Our Leadership

Nancy B. Gutiérrez, Ed.L.D.

Lead Executive Officer & President

Dr. Nancy B. Gutiérrez is President & Lead Executive Officer (LEO) of The Leadership Academy, a nationally recognized nonprofit organization dedicated to supporting and developing culturally responsive school and school system leaders to create the conditions necessary for all students to thrive. Since 2003, The Leadership Academy has done work in more than 375 school districts, state education departments, and education organizations across the country, reaching over 12,000 educators in 39 states.

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 Administrators’ Region 8 Middle School Principal of the Year in 2010. In 2014, Nancy joined The Leadership Academy and served in various roles before being named President & CEO in October 2018. 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 Fall 2019 Pahara-Aspen Education Fellow and was named one of the top 100 most influential leaders in education in New York in 2020. In 2023, Nancy was named San Jose State University’s Distinguished Alumna.

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 has served as an adjunct professor for NYU, Teachers College and American University as well as an expert guest at various Harvard Principals’ Center Institutes. Nancy is a frequent keynote speaker and has authored numerous pieces on education leadership for publications including Education Week, Kappan, The74, Learning Forward’s Learning Professional, District Administrator, and Hechinger Report. She is also the co-author of Stay and Prevail: Students of Color Don’t Need to Leave Their Communities to Succeed, a revolutionary guide to disrupting harmful mindsets and practices in our schools to ensure that students can thrive in their home communities.

Nancy is a member of the Board of Directors at the Hunt Institute, brightbeam, and Education Leaders of Color (EdLoC), and serves on the Latinos for Education teaching team.

Find Nancy on Twitter @nancybgutierrez or LinkedIn.

Mary Rice-Boothe, Ed.D.

Executive Director, Curriculum Development & Equity

Mary Rice-Boothe, Ed.D., joined The Leadership Academy in 2015 and currently serves as Executive Director, Curriculum Development & Equity. 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 across the country 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 TLA, 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 high school English teacher in East Harlem. Mary is a certified Courageous Conversations about Race Affiliate and a certified Facilitative Leadership Trainer. She sits on the board 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 from the University of Southern California. Her book, focused on leaders of color, will be published by ASCD in 2022. Mary lives in Round Rock, Texas, with her mom, husband, daughter, and son.

Mary Jo Dunnington

Executive Director, Business Development & Finance

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 Executive Director, Business Development & Finance. 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.

Michelle Jarney

Executive Director, Learning & Strategy

Michelle joined the The Leadership Academy in 2004 and now serves as the organization’s Executive Director, Learning & Strategy. 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.

Carole Learned-Miller, Ed.L.D.

Executive Director, Innovation & Operations

As Executive Director, Innovation & Operations, 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.

David Baiz, Ed.L.D.

Executive Director, Programs

David Baiz joined The Leadership Academy in October 2020 as a National Designer & Facilitator and now serves as the Executive Director, Programs. 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.

Anthony King, Ed.L.D.

Executive Director, External Engagement

Dr. Anthony King, Ed. L.D., joined the Leadership Academy in 2022 and currently serves as Executive Director of External Engagement. Prior to joining the Leadership Academy, Anthony served as the Director of Continuous Improvement for the Sonoma County Office of Education in Santa Rosa, CA. In his role, he supported several districts throughout the county in their improvement efforts and the development of their Local Control and Accountability Plans. He also led the 21st Century California School Leadership Academy for five counties in the California North Bay region where he led the planning and implementation of professional learning opportunities, communities of practice, and leadership coaching focused on equity and continuous improvement. These offerings were designed to develop school leadership at multiple levels of educational systems. Dr. King has experience working with numerous schools, districts, national and regional foundations, and state departments of education across the country. Anthony has 14 years of experience in education, having previously served the students and families of Independence, MO as a former elementary teacher and principal. Anthony holds a B.A. in Interdisciplinary Studies with emphases in math, physics, and Black studies and an M.Ed in Curriculum & Instruction from the University of Missouri. He also holds an Educational Specialist degree in administration from the University of Central Missouri and he earned his doctorate in education leadership—Ed.L.D.— from the Harvard Graduate School of Education.

Expert Advisory Council

Linda Darling-Hammond

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).

Meredith Honig

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.

Deborah Jewell-Sherman

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.

John J-H Kim

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.

Ellen Moir

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.

Habeeb Quadri

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.

