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Excel High School Staff




Chief Academic Officer / President

Dr. Mark Ulven, B.A., M.Ed, Ed.D

serves the critical role of President and Chief Academic Officer for Excel Schools. Mark is a State licensed educator and has taught both math and science for many years in the public school arena. Mark is passionate about education and online learning. Mark received his B.A. degree in Education from Bemidji State University, and received his M.Ed from St. Mary's University and holds a doctorate degree in Educational Leadership from Capella University. Mark joined the team at EHS to assist with the school's mission and goals related to continuing quality improvement and a student-centered approach to learning.

Prior to coming to Excel, Mark worked for Capella University, where he played a vital role ensuring student success.

Mark is married and has two children. Mark's Blog




Chief Executive Officer

Mr. Rod Clarkson, B.S., MBA

is our CEO and founder of Excel Education Systems. In 2003, It was Rod’s vision to bring accredited education services to students in need of high quality online learning experiences to learners worldwide.

Rod was an early adopter of technology and online learning. From the mid-1990’s, Rod was intrigued by how learning could be delivered online to anyone in need of middle-school, high school or college courses from a distance. Mr. Clarkson is the visionary behind the school system and remains committed to the efficient daily operation of the schools. Mr. Clarkson is incredibly passionate about Excel schools delivering the best, highest quality, online education experiences to our students.

Rod earned his Bachelor degree in Business with an emphasis in Marketing and Management. Rod holds an MBA in Management from Ashworth College. Rod chooses to personally remain engaged in his own education and growth. Mr. Clarkson is starting his doctorate degree in education [Ed.D] at Capella University in 2017. Although Mr. Clarkson is a self-proclaimed workaholic, Rod remains committed to being a loving father, friend, son, brother and mentor. Rod enjoys the outdoors and finding new running trails. Rod's Blog




Chief Technology Officer

Mr. Koorosh Vaziri, B.S., M.S., Ph.D Candidate

has been with Excel since our inception. He is the talent behind our student information management system; and manages all aspects of the school’s technology infrastructure.

Mr. Vaziri has holds B.S. and M.S. Degrees in Computer Science from the University of Minnesota. Mr. Vaziri is currently working on his Ph.D in Computer Science at the University of Minnesota. He also holds several MS certifications. Koorosh is a vital part of the Excel team and works closely with the senior management team to make Excel a great school. Koorosh spends his free time working on his doctoral dissertation and enjoying time with his close friends.




EES Associate Director

Mr. Tim Elliott, B.S., MBA

grew up in Plymouth, MN and now resides in Ramsey, MN. Tim is married and has two daughters. One attends Winona State University majoring in education and the other will be attending Augustana College in Sioux Falls next fall to continue her softball career and study Exercise Science.
Tim received his Bachelors degree in Business from Augsburg College, where he also played Hockey.Time earned his MBA Degree from Capella University in Minneapolis.

Tim has 20 years of higher education experience working with career colleges in Minnesota as a Director. Tim has a passion for helping students and guiding them towards making a better life for themselves.

In his spare time, Tim spends time at his cabin in Wisconsin with his family, hunting and fishing. He also spends a lot of time at the softball fields watching his daughter play softball all over the country.





Executive Director, EES

Mrs. Lori Applegate, B.A., M.Ed

Lori lives in North Carolina with her husband and 3 children. She received a Bachelor of Education degree from William Carey College and earned her Master's in Education from Southeastern Louisiana University. Lori taught in Mandeville schools (Louisiana) for seven years. She worked and served on various curriculum committees within the school district to improve Language Arts/Social Studies teaching methods. Lori assisted with coordinating several Social Studies World Travel Days and served as a committee member for an event that helped local teachers enhance their teaching practices. Lori also mentored/trained high school students toward future teaching careers.

She has fond memories of playing college soccer with her twin sister. She continued with her interest in soccer by coaching at the local high school and select soccer travel leagues.
In her spare time, she enjoys jogging, reading, family time, and church activities. Lori is excited about mentoring and encouraging people for Excel High School. She truly enjoys each family with whom she comes in contact and provides “online” support and motivation for a successful Excel High School experience. Lori serves our students and team members with excellence and loves being part of the Excel team.




Math Tutor - Contractor

Mr. Kent Mertes, B.S., M.Ed

was born and raised in Minnesota. He and his wife, Judy have three grown children and are waiting to be grandparents. He received a Bachelor of Science degree from Bemidji State University in Mathematics, Music, and Computer Science along with a Coaching Certification for Tennis, Golf, Basketball, and Volleyball. He received his Master of Arts in Education from St. Mary’s University in Winona, Minnesota. He taught Mathematics at St. Francis High School and coached both Boys’ and Girls’ Tennis teams.

Kent was a Substitute teacher for Anoka-Hennepin, Osseo, and Centennial school districts for several years. He also has taught Middle school (grades 6th-8th) at Flex Academy, Richfield. Just prior to Excel High School, he was teaching Mathematics, Music, Web Design, and Computer Game Development on-line courses for 6 years with AAI/Minnesota Virtual High School. As you can tell, he loves to teach and has been doing it for over 30 years now!

