Jeremiah Kittredge is the Co-Founder and CEO of Families for Excellent Schools, which helps parents organize for meaningful education reform, and which currently serves more than 50,000 families in the tri-state area. Forbes Magazine awarded him a “30 under 30” award for his work at FES. He’s worked as a public school teacher and union organizer in New York, Rhode Island, and New Hampshire, holding positions with SEIU, Obama for America, and Change to Win. A graduate of Brown University, he lives in Brooklyn, NY.
Prior to joining the team at Families for Excellent Schools in September 2014, Katie spent eleven years on the staff of Teach For America where she served in various capacities including development, human resources, and teacher recruitment.
Before her transition to the non-profit sector in 2003 she worked in strategic planning and new product development at American Express. She holds a bachelor’s degree in finance and management from the University of Pennsylvania and an MBA from Harvard Business School.
She lives in Brooklyn, NY with her son and is committed to making an impact in her local community. She serves on the board of Beginning with Children Charter School 2 in Williamsburg and volunteers at her church. She hails from the Midwest but has fallen in love with New York City and spends her free time exploring all the city has to offer from museums to theater to new restaurants.
Richard joined the Families for Excellent Schools team in the summer of 2012 and serves as the chief of staff. As the child of an immigrant family, he experienced the importance of education firsthand, learning English at the age of 12 while surviving his adolescence. Prior to joining FES, Richard worked as an investment banker at Barclays Capital for four years, helping U.S. colleges and universities manage their debt portfolios. Then he joined Teach for America and taught at Achievement First East New York Middle School as a math and history teacher. As much as he loves working with the FES staff, building systems from scratch, and overseeing its growth, nothing has made him happier than seeing parents grow into real leaders in their communities.
In his free time he enjoys playing soccer, reading books, and spending time with his wife and friends. He will forever brag about completing the 2006 Boston Marathon in less than four hours but will warn you not to run one yourself. Richard is a graduate of Harvard with a degree in Economics. He also holds a master’s degree in Education from Relay School of Education. He currently lives with his wife on the Upper West Side of Manhattan.
As Chief of States, Abena manages Families for Excellent Schools' parent organizing and school partnerships programs. As a child, Abena traveled more than three hours per day in order to attend quality schools and even moved out of state for high school; she hopes that one day this won’t be necessary. Before joining Families for Excellent Schools, Abena completed her Master’s degree at Teachers College, Columbia University, while working at Hyde Leadership Charter School in the Bronx. Prior to Hyde and Teachers College, Abena lived in Spain and worked for the Ministry of Education in Madrid, traveled throughout Europe and fine-tuned her olive oil palate. She currently serves on the board of Yoga Foster, a program committed to bringing mindfulness into public schools across the county. In her free time, Abena enjoys reading, traveling and playing blackjack.
As Chief Program Officer (CPO), Sean Andersen directs the organization’s national programmatic strategy. Prior to joining Families for Excellent Schools (FES), Sean served as the Chief of Staff for Democrats for Education Reform (DFER), where he advised fourteen state political committees on campaign strategy, executed national and state initiatives, standardized best practices, and strengthened the communications infrastructure between states and the national organization. Prior to his time at DFER, Sean also spent more than two years working as the Deputy Field Director at Education Reform Now (ERN) where he spearheaded long-term community support campaigns focused on bringing school choice to new neighborhoods, student recruitment campaigns, and short-term turnout campaigns for elections, rallies and hearings. Prior to these positions, Sean worked on Michael Bloomberg's successful bid for Mayor of New York City in 2009.
Reshma Singh joined the Families for Excellent Schools team in April 2016 and serves as its Chief Growth Officer. Reshma previously served as the founding executive director of the Partnership for Educational Justice (PEJ) and has held various positions at Achievement First where she oversaw the campaign to open schools in her home state, Rhode Island, and managed authorizer relations, governance, student recruitment, advocacy and parent engagement for the organization's network of schools. She began her career at Teach For America, serving as Development Director of its New York City region and Vice President of Development Operations at the organization's national office. Reshma holds an M.P.A. from New York University’s Wagner School of Public Service and a bachelor’s degree in urban studies and political science from Rutgers College. She is also an alumna of The Broad Residency in Urban Education. Reshma sits on the Board of Directors of Achievement First Rhode Island and the community advisory board of the Sikh Coalition. She currently lives in Brooklyn, NY and, in her free time, she enjoys running, hiking, and cooking.
Will Herberich is the National Managing Director of Communications for Families for Excellent Schools. Prior to FES, Will spent three years as a political adviser to former Boston City Councilor John R. Connolly, worked on a campaign for US Senate, and advised a number of other campaigns on a city and state level. Will attended Tufts University, where he served as the Executive Director of the Millennium Campus Network, a nonprofit focused on empowering college students to fight against global poverty. He currently lives in Boston's South End.
Before joining Families for Excellent Schools, Jason was a borough director for Democracy Builders. Prior to his role at Democracy Builders, Jason was a math empowerment teaching specialist at the Making Waves Education Program in Richmond, California and worked as an educator in Orinda, Oakland and Berkeley, California. Jason came to FES in 2011 as a founding member of the team. Since joining FES Jason has served in multiple roles before his current position as Managing Director, Tactics. A California native, Jason has worked in education and on education reform issues since 1999. Jason says "Working at FES allows me to fight for every child’s right to a great education."
As Managing Director of Creative & Strategy, Tara is tasked with telling the story of movement meant to transform the face of education, as well as building the FES brand to reflect its mission and core values.
A creative strategist by day and brand junkie by night, Tara has spent the greater part of the past two decades working on award-winning ad content for major media outlets and television networks. She successfully launched syndicated talk shows and reality programming, and rolled out brand campaigns for America’s highest rated morning shows and evening newscasts. Not a fan of clutter (or overuse of exclamation points), a cardboard box in the garage serves as home to various up-turned statuettes, framed certificates, and notes of praise for her work with Peter Jennings, Maria Bartiromo, Diane Sawyer, Jim Cramer, Katie Couric, Beyonce and more.
Unapologetically driven by a passion for her craft, Tara aligns both creative and strategic vision and delivers extraordinary and inspiring results upon their convergence.
