Executive Leadership Team Bios
Founder, Executive Director, CEO
Excell Academy for Higher Learning Charter School
Sabrina’s vision for Excell Academy for Higher Learning originated during her childhood years of attending low income public schools and as a licensed elementary teacher in public education witnessing firsthand the inequitable educational services, programs and resources between low income students of color and students from more affluent families. After earning her Master of Arts degree in Curriculum, Instruction & Gifted Education in 1998, Sabrina decided to do something about the passion she had for ensuring a high quality education for low income students of color. With the approval of the Minnesota Department of Education, Sabrina founded Excell Academy for Higher Learning in 1999. Excell Academy began its first year of operation in 2001 with 65 students in grades K-4.
Today, Excell Academy serves over 450 children ages 3½ years through 8th grade and employs over 85 faculty and staff. Sabrina’s leadership has expanded Excell Academy’s services on campus and in the community including full and part time Reading Corps and Senior volunteers, an on-site employee daycare, a 3 ½ year old preschool program, a 4-5 year old Kindergarten Readiness program, three community-based Voluntary Prek programs, an on-site Before and After Care program, on-site Before School tutoring program, After School Athletics and a variety of After School enrichment programs and opportunities.
Sabrina was instrumental in founding and developing the Minnesota Charter Schools Athletic League in 2008 and most recently co-founded the Minnesota Charter Leaders of Color Collaborative. Sabrina is a participant and recipient of the Minnesota Educational Policy Fellowship, the University of St. Thomas Executive Director Leadership Institute, awarded the National Who’s Who in Education Administration two years, Minnesota Principals’ Academy, and a plethora of administration, leadership, and community awards, certifications, and recognitions.
Justin Balvin – Mr. Balvin is the Academic Dean of Excell Academy for Higher Learning. Before transitioning into Administration, Mr Balvin was a classroom Social Studies Teacher. He graduated from Augsburg College with a Bachelor’s Degree in Elementary Education and a K-6 Teaching License. Justin’s experience as both a classroom teacher and Academic Dean at the same school has given him a unique opportunity to develop a wide range of skills. Mr. Balvin prides himself in developing strong relationships with both the students and staff at Excell Academy. This ability has helped create an environment in which students feel comfortable challenging themselves with the support of instructional staff that understand the unique needs of each student. Mr. Balvin directly supervises over 60 staff members and shares the Principal responsibilities with the Executive Director. He helps oversee the Instructional Leadership Team, manages the Professional Learning Communities teacher development program and conducts informal and formal teacher observations. Additionally, Mr. Balvin is a member of the Executive Leadership Team and shares in the leadership of daily management and administrative operations.
Candace Dunbar – is the Facilities & Transportation Director at Excell Academy and has been employed with Excell since 2001. She has been involved in student transportation for over 20 years and holds a Building Operator License over the past 12 years. Candace has served on Excell’s Board of Directors and still currently works closely with the Board. She also serves on Excell’s Executive Leadership Team which shares in the daily management and administrative operations. Candace feels that her purpose at Excell is to ensure an academically and environmentally safe atmosphere for students to be able to achieve their highest potential.
Cassandra Holbrook is currently the In-House Business Manager and an In-House Reserve Teacher for Excell Academy of Higher Learning. She has been in the non-profit and education field for several years. She has a Bachelor of Professional Studies with a concentration in Organizational Leadership from The University of Memphis. She also has a Master of Education with a concentration in Adult Education from American Intercontinental University. She gained her skills by working within a level 4 organization, working with ages 12- 21 self-harmers and sex offenders and working with children ages 3 to 18 within the private and public-school sector. She also gained much of her experience within the education and non- profit sector through various volunteer programs.
Ms. Holbrook’s main goals within her field are to make sure organizations successfully live out their mission and vision through successful organization and operations, and making sure learners receive an adequate education to become successful. Her field of work gives her the opportunity to help individuals gain knowledge, growth mindsets, and tools to guide them throughout life.
Mary Gryz has extensive human resources leadership/management with over 20 years of experience. Mary is currently the Director of Human Resources Operation with Excell Academy for Higher Learning. Other industries Ms.Gryz has extensive Human Resources Management experience are Retail at Cabela’s and Accenture, Manufacturing at Brunswick Corporation; Medical at United Health Care: and Service at Ascensus and Sparks Automotive.
Mary’s expertise lies in Executive HR Leadership, HR Management, Organizational Development, Training, Ethics/Diversity Manager, HR Consulting, and Benefits Administration.
Mary Gryz attended Bethel University and earned a Bachelor of Arts (BA) degree in Human Resources Management/Organizational Development.