Programs + Events

Guests & Speakers

California State PTA is honored to have legislative leaders and experts on issues our members care about at this year’s California State PTA Legislation Conference.  

The speakers are listed as follows:

  • Keynote
  • California State PTA President
  • Alphabetical list of elected officials and expert speakers
  • Alphabetical list of panels

Shirley N. Weber, Ph.D., California Secretary of State

Shirley Nash Weber, Ph.D. was nominated to serve as California Secretary of State by Governor Gavin Newsom on December 22, 2020, and sworn into office on January 29, 2021. Voters elected her for a full term on November 8, 2022. Weber is California’s first Black Secretary of State and only the fifth African American to serve as a state constitutional officer in California’s 173-year history.

Weber was born to sharecroppers in Hope, Arkansas during the segregationist Jim Crow era. Her father, who left Arkansas after being threatened by a lynch mob, did not have the opportunity to vote until he was in his 30s. Her grandfather never voted as custom and law in the South, before the Voting Rights Act of 1965, systemically suppressed voting by Blacks. Although her family moved to California when Weber was three years old, it was her family’s experience in the Jim Crow South that has driven her activism and legislative work. She has fought to secure and expand civil rights for all Californians, including restoring voting rights for individuals who have completed their prison term. 

Weber attended the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA), where she received her BA, MA and PhD by the age of 26. Prior to receiving her doctorate, she became a professor at San Diego State University (SDSU) at the age of 23. She also taught at California State University at Los Angeles (CSULA) and Los Angeles City College before coming to SDSU. She retired from the Department of Africana Studies after 40 years as a faculty member and serving several terms as department chair.

Before her appointment, Secretary Weber served four terms as an Assembly Member representing California’s 79th Assembly District, which includes parts of the City of San Diego as well as several cities and communities in the San Diego region.  Weber also served as a member and chair of the San Diego Unified School District and has twice served as a California Elector, including chairing the California College of Presidential Electors on December 14, 2020.

During her tenure in the Assembly, Weber chaired the Assembly Elections and Redistricting Committee, Assembly Budget Subcommittee on Public Safety, and Assembly Budget Subcommittee on Health. Weber was the first African American to serve as the chair of the Assembly Budget Committee. She also served as a member of the Standing Committees on Education, Higher Education, Elections, Budget, Banking and Finance. 

In addition, Weber chaired the Select Committee on Campus Climate, which was created to examine and mitigate hate crimes on California’s college and university campuses. The committee also explored student hunger, sexual assaults, homelessness, and freedom of expression. She formerly created and chaired the Select Committee on Higher Education in San Diego County, which explored the need for an additional higher education facility in San Diego and ways to improve the quality, affordability and equal access of higher education in the region.   

From 2019 – 2020, she served as chair of the California Legislative Black Caucus (CLBC), which consists of the state’s African American legislators and has the goal of promoting equal opportunity for California’s African American community. Weber broke records during her tenure by garnering extraordinary support for CLBC’s efforts and its projects. 

Weber’s genuine passion and tireless quest for equality and fairness in all sectors of life have resulted in her pursuit of reforms in education and criminal justice. Her equity-oriented legislation includes: school finance and accountability, classroom safety, ethnic studies, early learners, attendance and dropout rates, quality instruction, law enforcements’ use-of-force and body camera practices, reparations, the CalGangs’ database, Affirmative Action, inclusive jury selection and instruction, predatory lending, resources for exonerees, restorative justice, racial profiling, among others. Weber has also pursued public policy changes related to health, senior citizens, veterans and military families.

Secretary Weber is a mother of two adult children, three grandchildren and was married for 29 years to the late Honorable Daniel Weber.  She is number six in a family of eight children. Her Parents, David and Mildred Nash, are deceased. Her hobbies are reading and traveling.

Shereen Walter, President, California State PTA

California State PTA President Shereen Walter has been involved with PTA for over 20 years, becoming involved for the same reason many parents do: to make a difference at their own child’s school. She has found

apassion for helping all children and families in California with her work as the California State PTA Community Concerns Advocate and as the VP of Health & Community

Concerns prior to her becoming President-Elect in 2021. She earned her BS in Geophysical Engineering from the Colorado School of Mines and her MBA from the University of California, Irvine. She has three grown children, Stephanie, Lindsey and Dylan.


