Meet the Thrive Team

We are:

  • Award-winning superintendents and educators with decades of experience. We not only deeply understand your most pressing challenges and constraints—we’ve faced them ourselves.
  • Trained coaches with expertise in the neuroscience of change. We are equipped to help leaders navigate current challenges, and to give them tools that enable healthy, lasting change in the long run.
  • Education Advocates, who believe that all adults and all children can thrive in public school!

Our Co-Founders


Thrive was founded by experienced educators, coaches and parents to reimagine education for both children and adults. We have lived what it means to be part of an education community from multiple perspectives. We have dedicated our lives to energizing K-12 education, making an impact on thousands adults and students in the process.



Dr. Nicole Assisi
Chief Executive Officer

Nicole Assisi is a multicultural and multilingual leader whose decades in education reflect an immense depth and breadth of experience: teacher, professor, principal and superintendent. Her schools were named among the most innovative in the nation and received a CA Senate Commendation. As a business leader and entrepreneur, Dr. Assisi secured millions of dollars of  philanthropic funding to support high quality, innovative education for thousands of students. San Diego Business Journal recognized her as a “40 under 40” leader and a finalist for CEO of the Year.

None of this would have been possible without a great team of educators, which is why she now dedicates her career to supporting school teams to reach new heights. She believes that given the right conditions, any leader can become a transformational leader and any team can thrive. As a coach and consultant, she supports hundreds of leaders and their organizations in increasing their capacity. 

As a professor, Dr. Assisi has worked at the University of Cambridge, University of California Los Angeles, California State University in Dominguez Hills and the University of San Diego. In addition to a multitude of teaching and leadership credentials, Nicole holds a doctorate in educational leadership from the University of Southern California, two master’s degrees from the University of San Diego and Point Loma Nazarene University, is a certified Professional Certified Behavioral Analyst and holds an International Coaching Federation coaching certificate.   

Shelli Kurth
Chief Innovation Officer



Shelli Kurth has over 25 years’ experience teaching, leading, and advocating for high quality, innovative education. She is a visionary, heart-centered leader who helped propel her school to national recognition as one of the top 100 in America. 

She specializes in scientifically grounded brain-body approaches to leadership and personal development. Her belief in connected leadership has enabled her to successfully launch two educational nonprofits and created a unique early childhood education program that focuses on optimizing the brain-body connection. 

Kurth has mentored and coached hundreds of new leaders, teachers, and parents to maximize their human potential and cultivate high performance in themselves and their colleagues. She earned a bachelor’s degree and a teaching certificate from San Diego State University.



Network of Advisors & Consultants


Thrive has its own brain trusta cohort of talented, dedicated educators, entrepreneurs and executives who support our work and provide invaluable counsel. When schools engage our team, they benefit from the wisdom and experience of an esteemed collective. You can learn more about the Thrive Advisor Network below. 


Steve Askar

Steve joined the Thrive team as an elementary-school teacher and became the Dean of Student Culture for K-6. He is a champion for bold outcomes for children and warrior for DEIJ. As a son of Persian immigrants and a first-generation college graduate, he understands that education acts as an access point for greater opportunity. He holds a B.S. from Brigham Young University summa cum laude, a M.S. from Johns Hopkins summa cum laude, and a Masters from Harvard.  He was named 2016 San Diego County ECE Teacher of the Year and received the 2019 San Diego Teach For Innovation Award in Diversity Equity Inclusion. 

Ben Boyce

Ben Boyce comes from a long line of educators, which fuels his passion to educate the public on the most challenging issues facing San Diego and the state of California. He holds a management position with one of San Diego’s top public affairs firms, bringing to his clients more than a dozen years of experience helping many of California’s top businesses and public agencies achieve their objectives by building consensus and seeking creative solutions.

Boyce has led several successful land development outreach programs across California, helping clients to win approvals for more than 15,000 homes statewide. His strategic outreach programs and materials have helped water and wastewater providers effectively communicate with more than six million Southern California ratepayers. Boyce has been recognized with 20+ awards for his efforts, including top outreach programs in the state and the nation’s best website for a government utility.

