Board of Trustees

The Board of Trustees is made up of Birches Academy parents as well as community members. The Board of Trustees is responsible for ensuring that the academic program of The Birches is successful, that the school’s program and operation are faithful to its charter, and that the Birches is a viable, long term, sustainable charter school. Please see below for information on our current Board members.

Kara Christesen (Chair) was raised in Salem, NH. She attended Salem High School and is a graduate of the University of New Hampshire, where she earned a Bachelor of Arts in Biology and Master of Education with a concentration in Special Education. Kara is a certified Life Sciences teacher for grades 7-12 and has been teaching science at Salem High School for seventeen years. While at SHS, she has taught a wide range of levels and courses, including Biology, Chemistry, Zoology, Integrated Science, and currently Physics. Kara is active in professional development demonstrated by participating in such programs as the National Tropical Botanical Gardens Science Teacher Enrichment Program in Kauai, Hawaii; the John H. Wallace Middle and High School Teacher Fellowship, American Association of Immunologists, through Brigham and Women’s Hospital and Harvard Medical School; Signals of Spring ACES Animals in Curriculum-based Ecosystem Studies U.S. Satellite Laboratory, sponsored by NASA; as well as furthering her knowledge via enrollment in post-graduate courses of study. One of her goals as a science teacher is the integration of art, music, and creative thinking into the science curriculum. Kara and her husband, Doug, reside in Salem, NH with their daughter who is currently a sixth grader at The Birches Academy.

Dianne Wright (Co-Treasurer and Founder) grew up in North Andover, MA and has a Bachelor’s Degree of Science in Business Management from Merrimack College.  She worked for twenty years in the Integrated Circuit Industry with various responsibilities in Customer Service, Inside and Outside sales, Production Management, and finally Worldwide Global Sales Operation project lead. She left the industry  to raise her four children. She has 25 year old twin boys, and two girls ages 24 and 16.  She is a founding member of The Birches Academy.  She has held various positions in her school district to include:  PTA Treasurer, Vice President and President of the Mary A. Fisk Elementary School, to Vice president of the Woodbury Junior High PTA. Previously she held the position of Vice President of Fundraising for the Field of Dreams in Salem, NH.  She served three terms as a member of the Selection appointed Recreation Advisory Committee. She is also a founding board member of the Friends of Salem, NH Recreation; an entity created to raise funds for the various recreational facilities in Salem.  She was on the Board of Directors for the Salem Youth Basketball Organization as Director of Coaching, and was a Travel Basketball Coach. She lives in Salem, NH with her husband, Larry, who is Senior Executive Director, Enterprise Architecture and Systems at Boston University.

Alyssa Ross (Secretary) grew up in Arlington, MA, attending the public schools from kindergarten through graduating from Arlington High School. She then attended Colby College where she earned a BA in government and history, and later to Georgetown University for an MA in Communication, Culture & Technology. After college internships in the news media including ABC News Nightline and 60 Minutes, Alyssa started her career as a legal assistant in communications law in Washington, DC. She moved back to Boston at the height of the .com boom, and found her way into technology public relations and marketing. After spending a few years in PR firms consulting with large and small technology companies, Alyssa moved in-house to a software company in 2001 where she’s since remained – though the company has gone from being a mid-sized, US-headquartered organization to being acquired by a $2b French-owned company. During this time, she has served in a range of PR and marketing roles, and is currently Communications Director. Along with her husband Joe and their 3 boys, Alyssa lives in Windham, NH.

Mike Gendreau grew up in Dracut, MA, married his wife in 1997 and moved to Pelham, NH in 2000. He attended Mass Bay CC where we received an associate’s degree in automotive science.  Mike has been working in residential lending for over 20 years. He is a father of 4 boys who have all either attended or are still attending Birches Academy since the 2nd year the school opened. Outside of being on the Governing Board and its finance committee, Mike is very involved with Birches fundraising and family activities. He is also on the Pelham Conservation Commission, was the secretary of the Pelham Border Riders snowmobile club and coaches his sons in football and baseball. One of the areas he is most interested in is assisting with helping Birches find a new school location and the financing that goes along with it.

Emily Haswell grew up in Amherst, NH and attended the University of New Hampshire, graduating with a Bachelor’s degree in English and a Master’s degree in Education.  She worked as a second grade school teacher in Hillsboro, NH until the birth of her first daughter at which point she became a full time wife and mother.  Emily graduated with a Master’s degree in Accounting from Southern New Hampshire University in 2004 and became a CPA in 2006.  Currently she is a partner in CPA firm in Salem, NH.  Emily and her husband Bill live in East Derry, NH with their youngest daughter Lydia.  Emily’s oldest daughter Abigail works in Portsmouth, NH and lives in Dover, NH.

Bob Hawkes was born in Northern Maine but grew up in Tewksbury, MA.  He attended Billerica Memorial High School and graduated from UMASS Lowell with a Bachelor’s degree in Business Management.  He began working in the warehouse of Griffin Greenhouse Supplies during high school and has worked there ever since.  After graduating from UMASS Lowell he has filled many positions such as warehouse manager, purchasing, branch manager, purchasing manager and training manager.  He even met his wife Kelly through a coworker.  In 2010 they settled in Atkinson and in 2014 Kelly was hired as the art teacher at The Birches where both of their children now attend.

Christine Miele (Founder) grew up in Shrewsbury, MA and attended the University of New Hampshire, graduating with a Bachelor’s degree from the Whittemore School of Business.  She has worked for Winn Companies for over 20 years as a Property Manager, Computer Software Trainer, and Project Manager responsible for hiring and training new employees, budgeting, invoiceing and troubleshooting software problems. Christine has been heavily involved in her children’s schools, specifically the Merrimack Valley Montessori School and Soule School as Lead Yearbook Coordinator, Room Mother, and co-chair of several school events.  Christine has been on the Board of Trustees for the Birches since the school began. She is currently on the Finance Committee. Her daughter Kathryn graduated from the Birches Academy in 2018 and will be attending Central Catholic High School.  Her son William will be in the 8th grade next year at the Birches Academy.  Christine, her husband Christopher, a lifelong resident of Salem and owner of M&M Electrical Supply in Nashua, currently live in Salem.

Christie Storniolo (Founder) was raised in Windham NH. She attended Pinkerton Academy and is a graduate of Merrimack College in North Andover, MA with a Bachelor of Arts in Business Management. Christie is a Client Service Manager for ADP Retirement Services in Salem, NH working with companies across the United States.  She has been engaged in 401(k) administration since 1992. Christie was a founder of the Birches and served as Board Chair in the inauguration year and now serves on the Finance Committee.  Along with her husband Frank and three children, Christie lives in Atkinson, NH.

Board Meetings:

The Board of Trustees upcoming meeting schedule is:

  • Tuesday, December 18th: Board meeting 7:30am

  • Tuesday, January 15th: Board meeting 7:30am

Past Meeting Minutes:

Click the links for meeting minutes:

Current Bylaws:

The Birches Academy Board of Trustees Bylaws

Board Nomination Policy:

Board Nomination Policy Approved 2.15.16-2

Board Training Meetings:

December 8, 2018