A native of Selma, Alabama, Krystal Hardy Allen is the Founder & CEO of K. Allen Consulting™ and a former elementary & middle school Principal. Krystal began her career teaching elementary grades in rural South Louisiana in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, and moved on to become an instructional coach, Assistant Principal, and ultimately Principal in New Orleans, LA. Her experiences as a school leader, a first-generation college graduate, and an educator of color led her to launch K. Allen Consulting™, which is a national education consulting firm that empowers students, educators, and communities through professional development, thought leadership, and philanthropic initiatives. The firm's professional development services encompass customized workshops and coaching for principals, teachers, and community organizations, has served over 170+ schools impacting up to 60,000 children nationwide, and has donated over $10,000 to local schools within the Southeastern United States. Recently named one of New Orleans' most Influential 40 Leaders under the age of 40 and recognized as a national 2019 Aspen Institute Scholar, Krystal has served as a guest of the White House under President Obama’s administration for Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) policy formulation, and was shadowed and featured by national media, such as Yahoo News and Education Weekly, for her commitment to students, educators, and families. Krystal holds a B.A. from the University of Notre Dame and an M. Ed. from National Louis University-Chicago.
Kimberly Bradley currently serves as a Director in the Office of School Quality, Division of Teaching and Learning in the New York City Department of Education. She previously served as Principal at Chelsea Career and Technical Education High School and as a School Support Specialist for the CUNY School Support Organization/CFN 521 in New York City.
Originally from California’s Central Valley, she completed her undergraduate and credential work at California State University, Fresno, and taught English at the secondary level for 10 years before serving 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.
She 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.
She holds master’s degrees in Educational Leadership from Teachers College, Columbia University and Education-Administration and Supervision and English-Composition Theory and Pedagogy from California State University, Fresno, conducting research in the areas of teacher preparation programs and comprehensive school reform.
Dawn Brooks DeCosta, M.Ed. in Educational Leadership, Teachers College, Columbia University, M.S. in Fine Art Education, Queens College; B.S. in Education, St. John’s University. Dawn began her service of teaching 25 years ago and has worked as a teacher for the NYC DOE teaching in Harlem, NYC for 15 years and has served as Principal of Thurgood Marshall Academy Lower School (TMALS) for the past 8 years. Previous to that, she taught in at St. Gabriel’s Catholic School in East Elmhurst, Queens. Thurgood Marshall Academy Lower School (TMALS) was created in a collaboration between Abyssinian Development Corporation, New Visions for Public Schools and The Department of Education and is located in Harlem, NYC. 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-The 2016 Volume, Intersections: Folklore and Museum Education, 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 is currently a doctoral student at Teachers College, Columbia University, looking to research Social Emotional Learning, Mindful Practices and Culturally Responsive and Relevant Approaches in Education. Dawn is married and has 4 children ages 27, 19, 13 and 9 and two grandchildren 5 years & 3 months old.
Charisse Bynoe is presently serving as the Director of Parent Support in the Special Education Office with the New York City Department of Education. In this role, she is responsible for managing, directing and resolving family and advocate escalations that impact students with disabilities and their families. She also manages high-level cross-functional projects, monitors policy implementation, makes recommendations on policy shifts, and identifies ways the Special Education Office can better serve students, families, and schools.
As the former Director for Special Education and Student Support Services in the British Virgin Islands (BVI), Charisse was instrumental in establishing the first formal Inclusive Education Program, developed the first official referral, intervention, and IEP process, and wrote the foundational Special Education Standard Operating Procedures Manual to benefit all students in the British overseas territory, 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, Charisse worked as a Director of Educational Programs in a temporary housing shelter where she developed and implemented an education curriculum and facilitated home-school connections for K-12 students and families living in in temporary housing. As a former high school teacher and Student Support Services Department Chair, she pioneered the Student Services Department at the British Virgin Islands 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. She was also a former Middle School English teacher with the NYC Department of Education.
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 a consummate educator who is dedicated to helping to close the achievement gap. After finishing her undergraduate degree at Wheaton College, where she studied abroad in Europe and Israel, she applied only to the lowest-performing high schools in New Jersey. She 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 Jersey City, NJ. In 2013-2014, she was awarded Hudson County Teacher of the Year and was a finalist for New Jersey Teacher of the Year. Margaret has a M.A. from Rutgers University and served five years as a Vice Principal at the aforementioned school. Currently, she is the principal of Academy I Middle School, a 2017 National Blue-Ribbon School in Jersey City, NJ. As she has developed as a leader, she has become increasingly passionate about increasing the quality of education for all children in America.
Meg Freeman is someone who feels passionate about learning and growing. She was 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. She makes frequent visits to other high schools to see how different schools work to address academic challenges and seek to provide accountability for students. She has presented on how to engage struggling readers in the classroom through the Common Core State Standards at several conferences, including 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. 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.
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.
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 the empowerment of students begins by 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 Bachelor 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’s 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 the Chief Executive Officer of Einstein Charter Schools in New Orleans, Louisiana. Prior to this role Michael was the Executive Principal at The University of Texas Charter School for the Division of Diversity and Community Engagement. He is also the founder and Chief Mentor of the Resilient Youth Zone, a non-profit that aims to close the school to prison pipeline through mentorship, social-emotional development, and financial support for youth who are hyper-vulnerable to America's socio-economic disparities.
Michael has been a special education 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 earned his Master of Education degree 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 extracurricular 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’s degree in Special Education from Arizona State University and her second master’s degree in Education Leadership from Columbia University. She graduated summa cum laude with a Bachelor of Arts in Global Health and a minor in Anthropology from Arizona State University.
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