Keynote Speakers

Merlyna Valentina

me feb 4Merlyna Mathieu Valentine’s heart beats with passion for living a purposeful life. As an educator for over 30 years, she dedicated her life to making a difference in the lives of others. Ms. Valentine served as a teacher, assistant principal, principal, and executive director in a highly successful school district in Louisiana. Her transformational leadership was recognized with numerous local, state, and national awards and commendations.

Ms. Valentine is an author, national speaker, consultant, and business owner. She has been featured in several articles including a spotlight in Ebony Magazine. Her story of survival, courage, and hope was also captured in numerous television segments. Audiences were captivated by her inspirational story when she was a featured segment on the Today Show.

Against overwhelming odds, Ms. Valentine overcame a medical tragedy and thrives in her new life. She has learned some valuable lessons since 2007, when her life as she knew it was forever changed and she experienced the closest call to death imaginable. Instead of focusing on what happened and what’s missing from her new life, she chooses to embrace this very different path with a positive attitude. She accepts no excuses and models this in her daily life. She is living proof that ordinary people do extraordinary things every day.

 Raymond McNulty

Ray McNultyRaymond J. McNulty is the President of the National Dropout Prevention Center (NDPC), and the Successful Practices Network SPN). He is also a Senior Fellow to the International Center for Leadership in Education. Prior to that, Ray was Dean for the School of Education at Southern New Hampshire University which Fast Company magazine named the 12th most innovative organization in the world in its World's 50 Most Innovative Companies. Ray has served as Chair of the National Dropout Prevention Network and was the Chief Learning Officer for Penn Foster a global leader in online education. Ray also was a senior fellow at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, where he worked with leading educators on improving our nation's high schools. Ray is a past president of the Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development (ASCD) and author of It’s Not Us Against Them — Creating the Schools We Need, published in 2009 by the International Center. 

An educator since 1973, Ray has been a teacher, vice principal, principal, and superintendent. From 2001-03, he served as Vermont's education commissioner. During his tenure, Ray focused on aligning the Department of Education's work on three key issues: early education, educator quality, and secondary school reform. 

Ray is a presenter at the state, national, and international levels on the need for school systems to accept the challenges that lie ahead. He is committed to raising performance standards for both teachers and students and to building solid connections between schools and their communities. Ray believes strongly that education systems cannot wait for the children and challenges to arrive at school; rather, schools need to reach out and help forge solutions.