Our first cohort of Cahn Fellows was inducted into the program in 2003. It is a program that has been specifically designed to support the growth of exemplary school leaders. The program enables fellows to become even more effective principals while leveraging their talents to support aspiring school principals. Meet all of our current Cahn Fellows below.

View Past Cohorts

2 0 1 9 - 2 0 2 0  C A H N  F E L L O W S

New York City Cohort

Ally: Kazue Takenaga, P.S. 087 William Sherman, New York, NY

Monica Berry is the principal of P.S. 87 William T. Sherman located on the Upper West Side of Manhattan.  She joined the New York City Department of Education in September 1999.  Before becoming a principal in August 2009, Monica served as a classroom teacher, a bilingual grant director, and a math staff developer.   As the principal of PS 87, she has been committed to creating a supportive school culture that promotes academic risk-taking in both adults and children and encourages students to become self-directed and creative problem-solvers through inquiry and exploration.  Her ultimate goal is that the students in her school become proactive and productive members of any community they join. Monica strongly believes that learning is a collaborative process that all members of the school community engage in.  This has been the driving force behind the work that she has done throughout her tenure in the Department of Education. 

Ally: Goldwyn Evan, Science, Technology and Research Early College High School at Erasmus, Brooklyn, NY

In June 2008, Dr. Eric L. Blake became the principal of Science, Technology and Research Early College School after serving in a yearlong Principal Residency with New Leaders for New Schools. Dr. Blake has over 23 years of leadership experience across a number of New York City’s urban schools.  Dr. Blake assumed his role with a commitment to advance his mission and vision: to provide a rigorous yet supportive program to help low-income youth, first-generation college goers, English Language learners, students of color, and other young people underrepresented in higher education an opportunity to simultaneously earn a high school diploma and up to two years of transferable college credits from Brooklyn College, the school’s partner institution—tuition free.

As a leader of a highly complex organization, Dr. Blake has developed a deep understanding of the full range of strategic issues and the ability to build strong management teams that execute large and ambitious plans with verve and accountability.  Dr. Blake facilitated strategic planning initiatives such as expanded opportunities for experiential learning, enhancing career development and mentoring opportunities for all faculty members at STAR, promoting faculty diversity.

A recognized leader, teacher, and scholar, Dr. Blake also teaches Advanced Placement English Literature to his high school students and other English courses in 17th and 18th century British literature and 19th century American literature to his undergraduate and graduates students at Brooklyn College and Long Island University. 

As principal, Dr. Blake has championed academic excellence and encouraged innovation in scholarship and teaching.  He has launched initiatives to build interdisciplinary strength around global challenges, expanded opportunities for experiential learning, and initiated new seed funding programs to support a cutting-edge architecture and construction electrical program.

Prior to becoming the principal of STAR, Dr. Blake served in a variety of other leadership roles within the Department of Education including as Assistant Principal of Supervision at East New York High School of Transit Technology from 2001 to 2007.  During this time, Dr. Blake began his quest to further refine his ability to enhance the instructional core of a school, improve its culture and establish systems for continuous improvement and progress monitoring.

Dr. Blake is also an alumnus of the Future Superintendents Program with New York State via the LEAF program, and at some point would like to aspire to become a NYC DOE Superintendent who provides his community with the intellectual and educational leadership that will shape the discussions on issues of importance and ensure that all students acquire the skills needed to excel personally and professionally.

In sum, Dr. Blake’s personal and institutional success can be attributed to the advancement of core academic values and an unwavering determination to build a greater, wider and deeper culture of excellence that results in all students achieving outstanding educational outcomes. 

Ally: Galia Espinal, P.S. 297 Abraham Stockton, Brooklyn, NY

James E. Brown began his journey in the NYC Department of Education as a 6th grade teacher, transitioned into an Assistant Principal and is currently the principal of The Stockton Community School, in Brooklyn, New York. He earned his Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees from Long Island University. His unwavering passion for educating children and ensuring that they have necessary and equitable resources inspired him to build the collaborative and nurturing environment students and parents enjoy at P.S. 297. Under his leadership, The Stockton School has become the Community School he always envisioned. A one-stop hub of services for students, their parents, and the community. Through partnerships with community-based organizations, he has been able to provide access to the arts, sciences and media. P.S. 297 also provides access to an on-site Food Pantry, Uniform Closet, Adult Education Classes, and Mental Health Services for students and their families. Mr. Brown also serves as the district’s Political Liaison, and meets with different members of the administrator’s union and local and state-level politicians. Here, he advocates for the needs of the students in District 14.

Ally: Eva Sievert-Schiller, International Community High School, Bronx, NY

Berena Cabarcas graduated from Columbia College. She first joined the New York City Public High Schools in 1997 as a teacher at Manhattan International High School. In 2005, she was selected as the Principal of International Community High School, which opened in 2006 and is dedicated to recent immigrant teens new to English. Under her leadership, the school has increased access to computer science programming, internships, arts, as well as, developed accelerated English literacy programs for students entering with emerging grade level skills in their home language. The school continues to outperform New York State high school graduation rates for newcomers.

Ally: Andreanna Lombardo, P.S. 024 Andrew Jackson, Flushing, NY

For the past eight years, Debra Cassidy has been the principal of P.S. 24Q, an elementary school in Queens, NY.  P.S. 24’s students are primarily from China and Southeast Asia. Most of the student's families have recently immigrated and speak languages other than English.

By encouraging students to think deeply about complex texts and math situations, they will make sense of the world and develop their literacy and language skills. P.S. 24 ranks in the top 10% of schools in NYS. In 2017, P.S. 24 was selected as a NYC Showcase School for Math Instruction. P.S. 24's data was presented at the BIRE/The Council of Great City Schools. P.S. 24's success is because of a strong commitment to professional development, teacher teams, and relationships with our families and community.

Prior to becoming principal, Debra Cassidy was a fifth-grade teacher. She attended the NYC Leadership Academy.