Board of Directors

Jonathan M. Moses (Chair)

Wachtell, Lipton, Rosen & Katz

Jonathan M. Moses is co-chair of the firm’s Litigation Department, which he joined in 1998. He has represented clients in diverse industries, including banks and financial institutions, media companies and industrial firms. His practice includes complex commercial and securities litigation, government investigative proceedings, and international arbitration. Prior to joining the firm, Jon served as an attorney for the New York Daily News, where he worked on First Amendment issues. Jon is also a former journalist, having served, among other positions, as a staff reporter for the Wall Street Journal. Jon received an A.B. from Harvard University and a J.D. from Columbia Law School. Following graduation from Harvard, Jon was the recipient of a Fulbright Fellowship in Hong Kong. Jon also served as a law clerk to the Honorable Stephen F. Williams of the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit following graduation from law school. Jon is President-elect of the Federal Bar Council in the Second Circuit, chairman of the board of the New York City Leadership Academy, an educational organization that focuses on training leaders who will foster success in public schools, and member of the boards of The Marshall Project, a non-profit news organization focused on criminal justice, the New-York Historical Society and Prep for Prep. Jon is also a member of the American Law Institute. Jon grew up in New Jersey.

Kendra Ferguson

Principal Consultant
Ferguson Consulting Group

Dr. Kendra Ferguson has spent more than 25 years fighting for educational equity as a teacher, principal, professional coach and school system leader.  Dr.  Ferguson is the founder of Ferguson Consulting Group, where she and her partners provide operational, strategic and mindful organizational support to heighten team performance. Often described as a Performance Culture Architect, in collaboration with her clients she designs, refines and aligns the ways of working, policies and structures to meet organizational outcomes. She actively seeks out and welcomes voices who are often marginalized, to help shape the plans and accurately identify needed resources to achieve the bottom line. Much of Kendra’s career has been dedicated to developing,  mentoring and sponsoring adults to lead organizations  focused on educating  Black and Brown children,  achieve excellence. Most recently, Kendra served as CEO of KIPP Memphis for five years. Prior to her role in Memphis, Kendra she served as Chief People Officer and prior to that Chief of Schools at KIPP Bay Area Schools (now KIPP NorCal). During her five-year tenure there, all of the KIPP Bay Area schools attained the prestigious national Blue Ribbon designation, and the majority of students achieved success on a set of measures that indicate readiness to succeed in college. During the same period, racial diversity among the teaching staff increased from one-third to two-thirds. Prior to her work with KIPP Bay Area Schools, Kendra worked at the KIPP Foundation, served as consultant to charter and traditional schools across the country and was a charter school founder for Aspire Public Schools. Kendra serves as a mentor and coach for educational leaders throughout the country. A proud mother of three and a native of Oakland, California, Kendra is a continual learner. Kendra earned her doctorate in Educational Leadership from National-Louis University, where she completed a dissertation on Sponsorship as a way to overcome barriers to executive success for African-American women. She also holds a MA in Education, Policy Analysis and Administration from Stanford and a BA from the University of Washington.

Bibb Hubbard

Founder & President
Learning Heroes

Bibb Hubbard founded Learning Heroes to help parents most effectively advocate on behalf of their children’s educational success. She brings extensive experience in communications, policy, and advocacy from the public, private, and philanthropic sectors. She held leadership positions at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, Widmeyer Communications, and Scholastic. Her public-sector experience includes positions at the White House and the U.S. Labor Department. Bibb sits on the board of the New York City Leadership Academy and is the proud mother of two teenage sons.

Erik W. Kahn

Bryan Cave LLP

Erik Kahn has broad experience in complex technology deals and intellectual property protection, transactions, and litigation. He represents clients in diverse industries, including software and computer-related technologies, consulting, telecommunications and telephony, financial services, Internet, retail, consumer brands, healthcare, security, aviation, entertainment, publishing, and fashion. Erik advises clients on all aspects of technology development, acquisition, licensing and transfer; global brand protection strategies and enforcement programs; content and brand licensing; intellectual property in corporate transactions; intellectual property audits; celebrity endorsements; and evaluation and vetting of entertainment properties. He litigates cases involving trademark and trade dress infringement, domain name disputes, copyright infringement, intellectual property licensing, and defamation. The World Trademark Review designated Erik a recommended expert in New York for 2018, commenting that: “Erik Kahn knows how to smooth out multi-layered technology transactions to fully exploit the value of IP assets; he is also a dab hand at sophisticated litigation.” They also noted, “Erik Kahn, Bryan Cave’s Global IP Chief, is an incredibly smart attorney who is always three steps ahead of potential obstacles; his strategic advice ensures protection of portfolios in the long term.” Additionally, Erik is listed in the Best Lawyers in America® and New York Super Lawyers. Erik previously served on the firm’s executive committee and was the leader of the firm’s global Intellectual Property practice group.

