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Every day, DC Prep's elite group of hardworking school leaders and teachers are making a difference in their students' lives. They are the heart and soul of our organization. Get to know our principals and their awesome teams!
DC Prep’s Home Office team establishes, supports, and ultimately oversees each campus as well as the health and stability of the organization – all while striving to support terrific teaching and learning in every classroom.
Emily Lawson founded DC Prep in 2002 and has led the growth of the organization from a single middle school to the highest-performing Charter Management Organization in the nation’s capital — today serving over 1,700 students in preschool through 8th grade on five campuses. Emily’s work at DC Prep has been featured in The Washington Post, The New York Times, The Financial Times, NBC Nightly News, PBS NewsHour, EdWeek, and FOX, among others - and has attracted the support of major national foundations focused on public education reform. Emily is a Spring 2013 Cohort member of The Pahara-Aspen Education Fellowship and, in 2007, she completed the Broad Foundation’s Associate Residency in Urban Education. Prior to founding DC Prep, Emily worked for Victory Schools, a charter school management company in New York, as well as Academy of the Pacific Rim, a nationally-recognized charter school in Boston. Emily holds an MBA with Distinction from Harvard Business School and an MPA, with a focus on education, from the Kennedy School of Government. Her business career includes three years at The Boston Consulting Group and two years at the New York private equity firm, New Mountain Capital. She is a Phi Beta Kappa graduate of the University of North Carolina where she was a Morehead Scholar. Emily is a native Washingtonian.
Clarice Ulu, Special Assistant to the CEO, reports directly to the CEO and supports the senior leadership team. Clarice is the mother of two current DC Prep students and a long-time volunteer at the Edgewood Elementary Campus. She has a strong background in office administration, most recently in her role supporting senior executives and their teams at the Educational Testing Service. Clarice has a BS from Southeastern University.
Raymond Weeden joined DC Prep in 2012 as Principal of the Benning Elementary Campus, prior to transitioning to his Home Office role. As Senior Director of Policy and Community Engagement, he leads efforts around organizing DC Prep stakeholders and serves as an advocate for DC Prep and quality public education throughout the city. Prior to joining DC Prep, Raymond has served as Principal of Chavez Parkside Middle School, where he led a school on track for charter revocation to a Tier II school based on the DC Public Charter School Board's 2011 Performance Management Framework. Following six years as a classroom Math instructor, Raymond was Resident Principal at SEED Public Charter School. He is a graduate of New Leaders and received both his BA in Sociology and his MAT from the University of Virginia. He also holds an MS in Education Administration from Trinity University.
Katie Severn, President and Chief Academic Officer, joined DC Prep in 2007 and currently works with the principals at all DC Prep campuses to ensure alignment among schools and the highest academic quality across the organization. Katie served as Principal of DC Prep's award-winning Edgewood Middle Campus from 2008-2011. Previously, she worked at SEED Public Charter School, where she served as Principal, Assistant Principal, and Special Education Coordinator. She began her career as an English teacher in Namibia with the Center for Global Education. Upon her return to the United States, Katie joined Teach For America in Houston where she was recognized as both the New Teacher of the Year and the Special Education Teacher of the Year. She is a graduate of New Leaders and holds a bachelor's degree in sociology from Grinnell College and master's degrees in special education and educational administration.
Nicole Bryan, Senior Director of Elementary Programming, joined DC Prep in 2008 as the school's Director of Curriculum, Instruction, and Assessment providing coaching and professional development. From 2010-2013, Nicole served as the Principal of DC Prep's Edgewood Elementary Campus. Under her leadership, the campus was named a National Title I School of Distinction and was selected as a 2013 National Blue Ribbon School. As the Managing Director for Early Childhood, Nicole oversees the continued refinement of DC Prep's Early Childhood model and provides support to elementary Principals and campus-based Early Childhood leadership teams. Nicole was a classroom teacher for six years, the first two as a Teach For America corps member, and has worked in both elementary and early childhood programs. She holds a BA in Spanish from Georgetown University and an MA in education from The George Washington University with a dual concentration in Curriculum and Instruction and Bilingual Special Education. Nicole is currently pursuing her doctorate at The George Washington University with a focus on Leadership for Diverse Students.
