About Us

Board of Directors


Melvyn Leshinsky, MBA, J.D. Chairperson
Aronson LLC (Retired)

Melvyn Leshinsky

Melvyn (Mel) Leshinsky is a retired senior partner of Aronson LLC, a certified public accounting firm, located in Rockville, MD, which he joined in 1971 and retired from in 2010.

During his tenure, Aronson LLC enjoyed unprecedented growth and received many professional and community acknowledgments. Aronson’s client base is made up of construction, real estate, government contracting, nonprofit, technology and private industry companies located in the Greater Washington, D.C., Maryland and Virginia.

Mel received his Bachelor’s of Science in Business Administration from Long Island University in 1964, his Master of Business Administration, specializing in Taxation, from Pace College in 1966 and his Juris Doctorate from Howard University School of Law in 1969.

Mel is a member of the Board of the Institute for Community Initiatives. He is also a co-founder of the Chesapeake Center for Youth Development in Baltimore.


Brenda Wolff, Esquire Vice Chairperson
Montgomery County Board of Education

Brenda Wolff

Ms. Brenda Wolff was elected to her first four-year term on the Montgomery County Board of Education (Board) on November 6, 2018; she is currently president of the Board and is a member of the Fiscal Management Committee.  Brenda also represents the Board to the Maryland Association of Boards of Education’s (MABE) Federal Relations Network Committee and is the vice chair of MABE's Legislative Committee. Following the death of Patricia O'Neill, Brenda became the Board's representative on the Foundation Board of Directors, an ex-officio role that serves as the Foundation Vice Chair.

Previously, she has served as the vice president of the Board and the chair of the Board’s Communication and Stakeholder Engagement. Ms. Wolff has served on various Montgomery County Public Schools’ (MCPS) committees, including the African American Student Achievement Group.  

Brenda has had a multi-faceted career that championed equality, civil rights, and education.  She was an attorney for the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, and a Hearing Officer for the Massachusetts Public Utility Commission. During her 27-year tenure with the United States Department of Education serving in various positions, including as the Chief Regional Attorney in the Boston Office for Civil Rights and the Deputy Director and Acting Director in the Philadelphia Office for Civil Rights.  She also served as the Director of the National Institute of Educational Governance, Finance, Policymaking and Management, and as the Acting Director of the National Institute on Education of At-Risk Students.  She retired having served as the Program Manager for the National Assessment of Educational Progress.

Brenda graduated from Smith College with a degree in mathematics, and a law degree from Suffolk University Law School. She is married with two adult children. 


Paul Leleck CPA, Treasurer
Building Hope Paul Leleck

Paul Leleck is the Chief Financial Officer for Building Hope. In that role, he manages the organization’s finances and underwrites financial assistance to public charter schools. He also works with client schools on their accounting and budgeting through Building Hope Services. Paul is a certified public accountant with over 35 years of accounting, finance, business and management experience. He has assisted development stage companies and has served as a partner in a Big 4 accounting firm.

Paul currently serves on the boards of the Latin American Montessori Bilingual Public Charter School and Paul Public Charter School. In 2016, Paul established the JoAnn Leleck Endowed Fund in memory of his wife who served as MCPS Chief Academic Officer. The fund supports the needs of the MCPS Elementary School renamed in JoAnn's honor.



Kim M. Watson, M.A., MBA Secretary
KMW Public Relations

Kim Watson

Kim Watson is the retired Vice President for Corporate Philanthropy and Partnerships at PEPCO. Her primary responsibility was strategic development of corporate partnerships and relationships through the development of signature programs that highlighted the corporation’s Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) activities. Kim has over 30 years of experience in customer service, government relations and stakeholder development and engagement.

She currently serves on the board of the YWCA-NCA. Kim also serves on the Board of the American Diabetes Association of Greater Washington and is Board Emeritus of Leadership Greater Washington and the Network for Teaching Entrepreneurship of Greater Washington (NFTE). Kim is a former member of The Conference Board Philanthropy II Council; the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Business Civic Leadership Center and the Committee Encouraging Corporate Philanthropy (CECP).

Kim received her M.B.A. from Georgetown University (IEMBA) with a concentration in International Business. She holds an M.A. degree with concentrations in public administration and international relations from Howard University in Washington, D.C., where she also completed doctoral studies. Additionally, she received a B.A. in political science from McMaster University in Canada. She completed the MIT-Harvard University Program on Negotiation in Boston, MA and the Harvard Business School Program on Corporate Social Responsibility on Creating Social and Business value in 2012.


