Friends of Excel Academy Foundation Board
Friends of Excel Academy is a private 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization that provides a range of supports and services to Excel Academy Charter School (MA) and Excel Academy Rhode Island.
Seth Reynolds, Chair
Seth is currently Managing Director and Partner in the Education Practice at Parthenon EY, a strategy consulting firm, where he advises clients across a variety of industries including education. Seth started his career as a bilingual teacher through the Teach for America program. Seth was a founding board member of Excel Academy and served on its Board of Trustees from 2003-2014. He is a graduate of Amherst College and earned an MBA at the MIT Sloan School of Management and MPA at the Harvard Kennedy School.
Megan Preiner, Treasurer
Megan M. Preiner is a Managing Director in the Healthcare Group at Thomas H. Lee Partners. Prior to joining THL, Ms. Preiner worked in the Media & Telecommunications Group at Credit Suisse in New York. She is a graduate of Georgetown University and Harvard Business School.
DJ Cass, Clerk
DJ is the Senior Vice President of Business Development and Strategy at CereVasc. Prior to CereVasc DJ was the Group Vice President of International at Insulet Corporation in London and has spent the last twenty years in the medical device and diagnostics industry at companies including Cytyc Corporation and Hologic. He is a graduate of Syracuse University and earned an MBA at Bentley University.
Shirley Verónica Cardona
Shirley is the Vice President of Marketing at Ellevation Education. Shirley brings over 15 years of experience leading the marketing function for high-growth brands in the consumer goods, travel, and edtech industries. Prior to joining Ellevation, Shirley led Brand and Digital Marketing at Curriculum Associates and served as Vice President on the student and adult tours divisions of EF Education First. Shirley started her career in marketing as a Brand Manager at Procter & Gamble. She holds an MBA from Harvard Business School and a B.A. in Sociology and Romance Languages from Harvard University. She is a proud first-generation college grad and former English Learner.
Massachusetts Excel Academy Board of Trustees
The members of the board of trustees (board) of a charter school are responsible for governing the school and hold the charter for the school, as it is granted by the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education (BESE).
Ben Howe, Chair
Ben is the co-founder and CEO of AGC Partners in Boston, MA. Prior to founding AGC, Ben was a Managing Director and Head of M&A at Cowen Securities. Prior to Cowen he led Montgomery Securities’ East Coast and European Tech Investment Banking practice. He graduated from Trinity College and received an M.S. in Accounting from NYU’s Stern School of Business.
Bernabe Rodriguez, Vice Chair
Bernabe is the current Director and Co-founder of 311 Services for the City of Chelsea. Prior to this position, Bernabe served as the Executive Secretary to the City Manager for two years. Bernabe graduated from Bentley University with a bachelor’s degree in Business Management and is an Excel Academy alumni.
Matt Ottmer, Clerk
Matt Ottmer is a healthcare professional with over 20 years of experience working in leadership roles at companies such as Momenta Pharmaceuticals and Biogen. Matt is a graduate of the University of Michigan and the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University.
Pam currently serves as Senior Vice President, Product Management at Zelis, a healthcare payments company. Prior to joining Zelis, Pam was Chief of Staff to the CEO and head of Business Operations at Beacon Health Options, a leading behavioral health management organization and now part of Anthem. Previously, Pam was a management consultant at Bain & Company, where she consulted on strategic planning, process improvement, and organizational development for healthcare clients. Pam received an MBA from The Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania and a BA with honors from Harvard University.
Devon Petersmeyer Johnson
Devon currently serves as Vice President of Marketing at Converse (owned by Nike). Prior to joining Converse, Devon was Vice President of Marketing at Catalant Technologies after working in brand management at Procter & Gamble and in consulting at Parthenon-EY. She is a graduate of Harvard College and Harvard Business School.
Robert currently serves as the Head of EY-Parthenon’s Education practice. Robert was with Parthenon for 15 years before its combination with EY in August 2014. For two decades, he has led client engagements on general strategy, performance improvement, and investment due diligence across a broad spectrum of educational organizations. His clients include high-growth companies, publicly listed global 100 companies, nonprofit institutions, financial investors, and international governments. Robert is a frequent speaker at leading global forums in the education sector. Prior to joining Parthenon, Robert was with Bain & Company and served as a US Army aviator. He holds a BSE in Economics from the Wharton School of Business and an MBA with high distinction from the Tuck School of Business at Dartmouth.
Steven Zrike is currently the Receiver/Superintendent for the Holyoke Public Schools. Previous to this role, Steve served as the Superintendent of Schools in Wakefield, Massachusetts. From 2011- 2013, he was the Chief of Elementary Schools for the Pilsen-Little Village Network in the Chicago Public Schools. In addition to his experience in Chicago, Steve also served the Boston Public Schools as the turnaround principal of the William Blackstone Elementary School, an inquiry facilitator and leadership coach for four Boston schools, and as principal of both the William Ohrenberger Elementary School and John Philbrick Elementary School.
