Regional Leadership

Matt Hoehner, D.Min., executive director, St. Louis region


For the last five years, Matt has served as executive director of Open Sky Education’s St. Louis region. In this role, Matt is leading the development of a region of high performing EAGLE public charter schools and Compass Educational Programs in St. Louis.  Since 2013, four EAGLE schools and Compass programs have been established and continue to grow. Matt also works with the Character Formation Project, serving schools and organizations across the nation and the world.

Matt has served in church leadership as a pastor for fourteen years. He graduated from Concordia University, River Forest in 1998.  He then went on to Concordia Seminary in St. Louis, where he received a Master of Divinity, a Master of Sacred Theology, and a Doctor of Ministry in Cross-Cultural Leadership. There he served as an adjunct instructor for nine years. He also served as an adjunct instructor with Concordia University Wisconsin in St. Louis.  In addition, Matt has served on national youth boards and urban leadership teams.

Steven Inman, M.B.A., executive director, Arizona region


With a long-held passion for excellence in education, Steve’s professional career is a blend of business and educational experiences. In his role as executive director, he is responsible for leading the growth and development of EAGLE College Preparatory Schools and Compass Educational Programs in the Arizona region.

Steve previously gained successive managerial experience in marketing, revenue management, and revenue accounting roles. These roles provided him with substantial executive level leadership and management experience in rapidly changing and growing organizations. Concurrently, he authored the supplementary teaching materials for a college retailing textbook on three editions.

Before his transition into business, Steve taught social studies, coached track and field, and helped found a community service club at Glendale High School in Arizona.

Steve holds a bachelor’s degree in secondary education from Arizona State University and received his master of business administration degree from Texas Christian University.

Amber Kraus, senior community relations director, Open Sky Education

Amber Kraus

Amber began her career in education as an elementary school teacher in Rockford, Illinois and Denver, Colorado, before joining the Open Sky Education Regional Leadership Team as the Community Relations Director for the St. Louis region in 2014.

In 2018, Amber took on the role of Senior Community Relations Director in order to further develop the Open Sky brand. Amber oversees and manages systems related to recruitment, enrollment and retention for the St. Louis, Wisconsin and Arizona regions, as well as designing and implementing strategic marketing programs for each region and management of external and internal communications.

Amber has a passion for urban education and closing the achievement gap in under served communities and believes all children should receive high-quality learning experiences. She received her Bachelor’s Degree in Elementary Education with an elementary teaching license from Southern Illinois University Edwardsville. She completed an Administrative Leadership and Policy Studies Program with principal certification from the University of Colorado – Denver in May of 2014. She has previously volunteered as site coordinator and coach for Girls On The Run, Inc. at two schools and served on the Young Professionals Board for Girls On The Run St. Louis.

Erica Samz, director of operations, Wisconsin region

Erica comes to the role of regional director of operations after serving as a director of operations at HOPE Fortis for four years. In her regional role, she supports the school level operations in the HOPE schools and ensures excellence and compliance in areas such as the Milwaukee Parental Choice Program, finances and vendor relations.

Erica received her bachelor’s degree from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. After graduation, she moved to New Orleans, Louisiana where she taught high school foreign language as a Teach For America corps member. She made the decision to use her strengths to impact and improve urban education through school operations and left the classroom to join the school operations team at KIPP McDonogh 15 Middle School in New Orleans.

Upon moving back to Milwaukee, she learned about HOPE schools, and found HOPE to be the perfect intersection of her passions – her faith and desire to ensure equal opportunities for all children regardless of socioeconomic status. Erica loves serving behind the scenes to make school operations work seamlessly so teachers and school administrators can focus on scholars.

Zach Verriden, Ed.M., executive director, Wisconsin region


Zach comes to the role of executive director after having served as National Director of People Development and principal of HOPE Christian High School. In his time as principal, the HOPE team increased their student’s ACT average to outperform the city, state and national averages for African-American students and achieved 100% college acceptance in each of those three years (a first in the city of Milwaukee). Furthermore, overall EXPLORE/PLAN/ACT averages during Zach’s tenure with the high school demonstrated more than two points annual growth and this amount of growth led the way among the Schools That Can-Milwaukee cohort of high-performing urban high schools in the city. Zach attributes this achievement to the outstanding team of dedicated professionals at the high school.

In addition to the work of the HOPE team at the high school, Zach has also been instrumental in the creation of the Leading With HOPE internal leadership development series, in addition to The IMPACT Series external leadership development series. Zach also teaches a graduate level class on frameworks for curriculum development at Alverno College.

Prior to joining HOPE, Zach worked in multiple roles with Teach For America-New Jersey and YES Prep Public Charter Schools in Houston where he also earned his business certificate from the Rice University Jones School of Business. Zach has a bachelor’s degree from the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire, where he was recently awarded the Distinguished Recent Alumni Award, and a master’s degree in education policy and management from the Harvard University Graduate School of Education.

Fatima Wakefield, community relations director, Wisconsin region, Racine schools

Fatima is a Racine resident and founding family member of HOPE Via in Racine. She has first-hand experience as a HOPE parent and is excited to bring HOPE’s 3 Cs of Christ.College.Character. to more families in her community.

Prior to joining HOPE, Fatima was an Economic Support Worker for Racine County’s Human Services Department where she determined eligibility for various federally funded programs. She is skilled in customer service and is excited to help families with HOPE’s enrollment process, which for many families includes enrollment in the Racine Parental Choice Program.