board of directors
Carmen Fariña, Chair - New York City Schools Chancellor
Jonathan D. Harber - Harber Advisors, LLC
J. Christopher Kojima - Managing Director - Head of Alternative Investments and Manager Selection, The Goldman Sachs Group, Inc.
Tondra Lynford - Co-Founder, Resources for Children with Special Needs, Inc.
Lisa Plepler, Secretary - Chairman of the Board of Directors, ArtsConnection
Len Riggio - Chairman, Barnes & Noble
Jerrold Ross - Dean Emeritus, The School of Education at St. John's University
Steve Strongin, Treasurer - Head of Global Investment Research, The Goldman Sachs Group, Inc.
Dennis Williams - Vice President of Corporate Social Responsibility, HBO
Kathy Wylde - President and CEO, The Partnership for New York City
Jose Acevedo: Office Manager
Born and raised in Brooklyn, New York, Jose began his career with the NYC Department of Education as a bookkeeper over 15 years ago and plans to pursue a degree in business management from Brooklyn College. Jose is responsible for the day-to-day operations of The Fund for Public Schools including space and facilities management, IT support, and grant management. Additionally, he provides administrative support and acts as a liaison between the office and building management.
- Who inspires you? I am inspired by my wife and son; they’re two of the brightest people I know.
- What is your favorite quote? “Be the change you wish to see in the world.” -Mahatma Ghandi
- What do you like to do in your spare time? I love to spend time with my family, take day trips, and play fantasy football.
Elizabeth Barr: Chief Administrative Officer
Elizabeth has spent the majority of her career in media, where she has held positions ranging from reporter covering fashion to VP overseeing the North American rollout of an international brand. The daughter and granddaughter of educators, she joined The Fund to combine her operational skills with her passion for education. At The Fund for Public Schools, Elizabeth facilitates The Fund's operations, overseeing systems, HR, legal and operating procedures, and communications. She first "worked" for The Fund when serving as a mentor to a high school student nearly 20 years ago.
- What was your favorite grade in school? Fourth grade. The teacher, Mrs. Powers, started every day extemporaneously speaking about whatever was going on in the world, from Watergate to the Amazon.
- What’s your favorite part of your job? Seeing some of the amazing work our students are doing.
- What characteristic do you value the most in others? Empathy
Iris Chen: Executive Director
Iris Chen leads The Fund for Public Schools. She brings a deep belief in our students and a passion for engaging champions and building partnerships to ensure our students realize their full potential.
Iris began her career as a fourth- and fifth-grade teacher at P.S. 307 in Brooklyn as part of Teach For America’s charter corps. She went on to hold several leadership roles at Teach For America, including Executive Director of the New York City region, National Program Director, and Director of Public Affairs. She also worked briefly as a consultant at McKinsey & Company and was a Coro Fellow. Previously, Iris served as President and CEO of the “I Have A Dream” Foundation. She most recently helped launch Beyond Z, a new nonprofit organization that is working to ensure that the next generation of global leaders emerges from everywhere.
Iris graduated from Yale University with a BA in East Asian Studies and received a joint JD/MBA degree from Harvard University. She serves on the Board of Trustees of The Lincoln Fund and East Harlem Scholars Academy, and on the Advisory Boards of Delaware Valley College, William E. Macaulay Honors College at The City University of New York, New York Civil Rights Coalition, and Blue Engine. She is a member of the New York Advisory Committee to the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights and a retired member of the New York State Bar Association. An avid runner, Iris has completed 40+ marathons to date, including several ultramarathons.
- What’s your favorite part of your job? The best part of my job is knowing that every day we have the opportunity to open doors for our 1.1 million NYC students.
- What characteristics do you value the most in others? Integrity, generosity of spirit, and compassion.
- As a kid, what did you want to be when you grew up? I grew up thinking I wanted to be a lawyer, but also thought about being a journalist or teacher.
Nisha Dass: Director of Special Projects
After graduating from the University of California, Berkeley, in 2007, Nisha moved to New York City to become a Teach for America corps member. She worked in the South Bronx as a middle-school math teacher and content facilitator before moving to Brooklyn to serve as a founding staff member of Achievement First East New York Middle School. In 2011, she rejoined Teach for America as an instructional coach and later became a national talent recruiter. In her role at The Fund, Nisha oversees a variety of short- and long-term projects, including talent recruitment, team culture and board management.
- Who inspires you? My mother is my inspiration; she made a great many personal sacrifices throughout my childhood to ensure that my sister and I had a quality education. She has an enormous heart, a great laugh and is truly one of the most resilient people I have ever met.
