Educational opportunities should never be limited by ethnicity, socioeconomic status or geographic location.
We believe it is our collective responsibility to ensure access to high-quality education in every Colorado community.
BuildStrong Education Leadership
Amy Schwartz, Ed.D., Executive Director
Dr. Amy Schwartz joined BuildStrong Education as Executive Director in 2008. During her tenure, she has led many educational initiatives for the organization including the development of The Colorado Homebuilding Academy, Z Place and several new school projects.
Before BuildStrong, she worked with First 5 LA School Readiness Programs for four years, brining comprehensive early childhood programs to children and families across Los Angeles. In total, Amy has more than twenty years of experience working with various educational programs. Her work has centered on the goal of increasing student outcomes in under-resourced, low-performing school communities through collaboration, family support and public-private partnerships.
Dr. Schwartz currently serves on the boards of Steps to Success, the Construction Education Foundation and Executives Partnering to Invest in Children. She was a founding board member of the Lyons Valley Preschool which opened soon after the devastating Colorado floods of September 2013. And she is currently the co-founder and board chair of The STEAD School.
She received her Bachelor of Arts degree in Art History from Wittenberg University, her Master of Arts in Social Research Methodology from the University of California, Los Angeles and her Doctorate in Education from the University of Denver. In 2021, Dr. Schwartz was honored as a David L. Clark Scholar by the University Council for Educational Administration and the American Educational Research Association.
Former Executive Directors
Marshal Kaplan, Co-founder
Marshall Kaplan received his B.A. in Political Science and MA in Public Administration from the same school. He also received a Masters in City Planning and Architecture from Boston University and his Masters in City Planning from MIT. Marshall served in the President’s Kennedy and Carter Administrations. His focus in both administrations was on development of poverty reduction and urban revitalization policies. He was co-founder of the firm of Marshall Kaplan, Gans and Kahn in the mid sixties. The firm had offices in San Francisco, Washington, and Honolulu. Its clients included Senator Robert Kennedy’s Bedford Stuyvesant Project to the Ogala Sioux, from charter development in New York City to affordable housing in many states, and cities. Marshall was Dean of the University of Colorado’s Graduate School of Public Affairs from 1981 through the mid nineties and directed the Wirth Chair till he left the University to work with philanthropist Paul Merage In Southern California in early 2004. He also continues to advise the highly regarded, public charter school El Sol which is located in Santa Ana, California.
Marshall describe his work for Oakwood Homes as a labor of love and respect. He first got involved just after he became Dean and developed, with his colleague Dr. Franklin James, a study on housing integration strategies. It assisted Oakwood Homes to secure court approval (Denver was then under a court order re. school desegregation) to build housing. He then helped train Oakwood personal to become leaders in using housing as a means to attract a welcome and diverse population. Marshall worked with Pat Hamill for over ten years. Pat’s and his efforts led to Denver developing a Science and Arts Academy in Green Valley Ranch Middle School, a precursor to publically chartered schools. He also assisted Pat and other to secure a charter for the Edison School in Green Valley Ranch. While Dean, he became the first Director of the Foundation for Educational Excellence. Marshall has written five books on and many articles on urban policy. He was awarded the ADL (Denver) Humanitarian Award in the mid 1980’s, the first Award for Educational Leadership provided by the Foundation for Educational Excellence early this decade, and the Wirth Chair on Sustainability Achievement last year. In Southern California, he has been recipient of the Kiwanis Clubs Social Justice Award and the El Sol Leadership Award.
Angela Hutton-Howard, JD Executive Director from 2000 – 2002
Angela is a Denver native and the seventh of eight children in her immediately family. She is a licensed attorney and real estate broker. She is currently employed as a Real Estate Attorney for the City Park Law Group, LLC and serves as the Managing Broker of City Park Realty, LLC in Denver, Colorado. In the past she served as the Executive Director of the Foundation for Educational Excellence and as Executive Director of the Aurora Public Schools Education Foundation.
