Meet the team behind the Jacksonville Public Education Fund.
Rachael Tutwiler Fortune serves as President of the Jacksonville Public Education Fund, an independent think-and-do tank working to close the opportunity gap by activating community support, connecting partners, and advancing effective ideas for student success. Having served in government, non-profit, district and school-based roles, Rachael draws upon significant professional experience at all levels of the education system. A Jacksonville native, Rachael returned to her hometown as JPEF’s Executive Vice President in 2017 before being appointed president in 2018.
Rachael previously served on the senior leadership team at America’s Promise Alliance as Senior Director of the GradNation Campaign. She was a 2013 Presidential Management Fellow and served as a Program Officer in the Office of the Deputy Secretary of the U.S. Department of Education in Washington, DC, where she managed a portfolio of multi-million-dollar Race to the Top grants and supported state education agencies to advance education reform efforts during the Obama Administration.
Prior to this, she served as an Education Pioneers Fellow at the Oakland Unified School District to improve community school strategic planning across the district. Earlier, she led JPEF's community mobilization efforts, launching the ONE-by-ONE campaign to mobilize stakeholders to develop a shared vision for local schools. Rachael began her career as a Duval County Public Schools teacher at S. P. Livingston Elementary School through Teach for America – Jacksonville’s charter corps.
Rachael holds a master’s degree in Education Policy, Organization and Leadership from Stanford University and a bachelor's degree in Political Science from the University of North Florida. At UNF, Rachael served as the second African American female Student Body President and joined Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Incorporated, among other leadership roles. Rachael currently serves on the Board of Directors of Baptist Medical Center and the Baptist Health system, and as Vice Chair of Finance on the Consortium of Florida Education Foundation’s Executive Committee. In 2023, she was recognized by the Girl Scouts of Gateway Council as a Woman of Distinction and was recognized by Jacksonville Business Journal as one of the First Coast’s 40 under 40 in 2020. She is a member of Leadership Florida’s Education Class of 2018 and Leadership Jacksonville’s Class of 2022. She is the proud wife of Emmanuel Fortune, and mother to their children, Nicholas, Elle, and Riley.
email@example.com | cell: (904) 352-6897
As the Vice President of the Jacksonville Public Education Fund (JPEF), Dr. Ronetta Wards diligently works to promote effective implementation of JPEF's strategic initiatives. Her main aim is to make a substantial and quantifiable impact on the quality of education by managing and supporting the organization's dedicated program team. Collaborating closely with JPEF President Rachael Tutwiler Fortune, Dr. Wards helps ensure the organization's overall operational effectiveness.
Before her tenure at JPEF, Dr. Wards established herself as a much-sought-after thought partner and educational consultant for five years. Her consultancy work allowed her to collaborate with a broad spectrum of education-focused organizations and institutions. This included national educational non-profits, expansive urban school districts, and leaders within charter and private schools.
Building on her experience, Dr. Wards has served in several executive and district leadership roles, as well as school administration positions. These roles enabled her to directly influence student learning and academic achievement. She takes immense pride in her innovative contributions to school-based STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) programming, teacher coaching, and professional learning initiatives. Moreover, she is a fervent participant in numerous initiatives aimed at promoting literacy across various content areas and fostering school-community partnerships underpinned by design thinking.
Spanning a career of over twenty years in education, Dr. Wards has honed an array of professional skills. These include astute analytical and strategic thinking abilities, effective facilitation, capacity-building, leadership and operational expertise, program evaluation skills, applied research proficiency, commitment to equity work, and high-impact relationship management.
Dr. Wards has earned a B.S. in Biology from Florida A&M University, a M.S. in Secondary Science Education from the University of North Florida, a M.Ed. in Educational Leadership from Ashland University, and a Ph.D. in K-12 Educational Administration from Michigan State University.
She is a proud member of several professional organizations including the National Science Teaching Association (NSTA), the American Educational Research Association (AERA), and the Women’s Giving Alliance of Northeast Florida.
