President & CEO
Dr. Nancy B. Gutiérrez is President & CEO of The Leadership Academy. Nancy joined The Leadership Academy in 2014 and has served as National Leadership Designer and Facilitator, Vice President of District Leadership, and Chief Strategy Officer. She was named President & CEO in July 2018 and continues to serve as an executive leadership coach and facilitator for school systems across the country. She was a Fall 2019 Pahara-Aspen Education Fellow, and in February 2020 was named among the 100 most powerful education leaders in New York by City & State New York. Nancy is a frequent keynote speaker for local and national education organizations and has authored numerous pieces on education leadership and equity for national publications including Education Week, Kappan, The74, and Hechinger Report. Nancy began her career as a teacher and principal in her home community of East San Jose, CA, where she was the founding principal of Renaissance Academy, the highest performing middle school in the district and a California Distinguished School. Nancy also led the successful effort to turn around the district’s lowest performing middle school. She was named the UC Davis Rising Star and Association of California School Administrator’s Region 8 Middle School Principal of the Year in 2010. Prior to her tenure with The Leadership Academy, Nancy launched a program for executive leadership advancement for the New York City Department of Education that led to superintendent certification. Nancy is a graduate of the inaugural cohort of the Harvard Graduate School of Education’s Doctor of Education Leadership (Ed.L.D.) program and is a graduate of the Association of Latino Administrators and Superintendents (ALAS) Aspiring Superintendents Academy. She served on the national board of the Coalition of Essential Schools for more than a decade. She is an instructor at NYU and frequently teaches at the Harvard Principals’ Center institutes for School Turnaround Leaders, Urban School Leaders, and Race, Equity, Access, and Leadership. Nancy is a member of the Education Leaders of Color (EdLoC) Board of Directors and serves on the Latinos for Education teaching team. Find Nancy on Twitter @nancybgutierrez or LinkedIn.
Chief Access & Equity Officer
Mary Rice-Boothe, Ed.D., joined the The Leadership Academy in 2015 and currently serves as Chief Access & Equity Officer. In this role, she oversees The Leadership Academy’s internal and external equity strategy, design and collaboration, and ensures expanded access to our work through different learning systems. At The Leadership Academy, she has had the opportunity to partner with school systems in Des Moines, IA; Hillsborough County, FL; and the state of Wisconsin to support them in implementing their equity policies. Mary has also supported the development of equity-focused resources for district-level leaders looking to name and dismantle the inequitable practices they are seeing at the school and district level. Mary came to The Leadership Academy with more than 20 years of experience in education as a teacher, principal, mentor, and coach. Before joining The Leadership Academy, she worked at New Leaders, a national non-profit organization, as Executive Director of Content and Assessment, leading the team that designed, developed, and delivered content and assessments for the organization. She began her career in education as an NYC Teaching Fellow in East Harlem and is also a member of The Leadership Academy’s APP Cohort 3. Mary is a certified Courageous Conversations about Race Affiliate and a certified Facilitative Leadership Trainer. She sits on the board of directors of Marathon Kids. Mary holds a BA in Metropolitan Studies from New York University, an MA in English and English Education from the City College of New York, and a Doctorate Degree in Leadership and Organizational Change at the University of Southern California. Mary lives in Austin, Texas, with her mom, husband, daughter and son.
Chief Operating Officer
Mary Jo joined the Leadership Academy in 2011 to help grow the organization’s national consulting practice as Chief Strategic Partnerships and Communications Officer, and now serves as Chief Operating Officer. Prior to joining the Leadership Academy, she served as Chief Operating Officer of the Partnership for New York City, which led the fundraising campaign that helped launch the Leadership Academy. Previously, she served as Vice President of Strategic Partnerships at All Kinds of Minds, which provided training and tools for educators based on research from neuroscience on how people learn. Mary Jo began her career in education at the National Geographic Society, where she developed and implemented teacher training and outreach programs and facilitated the development of teacher leadership networks. Mary Jo has also focused on student learning as a mentor to students at the Young Women’s Leadership School in Harlem and at the Higher Achievement Program in Washington, D.C., and has taught both supplemental ESL and national high school civics classes. Mary Jo was a Morehead Scholar at The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and earned both an MBA and an MA in Education from Stanford University.
Chief Learning & Strategy Officer
Michelle joined the The Leadership Academy in 2004 and now serves as the organization’s Chief Learning & Strategy Officer. In that capacity, she spearheads the organization’s internal capacity building, ensuring organizational sustainability and growth. As one of the designers of the Leadership Academy’s signature coaching model, Michelle continues to implement direct service programs as well as facilitate capacity building for clients seeking to develop in-house expertise in leadership coaching. Additionally, she brings her extensive experience as a curriculum designer, facilitator, and consultant to a range of leadership development initiatives in districts throughout the country. Prior to her work with the Leadership Academy, Michelle was the Director of Education for the Union Square Partnership, where she developed an award-winning, public-private partnership that leveraged the resources of the private sector to support NYC public school students through innovative enrichment programs and career readiness opportunities. Michelle holds an MA from Teachers College, Columbia University, and a BA from Union College. Having reveled in games and puzzles as a child, Michelle continues to take great (perhaps excessive) pride in her ability to complete the New York Times Sunday crossword puzzle.
Executive Vice President of Client Services
Michele serves as Executive Vice President of Client Services. She has spent her life dedicated to public education as a lever for equity and social change. Michele has facilitated multi-district Leadership Academy programs including Foundations of Principal Supervision and Coaching for Equitable Practice and has served clients such as Clark County School District, NV, NYC Department of Education, Gwinnett County Public Schools, GA, Somerville Public Schools, MA, and the Nevada Department of Education. Before joining the Leadership Academy, Michele served as the Chief of Schools for Boston Public Schools and the Sr. Director of Administrator Development for Los Angeles Unified School District. She has been a teacher, school social worker, assistant principal, and principal in the New York City Department of Education. She founded Pathways College Preparatory School: A College Board School in Hollis, NY. While getting a doctorate at Harvard Graduate School of Education in 2011, she co-founded Pursue Excellence, an education reform organization dedicated to supporting schools and districts in their use of data to improve outcomes for students. Michele is a certified coach and teacher at the Data Wise Project at Harvard, and is the founder and principal consultant for Measure Excellence Consulting, which supports leaders, schools, and districts in their efforts to engage in continuous learning and improvement. Michele is a product of the New York City public education system from kindergarten through college. She received her Bachelors of Science in Sociology from Bernard Baruch College and a Masters of Social Work from Hunter College at the City University of New York. She has an advanced certificate in School Leadership from the New York City Leadership Academy. Michele received a doctorate in Educational Leadership at the Harvard Graduate School of Education in 2013 and most recently received an advanced certificate in School District Leadership from Queens College, CUNY in 2015. Michele is married with 3 children and splits her time between Westford, MA, and Jamaica, NY. She loves spending quality time with her family and her special love, Gordy, the cutest shih-poo ever.
