Patricia A. Brantley
Chief Executive Officer
Patricia A. Brantley is an education reformer, charter school advocate and supporter of the right of all children to receive a high-quality education. Two decades ago, she served with the founding planners of Friendship Public Charter School to create better opportunities for D.C.’s children.
In 2003, Patricia became Friendship’s chief operating officer. In that role, she engineered the acquisition and development of six public charter school campuses in Washington, D.C., four partner schools in Baltimore, Md., and a new charter school in Baton Rouge, La.
Patricia oversees all operations at Friendship, has secured more $95 million in public and private funding, effected cohesion among the 12 campuses, and established the Friendship Teaching Institute as a model of professional development. She spearheaded the takeover of Washington’s first multicampus charter management group, ensuring that hundreds of children could remain in their school of choice.
Previously, Patricia served in corporate and nonprofit positions including founder of the Partnership for Academic Achievement; chief development officer and adviser at the National Council of Negro Women; executive director of the Dance Institute of Washington; and national marketing manager for the Black Family Reunion Celebration. She is a board member of the D.C. Association of Chartered Public Schools and a graduate of Princeton University.
Chief of Staff
Ken Cherry joins Friendship Public Charter School as chief of staff with 27 years of experience working with students at all learning levels in rural, suburban and urban environments.
During his 17 years in leadership roles, Ken served as an assistant principal, principal and central office executive director in the Baltimore City Public Schools; assistant superintendent in the School District of Philadelphia; and superintendent of the Dover Area School District. He also served as vice president of educational services for EdisonLearning in Philadelphia.
In his 10 years in the classroom, he has been a fifth-grade teacher, a middle school ELA/social studies teacher and a high school alternative education teacher. Ken holds a Bachelor of Science in elementary education from Slippery Rock University and a Master of Science in administration and supervision of schools from Johns Hopkins. He received his Superintendent’s Letter of Eligibility from Edinboro University of Pennsylvania.
Chief Communications Officer
Candice Burns has led marketing strategies for nonprofit groups, political campaigns and corporations over a career spanning nearly 20 years. Before Friendship, Candice was a principal with the GROUP public policy firm, where she counseled a range of clients based locally to internationally. A former Obama administration appointee, she served as a communications director for the U.S. Department of Transportation’s third-largest agency, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration. In that role she led public affairs on regulatory issues such as drivers’ hours of service and drivers’ medical requirements, issues affecting at least 7 million commercial drivers and more than half a million motor coach and trucking companies.
As part of the 2008 Obama for America campaign, Candice was a spokesperson and chief media liaison to the African-American community during the presidential primary. On Capitol Hill, she has held a number of roles, including communications director for the Congressional Black Caucus and U.S. Rep. John Lewis, D-Ga., as well as positions with the CNN Washington Bureau. A graduate of Georgia State University, Candice is a sci-fi buff who enjoys traveling with her husband and two young sons.
Deputy Chief Academic Officer
Mary Torian-Dunnock is a change agent for helping educators improve instructional quality and raise achievement standards. As a teacher early on, Mary developed practices modeled by other educators and school leaders.
She has led several schools to National Blue Ribbon recognition, including Friendship Woodridge International, whose accomplishments earned a visit from President George W. Bush and Education Secretary Margaret Spellings.
Mary improved performance and culture as principal of several Pennsylvania schools, and she received statewide recognition in Maryland as an outstanding principal and principals coach. Committed to reversing negative trajectories, as a senior vice president of Edison Learning, Mary led efforts averting “state takeover” status for schools across three states.
Mary currently develops Friendship’s principals and academy directors, coaching empowerment strategies for meeting school performance goals. She also played a major role in Friendship’s expansion campuses in science, engineering and technology. She has served on the D.C. Public Charter School Board.
Mary earned a Bachelor of Arts at Morgan State University and a Master of Science at Coppin State University. She studied at Cheney University and is a doctoral candidate in educational leadership at the University of Maryland Eastern Shore. Mary is a dedicated wife and mother who enjoys opening her home to family and friends.
Chief People Officer
Dylan Gruver serves as the chief people officer for Friendship Public Charter School. He has a passion and laser focus for attracting, hiring, developing, and retaining an exceptional and diverse team of professionals. Prior to returning to Friendship, he led the Talent Team at KIPP SoCal Public Schools in Los Angeles as the network grew to 20 schools throughout southern California. Dylan began working with Friendship in 2012, where he served as director of Human Resources and then deputy chief of Talent. He began his career in educational equity and civil rights as a middle school math and science teacher in New York City with Teach For America. A graduate of the University of Washington, Dylan received his Masters of Education at Lehman College in the Bronx, and holds a Masters Certificate in Human Resources Management from Cornell University.
Chief Performance Officer
Zac Morford has spent the past 20 years assisting local governments and school districts from Serbia to Washington, D.C., in using data to improve the outcomes of citizens and students.
Since 2007, Zac has helped D.C. teachers, school administrators and school-district executives monitor and improve the performance of their teams. This work has resulted in more effective interventions and supports for students, more targeted teacher retention strategies and more influential investments in educational programs.
In his current role, Zac is responsible for the the assessment of students and the analysis and reporting of student performance data. Prior to joining Friendship, Zac spent four years working as the SchoolStat director for D.C. Public Schools. He tailored this local government practice to the education sector by creating performance dashboards for central office departments and by facilitating weekly performance meetings between department chiefs and the DCPS chancellor.
Zac is an avid runner who loves to travel and play games with his wife and two daughters.
Chief Academic Officer
Vielka Scott-Marcus is committed to ensuring that students with special needs receive equal access in the least restrictive environment.
After 10 years as a speech language pathologist in schools, incarceration facilities and long-term care centers, Vielka transitioned to education and executed various leadership roles with D.C. Public Schools, ranging from director of related services to chief of staff in the Office of Specialized Instruction. During her tenure, Vielka was charged with seeing that every school was equipped with necessary personnel and intervention programming to ensure compliance and instruction quality in accordance with the Individuals with Disabilities Education Improvement Act.
Vielka’s desire to more directly affect student achievement led her to the role of principal at Payne Elementary. There, she collaborated with Gallaudet University to develop the district’s only multigrade class taught wholly through American Sign Language. Currently, she refines and develops Friendship’s curriculum.
Vielka earned a bachelor’s degree in communication sciences and disorders at Alabama A&M University, a master’s degree in speech-language pathology with a concentration in special education at Long Island University-Brooklyn, and an executive master’s degree in leadership at Georgetown University. She lives in Maryland with her husband and younger son.
Chief of Schools
James F. Waller joined Friendship Public Charter School in 2008. As chief of schools, James leads the school operation functions, including student information, health services, food services, community and corporate engagement, and facilities and building operations. He previously served as deputy chief academic officer for Friendship, overseeing school budgets, special education and student support services.
James has worked for more than 20 years in various leadership roles supporting child and youth development initiatives. Prior to joining Friendship, he served as national executive director for EVERYBODY WINS! USA, a youth mentoring and literacy program. There he provided program oversight and fund development for a network of 15 national affiliates.
James also served as senior vice president for MENTOR/National Mentoring Partnership. In this role he advocated for youth development policy and funding to support youth mentoring at the national and state level. In addition, he served as chief of staff for U.S. Rep. John Lewis, D-Ga. James has served as a mentor for more than 10 years and is the founding president of 100 Black Men of Greater Washington, D.C. He holds a Bachelor of Science in education from the University of Virginia.