MEET OUR BOARD
Our Board of Trustees are comprised of involved citizens within and around the community that volunteer their time on behalf of the students within the Bridgman School District with a purpose of enhancing and enriching their learning opportunities. If you have a passion for education and are willing to help in any capacity, please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org .
Allan Barker had the privilege of growing up in the Bridgman Community. Allan attended Bridgman Schools from kindergarten through his high school graduation. He has always taken pride in his community in making personal connections and appreciates the beautiful environment with Lake Michigan to raise a family. He has been blessed with his wife Melissa and six children (4 have graduated Bridgman High School and two still attending Bridgman schools) who have provided a path for him to grow personally. He currently commutes two days a week to his office in Lisle, Illinois. But Allan chooses to commute because his priority is to raise his family in Bridgman. Allan also had the honor to serve on the Bridgman Volunteer Fire Department for more than 15 years after high school. Allan began his federal government service in December 2002 with the US Nuclear Regulatory Commission (USNRC). His first career was with American Electric Power/D. C. Cook Nuclear Plant beginning after high school graduation in June 1976 through January 2002.
Since mid-2008, Allan’s federal government job function has been the Region III Government Liaison Officer. Region III covers the eight States of the mid-west. In this role, Allan serves as the region’s principal liaison between the USNRC and federal, state, local and Native American tribal government entities and other federal agencies on the regulation of nuclear materials and facilities. Allan has a BS degree in mechanical engineering technology.
Allan enjoys gardening, caring for his 19 chickens and five goats, and teaching Sunday school at Sawyer Highlands Church where he has been a member since 2010.
Vice Chair Fund Development
Linda L. Gedeon-Kuhn is a 29-year resident of Bridgman, Michigan. She and her husbanh, Gerald, have three sons, all graduates of Bridgman High School.
She is delighted to be able to give back to the community by serving on the board of The Bridgman Foundation of Educational Excellence. "Our area is fortunate to have such a good school system. I am very happy to serve on the Board and give back to the school system that gave my sons such a great educationa and prepared them for college as well.
Linda has served in other capacities in the community:
City Commissioner in Bridgman (14 years)
- Parks Commissioner
- Police Commissioner
City of Bridgman Planning Commissioner
Planning Commission Recording Secretary (currently)
City Zoning Board of Appeals
Zoning Board of Aeals Recording Secretary (currently)
Board Member of the Michigan Municipal League
MML Workman's Compensation Fund Board Member
MML Elected Officials Academy Board Member
- Level Three Graduate of the EOA
Shane M. Peters
After graduating from South Haven High School in 1988, Shane Peters attended Alma College where he graduated in 1992 with a degree in Sociology—already employed at the Berrien County Sheriff’s Department he worked there until 1995 when he was married and moved to Grand Haven and worked for the Ottawa County Sheriff’s Department and then the Muskegon County Friend of the Court. In the summer of 1996 a unique experience presented itself to Shane when he became the Student Services Director at the Ottawa Area Intermediate School District’s Careerline Tech Center. Shane continued his education and received his Masters in Educational Leadership from Grand Valley State University. After 9 years at CTC, Shane felt he was being led to be a high school principal in a “traditional” high school. Shane and his family moved north where he was the Middle School/High School Principal at Mason County Eastern Schools in Custer, Michigan. After just one year there the position as high school principal in South Haven became available, an opportunity for Shane to return to his Alma Mater and lead the Class B High School that provided him with so many opportunities as a student. Even from the beginning of his educational career, Shane had his eye on becoming a District Superintendent, being familiar with Bridgman from working in Berrien County and living part time in Bridgman, he felt that this was place he not only could be successful as a school leader but that his family could grow and thrive. Shane, his wife, Jill and their three boys, Cullen, Logan and Tanner, moved to Bridgman in June 2011 where he began his job as Superintendent of Bridgman Public Schools on July 1st, 2011. Because of his interest in enhancing educational experiences, Shane also joined the Foundation as a Trustee immediately.
Paula Vogie worked for Whirlpool Corporation in the graphics/advertising department for 30 years until retiring from her position as Senior Graphic Designer in 2013. She has two grown children; a son, Andrew and daughter, Stephanie, and 6 grandchildren.
Paula moved from St. Joseph to Bridgman in 2007 and opened a small art gallery and gift store featuring her own work and creations. She also continues to freelance as a graphic designer.
Paula has been a member of the Benton Harbor Soup Kitchen board for seven years and designs their newsletter and other graphic needs. She joined the Bridgman Foundation for Educational Excellence in 2013 and looks forward to adding her talents to promoting the foundation and helping to provide new and better learning opportunities for Bridgman public school students.