Ally: Diana Tonne, Queens Explorers Elementary School, Ozone Park, NY

Melissa Compson was appointed as founding Principal of Queens Explorers Magnet School in September 2014. Ms. Compson’s education philosophy is rooted in the belief that all children can learn. She has been advocating for her students by implementing innovative curricular practices for the school’s instructional core and individualizing student learning goals through a daily Reteach and Enrich program. Ms. Compson has also worked to embed social-emotional literacy into the culture of the school through the instructional units, the service-learning theme and the core values. Ms. Compson has been an educator for 19 years and has worked in the following positions: Classroom Teacher, Literacy Coach, Curriculum Coordinator, Assistant Principal, and Principal. Ms. Compson received a Bachelor of Science in General and Special Education from SUNY Geneseo, Masters of Science in Literacy from Long Island University and School Building Leader/School District Leader certificates from the College of St. Rose.

Ally: David Sturchio, Pathways College Preparatory School: A College Board School, St. Albans, NY

Fia Davis is an artist and educator.  Believing she is called to serve, Fia became principal of Pathways College Preparatory School, an early college high school (6-12) in 2016; standing in the commitment that Pathways will be the pathway into college and career.  In year three of her leadership, the Pathways slogan is This is the Year.  Her community is aligned and acting from the premise that this IS the year we effect change, push our thinking, and foster the highest student achievement.  Pathways in on a trajectory to demonstrate its highest student achievement gains ever.  Fia is the Founding Principal of Urban Assembly School for the Performing Arts (2006). Fia has a BA in English and Africana Studies from the University at Albany (SUNY), an MA from NYU in Secondary Education in English and an MS in Educational Administration from Pace University in partnership with New Leaders for New Schools.

Ally: Yesenia Pena-Gutierrez, P.S. 049 Willis Avenue, Bronx, NY

Dr. Frank Hernández, is a proud product of the South Bronx and New York City public schools. Dr. Hernández is the principal of PS 49X in the South Bronx, blocks away from where he grew up. Frank has been an educator for 15 years serving in various capacities including paraprofessional, teacher, mathematics coach, data specialist, and assistant principal. He is a graduate of Fordham University where he earned his doctorate in Urban Education.

Dr. Hernández recently attended the Race, Equity, and Leadership Institute at Harvard University where he enhanced his equity consciousness and strategies to lead a school committed to equity driven pedagogy. He is a part of the inaugural Districts Equity and My Brother’s Keeper Teams.

Dr. Hernández believes that through a close and collegial partnership with all stakeholders, all students can learn and achieve at high levels. He is an educational partner in the enhancement of the academic, social, and emotional horizons of our scholars.

Ally: Donna Orr, Bronx Aerospace High School, Bronx, NY

Erika Hurtado-Valentino is a graduate of Columbia University’s Summer Principals Academy and has spent her entire educational career in the New York City Department of Education. Her academic accomplishments also include a Bachelor of Science in Applied Mathematics and Statistics from Stony Brook University and a Master of Arts in Mathematics Secondary Ed. from Adelphi University. She is currently enrolled at St. John’s University and is pursuing a doctoral degree in Educational Leadership. Erika has been in leadership roles for the past ten years, combining her commitment to service and youth development with a dedication to problem solving, teamwork, and academic achievement for all. Erika is the Principal of Bronx Aerospace High School, where she started an Aerospace Engineering CTE Program. In the role of Principal, she brings to her community a vision formed by her professional and academic experience in educational administration that supports the analysis and use of data to address students' needs and close achievement gaps. She brings to the table the ability to thrive in a fast-paced, deadline-driven environment with a high level of energy, determination, and perseverance to act as an agent of change in a demanding organization. Erika is also a Principal Facilitator Coach for the Assistant Principal Leadership Institute (APLI), where she coaches aspiring Principals.

Ally: Gilian Banilower, A.C.E. Academy for Scholars at the Geraldine Ferraro Campus, Ridgewood, NY

José Jiménez is the Principal of PS 290Q - A.C.E. Academy for Scholars. He strongly believes in inclusion and creating equitable opportunities for all scholars. As a Principal, he has focused on developing project-based practices to enhance the experiential learning of his scholars. He is dedicated to creating memorable learning experiences by focusing on critical thinking, problem- solving skills, advocacy, and arts education. A.C.E. Academy serves a diverse community, making significant gains in scholar performance, and was a Blackboard Award recipient in 2019, recognized as a “School of Excellence.” José has participated in various national fellowships including, the Deeper Learning Equity Fellows and the National Institute for Latino School Leaders Fellowship. Prior to being a Principal, José was an Assistant Principal and Teacher Leader. José received his B.A. from NYU in Dramatic Literature, Theatre History, and the Cinema, his M.S. in Childhood Bilingual Education from Brooklyn College, his Educational Leadership certification from Canisius College, and is currently working on his Ph.D. in Urban Education at the CUNY Graduate Center.

Ally: Lauren Gottlieb Mora, P.S. 151 Mary D. Carter, Woodside, NY

Samantha B. Maisonet has served as principal of PS 151 in Woodside, Queens since August 2013.  Dr. Maisonet has been an educator in the New York City Department of Education for 23 years. She began her career in the field of education at PS 225 in Brooklyn, New York, as a classroom teacher. She then worked as a reading teacher in the school for three years. Dr. Maisonet advanced herself to an administrative position as assistant principal at PS 225K, which she held for 11 years.  She received a Bachelor of Science in Elementary Education from SUNY Oneonta, Master of Science in Reading Education from Brooklyn College, an Advanced Certificate in Administration from Brooklyn College and a PhD in Educational Leadership from Concordia University Chicago.  Dr. Maisonet is strongly committed to education and believes that “every student can be empowered to unlock their full potential” given a supportive and nurturing educational environment. 

