Conference Speakers

Keynote Speakers

John King          |         Judi Steele          |         Dr. Jeffrey Geihs          |         Chan M. Hellman, PhD

John King
Speaking Wednesday March 2nd

John B. King Jr. is a lifelong educator and a former secretary of education under President Obama. He lives in Silver Spring, Maryland, with his wife (a former kindergarten and first-grade teacher) and his two daughters, who attend Montgomery County Public Schools. King’s family has deep roots in Maryland. His great-grandfather, Charles King, was enslaved just 25 miles from his home in Montgomery County – and the cabin where his ancestors lived still stands. His grandmother, Estelle Livingston Stansberry King, attended the University of Maryland Eastern Shore (then called Princess Anne Academy), where she was among the first Black graduates in 1894.

A remarkable testament to his ancestors’ journey to present day, John served as President Barack Obama’s U.S. Secretary of Education. In tapping him to lead the U.S. Department of Education, President Obama called John “an exceptionally talented educator,” citing his commitment to “preparing every child for success” and his lifelong commitment and passion for education. As a member of President Obama’s cabinet, he led the administration’s efforts to close opportunity gaps for students from Pre-K through college.

Deeply dedicated to public education, John serves as President of a national education civil rights organization that works to support students of color and those from low-income backgrounds, and is currently Professor of Practice at the University of Maryland College Park’s College of Education.

While John’s remarkable career as an educator and a policy maker has focused on closing opportunity gaps in education, he has also spent his career working toward a more just future for those who have too often been marginalized, undeserved and forgotten. He continues to lead on issues of dismantling mass incarceration and providing second chances, combating hunger and homelessness, advancing environmental and economic justice, preventing gun violence, and other social justice causes. John serves on several boards including Former First Lady Michelle Obama’s Reach Higher Initiative, Marylanders to Prevent Gun Violence, The Century Foundation, Teach Plus, The Robin Hood Foundation, the National Center for Learning Disabilities Professional Advisory Board, and the National Advisory Council for the Prenatal-toThree Policy Impact Center at the University of Texas at Austin. He is also a co-chair of the Aspen Institute’s K12 Climate Action Commission.

Last fall John founded Strong Future Maryland, a progressive advocacy organization that was instrumental in supporting the passage of over 20 pieces of progressive legislation. now John is a Democratic candidate for Governor in Maryland.

John holds a Bachelor of Arts in government from Harvard University (where he was elected to the Board in 2019), a J.D. from Yale Law School, as well as a Master of Arts in the teaching of social studies and a doctorate in education from Teachers College at Columbia University.

Speaking Thursday, March 3rd

Judi Steele

Founder and President of the Leadership Institute of Nevada and CEO Emeritus of the Public Education Foundation

Judi Steele is CEO Emeritus of The Public Education Foundation. She is one of the founders of the nonprofit organization and also has served local, national and international education and business communities as an educator, business owner, consultant and executive coach.

Judi, who has championed public education and the arts, is a respected thought leader guided by an entrepreneurial spirit and the courage to challenge conventional wisdom. She was active in the civil rights movement and is a champion of equal rights and human justice. Judi has worked tirelessly to improve the quality of teaching and learning for all public school children.

She was born and raised in New York City and received her Bachelor of Arts degree in sociology and elementary education from Hunter College. Judi began her distinguished education career as a fifth grade teacher at P.S. 171 in East Harlem.

Before beginning her career with the Clark County School District, she taught elementary and middle school in Providence, Rhode Island, where she began her graduate studies at Brown University. She completed her Master of Education degree in secondary and adult education from the University of Nevada, Las Vegas.

Her career with CCSD began as a classroom teacher at C.V.T. Gilbert Prestige School. She also served as Integration Consultant with the Intergroup Education Department under Dr. Claude Perkins and worked with Claude Parson. She was a Team Leader for Teacher Corps, Summer School Site Administrator, and was the first teacher of the Academically Talented Program and the first coordinator of Child Find.

