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Urban Education Leaders Program
Department of Organization and Leadership
Krystal Allen is the Founder of K. Allen Consulting™, an Internship Coach of Columbia University's Summer Principals Academy (SPA), and a former Pre-K to 8th grade Principal. As a Consultant, she currently supports K-12 superintendents, charter school CEOs, and non-profit Executive Directors in a multitude of states by designing and leading professional development for teachers and leaders and providing executive coaching.
Krystal began her career teaching elementary school in Louisiana & Alabama, serving as a Founding Program Director for Teach for America–Alabama, the Founding Assistant Principal of KIPP Believe Primary, and then Principal of Sylvanie Williams, a Pre-K to 8th grade school in New Orleans, Louisiana. Krystal's work in school culture, social justice, and experiential learning has led her to be a guest of the White House under President Obama's administration in attendance of ESSA Policy Briefings, shadowed and featured by Yahoo News, The Hechinger Report, and The Christian Science Monitor; and highlighted within Education Weekly. Krystal is a 2014 Deloitte Principal Fellow, the 2016 Teach for America-Greater New Orleans Catalyst Award winner on behalf of her leadership and activism with youth & families, and recipient of the 2016 Urban League of Louisiana ULEAD Activist Award. Her social justice initiatives for children includes fundraising and taking students to Ferguson, MO to meet and learn from Michael Brown Sr., father or the slain teen Michael Brown, and community leaders, and to Selma, AL to meet Congressman John Lewis and visit monumental sites of the 1960s Civil Rights Movement.
As a first generation college graduate, Krystal earned her Bachelor of Art in Sociology & African-American Studies from the University of Notre Dame, and her Master of Education in Educational Leadership from National Louis University (Chicago, IL).
Kimberly Bradley currently serves as the Principal at Chelsea Career and Technical Education High School in New York City. She has also worked as School Support Specialist for the CUNY School Support Organization/CFN 521 in New York City.
Kimberly taught English at the secondary level for 10 years before she served as a school administrator in the roles of Program Manager and Vice Principal for 7 years. In 1999, she was a member of the founding staff of Sunnyside High School, the first high school opened in Fresno, California in 38 years. During her time there as both a teacher and administrator, she led the work around curriculum and instruction with a focus on Advanced Placement (AP), Advancement Via Individual Determination (AVID), English Language Learners (ELL), Career Technical Education (CTE) and Technology. She also oversaw the management and coordination of categorical and grant funding in addition to the scheduling and programing of over 3200 students with a focus on expanding student access to Advanced Placement and Career and Technical Education courses. In addition, Kimberly has worked as a teacher consultant with the San Joaquin Valley Writing Project and presented at the College Board Annual Forum and the Smaller Learning Community National Conference. In 2004, she was selected to participate in the Chancellor’s Fellowship cohort at California State University, Fresno.
Kimberly completed her undergraduate and credential work at California State University, Fresno. She holds Masters degrees in both Education-Administration and Supervision and English-Composition Theory and Pedagogy from California State University, Fresno. Kimberly has conducted research in the areas of teacher preparation programs and comprehensive school reform.
Dawn Brooks DeCosta
Dawn Brooks DeCosta has served as Principal of Thurgood Marshall Academy Lower School (TMALS) for the past 6 years. TMALS, located in Harlem, New York City (NYC), was created in collaboration between Abyssinian Development Corporation, New Visions for Public Schools and the Department of Education (DOE).
Dawn began her service of teaching 23 years ago and has worked as a teacher for the NYC DOE teaching in Harlem, NYC for 15 years. Dawn has received numerous awards and recognitions for her work such as Teacher of the Year 1998, Heroes of Education Award 2002 for her work with students involving the 9/11 tragedy (highlighted in CNN’s, “Through a Child’s Eyes”), and Outstanding Educator 2002. She is a 2015 Marvin Mauer Spotlight Award winner through her work with Yale Institute and the RULER Approach for Emotional Intelligence. Dawn served as a presenter in the 2014 NYCMER Conference, The Yale Institute RULER Approach training 2014 & 2016, The Summer Principal’s Academy New York 2014, The Summer Principal’s Academy New Orleans, 2016, panel speaker at the Ashoka EDUCON Conference in Philadelphia 2016, the New York Philanthropy Conference on Expanded Learning Time and afterschool programs 2012, and the New York Women’s Foundation- Blueprint for Investing in Girls Age 0-8 Panel Discussion 2016. Dawn is a 2015 cohort Cahn Fellow with Teachers College, Columbia University with a study on “Building Staff Trust in High Accountability Environments.” Dawn’s work was published in a co-authored article: Intersections: Folklore and Museum Education (the 2016 Volume), which highlights the significance of objects as cultural texts that can, through context and dialogue, open doors to learning that promotes literacy and social studies, not to mention interpersonal skills and intergenerational learning.