Ally: Ja-Quan Greene, New Visions Charter High School for Advanced Math and Science II, Bronx, NY

Sandy Manessis is the Principal of New Visions Charter High School for Advanced Math and Science II (AMS II) in District 8 of the South Bronx, NY. Under her principalship, AMS II has maintained high graduation rates with an increased emphasis on college readiness. Since the first graduating class in 2016, college readiness rates and the number of Advanced Regents Diplomas acquired by students have doubled. During her time with AMS II, Sandy has consistently been recognized as a highly effective school leader because of her commitment to provide all students with access to a rigorous academic curriculum in addition to a wealth of post-secondary options so that they are able to navigate the global community after they graduate high school. Sandy began her career in education in 2004 at the Academy of Mt. St. Ursula as a high school math teacher and has worked as a teacher in high schools for both the New York City Department of Education and the New York State Association of Independent Schools. She started at AMS II in 2013 as the school’s Assistant Principal of the first graduating class and directly contributed to the school’s 97% graduation rate. She attributes her success as a leader to her diverse experiences in the various sectors of education.

Ally: Giallaboukis Alexandra, The Young Women’s Leadership School of Astoria, Astoria, NY

Allison Persad, Principal of The Young Women’s Leadership School of Astoria has spent nearly 20 years as a teacher, coach, adjunct professor, and now principal of an all girls public school in NYC. She is a graduate of St. John’s University Educational Leadership Doctor of Education Program. Allison was a proud student in NYC public schools for her entire life, growing up in Queens, NY. She  has been instrumental in advancing the work of STEM education across her 6-12 all girls model and has created a global audience for the technical and academic work at TYWLS Astoria. Currently, the school offers the a 6-12 Software Engineering CTE Program, one of the instrumental pioneers of the Middle School CTE track in the state of NY,  as well as a Digital Media program. TYWLS Astoria has the honor of being one of the only public schools in the state of NY named as Apple Distinguished School, under her leadership, she has been selected to be a part of an Apple Global Innovation Project, 1 of 12 schools in the world, to research innovative strategies that can be replicated across the world. She has worked on securing more than 1.2M of grant funding in 3 years to support her initiatives including AP for ALL, CS for ALL and igniting the passion of young women with a future Innovation Hub, Hydroponics Lab and Film Studio in the works. One of her students was selected among 6 in the world to visit Vatican City and “teach” the Pope his first line of code, while sharing the impact computer science has and can have on communities. After winning this year’s City-Wide Hackathon, she took a small team to meet with the Deputy Mayor in hopes of taking their app to scale and helping to solve issues with sanitation in NYC. Bridging the gap with community solutions and technology has been paramount in her work, students have worked with inmates at Rikers Island to co-create and write films in conjunction with Tribeca Film to portray the shared stories of females across boundaries.  Allison shares her vision for STEM, with great intention of reversing the global gender gap with girls in this field. Allison has presented at the National Principals Conference and the Global Forum for Girls Education, she has been named “Principal of the Week for Preparing Young Women in the 21st Century” by DNA Info and interviewed and showcased as a “Power Woman of Queens,” for QPTV. Most recently, Allison has been named a 2019-20 Digital Principal of the Year by the National Association of Secondary School Principals and a winner of the 2019 Excellence in School Technology Award.

Ally: Maria Mediavilla, P.S. 082 Hammond, Jamaica, NY

Grisel Rodriguez is the principal of P.S.82Q-The Hammond School, a N.Y.C., public elementary school located in Jamaica, Queens.  During her leadership, which began in 2015, Grisel became part of Principal Leadership Consortium, which is comprised of 50 principals throughout the NYC DOE, working together to explore the beliefs, systems and structures that support building sustainable inclusive school communities, and who share instructional practices that foster high expectations for all. Grisel began her career in education as a para-professional under the leadership of the Bilingual Pupil Service program, while also studying to become a teacher. Grisel advanced within her career, in Brooklyn, as a staff developer, supporting teacher pedagogy and content knowledge in the area of mathematics. Five years later, Grisel gained the title of Assistant Principal of the elementary school that she attended as a child. Within four years, Grisel, left Brooklyn to become a Principal. Currently, Rodriguez leads a cohort of principals who focus on using data analysis to inform instructional planning through cycles of learning.

Ally: Laura Schaefer, P.S. 140 Nathan Straus, New York, NY

Melissa Rodriguez is the principal of PS/MS 140, located on the Lower East Side of Manhattan.

Melissa Rodriguez was born in NYC.  She was raised on the Lower East Side of Manhattan, where she attended District 1 schools.  She graduated from Cathedral High School.  She received her Bachelor Degree from Manhattan College and her Master's Degree from Hunter College and Fordham University. 

After college, Ms. Rodriguez began her career as an educator.  She worked as an elementary school teacher.  She was promoted to Assistant Principal and soon became Principal.  Ms. Rodriguez has been a principal for 15 years.

Ally: Joanne Colon, Bronx Collaborative High School, Bronx, NY

Brett Schneider was born and raised in the Bronx. He is a 4th generation NYC public school teacher. To serve New York City’s youth with integrity he pursued advanced training: a dual BA in English/American Literature and Dramatic Literature, Theater History, and the Cinema; a Masters in Social Work from NYU’s clinical program; a Masters and Doctorate in Learning Technologies and Leadership from Pepperdine University; and a Masters in Educational Administration from New York University. From being a member of the founding team to being a school leader at the Institute for Collaborative Education, Schneider anchored the success of one of NYC’s most successful 6-12th grade schools for 17 years.  In 2013, he founded Bronx Collaborative High School, leading the school to its 2018 designation as a Showcase School for its work “Affirming Student Identities,” through principles of student choice, systems and structures for differentiation, and “mirrors and windows” cultural responsiveness.

Ally: Nwogu Nmeregiri, P.S. 055 Benjamin Franklin, Bronx, NY

Luis Torres, a Bronx native has served the borough his entire life. He earned an Associate's degree from Hostos CC, a Master's Degree from Mercy College, an Advanced Degree from Hunter College and a Bachelor's Degree from The City College. He was one of the first Latinos to complete the NYC Leadership Academy; a training program for administrators. Mastering subjects including educational administration, technology, and child psychology, his approach to learning blends modern theory with revolutionary thinking. He started whole child education 18 years ago, shifted to community school work, and now is focused on "whole community education."