In his spare time, Kent likes to work out and still actively plays tennis at Lifetime Fitness centers. He loves driving his Ford Mustang cars (owns two of them) and collecting Hot Wheels cars. He is very active in his church that he has been a member of for over fifty years and is also a 4th degree Knights of Columbus member with the church.




Media Manager / Curriculum Coordinator

Mr. Robert Ulven, B.M.

is responsible for the accessibility, organization and archiving of the various types of educational media used within the coursework at the school.

Robert holds a Bachelor of Music degree in Music Industry, with a concentration on audio recording technology and music copyrighting, licensing and management.

Throughout Robert's professional career, his areas of media expertise expanded into video, with nearly 20 years of combined experience in television broadcast production and management. With another 15 years of print, digital and web media experience, Robert brings a versatile set of
skills to the school to enhance the student learning experience.

Robert is married with two children.




Registrar/Office Administrator

Mr. Dean Kindle, A.A, B. A.

came to Excel with many years of director level experience having oversight for two Job Corps locations, Mississippi and Minnesota, respectively. Dean has executive executive-level oversight experience with helping young adults complete high school and acquire life skills for success.

In his role as Registrar, Dean is the gatekeeper that ensures student records are accurate and complete. Mr. Kindle serves in an essential role in handling new student records and transcripts, as well as processing student graduations, employer verifications, and graduate military verifications. Dean's office is one of the busiest offices in our school system.

Dean has an Associate degree in Bible from North Central University, Minneapolis, and a Bachelor degree in Education from Concordia University in St. Paul.

Dean has two children and resides in St. Paul, Minnesota.




Social Media Manager

Ms. Kate Clarkson

came to Excel Education Systems in 2016. Kate coordinates all of the school's social media activities to ensure that we stay connected to our students. Remaining engaged with our students is a top priority and Kate helps to ensure we are fully engaged with Excel's student community. Have a story or photos to share on facebook, Twitter, or Instagram? Email Kate at kclarkson [at] excelhighschool.com

Kate is currently attending Inver Hills College and pursuing a bachelor's degree in marketing.





Spanish Chair

Derek Drago

has worked with Excel for many years in the Spanish Department. Derek has been essential in developing Excel’s Spanish program to ensure that students’ master their Spanish courses and are well prepared to meet foreign language requirements for university admission. Derek earned his BA in Spanish from San Diego State University and his Master’s degree in ESL, Curriculum and Instruction from the University of Phoenix.




Student Account Billing/Bookkeeping

Ms. Sheila Christoffer

Brings over 20-years of customer service and bookkeeping experience to Excel High School. Sheila has been with the school since 2009 and loves her job! Sheila works diligently to ensure that all student financial records are current and up to date.

In her free time, Sheila enjoys spending her free time with her family and friends.




Student Services Coordinator

Mrs. Stacy McNeilly, B.A.

is a valuable member of our school system. In her role as a Student Services Coordinator, Stacy is responsible for assigning courses for all new students. When a new student enrolls at Excel, Stacy works diligently to quickly assess student files and assign online courses in a timely manner. Each student's program is individualized and is unique, so Stacy takes the time required to review transcripts to ensure accurate course placement.

Stacy works closely with the Excel team to provide excellent service to our students. Stacy is relentless when it comes to student success! Stacy works tirelessly to ensure that all students get access to their online courses in a timely fashion. Stacy says that she is proud and honored to work for Excel Education Systems.

Stacy received a Bachelor of Arts degree in Psychology from William Carey College. Before coming to Excel Stacy spent many years in Business Management; directing and leading a club with over 40 families. She later worked for an insurance company as a Licensed Agent; coordinating and organizing training material for over 50 agents. Stacy was responsible for overseeing the handling of court documents and research for a successful lead program. Stacy consistently receives exceptional work reviews.

Stacy lives in North Carolina with her husband and two children. Stacy was a collegiate athlete, playing soccer with her twin sister. She still enjoys playing today and is also a committed referee of all ages at various talent levels. In her spare time, she enjoys walking her dog, church activities, jogging, fellowship with friends, and lots of family time.




Student Support

Deanna McClay, B.A.

is a graduate of Wilmington University with a degree in General Studies. She also holds Associates of Arts degrees in both Biology and Journalism.

As an Air Force veteran, Deanna served as a Public Affairs troop and was the editor of the Airlifter, a 28-page weekly newspaper, efforts that earned her “Airman of the Year” in the Air Mobility Command.

Before her military service, Deanna worked in fields of photography and creative services and then went on to be a Natural Area Steward for the department of Environmental Resources.

Here at Excel, Deanna grades students’ English submissions and provides feedback for 11th and 12th-grade students.
A wife and mother, in her personal time, she homeschools her two sons and teaches at a homeschool co-op. She also enjoys photography and traveling with her family.




