FAAE Board

Executive Committee

Lianna Knight

Ms. Lianna Knight has been an educator for over 25 years with 17 of those years as an arts administrator. Under her leadership, her schools received many awards and recognitions, such as Florida Arts Model School, Arts Schools Network Innovation Award, Outstanding Art School Award, and North Florida Math Counts Championship. Ms. Knight is excited for her next chapter, opening a new K-8 arts charter school, Global Outreach Charter Academy Arts (GOCA Arts) in the fall of 2024. Ms. Knight and GOCA Leadership are building a state-of-the-art facility where they will provide more arts instruction than traditional public schools. GOCA Arts will take an integrated art approach, allowing students to engage in the creative process of connecting art with core subject areas. Ms. Knight has a Bachelor of Arts Degree in Dance and Masters in Educational Leadership.

Caroll Vick

Caroll Vick is the Arts in Education Program Manager for Hillsborough County Public Schools – the 7th largest school district in the nation. The mission of HCPS is “Preparing Students for Life”. Ms. Vick coordinates both in-school and out-of-school experiences for students, ensuring they are receiving a well-rounded education in support of this mission.

Ms. Vick has over 24 years of experience in developing, implementing, and improving programs and organizational performance in a variety of non-profit settings, including education, social services, and cultural institutions. Ms. Vick has previously held the positions of Director of Education for the Hillsborough Arts Council as well as the Executive Director of the Florida Alliance for Arts Education. In addition, she volunteers with other organizations dedicated to improving the lives of children. She graduated from the University of South Florida with a B.A. in Art History. Ms. Vick is committed to developing programs, resources, and initiatives that support arts education in the state of Florida.

Board of Directors

Kathryn Austin

Dr. Kathryn Austin is a nationally-recognized dance educator with 40 yrs of teaching experience in the private sector, University, and public school education. Austin is a recipient of the NDEO Outstanding Dance Educator Award, a Fellow of the British Association of Teachers of Dancing, and a former Teacher of the Year at the Osceola County School for the Arts. Her dissertation, Towards the Effective Delivery of Standards-based K-12 Dance Education in the State of Florida: The Need for Consistency in Curricular Choice and Instructional Design, was born of her interest in looking at identifying the key factors to the successful inclusion of dance education in the public schools in Florida. Austin serves on the Board of Directors of Dance and the Child International-USA and the National Dance Education Organization. She presents at conferences throughout the United States and in Virtual Conference settings. She was the ballet instructor at OCSA in Kissimmee, Florida from 2016 to 2021 and is now on the Faculty of Palm Beach Atlantic University teaching Pedagogical Concepts in Dance and the History of Dance through remote platforms. Austin is the owner and director of the Centre for Dance & the Performing Arts, a private studio in Oakland, Florida now in its 33rd year. Her passion for dance education is palpable in her teaching style for all learner populations and her service throughout her community which always leads to the inclusion of dance for the better awareness and appreciation of the essentiality of the arts!

Edna Bland

Edna M. Bland is a certified educator, arts integration specialist and teaching artist in theatre and puppetry arts who has honed her skills at The Kennedy Center’ CETA and VSA programs, Lincoln Center Education at The Juilliard School’s Teaching Artist program, and the Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre in London, England.

As a professional puppeteer, she was mentored by Carroll Spinney, “Big Bird” and Dr. Loretta Long “Susan” of Sesame Street. She toured with Dr. Long with her original puppets promoting reading literacy. She was also a puppeteer for Jane Henson’s Nativity for two seasons.

Edna is one of the only professional African American female puppeteers in the country. She along with others was a guest artist at the Ballard Institute and Museum’s Living Objects: African American Puppetry Exhibition at the University of Connecticut.

She is an arts advocate and serves as an executive board member for the Puppeteers of America where she also serves as the chair of the Equity, Diversity and Inclusion Committee. She also is a board member of the Florida Association of Theatre Education and chairs the Florida Jr. Thespians District 2 where she oversees theatre directors in Seminole and Volusia counties, as well as the Kennedy Center’s VSA (arts and special needs) content committee. Recently she was selected as one of the recipients of the 400 Distinguished Award given by the US Congress as part of the commemoration of the 400 years of African American History. And in 2022, she was awarded Theatre Arts Educator of the Year by the FATE organization. Miss Edna is the creator of the edutainment brands Lovely Day Creative Arts. She currently is a theatre arts instructor at performing arts middle school where she created the only puppetry arts elective program in the nation.

