Board Leadership


Kathy Carlson
Board Vice Chair // Parent

Prior to serving as vice chair, Kathy served as secretary of the Foundation Board. Kathy and her husband, Brian, have had two sons attend Lionsgate Academy — their middle son, Sam, graduated in 2017 and their youngest son, Alex, is a junior. Kathy is a dedicated supporter of the Foundation and sees an opportunity for further community outreach leveraging the expertise and talents of the Lionsgate Academy staff. Kathy is co-founder of The Healthy Organization, a consulting firm that specializes in continuous improvement, facilitation and employee development. She earned a bachelor’s degree in chemistry from the University of Wisconsin — La Crosse, a master’s degree in chemistry and Ph.D. in human resource development from the University of Minnesota. Kathy is currently working on a couple of writing projects in her spare time.


Tony Farah
Board Member // Parent

After spending 24 years working in retail operations, Tony realized he has a passion for serving others and, in 2015, began a career in real estate to help people reach their dream of homeownership. Along with a traditional real estate business, Tony has created an additional entity to his business that assists special need families navigate the real estate process. Tony and his wife, Rita, have two sons, one of whom is on the autism spectrum. He has a bachelor’s degree from the University of St. Thomas in marketing management and a master’s degree in business management from St. Mary's University. Tony has served as a board member for Spero Academy and continues to be active on the boards of A Chance to Grow, Erik's Ranch and Retreats and the Coldwell Banker Foundation where he strives to promote autism awareness. 


Tom Freeberg
Board Chair // Community Member

Tom joined the Foundation board in 2015 and over the years has hosted tables at Lionsgate Foundation events. His niece, Sarah, is a drama teacher at Lionsgate Academy. Tom is moved by the many Lionsgate students who have told their personal stories of life before and after finding Lionsgate. He is convinced that Lionsgate fills a basic human need in our world that has been unaddressed for too long and is impressed that its education model has been shown to be viable and effective. Tom is a former member of the South St. Paul Education Foundation Board, the School of Environmental Studies Education Foundation Board and The Open Door (a Dakota County food shelf). He is a registered professional engineer employed by CenturyLink Communications. 


Ira Hackner
Board Member // Parent

Ira Hackner is the founder of Minnesota Marketing, a marketing firm specializing in executive with experience in digital marketing, sales operations, social media management and print campaigns. He enjoys golf, biking, broomball and almost any outdoor activity — weather permitting. His son, Tyler, attends Lionsgate Academy and Ira is incredibly impressed with the dedication of the staff and students. In fact, everyday Ira and his wife, Denise, wake up thinking “thank God for Lionsgate!!”


Sarah Hauer
Board Secretary // Staff Member

Sarah is in her eighth year at Lionsgate Academy and is currently a case manager and licensed special education teacher at the Shoreview Campus. She joined the Foundation Board in 2016 where she has researched grant opportunities, created produced videos and planned the annual breakfast fundraiser. She holds a bachelor’s degree in sociology from St. Cloud State University and recently completed her master’s degree in special education from Bethel University. During college, she began working at the Autism Society of Minnesota as a counselor for its summer camp programs where she continues to work as a staff member. After college, Sarah participated in AmeriCorps, a national service program, and later worked with the special needs community doing rehabilitation services and ABA therapy. Sarah is excited and honored to serve as a board member, where she has the opportunity to serve as an advocate for the future of Lionsgate Academy.


Stephanie Jaynes
Board Member // Parent

Stephanie joined the Lionsgate Foundation in November of 2018. She is a mother of four and has a son in the AIM program who attended Lionsgate Academy from grades 7-12. Stephanie is passionate about enriching the lives of families and individuals in the autism spectrum community. She has a bachelor’s degree in sociology from Cardinal Stritch University in Milwaukee.


Kathleen Brophy Lopiano
Board Member // Parent

Kathleen literally stumbled upon the Lionsgate Academy website one night while googling for a better school for her son and quickly realized that she had discovered a gold mine. Lionsgate has turned out to be more than she and her husband ever dreamed it would be — their son is learning and growing every day. Now an eighth grader at Lionsgate Shoreview, he eagerly gets out of bed 10 minutes before the alarm goes off. Kathleen is a lifelong resident of the Twin Cities and has a bachelor’s degree from the University of St. Thomas. She has worked for more than 20 years in communications at a large financial services company. Kathleen and her husband, Sal, are also are also parents to a 13-year-old daughter. In her spare times, she enjoys spending time with her family, entertaining friends (while her husband cooks) and planning the next family vacation.


Chad Sites
Board Member // Parent

Chad is the proud parent of ninth grader Aidan, who is in his first year at Lionsgate Shoreview. Once Chad experienced firsthand the support and structure of Lionsgate, he knew he wanted to get involved to champion this model in other communities. He joined the Foundation board in July 2018. Chad and his wife, Liz, also have a daughter attending the University of Minnesota, who hopes to follow her father’s footsteps in international tax and accounting. Chad has a bachelor’s degree, with an emphasis in accounting, and an MBA from the University of Iowa. He enjoys sports, photography and listening to jazz music in his free time; he is also a ringer for ‘80s trivia when needed.

John Villerius
Board Treasurer // Community Member // Former Parent

John has served on the Lionsgate Foundation Board since 2012 and is currently the treasurer. The parent of a former Lionsgate Academy student, John is very supportive of the general education model offered to students at Lionsgate Academy. He served as chair of the Parent Advisory Council for two years and, prior to that, participated for several years as a member and chair of the Minneapolis Public Schools Special Education Advisory Council. John works as Treasury and Investment Officer for Hennepin County. He holds a bachelor’s degree from Grinnell College and a master’s degree in public administration from Indiana University. John is somewhat fanatical about bicycling and commutes to work by bicycle, in all weather, year-round.


Ron Berger
Honorary Board Member // Director of Finance and Operations, Lionsgate Academy

Ron Berger has worked with the Lionsgate Foundation Board since its inception. He joined Lionsgate Academy as Finance Director in 2013 and has been associated with the school since 2009. Ron earned a bachelor’s degree in accounting from St. John’s University in Collegeville, Minnesota and an MBA from the University of St. Thomas. Ron brings more than 40 years of finance and business experience to the Foundation. Prior to Lionsgate Academy, Ron held senior finance roles at three Twin Cities-based companies, following stints as a principal in a private investment banking firm and in public accounting. He enjoys pursuing indoor and outdoor time with his extended family (including three grandchildren, all living nearby), especially fishing, hiking, camping and kite flying.


Diane Restorff, Ph.D.
Honorary Board Member // Executive Director, Lionsgate Academy

Diane has served as an ex-officio board member for the Lionsgate Foundation for the past seven years. As executive director of Lionsgate Academy, Diane provides support and information to the Foundation on the needs of the school, its students, families and staff. Diane has over 40 years of experience in a broad range of positions tied to education. Her career began as a high school teacher in rural Maryland and she worked in training and development in Maryland, Hawaii and Minnesota. She has been actively involved in the autism community in Minnesota for 20 years. Prior to her position at Lionsgate Academy, Diane was a research associate at the Institute on Community Integration at the University of Minnesota. She has two grown daughters — a speech language pathologist and a college student on the autism spectrum. Diane is an avid golfer, a certified scuba diver and a passionate advocate for families of students with disabilities.