Skip to content

Former TFAer/TFA Exec (shh…) Allison Serafin: From Texas, to Nevada, and Back to Texas

July 14, 2019

In April 2016, the Las Vegas Review-Journal published an article about former VP of the Nevada State board of Education, Allison Serafin, who resigned from the board in December 2015 because of a conflict of interest involving her decision to apply for state money to partially fund a charter-promoting nonprofit that Serafin started in 2014, Operation 180. In April 2016, Serafin’s nonprofit, Opportunity 180, won a state contract. From thr LV Review-Journal:

The former vice president of the State Board of Education, who resigned last year citing a potential conflict of interest, won a $10 million contract Tuesday to recruit high-quality charter school operators to Nevada.

When she stepped down from the state board in December, Allison Serafin noted her intent to submit a bid for the state’s new charter harbormaster fund, which matches grants from private philanthropic groups to attract the “best-in-class” national charter management organizations.

The contract authorizes Opportunity 180, an educational nonprofit group that Serafin founded in 2014, to drive two key components of Gov. Brian Sandoval’s education reform agenda: expanding access for low-income families to high-performing charter schools and creating a state-run Achievement School District to take over and turn around chronically underperforming campuses. …

As of Friday, Opportunity 180 already had collected more than $4.1 million in committed or cash donations from the Englestad Family Foundation and three other philanthropic groups, Serafin said.

So, Serafin arguably saw an *opportunity* to tailor her nonprofit toward creating Nevada’s newly-legislated Achievement School District and chose to pursue it.


Allison Serafin

According to Opportunity 180’s 2015 tax form, the organization reported $4.1M in total revenue, and Serafin was on record as “prinicpal officer.” That year, total expenses were only $316,750, including $177,940 listed as its “largest” (and only) “program service”, for the following:

Conducted outreach to 33 high-quality charter school operators from across the country to discuss potential expansion in Clark County, Nevada. Worked with Public Impact to perform due diligence on KIPP Public Charter Schools and Democracy Prep Public Schools and prepare a Nevada expansion report. Gathered input from national experts and charter schools across the country to identify a handful of excellent school facility partners.

On the Opportunity 180 2015 tax form, Serafin is recorded as “president” and is the only paid board member ($76,642 for 40 hrs/wk).

In 2016, Opportunity 180’s annual revenue was $8.2M; its total expenses rose to $4.4M, including $3.6M for the following “largest… program services”:

High School Transformation Summit attended by ten nationally recognized charter schools. Recruited two new public charter schools launching in 2017. Began recruiting high-quality talent partners including two new Building Excellent Schools Fellows who will launch new schools in 2018.  Developed Lead Nevada Academy to help talented educators expand their skills. Identified and secured a new location for Futuro Academy public charter school.

Serfafin was again the only compensated board member, for $168,942 for 40 hrs/wk., reflecting a salary increase of $92,300 from 2015 to 2016.

Then came 2017.

According to Opportunity 180’s 2017 tax form, annual revenue plummeted from $8.2M in 2016 to $236,654 in 2017. As a result, Opportunity 180’s annual revenue less annual expenses was -$3.7M; this meant that for virtually the entire year, Opportunity 180 survived on its savings, which dropped from $7.7M to $3.9M.

In 2017, Opportunity 180 spent $3.5M for the following:

Opened first BES Fellow operated school, Futuro Academy. Positioned two new BES led schools, Nevada Prep and Nevada Rise Academies to launch in 2018. Launched the pilot class of the Lead Development Academy with the first cohort of eight teacher leaders. Partnered with Teach Plus to offer new teacher leader development fellowship to twenty educators across Nevada.

Opportunity 180 sounds like it has a lot going on regarding promoting charter schools in Nevada, which is centered on creating Nevada’s ASD. From the March 18, 2019, Nevada Current:

According to the [Las Vegas Achievment School] district’s website, there are four schools currently within the Achievement School District: Democracy Prep at the Agassi Campus, Futuro Academy, Nevada Preparatory Charter School, and Nevada Rise Academy. Eight additional schools — all in Southern Nevada — were flagged for potential conversion by the state board late last year.

However, taking in no market-ed-reform-fueling millions in 2017 does not bode well for the survival of one among increasingly many corporate ed reform nonprofits. In 2017, Opportuniry 180’s slim donations included $50,000 from Chiefs for Change and the $45,000 from the Broad Foundation.

In previous years (2015 and 2016), donations flowed as follows:

Now, here is some noteworthy strangeness:

  • The largest donor, UCLA Trust, is not mentioned among the donors listed on this archived 2016 Opportunity 180 “about” page.
  • With the exception of Chiefs for Change, which is located in Washington, DC, all other donors are from California. None are from Nevada, the state directly affected by Opportunity 180, until the Nevada state, ASD-charter-promoting grant money in 2016.

