Marina LJAF HeadshotMarina Ballantyne Walne, Ph.D., Founder and CEO

B.A. degree with distinction, Stanford University
M.A. and Ph.D. in education administration with a concentration in business, Stanford University

Dr. Walne is CEO of EduStart LLC, a consulting practice specializing in start-up education and philanthropy ventures. She is also a board member of The Learning Accelerator, an organization committed to scaling up blended learning in school districts throughout the United States.

Previously, Dr. Walne served as Vice President for Education at the Laura and John Arnold Foundation.  As Vice President, she was responsible for the development of the foundation investment strategy and grant making related to education reform as well as hiring initial staff members. She supported the creation of the ERIN Project, an extensive knowledge management system for education.  She initiated and oversaw a grant to the NewSchools Venture Fund for the development of an educational technology landscape map and grants to Clayton Christensen Institute and iNACOL to further research and policy development related to blended learning.

From 2005 to 2010, Dr. Walne was Executive Director of the Institute for Public School Initiatives at The University of Texas (U.T.) System, a start-up organization dedicated to improving college readiness, access and success.  She was responsible for managing an 80-member staff and securing and implementing $100 million in grants. Including a $56 million Reading First grant from the Texas Education Agency, a $2.6 million grant from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, and a $25 million Teacher Incentive Fund grant from the U.S. Department of Education.

Dr. Walne has over 36 years of experience in education including Director of Admission at Rice University and Founding Head of The John Cooper School, a K-12 college preparatory school that in its first six years became one of the fastest growing college preparatory schools in the nation.  In 1995, Dr. Walne began a consulting business specializing in start-up education ventures.  She assisted in the development of four new independent schools located in Madison, WI, McAllen, TX, Kingwood, TX, and Houston, TX, as well as a charter school in Imboden, AK, and the first university-sponsored charter school in Texas, the U.T. Elementary School.

As a consultant to the Texas Business Leadership Council (formerly the Texas Governor’s Business Council Education Task Force), she helped develop the Charter School Resource Center of Texas, the Financial Foundation for Charter Schools, and the Charter School Policy Institute and was active in the Governor’s reading, math, science, teacher quality, early childhood, and high school initiatives.

Dr. Walne assisted the American Productivity and Quality Center in the development of its Education Initiative, including a partnership with the National Alliance of Business to develop the Baldrige in Education Initiative, a Process Improvement Project, and ConnectEd, a knowledge management system for educators.  She consulted with the U.T. System to develop TRACK, online learning modules aligned with the Texas high school standards, and several Early College High Schools, including the well-known Hidalgo Early College High School. She was a consultant to the U.S. Department of Education from 2001 to 2004 , working on special projects including the revision of the No Child Left Behind Blue Ribbon School Award Program.

In 2012, Dr. Walne worked with the Greater Houston Community Foundation on a blended learning pilot, producing two reports on blended learning, A Synthesis of Lessons from Early Innovators: The Promise of Blended Learning and Emerging Blended Learning Models: School Profiles, and delivering a related presentation to potential funders. She developed a Greater Houston Area Education Transformation Plan for a Houston business leader focused on scaling up blended learning in Houston and a city-wide education transformation plan for the Galveston Sustainable Communities Alliance.

Dr. Walne has served on the boards of The Woodlands Symphony Orchestra (founder and president), Houston YMCA (chair, Education and Facilities Committees), Houston Chapter American Red Cross, Houston Tomorrow, Education for Tomorrow Alliance (founder and vice president), Making Main Street Happen Foundation (founder), Society for the Performing Arts, the TPFA Charter School Finance Corporation (president), Edvance (president), the Bayou Preservation Association, and Advisory Board of the Neuhaus Education Center. She is a graduate of the American Leadership Forum Houston Chapter and a noted speaker, facilitator and trainer.


Institute for Public School Initiatives
As Executive Director of IPSI from 2005-2010, Dr. Walne supported the development of state-wide initiatives in early literacy, middle school mathematics, teacher effectiveness, new school models and college access. She managed a staff of 80 and secured about $100 million in grants to sustain operations.

