What we believe:

 

We believe that “a shift is needed by recognizing the assets that English learners bring to the classroom and understanding that some deficits in student performance arise from lack of access and not from limited ability, language proficiency, or cultural differences” (National Academies of Sciences).  Working together to remove barriers to achievement, we can create a future where every student is set up to seize the college and career opportunities before them.

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“I loved being able to see other schools and how they are implementing various practices successfully. I was also able to track data and gain feedback about implementing new practices in the classroom.”– 2018 program participant

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Ensemble Learning’s organizational values reflect our commitment to equity for all students through bold, innovative change in schools: 

  • Equity: Working to make educational systems more just

  • Collaboration: Solving problems together to serve students better

  • Fun: Sustaining ourselves and each other with joy

  • Learning: Continuously exploring, reflecting, and learning

  • Purpose: Anchoring our decisions in the best interest of every student

Staff

Elise Darwish

CEO

Elise leads Ensemble Learning’s strategic vision to improve charter school quality and remove barriers to achievement for underserved students. Previously, Elise was the founding chief academic officer at Aspire Public Schools, where she grew the organization to a high-performing charter management organization with 38 schools in Tennessee and California. She was also the founding instructional coordinator at the San Carlos Charter Learning Center, the first charter school in California and the second in the nation. Elise is a Pahara Fellow and a Leap Ambassador.

Leigh Mingle, PhD

Senior Director of Research and Development

Leigh gathers and analyzes schools’ data and writes grant proposals for Ensemble Learning. Leigh holds a doctorate in educational psychology from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Previously, Leigh served as a data scientist and researcher for a large school district and curriculum development company. Leigh specializes in understanding motivation in education, particularly in math and science.

Rocio Figueroa

Director of Equity for English Learners

Rocío helps school staff identify and address the needs of English learners using the latest research-based instructional strategies. Rocío holds a master’s degree in educational leadership from Azusa Pacific University. Previously, Rocío served as an instructional coach and district-level administrator overseeing the English learner program for a large urban school district. Rocío specializes in understanding and supporting all language learners, particularly long-term English learners and those in dual-language immersion models.

Tanya Lewis

Director of Finance and Operations

Tanya builds systems that help Ensemble run efficiently with a focus on financial and operational systems such as budgeting and onboarding. Tanya holds a master’s in business administration in Finance from the University of New Orleans. Previously, Tanya served as the COO of a New Orleans charter network.

Katherine Hamilton

Director of Special Projects

Katherine ensures that projects are executed well by planning meetings, establishing relationships with partners, and developing instructional content. Katherine holds a master’s degree in education from Stanford University. Previously, Katherine served charter management organizations, managing teacher development, curriculum, and English learner programs.

Kettisha Jones

Lead Principal Coach

Kettisha leads the principal coaches in the approach, design and implementation of coaching. Kettisha holds a master’s degree in Administration and Supervision from the University of Houston. Previously, Kettisha served as the Assistant Superintendent of Elementary Education at Pflugerville ISD and a principal for Houston ISD. Kettisha is currently a School Systems Leadership Fellow.

James Waller

Principal Coach

James coaches principals in leadership and instruction. James holds a master’s degree in Educational Administration from California State University, Dominguez Hills. Previously, James served as Vice President of Second Student Achievement for the ICEF View Park family of schools and ICEF Inglewood Middle and as Principal at Alliance Gertz-Ressler High School.

Julio César Contreras

Principal Coach

Julio coaches principals in leadership and instruction. Julio holds a master’s in Educational Leadership from Aurora University. Previously, Julio has served as a Principal Supervisor Trainer at New Leaders for New Schools; as a bilingual teacher, assistant principal, principal and district leader at Chicago Public Schools, a Principal Supervisor at Tulsa Public Schools and KIPP San Antonio, and as a Dean Fellow for Relay Graduate School of Education. Julio is a recognized 2016 USA Education Week Leader to Learn From.

Sherre Vernon

Principal Coach

Sherre coaches principals in leadership and instruction. Previously, Sherre served as the chief academic officer for THRIVE Public Schools, as a Principal for Camino Nuevo Charter Academy, and the Dean of Student Culture at Ánimo Western Middle School, a Green Dot school.

Board

Beth Hunkapiller

Beth is a former middle school educator and administrator. She is a 19-year member of the Board of Education of the San Carlos School District Board of Trustees. She was a founder of the San Carlos Charter Learning Center and the director of the Charter School Division for the state of California. She earned her Bachelor of Arts from Oklahoma Baptist University and her master’s degree from the University of Southern California.

Adeola (Ola) Whitney

Ola is the chief regional officer at iMentor. She was previously chief regional operations officer at Reading Partners, where she managed more than 14 executives across the country. Before Reading Partners, Ola served as Playworks’ executive director for the Greater New York/Greater Newark region. Prior to her work in nonprofits, she spent nearly a decade in leadership roles at Kaplan. She has a Bachelor of Arts from Oberlin College.

Pablo Mejia

Pablo is the Vice President of Program Innovation at IDEA Public Schools and leads individualized learning across all 61 schools, impacting over 33,000 students. Before joining IDEA, Pablo worked in the Weslaco Independent School District for ten years as a teacher, curriculum facilitator, and principal. Pablo started his career with Teach for America in the Rio Grande Valley in Texas. He has a Bachelor of Arts from the University of California at Los Angeles and a master’s degree in Educational Leadership at the University of Texas Pan American.

Simmons Lettre

Simmons is an education consultant and advises organizations on creating and scaling effective programs to catalyze public K-12 education reform. Prior to launching her consulting work, Simmons co-founded and served as the CEO of Charter Board Partners (CBP), a national nonprofit dedicated to improving charter school board governance in ways that sustain effective schools. She is a Pahara-Aspen Fellow and holds a master’s in School Leadership from the Harvard University and a Bachelor of Arts from Davidson College.

Max Polaner

Max is the first Executive Director of the New York region for iMentor. Max came to iMentor after completing ten years as the Chief Financial and Strategy Officer of Achievement First, a network of college preparatory K-12 charter schools, which grew from serving 900 to over 10,000 students during Max’s tenure. Before joining Achievement First, Max spent 12 years in the private sector, primarily at fast-growing start-up companies, and also as a consultant at McKinsey and Company as well as the head of quality control for his family’s business, Polaner Preserves. Max started his career as a public middle school math, social studies and music teacher in the San Francisco Bay Area. He received a Masters of Public Policy from the Kennedy School of Government, an MBA from Harvard Business School, his teacher’s certificate from San Francisco State University and his BA from Yale University.

Maria Cristina R. Heredia

Maria Heredia’s work focuses on creating, expanding and supporting innovative and effective educational opportunities for K-12 and college students. She has been actively involved with charter schools and education nonprofits in California for over twenty years. Maria works at High Tech High in the dual role of Chief Operations Officer and General Counsel. She leads a dedicated operations team and supports the HTH school leadership teams in a variety of areas, including establishing and growing operational systems, strategic planning, board engagement, authorizer and stakeholder relations, and the development of policies and practices reflective HTH culture and design principles. Maria previously served as Senior Vice President of Legal Advocacy and General Counsel to the California Charter Schools Association. At CCSA, Maria expanded advocacy efforts on behalf of California charter schools, while leading an action that significantly increased the facilities available to children attending charter schools in Los Angeles.