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EXECUTIVE LEADERSHIP TEAM
Jay Altman: Chief Executive Officer
Since 1990, Jay has partnered with like-minded parents and educators to provide quality educational opportunities for students in New Orleans open-admission public schools. He taught in the city for several years before co-founding New Orleans Charter Middle School. He was also a founder of James Lewis Extension School, New Orleans Outreach, New Orleans Summerbridge, and Leading Educators. As director of education for London-based ARK schools from 2005 to 2008, Jay helped develop a British network of academies, charter-like schools in complex urban environments. He also was instrumental in establishing two training programs there –
for aspiring principals of open-admission schools, and
for mid-level school leadership.
Sabrina Pence: Chief Academic Officer
Sabrina Pence graduated from Georgetown University in Washington, D.C., and subsequently joined Teach For America, teaching in Pointe Coupee Parish for four years. During that time, she received her Master’s Degree from Louisiana State University in Educational Administration in 2005. She served as a teacher leader, leading parish-wide professional development and teaching a K-3 alternative teacher certification course through the New Teacher Project. In 2006, she moved overseas to Qatar and worked in educational reform as a science consultant for K-6 schools, training Qatari teachers to implement standards-based science instruction. In 2008, she returned to the U.S. to join New Leaders for New Schools, because of a belief that all students have the right to attend an excellent school. After completing her New Leaders residency at Arthur Ashe, Pence served as Principal of Albert Wicker Literacy Academy, where the school saw unprecedented gains, then returning to Ashe as Vice Principal, because she knew it was home. Sabrina served as the School Co-Director at Arthur Ashe Charter School from 2012-2014 and became FirstLine's Chief Academic Officer in July 2014.
Claudia Barker: Chief Development Officer, FirstLine Schools & Executive Director, Edible Schoolyard New Orleans
A native New Orleanian, Claudia has enjoyed serving the non-profit community for the past 30 years both as an executive and as an independent consultant specializing in programs that benefit youth. From 2004 to 2011 Claudia served as the Executive Director of New Orleans Outreach, an organization dedicated to improving the quality of public education in New Orleans by bringing community resources and volunteers into the schools. Before this she served as Director of Young Aspirations/Young Artists (YA/YA), Inc., an arts and social service organization that trains urban youth to become professional artists. As Executive Director of Edible Schoolyard New Orleans, Claudia manages FirstLine Schools' nationally known seed-to-table garden and food education programs. As Chief Development Officer for FirstLine Schools, Claudia manages the fundraising, communication and community partnerships strategy for FirstLine.
Gizelle Banks: Chief Financial Officer
Gizelle Banks joined the FirstLine team in 2017 after serving as Vice President of Finance and Operations at the Urban League of Louisiana for the last nine years. She has also served as Dillard University Controller, Delgado Community College Dean of Administration and Controller, and the Louisiana Technical College’s Director of Accounting. Gizelle brings over 16 years of financial management and reporting, budgeting, general accounting, grants management and financial systems implementation experience to Firstline Schools and holds an MBA with a concentration in Finance.
Tom Shepley: Executive Director of Leadership Development
Tom began his career as a 1992 Teach for America corps member, teaching in Baltimore City and later in Detroit. After completing his Doctorate in Educational Leadership and Reading Policy at the University of Michigan, he returned to Baltimore where he served as a principal for five years. During his principalship, Mt Washington Elementary closed the achievement gaps previously apparent at the school, raising math scores in the primary grades by nearly 30% and virtually closing the gap between those students with disabilities and their non-disabled peers. During his last year as principal, Tom was proud to announce that the school had the highest reading achievement in the city and was subsequently named a Blue Ribbon School for sustained progress. Tom moved to New Orleans in 2008, working for Teach For America as well as New Leaders for New Schools. In 2012, Tom joined the staff at New Schools for New Orleans, where he went on to serve as Vice President of Schools at a time of unprecedented growth in the number of high quality seats in the charter schools of New Orleans. Tom started as Executive Director of Leadership Development at FirstLine Schools in July of 2018. Tom is the happy husband to his wife Nancy and the proud father of two children, Adam and Claire.
Rebekah Cain: Executive Director of Operations
Rebekah came to FirstLine Schools in 2011 from the local chapter of the American Red Cross, where she was the Manager of Marketing and Communication. Prior to her time with the Red Cross, Rebekah had ten years experience in relationship management: first at the Smithsonian Institution and later at a wholesale tourism company. Rebekah spent over three years as FirstLine's Director of Development and Communication and became the Director of Operations in 2014. Rebekah is responsible for student transportation, food service, custodial services, facilities maintenance and IT services for FirstLine. She volunteered in a leadership capacity for two dog rescue organizations in Washington, DC, Boston and New Orleans over a nine-year period. Rebekah has a Master’s Degree from The George Washington University.
