AVID’s mission is to close the achievement gap by preparing all students for college readiness and success in a global society.

Advancement Via Individual Determination

Executive Leadership

Dr. Sandy Husk – Chief Executive Officer


Dr. Sandy Husk joined AVID Center as Chief Executive Officer in January 2014, bringing more than 17 years of experience implementing AVID in the three districts where she has served as superintendent, most recently in Salem-Keizer, Oregon, the second largest district in that state. As CEO, Sandy is responsible for implementing AVID’s strategic imperatives, which include furthering its mission of closing the achievement gap and preparing all students for college, accelerating the scalability of AVID as a schoolwide and districtwide system, developing student-centric technologies to enhance and sustain the student experience in AVID, and determining how AVID can best serve urban districts.

As superintendent of Salem-Keizer Public Schools in Oregon, her leadership resulted in the implementation of a districtwide strategic plan with an accountability system for all schools and departments. In addition, she worked closely with the school board to adopt a policy governance system that allows a laser-like focus on student achievement. Under Sandy’s leadership, the Salem-Keizer School District experienced consistent gains in student academic achievement.

Prior to Salem-Keizer Public Schools, Sandy served five years as the director of schools for the Clarksville-Montgomery County School System in Clarksville, Tennessee. In addition, she previously served as superintendent for Mapleton Public Schools in Colorado. She also served as the executive director of Learning Services in Westminster, Colorado; principal of an elementary and alternative middle school; staff development coordinator; elementary school counselor; and teacher.

Sandy earned her Ph.D. in Administration, Curriculum & Supervision from the University of Colorado, Denver; her M.A. in Guidance and Counseling from the University of Colorado, Boulder; and her B.S. in Elementary Education from the University of Georgia, Athens.


Robert Gira – Executive Vice President


Robert GiraRob joined AVID Center in 1994 and is currently responsible for overseeing AVID Center’s alliances, alumni association, and serves as chief of staff. During his tenure at the AVID Center, Rob has led a variety of curriculum and professional learning projects, including the AVID Path to Schoolwide materials, tutorial curriculum, critical reading, and leadership trainings. He has also been instrumental in creating AVID’s equity, English Language Learner, Schoolwide, and AVID for Higher Education initiatives.

Rob has provided instruction at AVID Summer Institutes for administrators as well as for AVID National Demonstration Schools, and has conducted tutor trainings throughout the U.S. Rob also developed AVID's blog: Adventures in College & Career Readiness. He writes regularly about equity, student development, the brain, resilience, and school culture, among other topics.

Rob received his B.A. in English from University of California Santa Barbara, a teaching credential from San Francisco State University, and his M.A. and administrative credential from San Diego State University. Before joining AVID, he was an administrator at two high schools in San Diego County, Rancho Buena Vista High School and Vista High School. He taught English in the Vista Unified School District for 10 years.


Robert Markee, CPA, CHAE – Chief Financial Officer


Robert MarkeeRobert joined AVID Center in 2008 and is currently responsible for overseeing the accounting, contracts, events, human resources, procurement and travel teams. He is also an active steering committee member of AVID’s Excellence Assurance Model, developed to ensure quality and improve services to both AVID staff and partners.

Robert has an extensive business background, with over 30 years of experience in financial reporting, audit, accounting, and human resources. While at Starwood Hotels and Resorts, he created and converted the accounting and processing systems for Starwood’s global sales and marketing programs, representing over $400 million per year in revenue and expense. Programs included loyalty marketing, central reservations, brand management, public relations, global sales, and North American sales.

Robert has also been an instructor at the University of Utah, teaching basic financial accounting.

The first of his family to graduate college, Robert is passionate about education and the benefits afforded to those who continually pursue knowledge. He is a former board member of Mama’s Kitchen and continues to donate his time and resources to their mission.

Robert received his B.A. in Accounting from Seattle University in 1979, graduating summa cum laude, earned his CPA certification in Washington State in 1980, and then earned his CHAE designation in 2004. He has one daughter, who teaches elementary students in Bellevue, Washington, and two grandkids.


Michelle Mullen – Executive Vice President


Michelle MullenMichelle oversees learning programs, products, and services, including K-higher education curriculum, English learner and STEM support, publications, AVID for Higher Education, professional learning, leadership development, events, and AVID National Demonstration Schools.  These teams support schools and districts with program resources and learning experiences, including AVID District Leadership training, National ConferenceSummer Institute and AVID Path to Schoolwide training, to ensure quality AVID implementation, educator engagement, and student achievement. 

Michelle previously served as AVID’s National Director of Curriculum Initiatives, leading the implementation and expansion of AVID’s English learner college readiness work across the country and supporting the development of AVID’s blended learning approach. She has a long history with AVID, starting as an AVID teacher and coordinator in 1991, and then working as a district mentor teacher, curriculum writer, staff developer, consultant, and finally as director with AVID Center in 2012.

Prior to joining AVID Center, Michelle was the Director of the Single Subject Credential Program and instructor in the College of Education at California State University San Marcos from 2000-2006. While at the university, Michelle helped conceptualize and develop an integrated and forward-thinking teacher preparation program that included partnerships with local high schools, a focus on action research, an interdisciplinary approach to curriculum design, and blended learning. She also launched the part-time credentialing program geared to professionals seeking a career change into education, developed and published a guide for literacy in mathematics and a CSU-wide principles of secondary literacy guide, and contributed to a secondary teacher education textbook.

Michelle received her master’s degree in Curriculum and Instruction, her B.A. in English, and her teaching credential from the University of San Diego, and her administrative credential from California State University, San Marcos (CSUSM); she was also Nationally Board Certified in English from 2002-2012.

