Our ZETA Team
ZETA Charter Schools - New York City's Board of Trustees is comprised of leaders in the New York City educational landscape who have helped pave the way for tens of thousands of children to access excellent education.
Emily Kim has a decade of experience in education - as a teacher, in special education and early intervention, and on the senior management team of Success Academy Charter Schools, a world-class NYC nonprofit charter school network. Ms. Kim studied at the Teachers College, Columbia University (Ed.M., Teaching of English), the University of Pennsylvania (B.A. & M.A., English), and Columbia Law School (J.D.). She is the mother of three boys and a dedicated charter school parent.
Paola Zalkind's commitment to educational excellence began in the classroom, as a kindergarten teacher. During her school's first testing year, 97% of students passed the New York state assessments, ranking in the top 1% of all New York Schools. After serving as an Assistant Principal, she became the Founding Principal of Success Academy Union Square Elementary School and then Managing Director of Schools, managing a large cohort of elementary and middle schools. She has conducted numerous widely acknowledged trainings for principals of various experience levels and in various school settings. Her primary training focus is on personnel management, teaching leaders how to get rigorous outcomes through their teams. Ms. Zalkind is a Teach for America corps member, and holds an M.A. in Politics and Education from the Teachers College, Columbia University, and a B.A. in Law and Society (Literature minor) from American University.
Jessie Ferguson has dedicated the majority of her career to improving educational outcomes for high-needs students, both as an attorney and as an educator. Ms. Ferguson previously served as Legal Counsel for Success Academy Charter Schools, where she provided advice on matters involving special education, facilities, construction, teacher certification, and general compliance. Prior to joining Success Academy, Ms. Ferguson practiced in the Executive Compensation group at Davis Polk & Wardwell LLP. Ms. Ferguson taught Head Start preschool as a Teach For America corps member. She received her J.D from New York University School of Law and her B.A. in Music and Government and Legal Studies from Bowdoin College.
Aaras Shah joined Zeta as the Associate Director of Finance in 2018. In this role, he leads budgeting, accounting, and financial analysis. Prior to joining Zeta, he worked with KIPP DC, primarily supporting their academic team. Aaras began his career and spent several years as a management consultant at Bain & Company in Texas, where he focused on strategy and cost work for Fortune 500 clients across a variety of industries. Aaras obtained general business and finance degrees from The University of Texas at Austin. In his spare time, he serves on the Advisory Board for Reading Partners NYC and can be found rooting on his Longhorns and Rockets.
Jessica Stein has devoted her career to advocating for students with disabilities. She is passionate about supporting schools and ensuring that all children receive the educational programming and supports they need. Ms. Stein served as Special Education Advisor and Special Education Manager at Success Academy Charter Schools. She was responsible for ensuring that bureaucracy did not get in the way of students with disabilities receiving appropriate special education services quickly. She has developed and delivered a wide variety of special education trainings and managed special education compliance and reporting matters. Ms. Stein is a graduate of Cardozo Law School and Washington University in St. Louis.
Shea Reeder started her career in education in 2005 as a New York City Teaching fellow. During her five years in the Department of Education, she taught 3rd to 5th grades in the South Bronx. In 2010, she joined Success Academy Charter Schools, where she worked as a teacher, Dean, and Leadership Resident (Assistant Principal). In 2014, Ms. Reeder was chosen as the founding Principal of Success Academy Bronx 4, which she led to be one of the top schools in New York in ELA and Math. Ms. Reeder has a bachelor’s in Business Administration from Metropolitan College of New York, a master’s in Urban Education from Mercy College, and received a K-12 Specialist degree from Jones International University. When Ms. Reeder is not working, she is helping her daughter with her slime business or discussing novels with her son.
Amanda Simmons has almost a decade of experience in education and has taught at the preschool, elementary school, middle school, and college levels. Ms. Simmons served most recently as Assistant Principal of Success Academy Bronx 2, where she played a key role in supporting the adults to obtain high outcomes for kids. Prior to becoming an Assistant Principal, Ms. Simmons taught at Success Academy Harlem 5 Elementary School and Success Academy Harlem West Middle School. Ms. Simmons received her B.A in Criminal Justice from Rutgers University and her M.S. in General and Special Education from Touro College.
Allen Thorpe is Managing Director of Hellman & Friedman LLC and a member of the firm's Investment Committee. He leads the New York office and its investing activities in the Healthcare and Financial Services sectors. Mr. Thorpe serves on the Board of Trustees for the NYU Langone Medical Center, the Advisory Council of the Stanford Center on Longevity, the Leadership Council of Robin Hood, and is a Lecturer at Stanford in New York. Mr. Thorpe holds an MBA from Harvard Business School, where he was a Baker Scholar, and a B.A. from Stanford University.
Ken is a long-time ed reformer, philanthropist, and advocate for great schools. Mr. Hirsh was formerly a Managing Director at HBK Investments, a $10 billion multi-strategy investment manager. He was with the firm since its inception and later headed its New York office, with primary responsibility for firm-wide investment and risk management, quantitative strategies, and emerging markets investments. Mr. Hirsh is a leading supporter of education reform with involvement in a variety of organizations including Teach for America, Alliance for School Choice, Democrats for Education Reform, Institute for Justice, The New Teacher Project, and the New York Charter Schools Association.
