Faculty and Staff

Administrative Team

Dr. Steve Fleming, Executive Director

Steve Fleming is the new Executive Director of Gordon Parks Elementary School, and the mission to guide at-risk students toward the realization of their full potential drew him to GPES. Dr. Fleming’s accomplished career includes 25 years as Assistant Superintendent for the Liberty School District, from which he retired in 2009. His high profile in education includes working from 2011-2012 as Charter School Human Resources Consultant with the University of Missouri-Kansas City; previously, Dr. Fleming taught undergraduate and graduate classes as an adjunct professor for regional colleges and universities from 1997 through 2012.

Dr. Fleming received his Ed.D from the University of Missouri-Columbia in educational administration; Specialist certification and Master of Science degree in educational administration from the University of Nebraska-Omaha; and his Bachelor of Science degree from the University of Nebraska-Omaha in Health and Physical Education. Improving test scores, student attendance, and maintaining and raising facility safety and technology standards are all high on his priority list at GPES.

Speaking about his new role with GPES, Dr. Fleming said, “I’ve been blessed to be part of some excellent schools, and I came on board to help Gordon Parks reach the dreams and goals of everyone involved.” He shares his passion for education with his wife, Jennifer, who is executive director of Pathways Academy in Kansas City.

Mr. Joe Palmer, Principal

Joe Palmer is the new principal of Gordon Parks Elementary School. Mr. Palmer is excited about the opportunity to continue to serve children and help them become productive members of society. His recent administrative experience includes 4 years as a principal at Leawood Elementary in Blue Valley, 5 years as a principal in Liberty, and 12 years as a principal in Shawnee Mission. Mr. Palmer received his education specialist degree from Wichita State University, his Master of Science degree from Northeast Missouri State University, and his Bachelor of Science degree from William Jewell College. Providing a positive and safe school environment as well as challenging students academically will be his first priorities at GPES. In speaking about his new role with GPES, he says, “I have worked in some wonderful schools and school districts during my career. I look forward to working with the teachers and school community to make a positive impact on the lives of our students.” Mr. Palmer is married to Kris, has four children, and seven grandchildren. He is an avid reader and a huge Kansas Jayhawk basketball fan.

Jama J. Akers, Grant Writer

Jama Akers is the new Grant Writer for Gordon Parks Elementary, and her belief in the synergy between education and the arts drew her to the school.  Ms. Akers has an accomplished career in creating strategic communications. Recently, she was a public relations consultant for Kauffman Scholars Inc., and developed annual recruiting campaigns, managed media relations, publications, and programming for their weekly radio show.  Previously, she was a consulting writer for the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation; and, a communications consultant for the CCG agency, working on nonprofit initiatives with several organizations, including the Baltimore Community Foundation.  Formerly Ms. Akers was a consultant for the Institute of American Indian Arts in Santa Fe, NM; and she was Director of Public Relations for the Kansas City Art institute for ten years, working with locally and nationally known artists.

Ms. Akers has written many articles on artists and their art for local and national publications. “Learning about art and other cultures helps children in their intellectual and emotional growth,” she said.  Ms. Akers is a graduate of the Kansas City Chamber of Commerce Centurions program; former member of the board for Gordon Parks, and for the Nelson-Atkins Museum Friends of Art. Ms. Akers received her Bachelor of Arts in Philosophy from Colorado College in Colorado Springs, CO.

Ali Bunten, Instructional Coach

Ali Bunten believes a good teacher never stops learning.  She aims to help the teachers of Gordon Parks continue to be learners, and grow in their profession.  By doing this, the teachers can provide the best educational experience to the students of Gordon Parks.

Mrs. Bunten received her Bachelor’s Degree in Elementary Education from Iowa State University, and Masters of Education Degree from Baker University.  Her education career has been filled with wonderful experiences as a third-grade teacher for 10 years, and an Instructional Coach for five years.

Ann Duboc Sweeney, Development Director, Volunteer Coordinator

Ann Sweeney is excited to join the Gordon Parks staff as Development Director after two years of involvement with the GPES community as a volunteer, a mentor and most recently Volunteer Coordinator. With this new position, Ann will utilize her background and experience in education along with that of her involvement in community service. Having an appreciation and understanding of what goes on in the classroom, she will highlight meaningful ways that families, volunteers and donors can further support our students and our mission. As she stated, “I am inspired daily by the faces of the children who fill our hallways. Their smiles and eagerness to learn make it easy for me to reach out to the Kansas City population and facilitate partnerships between the resources our students and faculty need and the talents and generous spirits of those who live in our community."