David Stolow, Treasurer
David Stolow teaches courses for undergraduates and MBAs students on social enterprise and nonprofit management at Boston University’s Questrom School of Business. Prior to joining the BU faculty in 2011, David worked for 20 years in nonprofit management positions in the fields of education, community development, community service, and services for children and families. David has also served on several nonprofit boards and has consulted widely on financial management for nonprofit leaders. David graduated from Yale University with a major in American Studies and earned his master’s degree in Public and Private Management from the Yale School of Management. David’s grandparents and great-grandparents who were immigrants in the early 20th century lived in Chelsea and East Boston.
Nery is a dedicated member of the East Boston and Chelsea communities. Nery currently serves as a Community Outreach and Enrollment Coordinator at the East Boston Neighborhood Health Center. Nery is originally from El Salvador and the parent of two children at Excel Academy.
For nearly 30 years, Dave Sachs has been a passionate, high-energy consumer goods business executive. Dave has a track record of superior performance across a variety of companies and business situations, and has consistently driven growth through strong consumer insight, customer knowledge and organization management. He is a decisive leader with an action orientation and a commitment to developing other future leaders.
Most recently, Dave led a cross-functional team to build a new $100 Million specialty grains business for Bay State Milling, servicing well-known customers including Panera Bread, Clif Bar, Bob’s Red Mill, Wegmans, Costco and Boston-favorite Tatte Bakery. Prior to Bay State, Dave transformed Keurig Green Mountain’s single serve beverages business into a $3.5 Billion industry powerhouse through partnerships with world class coffee brands and expansion into cocoa, tea and coffeehouse-style beverages. Earlier in his career, Dave led well-known consumer businesses for Kraft Foods, including Post Honey Bunches of Oats, Kool Aid, Starbucks Coffee, Tazo Tea and Crystal Light. He began his career in the food industry working in retail management for Giant Foods, the leading grocer in the Baltimore/Washington region. Dave has played leadership roles with the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation, the National MS Society, and AIDS LifeCycle.. He is an avid touring cyclist and Maryland Terrapins basketball fan. Dave holds a BSBA in Business Management from the University of Maryland and an MBA from Washington University in St. Louis, and lives in Newton, MA with his wife Sarah and his children Charlotte and Benjamin.
Rhode Island Excel Academy Board of Trustees
Mayor Brett P. Smiley, Chair
As the 39th Mayor of the City of Providence, Brett Smiley is focused on improving the quality of life for all in the city by supporting quality schools, building safer streets, and improving city services for residents and businesses in every neighborhood. Providence has all of the ingredients to be a world-class city– great restaurants, vibrant neighborhoods, critically-acclaimed arts and culture, and talented people and by getting back to basics, Mayor Smiley believes Providence can be the best-run city in America.
Mayor Smiley brings over a decade of experience in public service, formally serving as the first Chief Operating Officer for the City of Providence, Chief of Staff to former Governor Gina Raimondo, and Rhode Island’s Director of Administration. In that time, Mayor Smiley took on some of the toughest challenges our state faced and delivered results– expanding early education and childcare programs, making community college free for all high school graduates and guiding the state’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic. With these experiences, Mayor Smiley brings ideas, experience and know-how to City Hall, helping Providence businesses and the community succeed.
Mayor Smiley was active in a number of nonprofits, community groups and causes, including Planned Parenthood, Marriage Equality Rhode Island (MERI), Rhode Island Housing, Rhode Island Communities for Addiction Recovery Efforts (RICARES), and the national Gay & Lesbian Victory Fund.
Mayor Smiley is a graduate of DePaul University, where he received a finance degree and an M.B.A. He lives on Hope Street with his husband, Jim DeRentis. Both Jim and Brett are avid runners and share a deep love of Providence.
Mayor Maria Rivera, Clerk
Maria Rivera is the 33rd Mayor of Central Falls. She is the first woman Mayor in city history, and first Latina Mayor in the State of Rhode Island. Prior to her mayoral oath of office, Mayor Rivera was a Senior Eligibility Technician at the Department of Human Services. She is a graduate of the Rhode Island Latina Leadership Institute and has served on boards of Nowell Leadership Academy for parenting and pregnant teens and The Learning Community Charter School, in addition to the Central Falls Board of Canvassers, Central Falls Planning Board, and the Central Falls Nuisance Task Force. She earned her BA in Public Administration from Roger Williams University and is a 1995 graduate of Central Falls High School. During her administration, Mayor Rivera is prioritizing the health and wellness of Central Falls residents during the COVID-19 pandemic, ensuring important access to testing, treatment, vaccines, and much-needed resources to support struggling families.
Mayor Charles Lombardi
Mayor Charles Lombardi is the Mayor of the Town of North Providence and co-owner of Luxury Cleaners, a third-generation owned family business that has been serving customers of Rhode Island for over 60 years.
Channavy Chhay, Vice Chair
Channavy Chhay is the current Executive Director at the Center for Southeast Asians (CSEA). She came to the United States in her early teens with her mother, both genocide survivors and refugees from war-torn Cambodia. As a refugee, she struggled with learning English and trying to “fit in” to American culture. She also witnessed firsthand the hardships that many Southeast Asian refugee families encountered: low-paying jobs working long hours in factories, children navigating a new world with very limited resources, and elders suffering from trauma, malnutrition, and ill health. Channavy came to understand that traditional mainstream organizations could not adequately provide services for many Southeast Asian families, due to significant linguistic and cultural barriers. Channavy’s personal history and unique perspective shape her continued commitment to CSEA as an effective advocate for the needs and aspirations of the Southeast Asian community. CSEA is fully dedicated to addressing system-level changes and working together with its partners to make each year more successful than the last.
