Our Leadership

Nancy B. Gutiérrez, Ed.L.D.

President & CEO

Dr. Nancy B. Gutiérrez joined the NYC 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 President & CEO in July 2018. Nancy is a Fall 2019 Pahara-Aspen Education Fellow.

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 Latinx 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.

Nancy served on the national board of the Coalition of Essential Schools for more than a decade. She is an adjunct instructor at NYU and is a frequent speaker and instructor 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 Nancy on Twitter @nancybgutierrez or LinkedIn.

Kathleen Nadurak

Chief Operations Officer

Kathleen was part of the NYC Leadership Academy’s launch in 2003 and currently serves as Chief Operations Officer. She has more than 35 years of experience in education as both an educator and an administrator. In her former role, Kathleen oversaw all Leadership Academy programs and consulting projects for clients across the country. 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, Ed.D.

Chief Access & Equity Officer

Mary Rice-Boothe, Ed.D., joined the NYC Leadership Academy in 2015 and currently serves as Chief Access & Equity Officer. In this role, she oversees the Leadership Academy’s internal and external equity strategy, design and collaboration, and ensures expanded access to our work through different learning systems. At the Leadership Academy, she has had the opportunity to  partner with school systems in Des Moines, IA; Hillsborough County, FL; and the state of Wisconsin to support them in implementing their equity policies. Mary has also 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 the Leadership Academy with more than 20 years of experience in education as a teacher, principal, mentor, and coach. Before joining NYCLA, she worked at New Leaders, 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 an 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, an MA in English and English Education from the City College of New York, and a 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.

Mary Jo Dunnington

Chief Strategic Partnerships & Communications Officer

Mary Jo joined the Leadership Academy in 2011 to help grow the organization’s national consulting practice, and now serves as Chief Strategic Partnerships and Communications Officer. In this role she oversees business and partnership development, as well as marketing and communications. Prior to joining the Leadership Academy, 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.

Michelle Jarney

Chief Learning & Strategy Officer

Michelle joined the NYC Leadership Academy in 2004 and now serves as the organization’s Chief Learning & Strategy Officer. In that capacity, she spearheads the organization’s internal capacity building, ensuring organizational sustainability and growth. As one of the designers of the Leadership Academy’s signature coaching model, Michelle continues to implement direct service programs as well as facilitate capacity building for clients seeking to develop in-house expertise in leadership coaching. Additionally, she 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.

Michele Shannon, Ed.L.D.

Executive Vice President of Client Services

Michele serves as Executive Vice President of Client Services. She has spent her life dedicated to public education as a lever for equity and social change.

Michele has facilitated multi-district Leadership Academy programs including Foundations of Principal Supervision and Coaching for Equitable Practice and has served clients such as Clark County School District, NV, NYC Department of Education, Gwinnett County Public Schools, GA, Somerville Public Schools, MA, and the Nevada Department of Education.

Before joining the Leadership Academy, Michele served as the Chief of Schools for Boston Public Schools and the Sr. Director of Administrator Development for Los Angeles Unified School District. She has been a teacher, school social worker, assistant principal, and principal in the New York City Department of Education. She founded Pathways College Preparatory School: A College Board School in Hollis, NY. While getting a doctorate at Harvard Graduate School of Education in 2011, she co-founded Pursue Excellence, an education reform organization dedicated to supporting schools and districts in their use of data to improve outcomes for students.

Michele is a certified coach and teacher at the Data Wise Project at Harvard, and is the founder and principal consultant for Measure Excellence Consulting, which supports leaders, schools, and districts in their efforts to engage in continuous learning and improvement.

Michele is a product of the New York City public education system from kindergarten through college. She received her Bachelors of Science in Sociology from Bernard Baruch College and a Masters of Social Work from Hunter College at the City University of New York. She has an advanced certificate in School Leadership from the New York City Leadership Academy. Michele received a doctorate in Educational Leadership at the Harvard Graduate School of Education in 2013 and most recently received an advanced certificate in School District Leadership from Queens College, CUNY in 2015.

Michele is married with 3 children and splits her time between Westford, MA, and Jamaica, NY. She loves spending quality time with her family and her special love, Gordy, the cutest shih-poo ever.

Client Services

Arlene Berg


Arlene Berg joined the NYC Leadership Academy in 2005 as a facilitator and coach. Prior to joining the Leadership Academy, she served as principal of the Kingsbury School, PS 188, in Queens, which, under her leadership, was rated the top performing elementary school in New York City. As a coach, Arlene works with K-8 public and charter school principals, many of whom have achieved city, state, and national recognition for instructional leadership, developing strong learning communities, and dramatically improving student learning.

Arlene has worked with Teachers College, Columbia University; the Principals’ Institute in the NYC Department of Education’s Office of Leadership Development; and New Visions for Public Schools. She holds a Professional Certificate in Administration and Supervision from Lehman College and an MS, in Sociology and Education from Queens College.

