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Mayor Bibb announces appointments to Cleveland Board of Education..... By, Ohio's Black digital news leader

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Tuesday, June 27, 2023 – Cleveland – Mayor Justin M. Bibb (pictured), Cleveland's fourth Black mayor, announced Tuesday two new appointments and three reappointment's to the  Board of Education for the Cleveland Metropolitan School District (CMSD), the city's largely Black public school district that changed its name and was once a party to the now defunct and longstanding schools desegregation case titled Reed v Rhodes.

Sara Elaqad, Leah D. Hudnall, and Denise Link were reappointed while Robert Briggs and Diana Welch Howell are new appointees.  All five will begin terms that start next week and are set to expire in 2027, the mayor said in a press release on Tuesday.  Current board members Louise Dempsey and Kathleen Valdez will conclude their terms of service next week.  As part of the transition, Bibb, 36,  also announced that Elaqad will serve as chair and Hudnall will serve as vice chair for the Board, succeeding Chair Anne Bingham and Vice Chair Robert Heard, both of whom will continue serving as board members.

"I would like to thank Louise and Kathleen for their service, and both Anne and Robert for the time they dedicated in their leadership roles," said Mayor Bibb.  "You all have done great work and laid the foundation for success for generations to come."

Per state law, the city's mayor controls the city's public schools and chooses board members.

The CMSD Board of Education serves as the nine-member governing body of the school district and is tasked with setting policy, approving the district's budget,  hiring and firing employees, establishing goals and accountability standards, promoting parent, family and community involvement, and appointing the CEO with the Mayor's concurrence.  All board members serve four-year terms who makes the final appointment after candidates go before selective panels.

DR Warren Morgan, who is Black, was selected in May as the schools CEO, warren replacing outgoing CEO Dr. Eric Gordon.


" I'm confident that this Board's unique experience, skill set and capabilities will benefit our students and our community." said Warren.

About the Board Appointees:

Attorney Robert Briggs, currently Partner & Chairman Emeritus at Buckingham Law firm, has been significantly involved with various nonprofits, civic institutions, and educational organizations throughout his career.  He has served as counsel for multiple businesses and foundations and has held multiple leadership positions both locally and nationally.  He co-founded the Fund For Our Economic Future in 2004, served as President of the GAR Foundation from 1996 to 2011, chaired the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation from 2010 to 2014, and served as Executive Director of the Northeast Ohio Council on Higher Education from 2014 to 2016.  His contributions have earned him several awards and recognitions, including Team NEO's 1st Annual H. Peter Burg Regional Vision Award in 2005, the Harold K. Stubbs Humanitarian Award in 2010, and an Ohio Philanthropy Award and Crain's Cleveland Business Difference Maker in 2011.

Briggs served in the United States Air Force as a staff judge advocate and currently resides in Bratenahl.  His appointment maintains compliance with state statute requiring that at least one member of the Board lives in the CMSD footprint outside the City of Cleveland.  He is admitted to the Ohio Bar, New York Bar, U.S. District Court – Northern District of Ohio, and the U.S. Tax Court.  He holds a Bachelor of Arts degree from Duke University and a J.D. from The Ohio State University School of Law.  He is also a licensed realtor in Ohio and Michigan.

Sara Elaqad has served as Executive Director the last five years for Minds Matter Cleveland – the local chapter of the national nonprofit organization aimed at connecting highly motivated, low-income high school students with the resources, tools, and people to succeed in college.  The organization provides mentoring services, writing classes, test preparation, application assistance, financial aid advisement, and summer immersion programs, and boasts a 100% college acceptance rate.  She also served three years as Chair for the organization's National Chapter Leadership Council.  Prior to her role at Minds Matter, she served as Academy Manager of Curriculum and Outcomes for Boys Hope Girls Hope of Northeast Ohio, and has also been a mentor in Global Cleveland's Global Rising Program and served on the board of Cleveland Orchestra's Circle.  Elaqad's work earned her the YWCA Greater Cleveland Distinguished Young Woman Award in 2019.  She has also been recognized in Crain's 40 Under 40 class in 2019 and as a Notable Immigrant Leader in 2020.

