The Polk Foundation – Staff
Michael Gibbs Sheppard was born in 1952 at the US Army Hospital in Camp Chaffee Arkansas. His older brother and sister were born in Yokohama, Japan. The son of a decorated World War II, Korea, and Vietnam veteran, Michael lived overseas for many years and went to numerous schools as the youngest member of a constantly relocating military family.
He attended Morehead State University as an ROTC cadet, serving as an officer in Tau Kappa Epsilon Fraternity and moving on to Salmon P. Chase Law School where he earned Honors in Criminal Trial Practice and Deans List designation.
Mr. Sheppard has been an insurance executive and General Counsel, serving large carriers in London and throughout the USA, as well as representing the industry in Washington, DC as a government affairs liaison. He has been taught at paralegal institutions, and is admitted to practice in Ohio and Tennessee and before all Ohio and Tennessee courts, the US District Courts, and the US Supreme Court. He has earned national recognition for his legal service to Veterans, appearing on CNN, NBC Nightly News, and Good Morning America.
He has served as a Deacon in his Church, President of his Homeowner’s Association, President of Civitan, as well as Baseball Commissioner and Coach.
Mr. Sheppard is currently Associate Director of Professional Educators of Tennessee and passionately dedicated to the empathetic, knowledgeable advocacy of its members and the teaching profession. He now serves as President of the Polk Foundation, a non-profit organization created to provide innovative and practical solutions for educators as well as legal support.
He has written numerous articles on the teaching profession, including one in which he studies the similarities between military post traumatic stress disorder and the stress experienced by dedicated teachers.
Chief Financial Officer
Retired in June 2015, Jan Forman is the former Associate Executive Director and Chief Financial Officer of Professional Educators of Tennessee. His role evolved to a strategic partner and advisor to the CEO and the Board of Directors. Jan has earned a sterling reputation and is well respected by those inside the organization as well as those outside the organization.
Before joining Professional Educators of Tennessee, Mr. Forman served as Dean of Enrollment Management at Trevecca Nazarene University. He was responsible for the admissions program of the University and also supervised the Office of Financial Aid and the Registrar’s Office.
After graduating from Trevecca, Mr. Forman began his teaching career in West Virginia as a fifth and sixth grade teacher. He later taught in junior high and was cited by the State Department of Education for his work with civil rights and human relations. This led to a position as a Program Specialist with the State Department of Education where he edited a Human Relations Handbook for all public educators in West Virginia.
He received the Master of Arts degree from West Virginia University and worked as a Social Studies Specialist with the Diagnostic and Prescriptive Center for Education Environments. He assisted in the development of diagnostic and prescriptive procedures for evaluating public and private schools. Mr. Forman also taught Psychology, Economics and Sociology at the senior high level where he served as department chairman.
Polk Foundation Board Member
John C. “J. C.” Bowman is the Executive Director & CEO of Professional Educators of Tennessee. Dr. Bowman began his career in education in Tennessee public schools, where he taught high school social sciences and special education for thirteen years. He was elected to three terms as vice-president of the National Association of Professional Educators. He has an extensive background developing legislative priorities, evaluating existing education policies, and coordinating political activities with policymakers and lawmakers. Prior to this position, Dr. Bowman served as the Chief Policy Analyst of the Education Policy Unit for Florida Governor Jeb Bush. During his tenure in the Bush administration the state completed an ambitious school code rewrite. In 2003, Dr. Bowman received the SMART Award from the National Institute for Educational Options, Fischler Graduate School of Education and Human Services at Nova Southeastern University for his educational efforts in Florida.
Dr. Bowman is the former Director of the Center for Education Innovation at Florida State University and in addition he previously served as Director of the Florida Department of Education Choice Office. He has also previously served as Director of Education Policy for the Tennessee Institute for Public Policy, President of Children First Tennessee, and Director of Research for the Texas Public Policy Foundation, a free-market think tank. In 1999, he was designated a Distinguished Fellow of the Texas Justice Foundation.
A popular speaker, Dr. Bowman has appeared on radio and television shows, and been featured at events on the local, state and national level. In addition to authoring numerous academic studies and articles for various organizations and publications, he serves on the Editorial Board of the Journal of School Choice, published by Haworth Press. He continues his work in faith and community initiatives through EPPC Global Management, working with non-profit organizations across the globe including an AIDS organizations in Botswana and character education programs in Rwanda and the Congo.
This management experience has allowed Dr. Bowman to gain valuable hands-on insight into large and small organization governance and be a tremendous asset working with non-governmental organizations committed to improving their communities. He also serves on the Board of Directors of the Polk Foundation, which provides legal assistance to non-union teachers.
J. C. Bowman is a Marine Corps veteran, meritoriously promoted twice in the line of duty. He served in the Tennessee National Guard and the Army Reserve. His academic background includes attending Lee University where he earned a Bachelor of Science in Education (Social Sciences, emphasis in History) and Trevecca Nazarene University where he attained his Master of Education (Administration and Supervision). He has also completed further coursework in Special Education at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga and the University of Tennessee at Martin. His doctoral degree is from Emmanuel Baptist University.
His political honors included being named an Honorary Member 100th Tennessee General Assembly (House of Representatives) in 1997 and the National Performance Review by then Vice-President Al Gore for his contribution to building a government that works better and costs less in October 1995. Tennessee Governor Don Sundquist appointed him to the Board of Trustees at Moccasin Bend Mental Health Institute in April 1997. From 1999 to 2001, he chaired the Union Affairs Sub-committee of the American Legislative Exchange Council’s Education Task Force.
J. C. and his wife are the proud parents of two grown daughters, two sons-in-law, and four grandchildren. They have been married for 29 years and reside in Franklin, Tennessee.
Polk Foundation Board Member
Karen Stroud was hired as the Member Services coordinator in June 2016. Her responsibilities center around building and maintaining membership for Professional Educators of Tennessee. She is in the business of forging relationships with educators statewide by visiting schools, attending district-wide meetings, sponsoring education conferences, establishing and communicating with district member leaders, and distributing literature across the state, serving as a liaison between ProEd members and the ProEd office. Karen also works closely with Tennessee Colleges of Education, reaching out to prospective future teachers, advising them on the benefits and growth opportunities provided by membership in a professional association.
Before being hired by Professional Educators, Mrs. Stroud taught in both private and public education in Tennessee, Illinois, and Oregon for a total of 31 years. She retired from Rutherford County, Tennessee Schools in May of 2016. During her time as a Tennessee teacher, she was active on the Board of Directors for Professional Educators of Tennessee, and served as Vice President.
Mrs. Stroud graduated from Lipscomb University with a degree in Elementary Education. She received the Masters of Education degree in Reading from Middle Tennessee State University and completed her +30 subsequent to that.
Karen is married to Mike Stroud and resides in Murfreesboro, Tennessee. They are the proud parents of three children and six grandchildren.