Kelly holds a Master’s degree in education. She taught elementary education for 12 years before switching gears to career education in 2014. She is currently employed at Berrien RESA as a Career and Technical Education Consultant.
Kelly and her husband Brian reside on a small farm and own Dargus Ag, LLC, an agronomy consulting business that works with local growers in Southwest Michigan.
Kelly’s three children attend Bridgman Public Schools, one child in every building!
Kelly is looking forward to using her background to help make educational decisions that will directly impact students and educators.
George Lepeniotis is a member of the Krieg DeVault firm's Business, Acquisitions, and Securities Practice Group. He practice concentrates in the areas of corporate and business law, mergers and acquisitions, real estate and construction, and litigation. George helps clients navigate a variety of legal matters by combining his experience as a lawyer with his past experience in the banking industry and as a real estate developer and contractor.
George is also co-host of WNIT Economic Outlook where he travels weekly throughout the Michiana area to bring viewers interesting content shaping the region's economy. Prior to joining Krieg DeVault, George served as a Partner with Lee, Groves & Zalas in South Bend, Indiana, and as a Managing Partner of GRD Investments where he oversaw the daily activities of the company's real estate and medical facility development group.
George graduated from Chicago Kent College of Law at the Illinois Institute of Technology, Chicago, Illinois and from Andrews University, Berrien Springs, Michigan.
He is a member of many professional and civic associations and has had many articles published in legal and professional publication.
George and his wife Mandy have long called the Bridgman area home. He is a Bridgman alumni (Class of 1990) and his daughters Ana and Amelia both attend Bridgman Public Schools.
Tara Heiser grew up in the nearby community of New Troy and has many fond memories of her time spent in Bridgman. After graduating from Western Michigan University with a BBA in marketing, Tara moved to San Diego to pursue a career in marketing.
Tara gained a wealth of marketing and communications experience through a variety of tech companies such as InFocus, Iomega, and Anonymizer. She spent several years as a marketing consultant before moving back into the corporate world and serving as director of product marketing at GE Healthcare. With experience in event management, communications, digital marketing, and market research, Tara is excited to bring her skillset to the Foundation and contribute to its continued success.
After 23 years in San Diego, Tara and her husband decided to move back to southwest Michigan to be closer to family. The outstanding reputation of Bridgman Public Schools and the charm of our lakeside community made it a simple decision to relocate to Bridgman in 2019. Their son, Alex, is now in 8th grade at RMS.
Jamie is a 1996 graduate of Bridgman High School. She attended Western Michigan University and earned a bachelor’s degree in Biomedical Sciences. Jamie completed her education with a master’s degree in Business Administration from American Sentinel University. She has worked for Spectrum Health Lakeland for 19 years as a Clinical Microbiologist and Clinical Educator for Spectrum Health University.
Jamie and her husband Dan have 3 children who attend Bridgman Public Schools. Together, they own and operate Starbuck’s Blueberry Farm.
Jamie is excited to be a part of the Bridgman Foundation of Educational Excellence to make a difference in the lives of our students and community.
Rita de Pedro
Vice Chair Projects
Rita is no stranger to southwest Michigan. As a child growing up in Michigan City, Indiana, she often made short trips to the area with her family. In 2014 after retiring from Motorola, Rita moved to Michigan from the Chicago suburbs to be closer to family. She built her dream home in Bridgman and loves living in a small town on Lake Michigan with friendly people and a great school system. Her interest in the STEM project led her to serve the community as a member of the Bridgman Foundation for Educational Excellence’s board of trustees. She is passionate about education’s ability to prepare young people to lead productive and happy lives. Rita has degrees from the University of Detroit, New York University Madrid’s study abroad program, and Loyola University of Chicago. Her work life included teaching in grades 7 – 12 and human resource leadership positions in various Fortune 500 companies. She spent 18 years at Motorola and thoroughly enjoyed implementing and leading human resource projects and working with global co-workers in multiple disciplines. Before retiring, she served on boards for a non-profit arts organization and her homeowner’s association. In her spare time, Rita spends time with her many nieces and nephews, travels, sings in local choral groups, works crossword puzzles, cooks and bakes for family and friends, reads, and keeps in shape at a local gym.
