Board of Trustees
Terry Passalacqua, Head of School
Paul Hartsock, President
Sara Birmingham, Vice President
Marquita Russel, Treasurer, Finance Chair
Jessica Cavalli, Faculty Representative
Al Robison, Trustee Committee Chair
Trudy Moon, Parent Association Representative
SARA BIRMINGHAM, VICE PRESIDENT (2012-2014)
Ms. Birminghan currently works for the Museum of New Mexico Foundation, a non-profit organization that raises funds to support state museums and monuments throughout New Mexico. She is the buyer for the gift shops at the Museum of International Folk Art , the Museum of Indian Arts & Culture, as well as the gifts shops at the Museum of Art and History museums. She coordinates special events to promote new exhibits, with profits going directly to support Kids Education Programs in each museum. Ms. Birmingham travels quite a bit looking for and supporting communities throughout Central and South America that are keeping their indigenous arts and crafts alive. Prior to her move to Santa Fe, she was Vice President of the Accessory Division in California at Nordstrom, a specialty retailer based in Seattle, for 18 years. Before moving into the world of retail, Ms. Birmingham worked for the University of California, San Diego. She has a Bachelor of Science in Biology and Physical Education, a Teaching Credential and a Masters of Education. Her education took place at California State University, Fullerton and Chapman Colleges, both in Southern California.
JESSICA CAVALLI, FACULTY REPRESENTATIVE Jessica has been teaching Spanish at Desert Academy since 2003. Her other roles at Desert include chairing the World Languages Department and serving as faculty advisor of the Desert LEOs Club. She is very excited for her newest role as CAS/C&S Program Coordinator; she looks forward to developing this core community involvement program within the school. Jessica is very proud to be one of Desert’s first “IB parents.” Her son, Cristian, was one of seven students to receive his diploma in 2010. She is equally delighted that her daughter, Evelina (Class of 2018), has joined the Desert family as a 7th grader.
A.J. Forte was born and raised in Santa Fe, graduating from Desert Academy in 2001, and is the first alumnus to sit on the Desert Academy Board of Trustees. He holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in Finance from Regis University in Denver, Colorado. To date, A.J. has spent his career in insurance and securities with Financial Concepts, Inc. of Santa Fe. He also devotes his time to his family’s real-estate company, Tony Forte Realty, and assists with its management. In his spare time, A.J. is an avid fly fisherman, mountain biker, and skier, spending the majority of his time outdoors. In addition, he serves on the board for the Grand Prix De Santa Fe. He and his partner, Amanda D. Lujan (DA 00), divide their time between Santa Fe and their cabin in Southern Colorado.
TRUDY MOON, PARENT ASSOCIATION REPRESENTATIVE Trudy Moon is originally from the Kansas City area, and lived in Kalamazoo, Michigan and St. Louis, Missouri before moving to Santa Fe in 2010. She has degrees in Mathematics and French Literature from the University of Kansas and a Master of Secondary Education. Trudy has been involved with education as a middle and high school math teacher, a natural childbirth instructor, a public school board director and community organizer in St. Louis, and as a parent of three children. Her husband, Joe Moon, is a scientist and software developer at Open Eye Scientific Software here in Santa Fe. Trudy and Joe’s oldest child, Grace, is a senior at Desert Academy (Class of 2013).
PAUL HARTSOCK, PRESIDENT (2012-2014)
Paul Hartsock relocated to New Mexico in 2006 to enjoy the community and culture he experienced while working here in the 1980s. The intervening years were mostly spent working in Asia, based in Hong Kong, Tokyo, Manila and Hanoi, where he chaired and directed listed companies that invested in the region. He remains active in various start-up, turnaround and real estate projects. His wife, Carol, a representational artist, maintains a studio in Santa Fe. His daughter, Sydney, is a mountaineering and climbing instructor at the National Outdoor Leadership School and the beneficiary of a high-quality, independent educational experience comparable to that provided by Desert Academy. His personal interests include the dynamics of the built environment, and he is active with the Frank Lloyd Wright Fellows in finding design solutions to explosive growth in a resource constrained world. He has an MBA from Harvard, a Master of Urban Planning from the University of Washington and a Bachelor in Mathematics from the University of Cincinnati.
SHARON R. PALESTINE
Sharon Palestine was born in Maysville, Kentucky and raised in the Southern Ohio and Kentucky area. She attended the University of Cincinnati, majoring in psychology and early childhood development. She finished her degree studies at Arizona State University and worked at a community mental health center as a member of a children’s therapy team. She volunteered at Phoenix Children’s Hospital raising funds for a Family Learning Center. Currently she volunteers with CASA (Court Appointed Special Advocate) for children in foster care. She and her husband, Dr. Michael Palestine, moved to Santa Fe in 1999. They have three children, Cara, Sarah, and Elliot. Elliot was a member of the Desert Academy Class of 2012.
AL ROBISON, TRUSTEE COMMITTEE CHAIR
Al Robison is a retired New Mexico businessman who currently serves on several boards of directors in Santa Fe. Al has served on the Board of Christus St. Vincent Regional Medical since 2004 and has served of the Board of SVH Support since its formation in 2007. SVH Support owns 50% of the hospital with a goal to ensure that the community remains an important part of the management and direction of the hospital. Al is also a Board member of Physicians Plaza Surgery Center. Until retirement, Al worked in the electric utility industry with utilities in New Mexico, Kansas and Kentucky. Raised in Las Vegas, New Mexico, Al graduated from New Mexico State University and the University of New Mexico. Al resides in the community of Aldea with his wife, Susan Stockstill.
MARQUITA D. RUSSEL, TREASURER (2011-13)
Ms. Russel has more than 20 years of public finance and policy experience and currently serves as the Chief of Programs for the New Mexico Finance Authority. Over the past 12 years, Marquita has been responsible for program development and policy implementation for the NM Finance Authority’s 15 programs, has served as the primary economic development lender and has been a member of the agency’s credit committee. Prior to coming to New Mexico, Ms. Russel spent 10 years at the Illinois Development Finance Authority in Chicago where she implemented a micro-lending program and served as the agency’s primary non-profit analyst. Marquita earned her bachelor’s degree in business administration from Marquette University in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Marquita and her husband, Mark Tiarks, have two children at Desert Academy, Lily (Class of 2013) and Abby (Class of 2015).
Born in California, Robin has 30 years’ experience in education, sales and marketing. Early in his career, Robin used his skills in woodworking, design and construction to become a teacher of log-house building for Northwestern School for Log Housing. He later led a bicycle touring business in Europe. While living in Germany, he worked with the National Mountain Biking Racing Team. Active in his neighborhood association, Robin and his wife, Jodi, are currently co-owners of Bravo Designs. They have three children: Ian (Desert Academy 2015), Rachel (2017) and Tori (2025).
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