Student Support

Frank Laccone, B.S. M.S.,

Frank is originally from Illinois and has lived in five other states. Frank's professional background includes working as a Chimpanzee Caregiver in Mesa, Arizona. Frank cared for big cats at a wildlife park in Arizona. Mr. Laccone was a dolphin and sea lion trainer in San Diego, California and in Kingsland, Georgia. Frank began teaching science eleven years ago in Kingsland, Georgia and now lives in Chapel Hill, North Carolina.

Frank has taught a variety of courses at various levels from elementary through college. Before starting his teaching career, Frank earned his undergraduate degree from Purdue University in West Lafayette, Indiana. Frank was a two-time division I all American while wrestling for Purdue. Frank attended The University of Nebraska and earned his Masters Degree in Entomology.

Frank keeps busy with his awesome family. Frank has two sons, Isaac and Talon and is married to his wonderful wife, Shara. Frank enjoys hiking and camping. Frank has a true for love nature! Frank's favorite hobby is beekeeping. Frank has been a hobby beekeeper for the last four years; and also does some research with butterflies and moths.

Frank looks forward to getting to know each and everyone one of his students.




Student Support

Josh Girardin, B.S., MBA

has over 15 years of business experience and 10 years in higher education. Josh holds a Bachelor of Science degree in Sport Management & Marketing from Minnesota State University, Mankato and received his MBA degree from Capella University.

Prior to coming to Excel, he served as a Senior Academic Advisor at Capella University where he played an important role in ensuring student engagement and success. Josh has also worked in the Finance area at Ceridian and in the Quality Assurance area for a leader in the Health IT industry.

In his personal time, Josh enjoys spending time with his wife and two children. He is also a big Minnesota sports fan.




Student Support

Mrs. Kara Hensley, B.M., M.M.,

lives in North Carolina with her husband and three children. She has a Bachelor of Music Education degree and a Master of Music degree from the University of NC at Greensboro. Kara was the Director of Bands at Western Middle School in Elon, NC, for three years, leading the program to contain over 300 students, while winning numerous awards and superior ratings. Upon having her first child, Kara chose to stay home to be a full time wife and mother. While home, she also worked for an insurance company, handling the collection of court documents for the lead program.

Kara has also always homeschooled her three children and is completing her 10th year as a homeschool mom. She finds tremendous satisfaction in seeing her children grow in their studies, while being able to lead and guide them during this critical time in their lives. Currently, she is also a lead instructor at Alamance Community College in the GED program at night. Kara is devoted to serving all her students, seeing that they all have the opportunity to find success. She is very thankful to be a part of the Excel team!

In her spare time, Kara enjoys spending time with her family, attending her children's activities, leading the children's choir at her church, and fellowshipping with friends.




Student Support

Stephanie Harrison, B.S.

has called North Carolina home all her life. She is married to her high school sweetheart and is raising four sons. She graduated from UNC-Greensboro with a Bachelor of Science degree in Elementary Education and a Concentration in English.

Stephanie taught in the Alamance County school system before becoming a stay-at-home mom. She homeschooled her children for twelve years and was very active in the homeschooling community. Stephanie led her local homeschool co-op and taught various enrichment classes. She is a teacher at heart and counts it a privilege to be able to help students excel and continue to be a stay-at-home mom.

Stephanie enjoys teaching second grade Sunday school, spending time with family and friends, and dating her husband.




Student Support/Admissions Advisor

Mr. Paul Clarkson

Paul comes to Excel High School with over 30-years of management and customer service experience. Paul is highly dedicated to helping our students and parents with questions concerning the enrollment process at Excel.

Paul is here to support students/parents with the enrollment and school intake process. Paul's goal is to to put new online students' and parents' minds at ease with the transition into online school. Paul is a fine ambassador for EHS and is willing to do whatever it takes to help students succeed with transitioning to online school.

Prior to coming to Excel, Paul was charged with supervising client relations and customer service for a large hotel system.

In his personal time, Paul enjoys being a husband and father. Paul also loves the Vikings and the Minnesota Twins.




Student Support/Math Tutor

Mr. Drew Eid, B.A.

is an adviser, educator, and wise council for Excel students. From math tutor sessions to answering "How can I get my High School Diploma?" he is a partner in your educational success.

Drew received his Bachelor of Arts in religion, psychology, and bio-medicine from St. Olaf College and advanced degree in Christian Ministry from The Crossing College.

With years of experience as a youth counselor, student tutor, minister, and cinematographer, Drew has a heart to see people strive to their potential and is passionate about about each opportunity to serve students.

Drew's zeal for giving and volunteer groups keeps him very active in his community. His dedication to his local church, community outreach, youth sports, young adult physical, mental, financial, and spiritual health, and global relief efforts are some of his most rewarding experiences.



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Excel High School is a State recognized regionally accredited High School. Excel High School is accredited by AdvancED the parent organization for the North Central Association CASI, the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools CASI and Northwest Accrediting Commission - agencies recognized by the State Department of Education.