Mrs. Sweeney graduated from the University of Kansas with a Bachelor of Arts degree in Personnel Administration. She went on to earn her teaching credentials from Avila University and taught middle school English at Pembroke Hill for 13 years. Her knowledge of fundraising and volunteer management came through her experience serving on the Board of Directors of Animal Haven and chairing annual fundraising events. In addition, she has been involved in numerous charitable organizations and understands the incredible value community partners bring to an organization. Outside of Gordon Parks, Ann enjoys traveling with her husband, spending time with her family and laughing with her friends.


Patricia Justice, Administrative Assistant

Patricia Justice was born and raised in Caracas, Venezuela. When she was 11 years old she and her family moved to the United States, hence the beginning of her American adventure.

Mrs. Justice attended Florida State University, later transferring to Liberty University in Virginia where she earned her BS in Psychology and earned several hours towards her Master’s Degree. While living in Virginia, Mrs. Justice decided to take a year off and pursue a unique opportunity: to go live and teach Spanish and English at a Foreign Language High School in Seoul, Korea. The one passion she and her husband have is to travel the world having been to over 50 countries and 46 states!  Mrs. Justice is thrilled to be able to work with and serve the children, families and staff of Gordon Parks Elementary!

Kirsten Lipari-Braman, School Improvement Grant Coordinator

Kirsten Lipari-Braman is the Coordinator of the Federal School Improvement Grant. Previously she served as the Director of Federal Programs for the Kansas City, Missouri School District, assisting with the coordination and implementation of No Child Left Behind (NCLB) compliance mandates as well as the analysis and evaluation of their effectiveness.  Mrs. Braman participated in developing administrative guidelines and policies for federal programs, and implementation of Title I Choice and Supplemental Education Services, working with transportation and service providers, and acting as liaison to parents ensuring federal regulations were followed. Prior to working in Federal Programs at the state and local level, Mrs. Braman was a Reading Specialist serving teachers and students in preschool through 6th grade, including gifted and talented.

Mrs. Braman says, “My viewpoint as School Improvement Grant Coordinator is enhanced by my personal experiences as a private and public school teacher.” She has taught science and mathematics at various grade levels, provided special education direct instruction to seventh and eighth graders in communication arts and math, and was a reading specialist for grades preschool through sixth.  Mrs. Braman received her Bachelors of Science in Elementary Education from Avila University and Masters of Education in Reading from Northwest Missouri State University. She is a certified Reading Specialist and Elementary Teacher for Grades 1-6.

Kindergarten Community

Tamara Allen-Williams, Kindergarten Teacher

Mrs. Tamara Allen-Williams grew up right here in Kansas City, Missouri.  Her love for education began with her start in private education.  One of the 8th grade graduation requirements was to write an autobiography, and she stated then that she was going to be a teacher.  Her 31 years of teaching experience is proof of her non-wavering determination. 

“Active learning is the foundation for student empowerment.  That’s why I am a lifelong learner.”  She enjoys visits from previous students.  “One of the greatest feelings is to teach a student that is the child of a former student.  That’s how I know I made a difference in that student’s life.”

Mrs. Allen-Williams lives in the Kansas City area, has been married for 7 years, and has 2 adult sons.

Dwight Bruening, Paraprofessional

Dwight Bruening has been in education for over 25 years. This is his first year at Gordon Parks Elementary. Mr. Bruening enjoys watching the progress of the children. He has a M.Ed. in Health and P.E. with an emphasis in Adaptive P.E. and Special Education. Mr. Bruening also works part-time as the manager of the Liberty Farmers' Market.



Jennifer Dye, Kindergarten Teacher

Jennifer Dye graduated from Hope International University in sunny southern California with a Bachelor's Degree in Children's Ministry. She has 10 years experience working with and teaching ages birth to 4th grade. She has finished her Master's Degree in Teaching Elementary Education with an emphasis in Curriculum Design.

Ms. Dye has wanted to be a teacher since she was 4 years old. She came home every day to teach her younger brother everything she learned. She aims to leave everyone she meets empowered and present to their own greatness and sees each of her students as a future of extraordinary accomplishment.

Gladys Groves, Kindergarten Teacher

One cannot walk by Gladys Groves' community without a smile sweeping across their face. The energetic Kindergarteners are singing, dancing, and using new language they have just recently discovered!

Mrs. Groves grew up in Edwardsville, Kansas, and developed a love for reading very early in life. When asked about her college experience Mrs. Groves replies, "Yes, I am a Rock, Chalk, Jayhawker!"  As a child, her favorite thing to do was play school, an activity that set the stage for her goal of becoming a teacher. Mrs. Groves believes that all children can learn and she speaks of herself as a "facilitator."  "The real learning happens when the student becomes empowered to be an active learner."  Reading is her favorite subject to teach because she loves to see the student's faces light up when they discover they can actually read!