He has also successfully managed crisis communications for several public agency and private sector clients, and has advocated on his clients’ behalf in a number of daily newspapers, trade publications and broadcast interviews. Boyce is active in the San Diego and Orange County business communities. He serves on the Board of Directors of the San Diego County Taxpayers Association and was previously a founding director of Community Roots Academy charter school in Aliso Viejo. He also served on the Board of Directors of the Orange County chapter of the Public Relations Society of America.

Thomas Aurelio Davis

 Thomas Aurelio Davis serves as consultant to the Board of Association of Latino Administrators and Superintendents (ALAS) and the California Association of Latino Superintendents and Administrators (CALSA).

Davis has over thirty years of experience in education. After earning a B.S. in biology from the University of San Diego in 1974, he taught secondary school life science, biology, bilingual science and Spanish courses in both private and public school systems in the San Diego area for fifteen years. In 1988, Davis co-wrote and managed an Eisenhower Grant from the Department of Education to help restructure the science curriculum in the Sweetwater Union High School district’s ten middle schools. That experience led to his moving into the K-12 instructional software and service business. 

Since 1990, Davis has worked for a number of companies in various capacities, selling and marketing educational software and service solutions. In 2005, he formed a consulting business, (Net4EdAccess, LLC) which focuses on connecting business to education, executive school superintendent searches, the achievement gap and providing solutions for school systems in the following areas: English Language Learners, Students with Special Needs and Students At-Risk of Dropping Out. Davis currently serves as a consultant to the Board of both the Association of Latino Administrators and Superintendents (ALAS) and the California Association of Latino Superintendents and Administrators (CALSA). He is also a board member of Computers 2 San Diego Kids, a San Diego nonprofit working to bridge the digital divide for low income families and those less fortunate. Davis also has worked on behalf of the National Migrant Education Association and their bi-national conference. 

Dr. Donna Elder

Dr. Elder is the Dean of Teacher Education at National University and a highly experienced educational leader. Dr. Elder served as principal of Corinne A. Seeds University Elementary School at UCLA (now known as the UCLA Lab School), and served as a district superintendent for 15 years in the San Bruno School District, the Orchard School District and the Luther Burbank School District. 

A frequent speaker and author on teacher effectiveness, coaching, and instructional methodologies, she previously taught at the elementary, middle and high school level. Dr. Elder also served as a principal in the Palo Alto Unified and Duarte Unified School Districts, and was the interim executive director of a charter school. Among numerous professional associations, Dr. Elder served as president of the International Association of Laboratory and University Affiliated Schools. Dr. Elder received a bachelor of science degree from Washington State University, a master’s degree in education, curriculum and instruction from Texas A&M University, an administrative credential from Whittier College and a doctorate in educational leadership from the University of La Verne.

Kerry Flanagan

Kerry Flanagan is currently the chief of staff of the California Charter Schools Association, a membership organization supporting California’s 1,130 charter schools serving more than 500,000 students.

Flanagan began her career in public education in 1991 as a secondary education teacher in Virginia. She then worked as an education consultant supporting various reform efforts in traditional urban and suburban public school districts in California, Arkansas, Louisiana, Michigan and Florida.  Kerry worked for the San Diego Unified Schools District for several years in various positions where she was responsible for strategic planning, organizational development and the authorization and oversight of the district’s charter schools.  She served as the chief of staff for her last 1.5 years with the district. 

Kerry earned a B.A. in secondary education, social studies from Virginia Wesleyan and a M.A. in political science from San Diego State University.

William Frye

William Frye is a versatile professional with a diverse range of expertise in both non-profit operations and technology. The majority of William’s career has been in public education, where he has demonstrated his exceptional leadership and organizational skills. He has overseen teams working on various aspects of non-profit operations, including finance, technology, and human resources. In addition, he has been responsible for facility purchasing and maintenance, ensuring that non-profit organizations have the resources they need to operate effectively. William’s technical expertise is complemented by his excellent communication skills and his ability to work well in cross-functional teams. William is committed to using technology to solve real-world problems and improve people’s lives. He is dedicated to making a positive impact in his community and beyond and spends his time outside of work volunteering for various nonprofits. Through his volunteer work, William has gained valuable experience in managing teams and overseeing projects, which he has applied to his work in education and consulting

Jacquie Furtado

Jacquie Furtado is the Director of Strategy and Outcomes at San Diego State University 

Furtado has provided cross-departmental leadership and support for educational institutions for over thirteen years. Her journey has enabled her to collaborate and build consensus with every facet of an institution: guiding organizational strategy to ensure alignment, impact and successful execution of student focused strategic commitments. 

