Who We Are

President and Senior Producer, Debra Chasnoff (1957-2017)

Debra Chasnoff Academy Award–winning documentary filmmaker Debra Chasnoff was 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 award-winning films include Straightlaced—How Gender’s Got Us All Tied Up, about the gender and sexuality pressures that teens and young adults face today, 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 was 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 a Woodrow Wilson Visiting Fellow for the Council of Independent Colleges as well as a Visiting Scholar in Public Policy at Mills College. She was the founder of GroundSpark and co-creator of our renowned Respect For All Project. She served the organization in a directing capacity since 1982.

Our Team

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

Board of Directors (2018)

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!

Beth Miller

Beth M. Miller, Ph.D. is the Managing Director of Research and Communications at EL Education, known for “inspiring students and teachers to do more than they think possible.”  She previously served as Director of Research and Evaluation at the Nellie Mae Education Foundation. With over 20 years of leadership at the intersection of educational practice, policy, and research, Dr. Miller has been involved in Groundspark since serving as a production assistant in the 1980s for Choosing Children.

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.

Joyce Newstat

Joyce Newstat is the Founder and CEO of Rocket Science Associates, a consulting firm with expertise in public policy, communications, media relations and fundraising. Joyce has spent most of the last 25+ years working in public policy and on national, statewide and local political campaigns. As Director of Public Policy, Joyce led the development of then Mayor Gavin Newsom’s public policy agenda during his first mayoral campaign and first year in office – including same-sex marriage and developing assets and financial empowerment for low-income families. In 2012, Joyce was the Director of Attorney General Kamala Harris’ transition team. She works and volunteers on political campaigns raising money and does pro bono work in the women’s, Jewish and LGBT communities. She served for 10 years on the Board of the Gay and Lesbian Victory Institute. Joyce holds a Bachelor of Social Work from the State University of New York at Albany and a Doctor of Jurisprudence from Golden Gate University.

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 taught filmmaking in the Cinema Department at City College of San Francisco and served as Department Chair from 2002 – 2015. 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, except for GroundSpark’s President/CEO, are independent voting members whose terms of office expire in June 2019.

Prognosis Post-Production Team Bios

Carrie Lozano

Documentary filmmaker and journalist, who produced the Academy Award nominee The Weather Underground. She is currently director of the IDA Enterprise Documentary Fund, which supports journalistic documentary film, and was previously executive producer for documentaries at Al Jazeera America, and senior producer of the investigative series Fault Lines. She was director of operations for New Day Films between 2011 and 2013. Her most recent film is The Ballad of Fred Hersch.

Kate Stilley Steiner

Co-founder of the not-for-profit media organization, Citizen Film. Her most-recent producing credits include American Creed slated for a national PBS rollout in 2018, and editing credits include documentaries for PBS, The Learning Channel, ABC and Fox. Debra Chasnoff’s long-time collaborator, Kate edited several films with Chasnoff, including two in the Respect for All series, and they co-produced several titles together, including One Wedding and a Revolution.

Lidia Szajko

An award-winning independent filmmaker and film educator whose works have screened on public television and at festivals internationally. She served on the San Francisco Film Commission from 2001 – 2004. As a Member-Owner of New Day Films since 2004, she served on the Steering Committee from 2012-14. She joined the faculty of the Cinema Department at City College of San Francisco in 1999 and served as Chair from 2001 – 2015.

Joan Lefkowitz

A technologist since the 1970s, beginning with her work at Resource One, the first people’s computer center. Her career has included engineering jobs doing live sound, radio, television and video editing with one exhilarating year of editing Deadly Deception with Debra Chasnoff. In addition she has created and maintained websites for a variety of groups and individuals including a long stint as web manager at the SF Public Library. Her goals have always focused on getting free information to those who need it the most.

Nancy Otto

Debra Chasnoff’s wife and featured in Prognosis. She consulted on the final stages of Chasnoff’s films and on the administration of Groundspark. Nancy is also a senior consultant at Klein and Roth Consulting, working exclusively with nonprofit organizations to build and strengthen their individual donor programs. Nancy was the video editor for WTVD-TV News, an ABC affiliate, in Durham, NC.