Bio coming soon!
Maya Ekus joined DC Prep in 2013 as the Speech-Language Pathologist, and works with students at all of DC Prep’s campuses. Prior to joining DC Prep, Maya served as a Speech-Language Pathologist for nine years in Las Vegas, Nevada. Maya earned her BS from the University of Arizona, her MED from the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, and an MA in Communicative Disorders from California State University, Long Beach.
Deborah Hanmer joined DC Prep in 2008 as the Dean of Student Support at DC Prep’s Edgewood Middle Campus. Now, as Senior Director of Student Support, she works with the Deans of Student Support at each DC Prep campus to ensure effective systems that support a positive student culture and a well-disciplined school environment. Prior to DC Prep, she was Dean of Administration at Boston Collegiate Charter School. Deb holds a BA from Dartmouth College, an MPA from Syracuse University, and an MEd from Cambridge College.
Michelle Hess joined DC Prep in 2010 after completing two years as a special education teacher in Phoenix, AZ public schools through the Teach For America program. In her current role as the Director of Special Education, Michelle works closely with the special education coordinators at each campus to ensure that students receive appropriate academic support. In her tenure at DC Prep, she has served as an Assistant Principal of Culture at the Benning Elementary Campus, as well as its Special Education Coordinator. Michelle has a BA from Georgetown University and an MEd from Arizona State University.
Tara O’Flaherty joined DC Prep in 2012 and is currently the Senior Director of Curriculum and Assessment. Prior to that, she was the Senior Director of Leadership Support, providing coaching and mentoring to leadership teams and individual campus leaders at all DC Prep schools. Before joining the DC Prep team, Tara was a member of the founding team of Chavez Prep and served as both Assistant Principal and Principal. She served as a school leader for Chavez for seven years and in 2012 was named Principal of the Year by the DC Association of Public Chartered Schools. Tara has a BA from Drew University, an MEd from Lesley University, and an MA from The George Washignton University.
Bio coming soon!
Cassie Pergament joined DC Prep in 2006, and is currently the Senior Director of Middle School Programming in the Home Office. Prior to this role, she was Principal of the Edgewood Middle Campus (EMC) from 2011-2016. Cassie also served in a variety of roles at EMC, including Instructional Coach, Chair of the English Department, and member of the school Leadership Team. She began her teaching career with Teach For America in Compton, California where she designed and implemented a program for Gifted and Talented students. Cassie also taught at the KIPP: Bridge Charter School in Oakland. Cassie holds a BA in Political Science from the University of Rochester and an MAT from Loyola Marymount University. During the 2010-11 school year, Cassie earned an MEd in School Leadership and participated in an intensive residency program at High Tech High in San Diego.
Bio coming soon!
Wendy Scott, Chief Financial Officer, joined DC Prep in 2008 and is responsible for finance and real estate. Prior to this role, she served as the organization's Chief Operating Officer. Wendy came to DC Prep through the Broad Residency in Urban Education, a two-year executive development program of the Broad Foundation. Before joining DC Prep, Wendy was a Strategy and Operations Manager for Deloitte Consulting LLP, where she supported the management, administration, and oversight of federal government charge card programs. Her business career also includes time spent at Citigroup, Accenture, and PricewaterhouseCoopers. Wendy holds a BA from the University of Pennsylvania and an MBA from Howard University.
Kumasi Vines, Senior Director of Finance and Real Estate, joined DC Prep in 2017 and is responsible for supporting the Chief Financial Officer as the organization continues to grow. He came to DC Prep through the Broad Residency in Urban Education, a two-year executive development program of the Broad Foundation. Prior to DC Prep, Kumasi worked as Acting Head for Waste and Wastewater in the Baltimore Department of Public Works. He has nearly a decade of experience working for the City of Baltimore - his hometown - and in real estate, finance, and operations in both the public and private sectors. Kumasi holds a BA from Northwestern University and an MBA from Columbia University.
