Board of Trustees
The Board of Trustees is a group of dedicated and informed community leaders who are passionate about the value of education and are committed to building and strengthening Pacific Ridge School. Members of the Board have demonstrated personal success in a multitude of endeavors.
- Brent Rivard - Chair
- Shari Bard
- Nihar Bhakta
- Jared Bluestein
- Tracey DeLange
- Rio Dickens-Celestin
- Rashida Dzeketey
- Mark Elmore
- Derek Footer
- Kristin French
- Steve Pacelli
- Stephanie Sapp
- Raghu Saripalli
- Michele Saunders
- Richard Shen
- Maria Simpson
- Brit Stickney
- Matt Stoyka
- Jeffrey Thacker
- Paul Twardowski
- Esther van den Boom
- Michael Witz
Brent Rivard is a Partner and Managing Director of Pathfinder Partners, LLC, a real estate investment firm. He is also a principal in several business-to-business service firms targeting mid-market companies including RelationEdge, Main Path Marketing and Signature Analytics. He was previously the President of a local wealth management firm, the Chief Financial Officer and Chief Operating Officer of a commercial real estate brokerage firm, the Vice President, Finance and Operations at The MHA Group and Vice President, Accounting and Finance/Treasurer at NYSE-traded AMN Healthcare..
Mr. Rivard started his career at Deloitte & Touche after graduating from the University of California, Los Angeles with a B.A. in Business Economics. His philanthropic work includes serving on the Board of Directors for Big Brothers Big Sisters of San Diego County, including as Board Chair in 2012-2013.
Mr. Rivard resides in Encinitas with his wife, Laura, and their three children, all of whom attend Pacific Ridge.
After starting her career in internet technology marketing, Shari Bard became a teacher. A Southern California native, she has served as an educator in both Chula Vista and Los Angeles. She also has extensive volunteer experience in both admissions and fundraising for independent schools. While her children attended San Francisco Day School, Ms. Bard guided admissions focus groups, chaired the school’s fundraising gala, and played an important role in the school’s capital campaign. Ms. Bard earned her undergraduate degree and teaching credential from San Diego State University.
Nihar Bhakta is the Chief Medical Officer at Aristea Therapeutics. Previously, Dr. Bhakta served in several key positions at Gossamer Bio and Ardea Biosciences in San Diego. He has also authored numerous scientific publications. Dr. Bhakta earned his undergraduate degree in biology from Brown University and his doctorate from Penn State College of Medicine. He completed his residency at the Cleveland Clinic and his fellowship training at UCLA. He is board certified in pediatrics and pediatric nephrology.
Jared Bluestein spent over twenty years running Berggruen Holdings, a multi-national private investment business. In 2018 he changed his life by picking up and traveling the world with his family for a year. After settling in Southern California, Jared earned a master’s in psychology from Columbia University. He remains a Managing Director and advisor to Berggruen Holdings, is a member of both GenNext and the Young Presidents Organization, and sits on the Leadership Circle at the David Lynch Foundation. He received his undergraduate degree from Pennsylvania State University. Jared and Mayte Bluestein have two daughters, both of whom attend Pacific Ridge.
Tracey DeLange is a versatile attorney with broad in-house and large law firm experience representing public companies, private companies and individuals. Her background includes corporate compliance, transactional, regulatory, securities, environmental, and complex litigation experience.
Ms. DeLange spent two years as Assistant General Counsel at Jenny Craig after serving as Corporate Counsel for Santarus, Inc. She gained her previous experience in complex litigation as Senior Associate at Paul Hastings Janofsky & Walker. She is a graduate of the University of California, Riverside and University of San Diego School of Law. She and her husband, Tim, have two Firebirds.
Dr. Rio Dickens-Celestin is an internal medicine physician at Scripps Health. She graduated from the University of Virginia with a degree in Psychology, then attended the University of Cincinnati College of Medicine. Following medical school, Dr. Dickens-Celestin completed her internship and residency at Emory University in Atlanta. She joined the faculty at Emory after training and served as an Assistant Professor in the Department of Internal Medicine for thirteen years. She is a member of the American Medical Association and American College of Physicians.
