2013 Cohort | Urban Education Leaders Program | Organization and LeadershipSkip to content Skip to main navigation
Urban Education Leaders Program
Department of Organization and Leadership
Grace Ahn currently works at The Help Group as an elementary and middle school principal at Village Glen. Village Glen is a college preparatory school in Los Angeles that serves students with high functioning autism and related disabilities through a multidisciplinary frame work that is widely regarded as a model of excellence. The Help Group is the largest, most innovative, and comprehensive nonprofit of its kind in the United States serving children with special needs through its public awareness, professional training, education programs, and efforts at the state and national levels.
Grace’s professional interests include non-traditional school systems, special education, educational equity, and serving marginalized populations with traditionally low college participation rates. Prior to her work at The Help Group, Grace was a Resource Specialist and a Department Chair at The Accelerated School Community of Schools. The Accelerated school was a pioneer in the California charter school movement and today offers an education program that emphasizes high expectations for student achievement, strong parent involvement, and a culture focused on higher education to students in South Central Los Angeles. Grace also served low-income, culturally diverse, urban, and disability populations in Los Angeles and Oakland through her work at Hillsides, Youth Policy Institute, and California Student Opportunity and Access Program.
Grace Ahn received her B.A. from U.C. Berkeley where she studied English, Education, and Disability Studies and Culture. She received her M.A. in Special Education Mild to Moderate Disabilities, M.A. in Special Education Moderate to Severe Disabilities, and Education Specialist Credential from California State University Los Angeles.
Candice M. Barbosa
Candice M. Barbosa currently reside in Dallas, Texas and serve as principal in an inner-city private Catholic school within the Diocese of Dallas, serving students from PK3 through 8th grade. Having served in this position for 6 years, I have also been a classroom teacher and religion catechist. I received my undergraduate degree at St. Mary's University in San Antonio where I earned my B.A. in Sociology. I continued my education at Southern Methodist University in Dallas, Texas and earned a Masters in Education with an emphasis in Reading. While at SMU I participated in project Scale-up, a 5-year U.S. Department of Education, IES research grant for which my professor was the Principal Investigator. The primary focus of this study was to take interventions that have been proven to be effective and use them to scale as an intervention program for struggling at-risk first grade readers.
As a teacher I was the reading intervention teacher using the Scale- Up program with at risk first and second grade students. In my role as an inner-city school leader, I worked to increase enrollment and coordinated capital development through private funding and generating funds for tuition assistance through fundraising and grant writing. I also worked extensively on the Strategic Planning which is based on the following six areas: Spiritual Life, Instruction, Development, Administration, Communication and Campus Life.
I look forward to the UELP program in hopes that the knowledge I gain will assist the students I serve to reach their highest potential academically, socially and spiritually. This is an exciting next step in my academic journey.
Kristy De la Cruz
Kristy De la Cruz is the Director of English Language Learners (Assistant Superintendent) for the Bronx, New York. As the oldest of four children, De la Cruz has been "teaching" for most of her life from organizing "Summer School" for her siblings to directing family plays for her parents. De la Cruz's formal teaching career began as a middle school mathematics teacher in Kansas 17 years ago. After two years of teaching in Kansas, she joined the Peace Corps as an Education Trainer in the Philippines. As a volunteer in the Philippines, she facilitated workshops on various topics such as English as a Second Language (ESL) methodologies, environmental education, cooperative learning, and grant writing, training at least 10,000 teachers during her three years of service from 1998-2001.
When returning to the United States, she began the Peace Corps Fellows Program at Teachers College, Columbia University. While working on her Master of Arts degree in Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages (TESOL), she took on the role of ESL Coordinator at an elementary school in Central Harlem. As ESL Coordinator, De la Cruz assumed the additional responsibilities of testing coordinator, staff developer, and grant writer. After teaching in this elementary school for three years, De la Cruz realized that she preferred working in the middle setting. Hence, she transferred to Intermediate School 528 in Washington Heights.
