Mission & Vision

“Our partnership with the Leadership Academy is helping us become a culturally-competent district equipped to meet the needs of our increasingly diverse student population.”

Minerva Spanner-Morrow, Chief Diversity Officer,
Hillsborough County Public Schools

Mission: We build the capacity of educational leaders, at every level of the system, to confront inequities and create the conditions necessary for all students to thrive.

Vision: We envision a nation where every school and school system is led by transformational leaders who prepare all children, especially the traditionally underserved, for success.

Leadership Academy's History

The Leadership Academy started in 2003 with our groundbreaking Aspiring Principals Program, which trained more than 550 principals, most of them women and leaders of color, who have served in some of New York City’s most challenging schools.

Seeing our initial success in New York City, school systems across the country began approaching us to help them develop leadership pipelines and strengthen existing leader practices.

We now have worked with more than 185 school systems and educational organizations across 33 states and Washington, D.C., and we continue to expand our reach. As we engage with so many diverse communities, our own work continuously strengthens while our mission remains constant: to develop great leaders who can lead great schools by confronting inequities.

Our Leadership

Our collective experience as district superintendents and leaders, principals, and leadership coaches, all with expertise in leading for equity, enables us to support aspiring and sitting leaders striving to give each student an equitable education.

Irma Zardoya

President & CEO

Irma Zardoya has been President & CEO of NYC Leadership Academy since 2011. Born and raised in the Bronx, Ms. Zardoya has been an innovative agent for change on behalf of New York City public school students during her extensive career as a New York City education leader. Prior to joining NYC Leadership Academy, she served as a consultant to the New York City Department of Education (NYCDOE) in the role of Executive Director of the Office of Achievement Resources. In that role, she supported the launch of collaborative inquiry teacher teamwork citywide and rollout of the NYCDOE’s accountability tools.

From 2003 to 2006, Ms. Zardoya served as Superintendent of the former Region One in the Bronx, where she oversaw a portfolio of 134 schools. During her tenure, Region One demonstrated significant improvements in student achievement. She served as Superintendent of Community School District 10 in the Bronx, the city’s largest district. Under her leadership, District 10 was recognized as a successful, educationally progressive district strongly committed to leadership development and building an effective leadership continuum from teacher to superintendent. This work earned her district a five-year grant from The Wallace Foundation to support its comprehensive leadership development program.

Before joining District 10, Ms. Zardoya served as Deputy Superintendent of Community School District One on the Lower East Side, where she was instrumental in the development of “schools of choice,” an initiative that supported small learner-centered nurturing environments for students. She was principal of Community School 211, The Bilingual School, for nine years and, before that, the Executive Assistant to the Superintendent of Community School District 12. She began her career as a bilingual professional assistant and taught for seven years.

Irma was a member of the advisory group that developed the Principals’ Institute at Bank Street College in the late 1980’s, which addressed the need to recruit and develop minorities and women to become principals in the New York City educational system. She is also on the Governor’s Commission on Education. Irma taught as an adjunct professor at Bank Street College and Long Island University, and participated in the Educational Policy Fellowship Program, Washington D.C., Institute for Educational Leadership. She has served on the New York State Commissioner’s Advisory Council on Bilingual Education and the Advisory Council for the Center for Educational Leadership of the New York Urban Coalition. She earned her MS degree from City College in Supervision and Administration and a BS degree from Thomas More College, Fordham University. She also participated in the Superintendent’s Leadership Institute at Harvard University’s Kennedy School for Government.

Mary Jo Dunnington

Senior VP, ​​​​​​​Client Engagement

Mary Jo has been with the Leadership Academy since 2011. Prior to that she served as Chief Operating Officer of the Partnership for New York City, which led the fundraising campaign that helped launch the Leadership Academy. Previously, she served as Vice President of Strategic Partnerships at All Kinds of Minds, which provided training and tools for educators based on research from neuroscience on how people learn. Mary Jo began her career in education at the National Geographic Society, where she developed and implemented teacher training and outreach programs and facilitated the development of teacher leadership networks. Mary Jo has also focused on student learning as a mentor to students at the Young Women’s Leadership School in Harlem and at the Higher Achievement Program in Washington, D.C., and has taught both supplemental ESL and national high school civics classes. Mary Jo was a Morehead Scholar at The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and earned both an MBA and an MA in Education from Stanford University.

