Renée D. Cross
A native Houstonian, Renée worked as the district director in the office of a state
representative before joining the staff of the Hobby Center for Public Policy at the
University of Houston as a researcher. She is now the associate director, managing
external relations, and serving as the course instructor for the government internship
programs and upper level political science courses. She has been quoted in
publications such as the Wall Street Journal, the Chicago Tribune, the Houston
Chronicle, the Austin-American Statesman and the Dallas Morning News, as well as
Renée earned a bachelor of science degree in political science and psychology
summa cum laude at the University of Houston and later earned a masters degree from
the University of St. Thomas with a concentration in political science.
Renée’s current professional and community affiliations include serving as a governing
board member and vice chair of the public policy committee for the Coalition for the
Homeless of Houston/Harris County; a volunteer for the League of Women Voters of
the Houston Area;a member of the Harris County Election Division’s Hispanic Voter
Outreach Committee; a member of the Texas Economic and Demographic
Association; and as a volunteer for Catahoula Dog Rescue and Barrio Dogs.
Paula Puffer currently works as a professional Analyst for Kinder-Morgan. She has
more than 15 years experience in technical and expository writing as well as web
design. She has worked in non-profit, oil and gas, education, agriculture, theatre,
military, medical, government, and software throughout her career. In her spare time,
Paula writes for sustainableinhouston.com blog where she documents her adventures
in living sustainably in the U.S.’s fourth largest city. She’s also an accomplished
photographer, gardener, and mixed media artist. Paula has a B.A. in Anthropology and
a B.S. in English from Iowa State University.
Julia Ragusa Thomas
Julia Ragusa Thomas is the art teacher at Crespo Elementary, a Fine Arts Magnet
School in Houston ISD. She has served on their Shared Decision Making Committee,
as Fine Arts department chairperson, as a campus leadership facilitator, and as a
regional art coordinator at the district level. Julia has a B.A. in Humanities from the
University of Houston-Downtown.
Michael Webster is a former high school teacher as well as a former professional
developer at a local education fund. He currently works at a council of government in
Houston as a liaison to the Education industry working with local area school districts
on workforce needs. Michael also serves on several Houston area boards including
Education Pioneers Houston, the West Houston P16 Council and the Foster
Cassie Manley -- Secretary/Treasurer
Cassie Manley is a teacher at School of the Woods Montessori. While that means
wearing many hats, she primarily guides ninth and tenth grade level students in the
subject areas of communication and world history/geography. She is an American
Montessori Society and Texas state certified teacher. She earned her BA in
Communication Studies from Louisiana State University.
Megan Freemantle is Houston Grand Opera’s Props Design Director. She has
received the company’s Bravo Award and an Emmy for her work in HGO’s “Nixon in
China”. She designed HGO’s first place winning Art Car, “Brunnhilda”. Megan also
works with HGOco Opera Camps and productions. She is a graduate of HSPVA and
earned her BFA in Theatrical Arts from Stephens College.
Ramona Brady is the co-founder of the Center for Recycled Art. She is also the Founder
of the Texas Art Asylum, a for profit social enterprise that offers cool stuff for creative
reuse. She is a former executive with a national office building systems integrator,
where she managed a $10 million portfolio before leaving corporate America to pursue
meaningful work that would serve the community. She has a BA in Justice from The
American University in Washington, DC, and an MBA from the University of Texas.