The Venture Board
Venture Academy holds open Board Meetings every month. These meetings can (and should!) be attended and observed by the public, in accordance with the Minnesota Open Meeting Law.
Board of Directors
Eric Herron, Board Chair
Herron currently works in International Finance at 3M providing financial counsel to 3M subsidiaries worldwide. Prior to 3M, he held several finance roles at Target Corporation driving strategic initiatives for international expansion, technology investment, e-commerce, and supply chain optimization. Herron has also worked as a business development analyst for Siemens in Paderborn, Germany, and designed distribution centers for Fortune 500 companies while based in Chicago. A resident of south Minneapolis, he serves on the board of the Southern Theater and is on the steering committee of the Minneapolis Chamber of Commerce Leadership Twin Cities program.
Betsy Ohrn, Board Secretary
Ohrn is the Director of the Office of New Schools at Minneapolis Public Schools. She has served as a Program Manager with the Research and Evaluation Department at MPS and as a 4th grade reading teacher at Hiawatha Academies. Ohrn began her education career teaching at YES Prep Gulfton in Houston, part of the nationally renowned middle-high charter network. She was previously a teacher for Hiawatha Leadership Academy in south Minneapolis.
Brian Peterson, Board Treasurer
Peterson is currently on the consulting team supporting schools and nonprofit organizations at Clifton Larson Allen in Minneapolis. He previously left his position as an IT project manager for UnitedHealth Group to launch a new social entrepreneurship venture. As a University of Minnesota freshman in 2003, Peterson co-founded and for nearly a decade served as co-executive director of Students Today Leaders Forever, now a national service and leadership development agency serving more than 4,000 students annually from 13 states. Under Peterson’s co-leadership, STLF won the Minnesota Social Entrepreneur’s Cup.
Carter is the Chief Academic Officer at Summit Public Schools. Carter began his career in education as a high school English teacher in the Mountain View – Los Altos school district, where he won the CAAE’s Outstanding New Teacher Award. He became the founding English teacher at Summit Preparatory Charter School, then worked in international schools in Indonesia and Argentina, and founded and directed the Innovative Schools Programme through Yayasan Emmanuel, an NGO working in the greater Jakarta area. Carter returned to Summit in 2011 as the Director of Professional Development. In his current role, he leads Summit’s Academics Team, which works tirelessly to build and document a technology-enriched competency-based curriculum, and to professionally develop Summit’s world-class faculty. Adam holds a B.A. from Presbyterian College and an M.A. from Stanford University.
Robbins is an attorney at the Minneapolis firm of Messerli & Kramer and coordinator of the AngelPolleNation network, with an extensive background in entrepreneurship and angel early stage investment in Twin Cities start-up firms.
Swanson-Choi is executive director at Novations Education Opportunities (NEO), one of Minnesota’s leading authorizers of public charter schools. For six years, she was the instructional leader of the school (TiZA) with the nation’s highest 2009 NWEA-MAP growth. A licensed English Language Learning and English Language Arts teacher, Swanson-Choi most recently served as school improvement specialist for the Turnaround office of Minneapolis Public Schools and an instructional leadership coach to urban charter schools. She also served as executive director of Nova Classical Academy and as a member of Nova’s board of directors.
Vollrath is Venture’s lead reading teacher. She previously taught 6th through 8th grade reading at Minneapolis Academy charter school, where she helped the school achieve some of the highest growth levels in Minnesota and served as Board Secretary.
Franz is a Lead Social Studies Teacher at Venture Academy. Franz began teaching in Washington State after working in the legal field. She has extensive overseas experience from her time teaching middle and high school in the Kingdom of Bahrain and Naples, Italy. Franz brings a unique background to Venture including victim advocacy work for local government, corporate training, personal finance instruction and counseling for Department of the Navy. A resident of St. Paul, Franz owns and manages residential and agricultural property in Minnesota and Washington. She holds a B.A. in Political Science from Carleton College.
Lorena Silva Martinez
Davis is a Vice President at Optum Clinic (UnitedHealth Group) where he is responsible for clinic development, and the oversight of business development activities. Jason is a strategic business leader with more than 15 years of leadership experience across several industries, including retail, financial services, healthcare, and functional expertise in real estate, strategy, finance and operations. Jason has held leadership roles at Target Corporation, Woodside Group, and Merrill Lynch. In addition to Venture Academy, Jason currently serves on the board of the Project for Pride in Living. Jason previously served on the board of Main Street School of the Performing Arts in Hopkins, MN, as Treasurer, from 2009 through June of 2015. Jason graduated cum laude from Harvard College with a degree in Economics, and holds a master’s degree in business administration from Harvard Business School.
Founding Board Members Emeriti
Verne Johnson, Co-Founder
In 1952, Johnson became the youngest elected state representative (representing the city of Minneapolis) in the Legislature, beginning a distinguished career that included long stints as executive director of the Citizens League (1958-67) and as vice-president for planning at General Mills (1967-82). An early supporter and volunteer for the Black Alliance for Education Options (BAEO), Twin Cities Rise and Youth Frontiers, Johnson was the founding chair of the Civic Caucus, a nonpartisan Minnesota policy discussion and innovation group. Verne Johnson died on November 2, 2012.
Herron (Chair), Ohrn, Peterson
Human Resources Committee
Carter (Chair), Franz
Peterson (Chair), Herron, Robbins
Davis (Chair), Peterson
High School Development Committee
Franz (Chair), Swanson-Choi, Silva Martinez
Robbins (Chair), Herron