Chief of Staff
As Chief of Staff, Carole serves as a thought partner and advisor to the CEO, supporting the organization’s strategic goals and initiatives. Since joining the Leadership Academy in 2017 as a fellow from Harvard University’s Education Leadership program, she has helped lead district and state level work with partners across the country, including designing professional learning experiences for leaders in Cypress-Fairbanks, TX; Somerville, MA; and Fayette County, KY. In Hillsborough County, FL, Carole co-designed an equity walk tool and co-led learning sessions for the superintendent’s leadership team in analyzing the district’s work to dismantle inequities and to create a strategic plan focused on equity. She recently co-facilitated the NYC Department of Education First Vice Chancellor’s leadership retreat and in Rochester, NY, led the superintendent’s leadership team in analyzing the district’s work to dismantle inequities and to create a strategic plan focused on equity. She has also led training for principals and superintendents for the Nevada Department of Education and worked with district-level administrators to create curricula for aspiring and new principals in both Cleveland and Chicago. Carole is the lead researcher and author of the The Leadership Academy’s Equity at Work guide for district leaders on equity-focused strategic planning. Carole is a former teacher, principal, and central office administrator. She has taught aspiring teachers and principals at Smith College and the University of Massachusetts and has served as a coach for aspiring and sitting administrators. She was an Ambach Fellow at the Massachusetts Department of Education, where she focused on equity projects such as assisting with the oversight of the METCO desegregation program. Carole enjoys writing about leadership and equity and her work has been published by the Century Foundation and the National Coalition on School Diversity. Carole holds a doctorate from Harvard University’s Graduate School of Education’s Education Leadership (Ed.L.D.) program.
President of the California State Board of Education; Charles E. Ducommun Professor of Education Emeritus at Stanford University; and founding president of the Learning Policy Institute
Linda Darling-Hammond is the Charles E. Ducommun Professor of Education Emeritus at Stanford University and founding president of the Learning Policy Institute, created to provide high-quality research for policies that enable equitable and empowering education for each and every child. At Stanford she founded the Stanford Center for Opportunity Policy in Education and served as faculty sponsor for the Stanford Teacher Education Program, which she helped to redesign. Darling-Hammond is past president of the American Educational Research Association and recipient of its awards for Distinguished Contributions to Research, Lifetime Achievement, Research Review, and Research-to-Policy. She is also a member of the American Association of Arts and Sciences and of the National Academy of Education. From 1994–2001, she was executive director of the National Commission on Teaching and America’s Future, whose 1996 report What Matters Most: Teaching for America’s Future was named one of the most influential reports affecting U.S. education in that decade. In 2006, Darling-Hammond was named one of the nation’s ten most influential people affecting educational policy. In 2008, she directed President Barack Obama’s Education Policy Transition Team. She is currently President of the California State Board of Education. Darling-Hammond began her career as a public school teacher and co-founded both a preschool and a public high school. She served as Director of the RAND Corporation’s education program and as an endowed professor at Columbia University, Teachers College before coming to Stanford. She has consulted widely with federal, state and local officials and educators on strategies for improving education policies and practices and is the recipient of 14 honorary degrees in the U.S. and internationally. Among her more than 600 publications are a number of award-winning books, including The Right to Learn, Teaching as the Learning Profession, Preparing Teachers for a Changing World and The Flat World and Education: How America’s Commitment will Determine our Future. She received an Ed.D. from Temple University (with highest distinction) and a B.A. from Yale University (magna cum laude).
Professor of Education Policy, Organizations, & Leadership at the University of Washington
Meredith Honig is a Professor of Education Policy, Organizations, & Leadership at the University of Washington (UW), Seattle, where she is also Director of the District Leadership Design Lab (DL2, dl2.education.uw.edu) and Adjunct Professor of Public Affairs at the Evans School. Her research, teaching, and district partnerships focus on the interruption and rebuilding of inequitable school district practices and systems to ensure high-quality teaching and learning for each student, especially those historically underserved by public school systems. This work recognizes that barriers to educational equity are systemic, that school district central office leaders are in strategic positions to lead for systemic changes important to such results, and that they would benefit from new knowledge and support for their leadership. Honig has examined and supported district leadership of various reform strategies including: school-community partnerships, new small autonomous schools initiatives, data-informed decision-making, and districtwide teaching and learning improvement efforts. Her findings have been published in such journals as Educational Researcher, the American Educational Research Journal, and Educational Evaluation and Policy Analysis and funded by The Spencer Foundation, the W.T. Grant Foundation, and other sources. In 2014, Honig established the District Leadership Design Lab (DL2) to help district leaders access knowledge and tools to help them lead their own efforts to fundamentally transform their central offices into school support systems. Between 2012-18, she directed the Leadership for Learning (Ed.D.) program which, in 2016, won the Exemplary Educational Leadership Program award from the University Council for Educational Administration. She advises Ed.D., Ph.D., and M.Ed. students focused on policy implementation, organizational behavior, and systemic leadership for educational equity. Prior to joining the University of Washington faculty, Honig was an assistant professor and co-director of the Center for Educational Policy and Leadership at the University of Maryland, College Park. She has worked at the California Department of Education and in other state and local youth-serving agencies. Honig has a B.A. from Brown University and a Ph.D. from Stanford University.