Michelle believes passionately in the potential of our young people and she is energized by work that builds student and educator capacity, opportunity, and hope. Besides her work at AVID Center, Michelle is a long-time volunteer with Girl Scouts San Diego, her local YMCA, and within her local educational community. With her husband, she is also raising two daughters. 


Thuan Nguyen – Executive Vice President


Thuan NguyenThuan joined the team at AVID Center as executive vice president in January 2016. Thuan oversees technical operations, services and infrastructure, and is responsible for AVID’s digital strategies. Thuan brings to AVID nearly 20 years of experience in education. Thuan’s executive experience extends beyond the world of IT; he has also managed safety and security, environmental services, communications and public relations, and building operations and has served in interim executive roles in human resources, payroll, accounting, and finance.

He was named a Computerworld Honors Program Laureate in 2008, was selected as one of the National School Boards Association's ‘20 to Watch’ for 2008, and was named as one of the 100 most important people in education technology as part of Tech & Learning’s 30th anniversary celebration in 2010. Thuan has also worked on two projects permanently archived in the research collection of the Smithsonian Institute’s National Museum of American History. In 2013, Thuan’s work received recognition from The Center for Digital Education, The National School Public Relations Association, The One-to-One Institute, and Project RED for web technologies, branding and communication to the community, student technology, and a one-to-one project. Thuan’s team also received the national CoSN Team Award and was recognized by the National School Board Association in 2014. In 2015, he was honored by the Northwest Council for Computer Education (NCCE) as the Outstanding Technology Leader of the Year.

In the last few years, Thuan has managed the implementation of a district-wide learning management system and curriculum management system, established a district-wide One-to-One program for thousands of elementary, middle, and high school students, and managed the construction of a 60-rack megawatt data center. In the last five years, Thuan has developed and implemented technology plans in eight school districts in Alaska and Washington state.

Thuan has also served on advisory boards for Absolute Software, Adobe Systems, Cisco Systems, HP Systems, Microsoft, and SchoolCIO. Thuan’s leadership has been profiled in Tech and Learning by HP and Intel, Ed Week, the Atlantic, Geekwire, and other publications. Thuan has also presented at numerous local, national, and international conferences on technology best practices.

As a former refugee and ELL student, Thuan brings a unique perspective to his work and is personally driven to ensuring that today’s students have opportunities for success through technology. This “personal mission” and perspective fits incredibly well into AVID’s culture and commitment to closing the achievement gap.


Steve Silberman – Executive Vice President


Steve joined the team at AVID Center as executive vice president in May 2015. Steve oversees business operations including marketing, communication, finance, HR, research, evaluation, data, finance, development, and strategic planning.

Steve brings with him years of experience as a strong leader of people as well as business entities. He has spent most of his career in media and marketing. Most recently, he was a regional president for the Gannett Company, a Fortune 500 company that is the largest publisher of newspapers in the country. While at Gannett, he led the region’s transformation from a traditional newspaper to a digital organization providing sophisticated digital marketing solutions and content. He also spearheaded an industry-wide project on innovation. Steve is a storyteller at heart and has worked closely with school districts, hospitals, nonprofits, government agencies, and businesses to tell their stories, grow their brand, and extend their footprint.
Steve is passionate about education and providing opportunities for all students to succeed. His master’s thesis was about public schools in New York City. Early in his career, he was an education reporter and has written about and been involved with education reform in six different states. As a business executive, community leader, publisher, and editor, Steve has advocated for strong public schools and for educational equity. His involvement in assisting schools and students most recently included the Salem-Keizer Education Foundation, Willamette Academy, Salem Area Chamber of Commerce’s Ready to Learn–Ready to Work program, and Academic All Stars.

Steve is long familiar with AVID: his two children attended schools that relied on the AVID system, and his wife taught at a school that used the AVID system as well.  

Steve has an M.S. in journalism from the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism and a B.A. in sociology from Vassar College.


Dr. Edward Lee Vargas – Executive Vice President


Lee VargasLee joined AVID Center after serving as superintendent in large urban school districts in California, New Mexico, Texas, and Washington, where he received numerous awards for outstanding leadership from the school districts, as well as the County of Los Angeles Board of Supervisors, city mayors, the legislative branch of the California State Assembly, and a special congressional recognition from members of the U.S. Congress in Washington, D.C. He was honored as State Superintendent of the Year in California (2006) and Washington (2014). After being named Superintendent of the Year in California, he was recruited to the Stupski Foundation as a “Superintendent in Residence,” where he coached other system leaders around the country.

Most recently, Lee served as superintendent of the Kent School District, the fourth largest district in the state of Washington and one of the most diverse districts in the nation, with more than 135 languages spoken by students and families. In Kent, Lee was widely regarded as a critical part of the district’s innovative approaches and success in improving test scores, increasing graduation rates, advancing technological integration, and significantly increasing parent and community engagement.

Lee is a nationally recognized speaker on leadership for creating high-performing school systems grounded in equity and excellence for all. He is also a Distinguished Lecturer on “School System Readiness to Transform,” keynoting numerous state and national conferences, including the National Blue Ribbon Schools Awards Ceremony in Washington, D.C. on 21st Century Skills, speaking at USA–China Educational Symposiums in China, and presenting at Microsoft’s Global Forum on Technology in Prague, Czech Republic (2012), and Barcelona, Spain (2014).

Lee received his master’s degree from the University of New Mexico in Educational Diagnosis and a doctorate from the University of Washington in Leadership and Policy. He is currently serving as president elect for the Association of Latino Administrators and Superintendents (ALAS).