Mark Kornblau

Managing Partner, Global Head of Communications
Softbank Group

Mark Kornblau is Managing Partner, Global Head of Communications for Softbank Group, one of the world’s largest technology investment firms. In this role, Kornblau leads communications and brand strategy across SoftBank, and partners with its 450+ portfolio companies. Previously, Kornblau was Executive Vice President of Communications for NBCUniversal News Group, where he oversaw communications for an award-winning portfolio of news brands including NBC News, MSNBC, TODAY, Nightly News, Meet the Press, and all related digital properties. Kornblau has also served as Managing Director of Corporate Communications for JP Morgan Chase, Head of Public Affairs and Spokesman for the U.S. at the United Nations during the Obama Administration, working for U.S. Ambassador Susan Rice. Kornblau has held senior communications roles on two U.S. presidential campaigns, on Capitol Hill and on U.S. House and Senate campaigns. He received his B.A. from the University of Wisconsin-Madison.  

Hector Montenegro

Montenegro Consultant Group
Senior District Advisor
Collaborative for Academic Social and Emotional Learning

Dr. Hector Montenegro, President/CEO of Montenegro Consulting Group, LLC, works with districts and administrators nationally and internationally on systemic implementation of Social and Emotional Learning (SEL). He is a Senior Associate for Margarita Calderon and Associates (MC&A) and provides training on instructional strategies for ELLs, leadership development for administrators, language and literacy, instructional coaching, and parent engagement. Dr. Montenegro has been a math teacher, principal, Chief of Staff and Superintendent of Schools in Texas. He is an internationally recognized speaker and presenter of 100s of workshops, leadership development seminars, retreats, keynote speeches and webinars on SEL, mindfulness, effective instructional strategies for ELs throughout the US and abroad in over 23 countries. He has been an educational advisor to Guatemala, Chile, Peru and Saudi Arabia through the U.S. State Department. He has received numerous awards including, National Technology Savvy Superintendents Award, TCEA Texas Technology Superintendent of the Year award, State-Wide Texas Association for Bilingual Education (TABE) Honoree Award for Public Education, and the National LULAC Educator of the Year award. He also serves on several national boards including The Leadership Academy (TLA), Transformative Educational Leadership (TEL board chair) and the Parent-Teacher Home Visits (PTHV). Dr. Montenegro was one of the founding members of the Association of Latino Administrators and Superintendents (ALAS) in 2003 and is currently the Co-Academic Administrator of the ALAS Superintendent’s Leadership Academy (SLA). He serves as a volunteer for the Fruit Tree Planting Foundation working on projects in Guatemala, El Salvador, Peru, Brazil and Uganda. He obtained his masters from Stanford University and doctorate from the University of Texas at Austin.

Jeanny Pak

Managing Director, UBS Financial Services

Jeanny Pak, Managing Director, is Head of the NY/Mid-Atlantic Group in Public Finance for UBS Financial Services. Jeanny applies her 20 years of experience in public finance to lead the firm’s efforts in providing financial solutions to states and municipalities in the NY/Mid-Atlantic region to raise capital for vital public infrastructure and projects. Throughout her career she has worked closely with New York State, New York City and a variety of New York governmental authorities such as the Metropolitan Transportation Authority, Dormitory Authority of NY, Port Authority of NY & NJ, New York City Municipal Finance Authority, and Empire State Development Corporation. Jeanny began her career in Public Finance at UBS (PaineWebber) and rejoined UBS in her current role in April of 2018. Previously, Jeanny worked at Bank of America Merrill Lynch, where she led the New York State effort. She also spent three years at Jefferies where she helped build out its Public Finance department. Prior to her career in public finance, Jeanny was an inaugural 1991 Teach for America corps member in Houston where she taught elementary school. Upon completing her TFA service, she joined the TFA organization headquartered in NYC where she worked to train, place and support corps members throughout the country and in NYC. During this time, she coordinated with the NYC Board of Education to help run the NYC regional TFA program placing corps members to teach in under resourced NYC public schools. Jeanny graduated with honors cum laude from Cornell University and received her MPP from the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University. Jeanny lives in Queens with her three sons.

