Meet Our Staff
Jeffrey "Bo" Jackson – Principal/CEO
Mr. Jeffrey "Bo" Jackson is the principal/CEO of Hill House Passport Academy Charter School (HHPACS). His 23 years of administrative experience are vast and meaningful. He was raised right outside of Pittsburgh in Irwin, Pennsylvania. Mr. Jackson graduated from East Carolina University with a B.S. in exercise and sport science. While there he was also a member of the football team. Prior to his administrative career, Mr. Jackson had head coaching experience both in football and wrestling at the high school varsity level. While coaching, he was also the physical education and social studies teacher. During this time, Mr. Jackson received his master's degree in administration and leadership from North Carolina State University. His experience in North Carolina concluded with him having three principalships and being awarded a charter school that he created and presented to the state Department of Education. Mr. Jackson then moved back to Pennsylvania and continued his administrative duties at all levels, concluding with his current position of Principal/CEO at HHPACS. His awards include Administrator of the Year for two consecutive years in North Carolina. He is a three-time Teacher of the Year recipient in North Carolina and a graduate of the Higher School Performance Program in North Carolina. This was a program that only 25 principals in the state were selected to attend. In Pennsylvania, Mr. Jackson was the principal of the prestigious National Blue Ribbon Award. This was an award that designated his school as one of the 16 highest performing schools in the nation. He also was the principal of three schools that were ranked #1, #4, and # 11 in the state of Pennsylvania—all during the same school year. Mr. Jackson's goal is to make HHPACS number one—not only in Pittsburgh, but in the entire state. With great students, awesome teachers, and supportive families, the HHPACS Wolfpack will roar with success! HHPACS PROUD!
Dr. Ray M. Milke – Director of Special Education/School Psychologist
Dr. Ray M. Milke was hired in October 2018 as the director of special education and student services for HHPACS. In addition to being an administrator, Dr. Milke is currently a school psychologist and maintains a private practice specializing in consulting, psychoeducational evaluations, and school neuropsychological evaluations. He has also worked as a school psychologist in several school districts in western Pennsylvania as well as the Westmoreland Intermediate Unit #7 and the Midwestern Intermediate Unit #4. Dr. Milke was the director of student support services for the Ligonier Valley School District for two years and held the same position for Kiski Area School District for over 15 years. Prior to his role as school psychologist and central office administrator, Dr. Milke worked as a research specialist at Western Psychiatric Institute and Clinic (WPIC) at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center (UPMC). There, he performed neuropsychological evaluations and conducted various research projects. In 1998, he was published in the journal Aviation, Space, and Environmental Medicine and was the lead author for a research project published in 1999 by and for the U.S. Department of Transportation, Federal Aviation Administration. Before working at WPIC/UPMC Dr. Milke provided psychological and assessment services to various school districts as well as business and industry.
Dr. Milke received his undergraduate degree in psychology from the University of Pittsburgh and both his Master of Science and Education degree and Certificate of Advanced Graduate Study from Duquesne University. He received his doctoral degree in school psychology from Indiana University of Pennsylvania. Dr. Milke is one of only four school psychologists in western Pennsylvania to be certified in school neuropsychology by the American Board of School Neuropsychology.
Sharon Zaborowski – Business Manager
Ms. Sharon Zaborowski is the business/operations manager for HHPACS. Ms. Zaborowski has a degree in business administration and has worked with charter schools in the Pittsburgh area for more than 20 years. She is dedicated to assisting in the education process of our youth.
Shelly Nichols – Dean of Students
Mrs. Shelly Nichols is currently the dean of students. She has been at HHPACS since it opened. Her passion for working with inner-city and at-risk students stems from the reality of living and growing up in New York. To escape from being a statistic, Mrs. Nichols move to Orangeburg, South Carolina, after graduating high school, where she attended South Carolina State University and graduated with a Bachelor of Science degree in biology and a minor in education. She later received a master's degree in curriculum and technology and is pursuing her principal's certification from Point Park University. These advance degrees have allowed Mrs. Nichols to teach at various colleges and universities. In her spare time, she mentors future educators during their student teaching experience.
Raymond Rall – Head Teacher/Safety Coordinator/Website
Mr. Raymond Rall is in his fourth year at HHPACS. He was promoted to lead teacher this year. Mr. Rall has a master's degree in education from the University of Pittsburgh as well as bachelor's degrees in history and media communication. He is in his seventh year of teaching overall and has worked previously at Summit Academy and Clayton Academy. Mr. Rall is a dedicated teacher who loves what he does and has a real passion for his students. He is certified in social studies, English and communications. He teaches American literature, creative writing, journalism, public speaking, and web design. In the past, he has also taught U.S. History and Civics at HHPACS. Mr. Rall is also in charge of safety at the school and works on the school's website.
Vanessa Boyd – Enrollment Director
Ms. Boyd has been with HHPACS for five years. She serves as the enrollment director at the school. Ms. Boyd has a bachelor's degree in biology and a master's in education. Ms. Boyd is dedicated to the students here at HHPACS and is the advisor for the Ambassador's Club.
