Advisory Council

The Liberty Learning Foundation Advisory Council consists of thoughtful and concerned community leaders who advise the Board of Directors and staff. The organization and the children we serve benefit from their professional expertise; their diverse knowledge of constituent perspectives; their connections to local and national resources, colleagues or peers; their philanthropic support or other forms of assistance. The Advisory Council has no governing function within Liberty Learning Foundation.

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Kate H. Cotton, Retired, Protective Life Corporation

Kate Cotton joined Leadership Alabama as the executive director in January 2018 following a long career at Protective Life Corporation, having served in her last role as the vice president of community relations and executive director of the Protective Life Foundation. She has been involved with numerous organizations and has served, or is currently serving, on various boards of directors, including PARCA, the Woodlawn Foundation, the Kiwanis Club of Birmingham, the Birmingham Holocaust Education Center, the Birmingham Botanical Gardens, the Birmingham Education Foundation, Jones Valley Teaching Farm, UAB’s School of Nursing, the YWCA Central Alabama, the Junior League of Birmingham, Liberty Learning Foundation, the Women’s Committee of 100, the Advent Episcopal School, McCallie School in Chattanooga and Furman University’s Parent Network. She is a member of Leadership Alabama, Leadership Birmingham, UAB’s Educational Foundation Board and PreSchool Partners’ Advisory Council. Kate was named one of the BBJ’s “Top Birmingham Women for 2020,” in addition to being named one of Birmingham’s “Women Who Make a Difference” in 2014 and being honored as a “Woman of Distinction by the Girl Scouts. She is a graduate of the University of Oklahoma’s Price College of Business.

Ralph Bellamy, Retired, Alabama Power Company

Ralph Bellamy has worked for almost 39 years serving in communities both large and small across the state of Alabama as an employee of Alabama Power Company. This frontline experience in many of the same communities that we are seeking to reach through the Liberty Learning Foundation is an invaluable asset to our board. Ralph has served on numerous boards throughout his career including: Boys and Girls Club; Girl Scouts of America, Boy Scouts of America; United Way; Leadership Mobile; Leadership Montgomery; Barbour County Children’s Policy Council; Voices for Alabama’s Children; American Red Cross; American Cancer Society. Ralph has also served as Director of Community and Volunteer Services for Alabama Power Foundation.

I believe in the three F’s: “Faith, Family and Flag.” My love of God, my love of my family and my love for my country are at the very core of who I am. I am very excited to be a part of this movement, which inspires both children and adults with a new or renewed love of country.

Tami Culver, Deputy Commissioner, Alabama Department of Agriculture and Industries

Tami Culver currently serves as Deputy Commissioner for the Alabama Department of Agriculture and Industries. Ms. Culver has held leadership roles for a variety of statewide boards and committees. She was recently appointed to the Operations Committee for the Southern U.S. Trade Association, which covers 16 states.

Ms. Culver has significant experience in developing relationships in government and public sectors. She was the District Director of Field Operations for the U.S. House of Representatives (AL 02) and worked tirelessly for public education in her role as Dothan Education Foundation President. Weaving politics into her career has been seamless. She has served in a leadership capacity for several campaigns across the state, one being the gubernatorial campaign for Huntsville Mayor Tommy Battle, where she served as State Director of Field Operations. Ms. Culver has received numerous awards and honors, including being listed as a “Mover and Shaper” by Business Alabama Magazine and named an Alabama Power “Alabama Bright Light.” She earned a Master of Science degree from Troy University and has graduated from many leadership programs across the state.

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Jaclyn Brown Wright, Principal, Brewbaker Primary School

Principal Jaclyn Brown Wright is a passionate educator who currently serves as the 1st Year Principal of Brewbaker Primary School: “Where AMAZING Happens for Kids!” in Montgomery, AL.   Evidence of the journey which led her to her trademark leadership and training style can be easily synthesized from 19 years of her career and supported by almost two decades of demonstrable achievement found in longitudinal data from district’s she’s taught or led which include Montgomery County, El Paso County, CO, Selma, AL, Dallas County, and Conecuh County.

