Longtime Finance Executive Selected to Lead Magnolia Public Schools Board

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For Immediate Release                         Contact:   Molly O’Brien
September 14, 2016                                         Larson Communications
(703) 863-8773



Noël Russell-Unterburger, VP of Finance and IT for YWCA of Greater Los Angeles and Magnolia parent, to continue to strengthen organization’s operations

 Los Angeles, CA – Magnolia Public Schools announced today that successful business and financial executive and Magnolia parent Noël Russell-Unterburger was unanimously voted the new chairperson of the board for Magnolia Public Schools, a network of 10 high-performing public charter schools that serves close to 4,000 students throughout Southern California.

Russell-Unterburger’s immediate goals are to ensure that the organization’s operations and existing systems stay strong. An accounting and finance expert, she has worked on developing and strengthening internal controls at different organizations throughout her career. The California State Auditor formally closed in July its exhaustive review of the schools concluding that they are operationally sound and financially responsible with taxpayer funds.

“I have watched Magnolia go from an organization that started out on multiple QuickBooks accounts to one that is now operationally strong and with systems in place to ensure accountability and transparency,” said Russell-Unterburger, who has served on Magnolia’s board since 2012, and has had two children attend its schools. “I’m proud and excited to now serve as board chair of a school network that has such committed teachers, staff and families, and to work with the leadership team to support these amazing schools into our next level of growth and success.”

Magnolia has made significant improvements in fiscal controls, compliance and accountability since longtime education leader Caprice Young was named CEO in January 2015. They hired a widely respected third-party auditor and educational services provider and engaged the Fiscal Crisis & Management Assistance Team (FCMAT) to provide fiscal oversight. They also put controls and third-party check and balances in place to prove that the organization’s finances and operations are transparent and fiscally sound.

The nine-member Magnolia board mostly includes engineers and finance experts, but Russell-Unterburger will make it a priority to continue to diversify the board. They are actively searching for two new board members to bring in new and different backgrounds, perspectives and expertise.

“Over the past 18 months, Magnolia has strengthened its internal and financial controls, making it a highly accountable operation,” said Young. “Noel’s experience will be a tremendous asset to our organization, helping it strengthen and grow, as we work to meet the growing demand for our program.”

Russell-Unterburger brings 18 years of financial management, leadership and advisory experience to the board. Before taking on the role of Vice President of Finance and IT at the YWCA Greater Los Angeles in 2013, she served for eight years as CFO for People in Progress, Inc., one of the city’s leading providers of substance-abuse treatment plans.

“I strongly believe in the importance of having people with different skillsets to not only lead, but be a part of our board,” said former board Chairman Umit Yapanel, who as a board member will continue to support the search for two new board members. “As an organization, we have to evolve in order to be able to grow and meet the needs of communities looking for high quality public schools.”

In April, U.S. News & World Report recognized Magnolia’s schools for the fifth year in a row as being among the best in the nation. Magnolia Science Academy 2 in Van Nuys was the top-ranked charter high school in Los Angeles Unified, and along with Magnolia Science Academy Reseda, was named in the top 100 high schools in California. Both high schools are in the top three percent of all U.S. high schools.

An outside analysis recently revealed that Magnolia Science Academy (MSA) Reseda was 14th among all Los Angeles high schools for its UC acceptance rate—with 29.82 percent of its seniors being accepted to UC schools.

About Magnolia Public Schools

Magnolia Public Schools was founded in 2002 to graduate students who are scientific thinkers that contribute to the global community as socially responsible and educated members of society. Magnolia currently operates 10 public charter schools across California. Magnolia’s educational approach is based on the conviction that science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) education is essential in improving our modern society’s knowledge base and adaptability to the fast pace of ever-changing technological advancements. Visit www.magnoliapublicschools.org.

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  • Ozgur Cengiz

    This article by Magnolia’s paid public relations is merely damage control. Lets set some facts straight: Magnolia is NOT a high performing charter school and their test scores prove this. SBAC or API are all non- educational bench marks, US News and World report is NOT an educational benchmark of excellence it’s merely a marketing tool that Magnolia Science Academies and the other Gulen operated schools use. Look up: Horizon Science Academy, Harmony Science Academy and Sonoran Science Academy they all make the same claims, only 1 % of the schools in the USA and California report to this news outlet they are not a gauge merely a reporting agency that take advertising dollars as well.
    The fact is this is more white washing by Magnolia to hide the facts, 2 weeks ago the then President of the Magnolia School board (Umit) Matt Yapanel fully admitted to being “inspired” by the Gulen Movement. Matt comes from their operations in Colorado – Lotus School of Excellence where he failed to get an expansion even after hiring a flake attorney to sue St. Vrain’s School district at the Colorado State of Education. Then he is moved to California to work his magic with the other Gulen Schools and turn around the Magnolia Science Academies and Caprice Young the current CEO /Superintendent founder CEO of CCSA (who is rumored to be the highest paid Superintendent in Los Angeles even over Michelle King at LAUSD) Next comes legal warfare, threats and marketing by the CCSA/Magnolia machine and the failure to grow with having 8 new school applications denied by 5 school districts and 2 schools shuttered (orangevale and santa clara) Magnolia is pathetically using hispanics and other ethnic groups vs. Republic of Turkey and Erdogan even a shameless letter to the Consular of Turkey from Padres de Magnolia and students (slow clap here)
    Noël Russell-Unterburger, was appointed board president days after the LA Times article where Umit (Matt) Yapanel past board president admits they are “Gulen inspried” i guess CCSA/Caprice believe that a female black women is a great shield to have just as she has used Hispanics and other ethnic groups. The facts are Magnolia Science Academy dba Magnolia Public Schools (MERF) fdba Dialogue Foundation will not be allowed to grow, the people don’t want these sorry schools in their neighborhoods and the illegal wrangling of letters by Congressman Sherman, or threatening letters from Ms. Young’s counsel to boards and people who are highly respected in education (unlike her lack of educational experience) will fail in California. The people are speaking, not Turkey, not Attorney Amsterdam but the PEOPLE and we will win. The timeliness of this veiled PR from Larson Communications is days before their 9.20 hearing at LAUSD and is nothing but a paid mouthpiece (more money away from our classrooms) You can take down this comment if you choose but the truth is the truth and Magnolia Science Academy will soon be shuttered and Ms. Young will have to look for another opportunity to grow the educational reform and her agenda of privatizing education.- The terrorist organization Gulen Movement isn’t the correct vehicle for the charter school movement if anything they are destroying CCSA/Young’s vision of ed reform where all public school districts like LAUSD are dismantled and destroyed. I guess MS. Young has something in common with the Gulenists she is trying to perform educatonal jihad at any cost and this as well as her other stints will backfire. #StopCharteSchoolFraud