The NewSchools team draws on extensive experience from across the education, business, policy and nonprofit sectors to help build high-quality education organizations.
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.
Ted Mitchell is CEO of the NewSchools Venture Fund which invests philanthropic capital to support entrepreneurs seeking to radically transform education in America. Since its founding in 1998 NewSchools has put more than $200 million to work supporting education innovation and student success.
In addition, Ted has long been a leader in education reform in California and nationally. From 2008 through 2010, he served as president of the California State Board of Education. Prior to taking the helm at NewSchools in 2005, Ted was president of Occidental College, vice chancellor and dean of the School of Education and Information Studies at the UCLA, and professor and chair of the Department of Education at Dartmouth College. In addition, he serves on the board of directors of Khan Academy, New Leaders, The Teaching Channel, Education Elements and The McClatchy Company. Dr. Mitchell received his B.A., M.A., and Ph.D. from Stanford University.
- Unlocking Gaming Potential: Ted Mitchell on the NewSchools Venture Fund/Zynga.org Learning Games Accelerator
- Forbes’ Top Education “Disruptors”
- University of Michigan strives to lead the way in rethinking colleges of education
- Ed Tech Market Map Goes Live Today; Helps Investors, Donors, and Entrepreneurs
- NewSchools CEO Ted Mitchell: My Best Idea For K-12 Education
- Mobilization aims toward 100,000 new, excellent math and science teachers for public schools in next 10 years
- Opinion: A revolution in training teachers
- Opinion: Innovation will drive new federal funding for education
- Opinion: Depression taught us that education is key to recovery
- Opinion: Federal Education Innovation – Getting It Right
Venture Board Seats
Sandra Becker is the Chief Financial Officer at NewSchools Venture Fund, and works in NewSchools’ Oakland office. Previously she was Chief Financial Officer at the Jewish Federation and the Jewish Community Foundation of the East Bay. As CFO, Sandra oversaw the financial reporting and operating budgets of both organizations and managed the Foundation’s assets of $100MM.
Sandra focused her career on the nonprofit sector while Audit Manager at Ernst & Young, where she counted both the Rockefeller Foundation and the International Rescue Committee as clients. Upon leaving public accounting, Sandra served as Controller for the Marin Community Foundation, overseeing financial reporting for the country’s third largest community foundation.
Sandra has expertise in the real estate and software industries. She also spent five years as owner and COO of Ft. Docs, an independent document management company that provides hard copy and electronic storage, and scanning services, as well as compliance services for hospitals and medical offices during the initial period of HIPAA.
Sandra is former Treasurer of HeadsUp, a foundation that raises supplemental funding for schools in the San Rafael School District. Currently, she is on the board of WeAreSr!, which raises funds for arts, music and athletics at San Rafael High School. Sandra received her B.S. in Business Administration from San Francisco State University.
Joseph Cabrera is the Full Charge Accountant at NewSchools Venture Fund’s Oakland headquarters where he administers the fund’s financial activities including full-cycle general ledger and grantmaking.
Joseph has more than 20 years of finance and accounting experience. Before coming to NewSchools, Joseph served as controller for the Community Action Agency of San Mateo County for eight years.
Jennifer Carolan is Managing Director of the NewSchools Seed Fund, which was created to make investments in early-stage education technology companies with potential for big impact in K-12 education.
Jennifer began her career as a teacher in traditional district schools where she became interested in differentiated learning. After studying differentiation at Stanford School of Education, she published her research in Education Leadership and has since been on a pursuit of finding tools to help teachers differentiate more effectively. Jennifer works with the following ventures: BetterLesson, Education Elements, Engrade, Educreations and Mytonomy. Jennifer is also on the Boards of Equal Opportunity Schools and BetterLesson. She still teaches sometimes, most recently Innovations in Teaching 338 at Stanford’s School of Education/d.school. Jennifer has three children who attend a charter school in Los Altos California.
- Education Startup Tales2Go Raises $750K for ‘Netflix-Like’ Audiobook App
- Engrade Raises $3M to Unify Classroom Management into Single Platform
- Social Entrepreneurs Try to Offer Solutions to K-12 Problems
- NewSchools Venture Fund Announces Early-Stage Education Technology Fund to Accelerate Student Achievement
- Blended Learning Startup Education Elements Raises $2.1 Million
- BetterLesson Grabs $1.6 Million to Let Educators Find and Share the Best Lesson Plans
Venture Board Seats
Rich Crandall is an Associate Partner in the NewSchools Venture Fund’s Oakland office, where he splits his time between planning NewSchools’ annual Summit and Community of Practice events, and the work on the National Network of Charter Schools to enhance college readiness and success.