Sharon Bonifazio


Sharon joined the NYC Leadership Academy as a coach/facilitator in 2006. Prior to working at the Leadership Academy, she served in NYC public schools for 34 years as a teacher, an assistant principal, and the principal of a secondary special education school for 10 years, where she significantly expanded academic and vocational opportunities for her students.
At the Leadership Academy, Sharon coaches new and experienced school leaders and executives, works with school level teams, and designs and facilitates professional development sessions in traditional public, private and charter schools. Much of her work has been in turnaround schools, focusing on improving learning opportunities for special populations and low performing sub groups. She has worked in urban, suburban and rural schools in New York City, Philadelphia, Buffalo, and districts in Kansas, Delaware, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, and Nevada.
Outside of the Leadership Academy, Sharon is a parent leader in her home school district of Westbury, NY. She has served on the executive board of local school parent associations and as president of the district-wide Parent Council, advising the school board and writing a parent advice column for the local newspaper. Sharon holds a BA from Mount Saint College, an MA in Special Education from Teachers College, Columbia University, and a Professional Diploma in Educational Leadership from St. John’s University.

Lindsey Brown

Associate Director, Client Services

Lindsey Brown serves as an Associate Director of Client Services. In this role, Lindsey manages projects with clients and internal teams to design and implement locally responsive and customized leadership development solutions rooted in NYCLA’s proven model and expertise. Prior to joining NYCLA, Lindsey worked for six years in the trade publishing field, first at HarperCollins Publishers and more recently at Macmillan Publishers, as a product manager for workflow systems. Lindsey was born and raised in Syracuse, New York, and holds a Master’s Degree in Early Modern European History, with a focus on the French Revolution, and a Bachelor of Arts in History, both from Binghamton University.

Sonia Bu


Sonia Bu is a Coach Development and Training Specialist at the NYC Leadership Academy. Since joining the Leadership Academy in 2005, she has worked as a coach-facilitator for school leaders and their leadership teams, developed curriculum for the New School Intensive Program, served as an executive coach, assisted in the development of online coaching modules for Missouri, and been a racial equity facilitator. As a coach, Sonia supports principals to become reflective practitioners and effective leaders of their professional learning communities, to help them identify school goals and address operational issues, and to create structures and processes to build capacity and develop shared vision in their schools. Sonia was a member of the Leadership Academy team supporting the development of new coaches in Rhode Island.
Sonia has more than 25 years of experience working in senior leadership positions in education-focused, youth development and community building organizations. She developed and executed capacity-building needs assessment and strategic plans for institutional expansion and sustainability and implemented improvement plans in the areas of organizational communication, human resource, program evaluation, grants writing and fundraising. Sonia has a B.A. from Barnard College and an M.Ed. from Lesley University. She also attended Columbia University Graduate School of Arts and Science, the School of International Affairs at Columbia University, and the Institute for Not-for-Profit Management of the Graduate School of Business of Columbia University. She is a Certified Coach by the Newfield Network (NNPC), the Generative Leadership Institute (CEO Program), and has received Professional Coaching Certification (PCC) from the International Coaching Federation. She is also an Executive and Leadership Coach with the Generative Leadership Institute with clients in the United States and Latin America.

Gloria Buckery


Gloria Buckery joined the Leadership Academy as a coach/facilitator in 2006, on the same day that she retired from a 37-year career with the NYC Department of Education, where she served as a teacher, staff developer, assistant principal, principal and superintendent. At the Leadership Academy, Gloria has coached principals and assistant principals, designed and facilitated workshops for sitting principals, and led executive coaching sessions. Her client districts have included New York City; Philadelphia; Phoenix, Arizona; Guildford County, North Carolina; Minneapolis, Minn., Los Angeles, California; Providence, Rhode Island; and Austin, Texas. Gloria chairs a committee at her church that grants scholarships to recent high school graduates in Bedford Stuyvesant, Brooklyn, who plan to continue their education. Gloria holds a BS in Sociology and an MS in Early Childhood Education from Hunter College, and an MS in Teaching Reading and an Advanced Certificate in School Administration from City College of New York. She has received the Friend of Education Award from the Association of Assistant Principals of New York City and the Title I Distinguished Educator Award.

Jessica Cihal

Senior Director, Learning & Strategy

Jess Cihal currently serves as Senior Director, Learning & Strategy. In this role, Jess leads highly complex projects with multiple stakeholders, setting direction based on strategic priorities, making decisions, and managing complex relationships. She has deep content knowledge in aspiring principal development and in blended learning. She also oversees NYCLA’s organizational staffing on both internal and external projects, a complex undertaking that requires strong systems thinking skills and a high-level strategic lens.

Jess has worked in the education field in Eastern Europe, Central America and the United States. Before moving to New York City for graduate school, Jess most recently worked as the Director of Admissions & College Counseling at Keystone School in San Antonio. In this role, she implemented new technology systems, planned and represented the school at community and alumni events, and co-developed the school communications plan.

Jess holds her BA in English and Youth & Human Services from the University of Texas at San Antonio and her MPA. in Public and Nonprofit Management from New York University’s Wagner School.

