The Discovery School is a non-profit independent school governed by a volunteer Board of Trustees. The Board of Trustees is responsible for governance of the school, which includes ensuring financial stability, setting policy, and fundraising. The Board has the authority to hire outside counsel and related services as needed. The Head of School reports directly to the Board and is the only school employee who does so.
Head of School
Petra Obritzberger is an experienced international Head of School with 20 years of working in education.
Mrs. Obritzberger began her educational career in Vienna, Austria, in 2000 as a middle school teacher. She spent seven years teaching in Europe (Austria, Great Britain, Malta) before moving to the US in 2007. In Michigan, Mrs. Obritzberger taught elementary and middle school students while co-founding a German Saturday School in Ann Arbor, MI.
In 2011, Mrs. Obritzberger moved to Chicago. As Head of School at the German International School Chicago (GISC), she has spearheaded the start-up school’s initiatives that comprise strategic planning, marketing and fundraising, curriculum and staff development, as well as discovering and acquiring a new building for the rapidly growing school. Under her leadership, the school received accreditation with ISACS and as an IB World School as well as national and international recognition for the school’s profile, programs and innovative approaches during the Covid-19 pandemic.
Being multicultural and bilingual herself, Mrs. Obritzberger embraces serving a diverse community, guiding students as they learn and grow, working with and supporting teachers and staff so they can reach their greatest potential, strengthening the connection between school and home, and fostering a positive school culture. Establishing positive relationships within and presenting the school she serves to the larger community excites her tremendously. Her educational experiences have afforded her the opportunity to collaborate with a diverse group of people to meet common goals. Her educational philosophy is based on her uncompromising belief that all students can learn, given a positive learning environment, strong and knowledgeable leadership, a committed and focused educational team, an encouraging community, and a supportive family.
Mrs. Obritzberger received a Bachelor’s Degree from the University College of Teacher Education Vienna, Austria, and a Master’s Degree in Educational Leadership from Mercy College in Dobbs Ferry, NY. As ongoing education, Mrs. Obritzberger has attended the Kellogg School of Management, Northwestern University in Chicago, IL, to become an Executive Scholar in Nonprofit Management.
In their spare time, Petra and her husband Gerald enjoy being active outdoors: going on long walks with their two pugs, riding bikes, watching football games and - of late - playing tennis. They also enjoy cooking and baking, meeting with friends, traveling and scuba diving. Moreover, Petra likes to dance and plays three instruments.
Mrs. Obritzberger is looking forward to meeting each and all members of the school community to cultivate an inclusive and vibrant community that promotes knowledge, creativity, independent thinking and mutual respect.
You can reach her directly at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Board of Trustees 2020 - 2021
- Kimberly Jones
- Ashton Hudson
- Amy Turci
- Peter Christamtsis
- James Landry
- Michael Tari
- Jennifer Kowkabany
- Chris Taylor
- Helen Pajcic Nicholson
Kimberly Mariani Jones - Board Chair
Kimberly is a fundraising and communications executive with a fierce work ethic and 20 years of experience in the higher education and nonprofit space. She believes strongly in the missions of the organizations in which she works, serves, and consults. She has served as Chair of the Development Committee as well as Vice Chair and parent volunteer supporting The Discovery Fund.
She has practiced development in private and public university settings, including her current role leading the development and engagement team at UF Health Jacksonville and the College of Medicine. As Assistant Vice President and Chief Advancement Officer, she is responsible for all fundraising, events including the downtown and North hospitals and Children's Miracle Network (CMN). Prior to UF, Kimberly was Senior Vice President of University Advancement at Jacksonville University. She and her team were instrumental in an explosion of new facilities on the riverfront campus, the University’s 75th Anniversary celebration, the establishment of a President’s Parents Council, and four 7-figure naming gifts, including the naming of a College, a School, a Center, and many other significant campus facilities and academic programs as a part of the University's largest-ever ASPIRE Campaign.
Embracing core values of kindness, patience, and the interconnectedness of us all, Kimberly tries to listen more than talk and engage in actual human contact. She holds dear the belief that every individual has an innate desire to help someone or something which fuels their philanthropic passion.
She is a graduate of the University of Florida (B.S.), University of North Florida (M.B.A.), and holds a certification from the Lilly Family School of Philanthropy at Indiana University-Purdue University. Kimberly has completed extensive professional development in fundraising, campaign planning, and volunteer management. She has received interactive media training and served as an on the record spokesperson for national news outlets including the New York Times and the Wall Street Journal. She is a member of the Community Foundation for Northeast Florida’s Women’s Giving Alliance, the World Affairs Council, CASE, and has taught as an adjunct faculty member at Jacksonville University. She and her husband, Fred Jones, live in Neptune Beach where they run around chasing their three active children.