While teaching at IS 528, De la Cruz also worked for New York State Assessment Department in many roles such as an item writer, benchmark setter, and creator of the training manuals. De la Cruz also served as chairperson of the School Leadership Team, a member of the Academic Intervention Services Team, coach of the Running Club, and coordinator of the Service League, as well as earned her National Board Certification in English as a New Language. Then, she returned to Teachers College to become a part of the second cohort in the Summer Principal's Academy (SPA), which resulted in serving as an assistant principal for three years. Through her SPA experiences, Dr. Eleanor Drago-Severson inspired De la Cruz to learn more about adult learning and how to create "holding environments" for all individuals from students to staff as well as parents. Currently, De la Cruz is approaching her third year as a principal and is looking forward to this new educational journey of participating in the Urban Educators Leadership Program.
Claudia Fadel currently serving as principal of SESC High School, a position held since 2008, Claudia Fadel worked from 1990 to 2007 as a Consultant to the General Director of the Social Service of Commerce in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, and as a member of SESC High School Working Group.
Ms. Fadel also worked as the Training Manager (1989-1995) for the Meridien Hotel in Rio de Janeiro where she coordinated various training programs and played a key role in implementing a Quality Control project that optimized the hotel services.
She worked as an assistant teacher during the summer of 1983 at the Montessori Center in Chicago, Illinois.
In addition to taking graduate courses at the Pont-ficia Universidade Catlica of Rio de Janeiro that allows her to teach both Portuguese and English at the secondary-school level, Ms. Fadel has a Master's degree in International Education from Framingham State College (Framingham, Massachusetts), and took a Post Graduation Course in School Administration at the Federal University of Rio de Janeiro.
She was one of the coordinators of the International Meeting for a Southern Thinking, March 2011, Rio de Janeiro.
Cecilia Jackson is the founding principal of Pioneer Academy, 24Q307, a Pre-K to fifth grade elementary school in Corona, Queens, New York; which opened its doors in September 2008. She firmly believes in self-advocacy and leveraging the multicultural realities of our scholars and the community in preparing 21st Century learners. Under her leadership, Pioneer Academy strives to be a place where the extraordinary is ordinary.
Cecilia Jackson received an Ed.M., Organizational Leadership and Management from Summer Principal's Academy, Columbia University, a M.S.Ed. in General and Special Education from Hunter College, City University of New York and a B.A. in Political Science and English from Rutgers University, Douglass College.
Cecilia Jackson is a member of the 2012 Cahn Fellows Program for Distinguished Principals at Teachers College, Columbia University. A program committed to recognizing outstanding principals. In 2010, she received the Recruitment of Excellence Award from the Office of Teacher Recruitment and Quality. She has also received acknowledgement from Community-Based Organizations such as The Food Bank for New York City, Health Plus, Cornell Extension Corporation, New York University Links, and Learning Leaders for her commitment in strengthening families and the community.
Heather Lechner is currently serving as the Assistant Head of School at McDonogh #42 Charter School with Choice Foundation, a turnaround school in New Orleans, LA. She has previously served as the Principal of SciTech Academy Middle School for ReNew Schools where she and her stellar staff improved the school performance score by 31 points. Her two years as the principal of the middle school contributed to the designation of SciTech Academy a Pre-K -- 8 type 5 charter school as a Louisiana Believes 2011-2012 Top Gains School. Prior to her appointment at SciTech she was a Co-Principal at Laurel Elementary, and she completed a one-year principal residency at Lafayette Elementary School through New Leaders for New Schools in New Orleans, LA; where she studied school level leadership in a turnaround environment.-'-'
Before transitioning into school leadership Heather was a middle school theater arts teacher for the Dallas Independent School District. Prior to moving to Dallas she worked as a high school special education science teacher where her students boasted a 75% passing rate on the L.E.A.P.; one of the highest passing rates in the State for special education students attaining a regular diploma. Additionally, while working for the Dallas Independent School District, she was on the district curriculum development team for theater arts.
She earned a Masters of Fine Arts from Wayne State University in 1996 and a Bachelors of Arts from Lewis and Clark College in 1993. She has appeared on numerous panels across the South addressing the challenges and opportunities of leading in a turnaround environment. She is passionate about education efficacy and is committed to working tirelessly to ensure that students receive the rigorous and expansive educational experience they deserve.