People & Perspectives | Typography & Tequila | Baseball & Beaches
Danyela leads FES’ School Partnerships Team. Prior to FES, Danyela worked with education reform at the California Charter Schools Association, New Leaders, and Boston Public Schools. She has a Master’s in Public Policy from the Harvard Kennedy School and started her career at McKinsey & Co. and the Brazil Foundation. Danyela was born and raised in Brazil and now lives with her family in Manhattan.
Naomi Roth-Gaudetteis the Managing Director of Organizing at Families for Excellent Schools. Before taking on her current role, Ms. Roth-Gaudette worked as the Field Director at U.S. PIRG where she oversaw consumer and public health campaigns in 25 states. Prior to U.S. PIRG she served as Executive Director of Green Corps, an organization that trains young people to be effective environmental organizers. Ms. Roth-Gaudette has played key roles in a number of field campaigns, including working as the Recruitment Director for a 500-person effort in 2008 to promote progressive issues and elect President Obama. Ms. Roth-Gaudette received a B.A. in American Studies from Skidmore College in 1998. She lives in Roslindale with her wife and daughter.
Shiyin comes to Families for Excellent Schools with a lifelong passion for education in underserved communities. Growing up in a low-income immigrant family and shuttling between schools, he saw firsthand how great schools could change lives. Previously, Shiyin ran development at the National Association for Urban Debate Leagues – an organization that builds literacy and college readiness for underserved students through after school debate programs. Directly prior to Families for Excellent Schools, he took a break from education to work on solar energy, and created a consumer insights team at Sunrun, a leading residential solar company. He attended Brown University. A native of Shanghai, China, Shiyin has lived in Milwaukee, Providence, Chicago, and San Francisco before arriving in New York.
Kara came to Families for Excellent Schools from Education Reform Now, where she worked as an organizing fellow in Brooklyn, NY. Before working at Education Reform Now, she worked at a public high school in Connecticut where she ran a varsity volleyball program and teen programming. Kara also piloted an after school athletic program at Peck Community School in Holyoke, Massachusetts where she honed her skills for youth engagement.
Kara holds a bachelor’s degree in Sociology and French from Mount Holyoke College in Massachusetts. At one time, she had her sights set on running a collegiate volleyball program, but then she stopped growing. As a Connecticut native, Kara now works to ensure all parents have an active role in improving education in their communities.
As Managing Director of Digital, Ryan leads FES’s online strategy and organizing efforts. He cut his teeth way back in 2004, as a digital activist working on Gov. Howard Dean’s presidential campaign. From there, he became the first Social Media Director of Blue State Digital, where he consulted with dozens of brands and organizations including: StudentsFirst, NAACP, Lady Gaga’s Born This Way Foundation, Coca-Cola, The United Way, and French President Francois Hollande’s 2012 campaign. He was also the co-founder and digital director of the Pollie Award-winning ‘The Four 2012’ marriage equality campaign. With more than a decade of experience empowering campaigns with digital strategy, he now joins FES. Ryan also speaks regularly at universities and conferences about digital campaigning and entrepreneurship. He currently advises Alicia Keys on digital and political strategy for her We Are Here Foundation. Ryan is also the creator of White Noise, an almost-Broadway musical produced in Chicago by Whoopi Goldberg.
Josh Henderson is Special Assistant to the CEO at Families for Excellent Schools. Prior to joining FES, Josh led legislative outreach strategy efforts at the DC Public Charter School Board. Previously, he worked for the US Department of Education where he promoted President Obama’s higher education access and affordability agenda, and also served as a Regional Field Director and Field Organizer for Obama for America during the 2012 and 2008 Presidential elections. Josh is a Teach For America alum who taught Public Policy and US Government at Cesar Chavez Public Charter School for Public Policy – Parkside in Washington, DC. Josh is a graduate of Marquette University and a diehard follower of their basketball team.
Julie joined the Families for Excellent Schools team in June 2016 and serves as its General Counsel. Before joining FES, she was an Associate at Sullivan & Cromwell LLP, where she focused on corporate litigation and criminal defense. Prior to law school, Julie joined Teach for America and taught middle school reading and language arts in New Orleans' Recovery School District during the first two years the district was open following Hurricane Katrina. She holds a bachelor's degree in Philosophy, Politics and Economics from the University of Pennsylvania and a law degree from the Duke University School of Law. Originally from Atlanta, GA, Julie now lives in Brooklyn with her dog and husband. In her free time, Julie enjoys running,spending hours at the dog park,and exploring New York City.
As Director of Research and Policy, Nathan Jensen develops and conducts research projects designed to advance the organization’s national policy goals. Prior to joining Families for Excellent Schools (FES), Nathan served as Senior Research Associate at Marathon Strategies, a political and corporate strategic communications firm based in New York City. In this role, Nathan performed opposition research, facilitated crisis management and conducted data-intensive analysis on behalf of a wide range of political, corporate and non-profit clients. Before joining Marathon Strategies, Nathan completed his law degree at Washington and Lee University School of Law and passed the New York State Bar Exam. Nathan also attended Washington and Lee as an undergraduate, obtaining his B.A. in Classics.
Before joining Families for Excellent Schools as Director of Partner Strategy, Robert worked with Upward Bound, served as a professor at Seton Hall, and consulted nonprofits such as Grace Institute and WrightChoice, Inc. Within these roles, he designed and delivered courses that inspired learners of diverse backgrounds and experiences. His commitment to developing others has empowered action and facilitated growth among leaders, team members and organizations. In addition to creating large scale programs, Robert has coached professionals within companies including: BMW North America, The Kroger Co., Aldo Group, Teach for America, Morgan Stanley, and AmeriCorps among others. He earned a B.A. in Journalism from Ohio Wesleyan University and a M.A. in Strategic Communication from Seton Hall University. He also holds certificates in Change and Leadership, Organizational Communication, and Entrepreneurial Studies.
Prior to joining the team at Families for Excellent Schools, Marieny led large–scale global projects, training program design and development, and strategic organizational initiatives for corporations in a variety of industries. She holds a bachelor’s of business administration with a specialization in human resource management from Baruch College. Marieny transferred over to the non-profit sector because she is passionate about education, helping people, and making a positive impact in the world. She comes from an immigrant family who faced multiple challenges and fought for her to have better educational opportunities. She is committed to using her skills, knowledge, and expertise to support the growth of Families For Excellent Schools and it's national training initiatives. In her free time, Marieny enjoys traveling and staying in the know about new technologies and how to best leverage them in business.