Dr. Darline Robles

Professor of Clinical Education
USC Rossier School of Education

Dr. Darline P. Robles is the Associate Dean, Office of Equity and Community Engagement and a Professor of Clinical Education at the Rossier School of Education, University of Southern California.  She teaches in the EdD Educational Leadership program and is the Faculty Advisor for the Preliminary Administrator Credential under Professional Development. She also serves as a Co-Director of the Center on Education Policy, Equity and Governance.   Dr. Robles serves as Rossier’s Diversity Liaison to the University of Southern California diversity and inclusion efforts. Prior to joining the faculty at Rossier, Dr. Robles served eight years as the first Latina County superintendent of the Los Angeles County Office of Education (LACOE), the nation’s largest regional service agency.  LACOE serves more than two million preschool and school-age children, of whom 60% are Latino.  As chief of the Salt Lake City School District from 1995-2002, she was recognized for raising student achievement. Prior to her position in Salt Lake City School District she served as superintendent of the Montebello Unified School District in California, where she began her teaching career. While superintendent, she saved the district from a state take-over. Her career has focused on serving the underserved students and inspiring and mentoring young Latino educators. Dr. Robles was named twice a one of the Top 100 Influential Hispanic Americans. In 2010 she was named to the President Obama’s Advisory Commission on Educational Excellence for Hispanics.  Recent recognitions include the “Education Medal” from the Lucille and Edward R. Roybal Foundation in 2019; and the from the Mexican American Legal Defense Education Fund (MALDEF) Lifetime Achievement Award, Excellence in Community Service in 2022. Dr. Robles is committed to public service and serves on many local and national boards. She presents to national audiences on leadership and culturally proficiency and is a leadership consultant to school districts and non-profit organizations. Dr. Robles and her co-authors Dr. Ott and Dr. Franco wrote and published “A Culturally Proficient Society Begins in School: Leadership for Equity” in 2011 by Corwin Press.

Javaid Siddiqi

President & CEO
The Hunt Institute

Former Virginia Secretary of Education Dr. Javaid Siddiqi is President & CEO of The Hunt Institute, a nonprofit organization that provides research, technical expertise, and learning opportunities to drive equitable reforms. Dr. Siddiqi guides The Hunt Institute’s strategic vision and develops relationships with partners and funders across the nation. He works with senior-level elected officials across the political aisle to help design strategy, shape policy, and drive educational improvements on the national and state levels. Dr. Siddiqi began his career as a high school teacher, assistant principal, and principal in Chesterfield, Virginia. As Virginia Secretary of Education, Dr. Siddiqi helped develop and implement policy and provided guidance to public universities, the Virginia Community College System, higher education and research centers, and state-supported museums. Prior to his appointment, he served as deputy secretary of education where he focused his efforts on teacher quality and improving educational outcomes for all students. Dr. Siddiqi is a graduate of Richard Bland College, Virginia State University, and Virginia Commonwealth University where he received both his undergraduate degree and doctorate in educational leadership. 

Sy Sternberg

Retired Chairman and CEO
New York Life Insurance Company

Sy Sternberg is retired chairman of the board and chief executive officer of New York Life Insurance Company.  He joined the company in 1989 as a senior vice president, became executive vice president in 1991, was elected vice chairman of the board in February 1995, and became president and chief operating officer on October 1, 1995.  He became chairman of the board and chief executive officer on April 1, 1997, and remained CEO until his retirement on June 30, 2008.  He continued as non-executive chairman of the board until his retirement from the Board on May 31, 2009.  Mr. Sternberg retired as the company’s longest-serving chairman since the position was established in 1931. Mr. Sternberg is former chairman of Northeastern University’s Board of Trustees.  He is also a former Director of CIT Group and Express Scripts.  Mr. Sternberg currently serves on several non-profit boards including NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital, the Hackley School, the New-York Historical Society, Big Brothers Big Sisters of New York City, The Leadership Academy, and the Foundation for City College.  He is also a member of the Council on Foreign Relations. In 1999, Mr. Sternberg was appointed by President Clinton as one of three U.S. representatives to Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation’s (APEC) Business Advisory Council, and served through 2002. In January 2008, Mayor Bloomberg of New York City appointed Mr. Sternberg as co-chair, along with former Mayor Dinkins, of the Mayor’s task force on Career and Technical Education Innovation. Mr. Sternberg received a Bachelor’s degree in Electrical Engineering from City College of New York and an M.S.E.E. degree from Northeastern University.  Mr. Sternberg received an Honorary Doctorate of Engineering degree from Polytechnic University in 2006, an Honorary Doctorate of Humane Letters degree from City College of New York in 2010, and an Honorary Doctorate of Commerce degree from Northeastern University in 2012.

