About » Leadership Team

Leadership Team

Jacqueline Elliot

President & Chief Executive Officer

 Dr. ElliotDr. Jacqueline Elliot, who currently serves as President and CEO of PUC National, emigrated to Los Angeles from Scotland at the age of 13 and attended LAUSD schools through 12th grade. She has been dedicated to public school reform since 1986 when she first became a teacher in Pacoima, California. She holds a B.A. in Anthropology, a Multiple Subjects Teaching Credential, and a Master’s degree in Educational Administration earned at CA State University, Northridge. She also holds a Doctorate in Educational Leadership and Change earned at Fielding Graduate University. She is a fellow of the Pahara-Aspen Institute’s Entrepreneurial Leaders for Public Education and a member of the Aspen Global Leadership Network. Dr. Elliot also serves on the 501c4 board of the California Charter Schools Association and on the Los Angeles Advocacy Council. In addition, she is an adjunct professor in graduate studies for the Institute of School Leadership and Administration at Loyola Marymount University and has been a recipient of the Hart Vision Award from the California Charter Schools Association, as Leader of the Year.

Dr. Jacqueline Elliot was driven by an intense desire to improve the state of public education for the children and community of Pacoima, which she had grown to love. She founded Community Charter Middle School (CCMS) in 1999, which was the first charter middle school in Los Angeles County. The school became extremely popular very quickly and in response to community demand, she subsequently founded several more schools to serve the same geographic area. She began collaborating with Dr. Ref Rodriguez in 1998 when the two realized that they had identical visions for 2 communities to which each of them was respectively dedicated; the NE San Fernando Valley and NE Los Angeles. They began collaborating and supporting each other as they embarked upon what turned out to be parallel journeys founding schools in the two communities. After working together for 5 years, they co-founded Partnerships to Uplift Communities (PUC Schools) in 2003 as one umbrella non-profit organization for the schools each of them had founded. They subsequently co-founded PUC National in 2013 to promote, serve, and replicate the Partnerships to Uplift Communities schools, mission, and vision.  Combined, they founded 14 highly successful PUC public charter schools located in NE Los Angeles and the NE San Fernando Valley and provided support for the founding of one PUC school in Rochester, New York.


Malena Otero

Deputy Chief Executive Officer

 Malena Otero’s journey at PUC began in 2005 when she joined to develop an HR department to support PUC’s growth. At the time, the company had 125 employees, but has grown to over 700 employees working in 14 schools. Malena’s broad HR knowledge stems from a career spent working at PUC Schools, The Walt Disney Company, Adecco, and others. Her background in both the public and private sectors translates into a unique perspective on how human resources can drive every organization’s success.  Malena brings a unique understanding and knowledge of federal, state, California Education Code, and charter authorizers’ compliance regulations. Malena transitioned from her role as Chief of Human Resources to Deputy CEO this year.

Malena was attracted to PUC because it served the students in the neighborhood where she grew up. She knew many of these students did not have access to an education that would prepare them for college.  Working at PUC provided a great opportunity to work in the community where she had grown up and give back to the community. Malena loves to attend PUC graduations to witness PUC students and their families accomplish an important part of their journey.

She enjoys sharing her knowledge with others so they may grow and increase their effectiveness in all they do. Malena is a John Maxwell and DISC certified coach. She earned her Bachelor of Arts in Spanish from California State University, Los Angeles, and a Master of Arts in Organizational Leadership from Woodbury University.


David Jackson

Chief Legal and Operations Officer

David Jackson provides counsel and legal advice, including litigation support and risk management, on diverse charter school legal and business matters.  In addition, David negotiates, represents, and reviews contracts on a wide range of transactions.  David also researches, analyzes, and advises on compliance matters to ensure regulatory requirements, statues, rules and regulations are followed.

Prior to working at PUC National, David worked as an attorney at Irell & Manella LLP.  In 2013, with a desire to help others, David sought an opportunity to work in education.  During that same year, David was accepted by Education Pioneers to enroll in its fellowship program, which placed him at PUC National for that summer.  While working as a fellow, David was excited to learn that he and everyone on PUC National’s leadership team shared the same values of compassion and service.  Immediately after the summer fellowship program ended in August 2013, David happily accepted a full-time position as PUC National’s General Counsel.

David holds a B.A. in Political Science from UCLA, a J.D. from UC Berkeley School of Law, and an MBA from UCLA Anderson School of Management.