Marlene Filewich

National Leadership Facilitator

Marlene joined the NYC Leadership Academy in 2006 as a facilitator on the Aspiring Principals Program team. Now Vice President for School Leadership, Marlene oversees all engagements involving aspiring or sitting school leaders, including principal preparation programs in Lexington One, SC; Rochester, NY; and Yonkers, NY. Marlene also serves as a leadership coach for our partner program, ACE Academy, funded by the Bainum Family Foundation.

Prior to joining the Leadership Academy, Marlene spent 35 years as a public school educator in New Jersey and in New York City. She held several leadership positions in the Bronx for the NYC Department of Education, including Deputy Superintendent, Local Instructional Superintendent and Community Superintendent. In the early days of the Leadership Academy, Marlene facilitated the New Principals Onboarding Program and the New Schools Initiative.

Marlene lives in Manhattan with her husband. She cherishes the time she spends with her husband, daughters, and grandson, especially when she prepares gourmet meals for the family.

George Foley

Coach Specialist

George Foley worked as a teacher and principal for over 35 years in Brooklyn and Queens. During his tenure at IS 93, the school achieved numerous recognition: It was named a “National Model School” for America’s Choice and a “Collaborative Community of Practice” for the New York City Department of Education; cited for extraordinary gains on CNN and in a Daily News editorial, “How to Fix the Schools;” and received top ratings from the NYC Department of Education. The school’s supervisory team received the Performance Differential for five consecutive years. George served as a mentor principal for the first four years of the Leadership Academy’s Aspiring Principal Program. He currently trains Leadership Academy coaches and clients in data-informed decision making. George has worked with hundreds of first year and veteran principals.

Abbie Groff-Blaszak

Director, West Michigan Leadership Academy

Abbie Groff-Blaszak joined the NYC Leadership Academy in 2017 as Director of the West Michigan Leadership Academy in Grand Rapids, MI. In this role, Abbie directs a program of support for five districts in Greater Grand Rapids that focuses on professional learning networks and individualized coaching for principals, personalized district leadership support, and the collaborative development of local capacity to support and sustain a strong principal pipeline.

Abbie is passionate about building and supporting a healthy and diverse educator workforce as the foundation for achieving equitable student outcomes. She has a rich background and expertise in programs and policy to support the development, retention, and growth of strong educators at the local, state, and national levels. Prior to joining NYCLA, Abbie served in various roles at the Michigan Department of Education, including Manager of Curriculum and Instruction, Senior Policy Advisor, and most recently, Director of the Office of Educator Talent. In her time at the MDE, Abbie led a number of major initiatives, including Michigan’s adoption of the Common Core State Standards, the development and implementation of Michigan’s ESEA Flexibility and State Equity Plans, implementation of Michigan’s educator evaluation law, and development of Michigan’s ESSA plan focusing on educator effectiveness.

Abbie began her career in education as a Teach for America corps member, teaching third and fourth grades in the Greenville Public Schools in Greenville, Mississippi. Following her two-year commitment, Abbie remained in Greenville for several more years, serving as a teacher leader, curriculum coach, and assistant principal before heading back to the Midwest as founding principal of a start-up public charter school in Indianapolis, IN.

Abbie holds a BA in History and Political Science from Indiana University and a Ed.M. from Harvard University in Administration, Planning, and Social Policy.

Patricia Hines


Patricia joined the Leadership Academy in 2014 as a coach, facilitator, and designer of professional learning sessions. She has worked with school and district leaders and their teams, leading learning sessions across seven states, including Pennsylvania, Iowa, Indiana, Connecticut, and Nevada. Pat also has been doing executive coaching since its inception at the Leadership Academy. Before coming to the Leadership Academy, Pat was Executive Director of the Rhode Island Association of School Principals for 5 years. Prior to that, she had a long career as principal of several middle and high schools in Rhode Island, including one school which she and her team were able to turnaround from low performing to high performing in just four years. She began her work in education as a high school English teacher. Pat credits her involvement in the Future Teachers Club in high school for inspiring her commitment to public education.

Cynthia Hunter


Cynthia Hunter has been a facilitator/coach with NYC Leadership Academy since her retirement from the New York City Department of Education in 2005. Prior to her retirement, Cynthia served as principal of the St. Albans School, PS 36, in Queens, where she was able to lead her school from one designated by the state as in need of improvement to a School of Excellence within three years. Her school received the New York State Reading Excellence Act Grant, was on the New York State Most Improved Lists for both reading and math, and became a Teachers College project school for innovative methods in balanced literacy. She also initiated a project with her students to restore the community murals at the St. Albans LIRR Station. Cynthia is a product of the New York City school system. She received her BS from Long Island University and an MA from New York University.

Ms. Hunter served on the New York City Special Education Committee under Chancellor Joel Klein. She also served as a sitting principal mentor for new principals during her tenure as principal. In 2004, she was inducted as a member of the Cahn Fellows Program at Teachers College, Columbia University, a program for distinguished New York City Principals. She was awarded the New York State Businessmen’s Award for PS 36’s high academic achievement. She was honored and awarded a Community Service Award by the St. Albans Community for outstanding community service and a Congressional Achievement Award for exemplary achievement.