Dawn earned her Master of Education in Educational Leadership from Teachers College, Columbia University, and her Master of Science in Fine Art Education from Queens College after completed her Bachelor of Science in Education at St. John’s University.
Charisse Bynoe is currently employed with the Government of the British Virgin Islands serving as the Director of the Student Services, Special Education and Guidance Counseling Departments. As the Director of Student Services for the British Virgin Islands, Charisse oversees the development and implementation of the country’s first official Referral, Intervention and IEP Process, among other groundbreaking initiatives. As a result, for the first time in the country’s history, students are now given formal Individualized Education Plans, a plan that supports a structured path to their academic success.
Prior to this role, she was a teacher at Elmore Stoutt High School in 2013. There she pioneered the Student Services Department at the country’s leading high school with the support of the BVI Minister of Education, of which objective is to ensure a customized and comprehensive approach to addressing the learning challenges of each child.
Charisse has a Bachelor’s Degree in English Literature from Lehman College and a Bachelor’s Degree in African American Studies from Temple University. In 2011, Charisse’s belief in every child’s ability to learn and their right to education motivated her to earn a Master’s Degree in Early Childhood and Special Education from Teachers College, Columbia University.
Rafaela Espinal currently serves as a NYC Community School District Superintendent. As the Superintendent of District 12 in the Bronx, she is responsible for leading strategic change efforts that elevate the performance of schools and sustaining high-quality educational programs and opportunities for students and families across the district. Rafaela is setting the direction for school communities by communicating a clear vision for professional learning focused on research based standards of practice, building the capacity of 35 principals and 65 assistant principals as instructional leaders, focusing on rigorous instruction to improve teacher practice for over 3,000 teachers, and increasing student learning and achievement for 24,000 students.
Prior to this role, Rafaela started in the New York City Department of Education (NYCDOE) as a bilingual teacher. Ten years later, Rafaela became a Principal at PS 147K, and transformed the school to achieve A's on NYC's Progress Reports, and Well Developed in The School Quality Reviews. She was a District Supervisor in East Brunswick, New Jersey before she was asked to return to NYC, to become the Principal of PS 125M, the school she attended as a child when she first arrived from the Dominican Republic as an English Language Learner. In 2011, Rafaela joined the NYCDOE Office of Teacher Effectiveness as a Talent Coach and later Director of Implementation.
Rafaela earned a Bachelor of Science and Master of Science in Education from Brooklyn College, a Master of Science in Educational Leadership from Baruch College.
Margaret (Meg) Freeman is currently in her 4th year as a Vice Principal at Henry Snyder High School in Jersey City, NJ, where she supervises the Humanities and Guidance departments. She works to promote the profession of education through presenting at state conventions with the New Jersey County Teachers of the Year (NJCTY), speaking at state colleges during Future Educators of America (FEA) events, participating on an advisory panel for the local community college, and serving on various committees at the New Jersey Department of Education, such as Achieve NJ, a 30-person state advisory panel for the new tenure law, and the State Program Approval Council, a group that recommends approval status for educator preparation programs in New Jersey.
Prior to this role, Meg spent the first seven years of her career teaching English to low-income students, leading professional development, and mentoring colleagues at Henry Snyder High School. In 2013-2014, she was awarded Hudson County Teacher of the Year and a finalist for New Jersey Teacher of the Year. She was also awarded a two-year America Achieves Fellowship and a part of the third national cohort. She remained with the Fellowship for a third year as a Lead Fellow working with the Alumni Network. Last November, she presented on how to engage struggling readers in the classroom through the Common Core State Standards at the National Convention for Teachers of English. Most recently, she won a grant from Be A Learning Hero in celebration of her work around improving attendance and community engagement.
Meg earned her Master of Arts from Rutgers University after she completed her undergraduate studies at Wheaton College, where she studied abroad in Europe and Israel.
Brenda A. Garcia
Brenda A. Garcia recently became the Executive Director for Bilingual and ESL Education at Newark Public Schools. She hopes that during her time there, she will be able to mold a district vision for ELL instruction that will close the achievement gap for this subgroup of students, and perhaps, one day become an example for other urban school districts with similar demographics.