Laura Maestas, Chief Talent Officer, joined DC Prep in 2016. She works to ensure that DC Prep is able to attract, develop, and retain great people for our schools and Home Office. Prior to DC Prep, Laura was the Chief Talent Officer at Uncommon Schools – overseeing Recruitment, Organizational Learning, Performance Management, Human Resources, and Uncommon Impact, as well as serving as a member of Uncommon's Executive Team. While at Uncommon, she also served as the Chief Operating Officer for the Teach Like a Champion team, where she helped identify effective ways to share best practices with other school systems and educators. Laura also has extensive experience working in traditional school systems, as the Director of School Leadership for the New York City Department of Education, and at both the district and state level while a management consultant at McKinsey & Company. Laura received her bachelor’s degree in Political Science and Economics from Kenyon College, where she was a Latino Scholar and Phi Beta Kappa. She also earned a J.D. from NYU School of Law, where she was a Dean's Scholar. She is a member of the New York bar.
Danielle Bryant joined DC Prep in 2011, first as a Prep EX! Teacher and then as the Prep EX! Program Leader at the Edgewood Elementary Campus. Currently, Danielle serves as the Human Resources Associate, where her responsibilities include benefits administration, employment verification, and supporting HR operations. Prior to joining DC Prep, Danielle served as the administrative assistant to the Dean of Psychology at Bowie State University. She holds a BA in American Studies from the University of Maryland Baltimore County.
Rachel Dias joined DC Prep in 2016. As the Director of Recruitment, she leads attraction and selection efforts to bring the very best talent to DC Prep. Rachel joined DC Prep through The Broad Residency in Urban Education, a two-year executive development program of The Broad Foundation. Prior to DC Prep, Rachel was an Associate at GE Capital Healthcare Financial Services, where she supported debt lending to healthcare companies for mergers, acquisitions and recapitalizations. She started her career at GE Capital in the Financial Management Program and also worked as a Student Education Consultant for Columbia University’s Center for Public Research and Leadership and an Education Pioneers Fellow at DC Public Schools. She earned a bachelor’s degree in Finance and Management Science from the University of Miami and an MBA from Columbia Business School.
Marilyn Edmunds joined DC Prep in 2016. As Associate Director of Recruitment, she works with the Talent Team to build candidate pipelines, expand outreach, and foster relationships with campuses and candidates to bring exceptional talent to DC Prep, with a special focus on recruitment at the Benning and Edgewood Middle Campuses. Prior to DC Prep, Marilyn was an Academic Interventionist at KIPP DC and also has experience as a Teach For America Corps member in Charlotte, NC, where she taught 7th grade science. In her tenure at Teach For America, she was Chair of the Diversity Committee and lead on the Technology Integration team. Marilyn holds a BA from Saint Paul’s College and an MS in Education from Johns Hopkins University.
Catherine Nwosu, Director of Extended Learning, joined DC Prep in 2011. She is responsible for managing, staffing, and developing programming for Prep EX!, DC Prep’s aftercare program, across each campus. Prior to this role, Catherine served as the EEC Prep EX! Coordinator as well as a Prep EX! teacher and an EEC preschool teacher. Prior to working at DC Prep, she served as an AmeriCorps WNY Tutor Coordinator for Journey’s End Refugee services - connecting volunteers to newly-arrived refugee families from places like Burma and Somalia, and assisting them with English, education, and resettlement. Catherine holds a BA from Ashford University.
Suraj Patel joined DC Prep in 2017. As the Director of People Operations, he leads efforts to develop and retain the best people for DC Prep’s campuses and Home Office. Suraj joined DC Prep through The Broad Residency in Urban Education, a two-year executive development program of The Broad Foundation. Prior to DC Prep, Suraj was a Project Leader at the Boston Consulting Group, where he focused on Social Impact projects and the People & Organization topic area. He has also worked with NewSchools Venture Fund (as an Education Pioneers Fellow), Chicago Public Schools, and Chicago International Charter Schools. Suraj earned a BS in Mechanical Engineering and a BS in Finance from the University of Pennsylvania, and an MBA from the University of Chicago.
