The Great Schools For All (GS4A) leadership group is an amalgam of city and suburban residents with diverse professional and experiential backgrounds seeking to build a coalition around socio-economic integration of schools in the greater Rochester, N.Y., area. GS4A is both “grassroots and grasstops;” individual volunteers and institutional representatives – parents, grandparents, business people, clergy, educators, researchers, journalists, lawyers, students, tutors, and community activists all dedicated to reversing the failure of high poverty schools through a variety of voluntary integration strategies. Members of the leadership group are not representatives of elected officials, school board members or administrators, school district employees, or advocates for a specific solution.

GS4A Conveners

Lynette Sparks

As Associate Pastor for Outreach & Evangelism at Third Presbyterian Church in Rochester, Lynette oversees the congregation’s extensive outreach programs in the areas of education, hunger, homelessness, and advocacy. She is actively involved with strategic planning for Urban Presbyterians Together and with denominational efforts in organizational transformation. Prior to her service in the church, Lynette worked in the corporate world for Deloitte & Touche in Minneapolis and on the corporate headquarters financial staff at General Motors in Detroit.

John Wilkinson

John has been Pastor of Third Presbyterian Church in Rochester since 2001. In May 2015 he was appointed to the Rochester-Monroe Anti-Poverty Initiative’s education work group. John has been active denominationally through service on the Theological Task Force on the Peace, Unity and Purity for the Church (2001-2006) and now on the Committee on the Office of the General Assembly, which he moderated for two years. He served on the board of Colgate Rochester Crozer Divinity School for nine years (including three years as board chair) and now serves on the board of McCormick Theological Seminary. He was involved in the establishment of both the Covenant Network of Presbyterians and Next Church. He is a past moderator of the Presbytery of Genesee Valley and is an active participant in Urban Presbyterians Together in Rochester. He previously served as Executive Associate Pastor at Fourth Presbyterian Church and as Pastor of St. James Presbyterian Church, both in Chicago.

GS4A Leadership Group

Tom Gillett

Tom Gillett is Regional Staff Director for the New York State United Teachers (NYSUT). He taught English in the Rochester City School District from 1969 until 2002. Two of his sons are teachers in area schools–one at East High and the other in Fairport; his daughter is in the University of Rochester teacher preparation program.

Mark Hare

Former reporter, editor ,and columnist in Rochester at City Newspaper, the Times-Union, and the Democrat and Chronicle from 1978 to 2012, Mark now does freelance writing, volunteers for Mary’s Place Refugee Outreach Center, and is starting a writing service for hospice patients who would like help writing a letter or life story for friends and family.

Ahlia Kitwana

Ahlia is currently a Lead Engineer with Harris Corporation.  She is a graduate of Edison Tech and holds degrees in both engineering and math education. She has had the unique pleasure of teaching high school math in Harlem, NY for a few years.  Ahlia and her husband have two daughters; one in the Penfield school district, the other attends Greece Montessori School. Ahlia is very passionate about education and is thrilled to have the opportunity to serve the community through GS4A.

Cornelia Labrum

A member of Third Presbyterian Church and an elementary school educator for 39 years, Corni is now retired and tutoring in the City schools. Current volunteer and Former Board Chair of Cameron Community Ministries, an urban ministry offering daily meals, clothing, and after school and summer programming for families in Rochester’s poorest neighborhoods.

Elizabeth Laidlaw

Elizabeth is a member of Urban Presbyterians Together and facilitator of UPT’s Urban Education team. She’s Professor of Philosophy at Monroe Community College in Rochester. Beth served on School Based Planning Teams at two schools and has led PTA, PTSA, and PTO organizations at public, private, urban and suburban schools. She is former moderator of the city-county Task Force to Reduce Violence.

Jeffrey Linn

Jeff is an Associate Professor of Educational Administration at SUNY Brockport where he teaches classes on leadership and site based management. Formerly, he served as Director of Staff Development, primary school principal and Director of the UPK programs in the Canandaigua City School District, and as Associate Professor of Literacy and Multicultural Education at SUNY Brockport.

Larry Marx

Larry is Executive Director for The Children’s Agenda, an advocacy organization for evidence-based solutions for children and youth in Rochester. Former Executive Director of Citizen Action and the Donor Collaborative of Wisconsin and Program Officer with the Proteus Fund, he is a board member for USAction Education Fund and the Gandhi Institute for Nonviolence, and on the Community Relations Committee of the Greater Rochester Jewish Federation.

Clay Osborne

Clay currently is an Executive Coach and Consultant in Organizational Effectiveness. He also teaches Human Capital management in the St. John Fisher doctoral program in Executive Leadership. Prior to starting his consultancy he served as the Vice President of Human Resources for Bausch & Lomb. Previous to that he was the Deputy County Executive for Operations for Monroe County.

Jenn Poggi

Jenn is a Visiting Assistant Professor at Rochester Institute of Technology’s College of Imaging Arts & Sciences where she teaches photojournalism. She is also a tutor at Nathaniel Rochester Community School #3.

Donald Pryor

Don is the Director of Human Services Research at the Center for Governmental Research (CGR) in Rochester, a non-profit research and policy consultants. He is a member of the Urban Presbyterians Together Core Team. He has authored numerous reports and blogs on education and the relationship of urban education to poverty, and has served for many years on a variety of not-for-profit boards and community organizations.

Lynette Sparks (please see “convener” bio above)

John Thomas

A former urban planner with the City of Rochester, John is a member of New Life Presbyterian Church and former chair of the UPT Core Team in Rochester. He is active in the UPT Urban Education Committee with a focus on advocacy and systemic change, and strongly believes concentrated poverty in segregated neighborhoods is the underlying cause of the exceedingly poor educational achievements in city schools. John is actively engaged in his city neighborhood association’s advocacy efforts.

John Wilkinson (please see “convener” bio above)