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Achievement First Leadership Team

Doug McCurry
Co-CEO and Superintendent
 

Dacia Toll
Co-CEO and President
 

Christina Braganza
Vice President, Special Services
 

Laurie Bussmann
Vice President, Operations and Technology
 

Amy Christie
Senior Director, College Access and Success

Laura Clancy
Chief of Staff
 

Teresa Clarke
Vice President, Human Capital & Employment Counsel
 

Pamela Bookbinder Clarke
Co-Vice President, Recruitment
 

Peter Cymrot
Senior Counsel, Legal and Compliance

De-Lea Deane-Allen
Director, Diversity and Inclusiveness

Lisa Desfosses
Vice President, Facilities and Capital Finance
 

Harris Ferrell
Chief Operations Officer
 

Chastity Lord
Chief External Officer
 

Amber Mackay
Vice President, COO Strategy & Operations

Paige MacLean
Vice President, Strategic Partnerships
 

Ken Paul
Vice President, Development
 

Alicia Maria Garcia De La Rosa
Co-Vice President, Recruitment
 

Cristina Tokeshi
Vice President, Team Academic Operations

Analiza Wolf
Senior Director, Talent Development, Evaluation and Recognition

 

 

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Doug McCurry
Co-CEO and
Superintendent
In his role as co-CEO and superintendent, Mr. McCurry oversees student achievement across the Achievement First network through the training and coaching of principals, the development and implementation of principal best practices, and the evaluation of principals and schools. Prior to co-founding Achievement First in 2003, Mr. McCurry was one of the founders of Amistad Academy, serving as the school's instructional leader for three years. In his teaching roles at Amistad Academy, Mr. McCurry achieved outstanding results. His math students achieved 100 percent proficiency on the Connecticut Mastery Test, and his reading and writing students consistently showed over two years of growth in a single school year. Mr. McCurry led the development of Achievement First's standards-based curriculum, including Athena, Achievement First's online interim assessment and data analysis system. Mr. McCurry also leads professional development efforts at Achievement First, and he is a sought-after presenter and coach of teachers. Before coming to Amistad Academy and Achievement First, Mr. McCurry was a management and technology consultant in Atlanta, GA, and taught history and writing and coached basketball and tennis at Providence Day School in Charlotte, NC. A Morehead Scholar at the University of North Carolina, Mr. McCurry earned a B.A. in history and journalism there, and was recently awarded the university’s distinguished young alumnus award. Through the Klingenstein Private School Leadership program, he earned an M.A. in educational administration from Teachers College, Columbia University.

Dacia Toll
Co-CEO and President
Ms. Toll focuses on the development and expansion of Achievement First and the success of all Achievement First schools. She manages the organization's internal operations and external relations, and her core responsibilities include strategic planning, principal coaching and training, talent recruitment and development, community outreach, fundraising, and board relations. Prior to co-founding Achievement First in 2003, Ms. Toll led the founding team of Amistad Academy and served as the school's director from 1999 to 2005. Under Ms. Toll's leadership, Amistad Academy consistently produced student performance results that tripled the New Haven Public Schools' average and topped Greenwich and Westport averages in some subjects. Ms. Toll serves on the boards of Relay Graduate School of Education and 50CAN. After graduating from the University of North Carolina, where she was a Morehead Scholar, Ms. Toll received a degree from Oxford University on a Rhodes Scholarship. She received her teaching certificate and J.D. from Yale University.

Christina Braganza
Vice President, Special Services
Ms. Braganza leads Team Special Services, which builds and strengthens the continuum of special education services at Achievement First. Her team also focuses on Achievement First’s intervention programs (to prevent the disproportionate referral of students for special education services), supports the clinical supervision of the social work cohort, and leads extended learning. Prior to her work at Achievement First, Ms. Braganza taught special education, first as a teacher in Harlem and later helping to build a special education program at Rise Academy in Newark, N.J. Throughout this time, she spent her summers working as a school director at Teach For America’s Summer Institute, while also earning a master’s degree in public policy at the University of Chicago. Ms. Braganza earned a B.A. magna cum laude from the University of Maryland (Go Terps!). She strongly believes that charter schools evolved to innovate in the world of public education, and it’s time that innovation extends to special education. All means ALL.