Mary Frances Smyth joined DC Prep in 2011, first as a student teacher through the Curry School of Education and then as a 1st grade teacher at the Edgewood Elementary Campus. Currently, Mary Frances serves as the Associate Director for Recruitment on the Talent Team. Prior to joining DC Prep, she was a 1st and 3rd grade teacher at KIPP in Baltimore and Achievement First in Brooklyn. She holds a BA from Washington and Lee University and an MT from the University of Virginia.
Dan Englender, Chief Operating Officer, joined DC Prep in 2011 and originally served as an Assistant Principal at the Edgewood Middle Campus where he oversaw instructional and school culture initiatives. In his current role as Chief Operating Officer he manages operations, data, technology, and enrollment teams across DC Prep's growing network of schools. Dan began his career in education as a Teach For America (TFA) corps member in New Haven, CT, teaching high school math. Dan also worked in a variety of roles at TFA, including Program Director in DC. In the summer of 2011 Dan served as a School Director in TFA's summer institute in Philadelphia. He holds a BS from the University of Michigan.
Kalyn Blueitt joined DC Prep in 2015, and originally served as the Benning Elementary Campus Operations Manager. In his current role as Director of Facilities and Business Operations, Kalyn ensures the alignment and effective execution of processes, policies, and systems that support DC Prep's faculty, staff, parents, and Preppies. He supports campus-based Operations Managers to ensure the operation, safety, and security of schools. Kalyn has several years of work experience in business operations and people management. He previously served as a Certified Relationship Banker/Branch Designee for Capital One Bank, and as a Store Manager for a national retail chain. Kalyn holds a BFA from the University of Cincinnati, College Conservatory of Music.
Hilary Dauffenbach-Tabb, Director of Analysis, Data, and Enrollment, joined DC Prep in 2012. Prior to this role, she served as the organization's Assessment Associate. She is responsible for the collection and analysis of student data as well as managing Schoolzilla, DC Prep's customized data system that gives teachers real-time 360-degree information on students' academic progress and character development. Hilary spent three years as a 6th and 7th grade general and special education Math teacher in New York through the NYC Teaching Fellows program. She holds a BA in Economics from the University of Michigan and a MS in Education from St. John’s University. Hilary also received an MEd in Education Policy and Management from Harvard University.
Dwayne Ford joined DC Prep in 2016. He provides technology support for the Edgewood Campuses and Home Office. Before joining DC Prep, Dwayne worked as a Dell Field Technician in the Southern Maryland and DC region.
Emily Johannsen, Director of Operations, joined DC Prep in 2013 where she previously served as the Edgewood Middle Campus Operations Manager. In her current role, Emily manages Operations and Safety teams across DC Prep's network. Emily is also an Associate Resident in the Broad Residency in Urban Education, a two-year executive development program of The Broad Foundation. Prior to DC Prep, she worked at Chicago Public Schools as an Education Pioneers Analyst Fellow where she improved the supplier performance review system and streamlined procurement processes. Emily's past business experience includes a project management position at Deloitte Consulting LLP, and she has also promoted the Young Women’s Leadership Charter School in Chicago through volunteer recruitment and fundraising events. Emily holds a BS from the University of Illinois.
Alyssa Liguori, Data and Enrollment Associate at the Benning site, joined DC Prep in 2017. Alyssa is responsible for assessment administration and data system management - working closely with teachers and leaders to drive their use of data to help students grow. She also supports DC Prep families during the annual enrollment process. Alyssa was a Teach For America corps member in Kansas City where she taught elementary special education. She also has experience teaching English as a Foreign Language abroad with WorldTeach and working in research in a variety of contexts. She earned a Master’s degree in Education from the University of Missouri – St. Louis and a BS in Life Sciences and International Studies from Penn State University.
Roy Smith joined DC Prep in 2016. He provides technology support for the Benning Campuses and Home Office. Before joining DC Prep, Roy worked as a Dell engineer. He is currently pursuing an AA in information systems from North Virginia Community College.