- What do you like to do in your spare time? Go to the movies or the theater, try new restaurants with friends, travel, dance, read and walk through the city.
- What were your favorite subjects in school? In elementary and middle school I liked all of my classes simply because I was allowed to ask a lot of questions! But in high school and college my favorite classes were Biology and History because I had teachers who were incredibly passionate about their subject matter.
Arlene Dominguez: Program Director, School-Based Partnerships
A native New Yorker, Arlene earned her Bachelor of Arts in Journalism from Brooklyn College and Master in Public Administration from New York University’s Wagner Graduate School of Public Service. She has held positions in the nonprofit sector and in the field of higher education. At The Fund for Public Schools, she oversees school-based programs including library enhancements, playground development, and college scholarships. In this capacity, she champions literacy initiatives for low-income students throughout New York City. In 2008, she developed a family reading night program that has engaged hundreds of families in activities to promote reading. She is currently chair of the New York City School Library System Council.
- What was your favorite grade in school? 7th grade was the best; we had ceramics, silk screening, and gymnastics!
- What’s your favorite part of your job? I really enjoy visiting schools and seeing kids in action.
- What is the most surprising thing about you? I love '70s music!
Mike Everett-Lane: Vice President, Partnerships & Public Engagement
Mike has lived in New York for over 20 years. He received a BA in Political Science from Yale University, an MBA from Harvard Business School, and has held leadership positions in several of New York's leading education and social service organizations, including Computers for Youth, Project Renewal, and the Union Settlement Association in East Harlem. Mike received the John C. Whitehead Social Enterprise Award from the Harvard Business School Club of New York, in recognition for his work as an Executive Director for DonorsChoose.org, an online philanthropy marketplace to benefit public schools. Most recently, he served as the Executive Director of College Summit New York / New Jersey, a college readiness program that serves more than 8,000 students in New York City, Trenton, and Newark. Mike is a co-founder of ImprovEdge, a corporate training firm that uses improvisation as a catalyst for learning about teamwork, leadership, and presentation skills, and serves on the board of Kolot Chayeinu in Brooklyn, NY. At The Fund, Mike develops public-private partnerships and promotes greater involvement by all New Yorkers in the education of our city’s 1.1 million children.
- Who inspires you? I'm inspired by my two sons, who bring such curiosity, perseverance, and joy to life.
- What’s your favorite part of your job? I'm so grateful for the many educational opportunities I had in the public schools growing up, beginning with the Head Start program. I'm even more grateful for the education my kids are getting now in the New York City public schools. My favorite part of my job is the chance to give back to the schools and all our city's students.
- What is your favorite quote? "If I am not for myself, who will be for me? If I am only for myself, what am I? And if not now, when?" -Hillel
Catherine Fukushima: Senior Portfolio Director
Catherine has worked with foundations, museums, and arts and education organizations to develop and implement strategies to increase access to arts and culture and improve organizational effectiveness. Most recently, she was a senior program officer in the arts for the Wallace Foundation where she was responsible for advancing two initiatives of national scope: the Wallace Excellence Awards and Arts for Young People. Previously, Catherine held positions at The Metropolitan Museum of Art, The Brooklyn Museum, and the Museum of American Folk Art. A frequent speaker on nonprofit management, Catherine is an adjunct professor with the George E. Heyman Center for Philanthropy and Fundraising at New York University and taught previously in Seton Hall University’s Museum Professions Graduate Program.
- What was your favorite grade in school? First grade was wonderful! Learning to read opened up so many possibilities. We also did several hands-on learning projects that I remember to this day.
- What is the most surprising thing about you? I have swum between Brooklyn and Manhattan five times.
- What characteristic do you value the most in others? Clarity
Gianni Lopez: Outreach Coordinator, New York City Mentoring Program
Gianni holds bachelor’s degrees in psychology and children and youth studies from the City University of New York’s Brooklyn College. Prior to working at the New York City Mentoring Program (NYCMP), Gianni experienced mentoring first hand as a mentee with the Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis High School/Lehman Brothers mentoring program – one of the local programs of NYCMP at the time. At the NYCMP, Gianni works closely with the school and mentor coordinators to assure that all programs run smoothly and efficiently throughout the school year by providing them with the necessary training, activity ideas, and technical support.
- What’s your favorite part of your job? I love being able to give back to a program that gave me so much. My experience as a mentee was phenomenal and I learned lessons that I will carry with me forever. The fact that I can now assist in providing this service to other NYC youth makes the experience even better.
