and acquisitions ranging from ground-up construction to remodels and lease negotiations for all states, and all facility related compliance items.
Mr. Schnelker is a graduate of Purdue University and holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Organizational Leadership and Supervision with a business management focus. He has been with The Leona Group since 2001, also working in the capacities of human resources and budget management.
Brittany Corkins began her journey with The Leona Group in 2016 in the budget and finance department. In 2016, Ms. Corkins transitioned to her current role as administrative assistant to our CEO, Dr. Coats, and the executive team. In her current role, Brittany provides high-level management support to the executive team and department of academic achievement. These responsibilities encompass a variety of essential functions that support our day-to-day Midwest operations including managing the corporate calendar and schedule, coordinating executive and corporate meetings, assisting with company-wide projects and compiling school-based reports.
Ms. Corkins is passionate about ensuring the corporate office operates efficiently and making certain every guest feels welcomed!
Danielle Miller joined The Leona Group family in 2012. Mrs. Miller works with several TLG academies in Indiana, Michigan and Ohio with state and authorizer compliance, board relations, website management/compliance, charter applications/renewals and she also assists several departments throughout the corporate office.
Mrs. Miller graduated from Ferris State University in May 2011 with a Bachelor of Science in Elementary Education.
Michelle Maidlow joined The Leona Group in July 2019, with over 15 years of experience in regulatory compliance and project management. She is the executive assistant for academies in Michigan. Ms. Maidlow provides support in compliance and website transparency, reporting requirements, authorizer and board documents /communications, as well as new charter applications and existing schools’ re-authorizations. Michelle works closely with school leaders when communicating with parents and addressing their concerns or questions.
Ms. Maidlow holds a Bachelor of Science in Behavioral Psychology from Western Michigan University and a Master of Arts in Public Relations/Communications from Michigan State University.