His trailblazing work as Principal of P.S. 55 over the past 14 years earned him several accolades, including Outstanding Young Educator ASCD (2011), NY Daily News Hometown Hero (2013), NAACP Educator of the Year (2014), and NYLPRW Educator of the Year (2018). Recently he was awarded the Hostos Trailblazer award. In 2019, he was featured in a TEDX Talk about the importance of arts education. He also proudly served in the United States Navy for ten years.

Ally: Tiana Green, Teachers College Community School, New York, NY

Michelle Verdiner has been principal at Teachers College Community School (TCCS) since 2015. Before that, she spent fourteen years as a speech pathologist/teacher of speech and hearing handicapped, special education coordinator and four years as assistant principal, all in the New York City Department of Education. Principal Verdiner is especially passionate about meeting each student where he or she is.  She guides her school with a “Theory of Action” that calls upon staff to work together to use data to tailor instruction so that all students can demonstrate mastery of standards. The school community is marked by collaboration, inclusion, empowering student voice, commitment to ongoing professional development, and strong parent involvement. A hallmark of TCCS is its long-term partnership with Teachers College. Ms. Verdiner holds a bachelor's degree from Hampton University, and two master’s degrees from Adelphi University: one in speech pathology and one in educational leadership and technology.

Ally: Alyssa Larocca, I.S. 075 Frank D. Paulo, Staten Island, NY

Ken Zapata has served as the principal of Frank D. Paulo Intermediate School 75 in the New York City Department of Education since 2012. Ken earned his bachelor’s and master’s degrees in English Literature from Seton Hall University. It has been his vision to develop a strong culture of professional learning and collaboration as his school has taken a lead role in several district and central initiatives. In 2015-2016, his school was selected by the NYC Department of Education as a Showcase School for their outstanding work in the arts. They demonstrated how setting high expectations for middle school students can result in extraordinary outcomes. The school then participated in the NYC Learning Partners Program as a host in both the 2017-2018 and 2018-2019 school years. Ken’s school is also a host school in the District Impact Teams Guiding Coalition, as they support other schools in the district with impact team structures and protocols.

Chicago Cohort

Ally: Christina Gonzalez, John Greenleaf Whittier Elementary School, Chicago, IL

Antonio Acevedo was raised in Chicago and attended the University of Notre Dame to obtain his Bachelor’s degree. He began his teaching career as a bilingual teacher in a neighborhood elementary Chicago Public School (CPS) and obtained his Masters of Science in Education from Northern Illinois University in Administration and Supervision.

Antonio began his career as an administrator as a Bilingual Facilitator. Then after working as an assistant principal at Ames Middle School, he opened a new CPS elementary school, Talman Elementary School. After several years as principal he worked at the CPS central office in two roles, including Deputy Officer for the Office of Language and Cultural Education.

Currently, Antonio is principal at Whittier Elementary School, a Dual Language School. He earned his Doctorate of Education in Administration and Supervision from Loyola University Chicago and raised the school’s rating to 1+ from probation status.

Ally: Kellie Easterly, Robert Lindblom Math & Science Academy HS, Chicago, IL

Wayne Bevis is the Principal of Lindblom Math & Science Academy.   His educational calling began in college when he pursued Special Education as a result of his step brother being diagnosed with autism.  He pursued educational leadership to ensure college is an affordable option for every student as he was only able to attend college due to the generosity of the Evans Scholarship. He is an alum of New Leaders and has served as the Assistant Principal and Principal of Lindblom for the past seven years. Under his leadership, Lindblom earned the Break Through Schools grant for its design and implementation of Proficiency-Based Learning.  During the 2018-2019 school year, Lindblom was #1 in College Enrollment for the 5th year in a row and #1 in Scholarships for Chicago Public Schools plus ranked #11 in Illinois by US News and World Reports.

Ally: Kate Kloepper, Newton Bateman Elementary School, Chicago, IL

Georgia Davos-Vetas has over twenty years of experience as an educator in Chicago Public Schools. Throughout her tenure, she has served as a classroom teacher, Lead Literacy Teacher, Curriculum Coordinator, District Manager, Assistant Principal and Principal of Bateman Elementary for the past five years.

Ms. Davos-Vetas believes in shared leadership and building strong relationships with her students, staff and community. She is dedicated to empowering responsible, lifelong learners in a rigorous learning environment where ownership for academic and social and emotional learning is shared by all. Her commitment to excellence and continued student achievement results are evident in her school climate and data.

Through her leadership, Bateman elementary was recognized as a Level 1+ on the district’s school quality rating, awarded a Dual Language program, and designated as an Exemplary SEL Supportive school.

Ms. Davos-Vetas graduated from Loyola University with a Bachelor of Arts in Elementary Education and earned a Master’s degree in Educational Leadership from Lewis University.

Ally: Judith Marshall-Hill, Perkins Bass Elementary School, Chicago, IL

Carolyn Jones is a graduate of Chicago Public Schools and has been a proud CPS Principal for 7 years. Carolyn's career began in the classroom. After many years of helping to educate Chicago's children, she's able to see the impact and importance of investing in children. Making a difference is exactly why Carolyn became an educator, and now proudly an instructional leader.

As the Principal of Perkins Bass Elementary, Carolyn continues to advocate for building partnerships, supporting strong foundations for every child to ensure that every child will be not only college minded but career ready. Working to build a culture of self-discovery, innovation, community ownership, trust and grit is evident as you walk through the hallways.

Through this time Carolyn has been afforded the opportunity to have an immeasurable impact on the Perkins Bass community, where community, resilience, integrity, respect, and transformation is a continuing process.

Ally: Cesar Solorio, Frank W Gunsaulus Elementary Scholastic Academy, Chicago, IL

Fernando Kim's career in education started when he left corporate America to serve and educate 4th graders at P.S. 161 in New York City. It was there at Don Pedro Albizu Campus School that he learned many valuable and lasting lessons from his community as he worked with a sense of urgency to turn around one of the lowest-performing schools in all of New York into a model school. The relationships and lessons learned there became invaluable as he later served diverse communities in different capacities as a bilingual education administrator, mentoring and induction coach, adjunct professor, principal at two Chicago elementary schools, and mentor to aspiring principals. He thoroughly enjoys serving his community of learners and leaders made up of students, educators and parents, and considers it a privilege and a blessing. He enjoys being outdoors in nature, exercising, reading books, eating out, and building good habits with his family.