Monifa B. McKnight, Ed.D., Superintendent of Schools
Montgomery County Public Schools Jack R. Smith Ph.D.

Monifa B. McKnight currently is the interim superintendent for MCPS, a role she assumed after serving as MCPS deputy superintendent. She has held many educational leadership roles including the Chief School Management and Instructional Leadership Officer for Howard County Public Schools, the Director for Secondary Leadership Development Programs at MCPS, and was a Campus Principal Ambassador Fellow for the United States Department of Education in 2016 under the leadership of Secretary of Education John King.

Monifa was honored as the 2015 Maryland Middle School Principal of the Year by the Maryland Association of Secondary School Principals and as the 2015 Maryland State Principal of the Year by the National Association of Secondary School Principals. She received this honor during her fifth year as the Principal of Ridgeview Middle School in Gaithersburg, Maryland. Monifa’s prior experiences in education include: classroom teacher, English Resource Teacher, Staff Development Teacher, and Assistant Principal. 

She holds a Bachelor of Science degree in Elementary Education from South Carolina State University, Orangeburg, South Carolina, a Master of Science in Educational Leadership from Bowie State University, Bowie, Maryland, and a Doctorate of Education in Educational Leadership and Policy from the University of Maryland, College Park.


Kristen Wong Callisto, Ed.L.D.
Acting Executive Director

MCPS Educational Foundation

Kristen Wong Callisto


Pennie Abramson, Gary and Pennie Abramson Charitable Foundation

Pennie Abramson

Pennie Abramson is a leader in the philanthropic world, both nationally and internationally. She has contributed to causes ranging from the arts to the sciences, supporting a wide variety of initiatives including creating education seminars and funding educational buildings.

Pennie is the current chair of the Foundation Small Grants Committee and co-chair of the Foundation Scholarships Committee. In this role, she raises and disperses Foundation funds for projects that are not supported by the county schools, including providing accessible equipment to children with disabilities and college scholarships for local students.

Pennie is an active member in The Fisher Island Philanthropic Foundation, a fund which supports children’s charities based in Miami, FL. She also sits on the Board of Trustees for Friends of Cancer Research, Project MediShare, Operation Embrace and Aleph Bet Montessori School. She is a past Women’s division Chairman for State of Israel Bonds and spent many years serving for the American Cancer Society and the Leukemia Society of America.

Pennie is a graduate of MCPS school Norwood High School. She has been married to her husband Gary Abramson for 46 years. They have three children and four grandchildren.


Joshua Bokee, Connect For Broadband

Josh Bokee

Joshua (Josh) Bokee is in government affairs and a policy and legislative analyst for Comcast Corporation. Josh has a wide and varied interest in nonprofit and service clubs, including United Way of Frederick County; Mental Health Association of Frederick County; Frederick City Planning Commission; Rotary Club of Carroll Creek; Frederick Chamber of Commerce; and the Neighborhood Advisory Council.

He lived in Frederick for nine years, is married, and has one child.

Josh received his Bachelor of Science degree in business management, concentration in economics, from Pennsylvania State University and his master’s in community planning from the University of Maryland, College Park.


Steve B. Cohen, MBA ProShares Advisors, LLC

Steve B. Cohen

Steve Cohen is the chair of the Foundation Finance Committee.

Steve Cohen joined ProShares in 2002. In his current role as Managing Director and Head of Strategy, he is responsible for product development, product management, investment strategies, and branding. Steve previously led the marketing team and played a large role in helping shape the firm’s corporate strategy and product development efforts.

Prior to joining ProShares, Steve served as Vice President of Marketing at Folio Investing, and before that at the mutual fund company, Calvert. He also worked with several large agencies in the advertising business for 15 years, including Saatchi & Saatchi and Bozell Worldwide where he ran the Merrill Lynch account. He earned a bachelor’s degree in marketing and management information systems from the McIntire School of Commerce, University of Virginia. Steve is married and has three children, all of whom have gone through the MCPS education system.


Susie B. Leong, MFA, MA Consultant


Susie Leong provides guidance and management for projects involving public art, art, urban planning, and community development.  She implements and coordinates public art competitions and commissioned works; administers public art projects from issuance of requests for qualifications to installation; and facilitates and coordinates community meetings, events, and workshops. 

In 2012, Susie started her Washington D.C. Metro -Area consultant practice and immediately accepted the role of Coordinator for the Executive’s Ball.  The Ball raises significant funds for  Montgomery County arts organizations. Before starting her consulting practice, Susie was Program Director for the Maryland State Arts Council of Montgomery County.  Her service to the Arts Council was preceded by her position as Director of Public Arts Trust for the Arts and Humanities Council of Montgomery County, which followed three years of service at the Center for Arts and Culture. 