Diana Joyce

Director, Leadership Development

Diana Joyce joined the NYC Leadership Academy in 2014 and is currently Director, Leadership Development. In this role, she has served as project manager for the Leadership Academy’s Foundations of Principal Supervisor program, supported the Fort Wayne Community Schools in the development of a series trainings designed to build mentor principal skills around coaching and developing aspiring school leaders, and worked with San Francisco Unified School District to design professional learning session for principal supervisors.

Previously, Diana worked at TNTP, supporting the recruitment and development of teachers working in high needs schools in New York City and Louisiana. Diana began her career in education as a Teach For America corps member and special education teacher in New Orleans. Diana holds a BA in Psychology from the University of Notre Dame. Diana’s family immigrated from the Philippines to the U.S. when she was 9 years old. She vividly remembers her first day of school in a new country, and her work in education is inspired everyday by the teachers she had in those early years who celebrated her Filipino heritage and culture.

Michael Kim

Director, Leadership Development

Michael joined the NYC Leadership Academy in 2007. He supports the design and delivery of the Leadership Academy’s coach training work and has played a pivotal role in developing and supporting coaching practice both internally and with our clients. He is a team lead for our work with the Bainum Family Foundation / ACE Academy and has been a key designer and facilitator for our New Principal Institute. As a project manager, Michael oversees the implementation of our i3/TISS grant from the U.S. Department of Education; Equity: Inquiry to Action, a program supporting district teams in tackling an equity-focused problem of practice; the West Michigan Leadership Academy; and our leadership development work in Phoenix, AZ, and Richland County, SC. Before coming to the Leadership Academy, Michael served as an AmeriCorps member in Patterson, NJ, with NJ Community Development Corporation and JFK High School’s School-Based Youth Services Program. A Bronx native, Michael has a BA in psychology from Rutgers College.

Bernadette Kriftcher


If you ask her, Bernadette Kriftcher will tell you that the most rewarding times in her career in education were those she had in leadership roles. From the day she was appointed to the position of Assistant Principal in English at one of the largest and most diverse high schools in New York City (Newtown HS), she has supported teachers and developed their leadership skills. It proved to be a smooth segue from Assistant Principal to Director of Instruction and Professional Development for the Brooklyn High Schools in which she supported teachers and Assistant Principals on a larger scale. This latter role prepared her to meet the challenge of Principal of William Cullen Bryant HS, another large, comprehensive high school with an enrollment of over 4000 students. Her career with the New York City Department of Education culminated with the position of Local Instructional Superintendent which provided Bernadette with her first opportunity to support principals on a more direct basis.

It was only natural for her to transition to her current position as coach/facilitator with NYC Leadership Academy. In this capacity, she supports principals and facilitates their learning as they meet the challenges in their work. She also designs and facilitates professional development opportunities to enrich their growth as leaders. In addition to a Master of Arts degree in English, Bernadette has a Master of Science degree in Educational Administration and Supervision.

Verta Maloney

National Leadership Facilitator

Verta joined the NYC Leadership Academy in 2018. Prior to that, she designed, managed, and delivered professional learning experiences and programs for sitting and aspiring school leaders at UnboundEd and New Leaders. Verta began her 20-year career in education as a teacher in Prince George’s County Public Schools, and then as a literacy specialist for the New York City Department of Education. She was principal of Bronx Arts for five years and served for several years as a leadership coach for principals and residents at New Leaders. Verta has a B.S. in communications and middle school education from James Madison University, and an M.A. from Teachers College, Columbia University.

Lauren McElrath

Program Manager, West Michigan Leadership Academy

Lauren McElrath joined the NYC Leadership Academy in 2018 as Program Manager for the West Michigan Leadership Academy in Grand Rapids, MI. In this role, Lauren supports the design and logistics for the professional learning network and coaching program for five districts in Greater Grand Rapids. Before joining the Leadership Academy, Lauren was Associate Director for Scholarships for Grand Valley State University, for which she managed over 400 scholarships, collaborated with faculty and staff to ensure student success, and designed and implemented programming for increased student involvement. Lauren holds a Bachelor of Science in Broadcasting and a Master of Public Administration from Grand Valley State University.

Mark Moskowitz


Mark joined the Leadership Academy in 2006 as a coach/facilitator. His 32-year career as a public school educator has been guided by the maxim “everyone counts.” He has served as a teacher, assistant principal, principal, and local instructional superintendent. As a principal, he led the turnaround of a Title I Career and Technical Education high school in Brooklyn. At the Leadership Academy, he has coached school leaders and teams in struggling and high achieving schools of all sizes, and has worked with groups of principals using the critical friends model, including leaders from the International Network of Public Schools which serves recently arrived English learners. Mark has designed and facilitated leadership development sessions for educators across the United States and in Brazil, most recently in South Carolina, Georgia, and Nevada. A highlight of his work was supporting the development of a coaching program in Brazil and learning from his Brazilian colleagues that facilitative competency-based coaching has a universal appeal that transcends culture, language, and geography. Mark has a BA in history and an MA in English from Long Island University and a Certificate of Advanced Study in Educational Administration from Hofstra University.