Dawn Addis

Assemblymember Dawn Addis, Chair, Select Committee on Serving Students with Disabilities

Logo, branding. Speaker Asm Dawn Addis. Background image Sacramento, CA skyline, river and yellow bridgeState Assemblymember Dawn Addis was elected to the California State Assembly in 2022 to represent the coastal 30th Assembly District, which includes large portions of San Luis Obispo and Monterey Counties and the south-eastern area of Santa Cruz County. Dawn is the Assistant Majority Leader for Policy and Research, the Assembly appointee to the Ocean Protection Council, the inaugural chair of the California Legislative Central Coast Caucus, and the President of the California Legislative Central Coast Caucus Foundation. She chairs the Assembly Select Committee on Offshore Wind Energy in California and the Assembly Select Committee on Serving Students with Disabilities.
A special education teacher who began teaching in public schools over 20 years ago, Dawn holds a Master of Arts (MA) degree in special education from San Francisco State University. She has teaching credentials in elementary education, secondary education and special education and is fluent in Spanish. Dawn’s long record of community involvement includes co-founding the Women’s March in San Luis Obispo and being a Planned Parenthood Central Coast Action Fund board member. In 2018, she won her first elected office, to the Morro Bay City Council, and served from 2018 to 2022.
Dawn has achieved many firsts. She is the first Democrat to represent the majority of San Luis Obispo County in the State Assembly since 1947. She is also the first Democrat from San Luis Obispo County to serve in the State Assembly since 1922, and the first Democratic woman ever to hold this seat. Dawn and her husband Marcus have raised two children on the Central Coast. They have two rescue fur babies, Oppenheimer the tabby cat and Beef the Chow dog.

Jessica Bartholow, Chief of Staff for Senator Nancy Skinner 

Logo and branded. Speaker Jessica Bartholow. BackgroundJessica (Jess) Bartholow (she/her) serves as Chief of Staff for the California Senate Budget and Fiscal Review Committee Chairwoman, Senator Nancy Skinner. Senator Skinner is also the Women’s Caucus Chair.

Before joining the California Senate staff, she was a legislative advocate at the Western Center on Law and Poverty for 11 years and worked for over two decades as an anti-poverty organizer, activist, program director, and policy advocate, having led some of the most transformational and cross-sectional anti-poverty campaigns in the state and across the nation. She has been recognized by members of the State Legislature and members of Congress for this work. She served as the safety-net chair for California’s Lift Children Out of Poverty Workgroup, which produced the first-ever state-level plan to end child poverty. She is a member of the National Academy of Social Insurance and serves on the Board of the National Diaper Bank Network and the National Alliance for Period Supplies and on the steering committee of the California Asset Building Coalition.

Jessica holds a Master’s Degree in Political Science and a second graduate degree in Democracy Studies. She holds many honors, including the Wellstone – Wheeler National Anti-hunger Advocate of the Year and the Women’s Foundation of California Trailblazer Award. She is an elected vice-chair of the Democratic National Committee (DNC) Poverty Council. Her story of how growing up poor helped drive her toward a lifetime of activism in anti-poverty work is documented in The Nation Magazine and Le Monde.

Assemblymember Mia Bonta, Chair, Health Committee, Chair, Select Committee on Place Based Systems of Coordinated Care for Children and Families

Logo, branding. Speaker Mia Bonta. Background: Sacramento, CA skyline, river, yellow bridge. State Assmblymember Mia Bonta was elected to serve California’s 18th Assembly District in a special election on August 31, 2021. The 18th Assembly District encompasses the East Bay area of Northern California. It includes a large portion of the City of Oakland and the cities of Emeryville and Alameda. Assemblymember Bonta’s priority is to make California a more affordable, inclusive, and equitable home for all.