Ashton Hudson - Treasurer/Finance Chair
Ashton Hudson is a Partner in Value Acquisition Fund, an acquisition, development and asset management company and in Rock Creek Capital, an alternative asset manager with significant land holdings throughout the southeast.
Prior to beginning his investment career, Ashton practiced law with the firm of Parker, Hudson, Rainer & Dobbs LLP, where his legal practice was primarily focused on corporate finance, mergers and acquisitions, general corporate law and securities law.
Ashton previously served on the Board of Directors of the Jacksonville Electric Authority, the seventh largest municipally owned utility in the United States, where he chaired the Audit and Finance Committee and served a two-year term as Chairman of the Board and on the Board of Directors of Forestar Group, Inc. (NYSE: FOR), where he sat on the Audit, Compensation and Corporate Governance Committees. He currently sits on the Florida Board of Directors of Fifth Third Bank.
Until its sale to Anticimex in February 2018, Ashton was the owner and Executive Chairman of Jacksonville, FL-based Turner Pest Control, one of the largest and fastest growing pest control providers in the United States.
Ashton earned his B.S., cum laude, in business and accountancy, from Wake Forest University in 1994. He received his J.D., magna cum laude, in 1997 from the Wake Forest University School of Law.
Amy Turci is an Office Managing Partner in the Jacksonville office at FordHarrison LLP, one of the country’s largest management-side labor and employment law firms. Amy started with FordHarrison in 2006 and was named partner in February 2017. Amy concentrates her practice on litigating employment cases in state and federal courts, as well as representing employers before state and local agencies. She also advises employers on various employment issues, including federal and state anti-discrimination statutes, the Fair Labor Standards Act, the Americans with Disabilities Act, and the Family and Medical Leave Act. She additionally works with clients to develop employment handbooks and policies and to ensure general legal/regulatory compliance. Further, she regularly provides management training for corporate and civic organizations on developments in various employment and labor laws. Prior to joining FordHarrison, Amy was an associate at a Jacksonville labor and employment law firm.
Amy is a Board Member of the Associated Builders and Contractors, Inc., Florida First Coast Chapter, and serves as Chair for ABC's Women's Council; Amy additionally served as a Co-Chair of the 2013 ABC Excellence in Construction Awards, serves on the Governmental Affairs Committee, and is involved with the legislative efforts of ABC of Florida. Amy has been a mentor with Take Stock in Children, and is the office contact for the area chapters of Habitat for Humanity. Amy is a committed volunteer for the March of Dimes, having been a member of the Circle of Champions since 2010, a member of the Board of Directors since 2012, and serving as Board Chair for 2015-2016; Amy has additionally served on both the March for Babies Executive Committee and Signature Chefs Auction Committee, as well as serving as the Chair of the Signature Chefs Auction for 2012 and 2017.
Peter Christamtsis and Katie Hammill, along with their 2 daughters Ashely and Ruby immigrated to Atlantic Beach from Toronto, ON Canada in January 2015. Peter’s company, Solidifi US Inc., was in a growth and expansion phase in the US and they couldn’t say “no” to the opportunity to move to their family south of the border, and more specifically…to a warmer climate. Katie’s parents have been residents of Atlantic Beach for 15+ years, and having vacationed here frequently over the years this was Katie and Peter’s first choice for a cross-border move and new home. Throughout the week, you’ll find them frequenting the Beach, the AB/NB Town Center, or the Atlantic Beach Country Club when they aren’t working out of their home-based offices or chauffeuring the girls to/from Discovery and their many activities.
With over seventeen years of experience in the U.S. and Canadian financial and mortgage services industries, and as Senior Vice President for Solidifi, Peter is responsible for leading the Enterprise Sales Team, and ensuring sustainability and growth of Solidifi’s Tier 1 clients. Peter also plays a role in business development and product management for the organization and throughout his tenure has been part of the Finance, Operations and the Client Services teams. Prior to joining Solidifi, Peter was a Senior Consultant with ASSET Inc., a risk and default management company serving the Canadian, Caribbean and Australian financial services marketplace, where he his experience included the deployment of software solutions with several major Canadian banks.