Scott D. Widmeyer

Founding Managing Partner & Chief Strategy Officer
Washington Finn Partners

Scott Widmeyer has an impressive background in providing strategic counsel to scores of decision-makers, from presidents to governors to chief executive officers to union leaders. From working as a newspaper reporter to running major media operations for national campaigns, Widmeyer knows how to get results for his clients. His track record of successes in education, health care, politics, campaign finance, technology, trade and other public policy matters illustrate his impact as a “change agent” in things that matter most to America. Clients regularly turn to Widmeyer for strategic counsel, crisis support, and advice on issues that impact us both globally and locally. He founded Widmeyer Communications in 1988, building on a career in newspaper reporting and serving in major communications positions for five highly respected leaders — former President Jimmy Carter, the late former Vice President Walter Mondale, U.S. Senator Jay Rockefeller, the late Congresswoman Geraldine Ferraro and the late American Federation of Teachers president Albert Shanker. In 2013, Widmeyer Communications became a Finn Partners company. Scott is active in many civic and philanthropic causes. He currently serves on the boards of the Leadership Academy, the Stubblefield Institute for Civil Political Communications, the Catskill Mountain Foundation, the Country Roads Angel Network and the Education Writers Association. In 2017, Scott became National Council chair of the George Washington University School of Media and Public Affairs. Until 2016, Scott served on the board of the LGBT Community Center of New York, and previously held the position of vice president for the Contemporary American Theater Festival. In 2007, he was named a David Rockefeller Fellow, a highly coveted one-year program of the New York City Partnership. As a corporate member of the Partnership, Scott and his firm are involved in a number of top priorities related to pandemic recovery, education, diversity and technology. In recent years in New York, Scott was part of the concept team to develop “A Celebration of Teaching & Learning,” a 10-year effort by WNET/Channel Thirteen to showcase great teaching in New York-area schools as well as nationally.  This initiative, at its peak, attracted up to 10,000 educators and Scott played a lead role in generating nearly $30 million in funder support from the corporate, philanthropic and non-profit sectors. Elsewhere in the New York market, Scott has advised a range of clients including the New York Hall of Science, the United Federation of Teachers, the American Museum of Natural History, the College Board, Pfizer, Carnegie Corporation of New York, the Rockefeller Foundation, the New Yorker Hotel, and the International Brotherhood of Carpenters. From launching STEM initiatives to counseling crisis clients confronting federal and state investigations to preparing clients for potential unrest from terrorist threats, Scott has been at the table in his role as counselor. In the mid-2000s, Scott and his colleagues led a two-year program called “PS 21” or Public Schools for the 21st Century.  This program was grounded in New York State to promote the value of public education and showcase the amazing talent and graduates who benefitted from public schools.  PS 21 was a collaborative effort by New York State United Teachers, the PTA and the League of Women Voters.  Scott and his team built out the program statewide and he brought on Valerie Rockefeller Wayne as the Honorary Chair. Widmeyer is a graduate of West Virginia University (WVU) where he has established two scholarship funds to benefit African-American and first-generation West Virginians seeking a degree in journalism. To date, more than 50 students have benefited from these scholarships, and in 2005, Widmeyer and his firm established the endowed Widmeyer Communications Professorship in Public Relations, the first of its kind in the nation. Widmeyer has served as a Visiting Professor at the P. I. Reed School of Journalism and has been a guest lecturer at WVU, Brown University, the University of Maryland, Shepherd University and The Johns Hopkins University. Continuing his commitment to his alma mater, Widmeyer was a member of the National Campaign Committee for WVU’s Capital Campaign and chaired the Campaign Committee for the Journalism School.  He also served as chair of the College of Media’s Visiting Committee until 2013. In 2003, he received West Virginia University’s most prestigious award in journalism – The P. I. Reed Achievement Award. Widmeyer was inducted into the WVU Academy of Distinguished Alumni in 2009.  His firm received the 2012 Diversity Distinction in PR Awards from the Council of PR Firms. In 2005, then West Virginia Governor Bob Wise bestowed upon Widmeyer the “Distinguished West Virginian Award,” the highest honor provided by the chief executive of the state, and in 2010 he was named to the PR News Hall of Fame. In 2016, Scott was the co-creator and publisher of A Walk Around Nantucket, America’s first island resort-centric adult coloring book.  The book (www.colormenantucket.com) has sold thousands of copies and is now in its second printing. Scott also launched a public affairs/lifestyles news show produced by Nantucket’s NPR station, WNCK-FM.  The show completed its fourth season in 2020.

