Advisory Council

Purpose of the Pre-K – 12 Education Advisory Council:

Given the profound importance of access to quality education, both to the Konar Foundation and to the communities we serve, we find it essential that genuine experts guide our funding decisions in the realm of Pre-K – 12 Education. Thus, we have put in place an Advisory Council comprised of eminently experienced leaders representing diverse education-related specializations. This council represents a reliable link to professional and technical expertise and provides non-binding, informed, and strategic advice to the Foundation. It acts as a safe harbor, a sounding board, and a source of inspiration for test-driving ideas before dissemination with the Board. The Advisory Council not only helps us to understand technical issues and potential grant-fund impact but also serves as an ally and critical community champion advocating for the Konar Foundation’s mission and vision.


  • Participants reflect a cross-section of backgrounds, personal and professional experiences, diverse knowledge, and perspectives. Council Members have experience in traditional public schools, charter schools, and not for profit.
  • The Council is comprised of people with good chemistry and individuals who have the skills required to support the Foundation’s mission and vision.


  • They focus solely on the issues presented to them and do not engage in much of the rituals associated with the Board of Directors.
  • Their advice evolves from having an opportunity to read and reflect upon written materials well in advance of their quarterly meetings.
  • Advisory Council Members actively support the Foundation’s mission and vision.
  • Individual members stay informed about plans, activities of the Foundation, and significant trends in Pre-K to 12 Education.
  • Members work in collaboration with the Foundation to extend the Foundation brand, impact, and Funding Priorities by recommending potential educational funding initiatives in Rochester, New York and beyond.
  • All Members commit to a two-year tenure and regular attendance at quarterly meetings.


Brenda J. Bethea, M.Ed.

Head of Early Childhood Education
Degrees: B.S. Elementary Education and Educational Psychology and M. Ed Secondary Education and School Counseling
Current Certification: Early Childhood Administration
Experience: “During my forty plus years as a career educator, I have served in many capacities.  In the public sector, I served as a classroom teacher, curriculum coordinator, school counselor and assistant school administrator.  As a part of the public charter school movement, I was appointed principal of a newly opened school, and then as a compliance officer, ombudsman, and ultimately the head of schools in the central office for a multi-campus organization.  Currently, I serve in the private school sector as the head of early childhood education in a high performing Christian school.”
Favorite education quote: “Everybody is a genius.  But if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing that it is stupid.”-Albert Einstein

Jennifer Gkourlias, Ed.D

Teacher English as a New Language
Degrees: Ed. D. Educational Leadership, Program Evaluation University of Rochester,Teaching English as a Second Language, University at Buffalo, BA History, SUNY Geneseo.
Experience: Dr. Gkourlias is an educational leader with over twenty years of experience in teaching and curriculum development.  She teaches English as a New Language in the Buffalo City School District.  Other positions held include Founding Principal of Rochester’s first charter school for young women, Young Women’s College Prep from 2011-2014, Executive Director, Social Studies, Rochester City School District, and Director of Social Studies and World Languages, Greece Central School District.   She is an advocate for veterans, and is presently writing an oral history of the Persian Gulf War through the eyes of veterans who served with a focus on exposing the truth about Gulf War Illness.
Favorite educational quote: “Failure is impossible.”  Susan B. Anthony

Michele Hancock, Ed.D

Professor of Practice in Education
Degrees: Doctor of Education, M. Ed (Generalist), B.S. in Early Childhood Education
Current Certifications: Advanced Certificate of Study in Education Administration, DISC Certified Trainer, Haberman Certified Trainer
Experience: A consummate educator with a track record of leadership success in higher education, diverse K-12 education roles, i.e. school superintendent, district-wide administrative roles, school principal, and classroom teacher.  Also, a demonstrated capacity to inspire and lead change to champion continuous learning and transformative initiatives that advance diversity, equity and inclusion.
Favorite educational quote: “No child can rise to low expectations.” Les Brown

Brandan Keaveny, Ed.D., CIPM

Founder & Principal Consultant at Data Ethics LLC
Degrees: Doctor of Education, Certified Information Privacy Manager (CIPM), New York
Current Certifications: School District Administrator, Elementary Education Pre-K to 6, Special Education K to 12
Experience: “Each milestone in my career as an educator – as a teacher of students with special needs, a lecturer of pre-service teaching candidates and students at the graduate level, and as a school district administrator – has focused on how to prepare my students for the opportunities and challenges they will face tomorrow and in the distant future.”
Favorite education quote: “Education is the ability to listen to almost anything without losing your temper or self-confidence.”-Robert Frost

Richard “Dan” Vega, MS, MSE

Retired School Counselor, President of the Rochester Children’s Scholarship Fund, Volunteer at the Boy Scouts of America, Former Scoutmaster of Boy Scout Troop 147 at St. Michael’s Church
Degrees: MS in Counseling, MSE in Special Education
Current Certification: K-12 in Social Studies
Experience: “I have taught ESOL in Puerto Rico for both middle school and adults.  I was a Bilingual Special Education teacher in the Rochester City School District for 13 years.  Later, I spent 22 years as a school counselor including several years as a placement counselor.”
Favorite education quote: “The saddest thing in life is wasted talent, and the choices you make will shape your life forever.”  Chazz Palminteri, A Bronx Tale