In addition to the Financial Services sector, Peter also has an astute interest in the restaurant service industry. In 2008, he successfully launched a locally-inspired Café called Red Rocket Coffee in the heart of Toronto’s beaches area.
Peter’s expertise includes managing new and existing clients, consulting on best operational practices, and the development of broad-based teams to launch and grow new products and services.
James Landry - Finance Member
James Landry is the Executive Vice President of Business Development & Marketing for CSS International. James has been in the ERP application space for over 25 years focusing on aligning client strategic direction with Oracle ERP implementations and business process improvement. He leads a team of world class business development and marketing professionals across North America and works closely with top Oracle leadership to align CSS consulting expertise and develop joint go-to market strategies to deliver world class consulting around the Oracle business application marketplace.
James has served on multiple charitable leadership boards including collegiate leadership development.
James holds a bachelors degree in accounting from the University of North Florida.
Dr. Michael Tari invests in the infrastructure of municipalities, schools, universities and hospitals, funding sustainable projects with long term partners. The investments, comprising high-quality/energy-efficient components, provide a permanent solution for deferred maintenance issues while simultaneously lowering overall infrastructure usage costs.
Before he began investing in infrastructure in early 2019, Michael was with Deutsche Bank. While with the bank, he served as a Director, and Head of Risk Premia Portfolio Management, for Deutsche Bank’s Asset and Wealth Management division. Based in Jacksonville, Michael headed the front-office team responsible for developing and managing rules-based investment strategies. His clients included institutions and high-net-worth individuals.
Michael joined Deutsche Bank in 2007 with 9 years of industry experience. Prior to his Risk-Premia-focused role, Michael was Global Seed Capital Portfolio Manager for Equities and Investment Grade Fixed Income. Before joining Deutsche Bank, he served as Director of Strategy and Risk Management at Hunt Financial Ventures. Previously, he acted as lead Risk Manager on the equity trading floor at Nomura Securities International. Michael began his career as a Risk Manager on the OTC derivatives desk at Bank of America.
Michael holds a Ph.D. in Mechanical Engineering from the University of California, Los Angeles and, upon his graduation, was the recipient of the Mechanical Engineering Department’s Outstanding Ph.D. Award. He also holds an MS in Mechanical Engineering from the University of California, Los Angeles as well as a BS in Mechanical Engineering from Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey.
Michael and his wife Analeida, currently reside in Atlantic Beach with their two children – Michael Roman and Maximus.
Jennifer Kowkabany - Governance Member
Jennifer Kowkabany has served as General Counsel for Neptune Fire Protection Engineering since 2007, where she primarily practices contract and construction law. She came to Jacksonville from Seattle with stops along the way in California, Japan, and South Korea, where she spent her days as a U.S. Marine working on the armament systems of aircraft; and Phoenix, Arizona where she obtained her Bachelors Degree in Business Management from the University of Phoenix in 2003 while working full time as a Project Manager. Afterward, she came to Jacksonville to study law at Florida Coastal School of Law, obtaining her Juris Doctorate in 2007. During this time, she met her husband, Steve, and has now set down roots in Neptune Beach with their three children.
Jennifer spends a majority of her free time volunteering. She serves as Chairman on the Neptune Beach Police Pension Fund Board; is a member of the Women’s Giving Alliance, where she serves as Co-Chair on the Grants Decision Team, and is a member of Rethreaded’s Circle of Sisters, a mentoring group that supports and advocates for women.
Helen Pajcic Nicholson
Helen Pajcic Nicholson recently retuned to her hometown of Jacksonville to raise a family with her husband, Marvin, after nearly a decade working for the federal government in Washington, DC. While in the nation’s capitol, Helen proudly served the U.S. Congress, the Executive Office of President, and the U.S. Department of Education. Helen first worked on the House Committee on Education and Labor, advising on issues pertaining to civil rights in education, including afterschool policy – the topic of her senior thesis at Princeton University, from where she graduated in 2009. Following time on the Domestic Policy Council at the White House, Helen was appointed to the Department of Education where she worked her way up to Chief of Staff at the Office of Planning, Evaluation and Policy Development, and was lucky to participate in the bicameral reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act.
After the 2016 election, Helen and Marvin moved permanently to their house in Neptune Beach. Helen serves as the unpaid CEO of the Pajcic Family Foundation, which focuses on community led support and mentoring of high-risk urban youth. Helen looks forward to serving the community she loves, while remaining focused on her favorite and most important role: mother to three year old North and one year old Shepard.
Past Board Members
Thomas J. Mnich
Jennifer Ward Sleiman