Principal Wright is a graduate of Alabama State University, Troy University, and Grand Canyon University with education and leadership certifications in AZ, CO, AL, GA, and SC.  Her professional studies span three areas of leadership including education administration, PK-12 instructional leadership, and organizational leadership which help frame the transformation process she’s currently leading at Brewbaker Primary School with the collaboration of a diverse team of educators, support staff, parents, and kids.

The scope of Principal Wright’s two-decade career in education encompasses teaching or leading at every grade level PreK-12, district administration, and post-secondary adjunct instructor positions at Alabama State University and Concordia College.  Principal Wright’s practice in education and transformational leadership has afforded her the opportunities to work and lead in a diverse array of roles in military, rural, and urban school systems throughout AL, central CO, and the southeastern US.

Of all the awards, recognition, and titles Principal Wright has earned throughout her career, she earned the most precious title this year from her BPS students who lovingly call her their “Friend Principal.”  It is the belief and trust that her students place in her as their friend, not just as their principal, that drives her to ensure that every aspect of our school community only does what is best and right for our kids every day.  Through her innovative organizational structures, intentional collaboration with all stakeholders, and a relentless focus on data-driven instructional solutions, Principal Wright has begun a trail-blazing journey of school transformation to make amazing happen for kids where her work continues to inspire an entire community.

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Dr. Melissa Shields, NBCT, Alabama State Department of Education

Before moving into an administrative role in 2007, Dr. Melissa Shields taught language arts and/or history for sixteen years, grades 6-12. At the system level in Etowah County Schools, she supervised various departments including Curriculum, Instructional Technology, Library Media, School Improvement, and English Learners. She completed her doctorate at the University of Alabama with a focus on curriculum and school reform. In 2015, she moved to the Alabama Department of Education in the Office of Student Learning to provide supports in school turnaround in central and north Alabama districts. She currently leads the Office of School Improvement for the state. She also works with community and industry organizations in aligning resources and human capital with the whole child needs in area schools, including those related to mental health and social-emotional learning. Dr. Shields was Nationally Board Certified in 2000 in Language Arts and renewed in 2010 and 2020, while serving in district and state roles, respectively. 

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Lisa Morales, Director, East AlabamaWorks – Region 2

Lisa Morales is the Director of East AlabamaWorks which addresses workforce needs in a seven county region including Calhoun, Cherokee, Clay, Cleburne, Etowah, Randolph and Talladega counties.  Lisa is responsible for identifying and responding to the needs of business and industry to provide a skilled workforce. She is driven to bring resources to the community of employers and job seekers. The East AlabamaWorks mission allows Lisa to provide every person with the opportunity and motivation to develop and expand their skills to create a quality workforce and enhance economic prosperity. She has served on the Alabama Workforce Council, a Board Member for the Region 2 Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act and numerous workforce taskforce’s including development of programs and curriculum for secondary and post-secondary education. She counts as one of her greatest accomplishments of working with a team of volunteers to create Worlds of Work in East Alabama, a regional hands-on career expo for students to help develop their career pathway. Lisa’s previous work experience includes the Calhoun County Chamber of Commerce and Visitors Center serving as the Director of Community and Leadership Development overseeing the leadership and community programs, the American Cancer Society as the Director of Distinguished Events and State Development Director, and SouthTrust Bank Treasury Management Department serving business and industry with specialized products and services.  Throughout her career, Lisa has worked with business and industry to ensure company needs are met.

Cory Evans, Civics and Social Sciences Teacher, Sparkman Middle School

I am going into my third year teaching civics at Sparkman Middle School in Madison County, and my eighth year of teaching the social sciences. We began implementing the Liberty Learning Foundation curriculum at Sparkman Middle School in 2019, and it has proven to be very successful in the character education of our students. I’m very honored and excited to have the opportunity to serve on the advisory board at the Liberty Learning Foundation! I hope that I can play a small part in helping this great program continue to develop in a way that is beneficial for ALL students who engage with the material. 

Monica Grace Mitchell, Elementary & Special Programs Coordinator, Conecuh County Schools

Monica Grace Mitchell currently serves as the Elementary & Special Programs Coordinator for Conecuh County Schools.  Mrs. Mitchell was born and educated in Conecuh County.  Mrs. Mitchell earned a bachelor’s and master’s degree in Early Childhood Education and Elementary Education at Auburn University at Montgomery.  In addition, Mrs. Mitchell attained an AA from Alabama State University in Montgomery, Alabama. Over the span of her career, Mrs. Mitchell has served as a classroom teacher, 21st Century Site Coordinator, Parent Project Facilitator, and Alabama Reading Initiative Reading Specialist.