Elaqad is a Cleveland resident and currently lives in the Detroit-Shoreway neighborhood.  She holds two Bachelors of Arts degrees from The Ohio State University – one in French and another in International Relations and Diplomacy – and a J.D. from Case Western Reserve University's School of Law.

Diana Welch Howell, currently Head of Hospitals Expansion for KeyBank's Laurel Road brand, has over a decade of corporate banking experience focused on business management, corporate strategy and development, and financial analysis.  She has worked for Fifth Third Bank in Cincinnati, JPMorgan Chase Bank in Chicago, and KeyBank where she has developed models and advised on financial forecasting and planning processes, strategic investments and growth opportunities, merger and acquisitions, process improvements, and metrics tracking and reporting.  She started at KeyBank in July 2014 and served in numerous roles with progressive responsibility before being promoted to Senior Vice President, Chief Financial Officer for Enterprise Digital and Laurel Road.  Now, as Head of Hospitals Expansion, she manages partner relationships with large hospital systems for Key Bank's Laurel Road brand – a financial well being solutions platform that has helped thousands of professionals refinance more than $9 billion in school loans.

Welch-Howell, a downtown Cleveland resident, has served as a mentor for CollegeNow and Girl Scouts and has volunteered on the Young Professionals Board for United Way of Metro Chicago.  She holds a Bachelor's degree in Business Administration in Finance from the University of Cincinnati.

Leah D. Hudnall, currently an Assistant Professor of Practice at Cleveland State University's College of Urban Affairs, has held various leadership roles across the public, nonprofit, and private sectors.  She currently serves on the board for Cleveland VOTES and Birthing Beautiful Communities.  She began her career at the KeyBank Foundation and has since held positions at the Cuyahoga County Prosecutor's Office, the George Gund Foundation, and the Saint Luke's Foundation.  She offers a broad range of professional and lived experience, which she's leveraged in her grantmaking, civic consulting, and community engagement work.  In 2020, she founded The Legacy Perspective, a civic consulting firm that offers communications and community engagement services to local and national organizations.

Hudnall, a city of Cleveland native and resident, is a third generation CMSD alumnus, graduating from the Cleveland School of the Arts.  She lives on Cleveland's southeast side with her husband and two young children – one of whom is a rising first grader in the school district.  She holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in Communication and Culture from Howard University and a Master of Arts degree in nonprofit administration from John Carroll University.

Denise Link has worked for PNC Bank for over 35 years and is currently a Vice President of Retail Network Planning for multiple states in the Southwest market.  She has extensive banking, financial and business management experience and has volunteered through numerous roles dedicated to advancing education in the Cleveland community.  She has been a mentor for both College Now and the True2U program, was a founding member of the Cleveland Transformation Alliance, served as treasurer of the board for Children First of Cleveland, was a Commissioner for the Bond Accountability Commission, and has volunteered with PNC's Grow Up Great program since 2009.  Her commitment to urban education earned her the Richard R. Greene Award in 2013 – a prominent achievement from the Council of the Great City Schools that recognizes exceptional contributions to urban students and schools.

Link, a longtime Cleveland resident who currently lives in Ohio City with her husband, has two children – both of whom attended CMSD schools.  She holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in Economics and Psychology from the University of Michigan and an MBA in Organizational Behavior from Case Western Reserve University's Weatherhead School of Management. and, the most read Black digital newspaper and Black blog in Ohio and in the Midwest. Tel: (216) 659-0473. Email: We interviewed former president Barack Obama one-on-one when he was campaigning for president. As to the Obama interview, CLICK HERE TO READ THE ENTIRE ARTICLE AT CLEVELAND URBAN NEWS.COM, OHIO'S LEADER IN BLACK DIGITAL NEWS.

Last Updated on Wednesday, 28 June 2023 15:00

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