Our Team


Co- Founder & Co-Head of School 

Kelsey Jones has been both a teacher and leader in education for the past 12 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.
Contact: kjones@bkindependent.org 


Co- Founder & Co-Head of School

Gabriela Tejedor has been both a teacher and leader for the past 9 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. 

Contact: gtejedor@bkindependent.org 


Founding Science Teacher & Science Chair

Lauren Hadam has been both a teacher and leader for the past 6 years and is a Clinton Hill 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.

Contact: lhadam@bkindependent.org 

Vanessa Chandis,

Vice Chair

Vanessa is currently Vice President, Business & Legal Affairs, Content Distribution at NBCUniversal Media, LLC.  Prior to joining NBCU, Vanessa was an Associate in Weil, Gotshal & Manges LLP's complex commercial litigation group. She also served as a law clerk for the Honorable Judge Joel A. Pisano, US District Court of New Jersey.  Vanessa strongly believes in improving access to quality educational opportunities in order to help, and the role educators play in helping, set students up for success later in life.  Before attending law school, Vanessa was a history teacher and coach at St. George's School in Newport, RI and, during law school, Vanessa was a legal writing instructor and volunteer with Street Law, Inc. teaching high school students about their Fourth Amendment rights.  She graduated from Brown University in 2002, and received her Juris Doctorate and Master's in Bioethics from the University of Pennsylvania in 2006.

Sophia Goring-Piard,

Board Member

Sophia Goring-Piard is Of Counsel at Fragomen, Del Rey, Bernsen & Loewy, LLP (B.A., Washington University in St. Louis; J.D., Fordham University School of Law) where she assists individual, multinational and corporate clients with various aspects of corporate U.S. immigration, including nonimmigrant visas, permanent residence, compliance issues and corporate restructuring. Sophia has provided pro bono services to the Harlem, Brooklyn and Bronx communities of the New York City area and in Westchester County, New York throughout her career. Sophia is a current parent at the Manhattan Country School ("MCS"), a private, progressive, Pre-K - 8th grade co-ed school in Manhattan, NY (and a farm in Roxbury, NY)  that has been a model for both progressive education and socioeconomic, racial and ethnic diversity for over 50 years. Sophia also sits on the Board of Trustees of Mount Carmel Pentecostal Church, her local church in the Bronx, New York.

David Oliver,

Board Member

Originally from Jamaica, David attended Southern New Hampshire University. David has over 11 years of Information Technology experience and has spent the last four working closely with non-profits. Through his non-profit experience, he's worked with organizations focused on empowering youth through sports and civil liberties.He currently works at the ACLU as the Manager of Business Insights. He lives in Brooklyn with his wife and two children, Liam and Liah. 

Our Board

Michael Patrick,

Board Chair

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 30 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 Chairpersons Association). He and his also-retired wife, Carol Sedwick, live on the Upper West Side.

Lifan Shen,


Jevon Roush,


Jevon is a filmmaker, born and raised in New York City. While working in commercial film and television, he has also produced extensive promotional and industrial content for not-for-profits. He attended Brown University, graduating with a BA in Comparative Literature. Brooklyn is his home, with his wife and newborn son.

Lifan Shen, CFA, is a wealth management advisor at Bank of America 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 of Harlem Academy

Vinny Dotoli,

Founder & Head of School of Harlem Academy

Phil Kassen,

Director of the Little Red School House & Elisabeth Irwin High School

Hali Lee,

Co-Founder and Managing Director of Faces of Giving



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

Hannah Solomon,

Senior Fellow for Content Development, Teach Like a Champion 


38 Lafayette Avenue - 5th Floor |  646-930-1246

Brooklyn, NY - Fort Greene

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