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The Achievement First Cabinet

We started with a single school. Now we’re 15,000 students strong. As we continue to grow and better serve those students, our cabinet is at the helm of this important work of transforming public education in America.

Our cabinet is made up of content specialists, leadership coaches, operations experts, financial wizards, former teachers and principals, and all around champions for kids.

Meet our leaders.

  1. Dacia Toll

    CEO

    As CEO, Dacia focuses on the strategic direction for Achievement First and the overall success of all AF schools and scholars. She coaches the superintendent, the president, and the executive director of AF Accelerate, which supports the open source sharing of AF resources and capacity building for other non-AF schools and networks. Her responsibilities also include directly coaching AF’s high schools, overseeing AF’s response to COVID-19, and the development of AF’s vision and plan to Lead for Racial Equity. Prior to co-founding Achievement First in 2003, Dacia led the founding team of Amistad Academy and served as the principal of AF’s flagship school from 1999 to 2005. Under Dacia’s leadership, Amistad Academy had the greatest performance gains of any middle school in the state of Connecticut – with Amistad scholars consistently posting achievement results that tripled New Haven Public Schools and topped Greenwich averages in some subjects. After graduating from the University of North Carolina, Dacia received a master’s degree from Oxford University on a Rhodes Scholarship. She also received a teaching certificate and J.D. from Yale University.

  2. Richard Buery, Jr.

    President

    As president, Richard leads Achievement First Network Support. He manages the organization’s internal operations and external relations, and his core responsibilities include strategic planning, talent recruitment and development, community outreach, fundraising, and board relations. Richard came to Achievement First from KIPP Foundation, where he worked as the national Chief of Policy and Public Affairs, overseeing all external-facing work. He previously served as NYC Deputy Mayor for Strategic Policy Initiatives, where he led signature mayoral initiatives, including Pre-K for All. In less than 18 months, his team created opportunities for more than 50,000 additional NYC 4-year-olds to attend full-day pre-K. He also oversaw the launch of the city’s universal after school program for middle schoolers and 200 new community schools partnerships, managed the city’s mental health reform initiative, founded the Mayor’s Office of Minority and Women-owned Business Enterprises and the Department of Veterans Services, and managed several other city agencies and offices. 

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    He also served as the CEO of the Children’s Aid Society, one of NYC’s largest and most respected social service agencies. In addition, Richard also founded iMentor, a national nonprofit that pairs high school students with a mentor to help them navigate to and through college and Groundwork, a community agency in his native East New York, Brooklyn. Richard earned his bachelor’s degree in African-American Studies from Harvard College and his J.D. from Yale Law School.

  3. Stephanie Keenoy

    Superintendent

    As superintendent, Stephanie 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 serving as superintendent, she was the elementary academy lead responsible for the success of Achievement First’s sixteen elementary schools across three regions. She is focused on ensuring all AF schools are incredibly warm and welcoming places for children to learn and grow. Before becoming academy lead, Stephanie worked as an educator and school leader at AF starting in 2011. She was the founding principal at AF Endeavor Elementary School, which has scored “exemplary” on the AF report card since the school’s opening.

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    Later, she became one of AF’s highest-performing regional superintendents, with three out of the four schools she directly coached achieving our top ratings of “strong” or “exemplary,” including our first National Blue Ribbon School. She earned her bachelor’s degree in psychology and education from the College of William and Mary. Stephanie holds her master’s degree in reading and literacy from Boston College. 

  4. Jesse Balis-Harris

    Elementary School Academy Lead

    In his role as regional superintendent and elementary school academy lead, Jesse works to directly support six of our elementary and middle schools, and is responsible for the success of our 16 elementary schools. Prior to his current role, Jesse spent eight years as a founding teacher, dean, and principal at Achievement First Apollo Elementary where he supported the school in making significant gains in academic achievement, student experience, and adult culture. Jesse began his teaching career as a first and second grade teacher in Philadelphia. He earned a bachelor’s degree in international relations at George Washington University and a master’s degree in education from Hunter College.

  5. Fatimah Barker

    Chief External Officer

    In her role as the Chief External Officer, Fatimah leads teams directly involved with external relations, marketing and communications, development, legal and authorizer relations, and expansion. She also serves as the organization’s primary spokesperson to all external constituents. Fatimah works to ensure that Achievement First becomes an even more prominent, effective partner in supporting education reform and social justice. Before becoming CXO, Fatimah worked as an educator and school leader in AF schools for 10 years. During her tenure as principal of Achievement First East New York Middle School, her school’s academic results and organizational health were among the top 5% in the network. A proud Brooklyn native, Fatimah began her career in education as a seventh-grade mathematics and science teacher in Philadelphia.