Mrs. Mitchell is a change agent that believes that students should be motivated and encouraged to learn.  Mrs. Mitchell is working endlessly to ensure that there is collaboration between the school and community to help students and families succeed.

Jesse McDaniel, UniServ Director, Alabama Education Association

Jesse credits his teenage experiences in Boy Scouts of America with igniting his dual passions for civic engagement and good stewardship of the environment. After reaching the rank of Eagle Scout and graduating from Montgomery County Public Schools, he pursued his higher education at Auburn University in the areas of political science and public administration. Jesse went on to to work in several political campaigns and eventually became a Field Staff Representative for the Alabama State Employees Association.

Today, Jesse is a dynamic labor organizer representing UniServ District 32 of the Alabama Education Association, including Baldwin County Public Schools, Gulf Shores City Schools, and Coastal Alabama Community College. In this capacity, he has gained a decade of experience working directly with issues confronting educators and school leaders across the Gulf region. Jesse is a prolific spokesperson for the AEA and appears regularly in the media to advocate for public school employees.

Jesse resides in the City of Mobile with his wife and three children. In addition to his busy day job, he somehow finds time to volunteer as Chairman of the Mobile Tree Commission and Treasurer of the Alabama Professional Staff Organization. He previously served on the board of the Mobile Area Education Foundation and is a past officer in the Mobile Branch #5044 of the NAACP.

Russ Williams, Chair Social Sciences Division & History Instructor

I am the Chair of the Social Sciences Division and History Instructor at Gadsden State Community College.  I have been there for five years.  I’m also a licensed attorney and member of the Alabama State Bar Association.  Before teaching college, I was a high school teacher, football and baseball coach, and technology coach at Arab High School for twelve years.  I taught AP United States History, AP World History, Dual Enrollment Western Civilization 101/102, 11th Grade US History, 10th Grade US History, and 9th Grade World History.  I was a National Board Certified Teacher, the 2010 District Secondary Teacher of the Year, and served as the AEA President for the Arab district.  I was awarded the Adolph Crew Teaching Award from the University of Alabama in 2016.  I contract for A+ College Ready as an education consultant, Social Studies trainer, curriculum designer, and AP Study Session presenter.  In addition, I have contracted periodically with Liberty Learning as an education consultant and content creator.  I created the American Characters Comic Book for Middle School and the curriculum that corresponds with the learning resource.  I have also created the high school Founding Documents lessons (“Gettysburg Address” and “Bill of Rights”) and continue to work on the completion of this task with another installment for the 9th Grade World History classroom.

I live in Arab, AL.  My wife Susanna and I have been married for 14 years.  She is a Library and Media Specialist at Brindlee Mountain High School.  We are also blessed to have an eight-year-old daughter by the name of Mary Michael.

Allison Ross, Yellowhammer Multimedia, LLC

Allison Ross is the owner of Yellowhammer Multimedia, LLC, an Alabama-based company delivering news and information across a variety of platforms, including YellowhammerNews.com, Soul-Grown.com and the YHN Radio News Network. Ross took the helm of the business in September 2017 and oversees all aspects including business development, brand expansion, new product integration, sales, marketing, radio and television production, talent management and content integration across all platforms. Under her leadership, the company has seen expansion of its digital presence beyond 56 million annual page views and 8.5 million annual users. In addition, Ross has expanded the company’s footprint by developing a complimentary lifestyle brand in SoulGrown Alabama.

Allison came to Yellowhammer Multimedia with a wide spectrum of exposure in the economic development industry for over 11 years representing projects on both sides of the table. After working as the Vice President of Morgan County Alabama Economic Development Association, Allison joined the team at an international site selection and consulting firm. At H&A, she led strategic consulting services for capital investment projects across industry sectors spanning the United States, with specific expertise in new investments, relocations, incentive negotiation and project financing.

She is a graduate of the University of Alabama College of Communication and Information Science with a degree in Broadcast News and Political Science. Along with her husband and children, Allison currently resides in Guntersville, AL.