Prior to joining NewSchools, Rich was the K-12 Lab Director at the Hasso Plattner Institute of Design at Stanford (also known as the “d.school”). At the d.school Rich worked to instill creative confidence in innovators across the K-12 system – from district leaders to kindergartners. Rich is thrilled to be at NewSchools helping entrepreneurs to realize their big ideas of making meaningful change in education.
Rich studied mathematics at Colgate University and has his MBA from Stanford University. He first worked in Oakland as high school math teacher through Teach For America, where he lives with his wife Heather and their pug Payton.
Kerry Donahue is a Senior Analyst at NewSchools Venture Fund’s Washington, DC office, where she focuses on strengthening the quality of the DC charter sector through the DC Schools Fund Instructional Capacity Building Pilot.
Kerry’s career in education began as a high school social studies teacher in Louisburg, North Carolina through Teach For America. During her time in the classroom, Kerry designed and implemented a civics and economics curriculum which led to over 85% of her students passing statewide exams. Following her two years in Teach For America, Kerry served as a Corps Member Advisor at TFA’s 2009 Chicago Institute, where she was responsible for the training and development of new corps members. During graduate school, Kerry was an Education Pioneers Fellow at New Leaders for New Schools, and a Senior Associate at DC Public Schools, where she managed DCPS’ fast track teacher application process and developed an outcome-orientated vetting process for college access providers.
Kerry graduated magna cum laude from the College of the Holy Cross and holds her Master’s in Public Policy from Georgetown University.
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.
Thea Fennira is an Executive Assistant in the NewSchools Venture Fund’s Oakland office, supporting the office of the President and CEO. 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.
Sosanna Folz is a Venture Assistant in NewSchools Venture Fund’s Boston office. Prior to joining NewSchools, Sosanna was a Resource Consultant for Right Management Consultants, a global organizational consulting firm. While at Right, she provided organizations and transitioning executives with project management, marketplace intelligence and career coaching.
Sosanna holds a Bachelor of Arts degree from Wofford College in South Carolina. She attended Wofford on a Bonner Scholarship for community service during which time she helped develop and run after-school programs for middle schools in Spartanburg, South Carolina.
Yulia Frid is a Program Manager with NewSchools Venture Fund where she provides support to the organization’s Partners and helps manage the Aspen Institute – NewSchools Entrepreneurial Leaders for Public Education fellowship program.
Yulia brings a wide range of experience to this role, as she has worked in the medical, finance, and telecommunication industries. In the last 10 years, she has managed the planning and execution of several companies’ events including event design, site selection, budgeting, logistics, collateral, product display, event analysis, collateral and marketing campaigns. While working full-time, Yulia received her bachelor of science degree in business administration with concentration in marketing from San Francisco State University and a masters degree in business administration from University of Phoenix.
Yulia was born and raised in St. Petersburg, Russia and immigrated to San Francisco, California at the age of 13 in 1992.
Eva Gonda Green currently serves as Strategic Initiatives Analyst for the CEO at NewSchools Venture Fund where she provides strategic counsel to the CEO on organizational planning, executive communications and external initiatives.
A graduate of Stanford University’s Graduate School of Education (degree in Policy and Organizational Leadership), Eva developed a framework for reforming educational opportunities for low income students through her work as a teacher, policy analyst and business manager.
Prior to her work in education, Eva was a professional equestrian and trained the Gold Medal winning horse and rider at the 2008 Summer Olympic Games.
Eva graduated cum laude with honors from Occidental College earning a degree in American Studies with an emphasis in Education.
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.
David Havens is a Senior Analyst in NewSchools Venture Fund’s Palo Alto office, where he focuses on market research and supporting education technology ventures.
David has focused on innovation in education for the last two years. At Stanford, he co-founded The Flying Treehouse, a volunteer group that teaches creative writing to elementary students and turns their stories into a full-length performance. Prior to that, he pioneered high-school outreach as an intern at the first year of the Tallapoosa Theater Festival, which helped bring improv and Shakespeare to rural Georgia. He also worked as a teaching assistant in the Drama and Biology departments at Stanford, and was the first improv teacher for adults at a Stanford alumni camp in the Sierras.
David earned a BA in Human Biology with a focus on Neuroscience from Stanford University. He also studied computer science, design, and education.
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.
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.
Venture Board Seats
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.
Venture Board Seats
Gloria Lee is the President and Chief Operating Officer at NewSchools Venture Fund, and works in NewSchools’ Oakland office. Previously, she was Bay Area Superintendent for Aspire Public Schools. As Area Superintendent, Gloria was responsible for the “double bottom line:” both academic achievement and fiscal stability. Under her leadership, Aspire’s Bay Area schools grew by an average of 66 points on the state’s Academic Performance Index (4.5x the state targets for growth) over a three year period, and received average parent satisfaction ratings of 90%. Aspire’s Bay Area schools also increased enrollment by nearly 40% to over 2700 students – making Aspire’s Bay Area region larger than 60% of the districts in California.