Emily Swain, Data and Enrollment Associate at the Edgewood site, joined DC Prep in 2015. Emily is responsible for assessment administration and data system management - working closely with teachers and leaders to drive their use of data to help students grow. She also supports DC Prep families during the annual enrollment process. Prior to joining the Home Office, she was an 8th grade science teacher at Edgewood Middle Campus. Emily has extensive teaching experience serving as a 9th grade earth science teacher at Cesar Chavez PCS, where she started as a Teach For America corps member. She holds a BS from Dickenson College and an MAT from American University.
Sindy Tavarez, Associate Director of Enrollment, joined DC Prep in 2013 and has daily oversight of DC Prep's student enrollment process and student information management. Prior this role, she served as DC Prep's Enrollment Specialist and Enrollment and Data Systems Associate. Sindy previously worked as a registrar at The Next Step Public Charter School in DC. In addition, Sindy has experience as a French and Spanish teacher, and is fluent in both languages. Sindy holds a BA from Canisius College.
Ricardo Troncoso-Ramirez, Director of Information Technology, joined DC Prep in 2015 and is responsible for management and maintenance of DC Prep’s organization-wide technology infrastructure and technical support services and vendors. He has over 14 years of extensive experience at the intersection of technology and education. Prior to DC Prep, Ricardo worked at E.L. Haynes Public Charter School as well as the SEED School. He has served as a classroom teacher, as well as an IT director and coordinator. Ricardo received a BA from the National University of Colombia and an MA with a concentration in educational technology leadership from The George Washington University.
Ibby Jeppson, Chief Development Officer, joined DC Prep in 2004. She is responsible for development, strategic partnerships, and communications. She has more than 35 years of experience in not-for-profit management, program development, and social policy. Before joining DC Prep, she taught in the Pediatrics Department at the Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences. Ibby has authored numerous books and produced three award-winning documentary films. Her career began in the classroom, as a member of the National Teacher Corps. She holds an MEd in early childhood education and a PhD in special education.
Heather Nadolny joined DC Prep in 2014. As the Development and Communications Associate, she works with the Development, Marketing, and Communications team on a range of tasks including drafting grant proposals and managing DC Prep’s philanthropic database as well as researching donor communications and fundraising best practices. Prior to this role, Heather served as a Technology Associate, where she provided technology support and instruction for faculty and staff at the Benning Middle and Elementary Campuses. Heather's past experience includes serving as the Program Manager of GWish, within The George Washington University, as well as The Online School for Girls. She received a BA from DePaul University.
Amber Walker, Director of Marketing and Communications, joined DC Prep in 2011 and is responsible for internal and external communications as well as the development and successful implementation of innovative and effective marketing and advertising that enhances the DC Prep brand and image. Prior to DC Prep, Amber worked at The Glover Park Group as a Director in the Marketing Division, where she specialized in the firm’s growing education clientele. Amber also served as a Capitol Hill staffer in a U.S. Senate committee. She received a BA from Wellesley College.
Jill Salisbury, Director of PrepNext, joined DC Prep in 2014 and manages the overall alumni support program. Prior to this role, she was the Associate Director for College Counseling, working with alumni during their transition to high school. Before joining DC Prep, Jill served in a variety of roles at the organization, including co-teaching in our SSAT and ACT prep programs for students and alumni. She earned a master’s degree in educational leadership, politics, and advocacy from New York University and an undergraduate degree from UCLA.
Janelle Bradley, Alumni Support Counselor, joined DC Prep in 2017 and works with the PrepNext team in curriculum development for the high school transition program. Prior to joining DC Prep, she was a counselor at Carver Vocational Technical High School in Baltimore, Maryland, where she spent a full cycle with students as they passed from 9th to 12th grade. Janelle is a licensed school counselor with a BA from Spelman College and a Master’s from Johns Hopkins University.