Bob Wise

Former Governor, West Virginia

Former West Virginia Gov. Bob Wise has spent his career advancing education opportunities for our nation’s students. He recently completed 14 years as president of the Alliance for Excellent Education (All4Ed), a Washington, DC–based national nonprofit that has become a national leader in advocating the policies and practices necessary for secondary school students to be ready for postsecondary education and careers. Currently coordinating the development of the Global Science of Learning Education Network (GSoLEN), Gov. Wise’s accomplishments include leading the development of Future Ready Schools®, a network of 3300 school districts committed to the effective use of digital learning to assist teachers and improve student learning outcomes. He recently launched a science of adolescent learning initiative to guide education policy and practice decisions. He works closely with school district, state, and national leaders for evidence-based systems-change that advances 21st century learning that meets each student’s needs. After serving twenty-four years as governor, member of the U.S. House of Representatives, and state legislator, Gov. Wise has become a prominent speaker and advisor on education issues and trends. He has advised the U.S. Department of Education, White House, and key state and federal policymakers. As governor and U.S. congressman, he focused on  improving financial aid for college and early childhood development. Gov. Wise authored Raising the Grade: How High School Reform Can Save Our Youth and Our Nation. He earned a Bachelor of Arts degree from Duke University and a Juris Doctor degree from Tulane University. Working from Washington, D.C. and California, Gov. Wise  constantly strives to improve education opportunities for all students.

Client Services

Arlene Berg


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.

Ashley Brailsford

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.

Lindsey Brown

Director, Leadership Development

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.

Nicole Cathey

National Designer and Facilitator/ Content Lead, District Leadership

Nicole Cathey is a National Designer and Facilitator, responsible for designing and delivering highly effective professional learning for school and district leaders, and for building the capacity of clients to develop their own context-driven learning initiatives. With more than 25 years of experience in central office, school and community development, Nicole has set the stage for optimal learning experiences by way of principal supervision, strategic program direction, coaching, project management, leadership development, personalized learning, and digital conversions. Nicole excels at organizing leadership and succession planning using a style that evokes partnership, community, and working together for a common good. Previously, Nicole served as the Managing Director of Schools in Southwest ISD, where she provided coaching and feedback to school principals while building a pipeline of instructional leaders. Nicole has served as the Program Director for The Holdsworth Center as the founding designer of the campus leadership program, and was also the Project Manager for the principal pipeline within the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools Leadership Development Office in Charlotte, North Carolina, where she synchronized the operations of The Wallace Foundation’s $7.5 million grant. Prior to this, Nicole was a classroom teacher, a facilitator of professional development, a staff developer, and an instructional technology teacher in Prince George’s and Montgomery County public schools. She has also worked in the social service field for the Family Crisis Center, Inc. of Prince George’s County and Akron Summit Community Action, where she supervised and coordinated 24 regional programs to increase self-sufficiency while advocating to break the cycle of poverty. Nicole is a native of Akron, Ohio and Mitchellville, Maryland and holds a master’s in administration and supervision from Trinity University in Washington, D.C. and a bachelor’s degree in individual family studies & gerontology from Kent State University in Ohio. She lives in San Antonio, TX, is the mother of an engaging college student and enjoys reading and taking long walks.

Jessica Cihal

Associate Vice President, Learning & Strategy/ Content Lead, APP

Jess Cihal currently serves as Associate Vice President, 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.

Marlene Filewich

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.

Patricia Hines


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 numerous 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. Pat holds the following degrees: BA in English from Rhode Island College, MA in English from the Bread Loaf School of English of Middlebury College, and an MEd in Administration from Providence College.