Patricia Rios

Chief Human Resources Officer

Patricia Rios

Patricia has been with PUC since March of 2006. She began her career with PUC as a Human Resources Coordinator and is the second founding team member of the department. She is currently the Chief Human Resources Officer. Prior to PUC, Patricia worked in Sales & Marketing for seven years for the Harte-Hanks marketing agency, Enterprise Rent-A-Car, and State Farm Insurance. She then decided to venture into Human Resources and has loved it ever since. She has been working in customer service for over 23 years. Ensuring employees are happy and providing support are her main goals.

Patricia earned a Bachelor’s degree in Business Administration from Loyola Marymount University and a Master of Arts in Organizational Leadership from Woodbury University. She currently sits on her children’s school’s PTO Board as well as the Advisory Council. She is married and has a son and a daughter.

Patricia grew up in East Los Angeles and Monterey Park. Her parents always instilled in her the importance of education and going to college right after high school. Joining PUC was a great fit since she believed in PUC’s mission long before working for PUC.


Lisa Tovar

Chief Financial Officer

Lisa TovarLisa Tovar is the Chief Financial Officer for PUC National. Lisa Tovar has over 20 years of experience in Finance and Accounting. Prior to joining PUC National, Lisa Tovar was responsible for Budget Forecasting and Planning, Financial Reporting Consolidation and Fiscal Management for the Studio Services Division at Warner Brothers Studios, Warner Brothers Records, Music Publishing Division at The Walt Disney Company, SAG-AFTRA, Clear Channel Communications and The Patina Group. Lisa Tovar received her Bachelor’s Degree with college honors from UCLA and earned her Master’s Degree in Business Administration with a concentration on Accounting and Finance from Woodbury University. Lisa Tovar also received her Minor in Education and Public Policy at UCLA and was a distinguished UCLA Law Fellows Scholar, where she earned a certificate in Conflict Mediation on behalf of the UCLA and Los Angeles County Partnership Conflict Mediation program. With her high level of expertise in finance and accounting, and her dedication to the mission and vision of PUC, Lisa Tovar brings a wealth of expertise and passion to her work as PUC National, CFO. Lisa Tovar is a third generation native to Los Angeles and is passionate about being part of the educational community in Los Angeles.


Cesar Aguilar

Director, Human Resources

Cesar Aguilar

Cesar Aguilar is a seasoned professional in the field of Human Resources with over a decade of experience in the education sector. He began his career at PUC Schools in January 2011. After several years of dedicated service, Cesar left PUC National in search of new challenges. He accepted a position as Director of Human Resources at another school organization, where he continued to hone his skills and expertise in the field. During his two-and-a-half years away from PUC National, Cesar implemented innovative HR programs and initiatives that helped the organization attract and retain top talent. In early 2020, Cesar returned to PUC National, eager to take on new responsibilities and continue his work. In his current role, Cesar is responsible for overseeing all aspects of HR Recruitment and HRIS. He is dedicated to creating a positive and inclusive workplace culture that empowers employees to do their best work and achieve their career goals.


Rosa Arrington

Director, Food Services

Rosa Arrington

Born and raised in South Los Angeles, Rosa joined the Los Angeles Conservation Corps (LACC) where she served in several capacities, from supervising crews to managing a youth program created by LACC. Rosa earned a BA degree in Business Administration from University of Arizona Global Campus (UAGC). Rosa has been certified as a Food Safety Manager for ten years.

Rosa began her journey in charter schools when she assisted with the opening of New Heights Charter School in 2006, located in the Leimert Park area in South Los Angeles. As a founding leader of New Heights Charter School, Rosa served for eight years as the Director of Operations. Rosa’s experience includes fifteen years in non-profit management and Child Nutrition Programs (CNP), including the School Breakfast Program (SNP) and National School Lunch Program (NSLP). Rosa joined PUC National in 2015 and is currently serving as the Director of Food Services.

When Rosa is not cooking meals for friends and family, she enjoys volunteering her time with environmental organizations and she is an advocate for teaching children life skills. Rosa’s true passion in life is to provide essential services to underserved students and provide access to healthy and nutritious meals.


Edgar Chavez

Director, Information Technology

Edgar Chavez

Edgar Chavez is the Director of Information Technology Department for PUC National. He oversees the Information Technology department for all PUC staff and students. In his role, he coordinates and directs end user support, network services, hardware acquisition, software acquisition, and technology polices. Additionally, he collaborates closely with the Director of Data and Student Information and Director of Instructional Technology regarding different data and technology instructional needs for PUC Schools.

