Our Team

The NewSchools team draws on extensive experience from across the education, business, policy and nonprofit sectors to help build high-quality education organizations.

Our Mission

NewSchools is committed to transforming public education through powerful ideas and passionate entrepreneurs so that all children — especially those in underserved communities — have the opportunity to succeed.

Team Members

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Stacey Childress

Chief Executive Officer

Stacey Childress is the CEO at NewSchools Venture Fund.

Prior to joining NewSchools, Childress led the K-12 Next Generation Learning team at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, investing in schools and technologies that support personalized learning for middle and high school students in the United States.

Prior to joining the foundation, Childress was on the faculty of the Harvard Business School where she wrote and taught about entrepreneurial activity in public education in the United States. Her work focused on urban public school districts, charter schools, and nonprofit and for-profit enterprises with missions to improve the public system. During her time at Harvard she wrote three books and more than thirty cases and articles about education entrepreneurship. She also won teaching awards from her students and the HBS dean for her elective course on education entrepreneurship, which was taken by nearly 1000 students between 2004 and 2010.

Before working in academia, Childress was a co-founder of an enterprise software company and also spent ten years in a Fortune 500 company in sales and general management.

Early in her career, she taught in a Texas public high school. She is a graduate of Baylor University and Harvard Business School. In 2012, she was named one of Forbes Magazine’s Impact 15, a group of innovators revolutionizing education in the United States and around the world.

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Meghan Amrofell

Chief Operating Officer

Meghan Amrofell is our Chief Operating Officer, leading our operations, HR and financial teams, and communications.

Prior to joining NewSchools, Meghan served as the Portfolio Manager of the Next Generation Learning team at the Gates Foundation.  She coordinated the investment strategy and execution of $75 million in annual grantmaking and led the execution of complex investment initiatives.  Before that, Meghan was a management consultant with Point B for 7 years, where she led strategy development, product development, operations, partner engagement, and technology implementation in the education, non-profit, financial services, healthcare, and retail industries.  Earlier in her career, Meghan was a product manager with Charles Schwab & Co, Razorfish, and a variety of tech startups.

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Liz Arney

Partner

Liz Arney is a Partner with the NewSchools Venture Fund on the Innovative Schools team.

Prior to joining NewSchools, Liz was the Director of Innovative Learning at Aspire Public Schools, where she created Aspire’s blended learning model and led the transformation of 12 Aspire schools to the model.  While at Aspire, Liz raised more than $2.8M to support blended learning initiatives. Prior to doing blended learning, Liz worked as a humanities instructional coach, providing professional development, instructional and content support, and induction coaching to grades 6-12 humanities teachers across Aspire.  She also led the development of curriculum toolkits for English, social studies, science and math courses in grades 9-12. 

Before working at Aspire, Liz taught high school English in public and independent schools in Boston, Seattle, and Taipei, Taiwan, and provided history content coaching to teachers across New England. 

Liz recently wrote and published Go Blended!:  A Handbook for Blending Technology in Schools (Jossey-Bass, February 2015).  She is also a founding member of the Community of Innovative Practice, a group of blended learning leaders in school districts and charter organizations who have led the transition to blended learning in some of the most innovative schools in the United States.  

Liz earned her BA in English from UC Berkeley, her Ed.M from Harvard University, and her MA in Humanities from the University of Chicago.  

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Scott Benson

Managing Partner

Scott Benson is the Managing Partner of the Innovative Schools team.

Most recently Scott served as Sr. Program Officer at the Gates Foundation where he led its personalized and blended school strategy from 2010 to early 2015. Scott’s portfolio directly supported 50,000 seats and included the Next Generation Learning Challenges (NGLC), Charter School Growth Fund and over 50 direct grants to charter and district schools. Prior to joining the Gates Foundation, Scott was Director of Strategic Academic Initiatives and a Broad Resident at D.C. Public Schools. He has an MBA from Harvard Business School and a BSBA from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

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Alex Caram

Associate Partner

Alex Caram is an Associate Partner with NewSchools Venture Fund on the Innovative Schools Team.  She also supports ventures in the Learning to Teach Fund.

