The Discovery School is a non-profit independent school governed by a volunteer Board of Trustees. The Board of Trustees is responsible for ensuring Discovery’s long-term growth and success through setting strategic goals. Governance includes adopting a clear statement of the school's mission, ensuring financial stability, setting policy, and fundraising, according to its established bylaws. 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. The Head of School is responsible for implementing the Board’s policies and plans and for the day-to-day management of the school. This includes hiring faculty and staff and overseeing the development of classroom policies and the curriculum. Together, the Board of Trustees and school administration ensure that the concerns, values, and expectations of parents and other constituents are considered in all decisions regarding our culture and who we are, and the quality of education.
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 email@example.com.
- Peter Christamtsis - Board Chair
- Jennifer Kowkabany - Vice Chair
- Helen Pajcic Nicholson - Secretary
- Hampton Graham - Treasurer
- Joshua Ashby
- Cortney Cronin
- David Doward
- Caroline Jett-Sun
- Freddie Williams
- Laura Alrutz
Peter Christamtsis and Katie Hammill, along with their 2 daughters Ashley 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.
Jennifer Kowkabany - Vice Chair
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 - Secretary
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 her three children North, Shepard, and Reed.
Hampton Graham serves as Chairman of the Scott-McRae Automotive Group based in Jacksonville, FL. In his role, he oversees 7 for-profit companies operating in 15 states and employing over 750 people. Hampton has worked for the Scott-McRae Group since 2008.
Hampton and his wife Cheree graduated from the University of Florida and have 3 daughters. He serves as the Chairman of the ALS Association Florida Chapter. Hampton enjoys spending time with his family, flying, sporting events, and boating.
Josh’s leadership and commitment as CEO to the mission of Fleet Landing have solidified the organization as a top Life Care community in the country and premier choice for health services for seniors in Northeast Florida. Josh is a highly analytic thinker, and his vision has expanded Fleet Landing’s impact through the creation of new service lines and new housing options on their Atlantic Beach campus.
After earning his bachelor’s degree in health sciences and Master of Business Administration from the University of North Florida, Josh joined the Fleet Landing team in 2005 as director of health care services. He was named CEO in 2010. Josh is past chair of LeadingAge Florida, a statewide association whose mission is to advance the possibilities for aging through service, education and advocacy. He also serves as Treasurer of Here Tomorrow, a mental health collaborative.
Josh’s passion for serving older adults began at a young age as a volunteer at Jacksonville’s River Garden Hebrew Home. When not at work, he enjoys traveling with his wife, Stefani, and their three children who attend The Discovery School.
Cortney Cronin is Corporate Counsel at Accenture PLC, focusing her practice on corporate governance, internal investigations, and employment law matters. Previously, she was a commercial litigator, representing clients in state and federal court in both Texas and Florida.
Cortney is originally from Dallas, Texas, where she earned her Juris Doctor degree from Southern Methodist University, Dedman School of Law. Prior to law school, she received her BA from The University of Texas at Austin. She remains a devoted Dallas Cowboys and Texas Longhorn fan. She is currently a member of both the State Bar of Texas and the State Bar of Florida.
Jacksonville Beach is now home for Cortney, her husband, and their two young children, who both attend The Discovery School. In their free time, they enjoy supporting local businesses and frequenting the beach. Cortney is also an active member of the Jacksonville Bar Association, the Jacksonville Women Lawyers Association, and the Association of Corporate Counsel.
David Doward - Development Member
Dr. David Doward is the former managing partner of the Jacksonville Orthopedic Institute, and was integral in improving the culture of the organization. He is a board certified spine and sports medicine specialist. Dr. Doward served as the team doctor for the Jacksonville Jaguars and recently he has served as the neutral doctor for the US Davis Cup and US Fed Cup. He is a former competitive tennis player and was regionally ranked in the past. Dr. Doward spent a year traveling around the world with Tony Robbins as one of his platinum partners, honing his skills in life, wealth, and business mastery. He is a firm believer in creating the life that you love.
Dr. Doward is a graduate of Lafayette College and completed his postgraduate education at Columbia University. He attended medical school at Cornell University Medical College and completed his residency at Stanford University Hospital and Clinics. Dr. Doward received his fellowship training at the world renowned Hospital for Special Surgery.
Dr. Doward has volunteered his time with organizations such as the MaliVai Washington Youth Foundation which encourages inner-city adolescents to focus on their education. He has also participated in a number of medical mission trips in Caribbean which serve the indigent population.