As the Director of Special Education Programs and Services for the District, she developed and implemented procedures and staff development activities to ensure that all disabled students received a free, public and appropriate education. She was responsible for district-wide programs for the visually, orally and emotionally challenged, learning disabled and academically talented.

Judi designed CCSD’s first Individualized Education Program; established multi-disciplinary team processes; and supervised speech and language therapists, school nurses and teachers of the academically talented.

In 1987, she took a leave of absence to assist with some political campaigns and became President of Steele & Associates, a management consulting firm in which she also provided executive coaching. In 1991, she returned to CCSD and served in a dual role as Manager of the Office of Development and Education Improvement for CCSD and Executive Director of the newly incorporated Clark County Public Education Foundation, an independent, nonprofit organization established to improve public education in Southern Nevada.

In 2001, she retired from the District and was named President of The Public Education Foundation. Since its inception, the Foundation, working collaboratively with CCSD, has been a leader in creating and sponsoring innovative, results-driven initiatives to improve student performance, demonstrate accountability and support educational excellence.

Judi has received numerous honors and awards for her lifelong service to children, education and the community. In 2006, the Clark County Board of School Trustees honored her, as she became the namesake of the Judith D. Steele Elementary School.

She also has been inducted into the CCSD Educational Excellence Hall of Fame. Judi has served on numerous boards of directors, advisory boards and was the Founder and President of the Arts Council of Henderson and “Nevada Shakespeare in the Park.”

In 2014 and 2015, she was included among “Las Vegas’ Top 100 Women of Influence” in MyVegas magazine and, in 2014, she received the 1st Distinguished Endeavor Award in Education presented by Distinguished Women in Nevada.

Judi has a daughter, Elyse, a son, Arthur, and two granddaughters, Taylor and Haley.

With vision, passion and boundless energy, Judi has lived by the Talmudic philosophy: “If not now, when? If not me, who?”

Dr. Jeffrey Geihs

Dr. Jeff Geihs began his career in education in 1995 as an English teacher and Department Chair in the International Baccalaureate program at Valley High School in the Clark County School District (CCSD). In 1999, he successfully completed CCSD’s Executive Leadership program and was appointed dean of students at Mike O’Callaghan Middle School and Chaparral High School, respectively. In 2001, Dr. Geihs was appointed to assistant principal at Cheyenne High School and served in multiple leadership capacities. Most notably, Dr. Geihs assisted in the establishment of single-sex instruction that ultimately led to accelerated programs.

In 2004, Dr. Geihs accepted a position as an administrative assistant (tantamount to a Chief of Staff) to a Region Superintendent within CCSD. During his tenure in this position, he helped spearhead "Standard Student Attire" within the district, which subsequently led to CCSD Board Policy still in existence today.

In 2005, Dr. Geihs was appointed as principal at Cheyenne High School. During his tenure as principal, Dr. Geihs expanded single-sex instruction, successfully implemented standard student attire, eliminated remedial classes, expanded honors and Advanced Placement courses by 170%, and added a number of additional performing arts elective classes, which appealed to the student population. Under Dr. Geihs’ Leadership, Cheyenne High School achieved Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP), as specified by No Child Left Behind (NCLB) and Empowerment School status in 2008. Cheyenne High School was the first large CCSD comprehensive high school to operate using the Empowerment Model, which is a based on a results-driven site-based management corporate business approach.  In 2009, he was nationally recognized as High School Principal of the Year.  

In July 2009, Dr. Geihs joined The Public Education Foundation as the Vice President and Chief Operations Officer where he continued his service to CCSD students and educators by helping build systems of professional development and leadership support.   

In July 2010, Dr. Geihs became the principal of Liberty High School in CCSD. While there, he initiated the “12-13” Program in partnership with the College of Southern Nevada so that Liberty students could earn dual college and high school credit. Additionally, under his leadership, Liberty High School increased its state Star Ranking from 3 Star to a 4 Star rating (out of 5) by increasing Advanced Placement Enrollment and pass rates, decreasing achievement gaps, and increasing proficiency levels in math and English Language Arts.