Rashida Dzeketey is a native of Ghana, West Africa, and completed her undergraduate studies at the United States International University (USIU) campus in Nairobi, Kenya. She moved to the USIU San Diego campus to pursue her M.B.A and has lived here ever since. She spent about 15 years working in various analytic roles in the homebuilding and health care industries and currently manages data analytics for supply chain at Neurocrine Biosciences. Rashida and her husband Kuassi have two children, a son in college and a daughter at Pacific Ridge.
Mark Elmore is Chairman of the Board at Nathan Hale Capital LLC, a broker-dealer firm focused on fixed income securities. Semi-retired after 23 years as a securities broker, he is an active investor in real estate and local businesses. He earned his Bachelor of Science in Business Administration with an emphasis in Business Economics from Southern Illinois University. He and his wife Cristina have two children, one of whom attends Pacific Ridge.
Derek Footer is a Founder of ExtraVallis, an investment and management platform connecting investors to startups. In conjunction with his role there, he serves as Managing Partner of HardTech Labs, a venture capital fund management company. He also serves on the Board and is General Counsel for Hands United for Children, a non-profit funding the building of schools in Africa, Latin America and San Diego County. He holds two patents related to interactive television software infrastructure and has a J.D. from Boston University School of Law and a B.A. from the University of California, Berkeley.
Kristin French is a civic leader in the San Diego and Rancho Santa Fe communities bringing expertise and focus from her professional experience in the areas of finance and accounting, Human Resources, contract negotiation, sales/marketing, fundraising, and strategic planning.
Ms. French’s passion for education and service started early as an undergraduate student at the University of San Diego. After graduating, she served for over 15 years on the school’s Alumni Board. In 2010, Ms. French served on the steering committee to develop the vision for Epiphany Prep Charter School, which was established to serve the inner-city children of San Diego. She continues to serve on the Epiphany Prep Charter School board. Ms. French also served on The Nativity School Advisory Board where her children attended school and focused on curriculum and fundraising for the school.
Prior to her civic involvement and having her two children, Ms. French spent over a decade at Pepsi Bottling Group working in sales and marketing. She earned a B.A. in Business Administration and MBA from the University of San Diego. She and her husband have two children, both of whom attend Pacific Ridge.
Steve Pacelli is Executive Vice President and Managing Director of Dexcom Ventures, a venture capital fund focused on advancements in diabetes care. Prior to serving in several other roles at Dexcom, Steve served as a corporate attorney specializing in finance, mergers and acquisitions, and as general counsel of several privately held companies. Steve currently serves on the Board of Biocom California, Connect, and EvoNexus. He is an ardent supporter of Big Brothers Big Sisters of San Diego. Steve earned a B.A. from UCLA, and a J.D. from the University of Virginia.
Stephanie is currently a graduate student at Columbia University pursuing a master’s in organizational psychology. Previously, she served as Director of Customer Success at Silicon Valley startup Glynt.ai, and worked at a Stanford-affiliated nonprofit, StartX, helping entrepreneurs effectively launch innovative companies. Prior to entrepreneurial work, Stephanie earned her M.A. in sociology and B.A. in human biology from Stanford University. As a previous Firebird herself (Class of 2012), Stephanie is excited to join the board as an alumna, and grateful for the opportunity to serve.
Raghu Saripalli is the CFO of Endeavor Biomedicines, a biotech startup in San Diego. Prior to that he was co-founder and CFO of Impact Biomedicines, which was acquired by Celgene Corporation.
Since moving to San Diego in 2003, Mr. Saripalli has been working with early-stage and small companies mostly focused on biotech. Prior to that, he was an investment banker in New York. Over a period of ten years he worked at Barclays Capital, Deutsche Bank and Wasserstein Perella in mergers and acquisitions with a focus on gaming and defense.
Mr. Saripalli has a B.S. in Mechanical Engineering from the National Institute of Technology (India), dual Masters of Science in Mechanical Engineering and Computer Science and an MBA (with distinction) from The Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania. He resides in Rancho Santa Fe with his wife and two sons – one a Pacific Ridge graduate and the other a current student.
Michele Saunders recently ended a four-year tenure on the Pacific Ridge School Parent Association Board of Directors, including a year serving as Executive Director.
