Meet Our Faculty & Staff

Leadership Team

Ben Pettit, Head of School

Ben Pettit was appointed Head of School in 2015 and has more than 20 years' experience in education as a teacher, advisor, coach, counselor, and administrator. He joined  Sun Valley Community School in 2009 as Middle School Head, and, prior to assuming his current role, also served as Assistant Head of School and Upper School Head.

In his role as Head of School, Ben is continually inspired by the way the school’s faculty, staff, Board of Directors, students, and parents deliver on the school’s mission. “I am deeply impressed by the passion and dedication displayed by everyone—past, present, and future—who has worked and continues to work to deliver on the promise of the school. I wholeheartedly believe in our philosophy, which combines a vigorous and experiential educational model, with abundant opportunities in the outdoors, arts, athletics, and service learning,” he says. “I am thrilled to have the opportunity to be of service to our community and to help inspire our students to be their best, authentic selves.”

Prior to joining Community School, Ben spent 11 years at St. Anne’s Episcopal School in Denver, Colorado, where he served as a middle school math teacher, Math Department Chair, and as a soccer coach.

Before transitioning from teaching into leadership roles, Ben worked at McClelland School in Pueblo, Colorado and held counseling positions at Littleton High School, where he was also Varsity Boys’ Head Soccer Coach, and at East Elementary School in Denver, Colorado.

Ben holds a BA in English, with a minor in Psychology, from University of Denver and a MA in Applied Psychology and Counselor Education (Cum Laude) from the School of Counseling at University of Northern Colorado. He is a current board member for the Northwest Association of Independent Schools (NWAIS). 


Kevin Campbell, Upper School Head

Kevin Campbell joined Sun Valley Community School as Upper School Head in July, 2018.

Kevin comes to Community School from Georgiana Bruce Kirby Preparatory School in Santa Cruz, California, where he has served as Dean of Students, history teacher, and safety officer since 2013. Prior, he taught and served as a security committee team member at Mount Madonna School in Mount Madonna, California. Kevin holds a BA in political science from University of California, Davis, and a MA in teaching from University of San Francisco.

Reflections from students and faculty following Kevin’s visit to our school describe an educator and leader with a thoughtful, intelligent approach that led to easy connections with both faculty and students. His genuine interest in the ideas and experiences of others, deep appreciation for outdoor education, understanding of equity and inclusion issues, and values that align with the mission and vision of our community were all evident in his interactions during the search process and in his time on campus.

Kevin and his wife, Thecla, have two children, Freya (4) and Lowen (1). 

Alessia Carega, Director of Admissions

Alessia Carega was appointed as Sun Valley Community School's Director of Admission in 2019. Before joining Sun Valley Community School, Alessia served as the Director of Regional Scholarships and the Assistant Director of Financial Aid at St. Paul’s School in Concord, New Hampshire.

While at St. Paul’s for the past eight years, Alessia has run a dorm and has also been active in the school’s Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion efforts. Before working at St. Paul’s, Alessia left a job teaching English to pursue her passion of realizing a more sustainable world. To that end, she worked as a Director for Saatchi & Saatchi leading project teams to design and implement sustainability programs for companies like Walmart and Frito Lay.

Alessia is an avid traveler who speaks fluent French and Italian and is proficient in Spanish. She is also a runner who is passionate about the outdoors. Alessia and her husband Trent Smither (the newly appointed Director of Development) have two young children. 

Patrick Graham, Outdoor Program Co-Director

Patrick Graham joined Sun Valley Community School in 2015 as Outdoor Program Assistant Director and was appointed Outdoor Program Director in 2017. Patrick holds a degree in outdoor education from Vermont’s Johnson State College and, prior to joining the Cutthroat team, worked as a ski guide for Sun Valley Trekking and later as a Lead Guide and Licensed (Level II) Backcountry Ski Guide. He also trained with the American Mountain Guides Association in both climbing and skiing.

Trent Smither, Director of Development

Trent Smither joined the Cutthroat Community as its new Director of Development in July. A graduate of St. Lawrence University, Trent has had a wide-ranging career that positions him well to advance our school’s mission and financial security.

Before serving in the independent school world, Trent, among other things, worked in sales and marketing at Anheuser-Busch, produced and marketed an award-winning feature-length film, and consulted with private equity funds where he focused on green-building strategies in emerging markets. From 2012-16, Trent was the Director of Communications and an English teacher at New Hampton School in New Hampshire. Since 2016, Trent has been the Advancement Director for the Advanced Studies Program at St. Paul’s School in Concord, New Hampshire.

An avid skier, outdoorsman, and traveler, Trent is looking forward to living in Sun Valley and working at a school committed to incorporating outdoor education into the overall educational experience. Trent’s wife, Alessia Carega, is the school's newly appointed Director of Admissions, and they will be moving to town this summer with their two young children (5 and 2 years old).

Sam Herrick, Middle School Head

Sam Herrick joined Sun Valley Community School after spending a dozen years working at schools in California. He was Dean of Student Life at the Live Oak School in San Francisco and served on the Board of Trustees for the East Bay School for Boys, helping to usher the school from its inception to a thriving and unique middle school dedicated to boys’ learning.

Prior to his work at Live Oak, Sam was Middle School Admission Director and Dean of Students at Prospect Sierra School, located in El Cerrito, California. During his four years there, Sam increased the enrollment of mission-supportive students, including the expansion of students through the collaboration with a local enrichment program. Sam also chaired the diversity committee, coached volleyball, and started an annual bike-to-school event. Sam spent his first years in California teaching Life Sciences and environmental stewardship at an experiential education program just outside Yosemite National Park.