Edna has a M.F.A. in Entertainment Creative Writing, M.S. in Entertainment Business, B.S. in Organizational Management and A.A.S. in Music Business and resides in Sanford, Florida.

Chris Burns

Christopher Burns is currently the Fine and Performing Arts Resource Specialist in Osceola County, Florida. He received his B.M.E. from the University of Central Florida and his M.M.E. from Boston University and holds a PhD in Music Education from the University of South Florida with interests in New Media and Modern Band integration as well as Learner-Centered Education.

Christopher has taught Arts Integration and been an adjunct for Elementary Music Methods at UCF as well as presented workshops in several states around the country. His passion for arts education and integration can be seen in these presentations as well as in his work with students during summer musical theatre camps and his "Osceola Rocks!" modern band classes. Before moving into his current position, Chris taught over 12 years in the elementary music classroom where his students were selected to perform at various events and locations including Disney World and many sporting events.

Joseph D’Ambrosi

Dr. Joseph D’Ambrosi (or, “Dr. D,” as his students call him) serves as Fine and Performing Arts Resource Specialist for the School District of Osceola County where he works to bring equitable and enriching arts opportunities to over 75,000 K-12 students across 50+ schools. Previously he taught at Liberty High School in Kissimmee, FL (a Title I school), where he built a thriving theatre program. An award-winning theatre scholar and educator, Dr. D’Ambrosi regularly teaches at the graduate, undergraduate, and secondary levels at institutions such as the University of Central Florida (UCF) where he is a Graduate Faculty Scholar. Dr. D’Ambrosi received his Ph.D. in Theatre and Drama from Indiana University, M.A. in Theatre Studies from UCF, and B.A. in Theatre from Messiah University. He is on the peer-review board of Youth Theatre Journal and his work is widely published in journals and edited collections such as Ecumenica: Journal of Theatre and Performance, Theatre Survey, Theatre History Studies, and Performance and the Disney Theme Park Experience: The Tourist as Actor. His primary research interrogates the role of performance in the development of evangelical Christianity, from the 18th century to the present. This summer, D’Ambrosi intends to continue his graduate studies in Educational Leadership in pursuit of becoming a district administrator who advocates tirelessly for arts education in our schools. Dr. D’Ambrosi is an active member of his church, St. Luke’s UMC in Orlando, serving a three-year term on the Church Council, regularly leading worship, and performing in the theatre ministry.

John S. Gebhardt

John S. Gebhardt is a former Trustee of the Byram Hills Public School Board in Armonk, NY, having served twelve years, where he was President three non-consecutive years. John was also elected to the Board of Directors of the Westchester-Putnam Regional School Boards Association, where he continued to serve in various positions for eleven years. Mr. Gebhardt was elected twice to the Board of Directors of the New York State School Boards Association, was appointed to Representative Nita Lowey’s Education Advisory Committee, representing public elementary and secondary schools, and to the National School Boards Association’s Federal Relations Network, which lobbies Congress on behalf of public education issues. John was also elected twice to the Board of Directors of the New York State Caucus of Black School Board Members. John has served as a money manager and financial consultant to public companies since retiring from over thirty years of experience on Wall Street, where he served as a Managing Director at PaineWebber (now part of UBS Financial) and later as a Managing Director at Knight Capital Group. Here in Florida, John is on the Board of Directors of the Boys & Girls Clubs of Osceola County, as well as the Education Foundation of Osceola County, and is Chairman of the Celebration Community Development District. He also serves as Chairman of the Osceola County School for the Arts (OCSA) Advisory Counsel. In addition to mentoring the high school young men at the Kissimmee Boys & Girls Club, he also mentors students in Florida’s Take Stock in Children program. John is an alumnus of NYU’s Stern School of Business (Economics) and Pace University’s Lubin School of Business (Economics).

Dr. Mary Palmer

Dr. Mary Palmer is President of Mary Palmer & Associates, LLC, a consulting firm specializing in the arts and education. She is also the current President of the Board of Directors for the Orlando Philharmonic Orchestra. She holds Bachelor's, Master's, and Doctoral Degrees from the University of Illinois. Recently named Professor Emerita at the University of Central Florida, Dr. Palmer was Professor and Coordinator of Graduate Studies in Music Education at the University of Central Florida, Orlando; she also served as Dean of the UCF College of Education. Dr. Palmer is senior author of a Pre-Kindergarten through grade 8 music textbook series published by Silver Burdett Ginn and has authored over 40 textbooks which are used worldwide. Dr. Palmer is the Founder of Arts for a Complete Education/Florida Alliance for Arts Education.

