At Academics+ , our mission is to empower families to choose the school that best fits their child’s unique educational needs. Academics+ provides scholarships to low-income children who are not succeeding in their current environment. Scholarships are funded by the donation of corporate and individual Alabama income tax liability.
Academics+ is a parent-driven model. Parents complete an online application and mail in supporting documents to apply. Scholarships are distributed on a first-come, first-served basis with priority given to students zoned to attend a “failing” public school.
Academics+ is leading the way statewide to provide low-income children the educational opportunities to be successful and to have a productive future.
For more than 20 years, Lesley has provided transformational, executive leadership to large-scale nonprofits. At Step Up For Students, Lesley leads the fundraising, policy, and state partnership teams. Her experience in aligning boards, donors, employees, and communities to a mission has helped to build strong, outcome-based nonprofits. Additionally, her entrepreneurial vision has helped create social enterprises and diverse funding streams for multiple organizations. Lesley is a veteran in public affairs, developing critical relationships with media and elected officials leading successful policy results. Lesley earned a Bachelor of Arts in Communications from the University of Alabama and a Master of Arts in Public and Private Management from Birmingham-Southern College. She is also a John Maxwell certified speaker, trainer, and coach.
Joe Pfountz leads the team that oversees Step Up For Students’ accounting, finance, treasury, risk management and knowledge management functions and ensures the highest level of fiscal accountability and transparency at Step Up For Students and the programs it administers.
Prior to joining Step Up For Students, Joe spent 29 years in various leadership roles, including Chairman of the Board, Managing Director, Chief Financial Officer and Director of Finance for not-for-profit and for-profit enterprises in the healthcare and manufacturing sectors. Joe began his career in the assurance group of KPMG as an auditor of manufacturing, healthcare, construction, and banking companies. Joe received his bachelor’s degree from Christian Brothers College in Memphis, TN.
For more than 20 years, Julie Emory-Johnson has been an educator in Alabama in both the public and private school settings. Most recently, Julie served as the Director for Catholic Schools for the Diocese of Birmingham. She earned a Bachelor of Science in Early Childhood Education from Auburn University, a Master of Education and Educational Specialist Certification from The University of Alabama at Birmingham, Educational Leadership Certification from Samford University and is a current doctoral student at Samford University in that field. She and her husband, Bryan, and their sons Wren and More live in Mountain Brook and attend St. Francis Xavier Church.
Susan is a retired manufacturing engineer and has served as a community volunteer for the last 30 years. She is married to Richard Duffey, M.D. and together they have seven children, all graduates of Saint Ignatius and McGill-Toolen Catholic High School. Susan has chaired the Long Range Strategic planning committees at Saint Ignatius Parish and McGill-Toolen Catholic High School, and served as President of the McGill-Toolen School Advisory Council, The McGill-Toolen Foundation and the Saint Ignatius Parish Council. She currently serves on the Archdiocese of Mobile Foundation Board.
With more than 30 years of public accounting experience, Kathy specializes in the field of corporate, partnership, and individual taxation. Kathy is a member of the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants, the Alabama Society and the Mobile chapter of Certified Public Accountants. She served for many years as Executive Director of the McGill-Toolen Foundation. She has also served as President of the Mobile YWCA and St. Ignatius Catholic School board, a sustaining member of the Junior League of Mobile, and past Chairman of the St. Ignatius Catholic Church parish council. Kathy and her husband, Fred, have three children and three grandchildren. Their children are fourth-generation graduates of McGill-Toolen Catholic High School and its predecessor schools.
Hodges is the founding member of the Harty Carpenter Group, a highly skilled, experienced wealth management team in Fairhope, Alabama, that advises clients in investment management, retirement planning, tax and estate planning services, and wealth preservation.
Hodges has been a passionate supporter of the Alabama Opportunity Scholarship Fund since its inception. He has served as a volunteer on the McGill-Toolen Annual Fund Drive, Catholic Charities, Big Brothers Big Sisters of Mobile and currently serves on the McGill-Toolen Foundation Board. He and his wife, Debbie, have been married for 37 years and have three grown children, Jacquie, Kimberly and Jason. They are active members of Holy Family Parish but also volunteer their time at St. Lawrence Parish in Fairhope. It is very important to Hodges to give back to the community, including McGill-Toolen Catholic High School Annual Fund Drive, McGill-Toolen Catholic Foundation Board, Catholic Charities, Boy Scouts, and Big Brothers Big Sisters of Mobile. Hodges has been a passionate volunteer for Alabama Opportunity Scholarships since its inception.
Tim is a CPCU with an MBA in Finance. He served our country in the U. S. Army in the Vietnam War and received an Honorable Discharge with the rank of Captain. He worked in the insurance and finance industry for 36 years and was honored to serve as Chairman of the largest insurance trade association in the world. Tim served three terms as Mayor of Foley, Alabama, was Probate Judge for nine years and served as Commissioner of Revenue for the State of Alabama and in the Governor\'s Cabinet. He served on the St. Benedict School Board for 10 years and was Parish Council President of St. Margaret\'s five different terms over a 25-year period. He is a Knight of St. Gregory.
Bill is a retired CPA with 45 years of experience, 40 as partner in a large firm. He is an active member of Saint Bede’s Parish and serves on the finance council of Montgomery Catholic, Saint Bede’s and the Archdiocese of Mobile. He is the father of five children, all of whom attended Catholic schools from K-12. Mr. Barranco has served on his Parish council as well as Montgomery Catholic school boards.