Each year, we welcome new leaders to the Charter Network Accelerator, a unique program designed to provide charter network leaders with the organizational and instructional foundation they’ll need to grow and scale effectively.
We are thrilled to announce that we’ve selected the next cohort of leaders for the Charter Network Accelerator! We are honored to support these networks in their efforts to provide an excellent education for students in communities across this country.
The latest cohort joins a national network of Accelerator leaders from five previous cohorts serving tens of thousands of students. They are passionate educators striving for educational equity for our country’s most underserved student populations.
- Amber Charter School (New York, NY)
Leader: Vashtie Acosta
Vasthie Reyes Acosta is the Executive Director of Amber Charter Schools. Dr. Acosta initially joined Amber Charter Schools in 2007 as the Director of Curriculum and Instruction. In 2008 she was appointed Head of School/Principal, a position she held until 2014, when she became Executive Director. She is the founding convener of the Latino Charter Leaders Roundtable. She began her career as a bilingual teacher at PS 115 in Washington Heights. She was also a co-founder of the 21st Century Academy for Community Leadership School (P.S./ I.S. 210), drafting the initial proposal, serving as the project director and then assistant principal of this New Visions school. Her work as a teacher trainer, curriculum developer, and coordinator at the Early Childhood Bilingual Multicultural Resource Center, Institute for Urban and Minority Education, at Teachers College, Columbia University also provided touchpoints to schools in CSD 6. Dr. Acosta is a graduate of Columbia University’s Teachers College where she was awarded both Doctor of Education and Master of Arts degrees. She also holds a Master of Science degree from Bank Street College of Education and a Bachelor of Arts degree from Fordham University.
- Education for Change Public Schools (Oakland, CA)
Leader: Larissa Adams
Larissa’s motivation to be an educator comes from a deep desire to ensure that every child experiences safe, rigorous, and joyful learning every single day so that they graduate from high school with the knowledge, skills, mindset, and agency necessary to thrive as adults and be powerful community members who exercise their voice. As the daughter of two parents who did not have the opportunity to go to college, and as the granddaughter of a woman whose schooling ended at the third grade so that she could support her family, she is deeply committed to making sure that every one of our children graduates college-ready, and to building a future in which socioeconomic status is no longer a predictor of academic opportunity or achievement. Her career in education started when she joined Teach for American in 1993, and taught 4th-6th grades at her original placement school for eight years. Drawn into Oakland’s district-wide New Small Autonomous Schools reform movement through a partnership with a classroom parent, she co-founded ASCEND, a K-8 school recognized for its arts-integrated expeditionary learning model and effective community engagement practices. She eventually led ASCEND as Principal for 10 years, facilitating significant increases in student achievement and leading our staff and families to successfully petition for charter status to join Education for Change Public Schools. She then served as Chief Talent Officer at EFC for five years, and currently serves as the Superintendent of Schools.
- Public Preparatory School (Bronx, NY)
Leader: Janelle Bradshaw
Janelle Bradshaw is a native of The Bronx, NY and an experienced teacher and leader committed to education reform. She is currently the Superintendent at Public Preparatory Network, the first and only PK-8 single sex charter school network in NYC, working to ensure all of its students are on a predictable path to and through college. In this role, Janelle oversees the day to day operations that drive strong student achievement. She manages principals at Girls Preparatory and Boys Preparatory Schools and sets the strategic direction for the academic programs including curriculum, instruction, assessment, and professional development for the organization. Before joining Public Prep, Janelle was an education consultant with SchoolWorks, and in this role, led school quality reviews in schools and districts throughout the country, led the company’s leadership coaching work, and supported foundations in disseminating best practices in urban education. She has spent the last 20 years in the field of education. After graduating from Smith College with a bachelor’s degree, Janelle started her career as a 4th and 5th grade teacher at the Mather Elementary School in Boston, MA. She participated in many teacher leadership opportunities and facilitated professional development in mathematics for the teachers in her school and district. In 2005, Janelle moved to the Cambridge Public Schools to begin her administrative career. She served in a variety of roles: assistant principal, principal, and district administrator. In her previous role as the Director of Instructional Equity in the Cambridge Public Schools, Janelle was responsible for implementing Response to Intervention, supporting and designing instructional rounds at various schools, and redesigning a collaborative school improvement plan that engaged key stakeholders. She has also taught graduate courses at Simmons College, and facilitated mathematics workshops for teachers in the Boston Public Schools, Houston Independent School Department, and Mount Holyoke College. Janelle has been an active volunteer for Smith College, where she has served in numerous roles since graduation, including president of her class, Alumnae Admissions Coordinator, Class Fundraising Agent, and President of the Central MA Smith Club. Janelle holds a bachelor’s degree from Smith College, a master’s degree from Simmons College, and a Certificate of Advanced Graduate Study in Education from Simmons College.