Mia has spent her career advocating for students and working families. Mia made Alameda her home more than 20 years ago where she has worked for and led several nonprofit organizations focused on improving educational outcomes for low-income students. Prior to being elected to the State Assembly, Mia served as the CEO of Oakland Promise, a cradle-to-college and career preparation initiative across Oakland public schools. In 2018, Mia was elected to the Alameda Unified School District School Board and she served as Board President from 2018-2021. In addition to her professional work, Mia has served on the boards of national non-profits seeking to build power for low-income people like Community Change Action and local providers like Alameda Free Library Foundation. Mia also served as an appointed 18th Assembly District Delegate to the California Democratic Party and on the AD-18 Advisory Committees for Women, Education, and Early Childhood.

Mia’s advocacy on behalf of children and working families became the focal point of her campaign for Assembly. Mia has seen firsthand the cracks in the systems intended to lift up the most vulnerable in her community, and she campaigned on priority issues such as fighting homelessness, building more affordable housing, passing transformative criminal justice reform, and combating the threat of climate change. She also intends to prioritize issues in California’s public education system so that students and teachers have the resources they need to succeed.

A proud Black Latina, Mia was raised by activists who protested outside the halls of power so that one day, people like her could have a seat at the table inside. Growing up, Mia moved 13 times in 16 years, and with every move she carried what was most precious to her: a crate of books. Education was the one constant in her life, and Mia was fortunate to attend schools that would foster her love of learning and offer her a caring community of teachers and administrators committed to her success. For Mia, education was life-changing, and was what first inspired Mia to become a public servant. Mia holds a B.A. in Psychology from Yale University and went on to pursue an Ed.M from Harvard Graduate School of Education and a J.D. from Yale Law School. Assemblymember Bonta lives in Alameda with her husband, Rob, and their three children.

Edgar Cabral, Deputy Legislative Analyst, LAO

Edgar Cabral is a Deputy Legislative Analyst at the California Legislative Analyst’s Office (LAO), overseeing the office’s analytical work related to K-12 education and childcare. Over the past 16 years, Edgar has worked on a variety of education issues at the LAO, including school finance, school accountability, community colleges, and early childhood education. In December 2019, Edgar became the Deputy Legislative Analyst for the K-12 education unit. 

Prior to covering education issues, Edgar spent two years in the LAO’s Criminal Justice section. He has a B.A. in Sociology with a minor in Mathematics from the University of California, Irvine and a Master’s in Public Policy from the University of California, Berkeley. 

Born and raised in La Puente, California, he lives in Sacramento with his wife and two children.




Jessica Cruz, MPA/HS. CEO, National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI California)

LegCon24 logo. Picture of Jessica Cruz. Background image: Sacramento skyline, river and yellow bridge

Jessica Cruz is the current Chief Executive Officer for the National Alliance on Mental Illness, California and has served in this role for over fourteen years.  Working with legislators, community members and government officials, she uses her passion to advocate for change in mental health legislation and systems across the state.  Her desire to further NAMI California’s mission stems from lived experience of being a family member of someone with a mental illness. 

Jessica received her Master of Public Administration degree with an emphasis in Health Services from the University of San Francisco, where she focused her studies on policies in health care.  Her undergraduate studies in Mass Communication from California State University of Sacramento gave her the institutional knowledge to enhance her career in the public sector.

She is the Co-Chair of the Behavioral Health Action Coalition, has served as Governor Appointee to the Behavioral Health Task Force, a member of the Council on Physical Fitness and Mental Wellbeing chaired by the First Partner, the California Disability and Aging Community Living Advisory Committee, amongst other councils and committees. Jessica is a graduate of the USC Leadership Institute of Public Policy and the University of San Francisco Leadership Institute.  Jessica was awarded one of Sacramento’s 40 Under 40 Award in 2019.

Assemblymember Corey A. Jackson, DSW, MSW. Chair, Select Committee on California’s Mental Health Crisis; Chair, Budget Sub. #2 on Human Services

Logos, branding. Speaker Asm Corey Jackson. Background image of Sacramento, CA skyline, river and yellow bridge.State Assemblymember Corey A. Jackson, DSW, MSW, was elected to the California State Assembly in November of 2022 to represent the 60th Assembly District. In 2023, he chaired the Human Services Committee and currently serves as the chair of Budget Subcommittee No. 2 on Human Services.