In June 2012, Dr. Geihs was appointed School Associate Superintendent of the Clark County School District’s Turnaround Zone, which was a fluid Zone designed to improve the entire system. In this role, Dr. Geihs supported up to 25 schools consisting of approximately 30,000 students with the following approximate demographic breakdown: 66% Hispanic, 20% Black, 7% white, and a combined 7% of students represent other ethnic groups. Additionally, 13.49% of students received special education services, 33% were English Language Learners, and 92% of students were eligible for Free and Reduced Lunch. These schools operated with Title I Funds, state categorical funds, and/or School Improvement Grant monies, in addition to district resources, and have been identified as schools most in need of additional supports and serving the most at-risk student populations. Dr. Geihs was charged with the implementation of a 130 million dollar budget.

Dr. Geihs was charged with running the self-imposed district process for selection of schools to enter the Turnaround Zone for a period of no less than four (4) years for treatment. The process identifies the lowest ranking schools with three (3) or more years of systemic low and/or decreasing performance. Additionally, Dr. Geihs facilitated the process for both an Internal and External audit of identified schools to determine which schools would most benefit from the intervention and which schools receive a Continuous Improvement Plan and remain in their geographic zone.

In 2019, at the conclusion of Dr. Geihs’ tenure within CCSD, the Turnaround Zone had placed 41 schools on Continuous Improvement Plans. Of these 41 schools, 36 improved significantly and never entered the Turnaround Zone. In all, 29 PreK-12 schools entered the Turnaround Zone for treatment, while 16 schools exited Turnaround Status because they improved significantly. These include: Six high schools where graduation rates increased by an average of 11% after one year of treatment, and by an average of 32% by their last year in the Turnaround Zone.  Additionally, two of the high schools, increased graduation rates for the class of 2019 at over 90%.  Furthermore, the Turnaround Zone saw increases in math proficiency ranging between 18% and 75%, and reading proficiency increases ranging between 10% and 53%.   Dr. Geihs attributes this success to the principals, teachers and the school communities he serves.

Dr. Geihs served as the President of the Clark County Association of Secondary School Principals (CCASSP), was the President of the Secondary School Principals' Association of Nevada (SSPAN), and was elected President of the Clark County Association of School Administrators and Professional-Technical Employees (CCASAPE) twice. He was elected President-elect of the Nevada Association of School Administrators (NASA) in 2016 and became President in 2018.  His peers elected him to these positions. As such, he regularly met with Nevada State lawmakers and Nevada’s representatives in Washington D.C. on behalf of his members’ interests.

In 2019 Dr. Geihs was appointed to the position of Executive Director of the Nevada Association of School Administrators (NASA). Under his leadership membership has increased by over 700 new members, an ongoing and eclectic blend of credit bearing workshops, conferences and high-level institutes are offered, relationships for NASA with elected officials, community activists and educational providers have been formed, and, in turn, partnerships increased exponentially. You can visit the NASA Website at

In his free time, he enjoys spending time with his wife, Mindy, his children, Madison and David, and hosting gatherings for friends and family at his home. As Jeff says, “There is always something, or someone, to celebrate!”

Chan M. Hellman, PhD
Speaking Friday, March 4th

Chan Joined the University of Oklahoma in 2002.  Chan is a professor in the Anne & Henry Zarrow School of Social Work and Founding Director of The Hope Research Center. Chan holds an Adjunct Professor appointment in the Department of Health Promotion Sciences for the OU College of Public Health.

Chan has numerous scholarly publications in scientific journals, technical reports, books and has presented his research at both national and international conferences.  Chan’s research is focused on the application of hope theory to those impacted by trauma and adversity.  He is also interested in the impact of prevention and intervention services on increasing and sustaining client hope.  

Chan teaches master’s and doctoral level students primarily in the areas of research methods, and statistics.  He also directs student research in the areas of hope, well-being and hope centered organizations.

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