Ally: Demetrius Mundy, Arthur Dixon Elementary School, Chicago, IL

Terrycita Perry was born and raised in Chicago Illinois. She is a product of the Chicago Public School System, attending Arthur Dixon Elementary School, and Chicago Vocational High School. Terrycita holds a Bachelors in Special Education, from Chicago State University; a Masters in Early Childhood Development from Chicago State University and a Doctorate in Educational Leadership from Loyola University-Chicago. She has 4 years of experience as a principal, 10 years of experience as an assistant principal, 7 years of experience as a special education teacher, and 5 years of experience as a daycare teacher and teacher assistant. Terrycita is the principal of (her alma mater) Dixon Elementary School. Dr. Perry was the 2002 recipient of (Comer's) Teacher of the Year, the Network 12 Principal of the Year for 2018 and was recently inducted into her high school's hall of fame. She serves on the Principal Advisory Council, Professional Learning Community team; Summer Institute for administrators committee and is a principal mentor for the district.

Dr. Perry's school is ranked at a CPS Level 1+, ranking #7 as one of the best elementary schools in Chicago. Under Dr. Perry's leadership, Chicago's Mayor Rahm Emanuel visited the school recognizing the school's accomplishment for receiving a perfect score on the school quality rating report. Her recent travels to Alaska, Rome and China broadened Terrycita's knowledge and exposed her to new and different strategies to bring back to the students. Terrycita's mission is to travel around the world to work with children.

Ally: Megan Kordas, Andrew Jackson Language Academy, Chicago, IL

Marilou Rebolledo was raised on the island of Guam and moved to Chicago where she earned her Bachelor's degree in Elementary Education at the University of Illinois-Chicago.  Marilou wanted to further her learning in education and received her Master's Degree in Educational Administration from Governor's State University and also became a National Board Certified Teacher.  From these experiences, she found her strengths as a teacher leader developing a strong, rigorous program for early learners, participating in various school committees, and school-wide workshops.  In 2010, Marilou transitioned into a school-wide role and became the Assistant Principal co-leading the academic and social-emotional success of all students as well as increasing family engagement school-wide.  Being in these different capacities was a catalyst to go further in her career.  She then became a Cahn Ally for the Columbia University New York Fellowship and an Emerging Leader through the New Leaders Chicago program.  Marilou's passion for school leadership inspired her to seek her Doctorate of Education in Administration and Supervision at Loyola University Chicago where she recently graduated.  Marilou is currently the principal of Andrew Jackson Language Academy where her career began almost twenty-four years ago.  Marilou lives in Chicago with her husband and two daughters.

Ally: Joyce Sumter-Anderson, Burnside Elementary Scholastic Academy, Chicago, IL

Kelly Thigpen has served as Principal of Burnside Scholastic Academy since 2013. Her journey with Chicago Public School began as a business manager intern, while working towards her master's degree in education. Upon completing her master's degree, she began to live her passion for teaching. While teaching Kelly worked on the leadership team, led the math department and served on the Local School Council. Kelly eventually transitioned into a math coach position. Her dedication and commitment to supporting students by way of coaching teachers encouraged her to pursue her administrative certification, which led to her promotion as Assistant Principal. After serving as AP for 7 years, Kelly was offered the job of Principal. Her motto is to educate, motivate and inspire others to be their best. Her background in customer service has been the glue to building strong relationships, which have impacted teacher development and led to student growth.

Atlanta Cohort

Ally: Denise Bringslid, Mary Lin Elementary School, Atlanta, GA

Sharyn Briscoe has been the principal at Mary Lin Elementary since 2015. Prior to this role, she served as the Program Administrator at Morris Brandon Primary and the principal of Cook Elementary. Originally from New Jersey, Sharyn moved to Atlanta to attend Spelman College and Georgia State University.  She began as a teacher in Atlanta Public Schools in 1994, moving on to become a Model Teacher Leader and then Assistant Principal. Sharyn has served on the Superintendent's Principal Advisory Council, is a Principal Mentor for new principals in APS, and received awards for Leading Politically and Capacity Building. Mary Lin Elementary has been awarded the Gold Award from the state of Georgia for Highest Performance on the Georgia Milestones Assessment. Sharyn's favorite part about being a principal is spending time with the students and watching them thrive.

Ally: Heather Stephenson, Jackson Elementary School, Atlanta, GA

Brent McBride has been a principal for 10 years and is currently completing his third year as principal of Warren T. Jackson Elementary School in Atlanta, GA.  Jackson is a high performing IB:PYP certified school that is working to achieve STEM certification.  During his tenure as principal, he has worked in schools with diverse populations, his focus has been on underserved populations in the area of literacy. He has served as an adjunct professor for Thomas University while teaching masters level education classes specializing in assessment, data analysis and instructional technology.   Brent received his Bachelors of Arts in Early Childhood Education from Mercer University and a Masters Degree in Instructional Technology from Lesley University. In addition, he has earned his Educational Specialist Degree from Lincoln Memorial University in Harrogate Tennessee.

Ally: Terrell Awak, Daniel McLaughlin Therrell High School, Atlanta, GA

Shelly Powell has served as principal of Daniel McLaughlin Therrell High School since 2012.  As a passionate advocate for education, Shelly views it as key to unlocking unprecedented opportunities for scholars. Having earned her Bachelor of Arts in English Literature from Tuskegee University, Shelly has served as an elementary and high school teacher, a Small Schools Implementation Specialist and a Model Teacher Leader for Atlanta Public Schools. Shelly and her team have implemented several academic initiatives including Early College and Social-Emotional Learning on the Therrell campus.  Under her leadership, the graduation rate increased from 49% in 2012 to 86.4 in 2018.  Most recently, Therrell High School received authorization as an International Baccalaureate World School. Ms. Powell has presented at several national conferences on high school redesign efforts including the Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development at the University of Nevada and Education Northwest in San Diego, California.

