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Executive Team

Dr. Scott Van Beck

Executive Director

Scott Van Beck has served since 2007 as Executive Director of Houston A+ Challenge, where he leads the Houston area’s largest nonprofit working toward public school improvement. Scott oversees the organization’s work to improve leadership and performance to strengthen, innovate, and connect public schools across the Houston region. 

With more than 20 years of experience as an educator in Houston ISD, Scott most recently served as West Region Superintendent, providing leadership for 60+ schools and 54,000+ students. He started his career as a middle school teacher, later transitioning to assistant principal of Lamar High, principal of Revere Middle -- during which time he was named Region IV Middle School Principal of the Year -- and the first principal of Westside High. He also has served as an adjunct professor at the University of Houston in the Executive Education Doctoral program.

Scott provides a strong voice for public education reform by serving on the board of directors for The BeHive Houston and Genesys Works, and on advisory boards for Citizen Schools, Making It Better, Rice University's Education Entrepreneurship Program, and The Woods Project. He also is a member of the Education and Workforce Advisory Committee (K-12 Sub-Committee) for the Greater Houston Partnership, the region's primary business organization.

A native Iowan, Scott holds a B.A. in History from the University of Iowa, an M.A. in History from the University of Houston, and a Doctorate of Education from the University of Houston. He has been married 28 years to his wife Sarah and is father to four native Texans – Wesley, Helen, Sam, and Neil.  In his spare time, he referees high school basketball games, pedals bikes, and plays the piano.

Shehz Ali

Director of School Performance

Shehz Ali is a systemic thinker with a wealth of experience in multi-state school reform, coaching middle school leadership teams, and designing and implementing school transformations. He joined Houston A+ Challenge in 2012.  Shehz currently provides leadership coaching and project management in Challenge Network academies and partner schools - including focused family engagement work in Pasadena ISD - and strengthens internal collaboration and operations. 

Prior to coming to A+, Shehz worked as a Lead School Innovation Partner for Partners in School Innovation, a San Francisco-based nonprofit working to help transform low-performing public schools.  In that role, Shehz focused on middle school reform and saw one of his focus schools gain the highest growth of any middle school in the county, two years in a row. Shehz’s broad base of knowledge also comes from his time as a school evaluator, where he evaluated schools and educational systems in six different States.  He has nine years of experience as a teacher and school administrator at all levels.  While a middle school teacher, Shehz was nominated for The National Capitol Educator Award for his work with underserved refugees.  He also has been a guest lecturer at Brock University in Canada. He holds a B.A. in History from the University of Ottawa (Canada), a B.Ed. in Educational Leadership from Brock University, and a M.Ed. in Education Leadership and Policy from University of Ottawa.

Paul Castro

Director of School Performance

Paul Castro is a dynamic school leader with a track record of effective, innovative leadership and collaborative reform in both traditional and public charter schools. As Director of School Performance, Paul serves as founding principal of Houston A+ UP, Houston’s first mobile middle school. He also provides leadership to schools and performance coaches in the A+ Challenge Network and advises the Middle School Leadership Academy.

Paul comes to Houston A+ Challenge from KIPP Houston, where he served as Head of Schools. Under Paul’s leadership, KIPP Houston high schools made significant growth in enrollment and student performance, including significant increases in average ACT scores and matriculation to competitive universities. Before his tenure at KIPP, Paul served in Houston ISD as principal at Lee High School, leading the school to double-digit gains on state tests in three performance areas; and at Westside High school, where he helped to build an AP program that remains a model for comprehensive urban high schools in the state, and led a small-school restructuring that saw Westside spin off two high-functioning small schools within a school. Paul has also served as principal of West Briar Middle School, dean of students at Westside, and high school English teacher and soccer coach. A graduate of Texas A&M University, Paul received his Masters in Administration from the University of Houston. Paul is trained as a Masterful Coach and Cognitive Coach and enjoys every opportunity to discuss teaching and learning with fellow educators.

Tom Monaghan

Director of School Performance

Tom Monaghan is a relentless advocate for addressing both the affective and academic needs of adolescents, whose coaching style both challenges and inspires school leaders toward courageous leadership. He joined Houston A+ Challenge in June 2010 to launch A+’s work with students, teachers, principals and families in Challenge Network middle schools. He leads program design and implementation for the initiative, and provides executive coaching to principals and leadership teams at Challenge Network schools and through the Middle School Leadership Academy.

Tom came to A+ with 28 years of experience in Houston ISD, most recently (2005-10) having served as Executive Principal in the Central and West Region, where he coached and supervised principals and leadership teams at 18 elementary schools, eight middle schools, and nine high schools to strengthen leadership capacity and implement strong school cultures with a singular focus on high levels of achievement for ALL students. Prior to his years as an executive principal, Tom was Principal at Lanier Middle School (Houston ISD) from 1998 to 2005.  He led the implementation of the school’s Houston Annenberg Challenge Beacon School grant, as well as the work that led to the Lanier’s successful authorization in 2004 as an International Baccalaureate (IB) Middle Years Programme (MYP) school. He was Houston ISD’s Central District Principal of the Year in 2003-04, and the same year was a candidate for Region 4 Secondary Principal of the Year. He served Houston ISD as a mentor for first-year middle school principals from 2000-05, and has a decade of experience (1999-2009) as a Leadership Coach for principals and assistant principals with Houston Annenberg/A+ Challenge. He holds a B.S. in Education from Western Michigan University and an M.S. in Educational Leadership from University of Houston-Clear Lake.

Catherine Reed

CPA, Director of Finance

Catherine came to Houston A+ Challenge after 19 years at the Greater Houston Partnership, where she was vice-president for finance and administration. Before joining the Partnership, she was an audit manager for Deloitte Haskins & Sells. Catherine graduated summa cum laude from Rice University with a Bachelor of Arts degree and a Master of Accounting degree, and is a Certified Public Accountant. She has served as treasurer for Trinity Episcopal Church, the PTO at T.H.Rogers School and the National iMIS Users Group for membership database software.

Katherine Smith

Director of Development

Katherine comes to A+ from Sterling Associates, where she served as a consultant.  Previously, she worked in development roles at the Humble ISD Foundation, Awty International School, and Ave Maria University in Florida. Katherine has been involved in all phases of the fundraising cycle, from prospect research and identification through donor cultivation and solicitation. At the Humble ISD Foundation, she and her team built annual community and staff giving campaigns that resulted in unprecedented giving. An accomplished writer and former teacher, Katherine holds a B.A. in English/Creative Writing from the University of South Alabama and an M.Ed. from the University of Texas at Arlington. In 2014, she completed a REEP Fellowship at Rice University (Rice Educational Entrepreneurship Program). She is a Certified Fundraising Executive (CFRE) and a member of the Association of Professional Researchers for Advancement, the Association of Fundraising Professionals, and the Council for Advancement and Support of Education.

Kat White

Director of Communications

Joining the External Affairs team in 2013, Kat brings a wealth of experience in communications, events and development and a passion for engaging the community in support of better educational opportunities for public school students.  As Director of Communications and Events for Aim High, a San Francisco-based education nonprofit, Kat leveraged strong local support to strengthen Aim High’s national reputation as a thought leader in summer learning, build the organization’s branding and social media strategies, and coordinate gala events that raised more than $1 million in total.   Kat also has served as Operations Manager for Citizen Schools, where she managed finances, human resources, technology and talent acquisition functions for the Texas region, and spent two years in the classroom as an AmeriCorps Teaching Fellow for Citizen Schools at Kennedy Middle School in Redwood City, CA.  She holds a B.A in Media Studies from Pomona College.