Neema Desai Jennings, Senior Director of Schools, is passionate and enthusiastic about working with children and building communities that inspire growth, love, and a commitment to bettering our world. Neema joined DC Prep in 2011. Throughout her time at DC Prep, she has taught and led at multiple DC Prep campuses in a variety of roles, including as a math and literacy teacher, founding teacher, Assistant Principal of Academics and Culture, and Principal of Anacostia Elementary Campus (2018-2021) and Anacostia Middle Campus (2020-2022). Before joining the DC Prep team, Neema was a special education teacher in New York, where she completed Teach for America. She holds a BS from George Washington University and a MS from Bank Street College.
Natasha Bailey, Senior Director of Operations, joined DC Prep in 2022. In her role, Natasha manages Operations teams across DC Prep’s network. Prior to DC Prep, Natasha served as an Operations Manager and Director of Operations at Ingenuity Prep Public Charter School in Washington, D.C. Natasha has also served in education nonprofit roles at Teach For America DC and PeerForward. Natasha is a graduate of Penn State University and received a Master of Public Administration from Rutgers University.
Cassie Pergament joined DC Prep in 2006 and is currently the Chief Academic Officer. Prior to this role, she served as the Senior Director of Programs, overseeing our program model across all DC Prep campuses. She was Principal of the Edgewood Middle Campus (EMC) from 2011-2016 and previously served in a variety of roles at EMC, including Instructional Coach, Chair of the English Department, Mentor Teacher, and classroom teacher. She began her teaching career with Teach For America in Compton, CA where she designed and implemented a program for Gifted and Talented students. Cassie also taught at the KIPP: Bridge Charter School in Oakland, CA. Cassie holds a BA in Political Science from the University of Rochester and a Master of Arts in Teaching from Loyola Marymount University. During the 2010-11 school year, Cassie earned a Master’s in School Leadership and participated in an intensive residency program at the High Tech High Graduate School of Education in San Diego. Cassie lives in DC with her four children.
Vanessa Gonzalez, Chief Development Officer, joined DC Prep in 2022. As CDO, Vanesaa leads development, communications, and alumni support at DC Prep. Prior to joining DC Prep, Vanessa led programs in Flamboyan Foundation’s Puerto Rico office. Vanessa returned to Puerto Rico, her place of birth, with a commitment to supporting education on the island. Vanessa previously worked in DC education as Vice President of Operations and Strategy at Education Forward DC and as Associate Partner at NewSchools Venture Fund. She has also worked for the Academy for Urban School Leadership (AUSL) and Education Elements. Vanessa began her career as a strategy consultant at Bain & Company and The Bridgespan Group. Vanessa holds a Bachelor of Arts in economics and Spanish from Emory University, as well as an MBA and Master’s of Arts in Education from Stanford University.
Maura Englender joined DC Prep in 2013, and is the Chief Talent Officer. Prior to this role, at the network level she served as Senior Director of Leadership Development, and Senior Director of Student Support. At the campus level she served as Principal, Resident Principal-in-Training, as well as Assistant Principal of Academics at the Benning Elementary Campus (BEC). 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.
Aliesha Maye, Chief of School Operations, joined DC Prep in 2021. Prior to DC Prep, Aliesha worked at KIPP AIM Academy here in Washington, DC., as Chief of School Operations. Aliesha first joined KIPP DC in 2008 as a Spanish teacher at AIM Academy. She had previously taught Spanish in Washington, D.C. as a Teach For America corps member. Before taking on her previous role as Principal of AIM Academy, Aliesha also taught fifth and sixth-grade math and served as the school’s vice principal. Aliesha graduated from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill with a bachelor of arts in international studies and Spanish.
Dan Englender, Chief Operating Officer and Chief Financial 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 he manages operations, data, technology, enrollment, and finance and real estate 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.
Katie Severn joined DC Prep in 2007. Before becoming Senior Advisor to DC Prep’s Executive Team in 2023, she served as the President and Chief Academic Officer, working with the principals at all DC Prep campuses to ensure alignment among schools and the highest academic quality across the organization. From 2008 to 2011, Katie served as Principal of DC Prep’s award-winning Edgewood Middle Campus. 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.
Laura Maestas, Chief Executive Officer, joined DC Prep in 2016 and previously served as the Chief Talent Officer. 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.
Katie Kuzma, Principal of our Anacostia Elementary Campus, joined DC Prep in 2013. Throughout her time at DC Prep, she has served as a science and literacy teacher at the Edgewood Elementary Campus, a department chair for science across all three elementary campuses, and as an Assistant Principal of math and science at AEC. Before joining the DC Prep team, Katie was a science and social studies teacher in Atlanta, where she completed Teach for America. Katie attended Harvard University for her undergraduate degree in developmental psychology.
Cyrkle Lomax joined DC Prep in 2020, and is the Benning Elementary Campus (BEC) Principal. Prior to this role, she served Anacostia Elementary students as the Special Education Coordinator. Outside of DC Prep, Cyrkle served as Principal and Special Education Coordinator at Achievement Prep Middle School in Ward 8 and the Special Education Chair and Special Education & ELA teacher for grades 5, 6, 7 & 8 at Excel Academy Public Charter School in Prince George’s County, MD. Cyrkle earned a BA from Towson State University and a Master’s of Leadership in Teaching from Notre Dame of Maryland Graduate School of Education.
Brooke joined DC Prep in 2017 at our Benning Middle Campus (BMC), after working at and helping open other charters in Ward 7. Brooke wore many hats at BMC, including 6th Grade ELA Special Education Teacher, 8th Grade Gen Ed Teacher, 8th Grade GLL, and Director of High School Placement. In 2020, she joined the AMC founding team as the Community Assistant Principal. Brooke received her undergraduate degrees in sociology and education from Roanoke College, and her Master of Education degree in special education from George Mason University. Brooke is passionate about creating a strong, joyful middle school experience that helps prepare Preppies for high school and beyond.
Brooke will spend SY23-24 working closely with AMC Principal Emma Bivona before becoming the principal of AMC in SY24-25.