Michael Petty

Michael Petty is the Assistant Principal at Deer Point Elementary in Panama City, after three years as an administrator at Jinks Middle School. He has also worked at Bay High School, Rosenwald Middle and High School, and Mowat Middle School, all in Panama City. He has served as an ELA Chair, FOCUS Expert, and an intensive reading and literacy coach. He is passionate about literacy and the arts and the intersection of the two as it relates to student success, and Deer Point Elementary is an inaugraral Advancing Arts Education Grant recipient through the Arts for a Complete Education Grant with the Florida Department of Education. Petty has a Bachelor of Science Mass Media Studies from Florida State University and a Masters in Educational Leadership from the University of West Florida.

Alyona Ushe

Alyona Ushe has over twenty years of leadership experience in launching and growing distinctly different organizations for both nonprofit institutions and municipalities. She took the reins at Cultural Alliance in May of 2020. Under her leadership, the organization more than doubled its budget and staff, increased its membership base by over 5000%, conceived and launched Art, Mind & Soul Fest and Arts Conserve the Environment Initiative, and created and implemented recycling arts education programs in the county’s schools.

She started her career in the arts by founding Classika-Synetic Theater in the Washington DC Metro area. She produced over 100 original productions and organized the company’s participation at numerous festivals, including the International New York Fringe Festival, The Kennedy Center Prelude Festival, and the Shakespeare Festival in Washington, DC. She created and implemented extensive education outreach programs, which were praised on the floor of the US House of Representatives and resulted in significant Federal Appropriation funding.

In South Florida, she was the President and CEO of Creative City Collaborative (CCC), where she grew the organizational budget from $250,000 to over three million in under five years. She founded a critically acclaimed Arts Garage, where she presented over 500 performances by regional and international artists and launched numerous signature series and educational and outreach initiatives. Under her leadership, CCC won highly competitive bids in Pompano Beach to revitalize, program, and operate a 3,000-seat dormant amphitheater and to open a new $20 million cultural center and Bailey Contemporary Arts.

She has also served as the Executive Director of the New Orleans Opera Association in Louisiana and the BlackRock Center for the Arts in Maryland.

Daryl Ward

Dr. Daryl Ward has spent his life supporting cultural arts and public education.

He is currently the executive director of the Polk Arts and Cultural Alliance – a nonprofit organization which champions Polk’s arts community and advocates for arts education in K-12 schools, colleges, and universities.

Dr. Ward’s professional career began inside the classroom. He spent 15 years working as a teacher in public schools before becoming an administrator. He has seen firsthand how students can overcome obstacles with the support of their families, friends and school staff.

Dr. Ward served as principal at Harrison School for the Arts from 2013 – 2019 and also taught as an adjunct professor of education at Florida Southern College. He has served as the president of the board for FAAE and served on the board for Arts4All Florida. Additionally, he served on the Arts Education Council for Americans for the Arts.

He holds multiple degrees, including a Doctor of Philosophy in Curriculum and Instruction from USF.

Donna Wissinger

Flutist Donna Wissinger has been called a 'flutist of rare gifts' by the New York Times. Her concerts include acclaimed solo recitals on the mainstages of Carnegie Hall and on the equally renowned Glinka Capella in St. Petersburg, Russia. Her recital tours include Europe, South America, Asia, and the USA. What audiences love about Donna is her beautiful sound and her obvious love for playing and music. Her enthusiasm is contagious! Donna combines fun and real learning for unforgettable educational programs. She is the inaugural recipient of the prestigious Doris Leeper Award for Excellence in Arts Education and is a premier artist with the Florida State Touring Program; The New York based Learning Arts; the Southern Artist Registry, and the South Carolina Arts Commission.

Advisory Board

Jennifer Coolidge

Jennifer Coolidge is an arts and non-profit consultant and curator working with artists and non-profit arts and social service organizations. During her 30 years of experience as an arts administrator, Coolidge has served as Director of Development for the University of Florida, College of the Arts raising over 9.5 million during her tenure; Executive Director for the Museum of Florida Art in DeLand, FL; Executive Director of the Florida Alliance for Art Education and in arts education and curatorial positions for the Atlantic Center for the Arts in New Smyrna Beach, FL, Southeastern Center for Contemporary Art and The Arts Council in Winston Salem, NC, and others.