Lander directs the development and execution of FES’s strategy around internal and external learning. Previously, Lander has worked as a curriculum designer, assistant principal, and consultant to school districts making the shift to higher standards for learning. Lander began his career as a Teach for America corps member and elementary school teacher. He holds a B.A. in Economics from the University of Florida (Go Gators!) and Masters degrees from the University of Miami and Columbia University, respectively. Driven by his parents' advocacy for his own education, Lander works to empower and develop others to do the same.
Rebecca joined Families for Excellent Schools in 2016. Prior to this, Rebecca was employed at Teach for America as the Manager of Revenue Operations, where she oversaw the personnel, processes and systems necessary to collect and forecast all organizational revenue. Rebecca holds a Bachelor’s Degree from Cornell University in Human Development with a focus on Cognitive Psychology. Additionally, she is the EVP of her college’s young alumni council and a dedicated Cornell volunteer. Rebecca is a native upstate New Yorker, current Brooklynite and proud daughter of a NYS public school teacher.
Alison began working at FES in the Spring of 2013. She grew up on the North Shore of Massachusetts, where she enjoyed playing basketball and spending time on the beach. Her family instilled in her the value of equality by fighting for greater educational options in the Boston area. Alison graduated from New York University, where she studied psychology and conducted research on how to ensure schools and students are successful. She is dedicated to improving schools because she believes that all students can succeed. Day-to-day at FES, Alison helps manage the small and large mobilizations in New York, Connecticut, and Massachusetts. Outside of the office, Alison loves running, hiking, playing guitar, and hanging out with her nephew.
Kitaro is a life-long New Yorker – born and raised in Queens and currently living in Manhattan. Prior to joining the team at Families for Excellent Schools, Kitaro spent two years on the staff of Teach For America where he served as an operations specialist for the Talent Acquisition Team. Before his transition to the nonprofit sector in 2013, he ran operations for the Amplify Education talent acquisition team for two years during the company’s largest growth period. He holds a Bachelor’s degree in Business and Human Resources from Mount Saint Mary College in Newburgh, NY. As a first generation college graduate, Kitaro is deeply committed to ensuring all children have access to excellent schools and education. In his spare time, Kitaro enjoys good food with good company, avidly following the New York Knicks and Dallas Cowboys, and playing pick-up basketball and competitive softball.
Before joining Families for Excellent Schools Tom was a senior member of the campaigns team at Global Citizen working on issues related to poverty and access to education globally. A veteran of multiple campaigns in the political and advocacy sectors, he’s also an active member of ACT UP NY pushing for the end of the HIV/AIDS epidemic in New York State by 2020.
Sarah joined FES in March 2016 as Manager, Research & Policy. She has managed a diverse portfolio of high impact research and policy projects, and considers the intersection of research, policy, and advocacy her intellectual home and happy place. Sarah has over a decade experience working in NYC’s public sector primarily working in education, youth development and family services, and later, in education policy and advocacy. She has participated in the Education Pioneers Graduate School Fellowship program and NYU’s Future Emerging Leaders in Public Service. Sarah has her M.S. in Public Policy from The New School and a B.A. in History from Rutgers University.
Alex joined Families for Excellent Schools in 2016 as the Manager for Political Engagement. Before arriving at FES, Alex worked on the international accounts team at NationBuilder, where he supported the digital strategies of political and nonprofit campaigns in North America and Western Europe. Born in the UK, Alex moved to the US in 2012 to work on President Obama’s reelection campaign in Washington DC, and Florida. Alex is passionate about community activism and making politics accessible to all communities and every cause. A graduate of the London School of Economics, he currently lives in Manhattan, NY. Outside of FES, Alex enjoys photography, playing rugby, and traveling.
Griffen joined Families for Excellent Schools as Creative Producer in January 2016. Prior to joining the team, Griffen spent 4 years working at HBO. There she managed various creative marketing campaigns including HBO Now, HBO Go, Cinemax's Banshee, and Steven Soderbergh's The Knick. These experiences taught her how to use visuals to tell compelling stories. Griffen works to create arresting creative content that advances the FES mission. Outside of the office she spends her time exploring Brooklyn.
Melanie Santos is the Recruitment Manager at Families for Excellent Schools. Here she searches for the right talent to join our team. Prior to FES she worked in the Admissions Department at Prep for Prep as Recruitment Associate. She earned her Bachelor’s Degree from Bucknell University where she double majored in Psychology and Creative Writing. Her commitment to education equality comes from growing up in areas of Brazil and the Bronx where most children are not provided with the right resources to pursue higher education. She is grateful for overcoming the odds and is committed to fighting for every child’s right to excellent education, regardless of where a child is born. Outside of FES, Melanie enjoys playing soccer, creating visual art, writing, and traveling to new cities.
Melissa joined the Creative and Brand Strategy Team in March of 2016 as Project Manager. Before joining FES, she worked for 4 years in the tech space managing social media and digital campaigns for many different brands. Melissa has always had a passion for the non-profit sector and knew one day she would leave the tech space to pursue that passion. Each day, Melissa desires to make a significant impact on the work FES is doing to provide excellent schools for all kids. On the weekends, you will find Melissa venturing around her Brooklyn neighborhood of Bay Ridge, experimenting with new toppings on her homemade pizza, hosting a dinner party with friends, or visiting a new brewery with her craft beer obsessed husband.
Nicole is Manager of Partner Strategy at Families for Excellent Schools. Before joining FES, Nicole taught middle and high school English in Baltimore City while completing a master's degree at Johns Hopkins University School of Education. She is a Teach for America alumna and traditionally certified teacher with degrees in English and social studies secondary education from Grand Valley State University in Michigan.
Nicole's passions for education and community work have led her around the country as an Alternative Breaks leader and oversees to study English education and school systems in the Netherlands. A native of the Detroit area, Nicole is an avid Tigers fan now living in Brooklyn.
Lee Morrow is the New York Communications Manager for Families for Excellent Schools. Prior to FES, Lee ran the Massachusetts State Senate campaign of Sen. Eric Lesser, worked on the 2014 Massachusetts Gubernatorial race, the 2013 Boston Mayoral race, and in the U.S. House of Representatives. Lee attended Harvard University, where he was active at the Harvard Institute of Politics and Kirkland House. Lee was born and raised in Waco, TX and now lives in Brooklyn. Lee is a full time political junkie, but in his free time, he enjoys watching movies, television, and rocket launches.
