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Michigan Public Education Finance Project

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Tom Shields

Donna Halinski

Marketing Resource Group

Peter B. Ruddell
Wiener Associates

Peter Ruddell is widely respected among Capitol circles for his expertise in health, insurance and budget issues, and was voted one of Lansing’s top lobbyists by poll of Capitol Insiders conducted by MIRS News. Among his many legislative accomplishments, Peter received accolades from numerous organizations for his work passing the Dr. Ron Davis Smokefree Air Law – making all Michigan’s restaurants, bars and worksites smokefree. He received both an undergraduate and law degree from Michigan State University. Peter joined the firm of Wiener Associates in 2001 after working for a variety of legislators and political campaigns, most notably as an aide to the Senate Majority Leader and campaign manager to three Supreme Court Justices. Peter and his wife, Caroline, were married in 2004 and reside in East Lansing, Michigan with their daughters, Elisabeth and Nora.

Mary Kay Shields
The Center for Charter Schools, Central Michigan University

As the Chief Deputy Director of The Governor John Engler Center for Charter Schools (Center) at Central Michigan University, Mary Kay Shields provides key leadership to one of the premier authorizers of charter public schools in the nation.

Driven by a passionate belief that all children deserve a quality education, Mary Kay began her career as a special education teacher. From the classroom, she worked on school finance and policy reform through her service with the House Fiscal then Senate Fiscal Agencies in the Michigan Legislature. During that time, she was instrumental in the passage of the seminal School Improvement Act (P.A. 25 of 1990) as well as several school finance reform ballot proposals. From there, she was recruited by Michigan Governor John Engler to serve as his Special Advisor for Charter Schools Development, where she propelled Michigan’s charter schools movement forward by establishing the infrastructure necessary to support its growth. In 1999, Mary Kay joined CMU, where she worked with The Center for Charter Schools and also served as Special Advisor to the President for Capitol Relations.

Mary Kay’s influence can be seen at state and national levels. In 2001, she left CMU to serve as the founding President and Chief Executive Officer of the National Charter Schools Institute. One of many accomplishments during her tenure at the Institute included obtaining a $1 million Congressional designation to support the development and performance needs of charter schools. Mary Kay also served as the founding Executive Director of the Michigan Public Educational Facilities Authority, where she successfully helped charter schools gain access to facility financing funds, resulting in nearly $5 million in credit enhancement dollars used to establish a revolving loan fund for charter schools’ long-term borrowing needs.

In her quest to advocate for those children in greatest need of educational options, Mary Kay assumed the position of Senior Vice President/Chief Program Officer for White Hat Management – Michigan. In this role, she helped establish and oversee the operations of five alternative urban charter high schools serving primarily homeless teenage dropouts and developed partnerships with community service organizations. In 2007, Mary Kay returned to CMU to lead the Centers’ strategic partnerships, school operations and performance data efforts. Under her leadership, CMU has developed tools and practices for effectively chartering, supporting, overseeing and evaluating schools. Mary Kay has played a key role in broadening the University’s capacity to influence educational practice and advance quality charter public schools, impacting the educational opportunities for nearly 30,000 students in Michigan. Of the nearly 60 schools the Center authorizes, the students outperform where the students came from in ALL of the 18 MEAP/MME state tests.