KEY NETWORK LEADERS
Sivi Domango: Director of Community/Family Partnerships & Student Programming
Ms. Domango began her teaching career at Lusher Extension School in language arts, then joined the staff of James Lewis Extension School in history. Sivi was the Program Director for New Orleans Outreach for four years before coming to New Orleans Charter Middle School as the School Culture and Behavior Specialist. After Katrina, she worked for a year as Program Director in the Children’s Charter School in Baton Rouge. Ms. Domango returned to New Orleans to help take over and rebuild Samuel Green Charter School in 2006 as Director of Student and Family Support Services and Community Partnerships. She became Dean of Students and then Vice Principal at Green, as well as Director of Culture and Behavior for FirstLine Schools in 2008. She is a member of the 2008 class of Leading Educators, and a graduate of Joseph S. Clark High School, Class of '88, which is now a proud FirstLine School!
Alisha Johnson Perry: Director of Development
Alisha Johnson Perry holds a J.D. in Civil Law from Loyola University of New Orleans, and a bachelor’s degree in Journalism and Spanish from Washington and Lee University, in Lexington, Virginia. She officially entered the fundraising profession in 2007 as development director of the Mississippi Immigrants Rights Alliance, in Jackson, MS, after 10 years as a personal and legislative assistant to former Louisiana State Senator Paulette Irons, in New Orleans. Since 2011, she has used her abilities of consensus-building, organizing volunteers and raising both funds and friends, to help grow FirstLine Schools’ Edible Schoolyard New Orleans program, through grant writing, donor cultivation, and co-management of its premiere annual fundraiser, “An Edible Evening.” These talents have served Alisha and her community well as recent past president of the Edgewood Park Neighborhood Association in Gentilly. Alisha hails from a family of New Orleans public school graduates, which fuels her passion for educational equity, solid community partnerships, and joyful academic experiences for children. When not developing her professional skills, Alisha is building her Scrabble vocabulary and studying children’s book writing.
Neil Williams: Director of Facilities & Transportation
Taylor Smith: Director of Information Systems
Ericka Windon: Director of Human Resources
Kirsten Feil is the Director of Teaching & Learning at FirstLine. She began her career as a Teach For America Corps Member in New Orleans in 1998 at an alternative middle school in Orleans Parish. In 2000, she joined the staff of New Orleans Charter Middle School as an 8th grade social studies teacher and continued working there as a teacher, team lead, and social studies department chair until Katrina. After earning her Master of School Administration at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, she returned to the city and the next iteration of Charter Middle: FirstLine Schools.
Kerrie has served in the field of education and child health for over fifteen years. As a Gulf Coast native, she grew up with a family of farmers and fishermen that inspired her devotion to sharing the joy of gardening and cooking with children. After receiving a Bachelor of Arts in Education and Human Development from the University of New Orleans, she served as an elementary and middle school classroom teacher in New Orleans and Mobile, AL. She became interested in the ways health disparities impacted students’ learning and development and the ways in which schools could further support the whole child. This motivated her to obtain her Master of Public Health in Global Maternal and Child Health from Tulane University. As an educator and program director, Kerrie has focused on health and wellness programs that provide New Orleans children with the tools and resources necessary to thrive and mature into happy healthy adults.
Amanda Sullivan: Director of Student Support Services
A native of New Orleans, Amanda began her career in education as a Kindergarten teacher in Sunflower, MS through Teach for America. In 2009, Amanda returned home to teach at Langston Hughes Academy. After five years as a general education teacher, Amanda moved to Washington D.C. to attend George Washington University to receive her Masters in Special Education, specializing in Emotional and Behavioral Disabilities. Post graduation in 2013, Amanda returned to LHA as Behavior RTI Coordinator and was awarded “Dreamkeeper of the Year” as a result of her support in coaching teachers. In 2015, she moved to Boston where she worked at Brooke Mattapan as a Student Support Coordinator, then moved to Denver where she worked for Denver Public Schools. In May 2018, Amanda and her family moved back home where she rejoined the FirstLine network as the Director of Student Support Services.
Tiffany Robbins: Controller
Tiffany Robbins joined the FirstLine team in March 2018 after serving as the Director of Accounting and Finance at Good Work Network for five years. She has worked as an Audit Manager and auditor at locally owned accounting firms Sean M. Bruno CPAs and Bruno & Tervalon CPAs leading the audits on many local and state non-profit organizations. She also served as the board treasurer for Crescent City Schools. Tiffany brings over 14 years of experience in financial management and reporting, budgeting, governmental accounting, grants management, and internal control systems implementation. Tiffany holds a Bachelor of Science degree in Accounting and is a Certified Public Accountant.