Assemblymember Jackson served on the Riverside County Board of Education in 2020 and represented portions of the cities of Riverside, Moreno Valley, Perris, and the unincorporated community of Mead Valley. He also served as the founder and Chief Executive Officer of SBX Youth and Family Services who’s mission is to break the cycle of poverty and violence through mentoring, education, and community organizing. The organization was instrumental in a historic settlement of a lawsuit against the unconstitutional Youth Accountability Team (YAT) program in Riverside County that treated thousands of youths — especially those of color — like criminals for minor adolescent misbehaviors, the county agreed to groundbreaking measures.

Dr. Jackson graduated from CSU San Bernardino, where he received his degree in political science and served as a member of the CSU Board of Trustees and Chair of the Santo Manuel Student Union Board of Directors. He is also a graduate of California Baptist University, where he received his Master of Social Work degree and a Doctor of Social Work degree.

Assemblymember Al Muratsuchi, Assembly Education Committee Chair

LegCon24 branding. Asm Muratsuchi pictured. Background image: Sacramento skyline and river, yellow bridge. State Assemblymember Al Muratsuchi represents the 66th Assembly District, located in the Los Angeles South Bay and Harbor Area. A champion for public education, Muratsuchi serves as Chair of the Assembly Education Committee and previously served as Chair of the Assembly Budget Subcommittee on Education Funding. He is also fighting climate change as former Chair of the Joint Legislative Committee on Climate Change Policies, authoring landmark legislation for California to achieve carbon neutrality and reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 85 percent by 2045. Muratsuchi has written laws to fight for education, jobs and the economy, clean energy and environmental justice, public safety, veterans, and small businesses. He has helped deliver billions in increased funding for California public schools and for universal high-speed internet access to close the digital divide.
The son of immigrants, Muratsuchi was born and raised on U.S. military bases overseas before arriving in California in 1982. A product of public schools and a first-generation university graduate, he attended the University of California, Berkeley, and received a Juris Doctor degree from UCLA before settling in the South Bay. Muratsuchi has dedicated his career to public service, working as a UCLA lecturer, civil rights lawyer, and Deputy Attorney General with the California Department of Justice. Prior to serving in the California Legislature, he served on the Torrance Unified School District Board of Education, Southern California Regional Occupational Center Board of Trustees, and Torrance Planning Commission. Muratsuchi lives in the South Bay with his wife Hiroko Higuchi, Ph.D., his daughter, who attends a local public school, and their dog Teddy.

Senator Josh Newman, Chairman, Senate Standing Committee on Education

LegCon24 logo. Picture of Sen. John Newman. Background image: Sacramento skyline, river and yellow bridge
State Senator Josh Newman represents the 29th Senate District, which is comprised of portions of Los Angeles, Orange, and San Bernardino Counties.
Senator Newman is Chair of the Senate’s Committee on Education. He also serves on the Senate’s committees on Budget & Fiscal Review; Budget Subcommittee 5 on Corrections, Public Safety, Judiciary, Labor and Transportation; Elections; Energy, Utilities and Communications; and Transportation.
Senator Newman is a former United States Army officer, businessperson and veterans’ advocate, and lives in Fullerton with his wife and daughter.

Senator Anthony J. Portantino Chairman, Senate Standing Committee on Appropriations