Indira Mota was born in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic and raised in Miami, Florida since the age of two. As a young adult, Indira learned that education was -'the' vehicle for social/economic mobility for minorities in this country and focused on just that. School was always home for her and a place where she felt comfortable but, alas, learned that the feeling was not always reciprocated by others. Her journey found purpose that day as she set her sights on opening the eyes of young adolescents in inner-city/urban setting classrooms. An only child of divorced parents since the age of 11 months, raised by a Spanish speaking hard working Dominican mother in the States; the odds and statistics of Indira succeeding were all against her. She not only proved them wrong but re-wrote them to her own accord.
Indira Mota is the founding Assistant Principal of The School of Diplomacy, MS 370, one of four middle schools in The Richard R Green Campus which opened in September 2007 in the Williamsbridge section of the Bronx. The School of Diplomacy focuses on incorporating public speaking and technology into the everyday middle school experience for students. By acknowledging that students' individual experiences and social-emotional development will cultivate and shape their desire to learn; Indira develops several opportunities to celebrate and incorporate her students' lives and cultures into school wide activities and events. In 2008 Indira became a Supervisor for the Bronx Adult Learning Center where adults can earn a GED as well as learn English and computer skills. Before opening The School of Diplomacy, Indira taught 6th, 7th & 8th grade science to her students and served as a science coordinator at IS 292 in East New York Brooklyn.
Indira earned a Bachelor's degree in Chemistry at the University of Miami in Miami, Florida. After completing her undergraduate studies, she moved to New York City to attend Teachers College/Columbia University where she earned a Master of Arts degree in Secondary Science Instruction. She then earned a School Building Leader license as well as School District Leader license and a Master of Science in Educational Administration from The College of St. Rose in the CITE program. One of Indira's research interests focus on supporting the social-emotional developmental needs of students in order to prepare them for higher education academic success.
She is now the Interim Acting Principal at Intermediate School 171 in Brooklyn, NY.
For always believing in me. Thanks Mom.
Alison Gillespie is currently an Associate Principal at Wayzata High School (WHS) in Plymouth, Minnesota. WHS is the largest high school in Minnesota with over 3,400 students. At Wayzata, she oversees over 60 teachers in the following departments: English, World Language, Physical Education/Health, and English Learner along with leading the alternative learning center programs within the high school. She leads a support team of professionals to provide support to over 1,200 students and families. Along with her duties at WHS she also assists district administration in oversight of the K-12 summer school and K-12 ALC programs. Among her primary responsibilities at WHS is partnering with teacher leaders on the school instructional team to provide guidance to Professional Learning Communities. Her dissertation research examines how to do this effectively and efficiently in large high schools.
Prior to working in Wayzata, Alison worked for and in partnership with the Richfield Public Schools in Richfield, Minnesota creating and overseeing programs and schools that gave options to students whom traditional education was not a good fit. Each of the programs focused on academic as well as career building skills. Many of the students served by these programs were also English Learners.
Before entering administration, Alison was an ELL teacher in the Milwaukee Public Schools in Milwaukee, Wisconsin and the Chandler Unified School District in Chandler, Arizona. Alison has worked in bilingual and English immersion programs. Alison is bilingual in Spanish and English.
Alison has an extensive background of working with students and families from many diverse backgrounds and is passionate about ensuring all students have access to high quality education that allows them to be successful in and out of the K-12 school system.
Alison obtained her Bachelor's of Science degree in Middle/Secondary Education and Spanish from the University of Wisconsin- La Crosse in 2000. She completed a Master's of Education degree in Curriculum and Instruction with an emphasis in English as a Second Language at Arizona State University in 2004. Her K-12 principal certificate was completed at the University of Minnesota in 2009. She recently completed a Master’s of Education in Organizational Leadership from Teacher’s College at Columbia University in New York City.
M. Louis Robinson
M. Louis Robinson began his career with the New York City Department of Education (NYCDOE) in 2003 as a New York City Teaching Fellow corps member. Throughout his tenure with the NYCDOE, he has served in the capacity of master teacher, coach, mentor, public speaker, and most recently- principal.
