Senior Management Team

  • Lars Beck
    Chief Executive Officer
    Lars Beck is the Founder and Chief Executive Officer of Scholar Academies. From 2005-2010, Lars served as the Chief Executive Officer of Scholar Academies' flagship school, Young Scholars Charter School. During this time, he directed the efforts that turned Young Scholars from a struggling academic program into Philadelphia’s highest performing charter middle school for five years running. Prior to his work in education, Lars spent more than 10 years working in the publishing, brand marketing and sports marketing industries. Lars also founded the Boulder, Colorado chapter of Stand Up For Kids, a national non-profit that supports homeless youth, and currently serves on the boards of the Philadelphia Outward Bound School and Philadelphia Charters for Excellence. A graduate of Duke University, Lars and his wife, Kathryn, live in the Philadelphia area with their three children, Colin, Bjorn and Christian.
  • Jana Wilcox
    Chief Program Officer and Interim Executive Director, Memphis
    Jana Wilcox serves as the Interim Executive Director for the Memphis region where she oversees Scholar Academies’ strategic plan in Memphis; additionally, Jana serves as the Chief Program Officer managing a team to codify program and build resources for schools to use to drive student achievement. Jana first moved to Philadelphia to work for a social enterprise firm where she managed a portfolio of non-profit programs supporting fundraising, program execution and organizational development. Jana’s previous work includes the start-up of a consulting firm in Washington, DC designed to improve the connection between higher education and the enterprise sector in support of various workforce development initiatives. Outside of her work life, Jana is a volunteer for local and national animal welfare organizations as well for her high school Alma Mater, The Hotchkiss School. Jana is a graduate of Tulane University (B.A.) and Emerson College (M.A.).
  • Justin Wheeler
    Chief Financial Officer
    As Chief Financial Officer for Scholar Academies and Deputy Director for the Philadelphia-Trenton Region, Justin oversees finance and accounting for the Scholar Academies network and manages operations for our schools in Philadelphia and Trenton. Prior to joining Scholar Academies, Justin worked as a lead consultant for Charter Choices, a firm providing business and financial services to more than 25 schools in Pennsylvania. He had previously served as the Managing Director of Finance for KIPP Philadelphia Schools. Justin received an undergraduate degree from Yale University and a Masters in Public Policy from Duke University, focusing his graduate studies on school finance and education reform. When not in spreadsheets, Justin runs, rows, or rock-climbs, usually with one or more of his four kids.
  • Carlie Fisherow
    Executive Director, DC Region
    Caroline Fisherow joined the Scholar Academies team in 2010 as Principal of DC Scholars Stanton Elementary. Under Carlie’s leadership and in collaboration with DC Public Schools, Stanton’s academic achievement and school culture dramatically improved. In 2012, Carlie received a Rubenstein Award for Highly Effective Leadership and Teaching as a result of her contributions to long term academic plans, assessments and the launching of family and community engagement plans at Stanton. Carlie began her education career as a middle school teacher in the DC public schools before becoming a founding teacher at KIPP AIM Academy. She then went on to serve as the founding principal for Excel Academy, DC’s first public charter school for girls. Carlie has seen firsthand what a committed team of parents, faculty, staff, and leaders can do for a school community. Carlie holds a BA from Georgetown University and a master’s degree in teaching from American University.
  • John Amenda
    Executive Director, Philadelphia/NJ Region
    As Executive Director of the Philadelphia-Trenton Region, John leads the regional team and directly manages the three School Directors in Philadelphia and Trenton. In this capacity, John works to ensure that all regional efforts directly support our schools and drive ambitious results for all of the scholars and families we serve. Prior to becoming ED, John served as Principal of Young Scholars Charter School from 2008-2013. Under his leadership, YSCS became the city’s highest performing charter middle school for five straight years and the highest performing high poverty campus in Pennsylvania. John recently returned to Scholar Academies after working as Vice President of Leadership Development with Achievement First. While at AF, John supported the organization's largest leader training efforts and assisted the organization with revising their leadership competency framework. John has also served as a Teach for America corps member in West Philadelphia, supported The New Teacher Project in Washington, DC with teacher recruitment and selection efforts, worked with Philadelphia Teaching Fellows on teacher selection and coaching, and was a Program Director with TFA-New York supporting secondary Math and Science teachers in the South Bronx. John holds a B.A. from George Washington University, where he graduated Phi Beta Kappa, Summa Cum Laude, and a M.S.Ed. in Urban Education from the University of Pennsylvania, where he graduated with Distinguished Honors. When not working in support of our schools, John enjoys tackling improvement projects at home, running marathons, enjoying the great city of Philadelphia and spending time outdoors.