Sara Bobak joined the Families for Excellent Schools team in the summer of 2016. Sara is originally from Webster, NY. She studied International Relations and Middle Eastern studies as Syracuse University. It wasn’t until she had the opportunity to study and work abroad that she realized her true passion: education. Through education, all people can grow in the knowledge and skills that they need in order to lead empowered lives and create positive change within their communities. The most sustainable change happens when community members advocate for it and create it themselves. After Syracuse, she joined Teach For America as a Corps Member in Rhode Island and served as a middle school special education teacher and literacy coach at a traditional public school. During this time, she studied and received her master’s degree in Urban Education Policy from Brown University. She then moved to NYC and taught as a 6 th grade Learning Strategist at New Heights Academy Charter School for two years (Go Eagles!). She currently lives in Washington Heights, NY with her husband. In her free time, Sara enjoys reading, exploring, and getting pumped up at Crossfit.
Kelly Orme joined the FES Growth Team as Manager of Learning & Knowledge Management. Prior to joining FES, she worked for three years in the NYC public schools where she taught high school History & Special Education and managed & developed a Special Education department. During that time she was also a NYC Teaching Fellow and completed my Master's in Education at Hunter College. Before moving to NYC, Kelly graduated from the University of Vermont with a degree in Political Science & Sociology. Always passionate about public policy and education reform, she is excited to be part of FES' ever-growing team. In her free time, Kelly loves to run, ski, travel and satisfy her nearly insatiable sweet-tooth.
Amber joined FES in December 2016 as the Manager, Digital Content. Her role allows her to combine two of her passions: writing and education. Prior to joining the FES team, she was the Digital Media and Events Specialist at Democracy Prep, a national network of high-performing K-12 charter schools. In this role, she learned that the saying “no two days are alike in education” is very true. During her tenure she launched the student journalism program, planned events ranging from holiday parties to network conferences, and supervised numerous field trips including taking students to see Hamilton and escorting the award-winning Speech and Debate team to Stanford University in California. Before transitioning to the education sector, Amber worked as a journalist, writing and editing articles for print and online publications. She is a graduate of the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga.
Elizabeth Anoff is the National Manager of Tactics for Families for Excellent Schools. Prior to FES, Elizabeth spent three years working as a Servant Leader Intern for Children's Defense Fund's Freedom Schools in her hometown of Mount Vernon, NY. CDF Freedom Schools gave Elizabeth the opportunity to guide and nurture children of various socioeconomic backgrounds, while gaining the tools to become an advocate for at risk children and a force to dismantle the Cradle to Prison Pipeline. While earning her degree in Economics, Elizabeth served as a charter member of the SUNY Oswego chapter of National Black Law Students Association (Pre-Law Division) and later served as President of the organization. In addition, Elizabeth served as Director of Programming for Two and a Half, constructing and conducting programs that educated students on sexual assault and served as an intern at SUNY Oswego's Lifestyles Center, devising student outreach programs to increase healthier and safer lifestyle choices on campus. As a product of a struggling city school district, Elizabeth is committed to fighting for excellent schools for all children until the educational welfare of a child is no longer determined by his or her zip code.
During her free time, Elizabeth likes to hang out with her family and friends, watch Netflix, and enjoy an Angry Orchard.
Grace joined the Operations Team at Families for Excellent Schools in December 2016. As a college student, Grace taught kids underserved communities in Manila, Nairobi, and Kolkata. These experiences - and the example of her parents and a number of fabulous public school teachers - seared in a commitment to quality education. After completing an MPH, Grace discovered a passion for urban issues like homelessness, youth empowerment, and public education through her work at Emmanuel Gospel Center in Boston. She is excited to bring her enthusiasm for community development and experience in nonprofit management to FES!
Kamel comes to Families for Excellent schools with a passion for technology. He discovered his tech passion by playing video games, and wondering how the video game character Mario threw fireballs at Goombas. He eventually majored in Gaming and Simulation Programming during college, where he and some friends started a video game company called Whack Wild Media. After college, he accepted an offer to work for Verizon Wireless ( VZW ). He worked on some amazing technology at VZW, but he wanted to have a greater social impact in his community, so he left VZW to explore working with nonprofit organizations. Currently, he assists nonprofit organizations in leveraging cloud computing technology. His biggest dream, is to one day hold a ladder of upward economic mobility for others to reach higher potential.
Alexandra joined Families for Excellent School in the Fall of 2016 as Digital Designer. Before joining the team she worked as a graphic and motion designer at a small creative agency. There she designed animated gifs, infographics, and social posts for tech brands like Qualcomm, Think with Google, and Zappar. She earned her Bachelor’s degree from Pratt Institute where she majored in communications design. Through these experiences she cultivated and refined her skills as a visual communicator. At FES Alexandra works to create compelling visual storytelling to promote the FES mission. Outside of work she enjoys hand embroidery, going to botanical gardens, and attending gallery openings.
Mario’s journey to FES as the Associate for the Research & Policy team has been an interesting one. Having emigrated from Portugal at the age of 9 and considering himself a “survivor” of the Newark, NJ public school system, he dedicating himself to revamping the current lagging education system and making sure that every child, regardless of ethnicity or zip code, could have the same opportunities he did. Mario started as a journalist for CBS/CNBC covering education and financial markets and eventually began his work in the charter sector with Success Academy. Graduating with a B.A. in Political Science and Non Profit Management from Seton Hall University (Go Pirates!), he made his way to D.C. and Capitol Hill, working on the Government Relations team for the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools. Here he was able to launch the same narrative that drove him into education reform to a national scale and advocate for charter school students across the nation. When he’s not at work, you can usually find Mario doing some form of physical activity, writing or producing music, supporting his alma mater’s basketball team, and enjoying some bourbon.
Tracy joined FES in January 2017 as Manager of Development Communications and hopes to put to work her passions for organizing and storytelling. Originally from Boston, since graduating with a bachelors in Policy Management from Dickinson College she's done everything from organize for Greenpeace, to work in operations at Twitter. Most recently she spent two years at the Kendall Square Association in Cambridge, MA as their Membership Director. She holds a Masters in City & Regional Planning from Cornell and on the weekends you can find her running (if it's warm out) or cooking (if it's cold out).