Prior to joining NewSchools, Alex was an Induction Coach with New Teacher Center, where she worked with first and second years teachers in Chicago Public Schools to develop the practices and mindsets that are required for effective teaching. Alex began her career teaching high school science in both Northern California and in Chicago. During graduate school, Alex was an Education Pioneer Fellow at Leadership for Educational Equity, a leadership development organization catalyzing leaders who have classroom experience to impact polices, priorities and resources, so we can achieve educational equality.

Alex earned a BA in Ecology and Evolutionary Biology from Princeton University, an MA in Education from Stanford University and an MBA from University of California, Los Angeles.

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Tonika Cheek Clayton

Managing Partner

Tonika Cheek Clayton is the Managing Partner of the Tools & Services team at NewSchools.

Prior to joining NewSchools, Tonika spent 8 years at Amplify and Wireless Generation where she led teams to develop, sell and deliver digital products and services to the K-12 education market.  Throughout her tenure at Amplify, Tonika consistently strived to provide high-quality and high-value products, services and support to help educators improve teaching and learning for students.  Most recently, she served as Vice President of Solutions Management, guiding Amplify’s core assessment product management and development teams.  She also led sales and account management teams to manage and execute complex engagements with multi-state, state, and school district accounts, representing over 600 customer accounts.

Before Amplify, Tonika worked as a researcher on Harvard University’s Public Education Leadership Project (PELP) where she consulted the first cohort of urban public school district leaders and co-authored several case studies seeking to identify more effective ways to drive student achievement by strengthening school district management and leadership.  Her case study on the New York City Department of Education and case series on Race, Accountability and the Achievement Gap, in particular, are among some of the popular PELP case studies requested by educators.

Tonika started her career in marketing and public relations at the National Basketball Association (NBA) where she successfully promoted the NBA Store and NBA All-Star events.  She later transitioned to business development and worked to launch the NBA’s Development League in eight cities for the inaugural season.

Tonika graduated from Harvard College and holds an MBA from Harvard Business School.

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Melissa Estrada

Operations Manager

Melissa Estrada is the Operations Manager for NewSchools Venture Fund. Melissa has been employed with non-profit organizations for over 10 years and brings a wide range of experience to NewSchools.

Prior to joining NewSchools, Melissa was assistant to the Superintendent at Aspire Public Schools and quickly proved herself invaluable. Prior to that, she was the Executive Assistant to the CEO at ILWU-FSC Federal Credit Union for 8 years. While working full-time, she received her BA from CSU East Bay with a B.S in Administration of Criminal Justice with a minor in Sociology and a Masters in Counseling Education with a PPS Credential from San Jose State University. Melissa enjoys spending time with her family, traveling and helping underserved students in the East Bay communities.

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Thea Fennira

Executive Assistant

Thea Fennira is an Executive Assistant in the NewSchools Venture Fund’s Oakland office. Thea’s experience in the Bay Area includes eight years in semiconductor investment banking, four in financial services private equity, and a year and a half in biotech. She has a broad base of experience, and a commitment to service. As the first in her family lineage to graduate college, she believes every person must have access to a quality education.

Born and raised in Iowa, Thea chose to attend a liberal arts school with a music therapy program, Clarke University, and graduated with a BA in computer science, and a minor in music. Her interests include foreign culture, music, travel, and the arts.

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Deborah Grantham

Office Coordinator

Deborah Grantham is the Office Coordinator at NewSchools Venture Fund, and works in the Oakland office. As Office Coordinator, Deborah supports the NewSchools team by ensuring an optimal work environment and assisting with operational support. Her responsibilities include management of the facilities; maintaining vendor relationships; processing accounts payable and receivable transactions; managing technology support; employee expense reporting system, company credit card platform and cell phone plans.

Deborah brings over 20 years of administrative and project management experience in both nonprofit and for-profit organizations. Most of his experience was gained in higher education, with the balance coming from the printing and advertising display industries.

Education has always been a passion for Deborah –she achieved her own formal education later in life. Deborah graduated from Cleveland State University with a B.A. in Anthropology, and undertook advanced study in Landscape Architecture at UCLA. She is interested in quality of life issues, achieving the best form and function of a given space, and approaches these tasks from a global perspective.