School Directors

  • Rebecca Crouch
    DC Scholars Public Charter School
    Rebecca Crouch, DC Scholars Public Charter School’s Founding Principal, has a demonstrated track record of success working with urban students and families. With over 6 years of teaching experience, Rebecca is eager to make an impact in the DC area. Prior to working at DC Scholars Public Charter School, Rebecca was the Resident Principal at DC Preparatory Charter School. As an instructional leader, Rebecca enables her teachers to “plan lessons that empower students to be co-creators of the information they learn.” Rebecca consistently works to build relationships with her students’ parents as well as her school’s community. She has worked as middle and high school Mathematics teacher in both traditional district and charter schools in Maryland, Illinois and DC. Rebecca earned her B.S. degree in Mathematics from Howard University in 2005, and her M.S. in Mathematics Education from Illinois Institute of Technology in 2009.
  • Shakira Smith
    Young Scholars Kenderton Charter School
    Shakira Smith joined the Young Scholars Charter School team in fall 2005 and became School Director at Young Scholars Kenderton Charter School in May 2015. Shakira began her career at Young Scholars teaching 7th grade Reading and Language Arts. She also founded Project G.R.E.E.K. (Geared and Ready to Educate and Enhance our Kids) at Young Scholars Charter School in 2005, a popular afterschool program including a partnership with Temple University’s National Pan-Hellenic Council. Shakira became the Director of Culture at YSCS in 2010 and then served as interim co-principal there in 2013-2014. In the fall of 2014, Ms. Smith became the Chief of Staff at Young Scholars Charter School, where she continued lead the school culture and operations teams. Shakira’s goal is to utilize her decade of experience at YSCS to turn YSK into one of the highest performing schools in the city. Shakira is a graduate of Temple University’s College of Liberal Arts, where she earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in English and Philosophy. She also earned a Master of Education degree from Temple’s College of Education.
  • Megan Lane Lepore
    Paul Robeson Charter School
    Megan Lane Lepore is the School Director at Paul Robeson Charter School in Trenton, New Jersey. Megan previously served as the school’s founding Chief of Staff and was the founding Saturday School Principal at Young Scholars Frederick Douglass in Philadelphia, PA. She also wrote reading curriculum and developed reading assessments to increase rigor and align the curriculum across grade levels. Megan has also coached reading and language arts teachers in their approach to lesson planning and execution. She taught for five years in both middle school and high school settings and was acknowledged for continuously meeting school wide goals in reading and writing. Megan earned her bachelor’s degree from Western Michigan University in French, English and Secondary Education, and completed her master’s degree in Educational Leadership at the University of Pennsylvania.
  • Rena Johnson
    DC Scholars Stanton Elementary
    Rena Johnson is the Principal of DC Scholars Stanton Elementary, DC Public Schools’ first elementary school turnaround partnership. Rena joined the school’s leadership team in 2011 as the Chief of Staff, managing the school’s family engagement strategy, and has a history of success working DC Scholars Stanton students and their families. As Chief of Staff, Rena led home visits (over 450 teacher visits to students’ homes were conducted), spearheaded Academic Parent Teacher Team workshops, and managed the school’s Culture and Operations & Facilities teams. Rena began her education career as an elementary school teacher in Atlanta, GA before joining Teach For America’s DC Regional Team, where she managed placement strategy and the new corps member transition experience. After working with TFA, Rena became a resident principal with New Leaders for New Schools, where she led the implementation of Achievement Network assessments and founded a New Teacher Program for 1st year teachers. Rena holds a BA from the University of Virginia and a master’s degree in Education Policy and Management from Harvard University.
  • Thomas McPherson
    Memphis Scholars Florida-Kansas
    Thomas is the founding School Director at Memphis Scholars Florida-Kansas and a career educator. He began his work in education reform as a Teach For America corps member in Brooklyn, New York, and aided in the founding of two charter schools in New Orleans, Louisiana. After transitioning out of the classroom, Thomas served as the Academic Director at Success Preparatory Academy in the Treme neighborhood of New Orleans. With his guidance, Success Prep was recognized as a “Top Gains” school by the state of Louisiana for its growth on state tests. Thomas initially moved to Memphis as an Accelerate Institute Ryan Fellow. In this role, Thomas helped to launch Whitney Achievement Elementary School, a K-5th grade turnaround school in the Frayser neighborhood. Thomas was born in Windsor, Ontario and received his undergraduate degree in History from Michigan State University, and Master of Education degree from Pace University. Aside from his passion for education reform, Thomas is an avid runner, golfer and cook.
  • Jessika Rao McLaughlin
    Young Scholars Charter School
    Jessika Rao McLaughlin is the School Director at Young Scholars Charter School, Scholar Academies’ first campus. Jessika started working at Young Scholars in 2010 as the Director of Curriculum & Instruction. In that role, she worked with the school’s Reading & English Language Arts team, and managed the assessment process and curriculum implementation. Prior to joining YSCS, Jessika worked as a Dean at Foundation Academy and as a Program Director for Teach For America, supporting secondary teachers. Jessika graduated from Loyola College in Baltimore and is originally from New York. She lives in Philadelphia with her husband and two children.