We are thrilled to announce that we’ve selected the next cohort of leaders for the Charter Network Accelerator! We feel honored to support these networks in their efforts to provide an excellent education for students in communities across this country. This cohort joins a national network of Accelerator leaders from four previous cohorts. With all five Accelerator cohorts combined, we are reaching over 65,000 scholars!
The Cohort 5 leaders listed below – like the leaders in our previous cohorts – bring with them deep dedication to improving education and each have extraordinary stories of achievement. We’re so excited to partner with and learn from these great schools.
Congratulations to Cohort 5!
- Vision Academies (Delaware)
Leader: Aaron Bass
In 2004, as Executive Director, Aaron Bass founded Breakthrough Fort Lauderdale, part of the National Breakthrough Collaborative, a nonprofit program that served 240 students and prepared middle school and high school students for college, and also gave high school and college students the opportunity to teach. Mr. Bass served as President for National Breakthrough Directors Association, and as Co-Chairman of the Fort Lauderdale Mayor’s Educational Board. In 2007, Mr. Bass joined KIPP (Knowledge Is Power Program) and was awarded the prestigious Fisher Fellowship, given by the Fisher Family (owners of the GAP, Old Navy) to establish KIPP DuBois Collegiate Academy. KDCA was the only open enrollment school to have an ACT Average in the top 10 HS in Philadelphia. His first graduating class had a college matriculation of 95% – compared to Philadelphia’s average of 30%. In 2014, he became Chief of Staff and led advocacy efforts for KIPP’s expansion in Philadelphia. Under his leadership, KIPP was the only school to obtain two new charters in 2014 (adding to KIPP’s other 4 schools in the city). In 2016 Mr. Bass was selected as CEO for EastSide Charter School and Family Foundations. In 2017 Family Foundations changed its name to Charter School of New Castle and both charters joined under the umbrella of Vision Academies. Vision Academies is the only network of charter schools that works with students from kindergarten, through college and into their first career.
- DREAM Charter School (New York, NY)
Leader: Eve Colavito
Eve Colavito, Chief of Schools, graduated from Brown University and began her teaching career in Mmabatho, South Africa. After two years, she returned to New York City and began teaching at River East Elementary School in East Harlem, where she taught third and fourth graders in a full inclusion class. At River East, Eve further developed her belief in the importance of inclusive education and immersed herself in the practice of engaging constructivist teaching. During this time, she received her master’s degree in elementary and special education from Bank Street College of Education. Following her tenure at River East, Eve became a founding teacher and director at Bronx Charter School for the Arts. Eve held a variety of roles there and eventually became the Co-Executive Director, alongside the founder of Bronx Arts. These roles allowed Eve to think strategically about the future of the school, and shape the school’s curriculum, instruction, and overall approach. All of these experiences have led to Eve’s conviction about the possibilities for all students to succeed and their ability to achieve nothing less than excellence. Recently, Eve successfully completed the year-long Aspiring Principals Program through New Leaders, a national nonprofit that develops transformational school leaders and designs effective leadership policies and practices for school systems across the country, and was highlighted as a feature success story.
- UP Education Network (Boston, MA)
Leader: Veronica Conforme
Veronica assumed her position as Chief Executive Officer at UP Education Network (UP) in July 2017. She previously served as Chancellor of the Education Achievement Authority (EAA) of Michigan from 2014 to 2017. As Chancellor of the EAA, Veronica oversaw the 15 lowest-performing public schools in the City of Detroit, spearheading important improvements in those schools with over half of students achieving 1.5 or more years’ growth in reading and math during her tenure. For over a decade, she served in senior leadership roles in the NYC Department of Education including as Chief Operating Officer overseeing a $23 billion budget and 130,000 employees. Veronica also worked as Vice President for the Access to Opportunity campaign at The College Board. Veronica’s deep content knowledge, experience as a practitioner working at the senior most levels of two of the country’s largest urban school districts, and dynamic leadership will be instrumental in the next stage of UP’s growth and development.