Naomi joined Families for Excellent School in January 2016. Prior to working as Manager of Partner Strategy, Naomi was an organizer for the NY team. Before working with FES, Naomi worked as an education consultant with education technology companies to support the needs of failing public schools around New York City. A Teach for America alumna, Naomi taught HeadStart in West Harlem, NYC. While teaching she received a Master's of Early Childhood and Special Education from CUNY Hunter College along side her NYS Teaching Certification. She completed her Bachelor of Science in Psychology from Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh, PA. Throughout her career, she has played many roles in and out of the classroom in order to better support the potential of all students. Naomi is also involved in the development of an international early childhood curriculum to teach equality and empathy across the globe. Outside of work, Naomi surrounds herself with close friends and family, dancing, tasting wines, looking for the next veggie-friendly food spot, and traveling.
Prior to joining FES, Kelly performed the role of executive assistant to Sumner Redstone, board chairman of Viacom and CBS. She spent the early part of her career flying internationally for Delta Air Lines while also serving as a NYC DOE substitute teacher for grades K – 8. She earned her B.A. in Economics and is currently pursuing a Masters degree in Human Resource Management.
In 2011, she helped organize a parents’ group, PS 51 Parents United, to address the NYC DOE’s lack of timely disclosure concerning environmental testing in leased school buildings. The group was instrumental in getting the City Council to pass the school environmental health disclosure bill requiring parents to receive notification within 7 days of test results. This legislation was signed into law by Mayor Bill DeBlasio in February 2015.
Kelly has been recognized for her leadership in community and education advocacy by the Northwest Bronx Community and Clergy Coalition (NWBCCC) as well as Bronx Community Board 7. The mother of two daughters, she is a staunch parent advocate and believes that to make our communities better, we must help create the change we seek.
In her personal time Kelly enjoys attending live performances, a good read, music, dancing, and is a lover of all things related to food. She and her daughters, who she describes as her inspirations, love exploring all parts of New York and beyond and having adventures.
Penny Tyler, a Southern California native, recently made the big move to New York City to take on the position as Executive Assistant to Chiefs. Prior to FES Penny received her Bachelor’s Degree in Art History from California State University, Fullerton. A self proclaimed culture addict, she took the opportunity to immerse herself in Italian art and culture while studying abroad in Florence, Italy her senior year of college. After graduating she decided to mix her love of art, travel, and education by becoming the Art Director at the gallery on board a cruise ship where she not only sold art but held lectures for both children and adults. After leaving the ship she took on more administrative and management roles before her pursuit for a more fulfilling position that would allow her to make an impact brought her to FES. In her spare time she is an avid photographer and happy to lend her talents to FES whenever needed.
Alex Hernandez, a Miami-native, joined the Families for Excellent Schools’ team in May of 2016 as an Executive Assistant. Prior to joining FES, Alex worked for two Miami-based funders that have formed a collective-impact partnership attempting to bring greater educational opportunities to children in Miami’s most underserved communities. Alex received her Bachelor’s Degree in Psychology and Art from Emory University. Sparked by her interest in Education and community-driven initiatives, Alex completed her Masters of Science in Education, Community and Social Change at the University of Miami in 2015. In her spare time, Alex enjoys visiting art galleries and museums, hiking, yoga, and cooking.
Prior to joining Families for Excellent Schools in January of 2017, Cate spent several years on staff at Teach For America, as well as Pittsburgh Public Schools. She worked in various capacities including program support and coaching, strategic planning, operations and teacher training. She started her career as a 3rd grade teacher in the District of Columbia Public Schools. She holds a bachelor’s degree in history from Loyola University in Maryland, a MAT from NYU and a Master’s in Public Management from Carnegie Mellon University. She lives in Pittsburgh with her husband and two children, where she sits on the board of an education advocacy group and works locally to encourage great individuals to run for school board. She spends her free time obsessively going to Orangetheory Fitness, cheering for the Steelers and accidentally joining committees at her children’s school.
Ashley Valentine joined Families for Excellent Schools in November 2016 as the Executive Assistant to the Chief Growth Officer. Prior to joining FES, Ashley spent five years in the classroom, working as an early childhood special education teacher, special education coordinator and coach, and literacy specialist, specializing in Autism, in both the traditional public school and charter school sectors, in TX, MA, and NYC. After graduating with a Bachelor's Degree from Texas A&M University, Ashley joined the Teach for America NYC Corps, jumpstarting her passion-filled career devoted to education. Above all else, Ashley believes that every child, regardless of his/her zip code, deserves the right to obtain an excellent education. Texan-natives at heart, Ashley and her husband currently reside in Brooklyn, NY. In her spare time, you can find her casually strolling through Prospect Park with a strong coffee in tow, perfecting her Leslie Knope-skills of hostess with the mostess, and watching college football (Go Aggies!).
Melissa joined the Families for Excellent Schools team in December of 2016 and serves as its Office Manager. Growing up in Jersey City, the importance of an education was emphasized since she was the only child of an immigrant family. Before joining FES, Melissa received her Bachelor's Degree in Classical Humanities from Rutgers University. After graduating and taking on various administrative and management roles in customer service, she decided to use her experiences to pursue a more fulfilling role in the non-profit sector. As Office Manager, she is responsible for all office procedures, and uses her organizational skills to ensure smooth operations in a busy work environment. Outside of FES she enjoys testing out new recipes, traveling and exploring New York City.
Michael Aronson joined the staff of Families for Excellent Schools in May of 2016, taking on the role of NY State Director. Prior to FES, Michael served in various leadership capacities on the national program staff of Teach for America for eleven years, most recently serving as Senior Vice President of Regional Support and Development. Michael began his career teaching middle school reading and writing in Newark, NJ after graduating from the University of Pennsylvania in 2002. A native of Erie, Pennsylvania, Michael currently resides in Brooklyn with his wife.
Cory joined Families for Excellent Schools in the summer of 2014 as the New York Director of School Partnerships. A proud University of Maryland graduate (and avid sports fan… Go Terps!), Cory went on to receive her master’s degree from the Harvard Graduate School of Education. She spent the last four years working in the Office of Special Education for DC Public Schools. There she developed a passion for family engagement, as she supported the parents of early-childhood students through the special education identification process. Here in New York, she maintains and builds relationships with schools and community-based organizations to establish a base of active and engaged families. Cory believes that parents may be the most underrepresented voice in public education today—and is excited about the opportunity to help bring about change.