Sam holds a BA from Syracuse University and a MA from Columbia University.

Sam believes in middle school students. He finds them capable, thoughtful, creative, energetic, and funny. He moved to the Wood River Valley with his wife Elizabeth, son, August, and daughter, Grayson. He loves to hike, bike, and ski with his heels free.










Jonna Mendes, Sun Valley Ski Academy Program Director

Jonna Mendes joined Sun Valley Community School in 2011 as the director of the Sun Valley Ski Academy. Jonna has an impressive background as an athlete and coach. A two-time Olympian—at the 1998 Nagano Olympic Games and 2002 Salt Lake City Olympic Games—Jonna was also a four-time National Champion (twice in downhill, twice in giant slalom) and earned a bronze medal in super-G at the 2003 Alpine World Championships in St. Moritz, Switzerland. Following her 2006 retirement from the U.S. Ski Team, Jonna honed her coaching skills as a U.S. Ski Team development coach from 2006-10, working with athletes at national and regional projects and competitions.

In addition to her role as SVSA Program Director, Jonna coaches the U16s with Sun Valley Ski Education Foundation. Jonna’s unique perspective and experience as an elite athlete and coach is an asset to the development of our SVSA student-athletes. In her free time, Jonna loves chasing her son, Declan, down the mountain and camping with Declan and her husband, Will.

Janet Salvoni, Elementary School Head

Janet Salvoni joined Sun Valley Community School in 2005 and was appointed Elementary School Head in 2011. Janet has extensive experience in the classroom, having taught pre-kindergarten, kindergarten, first, third, fourth, fifth, and sixth grades; she has also served as a Learning Specialist and as Early Childhood Coordinator. Currently, in addition to her role as Elementary School Head, she serves as Teacher Training Academy (TTA) Coordinator and Diversity and Inclusivity Committee Co-Chair.

Janet holds a BA in elementary education from University of Massachusetts, Amherst and an MA in education from Cambridge College.

In her daily work with students, parents, and colleagues at Community School, Janet is continually inspired by the passion of the school's faculty. "They believe 100 percent in the work they are doing, both with students and behind the scenes," she says.

Janet and her husband, Frank, are parents of two Cutthroats: Tyler '23 and Cooper '27. When she's not at school or spending time with her family, Janet spends time on the ice pursuing her passion for ice hockey.

Julie Siegel, Chief Financial Officer/Business Office Manager

Julie Siegel joined Sun Valley Community School in 2016 as Chief Financial Officer and Business Office Manger. Prior to assuming her role at the school, Julie served as CFO for Boston-based Geologic Resource Partners; she has also held accounting and human resource positions and was a Certified Public Accountant for Lallman, Feltman, and Perterson CPAs.

A graduate of University of Virginia, Julie holds a BS in commerce-accounting. She and her husband, Neil, are parents to Emily '16 and Riley. When she's not in the Business Office, Julie can be found trail running on local trails and teaching indoor cycling classes.

Travis Vandenburgh, Outdoor Program Co-Director

Travis Vandenburgh was appointed Outdoor Program Co-Director in 2019. He joined Sun Valley Community School in 2008 and taught math and science as a member of the Eighth Grade Team before transitioning to Outdoor Program Co-Director. He also served as Middle School soccer coach and as an Outdoor Leadership Academy Advisor.

Travis has twenty years of outdoor leadership experience in a variety of institutional settings from elementary to higher education. His passion lies in fostering a learning environment in the outdoors where students can realize a potential they have not before recognized. Travis is a Wilderness First Responder, is certified as a Single Pitch Instructor from the American Mountain Guides Association, is an AIARE Level 2 Avalanche practitioner, and is trained in Advanced Swiftwater Rescue. Travis is also a licensed HAM radio operator with the FCC.

Travis holds a BS in biological sciences and a MSSE (Masters of Science in Science Education) from Montana State University. Prior to joining Community School, Travis taught middle school math and science at Jackson Hole Middle School in Jackson, Wyoming and the Barstow School in Kansas City, Missouri, and was the Middle Years Program Director at Riverstone International School in Boise, Idaho.

When he's not leading Outdoor Program trips, Travis likes to spend time running local trails and digging in his garden. He and his wife, Cortney, are parents to two Cutthroats: Anika '23 and Torin '27. At the school, Travis appreciates "the freedom that all community members have to express and act on their philosophies and goals surrounding their personal and professional lives."


Ryan Waterfield, Director of Communications

Ryan Waterfield joined Sun Valley Community School as Director of Communications in 2018. Ryan was a member of the Cutthroat faculty for 15 years before leaving in 2011 to work in publishing. During her time as a faculty member, Ryan taught Upper School English and was the English Department Head for three years. She coached the girls’ basketball team and was the Director of the Senior Project Program. In 2014, Ryan cofounded BigLife Magazine and has served as its publisher and editor for more than four years. Ryan earned a BA in English from Transylvania University and studied and taught in the Czech Republic as a Fulbright Scholar. Ryan holds an MA from the Middlebury College Bread Loaf School of English. 

Ryan understands the trends and changes taking place in communications and marketing through her entrepreneurial leadership at BigLife Magazine and also has a deep appreciation for the school and its history. In her role, Ryan communicates the school’s unique program and culture with Cutthroats past and present, on a local, national, and international scale.

Ryan and her husband, Greg Van Der Meulen '98, have two children, Townes and Zula. 

There is a joy in both teaching and learning here that is really our intangible. Teachers come to school excited to teach and kids actually come to school excited to learn.

Calysta Phillips, Middle School Language Faculty