During his twelve years at service, Edgar has held previous positions as IT Manager, IT Technician, Network Analyst, and Network Administrator.

Edgar earned a B.A. from California State University, Los Angeles and a M.A. in Educational Technology from Pepperdine University.


Karren Jackson

Health Compliance Manager

Karren Jackson

Karren Jackson, R.N., provides health compliance services to PUC Schools and PUC National. Karren is a registered nurse and a public health nurse who holds a Baccalaureate of Science in Nursing from Mount Saint Mary’s University. She worked at Children’s Hospital Los Angeles for 15 years as a pediatric nurse prior to working at PUC National. She has been working at PUC National since 2015.




Nicole Murphy

Director, College Access & Financial Aid

 Nicole P. Murphy, currently serves as the Director of College Access and Financial Aid Strategies for PUC National.  Nicole completed her 4th year at PUC, has worked in the Los Angeles charter school space for 12 years, and is EXCITED and ready to start her 20th year in education serving PUC students, families and staff this fall 2017!

Born and raised in Long Island, New York, Nicole is a first-generation college graduate, earning a B.A in Psychology, Masters in School Counseling and her Educational Specialist Degree in Secondary School Counseling, at The University of South Carolina.

Nicole began her education career as a School Counselor in Charlotte, North Carolina, then ventured to Southern California where she served as a school counselor at San Marino High School and LAUSD’s University High School.  Nicole was introduced to the charter world as the Area Coordinator at Total Education Solutions, where she managed multiple charter school’s special education programs.  Nicole returned to school counseling when give the opportunity to serve as the Director of College Counseling for The Alliance for College-Ready Public Schools.

Always striving to sharpen her leadership skills, Nicole enrolled in Loyola Marymount University’s Charter School Leadership Program, where she earned a Certificate in Educational Leadership and Administrative credential.  This program helped Nicole become more strategic at working towards her ongoing goal to empower ALL students and families with information and tools to help them reach their career and post-secondary education potential.

With a team of credentialed school counselors, Nicole provides monthly College Counselor professional development, implemented and manages PUC’s Naviance platform across the network, creates PUC-Wide career and college events, and helps establish policies and systems to support PUC students, families and staffs success.


Johana Olaya

Director, Data and Student Information Systems

Johana Olaya width=

Johana Olaya is the Director of Data and Student Information for PUC National.  She currently leads two teams, Data and SIS, which handle state reporting to CALPADS, PowerSchool, as well as data management and requests. Johana closely works with the Director of Information Technology to help coordinate secured data uploads and data transfers to new and existing programs used by the schools.

Johana began her career at PUC over a decade ago as a Tutor for PUC Milagro Charter School while earning her undergrad.  This is where she first experienced the incredible and positive impact that charter schools have in their communities. After receiving her degree, she had the opportunity to move into the Business Analyst position at the Home Office and then became the Data Systems Manager overseeing the Data department.  In her current role, she continues to strive to improve data processes and has a team of incredibility talented and driven individuals.

Born and raised in Colombia, she is the daughter of a single mother who always imparted with her the importance of education and always striving to improve oneself. Johana holds a Bachelor’s of Science degree in Business Administration from California Polytechnic State University, Pomona.


Sergio Soto

Director, Facilities

Sergio Soto currently serves as Director of Facilities for PUC National. Sergio’s time, experience and advocacy skills has always been focused on the improvement of the communities and the general Society. In his earlier years as President of the Student Union at the “Tecnologico de Culiacan” in Mexico, along with other colleagues, he was able to successfully negotiate and secure a 50% discount on bus transportation to and from school for all students in the State of Sinaloa, Mexico. He eventually became the Northwest Coordinator of the National Student Union charged with the task of lobbying support and approvals for innovative projects for numerous colleges in three neighboring States. He also served as an elected member of the Sunland/Tujunga Neighborhood Council while simultaneously serving as the President and CEO of Hermandad Panamericana, a Non-Profit organization dedicated to the promotion of literacy, arts, and culture in the underserved communities of Southern California. Under his stewardship the organization supported several Schools by donating books for the students, as a result of this program, he first connected with PUC Schools through a donation of books to PUC Community Charter Elementary School.

Sergio was born in Mexico, migrated to California at an early age, went back to Mexico in his teenage years and graduated from the Tecnologico de Culiacan with a B.S. Degree in Management Information Systems and came back to California after graduation.