In 2017, there was no additional million-dollar cash infusions from the likes of UCLA and Windsong Trust. Furthermore, in 2017, Serafin took a cut from her 2016 compensation: $151,063 for 40 hrs/wk., down by $17,879 from 2016.

Serafin was also designated as “former” on the Opportunity 180 2017 return, with Jana Lavin added as “acting executive director” ($74,468 for 40 hrs/wk).

According to the March 09, 2017, Las Vegas Review-Journal, Serafin had resigned as Opportunity 180 president:

Allison Serafin, a former state Board of Education member and founder of Opportunity 180, announced Thursday she was stepping down to spend more time with a sick parent. Serafin’s decision is effective at the end of April.

“I have tried to shuttle back and forth over the past few months, but ultimately, it’s not fair to my team if I can’t be 100 percent present,” Serafin wrote in a statement announcing her decision.

Founded in 2014, Opportunity 180 was given a $10 million contract from the state Board of Examiners in April.

The move aligned with the controversial Achievement School District. A 2015 law created the district, which targets under-performing public schools and turns them into charters.

The program is under threat of being repealed this session, with Democrats controlling the majority of the state Legislature.

In May 2019, the Nevada legislature voted to abolish Nevada’s ASD.

Meanwhile, back to 2017 and post-Opportunity 180 Serafin, including a couple of head-tilting discoveries:

  • The Opportunity 180 website has scrubbed any mention of Serafin. In November 2016, she was featured as “founder and president.” By July 2017, Serafin had disappeared from the site and is not even mentioned as its founder, even on the organization’s history. It can certainly be difficult to communte in order to care for a sick parent, and such a reason is could surely justify an unexpected exit. But absolute removal from an organization’s history– one that Serafin founded– is suspect.
  • Serafin chose not to include her last name on her Linkedin bio, instead opting for the less-descript “Allison S.” If one conisders the bio link itself, one sees that serafin’s last name is spelled out, which means that she used her full name for her Linkedin bio upon its creation. However, for some reason, Serafin removed her last name– which begs the idea that she wanted to make it just a bit more difficult for the public to view her Linkedin profile.

Serafin was moving on, and she apparently did not want to showcase all of the details of her ed-reformer career.

In December 2017, the charter school chain, IDEA Public Schools, expanded to Houston, Texas, Serafin’s home town; according to her Linkedin bio, in June 2017, Serafin became executive director of IDEA charter schools in Houston, Texas.

Serafin’s IDEA bio labels Serafin as having “nearly 20 years of experience as an education leader and advocate for excellent public schools and is excited to return home to Houston to offer families an excellent tuition-free public school option for their children.” Serafin’s IDEA bio does not mention that nine of those years were with Teach for America (TFA)– and mostly not in a classroom. An IDEA blog post introducing Serafin mentions her classroom stint with TFA but avoids mentioning the number of years of her classroom experience as well as specifically identifying in connection with Serafin’s seven years as a TFA exec, instead nebulously referring to TFA as “a Fortune 500 company”:

Allison’s leadership skills business acumen, and can-do attitude stems from her diverse and robust career experiences.

Prior to her new role, she founded and was president of Opportunity 180 in Las Vegas, Nevada where she recruited high-quality talent programs and public charter school operators to expand to Southern Nevada. She was also elected in 2012 to serve on the Nevada State Board of Education and was appointed Vice-President throughout her years of service. She also owned her own consulting business, coached school leaders and teacher, led corporate philanthropy for a Fortune 500 company, taught 6th grade at Attucks Middle School in Houston Independent School District (HISD) during her Teach For America commitment and 7th grade at YES Prep North Central. [Underline added.]

However, the Linkedin bio for Allison S. spells it out: Those “nearly 20 years of experience” include only three years in the classroom: two with Teach for America (TFA) from 2001 to 2003 (Houston Independent School District) and one, with Houston’s YES Prep (2004 – 2005), with a seven-year concentration in TFA leadership (2003 – 2004; 2005 – 2011), which is what brought Serafin to Las Vegas.

Serafin’s TFA experience as listed on Serafin’s “Allison S.” Linkedin bio:

Teach For America

5 yrs 11 mos

  • Executive Director, Teach For America – Las Vegas Valley

    Feb 2008 – May 2011

    •Managed a 2M operating budget, increasing our fundraising efforts by 300% in three years andraising 2.5M in FY11.

    •Supported seven direct reports and the oversight for 100 first and second year teachersthroughout Southern Nevada in grades pre-K through 12.