Mrs. Groves' dream is to keep in touch with some of the students and in the future hear them tell me that I did make a difference in their life.

Virginia Hall, Paraprofessional

Virginia Hall moved to Kansas City from Louisiana. She worked at Center School District as a Behavior Interventionist Specialist for nine years, In-School Suspension Specialist for two years and tutor in Louisiana with a focus in Math and Science.

Ms. Hall was a substitute teacher at Gordon Parks last year and is delighted to work in kindergarten.  She builds meaningful relationships with students, which allows them to connect and develop lifelong skills.  Working with children is a passion for Ms. Hall.

Ms. Hall also enjoys spending time with her two daughters and family. She believes any time spent with family is time well spent.

Debra Moore, Paraprofessional

Ms. Deb Moore started her career with children as a Juvenile Probation Office after graduating from Kansas State University with a degree in Early Childhood and Community Services. Ms. Moore has also worked at the Department of Social and Rehabilitative Services in Wyandotte County, as a teacher in the pilot program for Parents as Teachers in Kansas City, MO, and finally as a teacher at Operation Breakthrough. Ms. Moore’s desire to work with kindergarteners brought her to Gordon Parks Elementary.

Ms. Moore has two grown children. Her daughter is an attorney for Legal Aid in Springfield, MO and her son is working on furthering his career as a standup comic. In her spare time, Ms. Moore spends time with family, friends, books and the occasional workout.

First and Second Grade Community

Georgia Miner, 2nd Grade Teacher

Georgia Miner grew up in central Illinois where she began her teaching career as a special education teacher.  With over 28 years teaching experience, the light in a child’s eyes when they understand a new concept and WOW moments of a child’s learning still delight her.  Mrs. Miner’s experiences have included teaching special education students, K-2nd grades, as well as being a reading and math resource teacher.

Her love of travel and learning about different people and cultures has taken her to 48 states and 30 countries.  Mrs. Miner was able to combine travel and teaching while living in Shanghai, China for five years.

Shannon Reasby, 1st Grade Teacher

Shannon Reasby graduated from Simpson College with a Bachelor’s Degree in Early Childhood Education. She has over 12 years of teaching experience, ranging from grades pre-kindergarten to 6th grade and is currently working to complete her Master’s Degree in Literacy Education and Instructional Coaching at Central Missouri University.

Teaching is a passion for Mrs. Reasby. She enjoys creating exciting hands-on activities and getting her students to develop a love of reading. If you can read, you can do anything!

Special Needs Team

Stephanie Brennan, Health Coordinator

Stephanie Brennan has been a nurse for 13 years, with most of those years having been spent in the ER. “I been fortunate enough to be a travel nurse, traveling around the country doing what I love,” she said. Currently, Ms. Brennan is working full time at the VA hospital in the ER, helping our veterans. “On my days off I get to be a health coordinator here at Gordon Parks, “she said.

Ms. Brennan moved to Kansas City from Vail, Colorado, to be closer to her twin sister who has a two-year old and just had twin boys. She loves snowboarding, mountain biking, playing soccer, hiking, and anything else that involves being outside. She went to college at the University of Nebraska, where we are born and raised to be a Husker--Go Big Red! She received her Bachelor of Science in Nursing.  “I am excited to be part of the Gordon Parks team,” said Ms. Brennan, “keeping our students safe, healthy, and happy so they can be here with us each and every day!”

Marianne Eldridge, Social Worker

Marianne Eldridge was born an army brat at Fort Knox, Kentucky, but grew up in Missouri.  She comes from a long line of teachers leaving her with a deep appreciation for education.  After completing her undergraduate degree in psychology at the University of Saint Mary in Leavenworth, she attended Washington University in St. Louis where she received her Master’s degree in Social Work.  Mrs. Eldridge’s career focus has been in support of children in the school setting and her primary goal at Gordon Parks will be to provide support to its students and families.

Mrs. Eldridge believes the greatest opportunity for growth and change comes through the education of our youth.

Laurie Fairchild, Special Education Support

Laurie Fairchild has been in education for over 30 years.  She has taught in Braymer, Chillicothe, and Liberty, Missouri.  Mrs. Fairchild has experience in special education, elementary classroom, and reading recovery instruction.  Her career experience includes working as Federal Grants Manager and Literacy/Instructional Coach.  Mrs. Fairchild has a Master’s of Education in Early Childhood Curriculum.  She enjoys spending time with her husband and grown son’s family and traveling, reading, and working out.

Fay Ferrando, Family and Volunteer Facilitator

Fay Ferrando was born and bred in Kansas City, Missouri.  She is a proud product of the Kansas City, Missouri School District.  She comes to us with experience in education, event planning and most recently administrative management in direct-care service for special-needs individuals.  Her commitment to the advancement of humanity is her main driving force.  She hopes to guide her three, young sons into productive service of humanity, as well.