Eric Prister

Associate Director, Leadership Development

Eric Prister serves as an Associate Director of Leadership Development. In this role, Eric manages projects with clients around the country that design and implement leadership development programs rooted in NYCLA’s proven model and expertise.

Prior to joining NYCLA, Eric worked for three years at the University of Notre Dame’s Institute for Educational Initiatives, supporting the Institute’s many programs aimed at strengthening, supporting, and transforming Catholic K-12 schools around the United States. After moving to the New York City area, Eric worked at Bridgewater Associates, the world’s largest hedge fund, serving most recently as a project manager in the company’s Research department.

Eric was born and raised in South Bend, Indiana, and holds two degrees from the University of Notre Dame—a Master of Theological Studies with a focus on Biblical Studies, and a Bachelor of Arts in Liberal Studies and Greek and Roman Civilization.

David Rease, Jr., Ed.L.D.

National Leadership Facilitator

David serves as a National Leadership Facilitator at the NYC Leadership Academy. He has designed curriculum and facilitated professional learning for numerous school system partners: In Somerville Public Schools, MA, he supported district-wide and school-based equity work to support their district’s equity policy; in Palm Beach County, FL, he is supporting the creation of an aspiring principals program; and in Kentwood Public Schools, MI, he is helping develop an aspiring district leaders cohort. David has also facilitated NYC Leadership Academy’s Foundations of Principal Supervision summer intensive and the Sharpening Your Equity Lens workshop.

Prior to joining the NYC Leadership Academy, David worked as the Executive Director for the Office of Continuous Systemic Improvement in Prince George’s County, Maryland. In that role he worked to create coherence in how central offices and schools approached continuous improvement via the Data Wise Improvement Process. David brings to the Leadership Academy his experiences as a teacher in the Durham Public Schools, an instructional facilitator with the North Carolina Department of Public Instruction, and a consultant with McREL International. One of his most memorable roles was that of a teacher and mock trial coach in Durham, where he found that the application of research, argumentation, analysis, and rhetoric built confidence in students that extended beyond adolescence. David holds a B.A. in history from Columbia University, an MAT in secondary social studies from Duke University, and a Doctor of Education Leadership degree from Harvard University.

Rachel Scott

Senior Director, Learning Systems

With NYCLA since 2014, Rachel oversees online learning and leads the development and implementation of innovative new products and services. She has supported NYCLA’s work with the Bainum Family Foundation, Cleveland Metropolitan School District, Fundacao Itau Social (in Sao Paulo, Brazil), the Nevada Department of Education, Newburgh Enlarged City Schools, and the NYC Department of Education. She led the development of a “blended residency” for aspiring principals as well as four online, video-based simulations focused on equity (the Equity Sims).

Before joining NYCLA, she consulted on the development of programs and tools that supported adult learning with clients such as the NYC DOE, Ramapo for Children, and Teaching Channel, where she wrote a white paper on the use of video in professional learning for teachers. She continues to be interested in the value of video in helping educators analyze and reflect on practice, and stays on the lookout for new opportunities to use it. Rachel holds a certificate in English language teaching to adults as well as a BA from the University of California, Los Angeles.

Derick Spaulding

National Leadership Facilitator

Derick Spaulding joined the Leadership Academy as Senior Director of Leadership Development in 2016. In this role, Derick works with school systems across the country to build school and district leadership capacity and facilitate continuous adult learning. As a national facilitator, Derick works directly with current and aspiring principals, principal supervisors, and superintendents. His projects include working with the state education departments in Nevada and Iowa to increase equity driven leadership capacity statewide; working with school districts in Georgia, South Carolina, Arizona and Michigan to increase coaching capacity of systems level leaders and school building leaders; and executive coaching superintendents and system level leaders.

Derick supports the Leadership Academy’s vision for equity by serving as a member of the organization’s Equity Leadership Team.

Derick brings more than 13 years of experience in education to his work. He started his career as a middle school math and science teacher in New York. His commitment to serving students of color in the under-served and under-resourced Bronx community he grew up in inspired him to pursue a career in school leadership. After attending New Leaders’ Aspiring Principals Program, he founded and led Emolior Academy Middle School in the Bronx, a school which remains one of the highest performing schools in the district. TNTP named Derick a District Exemplar Case Study of Practice in 2016 for his exemplary distributed leadership and capacity building systems. He also received the New York State Senate Educational Leadership Award and was selected as a Cahn Ally within the Columbia University Leadership Development program in 2008.

Derick holds a BA in Communications from The State University of New York at Albany, and graduate degrees from City College University and Baruch College. He is currently pursuing a PhD in Urban Educational Leadership, Administration, and Policy at Fordham University.

Sarah Stevens

Senior Director, Learning & Strategy

Sarah Stevens joined the NYC Leadership Academy in 2013 as the Associate Director of National Initiatives and now serves as Director of National Initiatives.