Brenda joined the New York City Teaching Fellows program in 2004 with a specific interest in becoming a bilingual educator. She started her career teaching in a high needs urban school district in the Bronx serving as a bilingual teacher. A year after completing the Summer Principals Academy (SPA) at Teachers College, she joined the Central Office of ELLs for the NYC DOE as a Senior ELL Compliance and Performance Specialist. In this role, she supported schools ranging from elementary to high school and D75 programs throughout the five boroughs in all aspects of ELL policy and education. In past two years, she served as the Director of Transitional Bilingual Education (TBE) Programs, where she led initiatives that involved opening new bilingual programs in schools with high ELL densities. She was able to crystalize guidelines for the planning and implementation of TBE programs throughout the five boroughs of NYC.
Brenda received a Master of Education through the Summer Principals Academy at Teachers College, Columbia University, and a Master of Science in Elementary Education with a Bilingual Extension from Mercy College after she earned a Bachelor of Arts in Economics and International Relations from Boston University.
Khalina Houston is the Support Services Liaison at the Queens South Field Support Center for the New York City Department of Education. In this role, Khalina partners with deputy directors to support the work of all departments and divisions. She also provides support with numerous initiatives throughout the center, including the piloting of a CTE and Urban Farm school in Far Rockaway, the Boys and Girls mentoring program, Parent Engagement, and the development of a program to dually certify educators in the areas of Special Education and English Language Learners.
In Khalina's previous role with the Department of Education, she worked with the Division of Early Childhood as a prekindergarten evaluator, where she evaluated Pre-K for All programs throughout the city and the policy governing that work. Prior to working in education, Khalina worked with the Obama for America organization and partnered with a variety of stakeholders to develop and deliver supports to universities, public schools, and early childhood programs. Khalina is committed to improving the lives of the children served in public schools.
Khalina earned her Bachelors degree from Brooklyn College (graduated summa cum laude), and her Executive Masters in Public Administration from School of International and Public Affairs, Columbia University.
Nissi Jonathan is currently serving as founding principal of Advanced Math and Science III (AMS III), a New Visions Charter High School in Sheepshead Bay, Brooklyn that opened its doors to students in the summer of 2013. This is a college preparatory high school designed on the key principles of project-based learning, literacy development, community engagement, and emotional intelligence. This school serves over 85% of students who receive free and reduced lunch and over 80% of these students commute over sixty minutes by public transportation yet the school has recorded over 95% daily attendance since commencement. Nissi firmly believes that empowerment of students begin with bridging the gaps that exist in math and literacy and empowerment of staff begins with providing leadership opportunities to the staff who share the vision of AMS III. Similarly, it is equally important to create opportunities for the local community to provide in-house and off-campus experiences like internships. Nissi used her formal training and experience as a NYC educator to design the New Visions Charter High School which provides access to quality education irrespective of background.
Prior to her current role, Nissi served for about ten years in various capacities in the New York City Education Department, rising from a teacher, to a coach, to ultimately an assistant principal. Her experience with education was preceded with a background in information technology and Nissi made a career change when the NYC Teaching Fellows offered her an opportunity in the field of education.
Nissi earned her Bachelor of Science in Science and Education from Osmania University, India, her second Bachelore of Science in Information Technology from Devry University, a Master of Arts in Secondary Science Education from City College, CUNY, and her Master of Education in Organizational Leadership from Teacher College, Columbia University.
Kimberly Lewis serves as the Lower School Principal and a member of the Administrative Team of Dwight-Englewood School in Englewood, New Jersey, where she takes leadership initiatives to build and maintain a nurturing community among students, parents and colleagues.
Kimberly is an educational leader, contributing author for curriculum reference manuals, and member of program design teams in the Tri-State areas of Pennsylvania, New Jersey and New York. She is one of the founding members of a community group for parents in the Harlem section of New York, and a participant on the Board of KIPP Philadelphia Charter School.
Kimberly has been involved with education for over 25 years, and she started her first teaching job in the New York Public School System as a member of Teacher For America. Her teaching passions led her to different teaching positions at the White Plains, NY School District, the University of Pennsylvania Partnership School, and The School at Columbia University.
Kimberly earned a Master of Science in Special Education from Bank Street College of Education, NY and a Bachelor degree from Howard University in Washington, D.C. In addition, she is a graduate of the Summer Principals Academy at Teachers College, Columbia University, with a Master of Education in Organizational Leadership.