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Eva Gonda Green

Director of Portfolio Development

Eva Gonda Green is the Director of Portfolio Development for the NewSchools Venture Fund Seed Fund. In this role, Eva works closely with portfolio companies on a range of strategic areas, including business and market development, and strategic partnerships. Eva has a background in elementary school teaching, education policy analysis, business leadership, and public interest law. Throughout her career, Eva has been driven by a commitment to helping organizations overcome challenges to improve outcomes for low-income students. 

Before joining the Seed Fund, Eva oversaw strategic initiatives for Ted Mitchell, CEO of NewSchools Venture Fund. Prior to her work in education, Eva was a professional equestrian and trained the Gold Medal winning horse and rider for the 2008 Summer Olympic Games. A graduate of Stanford University’s Graduate School of Education, Eva attended Stanford Law School and graduated cum laude with honors from Occidental College earning a BA in American Studies with an emphasis in Education.

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Vanessa Gonzalez

Associate Partner

Vanessa Gonzalez is an Associate Partner in NewSchool’s Washington, DC office and focuses on diligence and management assistance for ventures in the DC Schools Fund. 

Prior to joining NewSchools, Vanessa was a Design and Implementation Consultant at Education Elements, where she worked closely with school leaders and teachers across the country to launch blended learning models. Vanessa began her career as a consultant at Bain and Company, where she advised clients in a variety of industries on strategic and operational issues. She also advised nonprofits as a consultant at The Bridgespan Group. During graduate school, Vanessa was an Education Pioneers Fellow at AUSL, a teacher residency and school turnaround operator in Chicago.

Vanessa earned a BA in Economics and Spanish from Emory University, as well as an MBA and MA in Education from Stanford University.

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Simin Hailu

Development Operations Coordinator

Simin Hailu is Development Operations Coordinator at NewSchools Venture Fund. She manages the development data system and ensures operations run smoothly for the development team. Additionally, she provides administrative support to the Chief Advancement Officer.

Simin brings experience with development operations from her previous years at Raising A Reader, a national early childhood literacy nonprofit. Prior to that she volunteered as an adult literacy tutor with the San Mateo County’s READS Program and assisted children with special needs at the National Center for Equine Facilitated Therapy.

Simin was born in Botswana but returned to California with her family at the age of three. Since then she has called Northern California home. Simin graduated summa cum laude from San Francisco State University with a B.A. in Liberal Studies.

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Jessica Henry

Senior Analyst

Jessica Henry is a Senior Analyst in NewSchools Venture Fund’s Washington, DC office, where she focuses on management assistance and strategy development for the DC Schools Fund.

Prior to joining NewSchools, Jessica was the Program Director for All Stars Helping Kids, a Bay Area grant-making organization. While at All Stars, she oversaw grant-making initiatives in both California and New York working effectively with grantees, managed philanthropic activities for a portfolio of professional athlete clients, and managed operations for the organization. Jessica earned a BA in Human Biology with a focus in child health and development from Stanford University.

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Melissa Kim

Director of Instructional Practice

Melissa Kim is the Director of the Instructional Practice at NewSchools Venture Fund and is responsible for leading the DC Pilot for the DC Schools Fund. In her role with NewSchools, Melissa currently serves on the board of directors for the DC International School and Paul Public Charter School

Prior to joining the NewSchools team, Melissa served as the principal of Alice Deal Middle School, the highest-performing and largest public middle school in the District of Columbia.  During her seven years as principal, Melissa transitioned the school from a traditional junior high serving 700 students in grades 7-9 to a team-based middle school serving more than 1,000 students in grades 6-8.  During this time, classrooms were desegregated and detracked and math standards were raised to ensure that all 8th graders enter high school with at least an Algebra or Geometry credit.  She also led the successful effort by Alice Deal to become certified as the first International Baccalaureate Middle Years Program in DC Public Schools.  She was able to lead these changes while managing a $60 million in situ modernization of the historic school facility.

Melissa came to the District of Columbia as a Teach for America Corps member and taught for six years in Northeast and Southeast DC.  After receiving her Masters in school leadership, she joined the inaugural cohort of NewLeaders in Washington, DC.  She has served as an assistant principal in Washington, DC, as well as in Arlington, VA.  Melissa holds a BS from Colby College, an MS from Trinity College, and an Ed.D from the University of Pennsylvania.  Her dissertation focused on practices to integrate within schools to close both the academic achievement gap as well as the social engagement gap.