Jules Fox, Director of Special Services

Jules Fox graduated from William Woods University with a BFA in Art and switched her career path to early childhood education over 20 years ago. Since 1989, Jules has been a classroom educator, music and movement instructor, school director, and school behavior intervention specialist. After time away from the field, Mrs. Fox made the choice to return to school and has since completed her Masters of Arts in Special Education at the University of Missouri-Kansas City.

Throughout her career she has been known for her ability to build relationships with the students who struggle the most emotionally and behaviorally. Early intervention and working with trauma have been the focus for Mrs. Fox over the past four years. Being a part of Gordon Parks has been a personal goal since returning to the field of education.

Mrs. Fox believes every child has great potential and enjoys the challenge of helping them discover their gift to the world. She is excited to be at Gordon Parks.

Exploratory Team

Liz Dyer, Librarian

Liz Dyer has nine years of teaching experience in kindergarten and 2nd grade. She has a great love for reading and is excited to work in the Gordon Parks library.
From as young as she can remember, Mrs. Dyer always wanted to be a teacher, and she has a huge passion for learning and teaching young students. She graduated from Drake University in Des Moines, Iowa, and has a Master's Degree from Baker University. She is also certified to teach Special Education and is working toward her library certification. Mrs. Dyer lives in Parkville with her husband and two young sons.

Timothy Peterson, Music Teacher

Timothy Peterson grew up in Kansas City, Kansas and has been involved in music his whole life.  Mr. Peterson is hoping to bring that joy to the students.  He recently graduated from the University of Kansas and has many things planned for the students.

During college years, Mr. Peterson played in the orchestra and was lucky enough to play a variety of music, and even played overseas for the Eutin Opera Festival.  He believes music can take you many places that you cannot get to otherwise. He plans to take the students on an exceptional music journey.

Brad Rolfs, Art Teacher

Brad Rolfs graduated from Bethany College with a Bachelor’s Degree in Physical Education.  He taught and coached at the high school level for a few years before leaving the teaching profession to pursue a career in his first love--art.  He had started college as an art major and went back to school to get a certificate in commercial art.  He worked in the advertising art field setting for several years and saw it change from all manual to all computer-aided. 

When his own kids were in elementary school, he made the decision to renew his teaching certificate and return to the classroom part time as a substitute teacher and then later expand his art education licensure to include PreK-12.  In recent years, he has spent time developing his skills in graphite portrait and paint mediums and returned to the classroom to teach K-8.  He has a passion for  teaching the basic art elements and principles to young artists. 

Mr. Rolfs lives in Stilwell, Kansas with his wife of 25 years and has 2 children.  They both have a love of school and learning and a terrific sense of humor and love of family.

Allen Roth, Physical Education Teacher

Allen "AJ" Roth grew up in Moberly, Missouri, working on his family farm and running cross country and track during high school as well as playing basketball.  Coach Roth says that working on the farm helped him become a patient person because "nothing on the farm comes easy and nothing goes according to plan."

After high school, Coach Roth attended the University of Central Missouri where he earned his B.S. in Physical Education/Health K-12 and later his Masters of Sport Business and Administration.  During his undergraduate years at Central Missouri, he was a decathlete on the track and field team. Once out of eligibility, Coach Roth joined the coaching staff and worked with other decathletes. When he was not on the track, Coach Roth often served as a substitute teacher for the Warrensburg School district. He also did his student teaching in the Warrensburg school district at the middle and elementary school. Coach Roth recalls, "I knew from the first time I taught a lesson in one of my college classes that teaching was what I wanted to do. I love being active and teaching students games they have never played before.  I also love watching my students leave after class huffing and puffing and saying, "That was fun! Can we do that again?"

Building Management

John Shadoan, Building Manager

What's a former Montana logger, restaurant owner and Air Force fighter pilot doing under the sink in the school cafeteria?  John Shadoan, building manager, helps maintain the 90-year-old building.

"When I walked into Gordon Parks, I liked the feel of the building.  I enjoy being around children, even though I have none of my own.  The students call me 'Mr. John' but they're a little confused on how I fit in.   Since I've been fixing toilets, sinks and scrubbing the cafeteria, the weeks fly by."

Michael Turner, Assistant Building Manager

Michael Turner was no stranger to Gordon Parks when he joined the maintenance staff. 

"Four of my children went to school here," he said proudly.  "I know what this school offers--small class sizes and lots of encouragement. This job is a good fit for me," Mr. Turner said. "I can help keep the school stay clean and, at the same time, serve as a role model for the boys; many come from single-family homes."