Steve Klinsky, the founder and CEO of Modern States, has been an active philanthropist and education reformer for many years. He founded the Gary Klinsky Children Centers after school program in 1993. That program has served thousands of children in New York City’s most disadvantaged public schools since then, has given or raised over $20 million of public and private funds, and has been replicated in Miami as the team charity of the Miami Heat basketball franchise. In 1999, he wrote the application for, and organized, the first charter school in the State of New York (the Sisulu-Walker Charter School of Harlem) in partnership with Dr. Wyatt Tee Walker and others. He has helped start, organize and fund numerous high performing charter schools since then. He succeeded Jeb Bush as chairman of the advisory board of Harvard’s Program for Education Policy and Governance, and endowed the Klinsky Professorship of Leadership and Social Progress at Harvard Law School, where he also serves on the Dean’s Advisory Council. He began writing editorials describing the Modern States idea in 2012, and conceived and organized the “Freshman Year for Free™” initiative beginning around the year 2014.
Professionally, Klinsky is founder and CEO of New Mountain Capital, a growth-oriented private equity firm that has overseen more than $20 billion of capital commitments since inception, and which has added or created over 43,000 jobs at the companies it owns net of job losses. Klinsky grew up in the Detroit area, where he was educated in Michigan public schools and completed his B.A. with high honors from the University of Michigan in approximately two years (9/74-12/76) using the College Board advance placement tests and other means. He then earned his MBA from Harvard Business School (class of 1979) and his J.D. law degree from Harvard Law School (class of 1981) in four years instead of five, as part of the accelerated JD/MBA program. He is married to the author Maureen Sherry with four children, and lives in New York City.
Jefferson Pestronk was appointed executive director of Modern States in June 2023. He brings nearly two decades of experience in education at the local, state, and federal level. Most recently, he served as vice president for strategy and development at New Visions for Public Schools, one of the largest non-profit organizations focused on improving public education for all New York City students.
During his time at New Visions, Jefferson oversaw the organization’s cross-departmental strategy, helped secure more than $40M in private funds, and shepherded significant growth in contracts and partnerships with NYC. He also led the first significant expansion of its student planning and school improvement tools, increasing the number of schools accessing the tools from roughly 70 in 2015 to all 1,600 public schools in NYC today. The 30+ high schools receiving direct coaching from his team improved their graduation rates by nearly 25 percentage points over four years.
Before joining New Visions, Jefferson was director of special initiatives in the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Innovation and Improvement, where he was responsible for designing and executing the Investing in Innovation (i3) program, as well as advising on research and development-related policy. He also served as principal at The Parthenon Group, where he consulted with some of the largest school systems in the country, including New York City, Chicago and Washington, D.C. He holds a doctorate in education leadership from Harvard University and a B.S.E. in operations research and financial engineering from Princeton University. Jefferson resides in Brooklyn with his wife and daughter.
David Vise was the executive director of Modern States from the organization’s launch in 2017 until 2023. He remains closely involved with Modern States as senior advisor and a member of the Board of Directors.
David is a Pulitzer Prize winning reporter who worked at The Washington Post for 23 years. He is the author of four books, including The Google Story, published in more than 25 languages. David served on the board of Save a Child’s Heart, which provides urgently needed pediatric heart surgery and follow-up care for indigent children from developing countries, and has served on various other non-profit boards.
A volunteer and supporter of Martha’s Table Shelter, which feeds the hungry and homeless in Washington D.C., David also served as a volunteer at the Children’s Hospital of Washington and in a literacy program in D.C. public schools.
David received his undergraduate degree and MBA from The Wharton School of University of Pennsylvania and serves as a Senior Advisor at New Mountain Capital.
Whitney Macdonald has been part of the Modern States since the organization’s launch in 2017. She currently serves as Senior Director of Operations and brings over a decade of experience driving operations, project management, and process improvements in education, finance, and technology organizations.
Whitney leads the Modern States Operations team’s efforts to establish robust programmatic and financial infrastructure for Modern States, including overseeing student vouchers, reimbursements, and stipends.
Whitney has previously served as an Executive Assistant to senior leadership at Peloton Interactive and at New Mountain Capital, focusing on scheduling, planning, and tasks for the executive team. Whitney began her career in financial services, serving as a Sales Assistant at Wells Fargo Community Bank and Credit Manager at Wells Fargo Financial. She holds a BS in Finance from St. John’s University in New York and is a certified public notary.
Outside of work, Whitney is passionate about mentoring and serving her local community in Cooperstown, NY. She currently volunteers as a rowing coach, and mentors youth through programs like Big Buddy and iMentor. She is involved and sits on the boards of philanthropic organizations in her community.
Emily joined Modern States in 2018. She received her B. A. in Music Technology in 2019 from The New School.
Dr. Christine Mayer serves as the co-director for the TNxFYFF program, serving the eastern side of Tennessee. Prior to Modern States she served for 10 years at the Tennessee Board of Regents as an administrator in online learning. Before her relocation to Tennessee in 2012, she served 20 years with the University of Missouri System. Key roles held with the University of Missouri System include manager for instructional design and project management for UM Online, manager for the establishment and administration of the Project Management Office within the Information Technology division, and training manager for the system’s PeopleSoft implementation. Other work experiences include educational software development, instructional design and curriculum development, grant writing, family services, and nonprofit management.
Dr. Mayer earned a doctorate in learning technologies from the University of Missouri; a master’s degree in curriculum, teaching and psychological studies from the University of Michigan; and a bachelor’s degree in psychology, secondary education, and family life education from Adrian College. She also holds a Project Management Professional (PMP) credential from the Project Management Institute and will complete a master of science in counseling psychology from Tennessee State University in December 2023.
Joined Modern States in May 2022 in a very limited capacity while she wrapped up a prior volunteer commitment. In January 2023, she began to fully focus on introducing Modern States to schools in the West to Mid-State region, and to education leaders in the State DOE while noting all fundraising prospects for our development strategy.
She graduated from the University of Mississippi with a B.A. in Journalism.
Carol joined Modern States in 2022. She received her B.A. with Honors in Liberal Arts from NYU. Her studies focused on Photography, Philosophy, and Great Books, allowing her to develop a multidisciplinary perspective that enriches her approach to education.