Before turning to the arts, Susie was  with Lozano, Baskin, and Associates and oversaw two master planning projects in Massachusetts: a comprehensive master plan for the City of Lawrence, and a revitalization plan for an industrial neighborhood in Springfield.  

Susie holds a Bachelor of Arts degree from Yale University; a Master of Fine Arts, Painting from University of Michigan; and a Master, Urban Planning from Harvard University Graduate School of Design.  She is married with children in Montgomery County Public Schools.


Jennifer Nordheimer, J.D. Community Member

Photo Shy

Jennifer L. Nordheimer is co-chair of the Foundation Scholarships Committee.

She is a lawyer in the public affairs and public policy field with a focus on health, telecommunications and disability policy. Jennifer graduated from Tufts University with a degree in Art History and received her J.D. from the University of Maryland Francis King Carey School of Law.

In addition to her work with the Foundation, Jennifer serves on the Board of the WHC Sisterhood and on the PTAs of her children's schools. A product of the MCPS system, she feels very strongly about ensuring that all Montgomery County students have equitable access to its innovative programs and resources. Jennifer is married to a fellow MCPS graduate and is the parent of a current MCPS student and two MCPS graduates.


Linda Plummer, NAACP, Montgomery County Branch

Linda Plummer

Linda Plummer is president of the NAACP Montgomery County Branch, and previously held the offices of branch secretary, 1st vice president, and membership chair. She has also served as the NAACP Maryland State Youth and College Adviser. Linda is a graduate of Leadership Montgomery. She has received the County's Human Rights and MLK Humanitarian Awards and has been an NAACP Golden Heritage Member since 2009.



Arlandis Rush, United HealthGroup

Arlandis Rush

Landis Rush is the National Vice President, State and Local Government, Advocacy and Education, Public Sector Labor &Trust at United HealthGroup. In this role, Landis identifies, builds and executes strategies to support PLS&T sales goals and objectives, including growth and retention.

Landis has more than 23 years of experience in policy, and lobbying. He has an extensive history working directly with local, state, and federal government official, including procurement and third-party administrators.
Prior to joining United HealthGroup in 2018, Landis was the National Vice President, State and Local Government, Public Sector and Labor, Aetna. In this role, he was responsible for managing a national network of C-level public sector and labor relationships with a focus on growth and retention of public sector clients, including cities, counties, schools and states.
Prior to joining Aetna in 2015, Landis was a federal lobbyist for the National Association of Counties (NACo), Large Urban County Caucus and Justice and Public Safety Steering Committee. In this role, Landis was responsible for lobbying Congress on behalf of our nation’s 3069 counties on important policy issues impacting local government. Landis has previously held positions as a state and federal lobbyist with the National Association of Drug Court Professionals (NADCP), Caduceus Occupational Medicine, Boys & Girls Clubs of America (BGCA). In these roles, he was responsible for managing a national public-sector network to help drive membership, growth, retention and revenue.

Landis’ broad public sector experience working with local, state, and federal appointed and elected officials, and prominent national organizations, such as, the National Association of Counties (NACo), International City and County Management Association (ICMA), American Teachers Federation (ATF), National School Boards Association (NSBA), National League of Cities (NLC), National Conference of State Legislators (NCSL), National Governors Association (NGA), National Forum of Black Public Administrator (NFBPA), State and Local Government Benefits Association (SALGBA), Congressional Black Caucus (CBC), and the American Association of School Personnel Administrators (AASPA) will be extremely valuable in our efforts to provide a balance healthcare and health insurance expertise to our board of directors.

Landis holds a Bachelor of Science degree in Criminal Justice from the University of Texas at El Paso (UTEP) and Masters of Public Administration from Strayer University. Landis is based in Washington, DC.



Fazaneh Sabi, M.D., FACOG, Mid-Atlantic Permanente Medical Group

Dr. Fazaneh (Fazi) Sabi

Dr. Farzaneh (Fazi) Sabi was appointed Associate Medical Director of Hospital Operations, Perioperative Services, Utilization and Case Management, and Network/Contracting for the Mid-Atlantic Permanente Medical Group (MAPMG) in February 2013. She leads the strategy and execution of when and how Kaiser Permanente members will receive care within the integrated care delivery system of Kaiser Permanente versus from contracted facilities and providers to ensure the highest quality outcomes. She also oversees the utilization management and case management departments.