Dellane Ratley-Fisher – Guidance Counselor
Mrs. Ratley-Fisher is currently the school counselor at HHPACS. In this capacity, she provides crisis intervention, conflict resolution, and career counseling—individually and in groups—to inner-city high-school youth from a diverse, largely low income population including emotionally disturbed children. Mrs. Ratley-Fisher is also a counseling consultant with Nisar Health and Human Services where she focuses on social behavior skills with her clients.
Prior to coming to HHPACS, Mrs. Ratley-Fisher taught entrepreneurship, marketing, career development, and business development at Career Connections Charter High School.
Mrs. Ratley-Fisher has also worked as the director of programs for the National Foundation for Teaching Entrepreneurship-Pittsburgh office.
Mrs. Ratley-Fisher graduated from David B. Oliver High School. She received her Bachelor of Arts in political science and business from Edinboro University of Pennsylvania. Her studies in education were conducted at Carlow University. In 2011, she completed her master's degree at Carlow University. She is an active member of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority Incorporated, the American Counseling Association, and the American School Counseling Association. She serves on several boards and works with several community and career-affiliated organizations.
Sequala M. Thomas – Work-Force Development
As a Hill District native, Ms. Sequala M. Thomas always dreamed of coming back and assisting her community with whatever was needed. She was confident that by pursing individual studies in various subjects, such as community outreach programs and after-school activities for troubled youth, and teaching herself how to become a diverse individual, her dreams and goals would become reality. Ms. Thomas graduated from Edinboro University of Pennsylvania with a Bachelor of Art in social work. She completed an internship at Gannondale Residential Home in Erie, Pennsylvania, where her love of helping people blossomed into a passion. With that experience, she became more interested in the school-based surrounding in those residential facilities for delinquent youth. Upon returning to Pittsburgh, she applied to Duquesne University's graduate program and was accepted. She knew that she would be continuing her education in something that would be a lifelong learning experience. Eager to be an agent of change in her community, she obtained a Masters of Education in school counseling. She has worked in many school-based programs and joined the HHPACS team five years ago. Ms. Thomas is the student services director and her office is located in the Guidance Department.
Sharon Merlack – Reading Specialist
Ms. Sharon Merlack has certifications in elementary education, secondary English, and as a reading specialist. She has a master's degree in education with a focus on reading from the University of Pittsburgh, through which she did a year-long internship in the Duquesne City School District. She began her teaching career in 1999, teaching middle school reading in the Fox Chapel Area District. In 2007, she took some time off to be a full-time mother to her 3 1/2-year-old daughter and newborn twin daughters. After returning to teaching in 2013, she took a long-term-substitute position as a reading teacher in Pine Richland Middle School and worked as a reading intervention specialist in the Wilkinsburg School District and for the AIU. She is excited to be teaching here at HHPACS and to be able to help the students achieve their reading goals.
Lauren Hogan – School Nurse
Ms. Lauren Hogan is the school nurse at HHPACS. She has been a registered nurse for almost 15 years and has experience in a variety of health care settings. A few of the areas she has worked in are emergency, behavioral/psychiatric, surgical, and ambulatory care. She earned her bachelor's degree from Waynesburg University in 2008 and is currently working to obtain a Master of Education in school health services, along with a PA School Nurse Certification from Eastern University.
Ms. Hogan has one beautiful daughter who is a senior in high school and a member of the varsity cheerleading team. Her daughter is planning to attend college in the fall. She also has an 8-year-old Papillon named Fifi who loves to snuggle!
Outside of work, she enjoys working on projects around the house, being physically active, and traveling when possible. She also likes to check out the latest food and beverage trends and, of course, watch "Netflix and chill"!
She enjoys working with youth and young adults in the community school setting. She believes health and wellness education is as important for the students as their other subjects—because no matter what career path or future they choose, their health will always be with them!
Christina Gandy – Student Services Coordinator
Ms. Christina Gandy is an office administrator for K12 Inc. and HHPACS. She brings experience from a multitude of backgrounds including management and real estate. She believes that building relationships with students is imperative to their scholastic success. "Mentoring is impactful and necessary." Christina has day to day interactions with students that include assisting them with transportation, managing student records and attendance, and offering an ear or advice when needed, among many other tasks.
She enjoys spending time with her teenage son, skiing in the winter, beach time in the summer, and living life to its fullest.
One of her favorite quotes is, "My mission in life is to not to merely survive, but to thrive; and to do so with some passion, some compassion, some humor, and some style." –Maya Angelou
Naomi Canella – English Teacher
Ms. Naomi Canella teaches English 10 and British literature at HHPACS. She majored in English and drama at The Ohio State University and got her master's in education at the University of Las Vegas Nevada. She started her career running the drama program and teaching ninth-grade English at Eldorado High School in Las Vegas. After moving to Pennsylvania, Ms. Canella taught English at Leechburg Middle School and public speaking at North Hills Junior High before taking time off to stay home with her two children. She is happy to be back in the classroom!
