Founders

KELSEYJONES

Co- Founder & Co-Head of School 

Kelsey Jones has been both a teacher and leader in education for the past 14 years and is a Park Slope resident. Originally from San Diego, Kelsey earned a BS in Management and Accounting from the University of Wisconsin – Madison and her MA in Educational Leadership, Policy and Advocacy from New York University. She is a Teach for America alumnus and was the founding teacher at Uncommon Charter Middle School. During her time at Uncommon Charter Middle School, Kelsey taught grades 5-8, was the Grade Level Leader and Math Department Chair. Kelsey serves on BKI's Board as a Director Trustee. 
Contact: kjones@bkindependent.org 

GABRIELATEJEDOR

Co- Founder & Co-Head of School

Gabriela Tejedor has been both a teacher and leader for the past 11 years and is a Fort Greene resident. Originally from Miami by way of Colombia, Gabriela earned her BS at New York University in Educational Theater and her MA at RELAY Graduate School of Education. She is a Teach for America alumnus and has taught ELA in both elementary and middle school settings. While at Uncommon Charter Middle School she served as both a Grade Level Chair and Network ELA Curriculum Specialist. Gabriela is a 2020 CUP Fellow Alumnus. She serves on BKI's Board as a Director Trustee.

Contact: gtejedor@bkindependent.org 

Our Team

SC headshot.JPG

SHANA CHUNN
6th & 7th Humanities 

JOINING 2021-2022: Shana has been an English teacher for 10 years and is a Crown Heights resident. Her love for teaching began while attending Columbia University, where she majored in English literature. During this time she partnered with local public schools to provide literacy coaching to students in Harlem. Inspired by the students’ progress, Ms. Chunn turned her passion into her career, instructing middle and high school students throughout New York City. She brings to Brooklyn Independent a deep commitment to developing and supporting lifelong readers and learners.

KG headshot.jpg

KEVIN GRIJALVA
6th & 8th Humanities 

JOINING 2021-2022: Kevin has been an educator for 10 years and is a Greenpoint resident. Born and raised in Los Angeles, California, Kevin earned his BA in English Literature from Boston University and his MA in Education from Relay Graduate School of Education. He began his teaching career at Achievement First before becoming a teacher and grade level leader at Uncommon Schools. More recently, he worked as a content developer for Teach Like a Champion's Reading Reconsidered Curriculum, developing several high quality literature units of study for middle schools across the country.

BKI - Day (2)-15.jpg

LAUREN HADAM
Science Chair, 6th-8th Science 

FOUNDING TEACHER: Lauren has been both a teacher and leader for the past 7 years and is a Brooklyn Heights resident. Originally from New Jersey, Lauren earned her BS in Natural Resources and Wildlife Conservation from the University of Delaware and her MA in Environmental Education from New York University. She also holds a Masters in Childhood Education and Special Education from Touro University. While at Uncommon Charter Middle School, she served as both a Grade Level Chair and Science Instructional Leader.

EL headshot2.jpg

EVERTON LAIDLEY
6th & 7th Math

JOINED 2020-2021: Everton has been a Math teacher at the middle school level for the past 5 years and is a resident of Bed-Stuy. Born and raised in Spanish Town Jamaica, Everton attended Ardenne High School in Kingston before moving to Connecticut to attend Wesleyan University. There, he earned a BA with a major in Biology, as well as specializing in classroom technology as a campus job. While at Achievement First in Connecticut and then Brooklyn, he taught 6th and 8th-grade Mathematics, as well as Regents Algebra I, driving exemplary proficiency growth every year. Everton was a member of the Achievement First Leadership fellows program and also led the school's soccer program for 4 years.

ES headshot.jpg

EDEN SCHWARTZ
Social Worker

JOINED 2020-2021: Eden, LMSW, is a social worker with a background in theater and music education, which is woven into her clinical practice working with youth. Eden believes that the intersection of arts and counseling activates deep reflection, expression, and social-emotional learning. Her clinical approach is anti-oppressive and trauma and grief-informed with a relational and developmental lens. A native of Portland, OR, Eden is drawn to nature and has an abiding love for her rescue Pitbull, Lady. She obtained a Masters in Theater Education from New York University and completed her Masters in Social Work at the Silberman School of Social Work at CUNY Hunter College.