Gregory R. Anrig Professor of Practice in Educational Leadership, Harvard Graduate School of Education
Deborah Jewell-Sherman is the Gregory R. Anrig Professor of Practice in Educational Leadership, Harvard Graduate School of Education. She is the first woman professor of practice at the Harvard Graduate School of Education (HGSE). She served as superintendent of the Richmond (VA) Public Schools from 2002 to 2008 and built a reputation as one of the most successful urban district superintendents in the country. Since returning to her alma mater in 2008, Jewell-Sherman has served as the director of the Urban Superintendents Program and currently, she serves as core faculty for the Doctorate of Education Leadership Program (Ed.L.D.). In addition to her work nationally with educational leaders and her yearly chairing of Institutes through Programs in Professional Education, Jewell-Sherman has done extensive work in South Africa as the principal investigator for an initiative between HGSE faculty and the University of Johannesburg. She also has collaborated with the Qatar Education Foundation on leadership, communication, and strategic planning. In 2009, Jewell-Sherman was named Virginia Superintendent of the Year and in 2013 she received the Dr. Effie Jones Humanitarian Award, both from AASA, the School Superintendents Association. Additionally, in 2015, she received the Morningstar Family Award from HGSE in recognition of teaching excellence.
Senior Lecturer, Harvard Business School; CEO, District Management Group
John J-H Kim has an extensive background in education, entrepreneurship, business management, and academia. Kim is a Senior Lecturer at Harvard Business School where he created and teaches the course Transforming Education Through Social Entrepreneurship. Previously he designed and taught a course on technology innovations in education. Kim has also authored several cases and articles on education entrepreneurship and EdTech. Since 2013, Kim has been the Co-Chair of the Public Education Leadership Project (PELP), a joint project of HBS and Harvard Graduate School of Education to strengthen the management and leadership capabilities of urban school districts. He also Chairs the Accelerating Board Capacity (“ABC”) Summer Institute, a program designed for The Council of the Great City Schools focused on strengthening school board capacity. Kim founded and is the CEO of District Management Group. Since 2004, DMGroup has been bringing the best management and leadership practices to public school district leaders to develop and implement system-wide efforts that lead to higher student outcomes while improving operations and lowering costs. Previously, Kim started and led a school management company with 20,000+ students. He was also an Executive Vice President of Rakuten (JASDAQ: 4755), a global Internet services company, and was a management consultant with McKinsey & Company. Kim actively mentors entrepreneurs in the education sector. He is also engaged with multiple organizations all having to do with increasing educational opportunities for disadvantaged youths. Kim received an A.B. with Honors and an M.B.A. from Harvard University.
Founder, New Teacher Center
Ellen Moir founded New Teacher Center in 1998 to scale high quality teacher induction services to a national audience. NTC has reached over 250,000 teachers across the country. Ellen retired as CEO in August 2018 and is an independent educational consultant. Moir is widely recognized for her work in beginning teacher development and school reform. She has extensive experience in public education, having previously served as Director of Teacher Education at the University of California at Santa Cruz and worked as a bilingual teacher. Moir has been named the 2014 Brock International Prize in Education Laureate, became a Pahara-Aspen Education Fellow in 2013, an Ashoka Fellow in 2011, and is a recipient of the 2011 Skoll Award for Social Entrepreneurship. Other major awards include: the 2013 NewSchools Venture Fund Organization of the Year Award; 2010 Civic Ventures Purpose Prize Fellow; 2008 National Staff Development Council Contribution to the Field award; the 2008 Full Circle Fund Impact Award; the Harold W. McGraw, Jr. 2005 Prize in Education; and the 2003 California Council on Teacher Education Distinguished Teacher Educator Award. Moir has also co-authored many publications, including Keys to the Classroom and Keys to the Secondary Classroom, New Teacher Mentoring: Hopes and Promise for Improving Teacher Effectiveness, and Blended Coaching: Skills and Strategies to Support Principal Development. For more than 20 years, she has pioneered innovative approaches to new teacher development, research on new teacher practice, and the design and administration of teacher induction programs. She is recognized as a passionate advocate for our nation’s teachers and for the students they teach.
Superintendent and Principal, Muslim Community Center Academy, 2019 NAESP National Distinguished Principal, Founder of High Quality Education Consulting
Habeeb Quadri is an educator, author, and youth activist. He’s been in education for more than 20 years as a teacher, principal and superintendent of MCC Academy. In August of 2019 Quadri was awarded the National Distinguished Principal award by the National Association of Elementary School Principals (NAESP). He was also recently appointed at Harvard University Graduate School of Education Principals’ Advisory Board where he is a part-time staff member in the Professional Development Program. In addition to teaching and administering in both public and private schools, Quadri has delivered over 500 lectures throughout the United States and several countries abroad on leadership, education and youth. In 2006, Quadri founded High Quality Educational Consulting, an education consulting company, from which he has conducted more than 100 workshop lectures for the U.S. Department of State; numerous local, national and international schools and universities around the world such as Kenya, Singapore, Pakistan, Canada, Qatar, etc. He has also co-authored five books and written a dozen articles on youth, parenting and education.
President and CEO, Teach Plus
Roberto J. Rodríguez is President and CEO of Teach Plus. He spearheads the organization’s work to grow and strengthen the teacher leadership movement by developing and advancing teachers as leaders in education policy and practice, and by supporting their contribution to educational innovation and change in classrooms and schools. Rodriguez has dedicated his career to advancing equity, access, and excellence in education. He is nationally recognized for his expertise in education policy and governance, and for his leadership in building multi-sector partnerships with schools, families, and communities to improve educational opportunities for all children. He is devoted to the principle that all students deserve a complete and competitive education that prepares them for college, careers, and lifelong success. Prior to his service in the White House, Rodriguez spent eight years as principal education advisor to the late U.S. Senator Edward M. Kennedy. In the United States Senate, Rodriguez led successful bipartisan efforts that resulted in the enactment of the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001, the Individuals with Disabilities Education Improvement Act of 2004, the Higher Education Opportunity Act of 2008, and the Head Start Act of 2007. Rodriguez began his professional career in Washington, D.C. at the National Council of La Raza, where he directed research and policy analysis of federal and state education issues. Rodriguez holds a Presidential appointment to the J. William Fulbright Foreign Scholarship Board. His numerous distinguished awards include the National Champion for Children Award from First Focus, and the Head Start Windows of Opportunity Award from the National Head Start Association. Rodriguez holds a bachelor’s degree from the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor and an Ed.M. from the Harvard Graduate School of Education. He resides with his wife and two children in the Washington, D.C. area.