Linda Zhang is currently the Chief Representative of Bridgewater Associates, Beijing Office. Bridgewater is a global investment management firm, managing $150 billion in assets on behalf of institutional clients. During her tenure there, Ms. Zhang ran the client team responsible for Bridgewater’s Chinese institutional clients and headed the Beijing Representative Office. She subsequently spent time in Bridgewater's core investment group, contributing to its daily research piece for the firm's institutional clients and policy makers around the world. Ms. Zhang holds an MBA from Harvard Business School and an MPA from Harvard Kennedy School of Government. She graduated from Harvard College with a degree in Biochemistry and a Citation in Japanese. Born in Beijing and immigrating to the US at the age of eight, Ms. Zhang has seen first hand the incredible opportunities quality education can give a child. She is passionate about human empowerment and contributing to institutions that enable the next generation to better fulfill their true potential.
Jenny Sedlis is the Executive Director of StudentsFirstNY, a leading education reform organization dedicated to improving public schools throughout New York. A front page New York Times article described StudentsFirstNY under Ms. Sedlis’ leadership as “one of the most powerful forces in Albany.” In 2016 and 2017, Ms. Sedlis was selected for the City & State Albany Power 100 list at #67 and #69. Prior to taking the helm at StudentsFirstNY, Ms. Sedlis co-founded Success Academy Charter Schools with Success CEO Eva Moskowitz in 2006, and helped grow the network from one to 22 schools in eight years. She received national recognition for leading the organization’s pioneering advocacy and parent organizing work. Ms. Sedlis earned a bachelor’s degree in politics and international relations from Scripps College.
Keri Hoyt is President of Noodle Partners, a start-up company disrupting the world of postsecondary online education. Prior to joining Noodle Partners, Ms. Hoyt served for seven years as Executive Vice President of Schooling and Chief Operating Officer of Success Academy Charter Schools, the highest-performing, fastest-growing network of public charter schools across the nation. Ms. Hoyt managed all aspects of running Success Academy through a period of intense growth, from four schools to 32 schools serving 12,000 children, while ensuring that the schools continuously rated among the best public schools in New York (top 1% in math and top 3% in English Language Arts). Ms. Hoyt holds an MBA from the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania and a B.A., English, from the University of New Hampshire.
Shannon Kete was a member of the inaugural class of the Broad Residency in Education Program in 2003, while also serving in the Chancellor's Office of the New York City public school system during the early days of Children First, the reform effort led by Mayor Bloomberg and Chancellor Joel Klein. From 2011 to 2013, Ms. Kete served as Chief Operating Officer and Senior Managing Director of Operations at Success Academy Charter Schools, one of the highest-growth and highest-performing charter school networks in the country. Ms. Kete has also worked at Amplify, an education technology company, as Chief Operating Officer of the Learning Division, and later as Senior Vice President of Sales; and at PLTW, a national STEM curriculum company, as Chief Operating Officer and Acting President. Currently, Ms. Kete is Chief Delivery Officer at CLS, a global foreign exchange settlement bank. She holds an MBA from Harvard Business School and was a Morehead-Cain Scholar at UNC Chapel Hill.
Samara Penn Savary is Senior Counsel, Litigation, at Bristol-Myers Squibb Company. Prior to joining Bristol-Myers Squibb, Ms. Penn Savary was a litigation partner at Kirkland & Ellis LLP. Ms. Penn Savary has always had an interest in educational equity and a passion for education reform. As a student, she conducted independent research on various issues facing New York City public schools, and mentored and tutored high school students. As an attorney, she has represented more than a dozen charter schools in high-stakes litigation challenging charter school openings and co-locations in district school buildings. She also worked on a team that obtained a critical victory for a group of New York City public charter schools by securing dismissal of a class action lawsuit asking the court to compel the Department of Education to collect more than $100 million in rent from the schools. Ms. Penn Savary holds a J.D. from Columbia Law School, and an A.B. from Princeton University’s Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs.
Nicole Brisbane is the New York State Director for Democrats for Education Reform (DFER). She works with New York Democratic leaders to develop a coalition of voices for public education reform. Ms. Brisbane is originally from Miami, FL, born to immigrant parents. After graduating from Miami-Dade County Public Schools and Florida State University, she taught middle school intensive reading and language arts to students who were four or more years behind their peers. Ms. Brisbane attended law school at Emory University, during which she had a fellowship with Education Pioneers at D.C. Public Schools, a Florida Bar Fellowship at the Florida Justice Institute (a civil rights law firm) and served as a public defender in the Juvenile Court of Dekalb County in Georgia. Ms. Brisbane worked for Teach for America for four years, working in Miami-Dade on growth strategy and community partnerships and leading TFA’s national new site development efforts. She subsequently joined DFER because, as a public school teacher, she saw firsthand how policies enacted far away from the point of impact affect kids and their ultimate educational opportunities.