Kylett Jones

Associate Director, Research, Evaluation, & Impact

Kylett Jones joined The Leadership Academy in 2020 and now serves as the Associate Director of Research, Evaluation & Impact. In this role, she supports internal program teams by building surveys, analyzing and summarizing qualitative and quantitative data, and managing databases. Prior to joining The Leadership Academy, Kylett worked as a research assistant at various institutions including Emory University, the Marcus Autism Center, the University of Wisconsin – Madison, and Tufts University. In these roles, she developed a passion for research as a means to document, share, and prioritize marginalized voices and experiences. Kylett holds a B.S. in psychology and in human health from Emory University in Atlanta, Georgia.

Michael Kim

Senior Director, Client Services/ Content Lead, Coaching

Michael joined 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.

Annalise Kontras

Coach Team Lead, West Michigan Leadership Academy

Prior to joining WMLA as a Leadership Coach, Annalise served as an Assistant Headmaster at a 7-12th grade school in Boston Public Schools. There, she facilitated the Instructional Leadership Team and Professional Development, led the Special Education and World Language departments, coached and evaluated educators, coordinated student supports, and oversaw standardized testing. She began her career in education as a founding teacher and English Department chair of a Grand Rapids charter high school, where she also developed the school’s foundational 9th-12th grade Advisory curriculum. Annalise holds a B.A. in English and Secondary Education from Calvin College and a M.Ed in School Leadership from the Harvard Graduate School of Education.

Lauren McElrath

Director, Leadership Development

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.

Nikki Nagler

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!

Eric Prister

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.

Rachel Scott

Associate Vice President, 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.

Michele Shannon, Ed.L.D.

National Designer & Faciltator

Dr. Shannon serves as a National Designer & Facilitator. 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.

Sarah Stevens

Associate Vice President, Financial Strategy, Budgets, & Grants

Sarah Stevens joined the The Leadership Academy in 2013, serving as the Associate Director of National Initiatives, then the Senior Director, Learning & Strategy and now Associate Vice President, Financial Strategy, Budgets, & Grants. 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.

Marianna Valdez

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.

Corinne Vinal

National Leadership Facilitator

Corinne Vinal is a National Leadership Facilitator. 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.

Kendra Washington-Bass

National Designer & Facilitator

With over 25 years in education as a teacher, principal, and district office leader, Kendra has a wealth of knowledge and practical experience in leadership development and has a passion for ensuring that leaders create the optimal conditions for students to learn and engage. Throughout her career, Kendra has built the capacity of teachers and administrators through highly engaging and practical professional learning, facilitative coaching, and growth-evoking feedback.

Currently, Kendra serves as a National Designer and Facilitator for The Leadership Academy where she works with school districts to support culturally and linguistically responsive pedagogy. Her main objective is to work in partnership with schools to improve access and opportunities for students to engage in culturally relevant curricula to increase their critical consciousness skills, enhance their educational experience, and apply the knowledge and skills gained. Prior to her current work, Kendra spent 15 years as the Executive Director of Leadership Development in Gwinnett County Public Schools in Georgia where she helped to advance the district’s leadership pipeline including facilitating professional learning opportunities, designing content for the Aspiring Principal Program (APP) and the Aspiring Leader Program (ALP), and coaching and providing feedback to school leaders to increase their instructional capacity.

Previously, Kendra was a middle school principal and teacher in New York City, where she was born and raised. After attending the University of Notre Dame, Kendra joined TFA and began her rewarding educational career, and has not looked back. She is passionate about teaching and learning and believes that education is truly key to dismantling social injustices experienced by marginalized communities. Modeling this passion, Kendra continued her educational studies by earning her Master’s degree in Urban and Multicultural Education at the College of Mount Saint Vincent in Riverdale, New York, and then her Specialist and Doctorate in Educational Leadership at Mercer University in Georgia. Kendra currently resides in Georgia with her husband and enjoys being an empty nester. She is a proud mother of two sons who are pursuing their career dreams in entertainment and engineering.

Strategic Partnerships & Communications

Phil Benowitz

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.

