Our Staff

Photo of Executive Director Scott Thomas

Executive Director


Scott Thomas
 joined Magnet Schools of America in 2012. He began his career in education in 1999 as a middle and high school social studies teacher, and served for seven years as the Educational Equity Coordinator for one of Minnesota's largest school districts. As part of his responsibilities, Mr. Thomas supported the opening of three nationally recognized magnet schools, and also served as the district's director of Advancement Via Individual Determination (AVID).

Scott earned his undergraduate degree (B.S. Sociology-Secondary Education) from Minnesota State University, Mankato; his M.Ed. (Teaching & Learning) from Saint Mary's University (Winona), and his degree in K-12 administration through Hamline University (St. Paul).

Mr. Thomas was appointed by Minnesota Governor Mark Dayton to serve on the State's Integration Revenue Task Force. Scott has served on numerous boards including Magnet Schools of Minnesota, where he served as its first president and co-founded the Minnesota School Integration Council. He has provided numerous keynotes and workshops around issues of systemic racial equity and access to opportunities in schools.

Scott may be reached at scott.thomas@magnet.edu


Director of Organizational Leadership & Development

Crystal Moore, Director of Organizational Leadership & Development


Crystal A. Moore
 joined Magnet Schools of America in 2013 as the Director of Organizational Leadership & Development. She is responsible for growing MSA’s direct service to districts through professional development and technical assistance and seeking new funding sources for these offerings through corporate and foundations grants. Crystal brings nearly two decades of experience in education, fundraising, and training to her role at MSA, as well as a lifelong passion for educational equity.

Crystal has an undergraduate degree in public policy from the Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs at Princeton University and a Master's degree in elementary education from the University of Pennsylvania. After teaching third and fourth grades at a several Philadelphia schools, she worked as a Consultant for Wireless Generation and a Professional Development Specialist for DC Public Schools. 

Crystal can be reached at Crystal.Moore@magnet.edu


Photo of Legislative and Communications Manager John Laughner

Legislative & Communications Manager


John Laughner
 joined Magnet Schools of America in 2010. He is responsible for building federal support for magnet schools by developing working relationships with Members of Congress and their staff, White House officials, representatives from the U.S. Department of Education, and other national education groups. He also manages MSA's monthly eChoice newsletter, website, and social media tools.

Prior to joining Magnet Schools of America, John was the Legislative Director for the Committee for Education Funding, the nation’s largest education coalition. In this role, he led the education community’s advocacy efforts to increase federal funding for our educational system.

Mr. Laughner has experience working in the private sector. He worked for the lobbying firm, FBA, Inc., where he identified federal grant opportunities for universities and colleges, and assisted with congressional appropriations. He was a Legislative Coordinator at Stateside Associates, where he tracked and analyzed state legislation on behalf of multiple Fortune 500 companies. John also spent two years at the U.S. Department of Education, Federal Student Aid Office of the Ombudsman, where he helped resolve student financial aid disputes. He began his career in Washington, DC by working for several members of Congress.

Mr. Laughner earned his Bachelor’s degree in American Politics and Policy from the University of Central Florida, and his Master’s degree in Legislative Affairs from George Washington University.

John may be reached at john.laughner@magnet.edu 


Director of Operations

Judy Shen, Events Coordinator
Judy Shen
 joined Magnet Schools of America in 2007. She currently handles all aspects of conference planning, as well as office-related operations. In addition, Ms. Shen oversees the awards programs and manages MSA website content.

Ms. Shen graduated from the University of Maryland (College Park) with a B.A. in Communications. After graduation, she taught English overseas in China to a senior class at Hwa Nan Women’s College in the province of Fujian. Upon her return to the DC metropolitan area, Ms. Shen managed her family’s restaurant and eventually worked as a Special Events Assistant for the entertainment franchise Dave & Busters. Ms. Shen joined MSA, because she strongly believes in providing the best education possible to all students.  She knows first-hand the potential each child has when they are fully engaged in something they are interested in. She has been involved in educational programming since her high school days. Starting in 12th grade, Ms. Shen managed city-run afterschool and summer programs, designed to integrate the kids and families of diverse economic backgrounds into the community.

Ms. Shen was a varsity volleyball player at the University of Maryland. She remains physically active, playing, tennis and volleyball. She also enjoys watching movies, attending concerts and spending time with her family.  A Renaissance woman, Ms. Shen has taken courses in diverse fields, including art, automotive repair, education, and piano. She has also completed a massage therapy training program. 

Judy may be reached at judy.shen@magnet.edu


Membership Coordinator

Michelle Sands joined Magnet Schools of America in the summer of 2013. She graduated from Washington University with a B.A. in Economics. After graduation, she moved back to the San Francisco Bay Area to tutor middle- and high-school students in the SAT, ACT, and SSAT. Since moving to DC, she has interned for the Women's Foreign Policy Group as well as worked full-time on a presidential re-election campaign.Michelle joined MSA because she is passionate about providing a great education to students of all backgrounds. She currently volunteers at an education non-profit, where she tutors students twice a week in reading and writing.

Michelle loves staying active in DC, and most recently ran the 2013 Nike Women's Half-Marathon. She also enjoys outdoor movie screenings, backpacking, and plays on a bocce team.

You may reach Michelle at michelle.sands@magnet.edu