Laurie Bussmann
Vice President, Operations and Technology
Ms. Bussmann oversees Achievement First's school-based operations and technology teams. She previously served as Achievement First’s vice president of systems and technology, leading data governance, IT support, network infrastructure, enterprise systems and data integration across all systems. Ms. Bussmann led the development and support of Achievement First's technology infrastructure beginning in 2004 when she served a single school as Amistad Academy's IT manager. Prior to joining Achievement First, Ms. Bussmann supported technology at Regional School District 17 in Haddam-Killingworth, Conn., and worked as a buyer for Compaq/Hewlett Packard. She graduated, with honors, from Providence College with a bachelor’s degree in computer science and has a master’s degree in information systems from University of Phoenix.

Amy Christie
Senior Director, College Access and Success
Ms. Christie leads Team College, which supports and oversees the college access and success initiatives across our five high schools. Her team focuses on creating a scalable model for our country that defies the current 8% college graduation rate for low-income students. Prior to her work at Achievement First, Ms. Christie was the Founding Director of College Placement at the Bronx Lab School, a public, non-selective high school serving all students in Bronx, NY. Her passion for college access was cultivated in her time as Recruitment Director at Teach For America where she spent time on college campuses working to cultivate teachers. Ms. Christie holds a B.A. in sociology from Smith College (where she was also a college tour guide) and a master’s degree in education from Pace University. 

Laura Clancy
Chief of Staff

Ms. Clancy oversees organization-wide performance management, planning, and learning and development efforts. Before joining Achievement First, she served as managing director at New Sector Alliance and executive director at the organization’s Boston office. Earlier in her career, Ms. Clancy worked with the Bridgespan Group for clients that included the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the Edna McConnell Clark Foundation, the Annie E. Casey Foundation, the Boston Foundation, College Summit, Communities in Schools, and Center for Health Care Strategies. Ms. Clancy has also worked as a development and strategy consultant at New Visions for Public Schools and with Community Resource Exchange, a management consulting firm focusing on grassroots nonprofits in NYC. She has served as associate director of corporate and foundation relations of the national office of Big Brothers Big Sisters and has served on the Boards of the Phillips Brooks House Association at Harvard University, the Guidance Center, and AF Crown Heights. Ms. Clancy holds an M.B.A. from Columbia Business School, where she was a William Randolph Hearst Scholar, and a B.A, magna cum laude, from Harvard University where she was awarded their annual Women’s Leadership Award and the Donald W. Moreland Award for Public Service.

Teresa Clarke
Vice President, Human Capital & Employment Counsel
Ms. Clarke leads and manages a team responsible for all HR operations and strategic functions for the entire network of Achievement First schools and serves as in-house employment counsel. Before her current role, Ms. Clarke was the Senior Manager of Legal Recruiting at Sullivan & Cromwell, LLP and previously practiced corporate transactional law at Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton, & Garrison LLP. She is a graduate of Bronx High School of Science, Duke University and UCLA School of Law. Outside of AF, Ms. Clarke is a frequent speaker on HR and employment law topics and is involved in several HR and legal associations, including the Corporate Counsel Women of Color, Labor & Employment Law Sections of the American Bar Association and New York State Bar Association, National Employment Law Council, Society for Human Resource Management, and the National Association of American-Americans in Human Resources. In 2015, she was named a Development Fund Fellow of the American Bar Association and was recognized as a Game Changer by Workforce, a Crain’s publication focused on the HR industry. The latter award is given to the top 25 HR practitioners and rising stars under 40 globally.  

Pamela Bookbinder Clarke
Co-Vice President, Recruitment
Ms. Clarke jointly oversees the recruitment and selection of teachers for the network’s schools, in addition to supporting the management of school leadership outreach and recruitment, and the Teacher In Residence program. Before becoming the co-vice president, she led the New York Recruitment team in its growth from staffing 10 to 21 schools. Prior to joining Achievement First in 2009, Ms. Clarke was a 2006 New York City Teach For America Corps Member where she taught 10th, 11th and 12th grade History in The Bronx. She taught the same students for three years and helped lead them to a 100% passage rate on both the Global and United States History Regents exams, and a 100% high school graduation rate. Ms. Clarke is most proud that two former students are now teachers at Achievement First. She received her B.A. in Political Science and Psychology from Washington University in St. Louis and holds a master's degree in Secondary Social Studies Education from Pace University.