I hired Marina to implement the business plan which she wrote for the Institute for Public School. In five years, she helped secure about $100 million in grants for statewide initiatives to improve public education in Texas, including replicating UTeach, developing some of the first Early College High Schools in the state, and developing new college access, and teacher incentive models.

Mark Yudof, former Chancellor, U.T. System and former President, University of California System

The Learning Accelerator
Board member for TLA, a nonprofit whose mission is to transform K-12 education by accelerating the implementation of high quality blended learning in school districts across America.

Marina Walne was the first person we asked to join The Learning Accelerator Board. She has an exceptional understanding of the promise of blended learning and the passion and ability to help us achieve our goal of scaling up blended learning in U.S. school districts in 5 years.

Gisele Huff, Executive Director, Jacquelin Hume Foundation

United States Department of Education
Dr. Walne worked in partnership with several staff members at the department to revamp the National Blue Ribbon School Program that recognizes top performing schools in the nation.

As a consultant, Dr. Walne led our effort at the Department of Education to add a strong focus on student achievement results and closing the achievement gap to our National Blue Ribbon Schools Program.

-The Honorable Rod Paige, U.S. Secretary of Education 2001-2005 

E3 Alliance
Founding Board member for E3 Alliance, a regional, data-driven education collaborative based in Austin, Texas. http://e3alliance.org/

Laura and John Arnold Foundation
As Vice President for Education, Dr. Walne helped develop the foundation’s education investment strategy, recruit and screen several staff members, oversee grant making in the education sector, and provide support for the development of an extensive education database, the ERIN Project. One grant to the New School Venture Fund led to the creation of a cutting-edge, interactive education technology landscape map.


For more than a decade, Marina has proven to be a true asset to education reform. I have known her since 2000, when she supported our effort to bring The New Teacher Project to Texas, and more recently worked closely with her in securing a major grant for StudentsFirst from the Laura and John Arnold Foundation. Marina’s expert advice and analytical skills were vital to the success of my organizations and are invaluable to the education reform movement in the United States.

-Michelle Rhee, CEO, StudentsFirst and Founder, The New Teacher Project

The John Cooper School
Dr. Walne served as founding head of this independent, nonsectarian, co-educational college preparatory day school which opened in 1988 with 170 students. It now enrolls more than 1,000 students and its graduates consistently attend many of the top universities in the nation.

I have paid Marina the highest compliment I can pay another educator: I have enrolled my son in the school that she founded, The John Cooper School.

Mike Feinberg, Founder, KIPP Academy Houston

Texas Business Leadership Council
As a consultant to the Texas Business Leadership Council (formerly the Texas Governor’s Business Council), Dr. Walne helped develop the Charter School Resource Center of Texas, the Financial Foundation for Charter Schools, and the Charter School Policy Institute and was active in the Governor’s reading, math, science, teacher quality, early childhood, and high school initiatives. She actively supported Texas leaders in establishing the following: a Teacher Incentive Fund; Math and Reading Academies; and the Texas Early Education Model (TEEM).

Marina’s analytical and interpersonal skills, knowledge of education policy, and persistence made her a strong ally in our efforts to improve public education in Texas.

-Robert Scott, former Texas Commissioner of Education



EduStart has access to additional expertise in public relations and marketing, charter school application development, graphic design, nonprofit creation, proposal writing, and project management through partnerships with the following organizations.

Blazek & Vetterling LLP

  • IRS Tax Exempt Documents

Peyton and Associates Consulting

  • Marketing
  • Editorial Services
  • Media Relations and Crisis Communications

Nancy Frank

  • Charter School Application Development
  • Grants and Proposal Writing

A Brand Strategy Consulting, LLC

  • Project Management
  • Online Marketing Strategy
  • Website Development

Judson Design Associate

  • Logo Creation
  • Graphic Design

Terry Bruner Law Firm

  • Business Law
  • Intellectual Property