Louis is a graduate of the Summer Principals Academy (SPA), Teachers College, Columbia University, where he earned an Ed.M. in Educational and Organizational Leadership. In addition, Louis has earned a M.S.Ed. in General Education from Pace University as well as a B.S. in Communications from Syracuse University. From 2011-2012, he was the recipient of the Arthur Zankel Urban Fellowship, the highest honor to be bestowed upon a student of the Teachers College community.
Louis completed his residency at the Eagle Academy for Young Men in the South Bronx, where he was responsible for spearheading the mentoring program-a collaborative initiative between the school and the New York City chapter of 100 Black Men, Inc. In 2012, Louis began his career as an adjunct lecturer as part of the inaugural cohort of the Beyond the Bricks program at Teachers College, a media and international community engagement project to encourage and promote community based solutions to increase educational and social outcomes for school age Black males.
As a social edupreneur, Louis aspires to launch a scalable, single-gendered charter management organization with a strong emphasis on mentorship and leadership. Its mission will be to restore the whole gentleman by implementing a holistic, multidisciplinary approach to learning and development. His motto is a quote from one of his favorite movies, The Great Debaters, which states "I believe we (educators) are the most privileged people in America because we have the most important job in America--the educating of our young people."
Maurice A. Stinnett
Maurice A. Stinnett is the Founder and CEO of Make One, a nonprofit dedicated to improving the lives of children and families through an ecosystem of academic enrichment and community education programs. A longtime education advocate, Maurice was driven to start Make One after recognizing how greatly enrichment programs can strengthen and support learning in children and families through his work and through his own life experience as an urban student.
In addition to serving as CEO of Make One, Maurice also serves as Dean of Students at Central State University, the Midwest's only public Historically Black College and University (HBCU). Maurice previously served as the Sr. Director of Community Engagement and Education at CentroNia, a multicultural, bilingual education nonprofit located in Washington, DC. Maurice has worked in the fields of education, advocacy, and community engagement for over ten years, having worked with Esperanza, Prepare the Future Ohio, and Call to Renewal. He previously served as the Chairman for the World Leadership Program, a White House Initiative to bridge cultures and spark learning and dialogue between graduate students and universities in the Middle East and the United States. Maurice is an energetic educator and presenter with experience as adjunct professor and invited speaker at multiple institutions of higher education in diversity, religion, and education.
Maurice holds a Bachelor of Arts in Business from Central State University and a Master of Divinity from Princeton Theological Seminary, where he examined the social and cultural changes in education and economics and how religion has addressed those changes and inequalities. He also holds a Master of Education from Columbia University.
Cecily L. Wilson
Cecily L. Wilson is one of two Assistant Superintendents for Instruction for the City School District of Albany. Since August 2015, Cecily has been providing oversight and support to 11 elementary schools, the Early Childhood Education Department, and the department that focuses on the professional evaluation systems for teachers and administrators in the district. Prior to this role, Cecily was the Interim Principal of Albany High School in Albany, New York. She has had the pleasure of working for the City School District of Albany since 2000. She has served the district as a kindergarten, third and fourth grade teacher before moving into her first administrative role as the principal of Sheridan Preparatory Academy. During her tenure at Sheridan Preparatory Academy, Wilson collaborated with the staff, family and students to create double digit gains in test scores, and established various systems to support a school climate focused on academic success.
In 2010, Cecily transitioned to Albany High School as an assistant principal to assist in the facilitation of the School Transformation process. Albany High was awarded over $7.5 million in Federal and State grant funds to develop Smaller Learning Communities and train teachers in the latest instructional practices in order to significantly improve student performance. In 2012, Cecily was appointed as Interim Principal at Albany High School to lead the transformation process. She has focused on data-driven decision making throughout the organization, student engagement, and focusing priorities so they become the blueprint for how Albany High does business.
Cecily is excited to join the Urban Education Leaders Program, particularly to focus on sustaining systemic change in urban school districts and ensuring equity in access to educational opportunities in the face of shrinking resources.
Cecily earned her Certificate of Advance Study in School District and Building Leadership from the College of St. Rose in Albany, New York, her Master of Arts in Teaching from New York University, and her Bachelor of Arts in Public Policy from Princeton University.