Mrs. Mensinger and her husband, Dennis, have two sons Brandon and Christopher, both graduates of Bridgman High School. Providing a quality education for their children has always been a priority for the Mensingers. Deb began “shopping” for a school when Brandon was 2 years old. Impressed with both the academic and extracurricular opportunities Bridgman offered, as well as the award winning faculty and state-of-the art facilities, Bridgman Public Schools became their school of choice. They were a school of choice family until moving to Bridgman in 2004. Deb was a past member of the Berrien County ISD (now Berrien RESA) Parent Advisory Committee representing Bridgman Schools and participated in the Michigan Alliance for Families Leadership Development Series. Deb attended Western Michigan University where she studied business administration. She worked at AEP’s Cook Nuclear Plant for 20 years in the Human Resources and Training Departments. Currently, Deb is the Branch Manager at Edgewater Bank in Bridgman. Mrs. Mensinger has served as a trustee for the Bridgman Foundation for Educational Excellence since 2008 and has served in the roles of Vice Chair-Projects and Nominating Chair.
JoAnn grew up around New Troy and attended River Valley schools. Her husband, Joe, is a Bridgman alum and when they bought their house in 1999, they bought in lake twp to insure their kids would attend Bridgman Public Schools.
JoAnn and Joe have three children. The oldest is 11 and in 6th grade and they have 10 year old twins in 5th grade.
JoAnn is a graduate of River Valley and a graduate from Purdue University in West Lafayette, IN. She has a political science degree with minors in philosophy, history, and sociology. JoAnn worked as a Medical Malpractice defense paralegal prior to having children. After thier oldest was born, she became a stay at home mom. In 2012, JoAnn was offered an opportunity she could not pass. She started her own business "DeMeulenaere Consulting, LLC" and she works as an independent consultant for a law firm in Mishawaka in the field of medical malpractice defense.
JoAnn joined the Foundation to be involved in an organization that benefits kids and the community. She hopes to bring any resource available to her to help make the Foundation stronger. She also brings a willingness to volunteer and put hours in to help the community and the kids. Due to her involvement with other organizations, communities and activities, she hopes to bring additional ideas to build the Foundation to a strong and profitable organization.
Cathy graduated from Illinois State University in 1992 and then went to work in Peoria,IL in the social service field for the next 18 years. In 2010 Cathy married her husband, Brian, and she and the girls made the move to the Morris, IL area. Since that time she has volunteered on a regular basis at the girls' schools, has been a Girl Scout leader, a volunteer at a therapeutic horseback riding program and served on the board of Sunrise Center North, the same therapeutic horseback riding program where she also volunteered on a weekly basis.
After selling their property in 2013, Cathy and her husband decided that they wanted to look outside of Illinois in the hopes of relocating one day and simplifying Brian's work life. In July of 2015 they bought their home in Sawyer and the more time they spent here they fell in love with the area. When Bridgman schools called in July of 2016 to say they had an opening for the girls, they took that as their sign and made the move.
Their two daughters, Brooke and Sky are at RMS and they could not be more pleased with Bridgman Public Schools. As parents, they place a high value on education and feel that the community and school personnel feel the same as they do about supporting their children. Cathy feels the fact that the Bridgman Foundation for Educational Excellence even exists is a testament to the community's commitment to providing children in our area with great schools. Cathy is really excited about being involved with the Foundation and becoming more involved in the community.
I grew up in Wichita, Kansas, and graduated from Kansas State University with degrees in mechanical and nuclear engineering. I moved into the area in 1996 after taking a job with American Electric Power at the Cook Nuclear Plant. In my 20 plus years at the plant, I have held various positions in Engineering and Operations. Currently, I am that Site Vice President.
My wife, Angie, and I have four children – Mikaela, Andrew, Kaeden, and Paige. Kaeden and many of my nieces and nephews attend Bridgman Schools.
I very much appreciate the opportunity to participate on the Foundation. My involvement with other community boards and my work experiences will allow me to help with the projects that are implemented by the Foundation. I have always thought very highly of Bridgman Public Schools but never more than I do now. The manner in which the school district has supported the kids and families during the pandemic has been nothing less than amazing. I am very excited to provide whatever support I can to such a high performing organization.
While I was born and raised in the suburbs of Chicago, I have always considered Southwest Michigan my second home. As a child my parents owned a summer home in Three Oaks and I was able to spend my summers swimming at Warren Dunes and picking fresh fruit all over Berrien County.
Eight years ago, my wife, Tonya, and I decided to make Bridgman our home for ourselves and our three children. Our oldest, Riley, goes to Reed Middle School. Austin, our son in the middle, and Madeline, our youngest, are both at Bridgeman Elementary. We feel very fortunate to be part of Bridgman Public Schools.
I have worked in the IT industry for the past 25 years and hold top certifications in data networking, virtualization, datacenter hardware, and numerous OS and software systems. I’m based virtually and travel to customers all over the county and all over the world. Most recently, however, I have the privilege of filling in for Keri deBest as the Facilitator in the RMS STEM lab.
Both Tonya and I are active in the community and in the Bridgman Schools in particular. It’s an honor to serve as a trustee on the Bridgman Foundation.