Matthew Walters – English Teacher
Mr. Matthew Walters' love of literature brought him to Pittsburgh to study English writing at The University of Pittsburgh. English is one of his passions. He considers reading an essential means to understanding the world, ideas, and experiences that would otherwise be inaccessible. Some of his favorite authors include Langston Hughes, George Orwell, J.R.R. Tolkien, and Ray Bradbury. In 2010, he graduated from The University of Pittsburgh with a BA in English writing. Shortly after that, he began working with middle and high school students to help them achieve their goals. In 2017, Mr. Walters completed a master's program and earned his teaching certification at Point Park University. He taught English III and IV at Penn Hills High School during the 2017–2018 school year.
John Paul Burket – Math Teacher
Mr. JP Burket was born and raised in Indiana County, Pennsylvania. After high school, he attended college at Slippery Rock University where he received degrees in education (mathematics) and Spanish. This is his 10th year as a math teacher working in various schools in the Pittsburgh area. Outside of school, he loves spending time with his wife and two beautiful daughters. He is a community coach for both indoor and outdoor soccer and enjoys leading worship and teaching Sunday school at his local church. One of his passions is traveling the world and seeing new countries. He is so excited to be at HHPACS and help all of the students reach their potential and be able to explore the world for themselves!
William McCoullum – Math Teacher
Mr. William McCoullum teaches Pre-algebra, Algebra 1, and Algebra 2. He has been a math teacher for 9 years and also teaches at CCAC. He has a master's degree in instructional leadership from Robert Morris University and a bachelor's degree in applied mathematics from the University of Pittsburgh. Outside of teaching, he loves watching sports, playing basketball and baseball, and just relaxing with good company.
Thomas Trapp – Social Studies Teacher
Mr. Thomas Trapp is the social studies teacher at HHPACS. He has been teaching our U.S. History, World History, and Civics courses since October 2018. He grew up in the Yough School District located in Westmoreland County. For his undergraduate studies, he went to Westmoreland County Community College and earned his bachelor's in political science from the University of Pittsburgh at Greensburg. Mr. Trapp completed the University of Pittsburgh's teacher education program and is also certified in secondary English. He became a teacher because he loves working with young people and helping them achieve great things. He loves social studies topics because learning about them allows us to better understand ourselves, our country, and our world. Mr. Trapp genuinely enjoys teaching the students of HHPACS and gains much fulfillment from working with them. He looks forward with great anticipation to graduation day and seeing them collect their diplomas—their passport to a future filled with success.
Steven Cercone – Science Teacher
Mr. Steven Cercone teaches biology and physical science. He graduated high school from Sewickley Academy and attended Colgate University where he majored in molecular biology. He started out as premed but eventually decided that teaching was a better path for him. To accomplish his goal of becoming a teacher, Mr. Cercone attended the University of Pittsburgh where he earned a master’s in education. His life goal is to share the knowledge he has accumulated with a future generation and to give back to society the valuable education he received. He truly values helping others and believes teaching is one of the best professions where one can help and give. In his spare time, he loves playing ultimate frisbee and Japanese animation. He is also an avid chess player and nature lover. Mr. Cercone invites students to get to know him and can’t wait to work with you!
Rachel Heusey – Special Education Teacher
Ms. Rachel Heusey is the special education teacher at HHPACS. She has a master's degree in special education from Waynesburg University. She has worked in the special education field for over 10 years, engaging with children and students from ages 3 to 21. This is her first year at HHPACS. She collaborates with the regular education teachers and the students to find ways to support the students in earning their diploma. Mrs. Heusey provides individualized assistance at the student's request and performs check-ins on each student's individual plans throughout the week. The fully inclusive setting provides real-life learning experiences for the students she works with as well as promotes self-advocacy skills. She works with the OVR representative to provide postgraduate job training and education. She also collaborates with the Early Reach Initiative to provide groups on Pre-Employment Transition Services such as training on soft skills, self-advocacy, application/resume/cover letter writing, interviewing, and personal finance.
Benjamin Barley – ESL Teacher
Mr. Benjamin Barley is the English as a second language (ESL) and electives teacher at HHPACS. He was born and raised in Pittsburgh and currently lives in Dormont. His educational background includes a Bachelor of Education from Penn State University and a Master of Education from California University. His hobbies and interests include reading, writing, cooking, soccer, the Beatles, and yoga. In his free time, he teaches adult ESL classes for Literacy Pittsburgh at his local library. Most importantly, he has a passion for teaching and helping others. #wolfpackproud
James Henderson – School Security/Food Services
Mr. James Henderson has been with HHPACS for almost four-and-one-half years. His position is security and head of food services. One of his main jobs is to make sure the building is secure.
Gale Evans – School Security/Food Services
Ms. Gale Evans has been with HHPACS for almost three years. Her job entails security and food services. As part of her duties, she meets and greet people as they come into the school. She has a great relationship with the students.