Debbie Fahmie

After 20 years serving as an elementary music teacher and 11 years as the Arts Specialist for the county, Debbie Fahmie has recently retired from the School District of Osceola County. She serves as Past President of Osceola Phi Delta Kappa, Osceola Arts for a Complete Education, Osceola Arts, Florida Elementary Music Educators Association (FEMEA) and Central Florida Orff Chapter. Debbie is currently serving on the following boards: Florida Music Education Association (FMEA), United Arts, The Education Foundation, Osceola Arts, and the Florida Alliance of Arts Education. She has worked with the Florida Dept. of Education as an evaluator for Florida Arts Model Schools and spent 6 years as a trainer for the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards. She served on the Performing Fine Arts State Assessment Task Force and as a Division of Cultural Affairs panelist as well as on the United Arts Large Budget Panel. She was the Project Manager for the Start With The Arts Curriculum Writing Team and headed up the Orlando Philharmonic Orchestra’s Young People’s Concert Assessment Project. She has provided music workshops in five states and extensively throughout Florida as well as served as an Elementary Music Clinician for All County events throughout the state and for the Chorister’s Guild. She is the Fusion Fest “Diversitastic Choir” Coordinator for the Greater Orlando area. Currently, she is the Music Education Consultant for Live Music Tutor and oversees the curriculum development of the Share the Care Arts Project with Central Florida Community Arts. Debbie has been a part of the Florida Music Education Association’s Conference Planning Committee since 2010. In 2008, her elementary performing group was invited to debut an original work at the Kennedy Center. Debbie also serves on several cultural committees including the Orlando Philharmonic Orchestra Education Committee and the Celebration Concert Series Committee. Debbie is an adjunct professor for the University of Central Florida. She has been the Contemporary Choir Director at Holy Redeemer Catholic Church in Kissimmee, FL for the past 34 years. Debbie was a state finalist for the 2008 Florida Teacher of the Year. She was named 2008 FMEA Music Educator of the Year and was inducted into the Arts Alive Hall of Fame in 2015. In 2016, she was selected as the recipient of the Florida Music Education Association Leadership Award and in 2018 was awarded the Florida Alliance for Arts Education’s Administrator Award.

Jennifer N. Jones

Jennifer N. Jones is the President of the Florida Cultural Alliance and has been with Bay Arts Alliance since 2000 and as Executive Director since 2002. After graduating Florida State University School of Music, she held positions in accounting and marketing which eventually led her to a marketing position with Bay Arts Alliance, Bay County Florida’s Local Arts Agency. Since then, she has acquired the responsibilities of programming and marketing for the organization’s performance series, arts in education activities, promoting the efforts of the county’s artists and arts organization and advocating for both the Arts as an industry and in Florida schools. She also serves on the board of Bay Regional Juvenile Detention Center in Panama City, FL. She is married to Bill and they have one daughter, Maggie.

Grace Kewl

Grace Kewl-Durfey has worked with Broward County Cultural Division for 18 years and currently serves as its Director of Community Engagement, leading programs and initiatives in advocacy, cultural heritage and arts education. From the trenches to boardrooms, she has over 25 years of rich experience in the public and non-profit sectors, focusing on arts and culture, creative economy, community and neighborhood development, and non-profit organizational management and leadership. Her mission is to contribute to the systemic integration of the arts and cultural sector within the socioeconomic and educational fabric of our everyday lives. Grace holds a master’s degree in Public Administration from Nova Southeastern University, and a bachelor’s degree in Community Studies from Union Institute and University. She is past president and past treasurer of the Florida Alliance for Arts Education, Inc., president of The Association of American Cultures; and former adjunct and guest lecturer with UMass Amherst College of Humanities and Fine Arts, Arts Extension Service. Her professional associations include the National Forum for Black Public Administrators, Broward County Black Chamber of Commerce, Greater Fort Lauderdale Chamber of Commerce, and The Recording Academy.