Amy serves as Director of Marketing and Communications for JPEF. Amy was born in Des Plaines, Ill, and moved to Rock Hill, S.C., and then Dothan, Ala. Her love of reading and writing, fostered by many of her public school teachers, led her to Troy University, where she received a Bachelor of Science degree in Journalism.
Amy began her newspaper career as an intern with the Bainbridge, Ga., Post-Searchlight, where she continued as a staff reporter and assistant editor. In her career she’s worked for several newspapers, including most recently the Cullman, Ala., Times, where she was a regional editor and worked closely with other editors in the Southeast covering social justice issues.
Amy has a long career with nonprofit organizations, most notably serving as Director of Marketing and Communications for the Georgia Municipal Association for more than 20 years. A life-long learner, Amy earned her Masters’ Degree from Kent State University in Communication and Marketing, returning to school at the same time her daughter was starting college at Jacksonville University.
Several of Amy’s family members are educators and her daughter has followed in their footsteps, becoming an 8th grade language arts teacher. Through her work at JPEF, Amy hopes to support teachers like her daughter in closing the opportunity gap for low-income students and students of color.
Within the community, Amy has volunteered with the Ronald McDonald House, Pride Rings in Stone Mountain (PRISM) and served on the boards of the DeKalb History Center, the Georgia Press Association Education Foundation, the Alabama Press Association Education Foundation, and the Rotary Club of Cullman Board of Directors.
Danté serves as JPEF's Director of Strategic Initiatives. As a dynamic educator, Danté currently supports Juniors and Seniors needing math credits to fulfill graduation requirements. Prior to accepting his current role, Danté was a district math specialist for two years overseeing 5 of Duval County Public Schools' historically underperforming middle schools. During his time in the classroom, he was recognized as Jean Ribault Middle School 2017 Teacher of the Year. Following this, the Jacksonville Public Education Fund awarded Danté with a scholarship to pursue a graduate degree with the purpose of increasing diversity in school leadership. With nearly 8 years of education experience ranging from mathematic instructor to district executive, Danté has expertise in data analysis, administration, and resource allocations.
Danté also leads community advocacy efforts through his work in the nonprofit sector having served as President of the Jacksonville Urban League Young Professionals and board member to the Jacksonville Urban League. As a member of the local chapter of Omega Psi Fraternity Incorporated, he has served as keeper of Finance, mentor, and fundraising chair. Danté was recently inducted into the Tallahassee chapter of the New Leaders Council.
He earned his B.S. degree in Criminal Justice from Florida International University and holds a MA in Organizational Leadership from Columbia University, Teachers College in New York City. In 2020 he was awarded the Minority Fellowship from Jacksonville University’s Minority Board of Directors where he is pursuing a MA in Public Policy. Danté is an avid reader and mindfulness practitioner who also enjoys travel and music-related events.
Roderica Johnson is a Jacksonville native who leads JPEF's convening strategy. After graduating from Englewood High, she went on to attend the University of North Florida through the Jacksonville Commitment and Hicks Scholarship programs. While at UNF, Roderica completed several internships including at the UNF Office of Campus Life, Victoria’s Secret PINK, and Follett Higher Education Group. Roderica also volunteered extensively while completing her undergraduate degree, giving time to the Bridge of Northeast Florida and the UNF Women’s Center throughout her years at UNF. In 2015, she graduated with a B.S in Communications and minor in community leadership.
Shortly after graduation, she ventured to Tallahassee, Florida where she enrolled in the Master of Social Work program at Florida State University. While completing the program, she worked at several organizations including the Public Defender’s Office, Opportunity Services, and Capital City Youth Services. During her time at CCYS, she was eventually promoted to the Community Services and Events Manager, where she oversaw the Youth Advisory Council initiative, funding opportunities, communications strategies, and outreach efforts.