Wachtell, Lipton, Rosen & Katz
President and CEO (retired)
The Depository Trust & Clearing Corporation
Chief Executive Officer
President & Chief Deputy of Strategic Partnerships and Innovation
Los Angeles County Office of Education
Founder & President
Bryan Cave LLP
Montenegro Consultant Group
Senior District Advisor
Collaborative for Academic Social and Emotional Learning
Professor of Clinical Education
USC Rossier School of Education
Retired Chairman and CEO
New York Life Insurance Company
Founding Managing Partner & Chief Strategy Officer
Washington Finn Partners
National Designer & Facilitator
Anthony Alston, Ed.D., joined The Leadership Academy in 2021 as a National Designer and Facilitator. In this role, Anthony supports the development and delivery of professional development centered around equity and culturally responsive practices. Prior to joining The Leadership Academy, Anthony worked in the Anne Arundel County Public School system for 24 years. In that time, he served in a variety of roles, including assistant principal and principal as district Equity Officer and Assistant Superintendent. In all of his previous positions, he focused his efforts on supporting teachers, administrators and central office leaders to develop and implement school improvement structures, strategies and practices that eliminated gaps and centered around culturally proficient and anti-racist practices. Since joining The Leadership Academy, Anthony has partnered with school systems in Bridgeport, CT; Hartford, CT; Portland, OR and Los Angeles, CA. Anthony holds a B.A. in Psychology with a minor in Special Education from Hampton University; an M.A. in School Administration and Supervision from Morgan State University; and an Ed.D. in Educational Leadership from the University of Maryland at College Park. Anthony lives near Annapolis, Maryland, with his wife and two sons.
National Designer & Facilitator
David Baiz joined The Leadership Academy in October 2020 and serves as a National Designer & Facilitator. Inspired by The Leadership Academy’s shift to equity-focused, culturally responsive leadership, David was thrilled to join the team and support adults across the sector in this important work. David has over a decade of experience serving students in New York City. He is an award-winning math teacher and former principal of Global Tech Prep Middle School in East Harlem, a technology- and wellness-focused school. Students thrived at the school, which earned high marks in positive school culture, student academic growth, teacher effectiveness, and parent satisfaction. As part of the Harvard Doctor of Education Leadership program, David worked with the College Board to lead expansion efforts of computer science and civics in high schools across the country through their AP Computer Science Principles and AP U.S. Government and Politics courses. David holds a Bachelor of Arts from The Ohio State University, a Master of Science in Mathematics Education from City College of New York (CUNY), a Master of Education with a focus on school leadership from Bank Street Graduate School of Education, and a Doctor of Education Leadership from Harvard Graduate School of Education.
Arlene Berg joined the The Leadership Academy in 2005 as a facilitator and coach. Prior to joining the Leadership Academy, she served as principal of the Kingsbury School, PS 188, in Queens, which, under her leadership, was rated the top performing elementary school in New York City. As a coach, Arlene works with K-8 public and charter school principals, many of whom have achieved city, state, and national recognition for instructional leadership, developing strong learning communities, and dramatically improving student learning. Arlene has worked with Teachers College, Columbia University; the Principals’ Institute in the NYC Department of Education’s Office of Leadership Development; and New Visions for Public Schools. She holds a Professional Certificate in Administration and Supervision from Lehman College and an MS, in Sociology and Education from Queens College.
Sharon joined the The Leadership Academy as a coach/facilitator in 2006. Prior to working at the Leadership Academy, she served in NYC public schools for 34 years as a teacher, an assistant principal, and the principal of a secondary special education school for 10 years, where she significantly expanded academic and vocational opportunities for her students. At the Leadership Academy, Sharon coaches new and experienced school leaders and executives, works with school level teams, and designs and facilitates professional development sessions in traditional public, private and charter schools. Much of her work has been in turnaround schools, focusing on improving learning opportunities for special populations and low performing sub groups. She has worked in urban, suburban and rural schools in New York City, Philadelphia, Buffalo, and districts in Kansas, Delaware, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, and Nevada. Outside of the Leadership Academy, Sharon is a parent leader in her home school district of Westbury, NY. She has served on the executive board of local school parent associations and as president of the district-wide Parent Council, advising the school board and writing a parent advice column for the local newspaper. Sharon holds a BA from Mount Saint College, an MA in Special Education from Teachers College, Columbia University, and a Professional Diploma in Educational Leadership from St. John’s University.
Associate Director of Leadership Development
Ashley Brailsford joined The Leadership Academy in March 2021. She currently serves as an Associate Director of Leadership Development. In this role, Ashley manages projects that support the design and implementation of professional learning and capacity building for client districts and partners. Prior to joining The Leadership Academy, Ashley worked for education-focused non-profit organizations, focusing on professional development programs and partnering with K-12 and higher ed institutions both nationally and internationally. With the goal of aligning teaching, learning, and assessment, she managed projects with large districts like the NYC DOE as well as independent institutions. Ashley is a Bronx native and life-long New Yorker. She has a B.A. in Communication Studies from Marymount Manhattan College.
Associate Director, Client Services
Lindsey Brown serves as an Associate Director of Client Services. In this role, Lindsey manages projects with clients and internal teams to design and implement locally responsive and customized leadership development solutions rooted in The Leadership Academy’s proven model and expertise. Prior to joining The Leadership Academy, Lindsey worked for six years in the trade publishing field, first at HarperCollins Publishers and more recently at Macmillan Publishers, as a product manager for workflow systems. Lindsey was born and raised in Syracuse, New York, and holds a Master’s Degree in Early Modern European History, with a focus on the French Revolution, and a Bachelor of Arts in History, both from Binghamton University.
