Who We Are

President and Senior Producer, Debra Chasnoff

Debra Chasnoff

Academy Award–winning documentary filmmaker Debra Chasnoff is a nationally recognized champion of using film as an organizing tool for social justice campaigns, and a pioneering leader in the international movement working to create safe and welcoming schools and communities. Debra’s highly acclaimed documentaries addressing youth and bias issues are widely hailed by educators and advocates as among the best tools available today to help open up dialogue and activism around many of the most challenging issues affecting young people’s lives and school environments.

Her films include Straightlaced—How Gender’s Got Us All Tied Up, about the gender and sexuality pressures that teens and young adults face today. Her other award-winning films include It’s Elementary—Talking About Gay Issues in School, Let’s Get Real (about bias and bullying) That’s a Family! (supporting youth growing up in diverse family structures) and the Academy Award-winning Deadly Deception—General Electric, Nuclear Weapons and Our Environment. Her first film, Choosing Children, explored the once unheard of idea that lesbians and gay men could become parents after coming out.

In addition to dozens of film festival awards, Debra is the recipient of the Wallace A. Gerbode Foundation Fellowship for outstanding non-profit leadership, the Pathfinder Award from the Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network, and the first-ever alumnae achievement award in documentary filmmaking from Wellesley College. Debra has been a featured speaker at dozens of colleges and conferences, and was recently named a Woodrow Wilson Visiting Fellow. She is the founder of GroundSpark and co-creator of our renowned Respect For All Project. She has served the organization in a directing capacity since 1982.

Operations Coordinator, Brandy Sacks

Brandy is involved in all of GroundSpark’s day-to-day operations to ensure our success. He brings many years of diverse experience to this role. For eight years, he was the Administrative Manager at Bread for the Journey, a non-profit that spearheads neighborhood based micro-giving.

He spent another eight years as a Software Training Coordinator and Team Leader for DataQuick. With a masters degree in education, Brandy also has taught public elementary school and founded a private school in Santa Cruz, CA – a one-room schoolhouse in which he was the primary teacher.

Our Team

GroundSpark works with an evolving team of consultants on a wide variety of projects. Our current team includes:

Board of Directors

Joan Lefkowitz  (co-chair)

Joan Lefkowitz has been involved in the media production world for over 30 years. Joan’s current position as the San Francisco Public Library Web Services Manager puts her at the heart of the new media explosion, incorporating many forms of social media into a widely accessible format for a diverse audience of users. Joan was the editor of GroundSpark’s film, Deadly Deception, and she and her family are featured in GroundSpark’s film, That’s a Family!

Susan Lowenberg

Susan E. Lowenberg presides as President of the Lowenberg Corporation, a leading San Francisco commercial real estate firm. She served as Vice President for 28 years prior to becoming president. She served as a member of and President of the City and County of San Francisco Planning Commission under both the Jordan and Brown administrations. Currently she serves as a board member of the Bank of San Francisco, TMC Development, Jewish Community Center of San Francisco and Glide Memorial Foundation. In 2012, President Obama appointed Susan to the United States Holocaust Memorial Council.

Mary Morgan

Mary C. Morgan is a retired Superior Court Judge for the City and County of San Francisco. During her career on the bench she was Presiding Judge of the Municipal Court and Supervising Judge of the Criminal Division of the Superior Court. She presided over the Drug Court, the Domestic Violence Court, and the nationally recognized Behavioral Health Court. She was a member of the Judicial Council Task Force on Criminal Justice Collaboration on Mental Health Issues. She currently serves, by appointment of the Chief Justice, as a member of the Committee on Judicial Ethics Opinions.

Lidia Szajko (co-chair)

Lidia Szajko is an independent filmmaker and professor whose work has screened on public television and at festivals around the globe. Lidia teaches filmmaking in the Cinema Department at City College of San Francisco where she has served as Department Chair since 2002. She served on the San Francisco Film Commission from 2001 – 2004. Her feature documentary, Girl Trouble, aired on the acclaimed national PBS series Independent Lens.

All of these individuals, including GroundSpark’s President/CEO, are independent voting members whose terms of office began in May 2011.