Meredith joined the Families For Excellent Schools team in December of 2015 as the New York Organizing Director. Meredith's job is to support and lead the veteran organizing team in New York. Meredith got her start as a journalist in Newark, NJ writing for The Star-Ledger. There she covered everything from then-Mayor Cory Booker, charter schools, crime, and even went upside down in a Red Bull air-racing plane above the Hudson (Google her name to see the plane and pilot suit!). Deciding she wanted to do more than just write about problems in our society, Meredith switched gears to the organizing world. At Grassroots Campaigns, Meredith managed large canvass offices that raised more than $1 million on behalf of groups such as Planned Parenthood, the ACLU, the Sierra Club and more. She's excited to help tackle education in New York. In her free time, she's running along the East River, rooting for Syracuse basketball (her alma mater), reading mystery/thriller novels and cooking many different varieties of stuffed chicken.
Joe is a native of South Brooklyn. He previously worked as a communications specialist for New York City Off Track Betting, where he managed communications for telephone and branch operations. Prior to that, he was employed at Multimedia Services Inc. where he handled the quality development of customer service representatives.
An avid runner, you can usually catch Joe running on the Coney Island boardwalk or beating his two teenage boys badly on the basketball court.
His struggle to find a quality education for his children led him to become a passionate advocate for school choice. He joined Families for Excellent Schools as an organizer in 2012 and currently spearheads the organizing efforts in Coney Island, Fort Greene/Clinton Hill and Crown Heights, Brooklyn. Joe is currently enrolled in Baruch’s School of Public Affairs.
Chantal is the New York Manager of School Partnerships at Families for Excellent Schools. Born and raised in Brooklyn, Chantal grew up attending school in the NYC public school system. After earning her Bachelor’s degree at Fordham University, she worked in two different charter schools in NYC where her passion for education advocacy continued to blossom. Chantal is committed to working towards a public school system that no longer faces the obstacles that her own K-12 schools did. She believes every child deserves to attend high performing schools that produce quality education regardless of their district or zip code. In her spare time she enjoys spending time with her family, reading a good book and planning where she should travel to next.
Shamona Kirkland was born and raised in Brooklyn, NY as the third of five children. She is a proud mother, motivated by her two young children who attend New York City public schools. At Families for Excellent Schools, Shamona serves as a lead organizer, working to empower parents to make positive changes to the education system in their communities. In addition to working with parents, Shamona builds relationships with community based organizations. Day to day her responsibilities include; training parents in advocacy and organizing workshops, preparing parents to meet with elected officials in their communities, and organizing various rallies, marches and public hearing engagements.
Shamona sees parents at the forefront of change in New York City schools. She uses motivational speaking and her personal story to build connections and bring about this change.
Danixa Carr graduated with her B.S. in Public Administration from CUNY's John Jay College of Criminal Justice. She has a three year track record within education administration, having worked as an Enrollment Management Specialist at John Jay and as a receptionist with Harlem Children's Zone PA1 After School Program. During these experiences, she witnessed how hard parents struggled to give their children a quality education and vowed to make it a reality for all. In her spare time, Danixa is an avid runner and has completed several races in 2015 including the AirBnb Brooklyn Half Marathon, Queens 10K, the LGBT Pride Run, and Washington Heights 5K. She believes that her commitment to running allows her to possess the grit and endurance needed to continue the fight for education reform.
Yvonne is a New York organizer for Families for Excellent Schools. She started working with FES as a volunteer, and is now a passionate advocate for all children. She is currently pursuing her B.S in Criminal Justice at Monroe College. As a mother of 4 children who have had the opportunity to gain access to a great education, Yvonne is a firm believer that our kids are the future and they deserve nothing but the best.
Marilyn Askew was born and raised in Brooklyn, NY. She is a Proud Parent of two wonderful children who attend a Public Charter School in Brooklyn. Marilyn started as an Organizer at Families for Excellent Schools in September 2015. She was a Parent Volunteer for two years and she continues to Advocate for all children to have an EQUAL and Fair Education. Before she started her journey at Families for Excellent Schools, she worked in Customer Service for more than16 years and also worked in an After school and Summer Camp Program as the Activity Specialist for 7 years. Marilyn Continues to fight the Inequality and Injustice in our school systems. She Believes that All Children Deserve the right to a Quality Education.
Joseph Rivera is a native New Yorker, born and raised in Brooklyn he is the oldest of four siblings. Joseph graduated with his B.A. in Criminal Justice from CUNY’s John Jay College of Criminal Justice. Joseph started off as a volunteer with F.E.S. participating in the B.E.P (Brownsville Empowerment Program) where he saw first hand how important community outreach and connecting with parents is. Now Joseph is a New York Organizer in Brooklyn where he works to empower and connect parents who want to see change in New York City Public Schools. As a person who witnessed first hand the disservice many children receive in New York City Pubic Schools Joseph is determined to help ensure all children have access to safe schools and a quality education. Joseph is an avid Jets and Yankees fan.
Leah is a Bronx native and third-generation New Yorker. Raised in a tight-knit family who put a premium on education and social justice issues, Leah's parents obtained a JD and Masters in Clinical Social Work before their daughter's watchful eyes. Leah credits this example and their decision to place both her and her brother in parochial school from K-12 with shaping the course of her life. She is a proud Licensed Master Social Worker and graduate of the Silberman School of Social Work at Hunter College where she studied Community Organizing. Career highlights include examining social isolation amongst older adults in Spanish (East) Harlem using the Positive Deviance Model of Behavior Change, visiting clients of the Bronx Defenders on Rikers Island to collect their stories of solitary confinement for advocacy, and the Luis Palau Association's CityFest event at Central Park in July 2015. Just before joining FES, Leah was working with the Premier Afterschool Program, where firsthand experiences with children she cared for sparked her desire to reform the education system in NYC. She remains in her community alongside husband Yakim, serving at Infinity Bible Church in the South Bronx. Leah enjoys photography, shopping and says ice cream is her guilty pleasure!