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    Fatimah joined Achievement First Endeavor Middle School as a teacher and went on to become a grade-level team leader and mathematics coach, academic dean and principal-in-residence before becoming principal. She holds a dual bachelor’s degree in political science and in communications and rhetorical studies from Syracuse University.

  6. Amy D'Angelo

    High School Academy Lead

    Amy oversees a portfolio of New York middle schools and supports their principals and deans to develop, implement and maintain rigorous academic programs and positive school cultures. She joined Achievement First in 2006 as the founding principal of AF Bushwick Middle School, and during her six-year tenure as principal, the school celebrated many accomplishments, including 100 percent of sixth- and eighth-grade students scoring at or above grade level in math. Prior to working at Achievement First, Amy was a resident in the New Leaders program. In 2004, she was recognized with the Outstanding Achievement Award in Teaching from Pace University. Prior to her work in education, Amy spent four years in business at McKinsey & Company.

  7. Victor De La Paz

    Chief Financial Officer

    Victor leads Team Finance within the growing AF network of schools across our three states. Team Finance manages the financial operations functions of revenue, payroll, accounts payable, internal audits and controls, and budgeting and forecasting. Prior to joining Achievement First, Victor was CFO at New Haven Public Schools in Connecticut, CFO at Baltimore City Public Schools, and held various leadership roles at Hartford Public Schools including Deputy CFO and Chief Operating Officer. A graduate of the Broad Residency in Urban Education, Victor began his career in financial services and transitioned into K-12 education from a career in mergers and acquisitions in large healthcare and property insurance companies.

  8. De-Lea Deane-Allen

    Chief Equity Officer

    As Chief Equity Officer, De-Lea is responsible for developing, implementing, and continuously refining our organization’s plan for how we will lead for racial equity at the network level and across our schools. De-Lea provides alignment, support, and accountability as she leads Achievement First in promoting inclusion and anti-racist practices through our culture, structures, customs, and leadership. Before becoming Chief Equity Officer, De-Lea led Diversity, Equity and Inclusion work at Achievement First for six years, as a director, senior director, and vice president. De-Lea previously worked for 13 years as a classroom teacher and dean at three different Achievement First schools, and supported and learned from organizational leaders across the country through the AF Accelerator program. She holds a bachelor’s degree in political science from Columbia University, and a master’s degree in organizational leadership from Columbia University, Teacher’s College.

  9. Talia Shaull

    Chief Talent Officer

    In her role as Chief Talent Officer, Talia leads Team Talent and is responsible for co-creating a people-centered vision to help Achievement First attract, develop and retain the best talent in the sector. Previously, Talia served as the Chief Talent Officer at Uncommon Schools, where she led the talent acquisition, talent development, and HR operations teams. Her previous experience also includes serving as CTO at Tulsa Public Schools, where she and her team were able to drastically improve teacher recruitment, selection, and overall service to schools. Talia holds a bachelor’s degree in international business from Oral Roberts University and a master’s degree in organizational development from the University of Oklahoma.

  10. Chi Tschang

    Middle School Academy Lead

    In his role as regional superintendent and middle school academy lead, Chi is responsible for the success of 16 middle schools serving over 4,000 fifth through eighth graders. Between 2013 and 2019, the middle schools under his oversight improved 45% in math proficiency and 34% in ELA proficiency on the New York state exams. During that same period, the state grew 15% and 12% respectively in math and ELA proficiency. Prior to joining Achievement First in 2009, Chi tutored fourth-graders in Providence as a City Year corps member and taught middle school history in Boston. He was also the principal at KIPP Academy Fresno. Chi earned a bachelor’s degree in history from Yale College.

  11. Christina Braganza

    Chief Program Officer

    In her role as Chief Program Officer, Christina partners with the superintendent and academy leads to build toward K-12 alignment by coordinating and supporting the student experience, special services, equity, and academic operations teams. Prior to her current role, she was the VP of Special Services at Achievement First for 9 years, and during her tenure established a consistent continuum of service and support. A proud special educator, Christina began her career as teacher in Harlem and is passionate about serving all students. She earned her bachelor’s degree in English language and literature from the University of Maryland at College Park, a master’s degree in teaching special education from Pace University, and master’s degree in public policy from the University of Chicago.