    •Served as a member on Nevada’s Blue Ribbon Task Force and consultant on Nevada’s Race To The Top application.

    •Increased development by nearly 100% in 2008 and exceeded development goals in FY11 by over $500,000

  • Director of Online Media & Video Production

    Jul 2006 – Feb 2008

    •Led the first in-house video production effort at Teach For America.

    •Managed all pre and post-production operations resulting in the production of over 100 videos tosupport the Teach For America Admissions, Recruitment & Teacher Preparation teams.

    •Initiated and supported recruitment team efforts with multimedia and social media marketing strategies through YouTube, Google Video, MySpace and Facebook.

    •Served as a thought partner around broad marketing campaign with Ogilvy & Mather.

  • Recruitment Director, Southern Recruitment Team

    Jul 2005 – Jul 2006

    •Led on campus recruitment efforts at Emory University & the University of Georgia.

    •In October 2005, our campaign had a 53% increase of applications at UGA from 2005 to 2006 anda 73% increase of applicants at Emory from 2005 to 2006.

    Program Director

    Teach For America Mid-Atlantic Region

    May 2003 – Jul 2004

    Greater Philadelphia Area

    •Responsible for supporting 36 teachers with monthly classroom observations, written feedback,one-on-one meetings, concrete resources and opportunities for professional development.

    •Organized and executed three-day Induction program for 118 teachers.

    6th grade Language Arts & World Cultures Teacher

    Houston ISD

    May 2001 – May 2003

    Attucks MS

    •Taught 150 students the foundations of social studies and geography through an in-depth study of Asia

    •90% of my students experienced at least 2 grade levels of growth in Social Studies as measured on the Stanford 9 exam in 2003.

    •95% of my students passed the reading portion of the 2002 TAAS test; 25% were recognized with Commended Performance.

    •100% of my students experienced at least 1.5 grade levels of reading growth as measured by the Scholastic Reading Inventory

It may not be in TFA’s best interest for its alumni to seem to be wielding too much influence over American public education, though such influence is exactly what TFA and its related nonprofit, Leadership for Educational Equity (LEE) want. (For a good dose of TFA’s classroom-thin, admin-and-policy-heavy, leadership grab, see Ceronsky’s October 2012 American Prospect article, “Teach for America’s Deep Bench.”)

It might also be awkward for Serafin to explain why a nonprofit that she founded would choose to purge her name from its history. Such explanation could dance too close to admitting ed-reform failure; still, it is interesting that Serafin’s complete TFA history is what is omitted from Serafin’s IDEA bios.

Even so, former TFA exec Serafin has found another place, and its a virtually guaranteed success for years, since IDEA’s Houston-area charter schools are not yet open:

In December, 2017, the IDEA Public Schools Board granted approval for IDEA Public Schools to begin expansion to Houston, with plans to open four schools in 2020 and 16 additional schools over six years.

It’s only 2019. IDEA Greater Houston remains just that– an idea– and it provides Serafin– or Allison S.– another opportunity of her own.

What is true is that ed reformers can flit from venture to venture; if one sparkling market-ed venture all but fizzles for whatever reason (funding drop; policy change; personal needs), the dedicated corporate reformer (especially a TFA-launched *leader*) can often find a new place to land– yet another new venture, which might be an extension of another venture– just so long as market-ed-reform-favoring billionaires and millionaires are willing to front much of the cash.

flying cash


Interested in scheduling Mercedes Schneider for a speaking engagement? Click here.


Want to read about the history of charter schools and vouchers?

School Choice: The End of Public Education? 

school choice cover  (Click image to enlarge)

Schneider is a southern Louisiana native, career teacher, trained researcher, and author of two other books: A Chronicle of Echoes: Who’s Who In the Implosion of American Public Education and Common Core Dilemma: Who Owns Our Schools?. You should buy these books. They’re great. No, really.

both books

Don’t care to buy from Amazon? Purchase my books from Powell’s City of Books instead.

From → Charters, TFA

  1. Jack permalink


    I’ve got another example of a former TFA Corps Member running from her TFA teaching years, as well as her lucrative, post-TFA-working-in-the-corporate-ed-reform-industry backgroundground.

