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
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 Grandparents Program.
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.