During her tenure, she has held leadership roles within strategic planning & management, academic affairs, institutional effectiveness, and student affairs, where she created and implemented integrated strategy and management solutions, led student retention strategy, student programming, and directly impacted all university departments. She believes strongly in cross-departmental collaboration as a catalyst for supporting student success, and has experience supporting traditional and nontraditional student populations, online and onsite modalities and a variety of course delivery models. 

Furtado was a founding family member of Thrive Public Schools, participated on the initial Advisory Council and was a founding member of the Thrive Family Action Network. She also serves on the board of the San Diego Regional Economic Development Foundation. She holds a bachelor of arts in marketing communications and master of arts in educational leadership. In addition, she is certified in integrated strategic planning and the Balanced Scorecard strategy execution framework

Kristin Lambertz-Berndt

Kristin Lambertz-Berndt is an accomplished education professional with over a decade of experience in teaching, leadership development, and program management. From May 2010 to July 2012, she served as a Manager and Teacher Leadership Development Program Director for Teach For America in Phoenix, where she coached 35 teachers in 1st-12th grade science, math, and reading to drive towards purposeful and rigorous visions for their students while developing as strong leaders. Kristin holds a Master of Educational Administration and Supervision from University of Phoenix and a Master of Secondary Education from Arizona State University, in addition to her Bachelor of Arts in History from Whitman College.

Courtney Ochi

Courtney is an experienced educator and principal with a diverse background in the field of education. She has held various positions, including Principal of Lemon Grove School District and Dean of Students at Elevate Elementary, where she oversaw the smooth operation of school campuses and developed positive student cultures. With a strong commitment to equity-driven initiatives and a passion for student success, Courtney has made significant contributions to the field through her leadership, instructional coaching, and implementation of innovative programs. Courtney holds a Master’s of Education in School Leadership from the University of San Diego

Carmina Osuna

Carmina joined Thrive Public Schools’ innovative team as the founding Director of its secondary school. Carmina has over 10 years experience in education and 7 years planning and leading professional development and building strong teams.  She has worked across multiple programs designing schools with an equity lens and a deep passion for stronger outcomes for Black and Latino students. She is a native of Los Angeles, and attended college at UC San Diego, Loyola Marymount University, and is currently finishing her doctorate at USC. Carmina also worked in organizational development at Snapchat and is a member of the Transcend Emancipatory Education Team.

Reildo Souza

Reildo Souza is a results-driven professional with over 25 years of progressive experience in business development, team management, and personal development training. He has a broad understanding of business processes and is an expert in problem analysis and resolution, as well as process improvement. Reildo’s considerable international experience and strong general management qualifications have equipped him with the skills to build cross-functional teams, demonstrate exceptional communication skills, and make critical decisions during challenges. He is an adaptable and transformational leader who works independently to create effective presentations and develop opportunities that further establish organizational goals. Reildo’s specialties include cross-functional integration and continuous process improvement.

Kris Stanga

Kris is a career educator serving in roles from teacher to superintendent/principal.  She has worked with districts to provide support and leadership to increase district capacity (knowledge, expertise, and strong working relationships) that will produce adaptive, flexible learning organizations with the goal to increase student achievement. This work needs to be done through a collegial, systems approach. Coordination of personnel and resources along with the climate of the district is key to the success for its students and its employees.
Experienced Senior Director with a demonstrated history of working in the education management industry. Skilled in Coaching, Staff Development, Grant Writing, Teaching, and Program Management with a Master of Arts (MA) focused in Educational Administration from Santa Clara University.