Prior to joining the Leadership Academy, Sarah served as the Director of Education at Change for Kids (CFK). She helped define CFK’s Educational Goals, grew the volunteer programs into robust support systems for their high-needs NYC public elementary partner schools, and led the Board of Directors through a New School Adoption process resulting in new partnerships doubling the number of schools the organization supported. Sarah joined CFK from the Brooklyn Philharmonic, where she was the Director of Operations and the concert production manager. Before that position, Sarah opened and directed the Brooklyn Philharmonic’s after-school arts academy, and smartARTS, which offers all forms of fine arts, technology, sports, and tutoring classes to public middle school students free of charge. Sarah has also worked in arts education for the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center and Brooklyn Center for The Performing Arts. Before moving to New York, Sarah taught musical theatre and choir at a performing arts high school in Austin Texas.

She studied Music Education and Opera performance at the University of Texas at Austin and received her Master’s degree in Non-Profit Management from Brooklyn College.

Gregory Tewksbury, Ph.D.


Gregory joined the Leadership Academy in 2005. He is an educator and coach/facilitator who values enriching the educational possibilities for young people, their schools and families, with a strong interest in coaching for equitable practice. Gregory believes that to achieve the potential of public education, we must be able to honestly confront the systems and structures that perpetuate all forms of inequity. Gregory’s work at the Leadership Academy has evolved from NYC-based coaching (with an emphasis on developing strong teams) to working in support of teacher leadership in Iowa to developing an “equity diagnostic” to support the work of Area Superintendents in Hillsborough County, Florida. He is currently working with equity coaches in Des Moines, Iowa. Gregory also helped the Leadership Academy develop and coach leaders to pilot an Equity Diagnostic tool that enables leaders, their teams, and school community to assess and set goals for improving equity.

Gregory has a Ph.D. in Urban Education from the Graduate Center, CUNY, and an MA from Stony Brook University in Social Psychology. He has also undergone racial equity training with the Pacific Education Group. Education for social justice and empowerment are at the center of his thinking and practice. As a former faculty member in Education Studies at the New School University, Gregory founded the High School College Collaborative connecting area high schools to the resources of the university. He had the opportunity to work with and write about Paulo Freire, whose work inspires him and demonstrates what education can become.

Corinne Vinal

National Leadership Facilitator

Corinne Vinal is Senior Director for Leadership Development. A graduate of the Leadership Academy’s first cohort of Aspiring Principals, Corinne served as principal of Manhattan Center for Science and Mathematics and founding principal of Sunset Park High School. She was a mentor principal to APP residents, co-facilitated the APP program for several years, and is currently co-facilitating the first cohort of the Yonkers Leadership Academy. Corinne also helped restructure the Newburgh Free Academy, the high school in Newburgh, NY. Her current responsibilities include design and facilitation of principal preparation programs, principal coaching, and program management in New York City, Nye County, NV, Grand Rapids, MI and Albany State University in Georgia. Corinne was a 2014-15 Cahn Fellow for Distinguished Principals at Teachers College, Columbia University. She has designed and facilitated professional learning for school leaders at the Institute for Student Achievement, Center for Family Life, the NYC Department of Education, and the Harvard Graduate School of Education. Corinne holds a BA in English from Wagner College, an MA in English from SUNY-Albany, an MPA from Baruch College; and a Sixth Year Certificate in Education Administration from the College of Staten Island.

Strategic Partnerships & Communications

Phil Benowitz

Associate Vice President, Client Engagement

Phil joined the NYC Leadership Academy team in 2015 and currently serves as the Associate Vice President, Client Engagement. He has over 20 years of experience serving the education industry including school districts, state departments of education, universities, and nonprofit organizations.

As a member of the NYCLA Client Engagement team, Phil’s responsibilities include marketing, sales, strategic partner relations, special projects and related strategy and planning. Prior to joining NYCLA, Phil worked with Teach For America on a project to strengthen their national and regional data and reporting capabilities. He previously worked with Deloitte Consulting for over 25 years as the director of their state education consulting practice where he had responsibility for the marketing, sales, and delivery of professional services to state education organizations. His client service experience included process and organizational redesign, data system implementation, and analytics.

Phil holds a BS in Public Policy and a MS in Public Management from Carnegie Mellon University.

Jill Grossman

Senior Director, Strategic Communications & Policy

Jill Grossman is the Senior Director of Strategic Communications and Policy. In this role, she has overseen the publication of numerous op-eds and articles in national publications and the production of videos on school and district leadership. Jill also co-authored “Still in the Game,” a research paper and policy brief on the impact on ongoing leadership coaching. Previously, Jill worked at New Leaders, where she helped write Breakthrough Principals: A Step-By-Step Guide to Building Stronger Schools, a book outlining New Leaders’ framework for effective principal and school practices. Jill also co-authored “Ambitious Leadership,” a research paper and series of case studies on the practices principals have used to effectively implement new college- and career-readiness standards. She has conducted research for other nonprofit organizations and school districts on principal training programs, school autonomy and teacher teams.