- GEM Innovation Schools (Deary, ID)
Leader: Jason Bransford
As the director of Gem Innovation Schools, Jason has designed an instructional model, specifically at the secondary level, which is fast becoming an exemplar for other schools across the state and nationally. Specifically, his innovative approach to human capital combined with his commitment to early college attainment for all students is raising the bar for what is possible for students.
Jason launched Idaho’s first charter management organization, Gem Innovation Schools, opened four K-12 charter schools in key Idaho locales, developed plans to open three additional schools in the next five years, and secured the financial support for launch and expansion of each school. He is the leader of a team that developed and executed a plan for strong student and adult culture, educational excellence, and operational efficiency.
As the Director of Idaho Distance Education Academy, Jason led the administrative team to reverse a $700,000 deficit, streamline operations in every school department, create a robust Title 1 program and increase student achievement in every sub-population. He guided I-DEA to a five-star rating, which included recognition that the school had the highest SAT scores in the state. For these efforts, Jason was awarded the Idaho Education Network Innovator of the Year Award.
Jason has held a number of education roles during his career, including teacher, faculty mentor, school director, and vice president of the Idaho Charter School Network. Jason earned a B.S. degree from Brigham Young University-Idaho, an M.S. degree from the University of Houston, and an Ed.S. from Idaho State University, and Ed. D. from the University of Utah.
- KIPP St. Louis (St. Louis, MI)
Leader: Kelly Garrett
Kelly Garrett is Executive Director of KIPP St. Louis, a high performing charter management organization with plans to serve 3,300 scholars in grades K-12 on their mountain climb to and through college. KIPP St. Louis is part of the national Knowledge Is Power Program (KIPP). Prior to joining KIPP, Kelly served as executive director of the Rainwater Charitable Foundation, where he helped grow the foundation’s giving by a factor of 20, and led a strategic initiative focusing on school leadership, early childhood education and project-based learning. Kelly’s education career began as a 1992 Teach For America corps member in Houston. After three years in the classroom, Kelly co-founded Project Chrysalis Charter Middle School, which quickly became one of the highest-performing middle schools in Texas. Kelly went on to found and direct Perea Preschool in Memphis, TN. He eventually served as director of business development for KC Distance Learning, a virtual charter high school program. He holds a BA from Rhodes College, an MBA from Harvard Business School, and is an Aspen Institute-New Schools (Pahara) Fellow. He lives in St. Louis with his wife and two sons.
- Aspen Public Schools (Fresno, CA)
Leader: Shelly Lether
Shelly Lether was born and grew up in the Fresno area of California’s Central Valley. She has twenty years of experience vested in Fresno’s charter school community. In 2004, Shelly was one of the founders of Valley Preparatory Academy (VPA) Charter School, a K-8 program serving at-risk (at-promise) students, and became the Executive Director in 2005. In 2016, VPA opened its second school and the new charter management organization (CMO) rebranded as Aspen Public Schools, Inc. Shelly believes all children in her community, regardless of their backgrounds and circumstances, have a right to quality education, and this has led her to work with others to create a leadership-based, academically driven charter program with committed teachers and diverse learning opportunities. She holds a Bachelor’s degree in liberal studies from National University and a Master of Arts in Educational Leadership from Central Michigan University (CMU). Since 2011, Shelly worked as a part-time adjunct for CMU’s Global Campus, as an instructor for master level charter leadership and school reform courses. Shelly is a Leadership Fresno (Chamber of Commerce) Class # 27 Alumni, a member of Downtown Fresno Rotary, and serves on the Fresno Advocacy Council (FAC) working to increase impact and the collective strength of the Fresno County charter sector.
