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Administration

Walden School's Administrators oversee the daily operations of the school, providing an important and valuable link between the faculty, staff, parents, students, and community at large.

Advancement Officer and Database Manager

Ludia Chae-Zerrudo

I have worked in Development for the past 8 years, and I am happy to join the Administrative team as the Advancement Officer and Database Manager. This is my second year at Walden. I am responsible for providing support and participating in all Development and Admissions activities, as well as providing vital organizational support by keeping all Walden students and their families’ information accurate, secure, and up to date, utilizing the database and online systems that the school employs. I hold a B.A. in Political Science from UC Irvine and a diploma in the Art of Cooking from the Art Institute of California, Orange County.

I enjoy spending quality time with my husband, son, and two dogs. I love to cook and travel. My most recent cooking project was making tequila lime seafood linguine.

Business Assistant

Hariani Laksana

This is my 18th year at Walden. I received my Bachelor's degree in Business Administration/Finance from University of Southern California and my MBA in Finance from California State University, Los Angeles. In August 1999, after being a stay-at-home mom with my twin boys, I came to Walden as an assistant in the Business Office. In my spare time, I like to read and travel with my family. My favorite travel destination is Bali, Indonesia.

Business Manager

James Cooper

I have spent the past 22 years working in key leadership roles in independent schools. For the past 8 years, I have been the Business Manager at Walden School. At Walden, I am responsible for all business, financial, facilities, and human resources activities. I hold a B.S. in Information Technology, an M.B.A., and a Graduate Certificate in Business Leadership for Independent Schools from Johns Hopkins University.

Outside of my professional career, I enjoy spending quality time with my family and friends. I also like to play golf and flag football. Another passion of mine is serving under-served and under-represented communities in Los Angeles.






Communications Associate

Benjamin Boquist

I am thrilled to be stepping into the role of Arts and Communications Associate at Walden! This year I will be joining Portia in the art studio and will lead art classes several days a week. When I learned that the Arts Associate position was open, I jumped at the opportunity for several reasons. Growing up, Art was always my favorite class. I love working with my hands and being creative. Moreover, since I first stepped into Walden's art studio, it has been my favorite room on campus. I love the vibe and I love Portia's (and the school's) philosophy of giving students creative freedom to explore at their own pace.

In many ways, this feels like something I've been preparing for myself for years. My undergraduate degree is in art. I've also worked on a number of film and TV projects as a production designer. In the off hours, I'm often painting, whittling or doing something creative. Art has been my passion for as long as I can remember. More importantly, though, I'm passionate about empowering students to own their creativity. I want them to have fun, to share, and to be proud of their work. In the last several years at Walden summer camp, I've had the opportunity to do this by leading collaborative art projects with kids. This year, leading art projects with kids will be my day job!

I will also be continuing my work as Communications Associate, managing the schools social media presence and contributing to the Walden Blog. In this capacity, I get to foster online community with Walden families. I also get to tell people outside our community about the great things that happen here. The combination of these roles feel like a perfect fit for me and it is with tremendous gratitude that I look forward to this school year.

Director of Admissions and Communications

Scott Turner

A dedicated educator for over 20 years, I have worked with students of all ages in independent schools, non-profits, and universities in the U.S. and abroad. After graduating from Bowdoin College in Maine, my first job was in the admissions office of a small independent school. Working closely with students there soon led me to become a teacher. I’ve taught English in Colorado, the mountains of Southern California, and various parts of China. Three years ago, after several years of working in international education at USC, I found myself back in independent school admissions. I am so happy that my path has now brought me to Walden School. The inclusive, creative, compassionate community here at Walden is both welcoming and invigorating. I am grateful for the opportunity not only to share Walden’s story with new families, but also to work closely with current members of this extraordinary community.

When I am not working, I love to spend time with my family, get outdoors and enjoy nature, or dive into a fascinating book.

Director of Development

Maureen Abbott Sprunger

I am thrilled and delighted to return to Walden as the Director of Development. I was first a part of the Walden School community six years ago, when I was asked to step in as the Interim Director of Development for two years. I continued in a consulting capacity on fundraising projects for two additional years. I am looking forward to working with Walden once again and am grateful for this opportunity.