AT headshot.jfif

AIDAN THOMAS
6th & 8th Math

JOINING 2021-2022: Aidan grew up in Brooklyn, NY, and attended St. Ann’s School and Colgate University majoring in Japanese and a minor in film. Aidan worked with the after-school program Citizen Schools from 2009-2011. He then joined the Uncommon Schools charter network in 2011 as a founding 6th grade Math teacher. Over the last decade, he taught 5th-8th grade Math, coached and led both the Math and Science departments and eventually transitioned to being principal. He is excited to step back into the classroom at BKI and continue to do what he loves: teach students the beautiful language of math, how to be reflective members of a larger community, and how magical acknowledging our imperfections can be.

EW headshot.png

ETTA WADDELL
Office Manager

JOINING 2021-2022: Etta opens the line of communication between clients, customers, and businesses to get projects done. She specializes in communication, coordination, and is responsible for using progressive systems and applications, including accounting software, mass communication procedures and organizational apps. Etta is a powerful force in the workplace and uses her positive attitude and tireless energy o encourage others to work hard and succeeed. She is inspired daily by her daughter. In her free time, Etta focuses on developing her herbal tea business, cooking, and spending time with family. 

Our Board

Tanya headshot.jpg

TANYA FRIEDMAN
Secretary

JOINED 2020 - Tanya is an educator, writer and facilitator. As a teacher, Tanya earned National Board Certification and was recognized by 826 Valencia for her outstanding instruction. Currently, Tanya uses experiential learning, coaching and inquiry to support and inspire teachers, parents and leaders to examine their work through the lenses of structural inequities, intersectionality, and lived experience. At Hunter College, Tanya studies how people develop the will, capacity, skill and emotional intelligence to enact anti-racist practices. She writes for a range of audiences about ways that privilege shapes our inner and outer landscapes. An alumna of Wesleyan University and Teach for America, Tanya spent two decades in California before returning home to New York, where she lives in Brooklyn with her partner and daughter, a thriving BKI student.

MHolmes Headshot.jpeg

MARILEE HOLMES
Trustee

JOINED 2021 - Marilee Fiebig Holmes is Senior Director for Diversity, Inclusion and Belonging at Save the Children, a leading international humanitarian organization protecting children around the world.  At Save the Children, Marilee leads organizational, program and partner diversity, inclusion and culture initiatives.  Prior to this role, Marilee was Chief of Staff at Roc Nation in NY, where she was the CEO's right hand on all Roc Nation platforms and business needs and oversaw all supporting departments.  Before Roc Nation, Marilee was VP of Operations and General Counsel at Wilhelmina, where she led all legal and business efforts across the company.  Marilee also spent over a decade at large, global law firms in Atlanta and NYC as an immigration attorney.  She is a graduate of Vanderbilt University Law School and the University of Michigan.  

Headshot_Pallan.PNG

KAMAL PALLAN
Trustee

JOINED 2020 - Kamal is a Partner and Chief Operating Officer of Kuramo Capital Management, LLC, a 100% minority-owned and operated investment manager focused on private investments in sub-Saharan Africa. Previously, Kamal served in a number of different executive roles at JPMorgan, most recently as Managing Director for the Global Custody business in the Americas. Prior to JPMorgan, Kamal was an Engagement Manager in the New York office of McKinsey & Company, serving global corporations in financial services, media, and entertainment. Kamal received his MBA from the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania and a BSE in Chemical Engineering summa cum laude from the University of Pennsylvania.