Sonia Bu is a Coach Development and Training Specialist at the The Leadership Academy. Since joining the Leadership Academy in 2005, she has worked as a coach-facilitator for school leaders and their leadership teams, developed curriculum for the New School Intensive Program, served as an executive coach, assisted in the development of online coaching modules for Missouri, and been a racial equity facilitator. As a coach, Sonia supports principals to become reflective practitioners and effective leaders of their professional learning communities, to help them identify school goals and address operational issues, and to create structures and processes to build capacity and develop shared vision in their schools. Sonia was a member of the Leadership Academy team supporting the development of new coaches in Rhode Island. Sonia has more than 25 years of experience working in senior leadership positions in education-focused, youth development and community building organizations. She developed and executed capacity-building needs assessment and strategic plans for institutional expansion and sustainability and implemented improvement plans in the areas of organizational communication, human resource, program evaluation, grants writing and fundraising. Sonia has a B.A. from Barnard College and an M.Ed. from Lesley University. She also attended Columbia University Graduate School of Arts and Science, the School of International Affairs at Columbia University, and the Institute for Not-for-Profit Management of the Graduate School of Business of Columbia University. She is a Certified Coach by the Newfield Network (NNPC), the Generative Leadership Institute (CEO Program), and has received Professional Coaching Certification (PCC) from the International Coaching Federation. She is also an Executive and Leadership Coach with the Generative Leadership Institute with clients in the United States and Latin America.
Senior Director, Learning & Strategy
Jess Cihal currently serves as Senior Director, Learning & Strategy. In this role, Jess leads highly complex projects with multiple stakeholders, setting direction based on strategic priorities, making decisions, and managing complex relationships. She has deep content knowledge in aspiring principal development and in blended learning. She also oversees The Leadership Academy’s organizational staffing on both internal and external projects, a complex undertaking that requires strong systems thinking skills and a high-level strategic lens. Jess has worked in the education field in Eastern Europe, Central America and the United States. Before moving to New York City for graduate school, Jess most recently worked as the Director of Admissions & College Counseling at Keystone School in San Antonio. In this role, she implemented new technology systems, planned and represented the school at community and alumni events, and co-developed the school communications plan. Jess holds her BA in English and Youth & Human Services from the University of Texas at San Antonio and her MPA. in Public and Nonprofit Management from New York University’s Wagner School.
National Leadership Facilitator
Marlene joined the The Leadership Academy in 2006 as a facilitator on the Aspiring Principals Program team. Now Vice President for School Leadership, Marlene oversees all engagements involving aspiring or sitting school leaders, including principal preparation programs in Lexington One, SC; Rochester, NY; and Yonkers, NY. Marlene also serves as a leadership coach for our partner program, ACE Academy, funded by the Bainum Family Foundation. Prior to joining the Leadership Academy, Marlene spent 35 years as a public school educator in New Jersey and in New York City. She held several leadership positions in the Bronx for the NYC Department of Education, including Deputy Superintendent, Local Instructional Superintendent and Community Superintendent. In the early days of the Leadership Academy, Marlene facilitated the New Principals Onboarding Program and the New Schools Initiative. Marlene lives in Manhattan with her husband. She cherishes the time she spends with her husband, daughters, and grandson, especially when she prepares gourmet meals for the family.
George Foley worked as a teacher and principal for over 35 years in Brooklyn and Queens. During his tenure at IS 93, the school achieved numerous recognition: It was named a “National Model School” for America’s Choice and a “Collaborative Community of Practice” for the New York City Department of Education; cited for extraordinary gains on CNN and in a Daily News editorial, “How to Fix the Schools;” and received top ratings from the NYC Department of Education. The school’s supervisory team received the Performance Differential for five consecutive years. George served as a mentor principal for the first four years of the Leadership Academy’s Aspiring Principal Program. He currently trains Leadership Academy coaches and clients in data-informed decision making. George has worked with hundreds of first year and veteran principals.
Director, West Michigan Leadership Academy
Abbie Groff-Blaszak joined the The Leadership Academy in 2017 as Director of the West Michigan Leadership Academy in Grand Rapids, MI. In this role, Abbie directs a program of support for five districts in Greater Grand Rapids that focuses on professional learning networks and individualized coaching for principals, personalized district leadership support, and the collaborative development of local capacity to support and sustain a strong principal pipeline. Abbie is passionate about building and supporting a healthy and diverse educator workforce as the foundation for achieving equitable student outcomes. She has a rich background and expertise in programs and policy to support the development, retention, and growth of strong educators at the local, state, and national levels. Prior to joining The Leadership Academy, Abbie served in various roles at the Michigan Department of Education, including Manager of Curriculum and Instruction, Senior Policy Advisor, and most recently, Director of the Office of Educator Talent. In her time at the MDE, Abbie led a number of major initiatives, including Michigan’s adoption of the Common Core State Standards, the development and implementation of Michigan’s ESEA Flexibility and State Equity Plans, implementation of Michigan’s educator evaluation law, and development of Michigan’s ESSA plan focusing on educator effectiveness. Abbie began her career in education as a Teach for America corps member, teaching third and fourth grades in the Greenville Public Schools in Greenville, Mississippi. Following her two-year commitment, Abbie remained in Greenville for several more years, serving as a teacher leader, curriculum coach, and assistant principal before heading back to the Midwest as founding principal of a start-up public charter school in Indianapolis, IN. Abbie holds a BA in History and Political Science from Indiana University and a Ed.M. from Harvard University in Administration, Planning, and Social Policy.
Patricia joined the Leadership Academy in 2014 as a coach, facilitator, and designer of professional learning sessions. She has worked with school and district leaders and their teams, leading learning sessions across seven states, including Pennsylvania, Iowa, Indiana, Connecticut, and Nevada. Pat also has been doing executive coaching since its inception at the Leadership Academy. Before coming to the Leadership Academy, Pat was Executive Director of the Rhode Island Association of School Principals for 5 years. Prior to that, she had a long career as principal of several middle and high schools in Rhode Island, including one school which she and her team were able to turnaround from low performing to high performing in just four years. She began her work in education as a high school English teacher. Pat credits her involvement in the Future Teachers Club in high school for inspiring her commitment to public education.