Chiv Heng, Treasurer
Chiv is the Sr. Director of Operations at Blackstone Valley Prep Mayoral Academy with over 10 years of experience in educational leadership roles. Prior to working in K-12 education, Chiv worked with several nonprofit organizations in Providence, focused on capacity building and community development. He is a native of Providence, the first in his family born in the U.S., and a first-generation college graduate. Chiv attended Classical High School in Providence, earned a degree in Political Science from the University of Rhode Island, and is a candidate for a master’s degree from Brown University’s Urban Education Policy program.
Liz serves as the Program Manager for the Division of Workforce Partnership at CCRI. Liz brings 10 years of career education experience as a founding member of KIPP NYC College Prep where she worked as a career counselor for high school students from low-income communities and helped thousands of students secure experiential learning and competitive work opportunities. AT CCRI, Liz oversees two large grants to create a Career Innovation Lab that connects students’ academic pathways with career opportunities. Liz believes that her direct experience leading career development and her prior development of a career education toolkit for the NYC DOE will help her serve as a strong leader and advocate for student pathways beyond high school.
Gary is the CEO and founder of SquadLocker. Gary leads a team of best-in-class, dedicated professionals who share his vision to use innovative technologies to reinvent the way sports leagues, teams and schools design and purchase customized gear including uniforms, spirit wear and other apparel. Gary, a multiple patent holder, proudly carries the torch of a third-generation textile scientist and has used his unique knowledge and love of the craft throughout his career in designing and manufacturing high-performance fabrics. In 2009, Gary founded Clearbrands and patented a first-of-its-kind technology that blocks harmful toxins consumers encounter while sleeping on select mattresses and pillows. Prior to Clearbrands, Gary founded Case the Music, a custom guitar and musical instrument case company that eventually evolved into the holding company CTM, LLC. A lifelong New England resident, Gary resides with his family in Providence, Rhode Island. Gary earned his bachelor of science degree in economics at Brandeis University.
Dr. Liza Cariaga-Lo
Dr. Liza Cariaga-Lo is the CEO and Founder of The LCLO Group, a global social entrepreneurial venture to facilitate talent cultivation, workforce development and educational capacity building, as well as providing strategic consultation to educational and corporate entities who seek to develop public-private partnerships aimed at addressing educational, health and economic development access and equity issues in the global south (primarily ASEAN countries) and in underserved communities here in the U.S. Over the past two years, Dr. Cariaga-Lo has also been the Senior Vice President for Education to the SMART Student Health and Wellness programs and the SMART Foundation, an innovative school health solution model aimed at improving health and education outcomes in diverse communities. She served for a number of years as Vice President for Academic Development, Diversity and Inclusion and a faculty member in the Education Department at Brown University. From 2007-2012, Dr. Cariaga-Lo was Asst. Provost for Faculty Development and Diversity at Harvard University. She was previously Asst. Dean at the Yale Graduate School of Arts & Sciences and the Director of the Office for Diversity and Equal Opportunity, as well as a faculty member at Yale Medical School. She received her doctoral training in developmental psychology from Harvard University. She consults widely on diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) issues, problem-based and inquiry-based learning for future of work skills and capabilities, as well as on broader capacity building and strategic planning in higher education. Dr. Cariaga-Lo has been a member of the National Institutes of Health (NIH) NAGMS Council and has served as Chair of the NIH–NIGMS Minority Programs Review Committee and continues to work closely with other federal agencies and foundations on broad educational innovation initiatives to develop and support young scholars from diverse backgrounds. Her areas of research and teaching include problem-based learning and resiliency; diversity and inclusion in higher education; developmental aspects of cultivating talent among historically underserved groups; ethnic minority health and education disparities; and public and institutional policies and practices to address inequality. She was the recipient of the Chang-Lin Tien Leadership in Education Award from the Asian Pacific Fund in 2014. She is currently completing work on a book about the identity development of Asian Americans.
The Excel Academy Advisory Board offers guidance and assistance to the Trustees and organizational leaders on strategic management and educational issues. The Board will also be helpful in advancing Excel’s mission of ensuring students and graduates of Excel succeed in high school and college and are active citizens in their communities.
Tania Del Rio, Chair
Executive Director for the Mayor’s Office of Women’s Advancement
Massachusetts State Representative, First Suffolk District
Daniel J. Ryan
Massachusetts State Representative, Second Suffolk District
Former Boston City Councilor, District One
Former State Representative and Secretary to Governor Baker
Founding Governing Board Member, Excel Academy Charter Schools
Kearney, Donovan & McGee P.C.
Principal, Polaris Public Relations
Alejandra St. Guillen
Director of the Mayor’s Office of New Bostonians, WTC
Managing Director of Network Programming, Building Excellent Schools
Senior Vice President, MassDevelopment