Central Office Personnel

Dr. Freda Deskin

Chief Executive Officer/Founder

Dr. Freda Deskin

Dr. Freda Deskin is the Chief Executive Officer/Founder of Advanced Science and Technology Education Charter (ASTEC) Schools in Oklahoma City. ASTEC was the first start-up charter school in the state and serves nearly ASTEC 1,000 inter-city students in grades 6-12. Dr. Deskin earned a bachelor’s degree in elementary education from the University of Central Oklahoma and a master’s degree in secondary education and a doctorate in curriculum and instruction from the University of Oklahoma (OU), where she was a National Collegiate Scholastic All-American. She holds a certificate in strategic management from Harvard University and has completed additional coursework in finance at Oklahoma City University (OCU).

As a leader in education for four decades, Dr. Deskin taught for fifteen years at the pre-collegiate level and nine years at the University of Oklahoma. She served for six years as a university dean at Oklahoma City University until founding ASTEC Charter Schools in 2000. Dr. Deskin has been honored numerous times at every level for her teaching and leadership skills and for her community commitment. Dr. Freda Deskin has long been an innovator in education, impacting hundreds of thousands of learners. She established the “Oklahoma Odyssey of the Mind,” the Oklahoma Aerospace Academy, the International Aerospace Academy, “Team Quest,” ropes and leadership programs at both OU and OCU and co-founded For Youth Initiatives (FYI) a high school dropout awareness and prevention program. In 1985, Deskin was selected as a finalist in NASA’s “Teacher in Space” project, becoming one of only 100 individuals in the world with the official title of “U.S. Space Ambassador.” Dr. Deskin has been honored by more organizations than can be mentioned, including the Boy Scouts of America, the Girl Scouts of America and the American Institute of Architects, and the University of Oklahoma Jeannine Rainbolt College of Education’s “Career Achievement Award” her continued contribution to education. In addition, a host of education and business leaders have recognized Dr. Deskin with awards and citations for her outstanding contributions.

Dr. Deskin is listed in Who’s Who in American Education, Who’s Who in the World, Outstanding Women in American and 2000 Notable Women in the US, and the 2002 International Who’s Who of Professional Educators. She was named “Woman of the Year” for Oklahoma by the Girl Scouts and was named as one of the “50 Women Making a Difference” in Oklahoma on three occasions making her eligible for the Journal Record’s “Circle of Excellence.” She received Frank G. Brewer Award for the Southwest Region for outstanding contributions in aerospace education, the prestigious “By-liner” award by Women in Communication, and was named by Enterprising Women magazine as “Enterprising Woman of the Year.” Dr. Deskin has developed programs, curriculum guides and books for national educational organizations such as the Challenger Center for Space Science Education, NASA, Disney’s EPCOT Center and the Experimental Aircraft Association (EAA).

Dr. Deskin has been featured in a number of national publications including Education Week and various educational videos. She is a member of the National and State “Women President’s Organization” (WPO) and the International Women’s Forum. She served on the State Individual’s with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) Advisory Panel and is the chair of the Red Earth curriculum committee. Dr. Deskin is a member of Leadership Norman and Leadership Oklahoma City and Leadership Oklahoma. She has been inducted into the Women in Aerospace Hall of Fame in Washington, D.C.  and the Oklahoma Educators Hall of Fame.

Mr. Harold Roberts

Chief Operating Officer

Mr. Harold Roberts

Harold Roberts brings to ASTEC a wealth of experience as chief administrator of one the first Charters in the State of Oklahoma. His proven success in the role of Director of Development & Operations for Tulsa’s Deborah Brown School is well documented. Among other notable accomplishments at the school, he was instrumental in securing funding for technology; for establishing the first Higher Education Institution Charter School Sponsorship in Oklahoma; and for restructuring the organization to generate unprecedented savings as well as a substantial fund balance for the school.

A native Oklahoman with strong ties to the business, civic and political sectors of the community, Harold has a renowned history of public service in the State. Not only has he served as Assistant Director of Judicial Education for the Oklahoma Supreme Court, but he also has been recognized by the Mayor of Oklahoma City for ten years of exemplary service as an At-Large member of Oklahoma City’s MAPS Citizens Oversight Board. In that capacity, he chaired the Location Site Review Committee with responsibility for more than $30 million of MAPS expenditures and served on the MAPS Finance and Construction Review Committees.

After graduating from Oklahoma City’s Bishop McGuinness High School, Harold earned a Legal Assistant Degree from Oklahoma Junior College in addition to studying Political Science and Public Administration at Boston College and Oklahoma City University, respectively. He has more than three decades of experience leading and developing highly effective teams and organizations in multiple industries and disciplines. More importantly, his passion for ensuring the availability of a quality education for Oklahoma’s youth is unrivaled. In returning from Tulsa to Oklahoma City, Harold comes back to a community where he has served on numerous civic Boards and task forces and where he formerly served as Director of Christian Education at his church.

Mr. Leo Espinoza

Chief Information Officer

Mr. Leo Espinoza

Leo Espinoza is a native of Southern California. He was an independent business owner in Seattle, WA for more than 25 years before moving to Oklahoma City. Technology, music and electronics have been hobbies Leo for more than 40 years. In 1998 Mr. Espinoza, began working with ASTEC on a voluntary basis, eventually resulting in the savings of many tens of thousands of dollars through his abilities in procurement and technology. In the summer of 2003, Mr. Espinoza was hired by ASTEC, Inc. as a network administrator and procurement officer. He has three grown children and a teenage granddaughter.

