Meet Our Administrative Team

Dr. Michelle Barton
Head of School

Dr. Michelle Barton joined The Shlenker School as the Head of School in 2018. Dr. Barton earned her Doctorate in Education from the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) in the Educational Leadership Program. Her dissertation is entitled "Combating Math-Gender Stereotype Threat with Parent Education in Jewish Day Schools.” She graduated Phi Beta Kappa from UCLA and earned her Bachelor's degree in Jewish Studies and Political Science. She also has a multiple subject teaching credential and certificate in Jewish Day School Teaching from the DeLeT program at Hebrew Union College­–Jewish Institute of Religion. Prior to The Shlenker School, Dr. Barton served as the Elementary School Principal at Pressman Academy in Los Angeles, California.

Dr. Barton attended Jewish Day School as a child and is deeply passionate about Jewish education. She is grateful for the strong foundation she received and wants all students to benefit from an educational environment that is warm, engaging, and rich in Jewish values.

Casey Suter
Elementary Division Head

Casey Suter joined The Shlenker School as the Elementary Division Head in 2010. Casey has over 25 years of experience in teaching and administration.  Prior to coming to Shlenker, Casey worked for 16 years in Cypress Fairbanks ISD. She served as the Assistant Elementary Principal for Hancock Elementary. She worked as an Instructional Specialist in Language Arts and Social Studies at Horne Elementary, and was a Reading Specialist, Reading Recovery teacher, and first grade teacher at Willbern Elementary. Casey earned her Bachelor's degree in Elementary Education at Phillips University in Enid, Oklahoma and her Master's degree in Educational Leadership at Stephen F. Austin State University. Casey is passionate about curriculum and has extensive experience with Shlenker programs including Reading and Writing Workshop and Envision Math.

Janna Barnhart
Early Childhood Division Head

Janna Barnhart joined The Shlenker School in 2012 as the Early Childhood Division Head. Janna has over 29 years’ experience in teaching and administration. Prior to joining Shlenker, Janna served as principal of Horne Elementary in Cypress-Fairbanks ISD. Janna has also worked as a teacher, instructional specialist, and assistant principal. She spent three years in the private setting as an Early Childhood teacher.

Janna earned a Bachelor’s degree in Elementary Education at Southwest Texas State University and her Master’s degree in Educational Leadership at Sam Houston State University. Janna is also certified in Special Education and English as a Second Language.

Merav Sternthal
Director of Integrated Jewish Learning

Merav Sternthal joined The Shlenker School in 2019 as a Hebrew teacher before moving into her current role as Director of Integrated Jewish Learning. Prior to joining The Shlenker School, Merav taught Hebrew in various academic settings—from elementary school to the university level. Merav was born and raised in Jerusalem, Israel, and served in the Israeli Defense Force. She graduated summa cum laude from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem with a Bachelor’s degree in Middle Eastern Studies and Art History.  She subsequently earned a Master’s degree in Art History from the University of Texas at Austin.

James Simmons
Assistant Elementary Division Head

James Simmons joined The Shlenker School as a fourth-grade teacher in the fall of 2011 after previously teaching at Walnut Bend Elementary in HISD. After teaching five years in fourth grade and one year in fifth grade, James left the classroom to become the Assistant Elementary Head. Aside from working with teachers and students on a daily basis, James also coaches The Shlenker Math Team. James earned a master’s degree in educational leadership at The University of St. Thomas and a bachelor’s degree in interdisciplinary studies at The University of Houston.

Karen Miller
Director of Counseling and Family Services

Karen Miller joined The Shlenker School in 2007. Karen has worked with children and families for the past 41 years. She began her career in education as a speech pathologist in Richardson, Texas. Karen also had experience as an associate school psychologist in the Cypress–Fairbanks ISD and a marriage and family therapist in private practice before becoming an elementary school counselor for the Cypress - Fairbanks ISD in 1998. Karen earned her Bachelor's degree in speech pathology at Southern Methodist University and a Master's of Education in school psychology and counseling and guidance at Texas State University. She has also completed post-graduate work at Houston Baptist University. Karen is a licensed professional counselor, licensed marriage and family therapist, licensed specialist in school psychology and a licensed psychological associate. She was also trained as a ROPES facilitator through Cypress–Fairbanks ISD.

Allen Schagene
Director of Innovative Learning

Allen Schagene comes to The Shlenker School from the Presbyterian School, where he served as a middle school math instructor and Grade Level Dean. Allen holds a Bachelor’s degree in Political Science from Centre College and a Master’s degree in Curriculum and Instruction from the University of Houston-Clear Lake. Allen has worked with the Applied Mathematics Program at Rice University and previously served as a self-contained teacher at Briargrove Elementary. He is a lifelong learner who believes in the power of interdisciplinary learning.

Sharon Ellerin
Chief Financial Officer

Sharon Ellerin joined The Shlenker School in 2008. She started as the Accounts Receivable Administrator and eventually took on the roles of Registrar and Financial Aid Coordinator. Prior to working at Shlenker, she was a Credit Manager for several businesses. Sharon earned her Bachelor of Science degree in Elementary Education at the University of Texas. 

Tara Gassett
Director of Admissions and Development

Tara Levinthal Gassett began her relationship with the Shlenker School before it was named Shlenker. At 2 1/2 years old, she attended what was then called the Beth Israel Day School, and has continued the tradition with her two sons who currently attend The Shlenker School. Tara earned her Bachelors Degree in Psychology from The University of St. Thomas and brings her expertise from 15 plus years as Director of Admissions and Regional Director of Admissions for Proprietary Education Schools where she oversaw the admission team and co-ordinated the enrollments, housing, financial aid, open houses, orientations, and admission requirements for hundreds of students and families.

Lisa Sachs
Director of Marketing and Advancement

Lisa Sachs has been actively involved at The Shlenker School for over 17 years. Lisa has over 25 years of experience in teaching and administration with the University of Houston, Houston Independent School District, and The Shlenker School. Prior to serving in her current position as Director of Marketing and Advancement, she was the Math and Technology Learning Specialist at The Shlenker School for 5 years and taught fourth grade at The Shlenker School for 7 years.

Lisa earned a bachelor of fine arts degree in interior design from the University of Houston and then went on to complete her elementary education certification through HISD’s Alternative Certification Program. Lisa also holds a master's degree in educational administration from Grand Canyon University.