Ally: Brian Baron, Morningside Elementary School, Atlanta, GA

Audrey Sofianos has been a proud principal in Atlanta Public Schools for the past 11 years.  She was recruited to Atlanta from her principal role in MSD Lawrence Township in Indianapolis, Indiana to first serve Sutton Middle School and now currently Morningside Elementary.  Audrey is a champion for children, providing as many educational and enriching opportunities as possible during and after the school day.  She attended Indiana University to attain her B.S. in Elementary Education and Butler University for her M.S. in Educational Administration, participating in the Experiential Program for Preparing School Principals (EPPSP), an innovative, hands-on and experience-based program that prepares leaders for the complex challenges facing today's school principals.  During her tenure at Morningside, the school has achieved national and state awards including National Blue Ribbon, U.S. Department of Education Green Ribbon Recognition, and multiple State of GA "Platinum Awards for Highest Performing" and "Beat the Odds" designation.

Dallas Cohort

Ally: Phylisia Rendon, Thomas J. Rusk Middle School, Dallas, TX

Juan Cordoba, originally from Pasto, Colombia; graduated from LeTourneau University with a B.S in Aeronautical Science in 2003, Cum Laude, and received his master’s degree from the University of North Texas in Education Administration in 2010, Magna Cum Laude. His 14-year educational career has been in Dallas ISD having enrolled in the Dallas Alternative Certification program in 2004 having begun as a bilingual kindergarten teacher, promoted to a math and science instructional coach position, academic coordinator, AP in a turn-around school, Elementary School Principal and current position as a Thomas J. Rusk Middle School Principal.  In the last year, Rusk MS emerged from being 33 of 33 middle schools as rated by the Dallas ISD School Effectiveness Indices.  His school was also revalidated as an AVID National Demonstration School in November 2017. Rusk MS increased the enrollment of students in advanced courses and the number of courses offered providing high school credit to our students including, physics, algebra I, Spanish I and Spanish II. Juan's strengths include providing opportunities for collaboration, building capacity and creating a positive and supportive working environment.

Honors and recognitions:
Teacher of the Year in 2007
Elementary Finalist Principal of the Year in 2016
Master Principal 2018

Ally: Isaac Rosas, David G. Burnet Elementary School, Dallas, TX

Sonia Loskot was appointed as Principal of David G. Burnet Elementary in Dallas ISD in 2014 after serving in many capacities since 2002. In 2015-2017, Loskot and her team were accepted in Teaching Trust Executive Ed. Program leading strong systems on cultural, instructional, data-driven and team effectiveness and 2016-2018 Principal Impact Collaborative implementing Human Center Design Process. The school has been a recipient of OutTeach Garden, Leader in Me School, STEM, Children’s Health School-Based Telehealth Program and 2018 Gold Ribbon in North Texas. Loskot grew up in Belize, received her BBA from Valdosta State University in Georgia and MEDL from Texas Woman’s University. She was awarded 2017 “Principal of the Year” Feeder Pattern Winner and 2018 Master Principal. Serving on advisory teams, educational boards, and task-forces in partnership organizations, Loskot strives for the whole child and to empower everyone through social and emotional concentration that supports an equitable well-rounded education.

Ally: Mary Getty, W. H. Adamson High School, Dallas, TX

Diana Vega-Nunez was named Principal of W.H. Adamson High School in 2017.  She’s served students in Dallas ISD for 19 years as an elementary teacher and administrator in the elementary, middle, and high school level. Nunez believes education and access are the great equalizers and that college success is a pathway to social and economic mobility. Due to her leadership and focus on improving schools, Diana was named Master Principal, a distinction awarded to top-performing principals demonstrating success with metrics such as school culture and climate and overall student growth.  She’s served on the Superintendent’s Principal Group and was previously a Principal of the Year finalist. Nunez received her Bachelor of Science degree from the University of North Texas, Master of Bilingual Education degree from Southern Methodist University, Master of Arts in Interdisciplinary Studies from the University of Texas at Dallas, and Superintendent certification from the University of Texas at Arlington.

Denver Cohort

Ally: Janis Dickman, High Tech Elementary School, Denver, CO


Amy Gile has been working in the field of education for twenty-six years in predominantly diverse, inner-city schools of poverty. She has a relentless commitment to ensure that culturally and linguistically diverse students experience a positive and high-quality education. During her career in education, she has acquired a wealth of experiences. She has worked as a special education teacher, classroom teacher, and district special education curriculum coordinator. Most recently, Dr. Gile has been an innovation school leader in Denver Public Schools, serving as opening principal for High Tech Elementary (HTES). During her time at HTES, the school has grown from 200 students to over 600 students. Under her leadership, the school has experienced a high level of academic success. This success is a result of strong, distributive leadership-team structures that ensure the implementation of data-driven instruction, strong planning practices, and differentiated-instructional programming for all students.


Ally: Andrew Menard, Steck Elementary School, Denver, CO

Leticia Jara-­Leake is the newly hired principal of Steck Elementary, a “Distinguished” school within Denver Public Schools. Prior to her new position, she served as the principal of Pascual LeDoux Academy, a center of excellence for early childhood education in the Denver Public Schools since 2013. Leticia has served the largely Hispanic community of Southwest Denver area for 19 years in several roles including; Assistant Principal, RtI Coordinator, Math and Science Facilitator. Leticia has a Bachelor of Arts degree in Foreign Language Teaching from the National University of Asuncion (Paraguay) and a Master of Arts degree in Social, Multicultural and Bilingual Education from the University of Colorado at Boulder. Leticia strongly believes in empowering staff and recognizing teacher talent along with high accountability through collaboratively created goals. As a principal, Leticia has made creating a positive and collaborative staff culture a priority and has a firm belief that “culture beats strategy.”

Ally: Wayman White, Contemporary Learning Academy, Denver, CO

Sandra Just has been with the Denver Public Schools for the past 30 years.   She has served as a bilingual elementary teacher, middle and high school counselor, a performance management advisor for the human resources department, and a school leader.  She currently serves as the principal of Contemporary Learning Academy, one of the multiple pathway schools in DPS.  She has mentored several current DPS principals and believes that it is our responsibility as educators to not only grow and develop our students to their highest potential but also our adults.

