About Florida Coalition of Scholarship Schools

Why should you join the coalition?

Since 2003, when The Coalition was formed, our members have raised their voices and been heard.  The Coalition led the way in 1) having students with 504 plans become eligible for the scholarship, 2) dissolving the payment for FLVS classes for scholarship students, 3) developing a school-to-work transition plan.

Joining us gives strength to your voice.

What does The Coalition do for you?

  • Provide you a voice at the legislature that helps to guide policy decisions concerning scholarships
  • Work with FL DOE on procedural issues that are workable for private schools
  • Alert you to any issues that could be detrimental to our schools’ ability to continue to provide programs using scholarships
  • Assist our member schools in promoting scholarships as a positive, strong addition to Florida’s educational options
  • Hold opportunities to network with schools at conferences

Board of Directors

Steve Hicks


Center Academy
(813) 909-9272

Dr. Debra Rains

Vice President

North Florida School of Special Education
(904) 724-8323 ext 1065

Rev. Jose J. Suarez, MBA


HOPE Youth Ranch, Inc.
d.b.a. HOPE Ranch Learning Academy
(727) 232-0119 office
(727) 505-1100 cell

Wendy Cox Blair


Arbor School of Central Florida
(407) 388-1808 school
(407) 488-6667 cell

Steve started teaching in 1982 and currently serves as the Chief Operations Officer for Center Academy Schools with 11 private school locations around the State of Florida and one Charter School located in Tampa. He is the current President of the Florida Coalition of Scholarship Schools (Formerly the Coalition of McKay Scholarship Schools). He currently serves on the Board of FAANS (Florida Association of Academic Non-Public Schools) which he has for over a decade, serving as Treasurer for many years. His passion for serving all families in the State of Florida continues to drive his service to Private Schools in Florida through the Coalition as an advocate for legislative change.

Dr. Debra Rains currently serves as the Assistant Head of School at the North Florida School of Special Education. She has worked in the field of Special Education for over 30 years, with 18 of those spent at NFSSE. Debra has an education background with experience in the deaf education classroom as well as significant experience as a speech and language pathologist with students with special needs. Dr. Rains has combined those backgrounds to develop an academic program which is therapeutic in nature and
forms the foundation of the education culture at North Florida School. Debra completed her doctoral program at the University of North Florida with an emphasis on accountability in private schools serving students with Intellectual and Developmental differences. She has a passion for coaching teachers toward best practices in instructing students who learn differently, seizing naturally occurring teaching and coaching moments and facilitating engagement in learning.

Dr. Rains imposed a therapeutic academic program, emphasizing accountability in schools serving students with Intellectual and Developmental differences. Her passion is coaching SPED teachers to facilitate engagement for individualized learning.

Jose Suarez, Co-Founder & CEO, is a University of Texas graduate and finishing his MBA this December through the University of Phoenix. Jose has over 20 years of management experience in the national and international field, focusing on process optimization and quality improvement.  His passion to deliver the highest value at the lowest cost point creates a win-win position for his customers and his organization.  He is an international speaker, teacher, published author, and has a background in applied statistics and finance.  He is ordained by Nations Network of Ministers International, Inc., where he serves as President of this international ministerial organization, establishing Bible colleges throughout the world to train and credential local ministers.  His most treasured titles are husband to Ampy Suarez and grandfather to seven wonderful kids.

Wendy joined the board of the Coalition in 2009 and is the Executive Director of Arbor School of Central Florida, located in Winter Springs. Her mid-size school of 160 students focuses on academics, sensory, language, and social development. She joined Arbor School in 2005, first as a teacher, then taking the Director role in 2010. Previously, she worked in Early Education in Washington and Alaska. On a personal note, she and her husband have 4 grown children and 6 grandchildren.

Dorinda Luzardo, MS Ed., MLIS

Board Member

Angels Reach / Trinity Christian Academy
(305) 828-5276 school
(786) 395-1919 cell

Chris Pello

Board Member

Livingstone Schools Inc.
(813) 404-1598 cell

Jose O. Cossio

Board Member

Our Lady of the Rosary School
(305) 271-8389 school
(305) 479-7875 cell

Andy Uprichard

Board Member

CES Academy
(904) 652-1282

Coming Soon!