Simon Landau

Associate Director, Communications & Social Media

As the Associate Director of Communications/Social Media, Simon Landau supports the organization’s messaging, social media strategy, and overall communications. Simon has more than a decade of experience working in online content, communications, and social impact. As Executive Producer of Digital and Social Content at ABC7/WJLA, Simon developed strategies to enhance and expand the station’s social media platforms and online content. Simon also oversaw all web copy and multimedia content for ABC7/WJLA and worked to enhance audience experience by developing a series of branding and marketing campaigns. In addition to ABC7/WJLA, Simon has worked as a social marketing and online content lead for several major media brands including USA Today and CBS/WUSA9. After working eight years in the media space, Simon left his career in media to focus on developing Open Goal Project, a non-profit organization he co-founded in 2015, dedicated to providing opportunities for growth to young soccer players from underserved communities. As co-founder and media director for Open Goal Project, Simon oversaw all of the organization’s communications, online content, branding, and marketing strategies. Simon has a B.A. in journalism from The George Washington University in Washington, D.C.

Lorene Sachwald

Director, Communications & Marketing

Lorene joined The Leadership Academy in 2018 and currently serves as the Director of Communications & Marketing. In this role, Lorene supports and oversees all outbound and internal communications for the organization, with a specific focus on digital marketing.  Lorene came to The Leadership Academy with  more than 15 years of marketing experience, a decade of which was spent working in the education publishing sector. 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.

Edith Suarez

Director, Strategic Partnerships

Edith joined The Leadership Academy as Director, Strategic Partnerships, in 2021. In this role, she supports the organization’s growth and impact by helping execute the business development strategy. Edith’s responsibilities include partner relations, writing proposals, and supporting the Strategic Partnerships and Communications team. Prior to joining The Leadership Academy, Edith led a collaborative initiative with Waltham Partnership for Youth, Waltham High School, and other partner organizations, to bring a holistic approach to supporting emerging bilingual students arriving in the United States from Latin America. Edith was campaign manager for the successful grassroots campaign of the first Afro-Latina elected to the Boston City Council. She also served as a Peace Corps volunteer in Burkina Faso. She holds a BA in Human Services from California State University, Dominguez Hills, and a Dual Masters in Public Policy, and MBA in Non-Profit Management from Brandeis University, the Heller School for Social Policy and Management. When she is not working, Edith loves to write, travel and eat, especially with her family and friends.

Erica Van Ross, APR

Associate Vice President, Strategic Communications & Policy

Erica Van Ross serves as the Associate Vice President of Strategic Communications and Policy, leading the team that oversees The Leadership Academy’s internal and external communications, marketing, and social media strategies. She holds an Accreditation in Public Relations (APR) from the Public Relations Society of America, and her two decades of communications leadership experience includes serving as the Head of CEO Communications for HP, where she oversaw communications for the chief executive’s internal and external engagements. Prior to that she was the Head of Communications, Community Engagement, and Customer Care for Schnuck Markets, where she led a team managing the regional grocer’s communications, philanthropy, and customer feedback. Erica also served in a variety of roles for Wells Fargo & Company, including as Vice President of Communications for the bank’s corporate social responsibility and community relations efforts. Prior to that, Erica was the Director of Public Information for the St. Louis Metropolitan Police Department, where she led a team managing the agency’s communications and media relations. Before moving into public relations Erica was a television journalist who reported for stations in St. Louis and Syracuse, New York. Erica earned a Master of Science from the S.I. Newhouse School of Journalism at Syracuse University and a Bachelor of Science in Interpersonal and Organizational Communication from the University of Kansas. She spent the first two years of her career at her undergraduate alma mater’s Office of Admissions & Scholarships, in a role focused on recruiting first-generation college students and students of color.

Administration & Operations

Joseph Burke


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.

Linda Lewis

Senior Accountant

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.

Juanita Lewis

Executive Assistant to the CEO & Cabinet

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.

Alexander Negron

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.

Bernadette Pizzurro

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.

Brittany Stewart

Senior Director, Human Resources & Talent Management

Brittany Stewart joined The Leadership Academy in September 2022 and serves as the organization’s Senior Director of Human Resources & Talent Management. In this position she leads, develops, and implements the employee lifecycle of activities and functions, including the organization’s “best practices” for recruiting, hiring, onboarding, performance and talent management, and compensation. Brittany also conducts research and analysis of organization trends and metrics related to human resources and talent management. With almost a decade of experience in the Human Resources field, Brittany holds a Bachelor’s Degree and is currently completing a Master’s Degree in Human Resources and Non-profit Management. She is also a certified Professional in HR (PHR). She has worked within nonprofit education systems for her entire professional career and is passionate about working with staff and leadership to build systems that better support educators and students.

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