Board Liaisons

Florida Art Education Association (FAEA)
Nancy Puri

Nancy Puri has over 30 years’ experience in supporting visual arts programming in Florida and 23 years as a teacher and administrator. She is dedicated to the growth and development of both teachers and students in the educational system as well as a supporter of the arts within the community. Currently, Ms. Puri serves as the Senior Coordinator of Visual Arts for Polk County Schools in Lakeland Florida and has previously served as a school based Administrator and visual arts teacher. Ms. Puri has extensive experience in curriculum support and design, professional development in the Fine Arts and for academic courses. Her experience extends to recruitment and hiring of teachers; new and emerging teacher training and programs; on-site support for teachers; development and oversight of District Assessments and visual arts exhibitions’ development and implementation.

Current Affiliations:

  • FAEA Board of Directors
    -Director of Supervision & Administration Division
    -Executive & Finance Committee
    -Chair Exhibitions Committee
  • NAEA Professional Materials Committee
  • Reviewer/Florida Alliance for Arts Education Florida Arts Model Schools
  • Board of Directors Art Crawl for Emerging Artists
  • National Arts Education Association (NAEA)
  • Art Crawl Board of Directors
  • Assessment Review & Development, State of Florida Art Subject Area Exam
Florida Association of Theatre Educators (FATE)
Christa Whittaker

Christa Whittaker has been a theatre educator for over 25 years. She was the theatre director at Ft. Walton Beach High School in the panhandle for 23 years, and is currently the director of the theatre department at East Ridge High School in Clermont. Ms. Whittaker has an MA in Theatre Education from the University of Northern Colorado, and serves on several boards and committees for the Educational Theatre Association and Florida Thespians. She is thrilled to be the new Executive Director for FATE, having been a past president and an active board member since 2002.

Florida Dance Educators Organization (FDEO)
Lori Madl

Lori Madl holds a Bachelor of Arts (BA) of Dance from the University of Kansas, Lawrence where she studied under Murial Cohen, Janet Hamburg, Willie Lenior, Jerald Hilding, and Patrick Suseau. Through conferences and workshops she received additional training from Alyce Bochette, Cynthia Arnellias, Gerry Houlihan, and most notably, Catherine Dunham. While earning a Master of Arts (MA) in Arts Administration from Indiana University, Bloomington she was the Associate Instructor (AI) of the African American Dance Company of Indiana University, under the direction of Professor Iris Rosa. Administrative roles have included work at BIG Arts on Sanibel Island and the Lee County Alliance for the Arts, where she was founder of Dance Alliance, a co-op dance company. Currently she puts her administrative skills to work as the Secretary of the Board of the Florida Dance Educator Association (FDEO). Since 2008, Madl choreographed almost 100 dances for the “Calendar Girls” performance troupe for women ages 60+. “Calendar Girls”, along with Madl’s choreography, are featured in a documentary debuting at the 2022 Sundance Film Festival and will be released in theaters across North America. She has performed professionally at Six Flags, St. Louis, with the Prairie Wind Dancers in Lawrence, KS, and has taught in private studios and public schools for over twenty years. Currently, Madl serves as the Dance Director at North Fort Myers Academy for the Arts, a public arts school located in Lee County, FL. Lori Madl is dedicated to dance education throughout the state of Florida and its ability to facilitate learning for all students through arts integration.

Florida Music Educators Association (FMEA)
Kathleen D. Sanz

Kathleen D. Sanz received her B.A. and M.A. in Music Education from the University of South Florida, and her Ph.D. in Music Education from the University of Colorado. Presently she is the President and CEO of the Center for Fine Arts Education in Tallahassee, Florida. Prior to that Ms. Sanz served as the Supervisor of Curriculum and Instructional Services and Co-Directed the District School Board of Pasco County Curriculum Department from 2007-2011. From 1985-2006 she supervised the Fine Arts at the K-12 level. Her past teaching experience includes 8 years as a music educator at the elementary level. Ms. Sanz has been instrumental throughout her career in curriculum and assessment development and implementation at the district and state level.

Ms. Sanz served as a grant evaluator of U.S. Department of Education “Professional Development in Arts Education” (PDAE) grants for the Hillsborough County, Florida public schools. She also developed and received grants from the Florida Division of Cultural Affairs for the Florida Music Educators Association awarded annually from 2011-2016.

Ms. Sanz is Past President of the Southern Division of NAfME, as well as Past President of the Florida Music Educators Association. Ms. Sanz has also served as President of the Florida School Music Association, 2010-2011. Currently, Ms. Sanz is the State Executive of the Florida Music Educators Association.