- Carmen School of Science and Technology (Milwaukee, WI)
Leader: Jennifer Lopez
- Journey Community Schools (Memphis, TN)
Leader: Nick Manning
With his Aspire start in 2012 as the Memphis Community Outreach and Partnerships Manager, Nick Manning has continued to make his mark on Aspire Memphis as Principal of Hanley Elementary for two years, as Director of Curriculum and Instruction for the region, and most recently as Memphis Associate Superintendent and valued member of the Senior Education Team. In 2018, Nick became Aspire’s second ever Memphis Area Superintendent.
Nick has been instrumental in several turnaround schools in Memphis, Tennessee through his work as an assistant principal, principal, and associate superintendent. During his time in these roles, all of his schools experienced double-digit academic gains. Throughout his career, Nick has received training through New Leaders for New Schools, Harvard Principals Center, Urban Education Center, and Research for Better Teaching.
Nick earned his Bachelor’s degree from the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga in Secondary Education with concentrations and certifications in Economics and U.S. and World History. He also completed a Master’s in Educational Leadership from Trevecca Nazarene University. While completing his Doctorate at Trevecca, his dissertation on single-gender education earned him the coveted Trevecca Nazarene University’s Dissertation Award.
Nick resides in Memphis, Tennessee with his wife, Lequite, and two sons, Miller and Maxwell. In his spare time, he enjoys reading and supporting the development of children.
- Milwaukee Academy of Arts and Sciences (Milwaukee, WI)
Leader: Anthony McHenry
Anthony McHenry is the Chief Executive Officer of the Milwaukee Academy of Science (MAS), a public charter school that serves K4-12th grade students from across the city of Milwaukee in the Avenues West neighborhood. He has worked in education and the nonprofit sector to directly impact the lives of young people for his entire career.
Prior to joining MAS, Anthony served at the Silver Spring Neighborhood Center in the Westlawn neighborhood for nearly 20 years. He started out as a teacher, moved to Assistant Principal, Youth Program Director, Assistant Executive Director, and finally Executive Director from 2013-2016. Anthony led a bold initiative titled Westlawn WINS (Working to Improve Neighborhood Success). Westlawn WINS streamlined Silver Spring’s programs and collaborative partnerships to provide a conception to career pipeline in order to take ownership of the educational success for children in the area.
As a community leader, he was the chairperson for the Milwaukee Teen Pregnancy Prevention Network from 2007-14 and served as co-chair for the Milwaukee County Substance Abuse Prevention Project from 2011-2014. Currently, Anthony is the volunteer director of Silver Spring’s nationally known AAU basketball program. In this role, he serves as coach, role model and father-figure for a significant number of young adult males trying to overcome the many obstacles they face. Over 35 players have received full athletic scholarship to colleges and universities across the country. He is also an active member of the PEARLS for Teen Girls Board of Directors, which is an organization focused on providing pre-teen and teen-aged girls support and guidance for self-empowerment and development. Additionally, Anthony is also a proud member of the Acts Housing Board of Directors. Acts Housing works with individuals and families seeking homeownership and financial counseling, along with helping families execute home rehabilitation, and reclaiming vacant foreclosures. Anthony’s work within these organizations further extends his personal mission to lead and impact the lives of youth in Milwaukee.