Kamal serves on the Investment Committee for the Kuramo Capital Management and represents the Firm on boards of underlying portfolio investments. Kamal also serves as Treasurer of the Nigeria Higher Education Foundation, a non-profit foundation focused on increasing access to higher education in Nigeria.

michael_patrick.jpg

MICHAEL PATRICK
Chair

INAUGURAL TRUSTEE - Michael is a native New Yorker who attended LREI from the age of four. He later founded LREI's Alumni Association and served on its Board of Trustees for a total of 17 years over two terms, the last ten (2001-2011) as Board Chair. Michael is a lawyer (BA, Syracuse 1975; JD Hofstra, 1978) who spent eight years in public service (NYC Corporation Counsel and US Attorney's Office, SDNY) and 35 in private practice, most recently as a senior partner at Fragomen Worldwide, from which he retired in 2016. Michael is also the President of ISCA (Independent Schools Chairperson Association). He and his also-retired wife, Carol Sedwick (a proud member of BKI's Advisory Board), live on the Upper West Side; their son works at the Tenement Museum as Director of Events & Donor Engagement. 

Jevon Roush_edited_edited.jpg

JEVON ROUSH
Vice Chair

INAUGURAL TRUSTEE - Jevon is an independent filmmaker, born and raised in New York City. As a producer, director and editor, he works predominantly in non-fiction television, producing content for major networks and news outlets including NBC, Discovery, PBS and CNN. He also produces promotional and educational material for leading nonprofits in NYC, including National Resources Defense Council and Studio in a School. Jevon earned a BA in Comparative Literature from Brown University. He now lives in Brooklyn with his wife and two sons, a three year old and a newborn (BKI Classes of 2031 and 2034).

Denise headshot.jpg

DENISE SAVOY
Trustee

JOINED 2020 - Denise is an Educational Consultant with SOLVED Consulting, where she works with literacy teachers to improve the academic achievement of their students.  Denise has 25 years of experience as a classroom teacher and coach.  She is driven by her belief that all students can learn, want to succeed and deserve teachers who can support them to excel.  She believes it is the job of educators to tap into each student’s interests, strengths, personality and cultural identities to ensure their success.  Denise is a proud parent of a Brooklyn Independent student and a graduate of Hampton University with a B.S. in Accounting and earned her teaching credential at San Francisco State University.

Dan Schwarz_New York NY_Traditional Headshot (1) (002).jpg

DAN SCHWARZ
Trustee

JOINED 2020 - Dan is a Partner with Fragomen, Del Rey, Bernsen & Loewy, an immigration law firm with 550+ lawyers and 4,300+ employees globally. He focuses in immigration and nationality law and provides guidance and strategic advice on all types of U.S. immigration matters for employers and high net worth individuals.  This includes corporate, investor, and family immigration law, representing large and small corporate clients within a variety of industries, including academic institutions, finance, technology, sports, fashion, and the arts. He also focuses on the representation of employers during government investigations related to immigration compliance. He graduated from Fordham University in 2003 with a degree in Political Economy, and earned his JD from St. John's in 2006.

Lifan Shen.jpg

LIFAN SHEN
Treasurer

INAUGURAL TRUSTEE - Lifan is a wealth management advisor at Merrill Lynch where he advises high-net-worth families, businesses, and non-profit institutions. Prior to Merrill, he was at Goldman, Sachs & Co. where he managed the personal investments for the firm’s most senior partners. Immigrating to the US and arriving in New York City at the age of one, Lifan passionately supports educational programs for low-income immigrants. He is a Pipeline Member at charity:water and also supports the Chinese-American Planning Council where he was previously a volunteer teaching English and workforce development courses to recent immigrants. Lifan earned an AB In Economics at Dartmouth College and an MBA in Finance and Accounting at the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania.

Our Advisors

Cecilia Clarke, 

President & CEO, Brooklyn Community Foundation 

Vinny Dotoli,

Founder & Head of School, Harlem Academy

headshot-eaddy-richard-web.jpg

Richard Eaddy,

Senior Managing Director,

Savills Studley

Phil Kassen,

Director,

Little Red School House & Elisabeth Irwin High School

Carol Sedwick.jpeg
L_Wilkinson headshot.jpeg

Hali Lee,
Founder, Radiant Strategies; Co-Founder Donors of Color Network; Founder, Asian Women Giving Circle

Carol

Sedwick,

Daytime Emmy Award winning Associate Director, Former Board Trustee at Studio School 

Hannah Solomon,

Senior Fellow for Content Development,

Teach Like a Champion 

Lindsay N. Wilkinson,

Director of Women's Committee Membership Programs,

Central Park Conservancy