Cynthia Hunter has been a facilitator/coach with The Leadership Academy since her retirement from the New York City Department of Education in 2005. Prior to her retirement, Cynthia served as principal of the St. Albans School, PS 36, in Queens, where she was able to lead her school from one designated by the state as in need of improvement to a School of Excellence within three years. Her school received the New York State Reading Excellence Act Grant, was on the New York State Most Improved Lists for both reading and math, and became a Teachers College project school for innovative methods in balanced literacy. She also initiated a project with her students to restore the community murals at the St. Albans LIRR Station. Cynthia is a product of the New York City school system. She received her BS from Long Island University and an MA from New York University. Ms. Hunter served on the New York City Special Education Committee under Chancellor Joel Klein. She also served as a sitting principal mentor for new principals during her tenure as principal. In 2004, she was inducted as a member of the Cahn Fellows Program at Teachers College, Columbia University, a program for distinguished New York City Principals. She was awarded the New York State Businessmen’s Award for PS 36’s high academic achievement. She was honored and awarded a Community Service Award by the St. Albans Community for outstanding community service and a Congressional Achievement Award for exemplary achievement.
Senior Director, Leadership Development
Diana Joyce joined the The Leadership Academy in 2014 and is currently Director, Leadership Development. In this role, she has served as project manager for the Leadership Academy’s Foundations of Principal Supervisor program, supported the Fort Wayne Community Schools in the development of a series trainings designed to build mentor principal skills around coaching and developing aspiring school leaders, and worked with San Francisco Unified School District to design professional learning session for principal supervisors. Previously, Diana worked at TNTP, supporting the recruitment and development of teachers working in high needs schools in New York City and Louisiana. Diana began her career in education as a Teach For America corps member and special education teacher in New Orleans. Diana holds a BA in Psychology from the University of Notre Dame. Diana’s family immigrated from the Philippines to the U.S. when she was 9 years old. She vividly remembers her first day of school in a new country, and her work in education is inspired everyday by the teachers she had in those early years who celebrated her Filipino heritage and culture.
Director, Leadership Development
Michael joined the The Leadership Academy in 2007. He supports the design and delivery of the Leadership Academy’s coach training work and has played a pivotal role in developing and supporting coaching practice both internally and with our clients. He is a team lead for our work with the Bainum Family Foundation / ACE Academy and has been a key designer and facilitator for our New Principal Institute. As a project manager, Michael oversees the implementation of our i3/TISS grant from the U.S. Department of Education; Equity: Inquiry to Action, a program supporting district teams in tackling an equity-focused problem of practice; the West Michigan Leadership Academy; and our leadership development work in Phoenix, AZ, and Richland County, SC. Before coming to the Leadership Academy, Michael served as an AmeriCorps member in Patterson, NJ, with NJ Community Development Corporation and JFK High School’s School-Based Youth Services Program. A Bronx native, Michael has a BA in psychology from Rutgers College.
Verta joined the The Leadership Academy in 2018. Prior to that, she designed, managed, and delivered professional learning experiences and programs for sitting and aspiring school leaders at UnboundEd and New Leaders. Verta began her 20-year career in education as a teacher in Prince George’s County Public Schools, and then as a literacy specialist for the New York City Department of Education. She was principal of Bronx Arts for five years and served for several years as a leadership coach for principals and residents at New Leaders. Verta has a B.S. in communications and middle school education from James Madison University, and an M.A. from Teachers College, Columbia University.
Director, West Michigan Leadership Academy
Lauren McElrath joined the The Leadership Academy in 2018 as Program Manager for the West Michigan Leadership Academy in Grand Rapids, MI and now serves as Director. In this role, Lauren supports the design and logistics for the professional learning network and coaching program for five districts in Greater Grand Rapids. Before joining the Leadership Academy, Lauren was Associate Director for Scholarships for Grand Valley State University, for which she managed over 400 scholarships, collaborated with faculty and staff to ensure student success, and designed and implemented programming for increased student involvement. Lauren holds a Bachelor of Science in Broadcasting and a Master of Public Administration from Grand Valley State University.
Director, Leadership Development
Eric Prister serves as an Associate Director of Leadership Development. In this role, Eric manages projects with clients around the country that design and implement leadership development programs rooted in The Leadership Academy’s proven model and expertise. Prior to joining The Leadership Academy, Eric worked for three years at the University of Notre Dame’s Institute for Educational Initiatives, supporting the Institute’s many programs aimed at strengthening, supporting, and transforming Catholic K-12 schools around the United States. After moving to the New York City area, Eric worked at Bridgewater Associates, the world’s largest hedge fund, serving most recently as a project manager in the company’s Research department. Eric was born and raised in South Bend, Indiana, and holds two degrees from the University of Notre Dame—a Master of Theological Studies with a focus on Biblical Studies, and a Bachelor of Arts in Liberal Studies and Greek and Roman Civilization.
Senior Director, Learning Systems
With The Leadership Academy since 2014, Rachel oversees online learning and leads the development and implementation of innovative new products and services. She has supported The Leadership Academy’s work with the Bainum Family Foundation, Cleveland Metropolitan School District, Fundacao Itau Social (in Sao Paulo, Brazil), the Nevada Department of Education, Newburgh Enlarged City Schools, and the NYC Department of Education. She led the development of a “blended residency” for aspiring principals as well as four online, video-based simulations focused on equity (the Equity Sims). Before joining The Leadership Academy, she consulted on the development of programs and tools that supported adult learning with clients such as the NYC DOE, Ramapo for Children, and Teaching Channel, where she wrote a white paper on the use of video in professional learning for teachers. She continues to be interested in the value of video in helping educators analyze and reflect on practice, and stays on the lookout for new opportunities to use it. Rachel holds a certificate in English language teaching to adults as well as a BA from the University of California, Los Angeles.
Senior Director, Learning & Strategy
Sarah Stevens joined the The Leadership Academy in 2013 as the Associate Director of National Initiatives and now serves as Director of National Initiatives. Prior to joining the Leadership Academy, Sarah served as the Director of Education at Change for Kids (CFK). She helped define CFK’s Educational Goals, grew the volunteer programs into robust support systems for their high-needs NYC public elementary partner schools, and led the Board of Directors through a New School Adoption process resulting in new partnerships doubling the number of schools the organization supported. Sarah joined CFK from the Brooklyn Philharmonic, where she was the Director of Operations and the concert production manager. Before that position, Sarah opened and directed the Brooklyn Philharmonic’s after-school arts academy, and smartARTS, which offers all forms of fine arts, technology, sports, and tutoring classes to public middle school students free of charge. Sarah has also worked in arts education for the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center and Brooklyn Center for The Performing Arts. Before moving to New York, Sarah taught musical theatre and choir at a performing arts high school in Austin Texas. She studied Music Education and Opera performance at the University of Texas at Austin and received her Master’s degree in Non-Profit Management from Brooklyn College.
