Independent Schools Association of the Southwest

ISAS Staff

Rhonda Durham

Executive Director






My love for independent education is nearly as old as my love for my family. When I was a school girl growing up in Tidewater Virginia, my young parents sacrificed to send me, their first of four, to the Williams School in Norfolk. My mother drove a carpool route to defray part of my tuition even as she hand-smocked my dresses and monitored monthly payments on our piano so that I could take lessons.

From those days of weekly current events reports (on Mondays) and poetry recitation (Wednesdays) on to my years as the first Head Cheerleader (!!!) at newly co-ed Norfolk Academy, I felt particularly fortunate to learn in such rich and inspiring environments. Especial role models were my grandmother, a teacher in a one-room schoolhouse in the Shenandoah Valley, and Bea Lovitt, Headmistress of Country Day School for Girls (which merged with Norfolk Academy). Mrs. Lovitt inspired me to major in French which led me to attend Sweet Briar College and participate in its renowned Junior Year in France, enjoying classes at the Sorbonne and living with a French family in Paris. Before graduating from Sweet Briar, I worked as a student teacher in nearby Amherst and completed Virginia's teacher certification requirements.

Mindful of my unconventional background, I marvel that, in so many vital ways, I am inordinately blessed to be able not only to enjoy the fruits, but to serve the cause of the best in independent education, and, now as Executive Director of ISAS, to work with so many other wonderful people similarly devoted.

Upon graduation in 1972, I married and moved to Midland, Texas, hometown of my new husband, Lynn, where I promptly began teaching French at Trinity School. Following some years living in Dallas and beginning a family, Midland became home again. Our children all attended Trinity (and later graduated from Groton School and St. Paul’s School, NH), and I served the School as a Trustee, Admissions Director, and finally as its Head, before becoming Executive Director of the ISAS (in 2006).

Before resuming a full-time professional career in 1998, I had always been engaged in various volunteer roles. All my work, whether volunteer or professional, I found meaningful and tremendously helpful for every role that followed.

The manifold challenge of leading a community of schools over a vast region can be daunting, but I have found it both energizing and rewarding. Mindful of my unconventional background, I marvel that, in so many vital ways, I am inordinately blessed to be able not only to enjoy the fruits, but to serve the cause of the best in independent education, and, now as Executive Director of ISAS, to work with so many other wonderful people similarly devoted.

Heather Junker

Director of Programs and Professional Development

In August of 2004, just one year after moving to Fort Worth, I began working for ISAS. My previous experience as the Director of Membership and Special Events at Japan Society in New York City, as well as my work at Asia Society and Independent Curators International, gave me the skills I have used in preparing conferences for this association. My experiences range from planning small gatherings in private homes for 20 people to planning corporate dinners for 800 to coordinating conferences for professional development. Whether working with donors, dignitaries, artists, educators, or administrators, I always enjoy the challenges of putting together well-organized events.

Whether working with donors, dignitaries, artists, educators, or administrators, I always enjoy the challenges of putting together well-organized events."

While I was growing up in Oklahoma, my mother was the President of the local school board for several years, and she taught me a great appreciation for the work done in schools. As an adult, I have been involved with the youth in my church and with community initiatives for elementary-aged children.

I graduated from Grinnell College with a BA in Art History. I then earned a Master of Arts Management degree at Carnegie Mellon University. I have completed internships at such places as The Chicago Art Institute, Sotheby’s London, and The Smithsonian and have always enjoyed my work with non-profits.

Jananne McLaughlin

Director for Accreditation Services






In my journey to work in independent education, I have been led by my children. After graduation from the University of Kansas in 1974, I began my professional life in banking in Dallas and continued in banking after our move to Midland, Texas. Before the birth of my third child in 1987, I “retired” from my position as a commercial loan officer to spend more time with my family.

I wish I could say that a thorough and exhaustive search of educational alternatives led us to enroll our children at Trinity School of Midland. In reality, my husband and I opened our back gate, bade them walk across the football field, and were fortunate that a fine ISAS school awaited them on the other side. I found great joy in volunteering at their school, first in the Parents Association and then as a member of the Board of Trustees for eight years. My work on behalf of the school and experience as a parent in every grade from K/3 through 12 gave me an appreciation for the value of independent education that prepared me for my next career as the Director of Admissions, a position I held from 1999 through 2006.

Learning more about the work of ISAS and about the distinctive character of each of the member schools has been a challenge, and working with so many of the fine people associated with the schools has been a privilege."

When presented with the opportunity to become the Director for Accreditation Services for ISAS, I was delighted to accept. I was pleased to continue to work with valued colleagues, and I was excited about the opportunity to stretch professionally. Learning more about the work of ISAS and about the distinctive character of each of the member schools has been a challenge, and working with so many of the fine people associated with the schools has been a privilege.

Our two sons and daughters-in-law live in Dallas, Texas and Brooklyn, New York, and our daughter and son-in-law live in Chicago. My husband, who is a lawyer, and I are devoted Kansas Jayhawk basketball fans. We enjoy traveling, especially to visit our children.

Allison Rose

Director of Information Services







I
had the pleasure of joining the ISAS team (which is fantastic, I might add) in August, 2007, after working for the Midland Chamber of Commerce as the Visitor Services Manager for the Convention and Visitors Bureau. I am definitely a “people person,” and it is a delight to correspond with with the various constituents from our member schools. My workload varies greatly, from administering surveys to compiling statistics and managing the website, and I enjoy the array of assignments tremendously. I rely on my experience in bookkeeping, technology, and public relations to serve our members.

I am most definitely a “people person,” and it is a delight to correspond with our member schools. I am extremely excited to have found a place with such a wonderful organization, and I look forward to assisting you with your needs!"

When I am not in the office, I spend time with my wonderful husband and two beautiful daughters. I am an avid knitter and hand-spinner. I feel truly blessed to have a gratifying career with such a wonderful organization.

Adam Valenstein

Assistant Director of Accreditation & Program Services

I have spent my entire life in independent schools. As a preschooler in South Florida, I boarded a bus early in the morning with my older brother and bumped along, over bridges and waterways, to the sunny and verdant campus of Gulf Stream School. Later, in Los Angeles, I spent many happy, stimulating, and busy years at the Harvard-Westlake School. Truly, I was privileged to have access to such an education; to have parents who prioritized my learning and had the means to send me to such outstanding schools.

Inspired by the many impactful teachers in my life, I eagerly joined the profession after graduating from Columbia with a B.A. in philosophy. In fifteen years, I taught nearly every subject and grade level: from teaching Kindergarten phonemic awareness to fifth grade mathematics, from directing seventh grade students in Shakespeare’s The Comedy of Errors to examining the ancient Greek tragedians with high school seniors. My years in the classroom were joyous and deeply fulfilling.

All the while, I constantly sought new challenges and learning experiences—an orientation toward life that was instilled in me throughout my education.

All the while I constantly sought new challenges and learning experiences - an orientation toward life that was instilled in me throughout my education. I earned two Masters degrees from my alma mater and completed professional development in diverse fields, such as curriculum development, mindfulness, critical thinking, and leadership. I agree wholeheartedly with the American philosopher and educator John Dewey who asserts that life is growth, whether individual or institutional.

In this spirit, I happily joined ISAS in July 2017.Here, my love for new challenges meets my desire to serve the independent school community. I am excited to work with so many talented educators; to help our exceptional school communities realize their missions while meeting the diverse needs of their constituents and creating the most fruitful pathways for growth.