Brian Bass joined FES in early March of 2016 and serves as the Connecticut Organizing Director. Brian has a decade of experience in political organizing, government relations and issue advocacy and he has led successful field operations in New Hampshire, Massachusetts and Rhode Island. His work includes building winning programs for Congressional races, U.S. Senate campaigns, municipal and statewide ballot initiatives, as well as dozens of local legislative races. He is an admitted “workaholic” and his love for field campaigning, coalition building, and data targeting keep him occupied all hours of the night. He grew up in Providence, RI and public education has always been a top priority for his family. When he is not focused on organizing he spends most of his free time following his favorite sports teams, running and playing golf.
Jasedia 'Jessy' has been a Bridgeport resident for 28 years and is a graduate of Bullard-Havens Tech. She has two children; a 15 year old son and a 16 year old daughter. Both children attend Bridge Academy, a charter high school in Bridgeport, Connecticut. In addition to the lead organizing position with Families for Excellent Schools, she has been an Administrative Assistant at the Gesswein Co. for 15 years. She is both ambitious and hard working and tremendously passionate about the successes of her children. Jessy has advocated in many lead roles, starting as a PAC member for the first three years of her children's education at ABCD. She was also a governing council member for Bridge Academy Now. A proud graduate of PLTI in 2010, she has since has committed all the time she can to help promote and support what is best for her family and community.
Neil Brewer joined the Families for Excellent Schools team in January of 2017 and serves as Connecticut School Partnerships Manager. Neil previously worked as Major Accounts Manager for Sunrun, a California based home solar energy provider. Prior to Sunrun, Neil served two years with the City of Hartford Office of Constituent Services and an additional two as Legislative Aide to the Mayor. Neil is the co-founder of the now defunct but eminently legendary Hartford Party Starters Union, a not-for-profit group that organized free and low cost concerts in Hartford. Neil holds degrees in Public Administration and Political Science and is a proud UCONN Husky. Neil currently resides in New Haven with his beautiful wife Melanie and their German Sheppard Roger.
La'Quita is a single mom who has been living in Bridgeport, CT since 2010. She has two children, who attend Achievement First schools. She graduated from Wilbur Cross High School in New Haven and attended Quinnipiac University for one year. On top of organizing parents and community members in New Haven, La'Quita works hard daily to make sure her kids are happy and healthy. She is an active member in her community and is training at the New England Tractor Trailer School. She also volunteers at the Salvation Army food bank, is a member of the Bridgeport Neighborhood Revitalization Committee, is a chairperson on the parent committee at her son's daycare, and is on her way to graduating from the Parent Leadership Training Institute (PLTI). PLTI and FES gave her the torch to light the fire within herself. She has always had so much heart and desire to help her community and she is honored to pass on the skills and passion to other community champions to do the same. She is very excited to be with FES!
Jessica Gates joined Families for Excellent Schools in August 2015. Having recently completed her Masters in Social Work with an emphasis in Community Organizing from the University of Connecticut, working at FES has been an effortless transition. Growing up outside of the metro-Detroit area, Jessica’s parents both heavily emphasized the importance of education, and how it can serve as a passport to the world if properly channeled. Jessica believes every child should have access to an academically competent school.
Having been in K-12 classrooms from Hampton Roads, VA to Detroit, MI for over seven years, Jessica has been able to see what a quality education looks like, and what it could do for a child. Working with at-risk youth, and especially young women has always been motivation. Jessica’s most recent work placement took place in Cape Town, South Africa, where she was able to get an international perspective on educational inequality and what the ramifications are. The experience was both enriching and transformative. Stateside, the most recent work was completed at The Children’s Advocacy Center as a community advocate for children who were sexually abused.
In her spare time, Jessica enjoys reading recipes, relaxing on the beach and trying to perfect a BBQ rub. Jessica looks forward to working with FES and is hopeful for the future of the educational landscape in New Haven, CT.
Prior to joining Families for Excellent Schools in January 2016, Michele spent 5 years working at Hartford Public Schools as a Community Outreach Coordinator and Recruiter for one of Hartford’s Magnet Schools. She is a native New Yorker but relocated to North Carolina in 2000 and lived there for 10 years. It was in North Carolina where she first was introduced to charter and magnet schools as a choice for one of her sons. She was a volunteer in her boy’s school serving as a parent ambassador and a leader on the PTA. It was here that her passion for families and education blossomed and drove her to secure numerous fundraising and partnership opportunities for the school. She holds an Associate’s degree in counseling and in July 2016 will complete her BA in Organizational Development from Saint Joseph’s University in Pennsylvania. She is the mother of two boys; both attend magnet schools in Hartford. Her love of school as a young girl and passion and advocacy for her own child, has led to a career that brings her joy each day. She believes that all children have the right to an outstanding education and love of learning that was afforded to her. There is no greater experience or motivation for her than watching a child grow and blossom in a school setting that inspires and empowers him or her each day! In her free time she loves to take road trips, head to beach as many times as possible and enjoy time with her family and friends.
Samaris Rose is the happy wife of Jermaine and proud mother of 5 boys. Her passion is almost tangible and her drive motivates all who interact with her. Though she feels the public school system let her down, she uses that as fuel to make a better way for her children and others. She takes pride in any task she is given and always likes to come out on top! She’s a helper at heart and credits her life’s success to God alone. She says His favor is all over her life and she remains excited about not just her future, but the bright future of her boys.
Ms. La Keenya Young brings ten years of public service, leadership, and management, to Families For Excellent Schools in her position as a community organizer. Ms. Young is a proud Howard University alumni. She received her dual Bachelor of Arts degree in Political Science and Administration of Justice from Howard University in 2009. There Ms. Young developed an exceptional back ground in people and project management and a professional style based on excellent inter-personal communications and an ability to make the best possible use of personal network. It was there she developed her passion for geopolitics with a focus on topics such as self-government, educational reform, political economy and sustainable development. After graduation, she studied abroad to Kenya, and Tanzania to learn Swahili. In Ms. Young’s free time she enjoys reading, writing, baking, shopping, traveling and have dance parties with her family. Ms. Young’s ultimate goal is to be the best community organizer and to continue to grow in FES as an advocate of change with the help of her parent leaders, colleagues, and volunteers to reform education, using her drive and untiring commitment to bring greater autonomy and dignity to the people of the developing world.