Marlene Filewich

Vice President, School Leadership Preparation

Marlene Salerno Filewich has been working with the NYC Leadership Academy’s principal preparation programs since 2006. She began by overseeing all aspects of the Aspiring Principals Program in New York City, including serving as the liaison to the NYC Department of Education’s Leaders in Education Apprenticeship Program. She now works with districts around the country, supporting them to develop their own aspiring principal programs. Marlene is also project director of the Wallace Professional Learning Community in New York. An educator since 1970, Marlene served as a teacher in New Jersey and New York City. In New York City, she held a variety of positions including Director of Funded Programs, Deputy Superintendent, Local Instructional Superintendent and Community Superintendent of CSD 11 in the Bronx.

Nancy Gutiérrez, Ed.L.D.

Incoming President & CEO

Dr. Nancy Gutierrez joined the New York City Leadership Academy in 2014 and has served as National Leadership Designer and Facilitator, Vice President of District Leadership, and most recently as Chief Strategy Officer before being named the new President & CEO in July 2018. She will step into the CEO role on Oct. 1.

Nancy’s belief in education as a critical vehicle for equity and social justice has inspired her dedication to education. Growing up in a disenfranchised Latin@ neighborhood in East San Jose, California, she witnessed first-hand the impact of limited resources and low expectations.

Nancy began her career as a teacher and principal in her home community, where she was the founding principal of Renaissance Academy, the highest performing middle school in the district and a California Distinguished School. Achieving that success, she went on to lead an effort to turn around the district’s lowest performing middle school, located only two blocks from her childhood home. Nancy was named the UC Davis Rising Star and Association of California School Administrator’s Region 8 Middle School Principal of the Year in 2010.

Since she joined the NYC Leadership Academy in August 2014, Nancy has led such accomplishments as launching the organization’s district leadership work, developing principal supervisor leadership standards and aligned curriculum and programming including the popular Foundations of Principal Supervision institute. More recently, Nancy led the creation and implementation of NYCLA 2020, the Leadership Academy’s strategic plan. Prior to working at the Leadership Academy, she launched a program for executive leadership advancement for the New York City Department of Education that led to superintendent certification.

Nancy is a graduate of the inaugural cohort of the Harvard Graduate School of Education’s Doctor of Education Leadership (Ed.L.D.) program where during her tenure she served as a Teaching Fellow for Harvard’s School Leadership Program, a mentor for Harvard’s Latino Leadership Initiative, and co-chair for Harvard’s Alumni of Color Conference. On commencement day, she represented her class as the first ever Ed.L.D. marshal, voted on by her peers for outstanding leadership, involvement in the life of the community, service to the community and others, and for being an exemplary representative of HGSE.

Nancy served on the national board of the Coalition of Essential Schools for more than a decade and is a frequent speaker and teacher for the Harvard Principals’ Center institutes for School Turnaround Leaders, Urban School Leaders, and Race, Equity, Access, and Leadership. Nancy is on the Latinos for Education (L4E) teaching team, a graduate of the Association of Latino Administrators and Superintendents (ALAS) Aspiring Superintendents Academy, and a member of Education Leaders of Color (EdLoC) which aims to break through the polarizing divides that have consumed efforts to improve public education.

Find Dr. Gutierrez on Twitter @nancybgutierrez.

Michelle Jarney

Vice President, Leadership Coaching Services

Michelle joined NYC Leadership Academy in 2004 and now serves as the organization’s Vice President of Leadership Coaching Services. As the designer of the Leadership Academy’s signature coaching model, Michelle is responsible for the implementation of direct service programs as well as capacity building for clients seeking to develop in-house expertise. Michelle develops, supports, and supervises our cadre of expert coach practitioners. She also brings her extensive experience as a curriculum designer, facilitator and consultant to a range of leadership development initiatives in districts throughout the country. Prior to her work with the Leadership Academy, Michelle was the Director of Education for the Union Square Partnership, where she developed an award-winning, public-private partnership that leveraged the resources of the private sector to support NYC public school students through innovative enrichment programs and career readiness opportunities. Michelle holds an MA from Teachers College, Columbia University, and a BA from Union College. Having reveled in games and puzzles as a child, Michelle continues to take great (perhaps excessive) pride in her ability to complete the New York Times Sunday crossword puzzle.