Peter Cymrot
Senior Counsel, Legal and Compliance
Mr. Cymrot oversees legal and compliance functions as well as expansion efforts and authorizer relations. He provides legal and operational advice in a wide variety of areas supporting the schools. Prior to joining Achievement First, Mr. Cymrot was Assistant General Counsel for Success Academy Charter Schools, having entered education reform after several years as a litigation associate at Sullivan & Cromwell LLP. Previously, he worked as an investigator into allegations of police misconduct for the New York City Civilian Complaint Review Board. Mr. Cymrot holds a J.D. from NYU School of Law and earned a B.A. magna cum laude with distinction from Amherst College.

De-Lea Deane-Allen
Director, Diversity and Inclusiveness
Ms. Deane-Allen leads our Diversity and Inclusiveness strategy and skill-building for the network. She works with leaders across the network to more effectively fulfill our mission by creating inclusive work environments, increasing awareness of race and class dynamics, and making decisions with a diversity and inclusiveness lens.  Ms. Deane-Allen works most closely with network leaders that drive talent and school culture strategy. Prior to her role as Director of Diversity and Inclusiveness, she served as the founding Dean of Students and founding Dean of Special Services at AF Brooklyn High. Prior to those leadership roles, Ms. Deane-Allen taught for eight years in middle school and high school in addition to creating and leading the alumni program for Amistad Academy’s first four classes. She earned a B.A. from Columbia College at Columbia University and a M.A in Organizational Leadership from Teachers College, Columbia University. 

Lisa Desfosses
Vice President, Facilities and Capital Finance
Ms. Desfosses leads Achievement First’s facilities team, which oversees acquisition, construction, renovation and maintenance of more than 40 school properties within the network. The team also oversees all capital financing associated with facility projects. Before joining Achievement First, Ms. Desfosses worked for a management consulting firm that focused exclusively on government and non-profit clients. She then owned and operated a consulting firm that staffed large municipal building projects and managed public-private partnerships for urban downtown developments, including the Gateway Downtown Development Project, a $300-million project that relocated Gateway Community College to downtown New Haven. Ms. Desfosses holds a bachelor’s degree from Harvard University, an M.B.A. from the Yale School of Management, where she was a Yale Presidential Public Service Fellow, and an M. Ed. in educational leadership from The Broad Residency in Urban Education.

Harris Ferrell
Chief Operations Officer
Mr. Ferrell is responsible for the operations, information practices, processes and systems across the Achievement First network. His goal is to ensure that Achievement First’s data and information practices are supported by the proper enterprise systems to efficiently and effectively communicate, document, share, analyze, report, plan and review all facets of its best practices and organizational performance. Formerly, Mr. Ferrell was a co-founder and senior vice president of AdvancePath Academics, a company that sets up and operates drop-out recovery academies on behalf of school districts. Mr. Ferrell attended Yale University as an undergraduate and earned his M.B.A. from Harvard Business School. He has worked in education in many different facets: a classroom teacher through Teach For America in Houston, a designer of education software as director of product management at SchoolNet and an investor in education as an associate partner at NewSchools Venture Fund.

Chastity Lord
Chief External Officer
In her role as chief external officer, Ms. Lord is charged with leading the teams directly involved with external relations, marketing and communications, development, partnerships, and expansion. Prior to joining Achievement First, she was a regional vice president for The Posse Foundation, Inc., a national organization that identifies urban public high school students with academic and leadership potential who may be overlooked by the traditional college admission process. In her role as regional vice president, Ms. Lord was responsible for overseeing the Posse sites in Atlanta, Chicago, Los Angeles and Washington, D.C. Before joining Posse, she served as the mid-Atlantic regional director for The New Teacher Project (TNTP), a non-profit educational consulting firm that partners with urban school districts, states and other governmental entities to enhance their capacity to recruit, select, train and support outstanding new teachers. Directly before TNTP, Ms. Lord was the director of program services for Mentors, Inc., a non-profit organization that promotes the academic, career and personal development of public high school students through one-on-one mentoring relationships and enrichment activities. Ms. Lord holds a bachelor’s degree from the University of Oklahoma and an M.B.A. from the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University. Ms. Lord is a 2012-13 Pahara-Aspen Education Fellow with the Pahara Institute and the Aspen Global Leadership Network, and she also serves on the board of directors for the Sargent Shriver National Center on Poverty Law.

Amber Mackay
Vice President, COO Strategy & Operations
Ms. Mackay oversees the operational and strategic effectiveness of the COO leadership team. She helps connect the organization’s priorities to the operational, technical, and analytical support to drive progress on Achievement First’s major goals. Previously, Ms. Mackay built and led the data strategy team, overseeing the implementation of Achievement First’s data-driven management framework. Prior to joining Achievement First, she worked in the economic consulting industry on expert witness support teams to evaluate and quantify economic damages in corporate litigation. Ms. Mackay received an M.Sc. in finance and economics from the London School of Economics and a B.A. in economics from Brigham Young University. She is also an alumna of the Strategic Data Project at the Center for Educational Policy Research with the Harvard Graduate School of Education.

