The Thrive Team

Meet Our 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.

Founding Team


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. For the past three decades, 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 two decades in education reflects an immense depth and breadth of experience: teacher, professor, principal and superintendent. Her schools were recognized among the top 100 schools in America and as models for social emotional well-being. Throughout her career, Dr. Assisi secured millions of dollars of  philanthropic funding to support high quality, innovative education for thousands of students. 

She has taught at UCLA, Cal State Dominguez Hills and the University of San Diego and has mentored and coached new leaders to successfully lead organizations across the United States. She is a frequent speaker at international, statewide and regional conferences on education and leadership. Dr. Assisi holds a doctorate in educational leadership from the University of Southern California, as well as two master’s degrees from the University of San Diego and Point Loma Nazarene University. In addition to her teaching and leadership credentials, she is an internationally certified coach specialized in group dynamics and facilitating change.



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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


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. 


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.

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

 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. 

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