Roderica returned to Jacksonville for a role with Wounded Warrior Project, where she coordinated internal communications for two years before joining the JPEF family. She is a member of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc.
Carly Norgord is JPEF’s Director of Finance and Administration
Carly grew up in southeastern Wisconsin and is the product of a public school education. She graduated from the University of Wisconsin in Madison in 2005 with a Bachelor of Arts degree in French and International Studies. In 2006, Carly joined the Teach for America corps in the San Francisco Bay Area teaching 4th grade at DJ Meyer Elementary School in San Jose and then 6th grade English Language Arts at KIPP Bayview Academy in San Francisco. During that time, she earned her California Preliminary Teaching Credential through Alliant International University.
In 2008, Carly moved to Jacksonville where she worked as an Assistant Director at Huntington Learning Center, where she managed operations and tutored students. Carly joined the JPEF team for the first time in March of 2010 as Operations Associate and later became Finance Manager. In 2014, Carly moved back to the midwest and made the decision to stay home with her children before returning to JPEF as Finance Manager in 2017.
While in Jacksonville, Carly served on the Teach for America Jacksonville Alumni Board and volunteered as a mentor with Achievers for Life at Matthew Gilbert Middle School and Take Stock in Children at First Coast High School.
firstname.lastname@example.org | cell: (415) 971-5130
Courtney is the Director of Fund Development for JPEF. She is a Jacksonville native who has worked as a fundraiser for 15 years. With a passion for child advocacy, Courtney brings a comprehensive and forward-thinking outlook to her development role as she started her career on the front-lines of child welfare. She has worked for various local and national nonprofits including We Care Jacksonville, Boys & Girls Clubs of Northeast Florida, the American Lung Association and Children’s Home Society of Florida.
Since becoming a fundraiser, she has formed lasting relationships with individuals, corporations and foundations, as well as built successful development and engagement teams, resulting in more than $10 million in donations, gifts and grants.
Currently, she is a member of the Association of Fundraising Professionals, Rules Committee Chair for the Public Service Grants Council, Steering Committee Member of the Women’s Giving Alliance (WGA), board member of At The Table, and a graduate of the Leadership Jacksonville Class of 2020.
She lives in San Marco with her husband and two dogs.
As the Director of Data and Research for JPEF, Shannon Varga seeks to lead mixed methodological approaches to counteracting the systemic conditions that restrict opportunities for underserved students and lead to disparities in student outcomes across the county. She aims to leverage JPEF’s historical partnerships with the community to implement and evaluate data-driven initiatives that cross sectors, improve collaboration of existing community assets, and make a measurable impact on school quality and education broadly in Duval County.
Before joining JPEF, Shannon was a Research Assistant Professor at Boston University and the Associate Director of Research and Evaluation for the Community Engaged Research and Evaluation Sciences (CERES) Institute for Children and Youth, housed in the Wheelock College of Education and Human Development. Shannon has spent 10+ years conducting research in the education and youth development space, specifically understanding the complex relation between social capital, relationships, and student outcomes. She was also previously a Postdoctoral Research fellow at America’s Promise Alliance where she led research on school and workforce engagement for underserved populations (e.g., emergent multilingual students, justice-involved youth, youth who have interrupted education) and has over 5 years of experience translating this research to national, mixed-stakeholder, audiences.
Shannon earned her Ph.D. in Educational Psychology: Applied Developmental Science at the University of Virginia’s Curry School of Education and her BA in psychology from Montclair State University. After living in several states on the east coast, Shannon is excited to invest in her new home state of Florida and maximize the impact of the existing community efforts and energy for serving students in Duval County.
Rachel Duff serves as the Senior Manager of Data & Research for JPEF. With her skills in research and data analysis, she seeks to uplift local education issues in order to promote transformational change in Duval County. She has lived in Jacksonville for 23 years and considers it to be her hometown.
