Our Team


Co- Founder & Co-Head of School 
7th Grade Math Teacher 

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
6th & 7th Grade Humanities Teacher 

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 6th & 7th 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 


6th Grade Math Teacher

Everton Laidley 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.

Contact: elaidley@bkindependent.org 

Sophia Goring-Piard,

Vice Board Chair

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

David Oliver is Associate Director of Data Infrastructure at the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU). Prior to his work at the ACLU David worked for the NYC Department of Parks and Recreation and Oceanic Digital Jamaica. He has over 11 years of Information Technology experience and non-profit support. His primary focus has been to work with organizations interested in civil liberties and others where their primary concern was helping to shape the future of our children in various ways, such as through sports or community involvement. David is originally from Jamaica and a graduate of Southern New Hampshire University. 

Kamal Pallan,

Board Member

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. 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. He has also worked in business development at GE Capital and as an investment analyst at the International Finance Corporation.

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.

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.

Dan Schwarz,

Board Member

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.

Dan Schwarz is a partner with Fragomen, Del Bernsen & Loewy, an immigration law firm with 550+ lawyers and 4,300+ employees globally. He focuses on 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.

Brook Shepard,

Board Member

Brook Llewellyn Shepard is the CEO of Mason Interactive, a Digital Agency in the Education space, focused on enrollments and student outcomes.  He graduated from Columbia University in 1998.

Lifan Shen,


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, Harlem Academy

Richard Eaddy,

Senior Managing Director,

Savills Studley

Phil Kassen,


Little Red School House & Elisabeth Irwin High School

Hali Lee,

Co-Founder and Managing Director,

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 

Lindsay N. Wilkinson,

Director of Women's Committee Membership Programs,

Central Park Conservancy


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

Brooklyn, NY - Fort Greene

  • Facebook Basic Black
  • Twitter Basic Black
  • Black Instagram Icon