Dr. Doward hails from Saint Croix, US Virgin Islands and he enjoys spending time in nature, traveling, learning new cultures, and playing sports. He lives in Atlantic Beach with his two daughters, Ava and Amina. He currently is also on the Board of Trustees for the private school Good Hope Country Day.
Caroline Jett-Sun is CFO of Volcano Capital Management, a single-family office based in the Bay area. She leads a team of five individuals in the financial and risk management of over 30 trusts and entities. Previously, she held positions at Christie's Inc, The Phillips Collection and KPMG.
Originally from Hanover County, Virginia, Caroline received her Bachelors' degree from the College of William and Mary in Williamsburg, Virginia and her CPA shortly thereafter. She spent time living and working in Washington, DC, New York, Chicago and Oakland, before settling at the beach.
Caroline lives in Atlantic Beach with her husband Gavin, daughter Hannah (4) and Beagle-mix Astro Jett-Sun. Hannah is currently attending The Discovery School as a Primary student. In their free time, they enjoy traveling, swimming, beach-time, exploring parks and playgrounds - including dog parks - and biking around the community.
Freddie Williams is a marketing and innovation leader at Johnson & Johnson, overseeing strategy, development, and global execution of new products and services under the ACUVUE® brand. Prior to his current role, Freddie brings a wealth of technical and commercial expertise in driving new business incubation for several iconic consumer brands.
Freddie is a graduate of the University of Florida and completed his postgraduate education at the University of South Florida. Currently, he is actively involved with the Black Executive CMO Alliance (BECA) and has served as Co-chair of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion for Johnson & Johnson Vision, Global Franchise Development.
Freddie and his wife, Bree-Anna, returned to Jacksonville, FL in 2018. They enjoy spending their free time hiking and traveling with their two children, who attend The Discovery School.
Laura Alrutz is Associate Counsel of Labor and Employment for Fanatics and a Jacksonville native. After earning her bachelor’s degree from the University of Florida, Laura returned home to teach 6th grade World History at Ribault Middle School. Her time in the classroom sparked a passion for education law and policy, leading her to Vanderbilt University Law School. Upon graduation, Laura stayed in Nashville to practice education law, representing school districts across Tennessee.
After the birth of their first daughter, Laura and her husband Zach moved back to Jacksonville to be near family and the ocean. Laura continued her work in education policy as the Director of Policy and Advocacy for the Jacksonville Public Education Fund, a nonprofit dedicated to improving educational outcomes for students in under-resourced public schools. After several years, she transitioned back into private practice to focus on labor and employment law before going in-house.
Laura, Zach, and their two daughters live in Jacksonville Beach. They love spending time at the beach, Sunshine Park, and with friends and family.
- Develop Discovery’s long-term Strategic Plan
- Review and assess the educational mission of the school on an ongoing basis
- Select, support, and review the Head of School
- Approve the school's annual budget and financial plan
Guidelines for Discovery School Nominations
The Discovery School is governed by its Board of Trustees, which serves as the steward of the school's educational mission and financial health. Trustees are elected directly by a majority of the board among nominees selected by the Governance Committee for a three-year term. A well-balanced, committed, strategic, and expert board is paramount to the school’s success, high-quality standards, and oversight.
The ideal candidate for at-large trustee will:
- Demonstrate knowledge, support, and passion for Discovery’s vision and mission,
- Contribute specific skills to ensure the board has expertise in all critical areas - Be representative of the Discovery community mix (e.g. cultural background, language, age of children, gender, etc.),
- Participate in the annual Discovery Fund and capital campaigns, according to personal ability (we ask that the individual makes Discovery a priority for giving),
- Be an advocate for Discovery by promoting the school in the community, and by soliciting gifts from individuals, corporations, and foundations,
- Commit to attending bi-monthly board meetings (during the school year), an annual board retreat, and other key functions, and participating in a board committee.
Candidates will provide their biography or resume and a written statement motivating their interest to be a trustee and meet with members of the Governance Committee.
If you are interested in becoming a member of the Board of Trustees, please contact a member of the Governance Committee.
This committee reviews the school’s finances, fiscal affairs, long-range financial plan, annual operating budget, and investment policies. It also monitors the implementation of the budget and issuance of financial statements and assists the board in fulfilling its oversight responsibilities.
- Treasurer: Hampton Graham
- Members: Caroline Jett-Sun, Guzman Castro, Jill Nason
If you are interested in serving on a committee, please click the button below.
Past Board Members (alphabetically by last name)