Ally: Hannah Spock, Montbello Career and Technical High School, Denver, CO

Karen Powell is the Principal of Montbello Career and Technical High School (MCT) in Denver, Colorado. She received her B.S. in Physical Education, her M.S. in Education and her Doctoral Degree from Texas Southern University Dr. Powell began her career pathway in teaching with a strong desire to make a positive impact on students who are academically underserved. She believes in the old saying, "When the going gets tough, the tough get going!"  She believes this is what it will take to increase students' academic and technical skills for college and a career of their choice.  Dr. Powell is a well-disciplined and focused bodybuilder who puts her beliefs, dedication, and enthusiasm of the same effort it takes in chiseling her body, into her professional work. Her goal of "being the best" has kept has motivated her throughout her educational and professional career.  This creed has led staff and students to successful academic outcomes at her previous and current campuses - and she continues to be a champion for all students. Notably is her ten years of successful experience in working in an urban school setting.  Dr. Powell believes good relationships are critical in developing and empowering students to be their best. In addition to their academic success, Dr. Powell has been a driving force in founding a "Pop-up Library" at Montbello Career and Technical High School ensuring all students have access to books.  She is an active member of Delta Sigma Theta where she volunteers her time in the community.  Dr. Powell helps students prepare for SAT testing and volunteers her time for the Channel 9 TV News Food Drive.

She supports the St. Jude's Foundation yearly fundraiser by donating time to "Run for the Cure" event.  Her belief is that to be the best and succeed you must invest time and hard work to accomplish any goal you set.  Dr. Powell challenges all her students to reach their goals through persistence, focus, hard work and discipline.  It is her belief that all students attending Montbello Career and Technical High School will be champions and will achieve the knowledge and skills needed to thrive and excel academically in college or in a career of their choice.


Ally: Melissa Hatchett, Slavens K-8 School, Denver, CO

Kurt Siebold, has been the principal of Slavens K-8 School since August 2007. Prior to his time at Slavens, he was a full-time business owner, Principal, Assistant Principal and teacher of both elementary and high school students. His mission is to encourage teachers as they help students develop into compassionate, ethical and productive human beings who are engaged in their learning. He has worked to establish a culture that supports the development of the whole child through exposure to the arts, music, physical education & STEM. He emphasizes life skills for his students like "Being Proactive" and "Seeking First to Understand". Under his leadership, Slavens has been recognized as a National Blue Ribbon School. He has been married for 35 years and has four children and one "just arrived" grandchild as of January 2019. He enjoys his eight-mile commute by bike to school as often as the weather permits.

Tampa Cohort

Ally: Kailyn Morman, T.R. Robinson High School, Tampa, FL

Robert Bhoolai was born in Aschaffenburg, Germany.  He was raised in a military family, with his father proudly serving in the United States Army.  Upon retirement, the family settled in Cincinnati, OH where Robert Graduated and attend The Ohio State University as well as Wittenberg University.  Robert started teaching in Hillsborough County Public Schools in 2006.  He started as a substitute teacher and was eventually hired as a middle school Science teacher.  Robert went on to teach Science, U.S. History and Civics.  He has coached, held leadership roles within the teaching ranks, and attended the University of South Florida to become an Administrator.  Once he graduated with his Master's Degree in Educational Leadership and Policy Studies, he was hired as an Assistant Principal.  Robert served as AP at Richard C. Spoto High School as well as Williams Middle Magnet School IBMYP.  In May of 2016, Robert was appointed Principal of T.R. Robinson High School, where he continues his service to students and the community.  Robert has also served as a trainer for various stages of the leadership pipeline in Hillsborough County Public Schools.

Ally: Michael Welch, Hillsborough High School, Tampa, FL

Gary Brady started his career in 1995, as an English and Reading teacher at Plant City High School in Hillsborough County, Florida. In 2009, he became an Assistant Principal at Strawberry Crest High School. In 2012, he became Assistant Principal for Curriculum and later, Assistant Principal for IB/Magnet Curriculum at Robinson High School. While at Robinson, the school earned its first "A" grade in school history and did so for the next four years. In addition, while the AP for Magnet/IB Curriculum, the IB Program earned a 100% IB Diploma Rate and was the only high school in the state of Florida to do so. Mr. Brady was appointed principal at Hillsborough High School in 2015. The school is designated as Title I and has over a 75% Free and Reduced Lunch population. After three years, Hillsborough improved by 69 points, to 550, earning a "B" grade from the State of Florida. Mr. Brady has a strong connection with his students, staff, and community and is excited about the opportunity to learn and grow through the Cahn Fellowship.

Ally: Jason Anderson, Ben Hill Middle School, Tampa, FL

Ronald Mason is a Tampa native that lives with his wife and two sons.  He holds a Masters in Educational Leadership and a Masters in Educational Counseling from the University of South Florida (Go Bulls!).  Ronald has worked as an educator in Tampa, Florida, for the past 23 years with Hillsborough County Public Schools.  His career in educational leadership began in 2008 when he was appointed Assistant Principal of Curriculum at Smith Middle School.  Then, in 2015, he had the honor of becoming the principal of Ben Hill Middle School, where he continues the privilege of serving as an educational leader. Ronald believes that relationship building and connecting with others is the key to helping everyone reach their fullest potential. He focuses on continuous learning and growth, staying positive, and getting to know everyone at an individual level.

Ally: Katherine Stead, Chamberlain High School, Tampa, FL

Jake Russell began his career in 1994 as a Social Studies teacher in Hillsborough County. In 2000, after 6 years in the classroom, he moved into administration as an Assistant Principal. Jake was named the Principal at Sickles High School in 2005. Under his leadership, Sickles earned an A grade 10 out of the 12 years he was principal. In June of 2017, Mr. Russell was offered the principalship at Chamberlain High School. Chamberlain was a D rated school in 2016 and 2017 and the lowest performing school in Hillsborough County. Chamberlain serves a diverse population where 87% of the students receive free and reduced lunch. In 2018, after Mr. Russell's first year, Chamberlain improved to a C growing from 368 earned points to 509. Turn around leadership has become his passion, and he looks forward to continued professional growth.