Misti Ashford

Headmaster

Misti Ashford

Misti Ashford is a native Oklahoman and has been at ASTEC Charter Schools for eleven years. Her first role was in the classroom as a 6th grade English instructor for which she was named Teacher of the Year in 2003. She then worked as a curriculum coordinator for the district before transitioning to Middle School Principal - a position she held for five years. Most recently, Ashford's role changed to include Federal Programs and all facets of Student Improvement for grades 6-12.

Prior to working in education, Ashford worked at Government Information Tracking (GIT) as editor of Capitol Network News a daily newsletter that covered the Oklahoma state legislature. Ashford earned her degree in communications from the University of Science and Arts of Oklahoma. As a senior in college, she was named editor of a small national magazine that covered the sport of rodeo. Upon graduation from college, she, along with her college professor, co-founded a small marketing firm that specialized in promoting equine events primarily on the East Coast. She worked in that capacity until she permanently moved to Oklahoma City. Ashford is a technology enthusiast. Away from work, she and her husband Nathan spend time pursuing their interests in music, writing and visual arts.

Manika Kataria

Finance Director

Manika Kataria

Manika Kataria was born and raised in New Dehli, India. She has been in the US for ten years and loves living in Oklahoma. After getting her degree in Finance and Accounting from the University of Delhi, she continued her education at Oklahoma City Community College, where she earned a degree in software engineering. Prior to joining ASTEC as the Financial Director, she was an account coordinator with Oklahoma City Public Schools. She also has experience as a personal banker and financial adviser with Bank of America, JP Morgan Chase and International Bank of Commerce. Ms. Kataria was awarded with the Bank of America Spirit Award during her service with them in 2004.

Ms. Kataria loves to spend time with her beautiful family and wonderful husband. She strongly believes that discipline and planning is the bridge between goals and accomplishments.

Amber Nelson

Human Resources Coordinator

Amber Nelson

Amber Nelson was born and raised in Oklahoma City. She is a graduate from the University of Oklahoma, with her B.A. in Sociology. She feels that the study and understanding of people and humanity has prepared her for personal and professional success. She has a background in management and training, and is very excited to be a part of the ASTEC family.

Her involvement in the Oklahoma City community runs deep and she is committed to stewardship as a way of life. She enjoys coffee, music, nature and spending most of her free time with her Great Dane, American Bulldog and Yorkshire Terrier.

Jennifer Gehay

Development Coordinator

Jennifer Gehay

Jennifer Gehay was born on Canon Air Force Base in Clovis, New Mexico. As the daughter of a now retired Air Force servicemember, she has lived in Virginia and Okinawa, Japan before finally settling permanently in Oklahoma. She graduated from Carl Albert High School in 2004 and attended Oklahoma Baptist University.

After graduating in 2008 with a Bachelor of Arts degree in Public Relations and a minor in Graphic Design, she began working as a Marketing and Advertising Specialist for the 72d Force Support Squadron for Tinker Air Force Base. She has been nominated for Civilian of the Quarter Category V "Newcomer of the Year" in 2009 and received the "Imagination and Innovation Award" in 2009.

She and her husband welcomed their first child together in August 2012. They both enjoy golfing and spending time with their two dogs, Mya and Juno.

Jenine Kern

Marketing/PR Coordinator

Jenine Kern

Jeni Kern was born in San Diego, California and grew up in a nearby town, Temecula. Jeni left southern California to attend The University of Arizona in Tucson, Arizona, where she studied psychology, adolescents, community and education. After obtaining her Wildcat diploma, Jeni moved to Orvieto, Italy where she traveled and studied intercultural communication and health before moving to Edmond, Oklahoma, which she now calls home. Jeni is a current graduate student at The University of Central Oklahoma, studying Wellness Management: Health Studies and has spent the last year serving the community through program development and direct services.

As a member of the Oklahoma Public Health Association, The Labyrinth Society, the National Society of Leadership and Success and the National Society of Collegiate Scholars, she is passionate about connecting organizational entities to better the overall wellness of youth and families. Jeni enjoys exploring Oklahoma and spending time in the sunshine with her fiancé, pets, friends and family.

Heather Cunningham

Accounts Payable

Heather Cunningham

Heather Cunningham is a native of Oklahoma. She is from Edmond, Oklahoma and attended the University of Central Oklahoma where she recently graduated in June of 2013 with a bachelor degree in Business Finance and a minor in Marketing.

She enjoys traveling to experience and embrace different cultures. Her time spent in California and in Europe has opened her eyes to diversity. Heather’s prior experience and education are the foundation for her success. Her true passion is in helping people. She believes that joining ASTEC Charter Schools will help her invest in the future success of youth within the community.

Her hobbies include cooking for family and friends. Other hobbies include any form of exercise that doesn’t feel like exercise, such as a long walk or a game of volleyball. In her free time, she enjoys listening to music or curling up with a good book while sipping coffee.

Stacey Hannan

Central Office Secretary

Stacey Hannan

Stacey Hannan was born in Illinois and grew up in the Illinois and Indiana area. She attended college in Illinois and has held positions in administration, management, education, customer service and hospitality. She realized her passion for individual education, advanced placement and charter schools while raising her son, whose success in education roots back to a magnet elementary school. Her son's steadfast intellectual growth spurred the development of her own home school support group in Chicago.

Her home school involvement quickly led to working with youth and young adults through the community college. That connection helped provide more opportunities for talent-based individual education in both public and private sectors within their district and the surrounding areas. Now that her son is grown, she and her two dogs have relocated to Oklahoma.

Her old school values, appreciation of cultural diversity, strong connection with nature and animals and desire to maintain a peaceful and balanced lifestyle have brought her back to the setting of some of her fondest childhood memories. While settling in Oklahoma, she was elated to find ASTEC Charter Schools and is proud to be on staff.