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Arielle Rittvo Kinder

Partner

Arielle Rittvo Kinder is a Partner with NewSchools Venture Fund on the Innovative Schools Team.

Prior to joining NewSchools, Arielle was the Principal and Founder of Blueprint Education, a consulting firm that supports, schools, non-profit organizations, and foundations across the country interested in implementing blended and personalized learning initiatives and models.  Before founding Blueprint, Arielle worked to establish and grow a number of charter schools and charter management organizations, serving as the Vice President of Strategy and Operations at Rocketship Education from 2011-2013 and the Managing Director of Operations and Planning at KIPP LA Schools from 2006-2011.  She has an MBA from the UC Berkeley Haas School of Business and a BA from Columbia University.

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Lauren Kushman

Principal

Lauren Kushman is a Principal in NewSchools Venture Fund’s Boston office, where she manages the Boston Charter School Fund and focuses on investment strategy, due diligence and management assistance for the firm’s portfolio ventures.

Lauren serves on the boards of Excel Academy Charter Schools and Brooke Charter Schools in Boston, MA.  Prior to joining NewSchools, Lauren was a high school science teacher at North Star Academy Charter School of Newark, New Jersey. In addition to teaching, she established the high school’s chemistry and physics courses. During graduate school, Lauren was an Education Pioneers Fellow at Building Excellent Schools, where she designed financial models and developed practitioner-based, finance-focused case studies for multiple charter school territories. Lauren holds a BA in chemistry from Princeton University and an MBA and Education MA from Stanford University.

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Maura Marino

Managing Director, DC Schools Fund

Maura Marino is the Managing Director of the DC Schools Fund in NewSchools Venture Fund’s Washington, DC office. As part of that role, Maura serves on the boards of Charter Board Partners, DC Prep, Ingenuity Prep, and LearnZillion.

Prior to joining NewSchools, Maura was Program Director and Lead Teacher at East Palo Alto High School, a charter school in Northern California. As Program Director, she coordinated student support services and managed external relations in addition to teaching humanities. Maura served on the steering committee for the Stanford Schools Corporation and was a member of the Stanford School of Education’s Performance Assessment Collaborative. During graduate school, Maura worked on the Network Growth Team at the KIPP Foundation, implementing their “smart growth” strategy.

Maura earned a BA in American Studies from Stanford University, an MA in teaching from Teachers’ College, and an MBA from Harvard University.

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Jay Martinez

Analyst

Jay Martinez is an Analyst in NewSchools Venture Fund’s Washington, DC office, where he focuses on management assistance and strategy development for the DC Schools Fund.

Prior to joining NewSchools, Jay worked at Chicago Public Schools as an Education Pioneers Fellow and then continued on as analyst. At Chicago Publics Schools, he maintained compliance analytics and conducted data analysis to improve instructional supports and services provided to students. Jay earned a BA in Psychology as well as a Masters in Public Policy from the University of Chicago.

Deborah McGriff

Deborah McGriff

Managing Director

Deborah M. McGriff is a Managing Partner with NewSchools Venture Fund where she focuses on closing the demographic gap between students, executive leaders and governing boards.

Through leadership positions at NewSchools Venture Fund and EdisonLearning, she expanded access to innovative, high-quality charter schools for low-income and working class students in 16 of the nation’s largest cities in a dozen states and the District of Columbia.

Her advocacy and governance expertise were tapped as Board Chair of Beyond12, Board Chair and executive committee member of the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools, founder and Vice Chair of the Black Alliance for Educational Options, President of the Education Industry Association, member of Harvard Kennedy School of Government Program on Education Policy and Governance Advisory Board, and member of numerous charter school boards, including a charter management organization in the National Charter Schools Hall of Fame.

Deborah’s impact in the education reform movement was recognized in 2013 at The Center for Education Reform: “Before It Was Cool Conference” and by her selection as a Pahara-Aspen Fellow.

She began her career in 1970 as a teacher in Community School District 13 of the New York City Public Schools. She was the first female Assistant Superintendent in Cambridge, MA and the first female Deputy Superintendent in Milwaukee, WI.  In 1991, Dr. McGriff became the first female General Superintendent of the 200,000-student Detroit Public Schools where she successfully opened 25 choice and empowered schools. Crain’s Detroit Business named her 1992 Newsmaker of the Year.