Ms. Saunders served in numerous financial positions, most recently as Controller for The Governance Institute, a service of NRC Health, supporting not-for-profit hospital and health care leaders. Over the years, she also served as Accounting Director for Pyxis Corporation and in Price Waterhouse LLP’s Audit Group.
As a first-generation college graduate of the University of Notre Dame, Ms. Saunders believes deeply in the value of education and the importance of its accessibility. She and her husband have two children; one is a current student at Pacific Ridge, the other is a graduate.
Richard Shen, Ph.D., is the founder and managing director of RS Technology Ventures, a strategic advisory and investment company focused on the fields of nucleic acid analysis, oncology diagnostics and genomics. He is an active member of Tech Coast Angels in San Diego, on the Externa Advisory Board of Georgia Tech and is advising several early phase startups. Earlier in his career, Dr. Shen held several senior positions in a 15-year career at Illumina. Dr. Shen earned a B.S. from UCLA and a Ph.D. from LSU Medical Center. He did postdoctoral fellowships at the University of Michigan Medical Center to study gene therapy and Lawrence Livermore National Laboratories to study variation in DNA repair genes.
With over two decades of experience in education, Maria Simpson has served as a middle school teacher in City Heights, student teacher supervisor at University of San Diego, School Programs Director for the Birch Aquarium, and executive board member at Design 39 School in the Poway Unified School District. Ms. Simpson graduated from Harvard University with a degree in Environmental Science. She earned a master’s degree in biological oceanography from the Scripps Institution of Oceanography, and holds a teaching credential and Masters of Education from UCSD.
Mr. Stickney is a portfolio manager and a managing director with Allianz Global Investors, which he joined in 1999. He has portfolio-management and research responsibilities for the Income and Growth Strategies team. Mr. Stickney has 29 years of investment industry experience. He was previously a vice president of institutional fixed-income sales with ABN AMRO, Inc., where his primary focus was on high-yield corporate securities; before that, he worked for Cowen & Company and Wayne Hummer & Company.
Mr. Stickney has a B.S. in finance from Miami University, Ohio, and an M.B.A. from the Kellogg School of Management, Northwestern University. Both of his children attend Pacific Ridge School.
CEO of NewRocket, the world’s largest ServiceNow consulting partner, Matt Stoyka has over 25 years of experience in technology services and manufacturing. He also serves as managing partner of Resonance Equity Funds, a technology services investment vehicle. Mr. Stoyka founded RelationEdge, LLC, and has held leadership positions with Rackspace and Centerbeam, Inc. He earned his undergraduate degree in manufacturing systems engineering from Kettering University and has an international Master of Business Administration degree from the University of San Diego.
Jeff Thacker is a corporate and securities law partner at Gunderson Dettmer, an international law firm headquartered in Silicon Valley. Throughout his 25+ year practice, he has represented both public and private companies and venture capital firms. He has advised life science and technology companies, including CareFusion, Life Technologies and Anterix, in a variety of transactions, including IPOs and other public offerings, venture financings, mergers and acquisitions and strategic collaborations. He also has expertise in SEC reporting, and is listed in The Best Lawyers in America for Corporate Governance Law. Mr. Thacker earned his J.D. degree from the University of California, Berkeley and a B.S. degree in Civil Engineering from Brigham Young University.
Mr. Thacker and his wife have three children; the eldest attends Pacific Ridge.
Paul Twardowski is a Senior Managing Director and Partner at Hines, a global real estate investment firm. He oversees Hines’ investments, developments and management across Southern California and Las Vegas. Before his tenure with Hines, Mr. Twardowski was an asset manager at the Yarmouth Group in New York City and a development manager with Lend Lease Development in Sydney, Australia. He received a B.A. from Princeton University. He and his wife have two daughters, both of whom attend Pacific Ridge.
Michael Witz is the co-founder of Redemption Games, a mobile game developer, and publisher of the puzzle game Sweet Escapes. Mr. Witz is also an active angel investor in the technology industry and a Y Combinator alumnus. He earned his undergraduate degree in history from UC Santa Barbara. Mr. Witz lives with his wife Lisa in Carlsbad. They have three children, two currently attending Pacific Ridge and one recent PRS graduate.