Prior to becoming Area Superintendent, Gloria served as the Founding Chief Operating Officer of Aspire for the organization’s first eight years. As COO, Gloria crafted key elements of Aspire’s growth and business strategy, and developed the systems and processes necessary to bring the Aspire network successfully from 1 school to 17 schools.
Prior to joining Aspire, Gloria was a consultant for McKinsey and Company, helping Fortune 500 companies address major strategic challenges. Gloria also founded a Bay Area office for UCLA School Management Program, a university-based school reform support organization that provided training and coaching to school principals and teachers in leadership and change management. She received her BS in Agricultural Economics at Cornell University, and both a Masters of Business Administration and Masters in Education at Stanford University.
Venture Board Seats
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.
Venture Board Seats
Deborah McGriff is a Managing Director at NewSchools Venture Fund.
Deborah has been committed to transforming the lives of underserved urban school students for more than four decades. In 1993, Deborah became the first public school superintendent to join EdisonLearning (formerly Edison Schools). There, she held numerous positions at the company, including President of Edison Teachers College, Executive Vice President of Charter Schools, and Executive Vice President of several external relations functions.
Prior to joining EdisonLearning, Deborah served as the first female General Superintendent of Detroit Public Schools. Crain’s Detroit Business named her Newsmaker of the Year for 1992. Before that, she was the first female Assistant Superintendent in Cambridge, Massachusetts and the first female Deputy Superintendent in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. She was a teacher and administrator in the New York City Public Schools for more than a decade.
Deborah is former President of the Education Industry Association. In addition to serving on the boards of several high-performing charter management organizations, she is the Chair of the board of the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools and Beyond 12. She serves on the executive committee of the Policy Innovators in Education Network, and is a founder and national board member of the Black Alliance for Educational Options. She also serves on the advisory board of the Program on Education Policy and Governance at Harvard’s John F. Kennedy School of Government and is a member of the Review Board for the Broad Prize in Urban Education.
Deborah holds a bachelor’s degree in education from Norfolk State University, a master’s degree in education with a specialization in reading pedagogy from Queens College of the City University of New York, and a doctorate in Administration, Policy and Urban Education from Fordham University.
Venture Board Seats
Deborah leads NewSchools’ development, marketing and convening functions, including NewSchools’ annual Summit. As Chief Advancement Officer, Deborah serves as NewSchools’ story teller in chief; develops strategic partnerships with like-minded individuals, foundations and corporations; recruits passionate and innovative leaders to the NewSchools board and leadership council and creates conversations among entrepreneurs, policy makers and thought leaders with the goal of improving their practice and catalyzing change for students. What gets her up in the morning and keeps her awake at night is the urgent need to reimagine education for all students and to close the persistent opportunity and achievement gaps that hold back too many young people in our country.
Jim Peyser is the Managing Director of NewSchools City Funds at NewSchools Venture Fund’s Boston office, where he leads NewSchools’ city-focused investments. From 1999 through 2006, Jim served as Chairman of the Massachusetts Board of Education. Prior to joining NewSchools, Jim was Education Advisor to two Massachusetts Governors, where he helped shape state policy regarding standards and assessments, school accountability, and charter schools. In 1995, he served as Under Secretary of Education and Special Assistant to the Governor for Charter Schools. He spent more than seven years as Executive Director of Pioneer Institute for Public Policy Research, where he helped to launch and support Massachusetts’ first charter schools. Prior to joining Pioneer Institute, Jim held various positions at Teradyne, Inc. in Boston, an electronic test equipment manufacturer.
In his role with NewSchools, Jim currently serves on the board of directors for Achievement First, Success Charter Network, and Uncommon Schools. He is also a member of the Board of the National Association of Charter School Authorizers (NACSA) and the Massachusetts Center for Charter Public School Excellence. Jim holds a Master of Arts in Law and Diplomacy from the Fletcher School (Tufts University) and a Bachelor of Arts from Colgate University.
- NewSchools Invests $1.6m In Three Boston-Area Charter Schools: Organization’s Boston Fund Supports Growing CMOs in Mass.
- NewSchools Announces $3 Million in Grants for Expansion of Four High-Performing Boston Charter Schools
- Statement by Jim Peyser on the Mathematica Study of Charter Management Organizations
- Charter Operators Face Challenges in ‘Scaling Up’
- Unlocking the Secrets of High-Performing Charters
- NewSchools Venture Fund Managing Partner Jim Peyser Named to National Charter Schools Hall of Fame
- Jim Peyser inducted into National Charter School Hall of Fame
Venture Board Seats
Kristi Ransick is a principal in NewSchools Venture Fund’s Oakland office, where she supports the firm’s Academic Systems Initiative.