Anthony was born and raised in Columbus, Georgia. He attended the University of Wisconsin-Madison on a full athletic scholarship and earned a Bachelor of Arts in African American Studies in 1993. In recent years Anthony has received several distinguished awards including the Social Development Commission Incredible Person Award (twice), and in 2016, he won the Milwaukee Times Black Excellence Award and the Donald Driver Driven to Achieve Award.
- Compass Rose Academy (San Antonio, CA)
Leader: Paul Morrissey
Paul Morrissey leads the Compass Rose executive team and spent two years in the prestigious Building Excellent Schools Fellowship, working to bring best practices from the most successful schools across the country to San Antonio. Prior to the BES Fellowship, Paul worked in a turnaround school district in Lawrence, MA. Paul started his career with BASIS Charter Schools, teaching and then leading a school in Phoenix, developing new schools in other states, and then founding a new BASIS middle school in Washington, DC.
- FirstLine Charter School (New Orleans, LA)
Leader: Sabrina Pence
Sabrina Pence graduated from Georgetown University in Washington, D.C., and subsequently joined Teach For America, teaching in Pointe Coupee Parish for four years as a 5th and 6th-grade teacher. During that time, she received her Master’s Degree from Louisiana State University in Educational Administration in 2005. She served as a teacher leader, leading parish-wide professional development and teaching a K-3 alternative teacher certification course through the New Teacher Project. In 2006, she moved overseas to Qatar and worked in educational reform as a science consultant for K-6 schools, training Qatari teachers to implement standards-based science instruction. In 2008, she returned to the U.S. to join New Leaders for New Schools in New Orleans. After completing her New Leaders residency at Arthur Ashe, Pence served as Principal of Albert Wicker Literacy Academy, where the school saw unprecedented gains, then returning to Ashe as Vice Principal, because she knew it was home. Sabrina served as the School Co-Director at Arthur Ashe Charter School from 2011-2014, leading the school to achieve a “B” letter grade in the state accountability system. Sabrina became FirstLine’s Chief Academic Officer in July 2014 and led all FirstLine Schools to achieve “A” letter grades for growth, with two of the schools, Samuel J. Green and Langston Hughes Academy, recognized as top growth in the region. Sabrina was named as the new CEO beginning in July of 2019 by the FirstLine Schools Board of Directors. Sabrina is currently pursuing her doctorate in Educational Administration at the University of New Orleans.
- Foundation Academy (Trenton, NJ)
Leader: Graig Weiss
Graig Weiss joined Foundation Academy Charter School in 2009 as the Middle School Principal. After serving in that role for several years and leading the expansion of the lower grades, Graig became the Chief Executive Officer in 2014. Prior to joining Foundation Academies, Graig served as the Founding Middle and High School Principal at Cap Cana Heritage School, an English immersion private school in the Dominican Republic. A 2003 Teach for America Corps member, Graig taught Math and Science in the Bronx and the Dominican Republic prior to becoming an administrator and was selected as Teacher of the Year in 2007. Prior to entering the education field, Graig worked in the financial services sector with Cambridge Associates, LLC in Boston, MA. He holds a Bachelor of Arts and a Bachelor of Science in Finance and Accounting from the University of Pittsburgh, a Master of Science in Teaching from Fordham University, and a Master of Science in Educational Leadership from the University of Scranton.
- Intrinsic Schools (Chicago, IL)
Leader: Melissa Zaikos
Melissa Zaikos is the founder and chief executive of Intrinsic Charter School in Chicago. Melissa and her team designed the Intrinsic model to leverage technology and team teaching to personalize education for each student. Melissa was the principal of Intrinsic from 2014-2018 before transitioning to full-time CEO. Prior to founding Intrinsic, Melissa spent nine years at Chicago Public Schools where she last led the Pershing Network, a network of 30 elementary schools in Chicago’s south side. From 2005-2011, Melissa was the Chief Area Officer for a network of 100 high performing schools throughout the city. Melissa holds degrees from Harvard Business School and Texas A&M University. This school year, Melissa hopes to continuously refine and codify Intrinsic’s school model, collaborate with educational organizations across the nation, and ultimately demonstrate the model’s replicability.