Gregory joined the Leadership Academy in 2005. He is an educator and coach/facilitator who values enriching the educational possibilities for young people, their schools and families, with a strong interest in coaching for equitable practice. Gregory believes that to achieve the potential of public education, we must be able to honestly confront the systems and structures that perpetuate all forms of inequity. Gregory’s work at the Leadership Academy has evolved from NYC-based coaching (with an emphasis on developing strong teams) to working in support of teacher leadership in Iowa to developing an “equity diagnostic” to support the work of Area Superintendents in Hillsborough County, Florida. He is currently working with equity coaches in Des Moines, Iowa. Gregory also helped the Leadership Academy develop and coach leaders to pilot an Equity Diagnostic tool that enables leaders, their teams, and school community to assess and set goals for improving equity. Gregory has a Ph.D. in Urban Education from the Graduate Center, CUNY, and an MA from Stony Brook University in Social Psychology. He has also undergone racial equity training with the Pacific Education Group. Education for social justice and empowerment are at the center of his thinking and practice. As a former faculty member in Education Studies at the New School University, Gregory founded the High School College Collaborative connecting area high schools to the resources of the university. He had the opportunity to work with and write about Paulo Freire, whose work inspires him and demonstrates what education can become.
National Leadership Facilitator
Corinne Vinal is Senior Director for Leadership Development. A graduate of the Leadership Academy’s first cohort of Aspiring Principals, Corinne served as principal of Manhattan Center for Science and Mathematics and founding principal of Sunset Park High School. She was a mentor principal to APP residents, co-facilitated the APP program for several years, and is currently co-facilitating the first cohort of the Yonkers Leadership Academy. Corinne also helped restructure the Newburgh Free Academy, the high school in Newburgh, NY. Her current responsibilities include design and facilitation of principal preparation programs, principal coaching, and program management in New York City, Nye County, NV, Grand Rapids, MI and Albany State University in Georgia. Corinne was a 2014-15 Cahn Fellow for Distinguished Principals at Teachers College, Columbia University. She has designed and facilitated professional learning for school leaders at the Institute for Student Achievement, Center for Family Life, the NYC Department of Education, and the Harvard Graduate School of Education. Corinne holds a BA in English from Wagner College, an MA in English from SUNY-Albany, an MPA from Baruch College; and a Sixth Year Certificate in Education Administration from the College of Staten Island.
Associate Vice President, Strategic Partnerships
Phil joined the The Leadership Academy team in 2015 and currently serves as the Associate Vice President, Strategic Partnerships. He has over 20 years of experience serving the education industry including school districts, state departments of education, universities, and nonprofit organizations. Phil’s responsibilities include marketing, sales, strategic partner relations, special projects and related strategy and planning. Prior to joining The Leadership Academy, Phil worked with Teach For America on a project to strengthen their national and regional data and reporting capabilities. He previously worked with Deloitte Consulting for over 25 years as the director of their state education consulting practice where he had responsibility for the marketing, sales, and delivery of professional services to state education organizations. His client service experience included process and organizational redesign, data system implementation, and analytics. Phil holds a BS in Public Policy and a MS in Public Management from Carnegie Mellon University.
Senior Director, Strategic Communications & Policy
Jill Grossman is the Senior Director of Strategic Communications and Policy. In this role, she has overseen the publication of numerous op-eds and articles in national publications and the production of videos on school and district leadership. Jill also co-authored “Still in the Game,” a research paper and policy brief on the impact on ongoing leadership coaching. Previously, Jill worked at New Leaders, where she helped write Breakthrough Principals: A Step-By-Step Guide to Building Stronger Schools, a book outlining New Leaders’ framework for effective principal and school practices. Jill also co-authored “Ambitious Leadership,” a research paper and series of case studies on the practices principals have used to effectively implement new college- and career-readiness standards. She has conducted research for other nonprofit organizations and school districts on principal training programs, school autonomy and teacher teams. Before working in education research, Jill spent 15 years as an editor and writer for several New York City news outlets, examining the challenges and achievements that urban communities experience, particularly around housing, schools, and politics. Jill has taught graduate and undergraduate journalism courses at New York University and Columbia University, as well as GED classes at community-based organizations and community colleges. Jill is an elected member of the Pleasantville (NY) Board of Education. She holds an MA in education policy from Teachers College, Columbia University, and a BA in sociology from Vassar College.
Tiffany High serves as Communications Associate. In this capacity, she writes original content and supports a variety of print, video, and web-based external and internal communications projects. Prior to joining the Leadership Academy in 2017, Tiffany held various positions in the field of communications (as a public relations representative, marketing director and digital project manager) but her passion for social justice and achieving equity flourished with her most recent role as Director of Health Equity Initiatives with Focus for Health Foundation. There, she partnered with organizations addressing the social determinants of health, including: education, economic stability and access to healthcare. She holds a BA in Communication with a dual concentration in Advertising and Public Relations from California State University, East Bay. Tiffany also serves on the board of directors of a nonprofit supporting first-generation college students.
Director, Research, Evaluation & Impact
Nikki Nagler joined the The Leadership Academy in 2016 and now serves as Director of Research, Evaluation & Impact. In this role, she works closely with program teams and clients to gather formative data and uses these qualitative and quantitative measures to investigate and communicate the impact of the Leadership Academy’s work. Previously, Nikki worked as the Director of Assessment at CUNY Hunter College, where she collaborated with faculty to design and implement learning outcomes assessment initiatives that promoted continuous improvement and institutional effectiveness. Nikki holds an MA in Mental Health Counseling from CUNY Hunter College and a BS in Political Science from the University of Maryland, College Park. Growing up, she always thought she wasn’t a “numbers person,” until her high school Calculus teacher taught her otherwise – and now she loves spending her days working with data!