Michael McKenzie Sr. is an Executive Principal at The University of Texas Charter School for the Division of Diversity and Community Engagement. In this role, Michael provides comprehensive leadership for charter schools in the Houston, Texas region. Michael is also a Leadership Internship Coach for Teachers College, Columbia University in the Summer Principals Academy - New Orleans program.
Michael has been a teacher, turn-around principal, and school leadership development coach. In addition, he has been a fellow at Raise Your Hands Texas’ Harvard Leadership Institute, Loyola Institute of Politics and Houston A+ Challenge Regional Principal Leadership Academy.
Michael’s leadership in urban education has resulted in three secondary schools rising out of ‘unacceptable or failing’ status and he has implemented robust student culture programming that resulted in a combined suspension decline of 65%. Additionally, Michael’s instructional leadership has produced improvement in mathematics performance as well as substantial growth in ACT scores for the first-generation college goers. Michael’s is inspired to lead and support the next generation of change-agents who will own the challenge of creating, operationalizing and sustaining culturally relevant educational models that close community-gaps and opportunity-gaps.
Michael earned his Maser of Education in Educational Leadership with emphasis on Urban Education and Curriculum & Instruction from Texas Southern University, and his Bachelor of Arts in Sociology and Anthropology from Millsaps College.
Fareeda Shabazz is the founding Principal of RTC Medical Preparatory High School, Chicago’s premier health science high school. Since the school’s inception, Fareeda has been charged with the overall development of the school, including marketing and branding, establishing viable and sustainable partnerships within the Illinois Medical District, developing a student-focused college-preparatory curriculum, recruiting talented and dedicated teachers, and providing extensive professional development for all teachers and staff. Since the school’s opening in 2013, it has obtained CPS highest school rating and students have surpassed the District average on the ACT. In addition to her work in Chicago, Fareeda has worked with students and educators in Los Angeles as a school director and in Boston as a Principal Intern. She served as an administrator for 2 years before her current position at RTC Medical Prep.
Prior to becoming a Principal, Fareeda taught middle and high school English and coached and supervised teachers as an instructional leader and master teacher.
Fareeda earned her Master of Education in School Leadership from Harvard University and her Bachelor of Science degree from Howard University and holds advanced degrees in education from Loyola University and National-Louis University.
Andrea Toussaint is currently an Assistant Principal at Medgar Evers College Preparatory School where she works closely with the Principal, Dr. Michael A. Wiltshire, administration, students and parents to further develop the Advanced Placement program. Andrea continues to teach, while being instrumental in a variety of academic and social programs the school provides.
Andrea began her teaching career under the leadership of Dr. Frank N. Mickens in 2003 at her alma mater, Boys and Girls High School (Brooklyn, New York). With the support of Dr. Mickens, Andrea quickly learned the dedication and patience needed to make a significant impact in a large urban community school. Identified by the school’s administration as a trailblazing young leader, she served as the Literacy Coach from 2005 to 2010.
In 2011, as the Assistant Principal in charge of the Early Scholars Academy, Andrea created an environment where students felt safe and supported by caring adults who provided them with invaluable and enriching academic and extra curricular experiences. Under her guidance, all students enrolled in the Early Scholars Academy graduated from high school and matriculated to various institutions of higher education—from Howard University to Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute and Cornell University to name a few. In 2012, Long Island University recognized Andrea as New York City’s Secondary School Teacher of the Year.
Andrea also works with the New York City Men Teach Program, the Shawn Carter Foundation and the West Indian American Day Carnival Association to provide resources to teachers, students and families.
Andrea received her Master of Arts in Literacy Education from New York University in 2006 and her Master of Arts in Administration and Supervision from the College of St. Rose in 2008 after having earned her Bachelor of Arts in English Education from Lincoln University in 2002.
Monica Trejo was recently elected to serve as a school board member of the Tempe Elementary School District in Arizona. In addition, Monica is currently a Senior Program Coordinator at Arizona State University. In this role, she works in the Office of Entrepreneurship and Innovation focusing on K-12 education initiatives. Monica works with Title I schools in New York, Boston, Baton Rouge, Chicago and Phoenix to implement the Verizon Innovative Learning + design thinking program. She teaches students design thinking, entrepreneurship and STEAM skills.
Monica has worked as both a teacher and school administrator serving students across all grade levels. In 2012, she joined Teach for America-Phoenix and taught special education in the Tolleson Union High School District, where she also served as a site leader for her education association.
Monica earned her Master degree in Special Education from Arizona State University and her second Master degree in Education Leadership from Columbia University. She graduated summa cum laude with a Bachelors of Arts in Global Health and a minor in Anthropology from Arizona State University.