For 13 years, I was the Associate Director of Development at Westridge School, where I was responsible for annual giving, parent relations, and all events and ceremonies. I have presented workshops at national conferences on building a strong parent-school partnership, and I have consulted to other schools in the area. Currently, I also manage the communications and publicity for a scholarship foundation headquartered in Los Angeles.

Earlier in my career, I was active in public school education, and I have presented testimony before the State Legislature on the importance of strong, well-funded public schools. I was a consultant to the Los Angeles County Office of Education and presented workshops all over California designed to aid elementary teachers with math and language arts instruction.

I attended USC, and I earned a B.A. in Journalism. I enjoy writing very much and love finding just the right words to describe a situation. I have lived in the area all of my life, and I have been active in several local organizations. I was an active in the Junior League of Pasadena for many years and now enjoy sustainer status. I have also been a docent at the Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens and was also a founding docent and co-author of the docent program at the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit (the old Vista del Arroyo Hotel) in Pasadena. I am currently a member of the Pasadena Guild supporting Children’s Hospital Los Angeles.

Executive Assistant

Whittney Rooks

I am so excited to be joining the administration team here at Walden. This is my third year being a part of the Walden community. I have worked with children for nine years and in management positions for over seven years. I have a B.A. from the University of Alabama at Birmingham alongside many other seminar/workshop trainings. At Walden, I am responsible for providing a sense of stability in the community, assist students with aid and comfort when needed, foster a partnership with faculty and staff to create a positive environment, and support the director’s daily operation of the school. My greatest joy about working at Walden is being a part of a culture that allows our students to be brave, asks questions, discover “who they are,” and allow opportunity for that idea to be embraced.

Interim Director of Studies

Portia Hein

This is my eighth year as an Art Specialist Instructor at Walden. This year I also have the honor to serve as Interim Director of Studies. This means that — in addition to my role as a classroom teacher — I will be helping, from a macro-perspective, students and faculty plan and achieve the high academic standards and personal growth central to the Walden educational experience.

A few words about art-making, which directly impacts the ways in which one sees and engages the world: art is not only an end in itself but also a means by which children explore big ideas, develop their fine motor skills, and build the sort of self-directed and purposeful personal narratives that are so meaningful to them. I am thrilled to spend my time working with children, helping them develop meaningful art experiences that will resonate with them for the rest of their lives.

I have taught at the college level in numerous institutions including the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA), Chapman University, California State University Los Angeles, and Pasadena City College (PCC). I received a BA from UC Santa Cruz in Fine Art and an MFA in Paining and Drawing from the University of Texas, Austin. I have exhibited my own artwork nationally and internationally. My paintings and drawings are included in numerous public and private collections, both in the United States and abroad.

Learning Specialist

Janel Umfress

I have been the Learning Specialist at Walden School since 2006 and have worked in education for over 30 years. My primary role at Walden is to collaborate with faculty and families regarding students' learning. I work with faculty to establish classroom strategies and accommodations that enable students to access curriculum and effectively show their learned knowledge. I support families by providing continuity from year to year and by offering recommendations for outside referrals and resources.

Typically the process starts with a teacher or parent consulting me regarding a student's inconsistencies in learning. Often the discussion revolves around the student's difficulty in aligning work output with curiosity and intellect. It may also be that a child's behavior is reflecting signs of avoidance, disinterest in school, or challenges with peers - which can also be indicators of learning challenges. I believe that it is the job of educators and parents to peel back the layers to begin to understand the child's inconsistencies and to think about the skills that need building.

The teacher and I will discuss the student's strengths, current challenges and questions to explore and let the parents know that I will be observing in the classroom. I am not formally assessing the student, simply noting learning and behavioral tendencies and processes. I recognize that parents may be fearful of a label, yet this is not the focus or intention of the observations.

My goal is to note patterns and to always have the child's learning and success in mind. Meetings are held with parents, teachers, and me to discuss our multiple perspectives. We think about what may be impacting the student, how we can work together to be supportive of the child's learning, what skills need to be developed or strengthened, and strategies that can be implemented at home and school.

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