Recent news:

  1. PIE Network Welcomes Three Leading Education Reformers to Board of Directors
  2. Charter Operators Face Challenges in ‘Scaling Up’
  3. Future schools: Blending face-to-face and online learning

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Michael Medema

Executive Assistant

Michael Medema is an Executive Assistant supporting the work of the CEO and Chief of Staff.  Michael’s goal is to make a difference and to do work that matters.

Michael brings over 20 years of administrative and non-profit experience to NewSchools including having served as a director on non-profit boards and San Francisco appointed boards and commissions. Prior to joining NewSchools Michael was the Business Manager of a non-profit dedicated to improving STEM education throughout California.  He is a United States Navy veteran with an honorable discharge and good conduct medal. 

Michael was born and raised in Seattle and has made San Francisco his home since 1989, just a few months prior to the earthquake.  He enjoys politics, spending time with family, animals and getting to Hawaii as often as possible.

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Frances Messano

Chief of Staff

Frances Messano is Chief of Staff at NewSchools Venture Fund where she co-leads our diversity strategy and investment work, ensures strong organizational culture, designs our annual Summit conference, manages our relationship with the board, and leads strategic initiatives to support NewSchools’ success.

Most recently, Frances served as Vice President of Strategy on Teach for America’s Strategy, Innovation and Organization Development Team.  In this role, she led TFA through its long-range strategic planning process. Before that, Frances was an Associate Partner at Monitor Institute, the social impact practice within Monitor Deloitte’s strategy consulting arm, where she focused her practice on helping education organizations scale their impact through strategy development, organizational design, leadership development, and program design. Additional experiences include working at Morgan Stanley for four years in equity sales and structuring.  Frances has an MBA from Harvard Business School and BA from Harvard College. Frances is a first-generation college graduate and an alum of Prep for Prep, Management Leadership for Tomorrow, and Sponsors for Educational Opportunity, organizations that she credits with helping her gain access to educational and professional opportunity.

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Clare Middleton-Detzner

Development Manager

Clare Middleton-Detzner is the Development Manager at NewSchools Venture Fund, where she manages efforts to raise philanthropic dollars from donors interested in transforming education.Prior to joining NewSchools, Clare worked as a researcher and development manager at ISKME. Her research was focused on developmental education, teacher professional development, educational resource design and use, and education policy. She also served as project manager for Big Ideas Fest, an annual convening of education stakeholders. Clare also served as a Research Associate with the Public and Nonprofit Leadership Center at the University of Minnesota, where her academic research focused on cross-sector collaboration, public policy implementation, and nonprofit governance and accountability. Clare started her career at Greater Twin Cities United Way and has held numerous roles in nonprofit development and program management. Clare received her B.A. in Sociology from Mills College and earned a Master of Public Policy degree from the University of Minnesota.

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Amy Omand

Director of Finance

Amy Omand is the Director of Finance at NewSchools Venture Fund, and works in the Oakland office. Amy is responsible for managing the annual forecasting and budget cycles, maintaining sound internal controls, and reporting on the overall financial performance of NewSchools, both internally and externally.

Prior to joining NewSchools, Amy was the Director of Finance & Operations at Tipping Point Community, as well as the Controller at Revolution Foods. At both organizations she helped define fiscal policies and procedures in growing organizations. She started her career as an auditor at PwC and then worked in various finance and accounting roles at Dreyer’s Grand Ice Cream/ Nestlé. While attaining her MBA, she took a course on the social responsibility of business, and was inspired to always apply her skills in finance and accounting at organizations that were working toward making a positive social change.

Amy received her BS in Accounting from Georgetown University, and MBA from UC Berkeley’s Haas School of Business. She is a Certified Public Accountant as well as a Certified Non Profit Accountant. She lives in Oakland with her husband and two daughters.

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Beth Sears

Director of Investor Relations

Beth Sears is Director of Investor Relations at NewSchools. She raises philanthropic dollars from donors who share our belief that entrepreneurs can change public education.

For many years, Beth worked in the for-profit sector as a management consultant at Price Waterhouse and as a Vice President at JPMorgan Chase. 