    I got curious and looked up the latest on Christina Sanches, Parent Revolution’s Latina-Chicana-from-the-barrio-to-Yale and Parent Revolutions Founder Ben Austin’s former ventriloquist dummy. After a little bit of work — it wasn’t easy to locate — I just found her LinkedIn page.ánchez?trk=public_profile_browsemap_mini-profile_title

    What’s interesting is Christina’s deliberate omission of:

    1) her 10 years at Parent Revolution

    2) Her two years as TFA Corps Member (teaching at Belvedere Middle School in a rough part of East L.A., 2004-2006)

    As Robert Skeels once recounted of a public meeting regarding the notorious Parent Trigger, UTLA’s
    Ingrid Villeda memorably and publicly lashed out at Christina for “abandoning her students” when she left Belvidere Middle School to make big bucks selling out to, and working for Ben Austin, and of course, for Christina’s school privatization efforts at Parent Revolution promoting the Parent Trigger.

    In her Linked-in, Christina only employment listing is her independent contractor work, which she characterizes vaguely, and which only includes work from 2017-to-Present.
    Independent Consultant
    Program Design, Strategic Planning, Evaluation
    January 2017 – Present 2 years 6 months
    Greater Los Angeles Area
    Support mission-driven organizations prepare to scale by guiding them through codifying their program model and preparing curriculum to train others on how to implement their techniques.

    Yeah, but what about your work at Parent Revolution 2006-2016?

    Here’s a couple video highlights of those glory years:

    In 2011, Christina went to TFA’s 20th Anniversary, and was on a panel where she enthusiastically spread the Gospel of Ben Austin & his school privatization-via-charterization, as well as Parent Revolution and its Parent Trigger:

    In 2012, Christina even went on CNN to defend and promote Parent Revolution and the Parent Trigger, speaking with CNN’s Kyra Phillips here:

    However, she”s now trying to write all this out of her history, treating it as if it all never happened.

    Again, all of her P-Rev. work has been scrubbed from her LinkedIn page, along with her two years as a TFA Corps Member at Belvidere Middle School (2004-2006).

    It’s only speculation, but I have some theories as to what’s behind this:

    1) She woke up and is now genuinely ashamed of her P-Rev./TFA efforts (hopefully);

    2) She’s not ashamed in the least of her P-Rev./TFA efforts, but knows that the association with the corporate ed. reform industry is toxic or a millstone, career-wise, or whatever, and is an obstacle to what she wants to do now, and where she wants to do it.

    3) some alternate theory.

    Whatever the case, that leaves a big 10-year hole in Christina’s resume, not unlike a woman with 10-year career as a pornstar, for example.

    • Jack permalink

      Here’s another video for Christina Sanchez selling out.

      As you watch and listen to Christina talk in fluent Spanish, you experience something that is offensive in the extreme about how the billionaire-funded privatizer astroturf groups engage in a very cynical tactic. They seek out Latinos/Chicanos to front for their nefarious privatization schemes. Yolie Flores-Aguilar, Ref Rodriguez, Kelly Gonez, Monica Garcia, Antonio Villaraigosa, etc. … these ethnic ventriloquist dummies are deliberately selected to trick low-income Latinos/Chicanos into buying into this union-busting, school-privatizing baloney.

      Christina taught the TFA minimum two years, then jumped on the privatization gravy train, earning a huge salary while hoodwinking the very ethnicity and socio-economic group from which she springs.

      Compare that with 25-year, LAUSD teaching veteran Ingrid Villeda, who blasted Christina to her face — “You abandoned your students!”— at a meeting that was written about by Robert Skeels (I gotta find that.). Both Ingrid and Christina come from parts of L.A. that are low-income and Latina. Both taught in those same areas, but that’s where things diverge.

      Ingrid’s in it for the kids, and for the long haul … devoting decades in a career teaching those students. To Christina, however, her two year stint teaching at Belvidere was just a stepping stone, running away as soon as her two years with TFA were up, and she could move on to cash in by becoming a ventriloquist mannequin for billionaire privatizers.

      Here’s Ingrid telling the truth about Parent Revolution and the Parent Trigger:

      and here:

      Oh, I just found the Skeels article:

      ROBERT SKEELS: “I caught a little bit of Ingrid’s conversation with Sánchez. The best part of which was when Ingrid pointed out to Sánchez that when she abandoned teaching, she abandoned the children she now claims to be helping. Of course, that’s a point of pride for TFA anyway, right?”

      Oh, and for good measure, here’s then-UTLA-president Warren Fletcher unleashing his fury against the Parent Trigger and Parent Revolution:

      (NOTE how pro-privatization and former Board Member Tamar Galatzan tries to block Fletcher before the late Margurete LaMotte intervenes and lets Fletcher speak.)

Trackbacks & Pingbacks

  1. Mercedes Schneider: The Very Profitable Career of an ex-TFA-er | Diane Ravitch's blog
  2. Mercedes Schneider: The Meteoric Rise, Fall, and Rise of a Reformer | Diane Ravitch's blog

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s