About Us » Network Leadership Team

Network Leadership Team

The Hiawatha Academies Leadership Team ensures that our scholars have the environment and resources to succeed in their education, by providing them with a dynamic and nurturing school community.

Executive Director

Colette Owens
Executive Director
cowens@hiawathaacademies.org | Mobile: 612-208-8202

Colette Owens is the Executive Director of Hiawatha Academies. Previously she served as Director of Academic Strategy and Curriculum for St. Louis Public Schools. In that role, Colette was responsible for the implementation of a performance-based management system to drive school improvement efforts, coordinated cross-team collaboration for K-12 curriculum, and managed state and federal programs. Previously, Colette served as a Managing Director of Teacher Leadership Development for Teach For America in St. Louis, MO. Before joining the staff at Teach For America – St. Louis, Colette served as a special education team leader at Long Middle Community Education Center for St. Louis Public Schools. Colette holds an M.A. in Teaching Special Education from Webster University and a B.A. in Philosophy, Neuroscience, and Psychology from Washington University in St. Louis. Colette lives in Southeast Minneapolis with her husband and two sons.

Senior Officers

Christine H. Reed
Senior Operating Officer
creed@hiawathaacademies.org | Mobile: 773-573-5721

Christine is a strategic leader with over 20 years of operations experience with private and public sector organizations. Most recently, she served as Vice President of Operations for Catharsis Productions, an organization that provides sexual harassment and violence prevention training to corporations, colleges/universities, and the military. Prior to Catharsis, she was the Director of Operations for Civitas Education Partners where she supported four charter schools in Chicago, IL. Christine is a graduate of Tuskegee University with a B.S. in Mechanical Engineering, Kettering University with an M.S. in Industrial Engineering and Purdue University with an MBA. She is also an alumni of the Broad Residency in Urban Education. Christine is a native of New Orleans, LA, a life-long Saints fan and is honored and excited to join Hiawatha Academies as she returns to the banks of the Mississippi River.

Dawn Gunderson Taylor
Senior Talent Officer
dgundersontaylor@hiawathaacademies.org | Mobile: 612-998-6015

Dawn Gunderson Taylor holds a Bachelor of Arts in English and a Master of Fine Arts in Creative Writing from Minnesota State University Moorhead. She was a Peace Corps volunteer in Ethiopia where she taught English for Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL) to tenth grade students and a 2001 Teach For America corps member. She taught high school English for six years in Baltimore, MD, and returned overseas to continue teaching in Istanbul, Turkey. In 2008, Dawn joined the staff of Teach For America where her work focused on alumni affairs for over seven years. Dawn returned to the Midwest in the summer of 2014 and joined Hiawatha Academies as Chief Talent Officer. Dawn’s daughter, Neela, is a student at Hiawatha Leadership Academy-Northrop.

Rochelle Van Dijk
Senior Academic Officer
rvandijk@hiawathaacademies.org | Mobile: 612-524-9452

Rochelle Van Dijk is a proud African-American and Cherokee educator and mother of three. Rochelle graduated from Harvard University in 2005 with a degree in psychology and earned her Master’s in Educational Psychology from the University of Colorado. She joined the ’05 Teach For America corps and taught science in the Rio Grande Valley. In 2011 she founded the top-performing high school in Denver: Denver School of Science and Technology in the Green Valley Ranch neighborhood. Each of the students in her founding class was accepted to a 4-year college, 80% of which were first-generation college students and over 75% qualified for free-and-reduced lunch. Rochelle went on to become Chief of Schools for Denver Schools of Science and Technology and oversee 4500 students across 12 schools. Rochelle now serves students and families in South Minneapolis as the Chief Academic Officer at Hiawatha Academies.


Catherine Chu-Lapiska
Principal | Hiawatha Leadership Academy-Morris Park
clapiska@hiawathaacademies.org | Mobile: 651-485-0809

Bryan Daly
Interim Principal | Hiawatha Leadership Academy-Morris Park
bdaly@hiawathaacademies.org | Mobile: 413-320-6671

Beda Martinez Cruz
Principal | Hiawatha Leadership Academy-Northrop | Hiawatha College Prep – Northrop
bmartinez@hiawathaacademies.org | Mobile: 262-664-0952

Matt Toppin
Principal | Hiawatha College Prep-Kingfield
mtoppin@hiawathaacademies.org | Mobile: 612-802-5521

Nicole Cooley
Principal | Hiawatha Collegiate High School
ncooley@hiawathaacademies.org | Mobile: 920-740-3963