San Antonio Cohort

Ally: Porscha Dardy, JT Brackenridge Elementary School, San Antonio, TX

Marco Morales is in his 12th year of education. He began with Houston ISD in 2006 at Tinsley Elementary. From there, he transferred to Brookline Elementary in 2011 and demonstrated exceptional leadership qualities. He has also worked for Teach For America in their summer institutes at Rice University.  He currently holds his teaching certification in Early Childhood education through Grade 8, with Bilingual endorsement and Principal certification. Mr. Morales graduated from Texas A&M International University with a Bachelor's of Science in Psychology and from Lamar University with a Masters of Education in Administration. He also completed the Rice University Business Fellowship in 2014. Mr. Morales served as Principal of Brookline Elementary beginning in 2013. With his wife and 3 daughters, he moved to San Antonio to be closer to family and now leads JT Brackenridge Elementary

Ally: John Hilliard, Sidney Lanier High School, San Antonio, TX

Moisés Ortiz is a life-long educator committed to developing PK-12 socially-just public schools. His tenure has earned him the moniker "The Fixer", after successfully uniting the professional learning communities of the two middle schools and two high schools he has led as principal, out of state and federal unacceptable accountability status within one school year. His perspective on education is simple and stems from what his parents ingrained in both his brother and him, "la educación abre puertas y reautoriza vidas" (education opens doors and reauthorizes lives). He earned his B.A. and M.Ed. from Trinity University and completed his doctoral studies in Educational Policy and Planning from the University of Texas at Austin. Dr. Ortiz is committed to mentoring future principals and will continue his educational improvement quest as he accepts the 2019-2020 principalship of his 5th urban core turn-around school.

Miami Cohort

Ally: Latoya Tarpley, Palm Springs North Elementary School, Hialeah, FL

Maribel Dotres began her career more than twenty years ago in Miami-Dade County Public Schools. During her career, Maribel has held various leadership roles including Lead Teacher, Educational Specialist and Assistant Principal. For the past eight years, she has been the Principal of Palm Springs North Elementary Community School that serves over one thousand students and offers a variety of enrichment programs including the Cambridge Elementary Level Program which is offered school-wide. As a school leader, Maribel believes that the most important contribution she can make is to ensure that she develops future leaders committed to diversity and inclusion. She strongly supports that creating, embedding and embracing a distributed leadership approach, ultimately, improves the culture of teaching and learning. This commitment has contributed to the academic growth and success of the school.

Ally: Awanna Palmer, Arcola Lake Elementary School and Thena Crowder Early Childhood Center, Miami, FL

Cynthia Hannah is the proud principal of both Arcola Lake Elementary School, and Thena Crowder Early Childhood Center in Miami Florida. She is also an adjunct professor teaching undergraduate and graduate students in Education, and Educational Leadership Cohorts. She has spent the last 20 years working with children and adults to increase their love of learning enabling them to become lifelong learners and productive citizens. She has also participated in a think tank at St. Thomas University focusing on developing courses for educational leadership programs and has spoken extensively on the importance of education, and retention of students at St. Thomas University, and Florida Memorial University. Dr. Hannah was inducted in the Principals Leadership Development Program (PLDP) at Florida International University Leadership Academy and was nominated as principal of the year for the Central Senior High School feeder pattern.  Dr. Hannah has been invited to participate two years in a row in the Florida Educational Leadership Examination: Level 2 School Principal Performance Assessment Task Development Meeting hosted by the State of Florida to help develop tasks aligned to the competencies and skills finalized as part of the Level 2 School Principal Performance Assessment development process. Dr. Hannah has obtained a bachelor’s degree in Criminal Justice, a master’s degree in Public Administration and a PhD in Educational Leadership with a focus on Curriculum and Instruction from Florida Agricultural and Mechanical University and Florida International University. She is certified in Educational Leadership and Elementary Education. When not spending time with her wonderful husband, Gregory, or their beautiful children, she enjoys traveling and reading current educational trends.

Ally: Arthur Scavella, Arthur and Polly Mays Conservatory of the Arts, Miami, FL

Martin Reid, an administrator of 23 years, has been recognized for his leadership locally by the Miami-Dade School District and Nationally by Magnet Schools of America as the 2016 National Principal of the Year. Mr. Reid received his Bachelor's degree in Elementary Education from Florida A&M University, his Master's degree in Educational Leadership from Nova Southeastern University and his Specialist degree with a concentration in Reading Instruction from the University of Miami. Because he has worked on every academic level, he has a unique perspective on the importance of positive student outcomes throughout the educational spectrum for students. His personal philosophy of education is I + M = E (Inspiration + Motivation = Education) and he deploys it on a daily basis as he inspires and motivates the students of Mays Conservatory. As a lifelong learner, Mr. Reid creates professional development opportunities for his staff through book studies in lieu of faculty meetings to improve pedagogical practice and student outcomes. Mr. Reid and his wife Tia of 25 years have two children-Martia (24) and Martin Jr (21). Mr. Reid is an avid G.I. Joe collector and has well over 200 12-inch G.I. Joes.

Ally: Frances Mora-Gonzalez, Ruth K. Broad Bay Harbor K-8 Center, Bay Harbor Islands, FL

Scott Saperstein is the Principal of Ruth K. Broad Bay Harbor K-8 Center in Bay Harbor, Florida.  He holds a Bachelor of Arts in History from the State University of New York at Albany, a Master of Science in Guidance and Counseling from Long Island University and an Educational Specialist Degree from Argosy University in Educational Leadership. Mr. Saperstein previously served as the Principal of Virginia A. Boone Highland Oaks Elementary (VABHOE) from 2013 until 2017.  During his tenure, VABHOE was awarded an A rating from the Florida Department of Education three out of four years.  Prior to his work at VABHOE, he served as the Assistant Principal at Aventura Waterways K-8 Center, helping the school maintain an A rating for 5 years.  Prior to serving as an administrator, he served as a guidance counselor and social studies teacher at several schools in Miami and Los Angeles, CA.

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