LegCon24 logo. Picture of Sen. Anthony Portantino. Background image: Sacramento skyline, river and yellow bridge
State Senator Anthony Portantino represents California’s 25th State Senate District, which stretches along the 210 Freeway from Sunland/Tujunga to Upland. He proudly represents the Rose Bowl, Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Griffith Park, Warner Brothers, Disney, Caltech and the Claremont Colleges.
Supporting public education, mental health, and sensible gun control have been priorities for Senator Portantino during his time in office. His accomplishments include increasing funding for special education and the K-12 Local Control Funding Formula. He has authored legislation that created California’s umbilical cord blood collection program, pushed back school start time for middle and high schools, banned the open carry of handguns on Main Street California, raised the purchase age of firearms to 21, and placed the suicide hotline number on student identification cards. In addition, his efforts have created a science fellowship in the State Capitol and established a unique partnership between the University of California and Historically Black Colleges and Universities.
He personally negotiated the end of the 710-freeway tunnel with the Brown administration and authored SB 7, which formally ended the threat of the freeway, protected the non-profits in the corridor, and paved the way for Pasadena to develop the dormant freeway stub.
Senator Portantino currently serves as the Chair of the Senate Appropriations Committee and a Select Committee to foster trade between California, Armenia and Artsakh.
Prior to his years as a representative, he spent many years working in film and television production, served on the California Film Commission, and spent nearly eight years on the La Cañada Flintridge City Council, with two terms as Mayor. In 2019, he was awarded the prestigious Ellis Island Award at a ceremony in the historic island’s great hall.
Senator Portantino grew up in New Jersey, where he attended public schools and graduated from Albright College in Reading, Pennsylvania, where he met his future wife, Ellen, a longtime business executive at Warner Brothers and Disney. They have two daughters.

Environmental and Climate Action in TK-12 Schools Panel

LegCon24 logo. Pictures of Environmental Panel speakers. Background image: Sacramento skyline, river and yellow bridgeAndra Yeghoian

Ten Strands – Chief Innovation Officer
Andra Yeghoian is the Chief Innovation Officer for Ten Strands, a San Francisco Based nonprofit whose mission is to build and strengthen the partnerships and strategies that will bring environmental literacy to all California’s nearly six million students. Andra has nearly 20 years of experience in education across public and private school systems, nationally and internationally, and has served in a variety of roles, including: County-Level Environmental Literacy and Sustainability Coordinator, Site-Level Director of Sustainability, Secondary Humanities Teacher, Project Manager, Professional Development Facilitator, Adjunct Faculty, and Organizational Consultant. She holds a B.A. in International Relations and a Teaching Credential from UC Davis, and an MBA in Sustainable Systems from Presidio Graduate School (formerly Bainbridge Graduate Institute).
Most recently, Andra’s work has focused on implementing visionary leadership for a whole systems approach to integrating environmental and climate literacy, and sustainable and climate resilient school efforts, across all facets of an institution: campus and operations, curriculum and instruction, community engagement, and organizational culture. Additionally, under her leadership she has supported school sites, districts, and county offices in achieving honors such as the U.S. Department of Education and California Green Ribbon Award, Bay Area Green Business Certification, and LEED Platinum Certification for New Buildings.

1.22.24 Speaker Change: Zac Pierce
Rewiring America – Senior Manager, State & Local Policy

Zach has spent over ten years working as a public servant and an advocate on climate change and clean energy policy across the United States.  He is currently a Senior Manager at Rewiring America where he leads state & local policy efforts across the Western U.S.  He most recently served as North Carolina Governor Roy Cooper’s Senior Advisor for Climate Change Policy. Zach previously served in senior climate policy roles for Governor Jared Polis and Governor John Hickenlooper in Colorado. He was also a Senior Campaign Representative for the Sierra Club’s Beyond Coal Campaign, focusing on clean energy regulatory and legislative advocacy in Colorado and New Mexico.

In his free time, Zach likes to rock climb and play music.

Al Muratsuchi
California State Assemblymember, 66th Assembly District
Assembly Education Committee Chair
See bio above.
Mary Perry
California State PTA – Consultant
Mary Perry, now a consultant to the California State PTA, served on the Board of Managers for many years including one term as Vice President for Education. She currently represents PTA on the Climate Ready Schools Coalition. Mary began her involvement in public schools as a local PTA president and served on the governing board of the Campbell Union School District. She also worked as Deputy Director of EdSource and then as an independent education consultant, helping to explain education policy, data, and research to a wide range of education stakeholders, including parents. Her most recent focus is how education and climate issues intersect.