A fellow of the American Board of Obstetrics and Gynecology (FABOG), Fazi completed her residency training at the Naval Medical Center San Diego, Balboa Hospital. She holds a bachelor’s degrees in biology and psychology from The George Washington University in Washington, D.C., and a Doctor of Medicine from The George Washington University Medical School. Fazi is also a graduate of the MCPS school Richard Montgomery High School, a mother of MCPS students, and a member of the Fifth Grade Challenge Hall of Fame.


Victoria Samuels, Educational Systems Federal Credit Union (Retired)

Vic Samuels

Victoria (Vic) Samuels, Vice President of Community Relations for Educational Systems Federal Credit Union, joined the Foundation in 2016. Vic began her career at Educational Systems Federal Credit Union in 1985 and is passionate about the Credit Union’s core purpose of serving the education community.

In her role as the Vice President of Community Relations, she partners with the seven county school systems and the three community colleges that the Credit Union serves to support education through sponsorships, volunteerism and charitable giving. With over $850 million in assets and 12 branches, the Credit Union serves over 85,000 members in seven school systems and three community colleges throughout Anne Arundel, Calvert, Charles, Montgomery, Prince George's, St. Mary's and Talbot counties.


Rob Smith, Fitzgerald Auto Malls

Rob Smith

Rob Smith is the chair of the Foundation Fundraising Committee.

Rob is the Vice President of the Fitzgerald Auto Malls. In this role, he oversees development and implementation of process-based management systems deployed across multiple locations in three states to achieve desired results in net profit and customer satisfaction objectives. He has extensive previous experience in sales and service in a variety of roles including sales and service management. He has held his position since 1989.

Rob is also President of Americans Standing for the Simplification of the Estate Tax (ASSETT), which is a grass roots non-profit organization dedicated to changing the collection methodology for the estate tax. 


Rebecca Smondrowski, Montgomery County Board of Education

Rebecca Smondrowski

Rebecca Smondrowski was first elected to the Board of Education in 2012 and was just re-elected to her third term in 2020. She is the Chair of the BOE's Committee on Special Populations and a member of the Policy Management Committee.

Prior to joining the BOE, Rebecca served as the Legislative Aide for Senator Roger Manno. She has served on the Montgomery County Council of Parent-Teacher Associations (MCCPTA) Board of Directors, including positions as the Vice President for Legislation, Vice President for Programs, Chair of the Curriculum Committee, Quince Orchard Cluster Coordinator, and MCCPTA’s representative to the Montgomery County Public Schools (MCPS) K-12 Mathematics Joint Task Force.

Rebecca was re-appointed as a Commissioner for the City of Gaithersburg Ethics Commission in January 2015. She also serves on the Board of Trustees for Future Link.

Rebecca is married with two children, an MCPS graduate and one currently attending the Montgomery County Public Schools.


Matthew Swibel, MBA  Lockheed Martin


Matthew Swibel leads an integrated team responsible for employee and executive communications; functional communications; a $30 million social impact strategy and giving program; and the corporate operations of the communications function. In this role he also facilitates the development of a multi-year strategic plan for communications.

Previously, he directed the Corporation’s enterprise risk management and sustainability program strategy, implementation and stakeholder engagement. This involved leading business risk assessments and facilitating multiple corporate governance councils chartered to provide assurance to the CEO and Board of Directors on matters related to compliance, risk management and environmental, social and governance topics. Matt joined Lockheed Martin as director of enterprise communications, and led a team supporting several corporate functions including the CIO, CFO and the Executive Office of the Chairman.

Until that time, Matt spent almost a decade as a business journalist, most recently as Associate Editor of Forbes, where he was recognized by the Overseas Press Club for his business reporting from abroad; co-edited the World Billionaires issue; and traveled with the U.S. Secretary of State.

Matt graduated cum laude from American University (DC) with degrees in Communications and Sociology and earned an MBA from the University of Maryland. He taught as an adjunct professional lecturer at the American University School of Communication from 2005 to 2008.

He serves on the Board of the American Red Cross of the National Capital & Greater Chesapeake Region and the Montgomery County Council of PTAs. Matt resides with his family in Montgomery County, Maryland, where his children attend public middle and high schools.


In Memoriam

Honorary Directors

  • James E. Cafritz, James Cafritz, Inc.***
  • John "Jack" Fitzgerald, Fitzgerald Auto Malls
  • Seth Goldman, Founder of Honest Tea
  • Sally Scott Marietta, International Business Machines Corporation


Investment of Foundation Assets

In March 2017, the Board of Directors approved the Finance Committee's retention of Northern Trust as the foundation's investment manager.