Regional Leadership

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


For the last four 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, three EAGLE schools have been established with a fourth school scheduled to open in 2017. 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.

Melanie Johnson, community relations director, Wisconsin region


Melanie supports the regional team, leading student recruitment, marketing, communications and the building of community relationships across Milwaukee and Racine.

Melanie taught special education as a corps member with Teach For America in Charlotte, NC. During her time in Charlotte, Melanie orchestrated her school’s first annual trip to Washington, D.C. for 68 fifth graders and was a coach for Girls on the Run. Melanie believes deeply that all children, regardless of zip code, deserve an excellent education.

Melanie received her master’s degree in nonprofit management and leadership from the University of Wisconsin- Milwaukee and her bachelor’s degree in community leadership and nonprofit management form the University of Wisconsin- Madison.

Amber Kraus, community relations director, St. Louis region

Amber Kraus

Amber’s responsibilities include student recruitment, meeting enrollment targets, and building community relationships for the St. Louis region.

Amber has taught elementary school in urban communities in Rockford, Illinois and Denver, Colorado.  She has been the site coordinator and head coach for Girls on the Run, Inc. at two schools.  Amber has a passion for urban education and believes strongly that all children should receive high-quality learning experiences.

Amber received her bachelor’s degree in elementary education and an elementary teaching certificate from Southern Illinois University- Edwardsville, completed her master’s degree in administrative leadership and policy studies with a principal’s license from the University of Colorado- Denver.

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.