Prior to this position, Rachel served as a Policy Fellow with the DC State Board of Education, where she was responsible for advancing the goals set by the nine elected State Board members. She additionally led their Spring retreat on Co-Decolonizing Methods of Community Engagement based on research presented through the American Educational Research Association.
Previously, Rachel worked in Duval County Public Schools first as a 6th-8th grade ESL Teacher and later as a school-based Reading Interventionist. She began her career at The Sulzbacher Center where she served as the Children’s Program Assistant. She was recognized as one of the top five finalists for Duval County Teacher of the Year in 2019, and she has presented at the 2018 Northeast Florida TESOL Consortium as well as the 2019 WJCT Teach Conference.
Rachel holds a master’s degree in Educational Transformation from Georgetown University and a bachelor’s degree in English Education from the University of North Florida. She has volunteered abroad in educational capacities both in Guyana, South America and Guatemala, Central America. Rachel lives in Springfield with her cat, Reina and enjoys the variety of food, culture, and events Jacksonville has to offer.
Olivia serves as the Fund Development Manager for JPEF. While she wasn’t born in Jacksonville, she has been here since she was a tiny tot and considers herself a Duval Devotee. Olivia has a deep passion for social justice efforts that are rooted in breaking down barriers and replacing them with bridges that offer pathways to equality for all people. Olivia has worked in the nonprofit sector for 10+ years and during that time frame, has developed a love for the fundraising and development sphere of the sector. Olivia has served in direct service roles as well as administrative and fundraising roles and has worked for several local organizations including the Jewish Community Alliance, Lakewood United Methodist Preschool, Jewish Family & Community Services, Pace Center for Girls Jacksonville and Ability Housing, Inc.
During her time as a UNF Osprey, Olivia was an active volunteer with Campus to City Wesley Foundation, eventually becoming the first intern the organization hired. Olivia ultimately earned her B.S. in Human Services at Florida State College at Jacksonville while working full time at Pace Center for Girls. She completed her capstone internship with the development team at Ronald McDonald House Charities of Jacksonville.
Olivia is currently a member of Association of Fundraising Professionals, the Jacksonville Young Professionals Delegation and serves on the board of directors for the Friends of PFSOTA Foundation, where she supports fundraising efforts to benefit the arts programs at Pine Forest Elementary School.
Olivia is married to her husband, David, and is lucky enough to be called “mama” by her two wonderful children, Ryan and Eliza. During her downtime, you can find Olivia hunting for shark teeth at the beach, reading a book while sipping on coffee from Southern Grounds or exploring the local taco and margarita scene of Jacksonville. As both a proud alumnus of Duval County Public Schools and a parent of a current Duval County Public School student, Olivia is honored to be able to be part of the important work JPEF is leading to improve outcomes for all students in Duval County.
Leofric serves as the Data & Policy Manager for JPEF. Though born in Richmond, Virginia, Leofric Thomas, Jr., has only known Jacksonville, FL as his parents returned to Jacksonville when he was two years old. A graduate of Samuel W. Wolfson High School, Leofric attended Bethune-Cookman University where the motto “Enter to Learn, Depart to Serve," which was posted over every door at the institution, sparked his attitude to serve his community.
Leofric began his professional career as an intern with JCPenney as a leadership intern through the INROADS organization. After graduating Leofric was hired by the Federal Bureau of Investigation, but turned down the opportunity after a divine dream led him to stay in Jacksonville and work with students in the community. Under his grassroots nonprofit, The Straight & Narrow Project, Leofric mentored over 5,000 students, developed numerous community action programs, and sponsored scholarships for numerous students within the program. Continuing his work in public service, Leofric most recently served as a Director for Former U.S. Congressman Al Lawson who served Florida’s 5th Congressional District, which was reassigned due to redistricting.
An ally for those in his community, Leofric is a "Positively Jax" honoree by News4Jax and an "Unsung Hero" honoree for his efforts to continue community efforts during the COVID-19 Global Pandemic. With great honor, Leofric is a 2017 Bethune-Cookman University 40 under 40 inductee while also receiving the Community Leader Award from the Duval-Nassau Chapter of Bethune-Cookman University. Leofric is also a member of Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity.