Maria Lawson is a native Washingtonian and was the valedictorian of DC Prep’s first graduating Class of 2007. In her current role as a Alumni Support Counselor, Maria works closely with alumni and the team to assist students down the PrepNext path she traveled just a few years ago. As an undergrad, Maria participated in the Eisenhower Institute’s Social Justice Program and served in leadership roles in the Black Student Union and the Latin American Student Association. She recently completed an internship at the IRS, where she worked to make documents accessible for people with disabilities. Maria is a graduate of Benjamin Banneker Academic High School, and, in 2015, earned a BA in English from Gettysburg College.
Deandra Smith, Alumni Support Counselor, joined DC Prep in 2017, and works with DC Prep alumni during their transition to high school. Prior to joining DC Prep, Deandra served as a Professional Advisor at Trinity Washington University, an Assistant Director of Multicultural Education at the College of the Holy Cross, and an Access Counselor at Bottom Line. Deandra holds a BA in Early Childhood from the University of Central Florida, and an MA in Higher Education from the University of Arizona.
DC Prep’s School Leaders build a unique and close-knit learning community at each school campus.
Sheneil Christian joined DC Prep in 2013 and is currently the Founding Resident Principal for DC Prep's newest elementary campus, leading planning and preparation efforts for its future launch. Prior to this role, Sheneil served as the Early Childhood Support Coordinator at the Edgewood Elementary Campus and a preschool teacher. Before joining the DC Prep team, she was a lead teacher for two years at AppleTree Early Learning. Sheneil holds a BA from Fayetteville State University.
Maria-Teresa Duvall is the Founding Principal of DC Prep’s newest Anacostia Elementary Campus, which opened in the 2015-16 school year. She joined DC Prep in 2009 as a member of Teach For America’s Metro DC early childhood cohort. She spent six years at BEC, where she taught preschool and 2nd Grade, in addition to having served as the Math and Science/Social Studies Coordinator and Assistant Principal of Academics. She holds a BS from Pennsylvania State University and an MEd in Curriculum and Instruction with an emphasis in Early Childhood Education from George Mason University.
Maura Englender joined DC Prep in 2013, and is the Benning Elementary Campus (BEC) Principal. Prior to this role, she served as Resident Principal-in-Training as well as Assistant Principal of Academics at the school. Maura began her tenure at DC Prep as a Literacy Coordinator at BEC, working with the Kindergarten through 3rd grade Literacy teachers to develop curriculum and improve their instructional practices. Prior to joining the team, Maura taught high school history in North Carolina and served on Teach For America’s DC staff. Maura earned a BA from Lewis and Clark College and an MEd from the Harvard University Graduate School of Education.
Avise Hayes, is Principal of the Edgewood Elementary Campus (EEC), and joined DC Prep in 2013. Prior to this role, she served as the Assistant Principal of Culture leading student and team culture efforts throughout EEC. After completing her time as a Teach For America (TFA) corps member in Philadelphia, she stayed in the city to teach in a public middle school. She then became a Reading Curriculum Coordinator and TFA’s Professional Learning Community Coordinator. At KIPP Philadelphia Charter School she was also a 7th grade teacher and Chair, as well as the Assistant Principal. Avise’s BA is from Spelman College, and she holds two MS degrees from Chestnut Hill College and National Louis University.
Rachel McClam joined DC Prep in 2010 after completing two years as a Metro DC Teach For America corps member, and currently serves as the Edgewood Middle Campus (EMC) Principal. Prior to that role, she served as an Assistant Principal of Academics as well as a 5th grade Math teacher. Rachel’s previous experience includes teaching 3rd grade at a DC charter school and student teaching experience in Durham, NC. Rachel holds a BA from Duke University and an MAT from American University.
Erin Waldron is the Principal of the Benning Middle Campus. She joined DC Prep in 2013 and, in her tenure, has served as an Assistant Principal of Academics and Founding Faculty member at the campus, where she taught 4th grade Math in the school's inaugural year. Before joining the DC Prep team, Erin was a founding 6th grade math teacher with Teach For America in Brooklyn, and then became math department Chair and an Assistant Principal. She has a BS from Georgetown University and an MS from Teacher U at Hunter College.