- Environmental Charter Schools (Los Angeles, CA)
Leader: Alison Suffet Diaz
Alison Suffet Diaz is the Founder and Executive Director of Environmental Charter Schools (ECS), a growing network of schools that provides a meaningful education for youth in the underserved communities of South Los Angeles. A teacher and lawyer by training, and mother at heart, Alison set out to create a different kind of educational experience for students, which has evolved into a model for schools across the country.With a dynamic team and under Alison’s leadership, ECS has flourished into award-winning schools. ECS was in the first round of schools to be given the Department of Education’s inaugural Green Ribbon Award in environmental and sustainability education and Environmental Charter Middle School – Gardena received the 2015 California Gold Ribbon Schools Award for academic excellence. All ECS schools are WASC accredited. Alison is most proud of ECS’ graduates who have gone on to complete their college education. 96% of ECS graduates are accepted into four-year colleges and universities.
Alison holds a bachelor of science in business from the State University of New York, Albany, and a Juris Doctorate from Temple University Law School. At Temple, she participated in the LEAP program, teaching inner-city youth about their constitutional rights. After earning her teaching credential from California State University, Dominguez Hills, Diaz taught for eight years as she developed the blueprint for what would become Environmental Charter Schools. Alison also served as a faculty member at California State University, Dominguez Hills and worked as the Education Specialist for TreePeople. The State of California Assembly named Diaz 2011 Woman of the Year. She serves on the Board of Directors for The Green Schools National Network, is an Advisory Board Member for the Antioch Teacher Education Program, and is a Senior Fellow for the City Scholars Foundation.
- Intrepid College Prep Schools (Nashville, TN)
Leader: Mia Howard
Mia Howard is the Founder and CEO of Intrepid College Prep Schools. Intrepid opened its doors in 2013 to provide a tuition-free, seamless path between elementary school and college admission. Launching its flagship middle school in Antioch, Tennessee, Intrepid targets English Language Learners to address the high drop-out rates for English Language Learners in local high schools. After reaching full growth in our flagship middle school, Intrepid was #1 in growth and achievement for ELL students in math. Intrepid is also unique in its focus on financial literacy education for parents and students. Starting in 2016, Intrepid provides a 529 college savings plan for every student. Prior to founding Intrepid, Mia completed the Building Excellent Schools Fellowship. Mia started her journey in K-12 education during law school, where she taught constitutional law to high school seniors for two years. Mia holds a bachelor’s degree from Vanderbilt University, a J.D. from the University of Pennsylvania Law School, and a Certificate of Business and Policy from the Wharton School of Business.
- Building Responsible Intelligent Creative Kids (BRICK) (Newark, NJ)
Leader: Dominique D. Lee
Dominique D. Lee is the Founder and Executive Director of Building Responsible Intelligent Creative Kids (BRICK). He is a graduate of the University of Michigan. After receiving his bachelor’s degree, he was accepted into Teach For America’s highly selective service corps where he initiated his career as an educator at Malcolm X Shabazz High School in Newark, NJ.As a result of growing increasingly frustrated at how far behind his students were in reading and other subjects, Mr. Lee lead the formation of BRICK, an education management non-profit. BRICK was highlighted on the front page of the New York Times for being an innovative model within the public education system. In 2011 Mr. Lee was recognized, as one of “TheGrio’s 100: History Makers In The Making.” Nominated by a team of experts, affiliates, and contributors from across the country, and members of TheGrio.com and NBC News editorial teams, “TheGrio’s 100” shines a spotlight on the next generation of African-American history makers and industry leaders from 10 fields, including business, education, sports, science and the environment, media, service and activism, politics, health, pop culture, and the arts. Mr. Lee has always believed that education reform is the new civil rights movement of our time and that we cannot remedy our nation’s ills unless we simultaneously grapple with and repair our educational infrastructure. Hence, his passion and mandate is to ensure that children living in low-income communities enter the global economy fully prepared as engaged, productive citizens—equipped with mutual respect and cross-cultural understanding.