Paige MacLean
Vice President, Strategic Partnerships

Ms. MacLean facilitates the sharing of Achievement First’s strategies, tools and lessons learned with other organizations interested in systemic reform. She is also responsible for developing Achievement First’s long-term strategy and guidelines for external partnerships and oversees Achievement First’s broader engagement with New Haven Public Schools, including the development of the Residency Program for School Leadership. Prior to her work at Achievement First, Ms. MacLean was a senior manager at Wellspring Consulting, a consulting firm focused on nonprofit strategy, and a consultant at the Boston Consulting Group.  Ms. MacLean received an M.B.A. from the Yale School of Management and earned her certificate in Afro-American studies and B.A. magna cum laude from the Woodrow Wilson School of Public Policy and International Affairs at Princeton University. After graduation, Ms. MacLean lived in the former East Germany as a Fulbright Scholar, where she taught English and interviewed residents about their experiences making the transition from a communist to a capitalist economy.

Ken Paul
Vice President, Development
Mr. Paul is responsible for all fundraising and donor stewardship for Achievement First’s schools, Network Support and special projects. Previously, he was a co-owner of the Bridgeport Bluefish minor league baseball team, a founder of a Major League Lacrosse team and an airline pilot. Mr. Paul served for 20 years as a board member and development chair for Hopkins School in New Haven and for four years as the board chair of Habitat for Humanity of Coastal Fairfield County. Mr. Paul is a graduate of the U.S. Naval Academy and began his career as a U.S. Navy pilot.

Alicia Maria Garcia De La Rosa
Co-Vice President, Recruitment
Ms. De La Rosa leads Achievement First’s school recruitment and selection initiatives in Connecticut and Rhode Island, including AF’s recruitment operations and outreach strategy. Before joining the recruitment team, she was a teacher, grade level chair and coach at Elm City College Prep Elementary in New Haven. Prior to joining Achievement First, Ms. De La Rosa was a 2002 New York City Teaching Fellow. She remained at her placement school in The Bronx as an elementary classroom teacher for four years, where she led her fourth grade students to outstanding achievement on the New York State English Language Arts Exam with 93% of students meeting or exceeding grade level standards. Alicia received her bachelor's degree in theater from the College of Charleston and holds a Master's of Science in Childhood Education from the City College of New York.

Cristina Tokeshi
Vice President, Team Academic Operations
Ms. Tokeshi manages the Academic Operations and Strategy team that oversees the development and implementation of curriculum, assessments, professional development, and other academic strategies to drive gap-closing student achievement across our schools. Prior to this role, she worked on AF’s Leadership Development team and Data Strategy team with a focus on developing leaders’ skill in using data to drive decision making.  Ms. Tokeshi served as a founding teacher and then Academic Dean at Achievement First Bushwick Elementary School. Cristina has dual degree in education studies and Latin American studies from Brown University and a master’s degree in education from Pace University.  

Analiza Wolf
Senior Director, Talent Development, Evaluation and Recognition
Ms. Wolf leads the talent development team responsible for empowering growth and celebrating excellence for the entire network of Achievement First schools, specifically through the AF Report Card and Teacher Career Pathway, AF’s nationally recognized, best-in-class teacher evaluation and recognition program. She also advises school leaders in performance management and how to use data to set school goals and strategies to drive retention and development. Prior to this role, Ms. Wolf was a Regional Director of Operations managing the operations of eight AF schools. She also co-founded and co-led Leadership Prep Brownsville with Uncommon Schools. Before entering education, Ms. Wolf was a brand manager at Colgate-Palmolive. In addition, she spent five years in the Air Force as an Officer leading teams in international relations (focusing on China, Taiwan and the Philippines), systems engineering, and personnel analysis. She received her undergraduate B.A. and B.S. degrees from Stanford University, her M.B.A. from Kellogg's School of Management at Northwestern where she was an Austin Scholar, and a M. Ed. in educational leadership from The Broad Residency in Urban Education. Ms. Wolf also conducted research in the Philippines as a Fulbright Scholar, where she studied the effects of the U.S. military on the prostitution industry.

 
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