In 2004, Beth and her family moved to Canberra, Australia where she developed a passion for working with nonprofits in the education sector, initially working for Room to Read and setting up a volunteer chapter for them in Canberra. Back in the Bay Area, Beth was an Advisor to the Strategic Partnerships group at Raising A Reader where she connected with foundations, corporations and individual donors to raise funding on behalf of this national early childhood literacy non-profit that bridges achievement gaps and increases school success of some of the country’s most vulnerable children. 

Beth serves on the boards of the Gunn Foundation, a need-based scholarship program for Gunn High School students in Palo Alto and as President of the Mount Holyoke Alumnae Club of the Peninsula. Beth earned a B.A. in International Relations from Mount Holyoke College and a Masters of Creative Writing from the University of Canberra. 

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Esther Tricoche

Associate Partner

Esther Tricoche is an Associate Partner on NewSchools’ Tools & Services team.  Prior to joining NewSchools Venture Fund, Esther was a founding team member, Program Manager and Acting Vice President at the Laura & John Arnold Foundation, where she led the Foundation’s education team and directed over $130 million in grants to sustainable, scalable, and transformative initiatives in K-12 Public Education.  Prior to that, Esther worked as a policy researcher for a Fortune 500 company focusing on international human rights and corporate sustainable development. She also served as a cultural affairs policy researcher through a partnership with the Houston Mayor’s Office and is a former member of a Rice University research team that focused on memory and cognition in relation to learning. As an inaugural Pahara Institute NextGen Fellow, Horatio Alger Association of Distinguished Americans National Scholar, and community volunteer, Esther brings deep passion to the NewSchools Venture Fund to transform the United States’ public education system. Esther holds a degree in Cognitive Science from Rice University, with a concentration in Neuroscience.

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Shalini Sybut

Associate Partner

Shalini Ananthanarayanan Shybut is an Associate Partner in NewSchools’ Washington, DC office and focuses on diligence and management assistance for ventures in the DC Schools Fund.

Prior to joining NewSchools, Shalini was a Senior Director at E.L. Haynes Public Charter School, where she led the school’s implementation of Response to Intervention.  In this role, she worked closely with school leaders and teachers PK-12 to improve the school’s ability to meet the needs of underserved students, especially those students who were significantly behind, students with disabilities, and English Language Learners.  Shalini also led annual planning and several key strategy projects as E.L. Haynes expanded to full size.  

Before coming to E.L. Haynes, Shalini served as a consultant to the Recovery School District on charter evaluation, following several years as a management consultant at McKinsey & Company.  At McKinsey, she led teams and advised leading education and private sector organizations on strategy, performance improvement, and organizational effectiveness.  Shalini started her career with Teach For America as a fifth grade teacher in a bilingual inclusion classroom.

Shalini earned a B.A. in Social Studies at Harvard College and an Advanced Certificate in Bilingual Childhood Education at Pace University.

 

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Cameron White

Associate Partner

Cameron White is an Associate Partner on NewSchools’ Tools and Services Team. Cameron was on the founding team at co.lab, an edtech accelerator focused on game-based learning. He has worked at NewSchools since 2010, previously as a Fellow and Learning Technology Specialist. Cameron began his career at E.L. Haynes Public Charter School in Washington, DC, where he helped to align out-of-school time programming with the school’s academic and social missions. He graduated with a B.A. in Architecture from Princeton University, where he wrote his undergraduate thesis on the intersection between child psychology and environmental design. Cameron is a doctoral candidate at Columbia University’s Teachers College, studying instructional technology and media.

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Jay Yanos

Financial Reporting Manager

Jay Yanos is the Financial Reporting Manager at NewSchools Venture Fund’s Oakland office.

Over the past several years Jay has made numerous trips to the Bay Area and recently decided to uproot himself from Hawaii and now resides in San Francisco. While in Hawaii, Jay worked as an Auditor with Wikoff, Combs & Co. conducting financial, A-133 and employee benefit audits for non-profits. And just prior to leaving Hawaii he worked as an Accountant with Parents and Children Together (PACT) working with the domestic violence programs. Fiscally managing about 1.5 million in federal, state and private funding contracts he was also involved in the grant writing process soliciting funds to support the programs.

He has a BSBA in Accounting and an MBA in Finance from Hawaii Pacific University and truly believes in education. He recalls a former instructor telling him that “education is something that can’t be taken away from you” and believes it.