- Vista College Prep (Phoenix, AZ)
Leader: Julia Meyerson
Ms. Meyerson joined Teach For America (TFA) upon college graduation and taught in the South Bronx as a first grade teacher. During her two years in the classroom, she achieved solid academic gains with her first-graders. Later selected as a corps member advisor, she was responsible for managing incoming TFA corps members and training them to become successful teachers. Realizing the tremendous impact of state and local policy on transforming education, Ms. Meyerson went on to join the Democratic Governors Association. Starting as the assistant to the executive director, Ms. Meyerson was promoted each year, and most recently served as the organization’s policy director where she had a unique opportunity to work with innovative governors, business leaders and policy experts on the pressing issues facing state and local government. In 2011, Ms. Meyerson was accepted into the highly selective Building Excellent Schools Fellowship. Eager to make a positive contribution to her home state of Arizona, Ms. Meyerson is the Executive Director for Vista College Prep and ex officio non-voting member of the Governing Board. Ms. Meyerson earned a bachelor’s degree at the University of Southern California and a master’s in teaching at Pace University.
- Ednovate (Los Angeles, CA)
Leader: Oliver Sicat
Oliver was named the 2006 Teacher of the Year in the Boston Public Schools. Shortly after, he moved to Chicago to help start the expansion of the Noble Network of Charter Schools and founded UIC College Prep, the #1 non-selective high school in Chicago. He was then appointed onto the executive cabinet as Chicago Public School’s first Chief Portfolio Officer where he led the city’s strategic efforts of opening new schools, closing low performing schools and converting the district to operate as a portfolio of schools. Oliver attended the University of Southern California and the Harvard Graduate School of Education. As Chief Executive Officer of Ednovate, Oliver is responsible for overall leadership of the organization and the continuous development of our student centered instructional model. Outside of work Oliver loves running, golf, reading, outdoor concerts, quality time with loved ones and searching for the world’s best nachos.
- University Prep (Denver, CO)
Leader: David Signer
Entering urban education nearly fifteen years ago, David Singer started his career as a high school math teacher. While working relentlessly to change the life trajectories of high school students, Singer recognized the need to serve the same children in the same community with the same families, but at a much younger age. In 2009, Singer was selected for and engaged in the Building Excellent Schools Fellowship, a year-long, highly intensive leadership training program for future founders and leaders of game changing urban charter schools. Singer spent the next two years with his founding board and team preparing tirelessly to launch University Prep, a K – 5th grade public charter school with the sole mission to educate every child for a four-year college degree and a life of opportunity. Opening its doors in August of 2011 to 100 kindergarten and 1st grade scholars, University Prep has since grown to a network of two public charter schools serving nearly 600 children. While the first campus was a slow growth, fresh start school, University Prep’s second campus launched in 2016-17 as a full K – 5 turnaround. In 2015-16, University Prep – Arapahoe St. was one of only four “distinguished” rated elementary schools in Denver Public Schools out of nearly one hundred elementary schools. In 2016-17, University Prep – Steele St., the turnaround campus, had the highest math growth in the state of Colorado out of 1,500 schools and the eighth highest growth in English language arts. During his time as a principal and now as an executive director, Singer has had the opportunity to complete RELAY Graduate School of Education’s National Principal Fellowship Academy and is currently a member of the 2017-18 Leverage Leadership Institute.
- Great Oaks Legacy Charter School (Newark, NJ)
Leader: Jared Taillefer
Jared Taillefer is the Executive Director of Great Oaks Legacy Charter School. He received his bachelor’s degree from Boston University in 2005. He then spent one year as a tutor at the MATCH Charter Public High School in Boston before becoming a math teacher. After two years as a teacher, Mr. Taillefer became the director of development at MATCH Charter Public High School. Later, Mr. Taillefer spent one year as the dean of students for MATCH Charter Public High School, followed by another year as the dean of students for MATCH Charter Public Middle School. In 2011, Mr. Taillefer became the Founder and Executive Director of Great Oaks Charter School, and in 2016, he led the school through a merger with Newark Legacy Charter School to establish Great Oaks Legacy Charter School, a Pre-K through 12th grade college preparatory charter school in Newark, New Jersey.
We are so proud to welcome these organizations to the Accelerator!
To recommend a network for future participation, please email LainaVlasnikYip@achievementfirst.org with your referral.
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