Professional Description
Chris is currently the CEO and Founder of Livingstone Schools, Inc., Florida Trade Academy (FTA), and Signature Education Management Services, Inc. (SEMS)
Livingstone Academies, founded in 2003, is a non-profit, private school organization with four locations in Hillsborough County, Florida. Livingstone Academies currently serves over 425 students with unique abilities and employs over 90 employees at its Seffner, Riverview, Valrico, and Brandon locations.

Florida Trade Academy is a trade school for adults offering pre-apprenticeship programs in construction, automotive, and IT. FTA also serves as a sponsor for registered apprenticeship programs throughout the state of Florida, helping businesses with their workforce development. Signature Education Management Services is a full-service education management company offering support to K-12 schools throughout Florida. The team at SEMS can provide a turnkey solution to start-up schools as well as ala carte services to meet the specific needs of clients.

Chris has over 30 years of leadership experience in the field of education as a school operations specialist. Chris has served as a CEO, principal, athletic director, teacher, and coach. Chris has also served as a pastor for over ten years, and he also served as a board member for numerous non-profit organizations in the Tampa Bay Area.

Chris is also a graduate of Leadership Brandon 2015 and was the chairman for Leadership Brandon class of 2018. He was also the recipient of the Leadership Impact Award in 2018, given by The Brandon Chamber of Commerce. Chris also serves as the Chairman of the Board for High 5 Inc., a local non-profit organization whose mission is to impact the lives of our community daily. Chris also serves on the statewide FES-UA Advisory Council; its focus is to advocate for K-12 private schools as well as scholarship funding for students with special needs.

Coming Soon!

Andy began his educational career by graduating from Stranmillis University College, Belfast, Northern Ireland, in 2010. A college with an esteemed history of innovation in education, shaping practice through its world-class educational research. Upon graduation, Andy proceeded into a teaching career at some of the highest-rated schools within the province.

In the same year, Andy met his wife, Natalie, a Jacksonville native. In 2013, he moved to Florida to marry her; two years later, Andy joined Children’s Educational Services in 2015. He quickly established himself as an accomplished Principal while immediately impacting the academic programs available at all CES Academy locations.

Shortly after, he moved into a full-time Vice President role to bring organizational growth and academic quality across the organization. Since 2015, CES has grown as a fully accredited organization with a staff growing from 40 employees to over 100, bolstered by a significant increase in its student body of more than 800 students across six Florida locations.

Everyone at CES is passionate about serving those who serve our students, and every team member at each CES Academy is passionate about championing students throughout Florida. Andy has a heart for representing private education and expanding educational opportunities for all children across the state. He is extremely proud to be representing the Florida Coalition of Scholarship Schools.

Tim Vanderveer

Board Member

Wakulla Christian School
(850) 926-5583

Steven Whiteacre

Board Member

Christian Prep School
(407) 946-0231

Deb Kelley


The WriteOne Creative Services
(813) 416-2068

Tim is currently the Dean of Administration at Wakulla Chrisitan School in Crawfordville, Florida. He joined the administrative staff at WCS in July 2022 after serving as the administrator at Ruskin Christian school, Ruskin, Florida, for nineteen years. Desiring to be near family, including two very active grandsons, Tim and his wife, Debbie, moved to Crawfordville.

Having served in Chrisitan schools in Florida (37 years) and Texas (6 years), Tim has 43 years of experience as a teacher and administrator.

Coming Soon!

A Tampa native, having earned her degree from the University of Tampa, Deb is the marketing director at Powerstories Theatre. In her other hats, she has owned The WriteOne Creative Services, a one-stop-creative shop for graphic design, web design and maintenance, and PR copywriting since 2005. You’ll also regularly spot her reporter’s byline in numerous Tampa Bay magazines and newspapers, and she’s also a theater critic for Broadway World, Tampa. In her rare free time, she’s an author, lyricist, producer, director, actor, and award-winning playwright with plays across stages in Tampa Bay.

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