Staff Biographies


Dr. Michael J Bakalis, PHD 

is founder, President and Chief Executive Officer of American Quality Schools. He also served on the faculty of the Kellogg Graduate School of Management at Northwestern University, where he taught in the field of public and not-for-profit management and educational entrepreneurship. Bakalis' administrative experience has been in government and higher education. He has served as Illinois State Superintendent of Education and as Illinois State Comptroller. President Carter appointed him Deputy Undersecretary of Education in the U.S. Department of Education where he administered ten regional offices of the department across the United States. He has also held positions as Dean of the School of Education at Loyola University and President of Triton College. He received his Ph.D. from Northwestern University.


Patricia Yadgir

is Chief Administrative Officer. In her position, she is responsible for the oversight of all AQS Principals and the daily operations and administration of each school. She coordinates the professional development for AQS teachers and staff and oversees the Career and Character education programs for all schools. She is also the AQS liaison between the organization and each school's Board of Directors. With over 25 years of experience in education, Ms. Yadgir has taught at the early education and higher education levels. She served as a School Counselor at College of DuPage in Glen Ellyn, IL for 18 years where she counseled, taught and ran the Dual Credit program between the college and all DuPage County high schools. Ms. Yadgir currently serves as an appointed Commissioner for the Illinois Human Rights Commission, dedicated to promoting and ensuring equal representation for all citizens in the State of Illinois regardless of race, age, ethnicity or gender. She holds a Master's Degree in Education and a Master's Certification in Childhood Eating Disorders and Obesity from Northern Illinois University, where she also serves on the Executive Alumni and Education Boards.

Leo J. Athas 

is General Counsel and Chief Legal Officer for American Quality Schools. Mr. Athas is a recognized authority in education law with more than 30 years of experience in the field. He consults to more than 350 independent schools nationwide. He represents educational entities in all aspects of their daily operations and long range planning. He is the only person to have ever served as General Counsel and Chief Legal Officer to both the Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction and the Illinois State Board of Education. Mr. Athas is past Chairman of the School Law section of the Illinois State Bar Association and has co-authored a Special Education Chapter of the Illinois Institute of Continuing Legal Education Handbook for Lawyers. He is often called upon to lecture and consult to and with educational professionals and associations at national and international annual meetings. He has taught legal writing and contract law to paralegals at Southwest community College in South Holland, Illinois. Mr. Athas has been recognized as a Leading Lawyer® in the category of School Law. In addition, he holds the AV® Peer Review rating from Martindale-Hubbell, its highest rating for ethics and legal ability.

Tiffani Cooper

is the Director of Accounting at American Quality Schools. Tiffani is responsible for overseeing the General Accounting and Financial Reporting functions and the financial services area including Credit, A/R and A/P as well as implementing and maintaining a system of internal controls that will ensure that company assets are adequately safeguarded and that all financial reporting is prepared in compliance with all financial policies. Mrs. Cooper has been with AQS since 2012 rising from Staff Accountant to her current position in 2016. Mrs. Cooper holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Accounting from Roosevelt University.

Wendy Stella

is the Human Resources and Payroll Director and the Executive Assistant to President Dr. Michael Bakalis and CAO Mrs. Patricia Yadgir. Wendy is responsible for Maintaining and enhancing the organization's human resources by planning, implementing, and evaluating employee relations and human resources policies, programs, and practices. Ms. Stella manages all payroll process and performs accounting tasks as they relate to payroll and employee benefits.

Wendy reports directly to the President and CAO as the Executive Assistant and provides executive support in a one-on-one working relationship. Ms. Stella has been with AQS since 2010 as the Executive Assistant and added the additional role in the HR and Payroll Department in 2016.