Before working in education research, Jill spent 15 years as an editor and writer for several New York City news outlets, examining the challenges and achievements that urban communities experience, particularly around housing, schools, and politics. Jill has taught graduate and undergraduate journalism courses at New York University and Columbia University, as well as GED classes at community-based organizations and community colleges. She has also served as president of the board of directors of a Montessori preschool in Brooklyn.

Jill holds an MA in education policy from Teachers College, Columbia University, and a BA in sociology from Vassar College.

Tiffany High

Communications Associate

Tiffany High serves as Communications Associate. In this capacity, she writes original content and supports a variety of print, video, and web-based external and internal communications projects. Prior to joining the Leadership Academy in 2017, Tiffany held various positions in the field of communications (as a public relations representative, marketing director and digital project manager) but her passion for social justice and achieving equity flourished with her most recent role as Director of Health Equity Initiatives with Focus for Health Foundation. There, she partnered with organizations addressing the social determinants of health, including: education, economic stability and access to healthcare.

She holds a BA in Communication with a dual concentration in Advertising and Public Relations from California State University, East Bay. Tiffany also serves on the board of directors of a nonprofit supporting first-generation college students.

Ashley Lusky

Associate Director, External Affairs

Ashley Lusky joined the NYC Leadership Academy in 2012 and currently serves as Associate Director, External Affairs. In this capacity, Ashley helps to increase the organization’s visibility through a multi-faceted marketing and communications initiative. She leads NYCLA’s online communications to engage supporters across the country.

Prior to joining NYCLA, Ashley was a Development Intern at Grand Street Settlement, a community organization providing social services to low-income residents in Manhattan and Brooklyn.

She holds a BA in Psychology and Public Policy with a concentration in Children and Families from William Smith College.

Nikki Nagler

Director, Research, Evaluation & Impact

Nikki Nagler joined the NYC Leadership Academy in 2016 and now serves as Director of Research, Evaluation & Impact. In this role, she works closely with program teams and clients to gather formative data and uses these qualitative and quantitative measures to investigate and communicate the impact of the Leadership Academy’s work. Previously, Nikki worked as the Director of Assessment at CUNY Hunter College, where she collaborated with faculty to design and implement learning outcomes assessment initiatives that promoted continuous improvement and institutional effectiveness. Nikki holds an MA in Mental Health Counseling from CUNY Hunter College and a BS in Political Science from the University of Maryland, College Park. Growing up, she always thought she wasn’t a “numbers person,” until her high school Calculus teacher taught her otherwise – and now she loves spending her days working with data!

Lorene Sachwald

Associate Director of Marketing

As the Associate Director of Marketing, Lorene supports the organization’s initiatives to promote professional learning services for school and district leaders.

Lorene has more than 15 years of marketing experience, a decade of which were spent working in education. As a Marketing and Business Lead for Scholastic, Lorene oversaw the business strategy for and sales of digital eBook products across districts nationwide, supporting school and district leaders in their efforts to implement new technology and boost student reading skills. Prior to Scholastic, Lorene served as Marketing Director and Web Lead for Kids Discover, a digital- and print-based literacy product targeted to students in K-6. In this role, Lorene oversaw the entire marketing and web content strategy for Kids Discover, working to expand its digital footprint and customer reach via inbound marketing, social media, print collateral, and content development.

Lorene began her career in magazine publishing, establishing successful marketing programs for magazines such as Time Out New York, Rolling Stone, Us Weekly, and Men’s Journal. She has a B.A. from Vassar College and a culinary degree from the Natural Gourmet Institute in New York City.

Marianna Valdez, Ph.D

Associate Vice President of Research, Evaluation, and Impact

Marianna F. Valdez, Ph.D, serves as the Associate Vice President of Research, Evaluation, and Impact. In this role, Dr. Valdez ensures the organization’s ability to carefully monitor and measure the success and impact of its work, uses formative and summative data for decision-making, organizational learning and continuous improvement, and communicates the data’s implications internally and externally. Prior to joining NYCLA, Dr. Valdez shaped the research initiatives and organizational learning at New Leaders for nearly eight years. During that time, she led New Leaders’ federal grants from the U.S. Department of Education, including a randomized control trial of a leadership training program and a multi-year study of innovation in leadership development. Dr. Valdez has taken an active role in codifying and disseminating New Leaders’ work to the broader field to encourage further adoption of promising practices, such as by authoring Untapped: Transforming Teacher Leadership to Help Students Succeed. Prior to New Leaders, Dr. Valdez conducted numerous empirical program evaluations of federal and state grant interventions with low-income youth. She has served as an undergraduate instructor at the University of Hawaii and graduate instructor at Montclair University. She has also coordinated longitudinal federal grants at Massachusetts General Hospital’s pediatric psychopharmacology unit.  Dr. Valdez earned Doctorate and Masters degrees in Community and Culture Psychology from the University of Hawaii and a Bachelors degree from Tulane University.