Angela has been recognized for her work in the non-profit arena, real estate and the legal industry. In 2007, she was honored by the Denver Urban Spectrum Magazine as one of “20 African Americans Who Make a Difference” in the Denver community. She was also recognized as a “2009 Outstanding Women in Business” by the Aurora Chamber of Commerce. She has served on various boards and commissions in Colorado, most notably as a Commissioner for the 2nd Judicial District in Colorado where she evaluates the performance of District and County Court Judges. She is a graduate of the 2007 Leadership Aurora Class. Angela received her Bachelor of Arts Degree in English from Clark-Atlanta University and a Juris Doctorate (J.D.) from the University of Denver, College of Law.
Kelly Leid, Executive Director, Foundation for Educational Excellence 2002 – 2007
With over 25 years of broad-based operations management experience, including more than 20 years in senior leadership positions, Kelly has worked across a range of highly visible public, private and nonprofit organizations. In January 2016, Denver Mayor Michael B. Hancock appointed Kelly to serve as the Executive Director for the Mayor’s Office of the National Western Center (NWOC). In this role, Kelly manages the daily oversight, planning, strategic partnership coordination, and implementation of the initial $1.1 billion investment in the creation of the National Western Center Campus, a dynamic 250-acre global destination for agricultural heritage and innovation at the historic home of the National Western Stock Show.
Kristina Wetherbee is owner and operator of PKK Investments, and a real estate agent with VIP Real Estate in Colorado. PKK Investments owns rental units in the Colorado area and is a trusted and reliable company providing homes renters are proud of.
Kristina graduated with an Associates in Financial Services, and her BA in Business Management. A nominee of the prestigious DBJ’s 40 under 40 award, Kristina builds long-lasting and trusting relationships in her career and in her personal life. She has volunteered many hours to the community and schools to coach, teach, tutor, and inspire.
Kristina has received a plethora of awards throughout her professional career ranging from President’s Awards to Academic Awards. But what Kristina takes true pride in is her ability to connect to people, listen, understand, and help them reach their goals.
Teresa Fanton is first and foremost a mother of three vibrant children who keep her focused on what’s important in life. After graduating from the University of Colorado Boulder, Teresa relocated to sunny L.A and started her career in sales and marketing for the largest food company in the world. After ten years managing Nestle’s top selling accounts, she then decided to start a family and luckily it was back to Colorado. She is now fortunate to lead a company that is integral in guiding child safety initiatives by helping mold legislation in an emerging industry. In Teresa’s spare time, she is an advocate for equal access to education, from cradle to workforce prep. Throughout Teresa’s career, her passion for children and education has always brought her back to helping young minds grow into adults with great potential.
Pat Hamill moved to Colorado in the 1970s to attend the University of Denver, and following graduation in 1981, he started his own consulting business. In 1990, Pat launched Oakwood Homes, LLC, which has long been established as an innovative, community-oriented and successful business. Oakwood Homes is a company that truly represents Pat’s spirit and dedication to giving back to the communities it works in. Currently, Oakwood Homes is the largest private home builder in Colorado.
Pat supports the community personally and professionally, donating time, resources and funding. He has long been an advocate for education and has worked toward giving back to his community by providing educational opportunities for those after him. In 1997, Pat co-founded both the Foundation for Educational Excellence. Pat also participated in the redesign of the Martin Luther King Jr. Middle School to the Martin Luther King Jr. Early College. Because of Pat’s leadership on innovative educational solutions, Gov. Bill Ritter appointed him to co-chair the Early Childhood Leadership Council, which became the Early Childhood Leadership Commission.
Pat is an active member of Colorado Concern, an exclusive alliance of top executives in the state with a common interest in enhancing and protecting Colorado’s business climate. Pat served on the board of the Boys & Girls Club of Metro Denver, and currently serves as emeritus. He is a trustee of the University of Denver Burns School scholarship fund, chairman of the Colorado Open Golf Foundation, former co-chair of the Early Childhood Commission, member of Mayor Hancock’s Denver Education Compact Executive Committee, member on the board of trustees for HealthOne, past board member and vice chairman of the Metro Football Stadium District from 1996-2011, and former chairman of Mayor Webb’s Housing Affordability Task Force. Pat has been awarded for his professional and philanthropic work including the Boys & Girls Clubs “Champion of Youth Award” in 2007, the University of Denver Founder’s Day “Professional Achievement Award” in 1999, and he was named honorary Dean of Real Estate and Construction Management at the University of Denver in 2004. In 2015 Pat was named Corporate Citizen of the Year by the Denver Business Journal.