Board of Education Members
Sara Elaqad, J.D., Chair
Appointed to the Board April 2019; reappointed October 2019; reappointed July 2023, appointed Board Chair July 2023; current term expires June 30, 2027
Sara Elaqad serves as Executive Director for Minds Matter Cleveland – the local chapter of the national nonprofit organization aimed at connecting motivated, high school students from low-income households with the resources, tools, and people to succeed in college. The organization provides mentoring services, writing classes, test preparation, application assistance, financial aid advisement, and summer immersion programs, and boasts a 100% college acceptance rate. She also served three years as Chair for the organization’s National Chapter Leadership Council. Prior to her role at Minds Matter, she served as Academy Manager of Curriculum and Outcomes for Boys Hope Girls Hope of Northeast Ohio, and has also been a mentor in Global Cleveland’s Global Rising Program and served on the board of Cleveland Orchestra’s Circle. Elaqad’s work earned her the YWCA Greater Cleveland Distinguished Young Woman Award in 2019. She was also recognized in Crain’s 2019 40 Under 40 class, Crain’s 2020 Notable Immigrant Leaders, and Crain’s 2023 Notables in Education Leadership.
Elaqad is a Cleveland resident and currently lives in the Detroit-Shoreway neighborhood. She holds two Bachelors of Arts degrees from The Ohio State University – one in French and another in International Relations and Diplomacy – and a J.D. from Case Western Reserve University’s School of Law.
Leah D. Hudnall, Vice Chair
Appointed to the Board August 2022; reappointed July 2023; appointed Board Vice Chair July 2023; current term expires June 30, 2027
Leah D. Hudnall serves as an Assistant Professor of Practice at the College of Education and Public Affairs at Cleveland State University. She is a graduate of the Cleveland School of the Arts, and earned a Bachelor of Arts in communication and culture from Howard University, and a Master of Arts in nonprofit administration from John Carroll University. She began her career working at the KeyBank Foundation and has also worked at the Saint Luke’s Foundation, the George Gund Foundation and the Cuyahoga County Prosecutor’s Office. In 2020 she founded The Legacy Perspective, a civic consulting firm that offers project management, community engagement and communications services to its client partners. She currently serves on the boards of Birthing Beautiful Communities, The Land, and Cleveland VOTES. She lives on the southeast side of Cleveland with her husband and two children, the oldest of whom is a CMSD student.
Robert Briggs, Esq.
Appointed to the Board July 2023; current term expires June 30, 2027
Mr. Briggs, a lawyer, currently serves as a Partner and Chairman Emeritus at Buckingham, Doolittle & Burroughs. Formerly CEO of Buckingham Law, Mr. Briggs has been significantly involved with various non-profits, foundations, civic institutions and educational organizations. He co-founded the Fund for Our Economic Future in 2004, chaired the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation from 2010 to 2014, and served as Executive Director of the Northeast Ohio Council on Higher Education from 2014 to 2016, among other notable civic engagements. He holds a bachelor of arts from Duke University and a juris doctor from the Ohio State University. Mr. Briggs formerly served in the United States Air Force as a staff judge advocate and currently resides in Bratenahl.
Robert M. Heard, Sr.
Appointed to the Board December 2004; reappointed 2005; reappointed 2009; reappointed 2013; reappointed 2017; reappointed 2021; served as Board Chair 2007-09; served as Vice Chair 2017-2023; current term expires June 30, 2025
Robert Heard is retired from State Farm Insurance and the Cleveland Clinic. He previously taught English in CMSD’s Adult Education Program. He is a former member of the Neighborhood Connections grants committee, 100 Black Men of Greater Cleveland. He has held the office of vice president and president of the Cleveland Alumni Chapter of Kappa Alpha Psi Fraternity. A John Adams High School alumnus, Heard holds a bachelor’s degree in English from Cleveland State University. He earned the title of fellow from Broad Institute and completed the Executive Leadership Program for Educators at Harvard University. He served as President of the Ohio School Boards Association from 2021 to 2022. He lives in Cleveland’s Glenville neighborhood with his wife.
Diana Welch Howell
Appointed to the Board July 2023; current term expires June 30, 2027
Diana Welch Howell currently serves as Head of Hospitals Expansion for KeyBank’s Laurel Road Brand. She has over a decade of corporate banking experience, with a focus on business management, corporate strategy and development, and financial analysis. Before joining KeyBank she worked for Fifth Third Bank in Cincinnati and JPMorgan Chase Bank in Chicago. She holds a bachelor of business administration in finance from the University of Cincinnati. She is a downtown Cleveland resident, has served as a mentor for College Now, Girl Scouts of the USA, and has volunteered on the Young Professionals Board for United Way of Metro Chicago.
Denise W. Link
Appointed to the Board July 2007; reappointed 2011; reappointed 2015; reappointed 2019; reappointed 2023; served as Board Chair 2009-17; current term expires June 30, 2027
Denise Link has worked at PNC Bank for over 30 years and serves as vice president in Network Planning. Link holds a bachelor’s degree in economics and psychology from the University of Michigan and an M.B.A. from Case Western Reserve University’s Weatherhead School of Management. Before joining the Board of Education, she served on the District’s Bond Accountability Commission. In addition to her service as a CMSD board member, she volunteers at District preschools as part of PNC’s Grow Up Great program, designed to help prepare underserved young children for success in school and life. She also serves as a mentor with True2U and College Now. Because of Link’s commitment to urban education, she won the 2013 Richard R. Greene Award. Each year at its fall conference, the Council of the Great City Schools bestows the Green Award upon a superintendent or board of education member in recognition of exceptional contributions to urban schools and students. Link lives in Ohio City with her husband and family.
Nigamanth Sridhar, Ph.D.
Appointed to the Board July 2021; current term expires on June 30, 2025
Dr. Nigamanth Sridhar serves as Provost and Senior Vice President for Academic Affairs at Cleveland State University. In this role, he oversees all academic operations for the university. Dr. Sridhar also holds a faculty appointment as Professor of Computer Science in the Washkewicz College of Engineering at Cleveland State University. He has taught courses and conducted research in a variety of areas computer science, software engineering and computer science education. From 2017 to 2020, he served as the Dean of the College of Graduate Studies at CSU. He grew up in India and earned a bachelor’s degree in Information Systems from BITS Pilani in India. He moved to the United States in 1999 to attend graduate school at Ohio State University, where he earned a master of science degree and Ph.D. in Computer Science. He lives in the Detroit Shoreway neighborhood with his wife and daughter, who is a CMSD student.
In addition to the nine Board of Education members appointed by the Mayor, Ohio House Bill 269 provides that the presidents of Cuyahoga Community College and Cleveland State University serve as nonvoting ex officio members of the Board.
Dr. Michael Baston
ex officio memberPresident of Cuyahoga Community College.
Dr. Laura Bloomberg
ex officio memberPresident of Cleveland State University.Board of EducationAdministration Building1111 Superior Ave E, Suite 1800Cleveland, Ohio 44114Phone: (216) 838-0030