Ola joined Families for Excellent Schools in January 2017 as a Connecticut Organizer. Although Ola has lived most of her life in Shelton, CT, she originally comes from an immigrant background. Ola moved to the United States from Poland in 2001, not yet knowing a word of English. From a young age, she experienced the importance of education first hand when she received extra tutoring help that allowed her to catch up to her peers academically and go on to become a first generation college student. Ola is a recent graduate of the University of Mary Washington where she studied Political Science and Economics. During her undergrad, she was a regular volunteer at an after-school tutoring program for underprivileged youth where she saw young students' academic potential grow exponentially. Ola is committed to the belief that every child deserves a quality education that will open doors of opportunity for them in the future. In her free time, Ola enjoys spending time with her younger sister, Julia, and traveling to new places in hopes of finding the coffee shop with the world's best coffee.
Beata is the Manager, School Partnerships on the Families for Excellent Schools Massachusetts team. Beata comes from a diverse educational background after attending both the Boston Renaissance Charter School and Boston Latin School (BLS) before continuing on to Boston University. Having co-chaired John Connolly’s mayoral campaign in 2013 and with two siblings still in the Boston Public School system, she is passionate about creating quality schools in every neighborhood in Boston. In her free time, Beata can be found on the Charles River, where she rowed for the past ten years for BLS and BU, and is now the head coach at BLS.
Sheyla Negron-Kerfoot is a lead organizer at Families for Excellent Schools in Boston. For ten years Sheyla worked as a billing and office manager at Cushing and Dolan, P.C., a law firm in the Boston area. She graduated from Boston Public Schools and participated in Boston Private Council (PIC) at Madison Park High School. Sheyla holds a Bachelor of Arts in Psychology from Suffolk University. She lives in Roslindale with her husband and her three children, two who attend Edward Brooke Charter School. The best part of her job as a parent organizer at FES is meeting with parents, hearing their stories and connecting them to other parents who have similar educational values.
“This job gives me an opportunity to make a difference when it comes to the education in Boston, not just for the future of my kids but for all the children in Massachusetts.”
Jacqueline is the Manager, Communications on the Families for Excellent Schools Massachusetts team. Jacqueline was born and raised in New Jersey and studied Public Relations at the University of Rhode Island. During her time at URI, Jacqueline worked as a teaching assistant for fifth graders. She also worked as a newsroom intern at WPRI, and a social media marketing intern at RDW Group in Providence. Upon graduation, Jacqueline began working for the National Academy of Advanced Teacher Education as the Manager of Program Communications. During her time at NAATE, she worked with high performing K-12 public and charter school teachers in high-need urban and rural areas. She assisted in the organization and implementation of national professional development programs. Jacqueline is new to the Boston area and will be pursuing her Masters in Leadership and Administration at Boston College this January. She looks forward to pursuing her passion for education equality during her time at Families for Excellent Schools.
Dana is the Massachusetts Manager of School Partnerships at Families for Excellent Schools. At Trinity College, she participated in several volunteer opportunities at local Hartford schools. After earning her Bachelor’s degree in Psychology from Trinity College, she worked as a 4th grade teacher at a charter school in Brooklyn, New York. Her purposeful experience teaching 4th graders illuminated how urgent our work is in advocating for quality education for all students. She is dedicated to ensuring that families in Massachusetts have the choice to attend excellent schools so students have a solid foundation for future endeavors. She has a deep desire to tangibly change the lives of children and believes education is the key to change in our world.
Carmen is a native of Boston who has worked in and around the community for many years. She began her community work with the YMCA of Greater Boston in Dorchester, as a Membership and Program Director. Carmen was recognized for her leadership work with the YMCA as being a YMCA Black Achiever. She went on to work with the Brookline Public School system in the Brookline Early Education Program (BEEP) supporting a kindergarten readiness program. She was also a student and family liaison for Brookline Public Schools, through the Metropolitan Council for Educational Opportunity, Inc. (METCO). Most recently she worked as a Youth Program Director for Roxbury Multi Service Center, Inc. (RMSC) where she developed and managed an educational program in collaboration with under-performing schools. Carmen is married and a mother of three teenage children.
Jonathan is a Massachusetts organizer for Families for Excellent Schools. As a recent graduate of Tufts University with a Bachelor's degree in Political Science and Economics, Jonathan is greatly intrigued by grassroots political movements and is excited to work alongside Boston's schools and parents for transformative change. His political experience includes interning for the Congressional primary campaigns of Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney and Congressman Hakeem Jeffries in 2010 and 2012, respectively, as well as being a leader in the J Street U Tufts chapter, the university arm of the national organization J Street. A native New Yorker, Jonathan has embraced the spirit of Boston, and proudly calls the city his new home.
Born in Barbados and raised in Boston, Andrea spent the last 7 years as a self-employed floral designer, turning brides’ dreams into reality. For the last 5 years, Andrea served on the MATCH Charter School PAC committee, and also volunteered at the Mather Elementary reading circle. Prior to these roles, she worked as a Senior Shareholder Publishing Coordinator at Fidelity Investments for 10 years. Currently Andrea resides with husband and two daughters in Boston, both of whom attend Match Charter Public School.
Ramón is a Massachusetts organizer for Families For Excellent Schools (FES). Prior to joining FES, Ramón taught middle school science in Phoenix as a Teach For America Corps Member. During his experience as an educator Ramón became a co-founder of Aguila Young Achievers Program, which is a leadership initiative designed to help 8th grade students from low socio-economic backgrounds develop the skills and knowledge that are necessary to be successful in high school and college. Ramón is very passionate about educational equity, since as a youth he himself experienced educational inequity. He is a product of the low performing public school systems in the United States, but ultimately believes that a quality education can change an individuals life and provide more opportunities for our children, as it did for him. In his spare time, Ramón enjoys cheering for his home team, the Arizona Cardinals, coaching little league baseball, and playing pick-up basketball.
Daphne is the Wait List Organizer for Families for Excellent Schools (FES). Prior to that, she spent 20 years in various banking and finance roles. During that time, she earned an MBA from Boston College and a Master's Degree in Nonprofit Management from Northeastern University. But the title that she is most proud of is mother. Daphne has 4 amazing children, and it is in this capacity that she found her way to FES. Her long time relationships with various youth organizations and community based organizations throughout Boston are a definite asset in her work for FES. According to Daphne, "Education is the great equalizer; yet somehow, it isn't equal. It's time we did something to right that ship. Our children deserve nothing less.