Administration & Operations

Joseph Burke

Vice President, Budget & Finance

Joe has been at the NYC Leadership Academy since 2007. As VP for Budget & Finance, Joe is responsible for organizational budgeting and planning, overseeing the day-to-day activities of the Finance Department, and financial and grant reporting. Previously Director of Finance, he had a hand in all aspects of the finance department including managing the month end closing activities and coordinating the annual audit. Prior to joining the Leadership Academy, Joe was the Controller at the South Street Seaport Museum, his first role in non-profit accounting. He also served as Accounting Manager for Gordon’s Jewelers and Zale Corporation. He holds a BBA in Accounting and Finance from Pace University.

Gerry Falchick

Senior Director, Human Resources & Talent Management

Saying that Gerry Falchick is a people person is probably an understatement. Her career path took a sharp left turn from pursuing a Master’s degree in Literature with emphasis on fifteenth century English many moons ago to a honing her skills in Human Resources. Her HR career is extensive and varied, with concentration in recruitment, employee relations, performance management, and organizational development.

All of what went before was preparation for what she does currently. As Director of Human Resources in a community hospital in Florida, she designed and implemented a new selection and on-boarding system and reengineered the performance management program. During her five years managing a large and very busy recruitment function at New York Presbyterian, she introduced client-based planning and training, but it was at NYC Leadership Academy where she found a home. In her words, she gets to “support the most dedicated, smart and collaborative team it has ever been a pleasure to work with”.

Carole Learned-Miller, Ed.L.D.

Chief of Staff

As Chief of Staff, Carole serves as a thought partner and advisor to the CEO, supporting the organization’s strategic goals and initiatives. Since joining the Leadership Academy in 2017 as a fellow from Harvard University’s Education Leadership program, she has helped lead district and state level work with partners across the country, including designing professional learning experiences for leaders in Cypress-Fairbanks, TX; Somerville, MA; and Fayette County, KY. In Hillsborough County, FL, Carole co-designed an equity walk tool and co-led learning sessions for the superintendent’s leadership team in analyzing the district’s work to dismantle inequities and to create a strategic plan focused on equity. She recently co-facilitated the NYC Department of Education First Vice Chancellor’s leadership retreat and in Rochester, NY, led the superintendent’s leadership team in analyzing the district’s work to dismantle inequities and to create a strategic plan focused on equity. She has also led training for principals and superintendents for the Nevada Department of Education and worked with district-level administrators to create curricula for aspiring and new principals in both Cleveland and Chicago. Carole is the lead researcher and author of the NYC Leadership Academy’s Equity at Work guide for district leaders on equity-focused strategic planning.

Carole is a former teacher, principal, and central office administrator. She has taught aspiring teachers and principals at Smith College and the University of Massachusetts and has served as a coach for aspiring and sitting administrators. She was an Ambach Fellow at the Massachusetts Department of Education, where she focused on equity projects such as assisting with the oversight of the METCO desegregation program. Carole enjoys writing about leadership and equity and her work has been published by the Century Foundation and the National Coalition on School Diversity. Carole holds a doctorate from Harvard University’s Graduate School of Education’s Education Leadership (Ed.L.D.) program.

Linda Lewis

Senior Accountant

She is responsible for payroll, vendor payment, monthly profit and loss reports for the NYCLA’s national clients, assisting with audits, and performing a myriad of other financial duties all with the aim of ensuring that the Finance department runs smoothly and is responsive to the needs of the entire organization.

Prior to joining NYCLA, she was employed at a non-profit organization in NYC whose primary focus was the eradication of homelessness. She was also a tax auditor, a job where she honed her attention to detail.

She earned a BBA from Baruch College in Accounting and is currently exploring colleges to begin the next phase in her education.

Juanita Lewis

Special Assistant to the CEO

An experienced office administrator with over 30 years’ experience, Juanita is often the first contact with NYC Leadership Academy. She joined NYC Leadership Academy in 2006 and provides administrative support services to the senior cabinet, plans organizational events, and brings her expertise to all departments.

Prior to joining the Academy, Juanita served seven years in the nonprofit sector as Director and Program Coordinator of a senior citizens center, and 19 years in various corporate positions. A mother of four, Juanita holds a Bachelor of Arts degree from Wells College.

Alexander Negron

Director, Information Technology

Alex Negron serves as the Information Technology Director for NYC Leadership Academy. As Director of Information Technology, he is responsible for all aspects of IT. He has been working in the technology field for over fifteen years. Alex joined NYC Leadership Academy in 2003 after working at the New York City Department of Education as a Computer Technician.

Alex holds a BA in Computer Science. In addition, he holds certifications as well, including one from the Microsoft Certified Systems Administrator program and others from the MCTS program and various software applications.

He brings his depth of experience and various technical skills to his current position where he supports NYC Leadership Academy.

Bernadette Pizzurro

Senior Director, Facilities & Administration

Bernadette joined the NYC Leadership Academy in July 2003 working with the Aspiring Principals Admissions team for the first class of Aspiring Principals and is still working with the Admissions team.

As Senior Director, Facilities & Administration, Bernadette is responsible for managing our staff offices as well as securing space for on and off site workshops, working along with the IT and Operations staff to deliver and support all events. Bernadette works with the client services responsible for client contract processes. Bernadette worked in the New York City Department of Education for 12 years before coming to NYCLA.

Sign up for news and updates