The Green Charter Schools Network (GCSNet) is a national nonprofit organization of environment-focused schools, individuals, and partnering organizations. Launched in February 2008 and headquartered in Madison, WI, the GCSNet is governed by a board of directors that is committed to GCSNet’s vision and mission.

OUR VISION is for every person to be environmentally literate and to practice and promote sustainability in their community.

OUR MISSION is to support the establishment, enhancement and advancement of public charter schools with environment-focused educational programs and practices.


  1. Promotes the development of innovative charter schools with environment-focused educational programs and practices, high expectations and equal opportunity for all.
  2. Challenges and inspires everyone to help young people gain the knowledge, skills, insights, power, and motivation to make the world a better place with a sustainable future.
  3. Facilitates networking among educators, students, parents, school leaders, policymakers and others and sharing of information about the environment, green practices, and schooling for sustainability.
  4. Provides professional development, resources and guidance about the successful creation, operation, governance, and accountability of green schools.
  5. Helps to create the capacity for change and encourages innovation, educational options and schooling for sustainability.
  6. Provides leadership in forging and maintaining a sustainable society.


The GCSNet’s directors have been focused on environmental issues and education for many years. They recognize that it is now critical to work collaboratively with others throughout the United States to help our nation to rethink the ways public education serves its crucial role in the development of a sustainable society.

JIM McGRATH, President/Executive Director & Co-founder, LaCrescent, MN           

Prior to founding the Green Charter Schools Network, Jim served as founding principal for Oakwood Environmental Education Charter School in Oshkosh, Wis. He has served in education for more than 30 years as a teacher and principal, with experience at all levels of public education. His main focus has been to improve public education through innovative instructional approaches. He was formerly a member of the Sheldon Nature Area committee. The Oakwood EE Charter School utilizes the Sheldon Nature Area as a living laboratory to provide an integrated environmental education curriculum. Jim helped create an aviation charter school in partnership with the Experimental Aircraft Association.  He has presented at state and national educational conferences and was awarded the Wisconsin Environmental Education Administrator of the year in 2004. He has a bachelor of science degree in Environmental Education, a master of science degree in Health/Physical Education, a master of science degree in Educational Administration, and holds a Specialist Certification in Education Leadership.

DOUG THOMAS,  Vice President & Co-founder, Henderson, MN

Executive director for EdVisions Schools, Doug is a former teacher, business owner and is a founder of the Minnesota New Country School, a nationally recognized innovative charter school located in Henderson, Minn. He also served as the founding president of EdVisions Cooperative. Doug spent 10 years as Southern Minnesota representative for the Center for School Change at the University of Minnesota Humphrey Institute and was a four-term board member for Le Sueur-Henderson Public Schools. He has led the effort to create new small secondary schools using the EdVisions model. Doug is a strong advocate for small, rural schools; teacher leadership; and innovative learning strategies. He has a special interest in sustainable community development. Doug earned a bachelor’s degree in Secondary Education from Bemidji State University and a master’s degree in Educational Leadership from Minnesota State University-Mankato, where he taught a graduate course in educational reform and leadership for 10 years.

JENNIFER SEYDEL, Secretary/Treasurer, Madison, WI

School designer for Expeditionary Learning Schools, Jennifer has 30 years of experience in education and has taught kindergarten through graduate school. She has been an adventure educator, director of staff development and training, and served on the board of directors for a large social service agency. As a professor at Springfield College, she created an Americorps program and graduate program in education and counseling. Currently she is a school designer for Expeditionary Learning Schools, working with schools throughout the Midwest. The thread that weaves through these varied experiences is her passion for ecological and sustainable education. Her dissertation research focused on ecological identity development.

MICHAEL BAKALIS, Co-Founder & Director, Chicago, IL

President of American Quality Schools, Mike began his career in education after graduation from Northwestern University by teaching at the junior high and high school levels. Upon receiving his Ph.D. from Northwestern University, he taught at Northern Illinois University. He has lectured extensively at various universities through the United States and abroad. Mike was elected and served as Illinois State Superintendent of Education and as Illinois State Comptroller. President Carter appointed him Deputy Undersecretary of Education in the U.S. Department of Education. His career in academic administration began at Northern Illinois University where he served as Assistant Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences. He also has held positions as Dean of the School of Education at Loyola University and President of Triton College. He has published extensively and has been the recipient of numerous awards and honors. Mike serves on the faculty of the Kellogg Graduate School of Management at Northwestern University where he teaches in the field of public and not-for-profit management and policy. He is also the president and CEO of American Quality Schools Corporation a not-for-profit educational management and consulting organization, which manages charter schools in the Midwest.

JIM TANGEN-FOSTER, Co-founder & Director, Bethany, WV

Jim is an outdoor education coordinator and teacher who is very active in the green charter schools movement. Jim and his wife, Laurel, helped to found green charter schools in Idaho and Minnesota. He served on the Board of Directors of the Wisconsin Charter Schools Association.  Jim earned a bachelor’s degree from Souther Illinois University and master’s and doctorate degrees from the University of Idaho. Jim is currently helping to develop a new  outdoor education program at Bethany College.

SARA LAIMON, Co-Founder & Director, Lawndale, CA

Sara is the founder of Green Ambassadors and an educator at Environmental Charter High School. She has been active in environmental education and sustainability movements for many. At age 18, Sara ran for the city council with a platform for “greening” her hometown of Pewaukee, Wis. Laimon later started a dairy farm in Zimbabwe, which was the green spark that led her to understand how the United States’ systems needed to change in order for the rest of the world to have a sustainable model to follow. Since that time, she has spent her life educating youth about sustainability and seeking unique and varied ways to reach this important audience. A National Board Certified Teacher, Sara teaches the importance of actively contributing and being a steward of this planet. She has traveled to Brazil, Colombia, Argentina, Haiti, Greece, and Galapagos finding, sharing, and learning solutions. Furthermore, she is devoting her life to creating and nurturing eco-activists to be empowered to share the solutions of hope. Beyond that, Sara is dedicated to making every school the center of green solutions within every community across the nation and, ultimately, the world.

CHARLES WEBER,  Director, Midway, UT

Principal of  Soldier Hollow Charter School in Midway, Utah, Chuck earned a bachelor’s degree in secondary education from the State University at Oswego, NY, and a master’s degree in education from the University of Utah. He has served as an educator and administrator in elementary and secondary schools and as a higher-education professor. He was nominated by the Utah Education Association and appointed to the Governor’s Committee on Strategic Planning on Site-Based Management of Schools.


GCSNet Co-Founders and Former Directors: Oliver Barton, former Principal of Common Ground (charter) High School, New Haven, Conn.; and Julie Spalding, former teacher and co-founder at Fox River (charter) Academy, Appleton, Wis.


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