Kathleen Nadurak

Executive Vice President

Kathleen was part of the NYC Leadership Academy’s launch in 2003 and currently serves as Executive Vice President. She has more than 35 years of experience in education as both an educator and an administrator. In her current role, Kathleen oversees NYC Leadership Academy programs including the Aspiring Principals Program (APP) and Leadership Support Services (LSP) and projects for clients across the country. Prior to becoming EVP, Kathleen served as Chief Operating Officer responsible for all of the Leadership Academy’s financial and other operations. Before joining NYC Leadership Academy, Kathleen spent 20 years at the New York City Department of Education where she held a number of key roles, including Executive Director for the Office of Financial and Management Reporting, Chief of Staff to the Chancellor, and Special Assistant to the Deputy Chancellor of Operations. She played a significant role in the strategic planning and implementation of Chancellor Joel I. Klein’s Children First reforms. Kathleen holds an M.Ed from William Paterson College, an MS from Fordham University, and a BA from Thomas More College.

Mary Rice-Boothe

Vice President, District Leadership Support

Mary Rice-Boothe joined the NYC Leadership Academy in 2015 and currently serves as Vice President, District Leadership Support. In this role, Mary works with school district and charter partners around the country to strengthen their leadership pipelines. At NYCLA, she has had the opportunity to support supervisors of principals in San Francisco, CA; Maricopa County, Arizona; and Gwinnett County, Georgia. She also has supported the development of equity-focused resources for district-level leaders looking to name and dismantle the inequitable practices they are seeing at the school and district level.

Mary came to NYCLA with over 20 years of experience in education as a teacher, principal, mentor and coach. Before joining NYCLA, she worked at New Leaders, Inc, a national non-profit organization, as Executive Director of Content and Assessment, leading the team that designed, developed and delivered content and assessments for the organization. She began her career in education as a NYC Teaching Fellow in East Harlem and is also a member of NYCLA’s APP Cohort 3. Mary is a certified Courageous Conversations about Race Affiliate and a certified Facilitative Leadership Trainer.

Mary holds a BA in Metropolitan Studies from New York University, as well as an MA in English and English Education from the City College of New York. She is currently pursuing her Doctorate Degree in Leadership and Organizational Change at the University of Southern California. Mary lives in Austin, Texas with her mom, husband, daughter and son.

meet our staff

Board of Directors

Jonathan M. Moses (Chair)

Wachtell, Lipton, Rosen & Katz

Donald F. Donahue

President and CEO (retired)
The Depository Trust & Clearing Corporation

Peter A. Flaherty

Managing Director
Arcon Partners

Katherine Bibb Hubbard

Founder & President
Learning Heroes

Erik. W. Kahn

Bryan Cave LLP

Louise Mirrer

President and Chief Executive Officer
New-York Historical Society

Reginald Richardson

New Rochelle High School

Evelyn Rodstein

Evelyn Rodstein Associates

Sy Sternberg

Retired Chairman and CEO
New York Life Insurance Company

Scott D. Widmeyer

Founding Managing Partner & Chief Strategy Officer/Washington
Finn Partners

Irma Zardoya

President and Chief Executive Officer
NYC Leadership Academy


Leadership Academy staff are experts and innovators in their fields, able to use their deep experience to support educational leadership development.

When hiring, we look for candidates who thrive in a challenging and engaging environment, who see the value in collaboration, flexibility, and reflection. We always strive to add to our team professionals who share a deep commitment to our mission of ensuring that all children have access to the learning opportunities they need to excel, and who approach this work with urgency, enthusiasm, dedication, and creativity.

Career benefits

We provide a generous benefits package of up to 13 holidays, 29 paid vacation days, 7 sick days and fully covered medical/dental/vision plans.

Our recruitment process

All resumes and cover letters are carefully reviewed. Phone interviews are conducted with candidates whose resumes are most compatible with the position requirements. Invitations for in-person panel interviews are extended to those candidates who are determined to be most aligned with organizational requisites.

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