Leadership Team

Dr. Kristi Cole,


Chief Education Officer

Dr. Cole has been selected as Chief Education Officer for The Lincoln Academy.  Dr. Cole is responsible for leading efforts to launch The Lincoln Academy and will oversee educational programming and operations for the school. 


Dr. Cole was unanimously recommended by a hiring committee composed of members of The Launch Team.  When asked why he believed Dr. Cole would be a great leader for The Lincoln Academy, Pastor Dannie Evans, a member of the hiring committee responded, “I had an opportunity to witness first hand Dr. Cole interacting with parents and leaders from the Beloit community.  She showed the ability to listen, hear and be compassionate for the concerns of each parent she connected with. Dr. Cole’s belief that every child will be expected to succeed will help her lead a team that will follow her lead and create a classroom environment where our youth will learn and thrive.”  Dr. Cole has worked as a consultant with Kids First Beloit on the charter school project since August 2019.  She most recently served as the Chief Operations Officer for Milwaukee College Preparatory School, a high performing K8 urban charter school network in Milwaukee, serving 2,000 scholars  across four campuses.


Dr. Cole received her Bachelor’s Degree in Elementary Education from UW-Milwaukee, her Masters in Library and Information Science from UW-Milwaukee, her Masters in Administrative Leadership from Concordia University of Wisconsin-Mequon and her Director of Instruction License from Alverno College of Wisconsin.  In 2010, Dr. Cole earned her Superintendent’s License and in 2013 obtained her Ph.D. in Service and Leadership, both from Cardinal Stritch University in Milwaukee.


From 2011 to 2013, Dr. Cole also served as a School Leadership Coach for the non-profit organization, Schools That Can Milwaukee.  She taught an Emerging Leaders course for Alverno College in Milwaukee in 2015 and 2017 and served as the Principal at Humboldt Park K-8 School, a premiere multi-cultural charter school in Milwaukee Public Schools, from 2000 to 2007.  Dr. Cole then served as the Project Director for the Safe Schools/Healthy Students Initiative and the Director of Diversified Community Schools.  She later served as the Chief Charter School Officer under the direction of the Milwaukee Board of School Directors. Dr. Cole was selected as a Wallace Urban Leader Fellow, being named as one of the top 30 urban principals in the State of Wisconsin. She served on the State Superintendent’s Charter Schools Advisory Council and was a representative of the State Superintendent’s Committee of Practitioners.  Dr. Cole has served as a mentor to numerous new principals and has presented nationally in the areas of urban leadership, parent and community partnerships, positive school culture, school operations and restorative justice practices.


Dr. Cole would like the community to know, “I have had the wonderful opportunity to engage with many community members in Beloit and I am excited to be part of this incredible city.  My mission in life has been serving children to ensure they get a quality public education and I cannot wait to share my expertise and passion with the Beloit community.  I am honored to be selected as the founding CEO of The Lincoln Academy and I look forward to establishing a highly successful, rigorous and joyful K-12 charter school where all children will be provided a quality education that prepares them for a choice-filled life.”

Kari Flitz

Director of Instruction

Kari Flitz was the Chief Academic Officer of a high-performing charter network of schools for the past eight years.  She had previously led the original campus as Elementary Director and has 13 years of classroom elementary teaching experience.  

The charter network has four campuses that serve 2000 scholars in K4-8th grades in the inner city of Milwaukee.  Throughout different years, the Wisconsin Department of Instruction has recognized each network campus as a Five Star School that Far Exceed Expectations on the State Report Card.  

Her leadership skills were developed through participation in the Knowledge is Power Program (KIPP) School Leadership Program.   She earned her B.A. from Cardinal Stritch University in Education and her M.A. from Alverno College,and another M.A. from National Louis University in Administrative Leadership. She has made national presentations on assessment practices and systems.  Kari has previously served as a consultant on two Critical Friends Visit teams with the Achievement First Accelerator Team. 

Kari has led a network of schools serving over 2,000 low socio-economic status scholars.  Various campuses were consistently able to beat the Wisconsin averages of proficient/advanced on state assessments.  Proving that your zipcode doesn’t determine your destiny is something that Kari has been very proud to accomplish. 

She is also proud of the network professional development model that she created.  She designed and led content PD for all grade and content bands.  Teachers attended as network teams and worked collaboratively to refine their content skills and expertise.  Academic Deans then supported teachers with implementation at campuses.  Kari also coached principals on the instructional strategies presented at her network PD.

This fall Kari has begun a new role as Director of Instruction at The Lincoln Academy in Beloit, WI.  This will be the first independent charter school in Beloit.  She will have one year to plan the complete instructional program for K4-12th grades before the school opens in the fall of 2021.  

While not working, Kari most enjoys taking long runs with her Border Collie, Daisy, and going on long bike rides through the country.   She also enjoys spending time with her husband and two daughters.

Gregory Gurley

Director of Finance

and Operations

Gregory Gurley is an operational and financial leader with over eleven years of experience in the education and non-profit sector.  He started his career in education as an Operations Manager with Edison Learning.  In this job he served as the operations and financial leader for the successful opening and ongoing operations of two charter schools in Illinois.


Greg left Edison Learning to become a founding member of the Distinctive Schools leadership team. He served as the Director of Operations with Distinctive Schools. leading operations and finance across the three state network of schools.  

Greg earned his BBA in Finance and Business Management from the University of Miami and his Executive Scholar Business Degree in Nonprofit Management Northwestern University Kellogg School of Management.   

He is honored to come to the community of Beloit and to serve as a founding member of the leadership team at The Lincoln Academy.  As Director of Finance and Operations, his main goal is to ensure that The Lincoln Academy operates at peak efficiency with optimum financial health. He is excited to play such an instrumental role in assuring The Lincoln Academy is in the optimal position to provide the best possible education for scholars. 

In his free time Greg enjoys cooking, travelling and playing music with his wife and daughter. 



Director of Career Planning 

and Partnerships

Laura Benisch was the Work-Based Learning Coordinator at Clinton High School for the past nine years.  She built the program from the ground up and is excited to do the same for the scholars at The Lincoln Academy.  During her last year at Clinton High School she helped place over 60 students in work-based learning experiences with 30 of them earning Youth Apprenticeship certificates.  Laura built partnerships with local businesses and colleges.  Mentors and representatives attended the many career exploration events that Laura hosted at Clinton High School.  This work helped students think about their futures and start to explore different careers paths.  Last year alone 42 graduating seniors earned industry recognized certificates.

Laura earned her BSE in Business and Marketing Education from the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater and her M.A. from National Louis University in Educational Leadership.  She is currently finishing up her Career and Technical Education Certificate at the University of Wisconsin-Stout.  

She is excited and honored to be a part of the Leadership Team at The Lincoln Academy.  As Director of Career Planning and Partnerships her main goal is to ensure The Lincoln Academy scholars graduate career and college ready.  Scholars at all grade levels will participate in career exploration and work-based learning opportunities aligned with their individualized learning plan.  The Lincoln Academy will graduate 100% of scholars from high school ready to enroll in college, enlist in the armed services or be employed in a living wage job.  

In her free time she enjoys travelling with her husband and seven year old son.  

Contact Info





Office Hours

Walk-ins available every Wednesday from   12 p.m. - 4 p.m.