Associate Director of Marketing
As the Associate Director of Marketing, Lorene supports the organization’s initiatives to promote professional learning services for school and district leaders. Lorene has more than 15 years of marketing experience, a decade of which were spent working in education. As a Marketing and Business Lead for Scholastic, Lorene oversaw the business strategy for and sales of digital eBook products across districts nationwide, supporting school and district leaders in their efforts to implement new technology and boost student reading skills. Prior to Scholastic, Lorene served as Marketing Director and Web Lead for Kids Discover, a digital- and print-based literacy product targeted to students in K-6. In this role, Lorene oversaw the entire marketing and web content strategy for Kids Discover, working to expand its digital footprint and customer reach via inbound marketing, social media, print collateral, and content development. Lorene began her career in magazine publishing, establishing successful marketing programs for magazines such as Time Out New York, Rolling Stone, Us Weekly, and Men’s Journal. She has a B.A. from Vassar College and a culinary degree from the Natural Gourmet Institute in New York City.
Associate Vice President of Research, Evaluation, and Impact
Marianna F. Valdez, Ph.D, serves as the Associate Vice President of Research, Evaluation, and Impact. In this role, Dr. Valdez ensures the organization’s ability to carefully monitor and measure the success and impact of its work, uses formative and summative data for decision-making, organizational learning and continuous improvement, and communicates the data’s implications internally and externally. Prior to joining The Leadership Academy, Dr. Valdez shaped the research initiatives and organizational learning at New Leaders for nearly eight years. During that time, she led New Leaders’ federal grants from the U.S. Department of Education, including a randomized control trial of a leadership training program and a multi-year study of innovation in leadership development. Dr. Valdez has taken an active role in codifying and disseminating New Leaders’ work to the broader field to encourage further adoption of promising practices, such as by authoring Untapped: Transforming Teacher Leadership to Help Students Succeed. Prior to New Leaders, Dr. Valdez conducted numerous empirical program evaluations of federal and state grant interventions with low-income youth. She has served as an undergraduate instructor at the University of Hawaii and graduate instructor at Montclair University. She has also coordinated longitudinal federal grants at Massachusetts General Hospital’s pediatric psychopharmacology unit. Dr. Valdez earned Doctorate and Masters degrees in Community and Culture Psychology from the University of Hawaii and a Bachelors degree from Tulane University.
Joe has been at the Leadership Academy since 2007 and now serves as Controller. Joe is responsible for overseeing day-to-day financial accounting, financial statement reporting, financial analysis, budget, audit, grants, contracts and special projects. Prior to joining the Leadership Academy, Joe was the Controller for The South Street Seaport Museum in downtown Manhattan, his first role in non-profit accounting. He also served as Accounting Manager for Gordon’s Jewelers and Zale Corporation. He holds a BBA in Accounting and Finance from Pace University.
Senior Director, Human Resources & Talent Management
Saying that Gerry Falchick is a people person is probably an understatement. Her career path took a sharp left turn from pursuing a Master’s degree in Literature with emphasis on fifteenth century English many moons ago to a honing her skills in Human Resources. Her HR career is extensive and varied, with concentration in recruitment, employee relations, performance management, and organizational development. All of what went before was preparation for what she does currently. As Director of Human Resources in a community hospital in Florida, she designed and implemented a new selection and on-boarding system and reengineered the performance management program. During her five years managing a large and very busy recruitment function at New York Presbyterian, she introduced client-based planning and training, but it was at The Leadership Academy where she found a home. In her words, she gets to “support the most dedicated, smart and collaborative team it has ever been a pleasure to work with”.
She is responsible for payroll, vendor payment, monthly profit and loss reports for the The Leadership Academy’s national clients, assisting with audits, and performing a myriad of other financial duties all with the aim of ensuring that the Finance department runs smoothly and is responsive to the needs of the entire organization. Prior to joining The Leadership Academy, she was employed at a non-profit organization in NYC whose primary focus was the eradication of homelessness. She was also a tax auditor, a job where she honed her attention to detail. She earned a BBA from Baruch College in Accounting and is currently exploring colleges to begin the next phase in her education.
Special Assistant to the CEO
An experienced office administrator with over 30 years’ experience, Juanita is often the first contact with The Leadership Academy. She joined The Leadership Academy in 2006 and provides administrative support services to the senior cabinet, plans organizational events, and brings her expertise to all departments. Prior to joining the Academy, Juanita served seven years in the nonprofit sector as Director and Program Coordinator of a senior citizens center, and 19 years in various corporate positions. A mother of four, Juanita holds a Bachelor of Arts degree from Wells College.
Eddie Melendez serves as the IT Specialist working side by side with the IT Director. He brings over 15 years of customer service experience with both consumers and businesses. These skills transfer well to instructing others on software, technology, troubleshooting or creating instructional materials and media. He has provided technical support for over seven years at places like John Jay College, the YMCA, Delivery.com and most recently, a charter school in the South Bronx. He holds various certifications on cloud computing and Microsoft software and services, including a Google Certification for Technical Support. Additionally, he has always had a passion for programming and web development, taking courses to further his expertise in the field and graduating from Pursuit’s fellowship for Android Programming (formerly known as Coalition for Queens). Having worked in education systems for several years, Eddie recognizes the impact leadership can have in fostering success of young people. As a youth himself, growing up in the South Bronx, he quickly realized how different lives can be based on neighborhood, culture and or household income. On both a personal and professional level, Eddie is excited to be part The Leadership Academy’s efforts to close opportunity gaps, particularly in historically marginalized communities.
Senior Director, Information Technology
Alex Negron serves as the Information Technology Director for The Leadership Academy. As Director of Information Technology, he is responsible for all aspects of IT. He has been working in the technology field for over fifteen years. Alex joined The Leadership Academy in 2003 after working at the New York City Department of Education as a Computer Technician. Alex holds a BA in Computer Science. In addition, he holds certifications as well, including one from the Microsoft Certified Systems Administrator program and others from the MCTS program and various software applications. He brings his depth of experience and various technical skills to his current position where he supports The Leadership Academy.
Senior Director, Facilities & Administration
Bernadette joined the The Leadership Academy in July 2003 working with the Aspiring Principals Admissions team for the first class of Aspiring Principals and is still working with the Admissions team. As Senior Director, Facilities & Administration, Bernadette is responsible for managing our staff offices as well as securing space for on and off site workshops, working along with the IT and Operations staff to deliver and support all events. Bernadette works with the client services responsible for client contract processes. Bernadette worked in the New York City Department of Education for 12 years before coming to The Leadership Academy.