While he enjoys what he does for the community, his greatest joy is creating memories with his friends and family. He and his wife Maleah, share a beautiful daughter, Mehlanie Janae.
Toyna serves as the Operations Associate and Executive Assistant for JPEF. She was born and raised in Jacksonville Florida but also resided in Tampa, Florida, and Augusta, Georgia, for a short period after graduating from the illustrious Andrew Jackson High School.
Toyna has close to seventeen years of experience in the nonprofit sector. She formerly worked at the Northeast Florida Public Employees, where she was the Office Manager and Executive Assistant. During her tenure there she helped assist her colleagues and members in an administrative role. By doing so, the members working conditions were improved which brought about better conditions for the workers in ways that promoted individual, family, and community well-being. She has also worked at the Duval County Public Schools for several years where she worked in an administrative and supportive role. Her passion is to serve others and to positively contribute to society in a way that helps make the world a better place.
Toyna is very active in her community; throughout the year she helps prepare and give care packages to battered women and their children. Annually, she gives to several families during the Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays by preparing and giving food baskets and other essentials that are needed. She is a member of the Nonprofit Center of Northeast Florida and a member of the National Notary Association.
Toyna is married to her loving husband, Victor, and is a proud mother of four beautiful children. In her free time, she enjoys spending time with her family, entertaining friends, and traveling. Soon, she plans to pursue an Associate in Arts Degree. Toyna is pleased to use her administrative and managerial skills to help JPEF fulfill its mission, which will help make a brighter & fulfilling educational system here in our city and abroad.
Jacob Duff serves as a communications associate for JPEF. With his skills in graphic design, digital media, and communications, he hopes to highlight relevant stories and uplift voices in the field of education in Duval County. He was born and raised in Jacksonville, FL.
Prior to this position, Jacob served an internship on the communications and social team at Dalton Agency where he contributed to a highly creative team of designers. Jacob has also worked as a contributing photographer in student papers such as the UNF Spinnaker and FSCJ Campus Voice. On the evenings and weekends, Jacob works in the restaurant industry.
Jacob holds a bachelor’s degree in Digital Media from FSCJ and has contributed to the production of two feature length films. He currently lives in Avondale with his dog, Sam, and enjoys riding his bike and listening to his favorite indie folk artists.
Taj Johnson is a Miami, Florida native who moved to Jacksonville, Florida to pursue his education. Taj is a proud graduate of the University of North Florida, 2020, and Edward Waters University, 2022, Political Science and Master of Business Administration, respectively and is currently attending Liberty University where he is obtaining his PHD in Business Administration. Taj has previously worked at the University of North Florida, Metropolitan Aviation Authority, the Florida House of Representatives, and with the City of Jacksonville’s Kids Hope Alliance where he was involved with Research and Grants. Taj is a proud member of Kappa Alpha Psi Fraternity INC. where he serves on the foundation board. In his spare time, he bartends at local restaurants, creates custom rugs, volunteers with youth, and works on political campaigns through his consulting company Tylan King Strategies LLC.
Dr. Connor Oswald is a part-time Associate of Data and Research for JPEF. In addition, he serves as the Senior Research Administrator at Orange County Public Schools. He previously served as an Associate of Strategy and Innovation at the Texas Education Agency. He began his career as a secondary science teacher first at William M. Raines High School and later as a QEA Funded Jacksonville Teacher Residency fellow at Andrew Jackson Senior High School. Connor earned his Ph.D. in Education Policy and Evaluation from Florida State University; he also has an Masters of Arts degree in Teaching Secondary Science from the University of North Florida and a Bachelor of Science degree in Physics and Astrophysics from Florida State University.
DID YOU KNOW?
of public schools in Duval County earned an "A," "B," or "C" in 2021-2022.