Kristi has extensive experience in project management, product development, instructional design, and teaching and learning. Kristi began her career teaching at The Children’s Museum, Boston and then worked on several science and technology curriculum development projects at Education Development Center. She created and led staff development programs at both Teachers College and at Columbia University focusing on science education and integrating technology into science curriculum. This led to a position developing and leading several aspects of the Seminars on Science online courses for the American Museum of Natural History. These courses won two Codie awards for Best Post-Secondary Education Instructional Solution and Best Lifelong Learning product or Service. Most recently Kristi spent more than seven years at Teachscape, a professional services company serving classroom teachers and instructional leaders. There, she held several positions, including Vice President, Product Design and Development, where she oversaw the development of all online courses and print materials.
Kristi received her undergraduate degree from Middlebury College and her master’s degree from Harvard University Graduate School of Education.
Benjamin Riley is the Director of Policy and Advocacy at NewSchools Venture Fund, and is responsible for leading NewSchools’ work in developing and advocating for a policy agenda that creates opportunities for education entrepreneurs. Ben is currently on leave from NewSchools in order to work with the New Zealand government on digital-learning policy issues.
Immediately prior to joining the NewSchools team, Ben worked as a Deputy Attorney General for the California Department of Justice. In that role, he closely advised Attorney General Jerry Brown on California’s first Race to the Top application and other education policy issues, and he helped draft Race to the Top-related legislation. Ben also represented and advocated on behalf of the California State Board of Education in a variety of capacities, including serving as the Board’s interim chief counsel. In 2009, he was named one of two “Rising Stars” in education law by a Northern California legal periodical.
Ben’s previous work experience includes four years in private practice, a brief stint on Wall Street, and a summer clerking for the Land Claims Court of South Africa. He holds a BA from the University of Washington and a JD from Yale Law School.
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.
Anne Soto is an Associate Partner at NewSchools Venture Fund’s Oakland office, where she focuses on investment strategy, due diligence, and management assistance for the organization’s portfolio ventures.
Prior to joining NewSchools, Anne worked as a member of the teacher recruitment team for Aspire Public Schools. During graduate school, Anne helped grow the IU Innovation Center, an incubator for student entrepreneurs. Anne started her career as a Teach For America Corps Member in Eastern North Carolina, where she led the regional Upper Elementary professional development team and founded a school-based reading intervention program which partnered community volunteers with struggling readers. She has worked for Teach For America’s teacher preparation institute as a Corps Member Advisor and then School Director, where she led a team that trained and supported over 40 new teachers.
Graham VanderZanden is an Associate Partner at NewSchools Venture Fund’s Boston office, where he focuses on the Boston City Fund.
Prior to joining NewSchools, Graham served as a Corps Member with Teach For America in the Mississippi Delta region. He led the regional foreign language professional development team, founded a nonprofit to expand cultural exchange opportunities, and led educational trips to Spain, France, and Honduras. During graduate school, Graham helped conduct a randomized controlled trial study of a new education policy in Morocco. He has also worked with Boston Public Schools, conducting a budgetary analysis of waste reduction programs that helped inform the district as it considers adopting single-stream recycling.
Graham has a BA in International Studies from the University of Washington and an MPP from Harvard University.
Cameron White is the Associate Director of co.lab, an accelerator by NewSchools Venture Fund and Zynga.org that supports startups leveraging the power of digital games to build transformative educational technologies for PK-12 students and teachers.
Previously, Cameron worked at NewSchools as a Fellow and Learning Technology Specialist. He has also worked at E.L. Haynes Public Charter School in Washington, DC, where he helped to align out-of-school programming with the school’s broader missions.
Cameron 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. He is currently a doctoral candidate at Columbia University’s Teachers College, studying instructional technology and media.
Clay Willis is the Digital Media Associate at NewSchools Venture Fund, working on communications and digital media to support NewSchools’ mission.
An enduring commitment to promoting and defending natural and human rights led Clay to NewSchools where he is committed to addressing systemic issues plaguing public education.
Prior to joining NewSchools, Clay worked in communications at the Oakland based Ella Baker Center for Human Rights, which focused on juvenile justice system reform and green job growth. He also worked on Richard Raya’s 2012 campaign for Oakland City Council. Before moving into communications, Clay worked for several years in print and digital journalism at publications including The Post Standard and Palm 2 Jupiter Media.
Clay graduated with a B.S. in journalism and anthropology from the S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications at Syracuse University.