- If you could meet anybody (alive or deceased) in person, who would it be and why? My maternal great-grandmother. She raised my mother and her five siblings in the Dominican Republic in a humble three-room house. Based on conversations I’ve had with my mother, she was a sweet woman who always put others first and loved to make kids laugh by making funny faces.
- What is your favorite quote? “To live is the rarest thing in the world. Most people exist, that is all.” -Oscar Wilde
Lori Mastromauro: Director, New York City Mentoring Program
Lori holds a master’s degree in public administration from New York University and studied communications as an undergraduate at the State University of New York at Oswego. She has been working in program management for over 20 years, beginning her career with New York State as Director of Mentoring Initiatives in K-8 schools on Long Island. After consulting for a variety of organizations interested in starting mentoring programs across the country, Lori joined the New York City Mentoring Program where she currently oversees mentoring programs in high schools citywide, assists partner companies and organizations in program development and operation, and trains participants on a variety of mentoring model components.
- What’s your favorite part of your job? I love training student mentees on how to make the most of their mentoring relationships. It is exciting to help them think about the possibilities, knowing their participation will have a meaningful impact on their lives.
- Who inspires you? Volunteers who take time out of their schedules to help others are awesome individuals. Not only do they help others, but they inspire others to do the same.
- What characteristic do you value the most in others? Integrity.
Nadeen Naj-Baldeo: Senior Accountant
Before joining The Fund for Public Schools, Nadeen graduated from Baruch College with a Bachelor of Science in Human Services Management and worked at nonprofit organizations focused on providing services for individuals with developmental disabilities and helping young pregnant teens become self-reliant. Nadeen’s main responsibilities at The Fund include managing the investment portfolio, overseeing grant management analysis, internal and external financial reporting, assisting in the preparation of audited financial statements and tax returns, and various HR functions.
- Who is a hero of yours? My mother, who has taught me that faith, strength, and belief in one’s self will take you a long way.
- What three words best describe you? Loyal, honest, conscientious.
- What do you like to do in your spare time? I love reading and listening to music.
Mary Schacherbauer: Senior Scheduler & Special Assistant
Mary is a native New Yorker who studied English literature and theology at Queens College and Adelphi University. Throughout her career, Mary has supported C-level executives for organizations specializing in investment banking, most notably at the boutique M+A firm James D. Wolfensohn, Inc. At The Fund for Public Schools, Mary manages the day-to-day scheduling for the organization’s Executive Director. Mary’s dedication to the city’s 1.1 million school children is evident as she celebrates her 11th year working with the Department of Education.
- Who inspires you? My mother, who, when faced with cancer, taught me the true meanings of strength, courage, respect, and love.
- What characteristic do you value the most in others? Openness and accessibility. An open heart leads you to other open hearts.
- What do you like to do in your spare time? I am the president of a small nonprofit dedicated to enhancing the lives of shelter dogs by way of re-homing, adoptions, and training. A life-long passion of saving animals began at the tender age of 5 with rescuing earthworms from rain puddles.
Elaine Wu: Program Director, Partnerships & Public Engagement
Originally from the San Francisco Bay Area, Elaine studied international relations at Stanford University and received a master’s degree in comparative education from Zhejiang University in Hangzhou, China. In addition to having managed global entrepreneurship programs for teens in Silicon Valley, Elaine has taught at The American School in London and, most recently, at KIPP South Fulton Academy in Atlanta, Georgia. At The Fund, Elaine inspires others to participate in our students' education by building strategic partnerships and engaging the public across multiple platforms.
- Who inspires you? My mother has always been my source of inspiration in how I approach living life. She taught me to live generously and to always give more than I might receive.
- As a kid, what did you want to be when you grew up? Throughout elementary school, I wanted to be a teacher in whichever grade I happened to be in that year. I've also wanted to be a diplomat and a restaurateur.
- What is the most surprising thing about you? I've studied six languages aside from English. Unfortunately, I can now hold basic conversations in only three and a half of them.
Karen Velesaca: Assistant, New York City Mentoring Program
Karen is a sophomore at The City College of New York who plans on studying psychology and early childhood education. Karen started working with the NYC Mentoring Program as an intern while she was a junior in the Academy of Finance program at Fort Hamilton High School in Brooklyn. Karen supports the NYC Mentoring Program through administrative duties such as handling mentor reference checks, tracking mentor data, and assisting with trainings and citywide coordinator meetings. Karen hopes to someday become a mentor so she can help inspire the next generation of youth in New York City.
- Who inspired you to succeed in school? My mother, who believes higher education is necessary for a successful and fruitful life, inspired me to continue my education and go to college.
- As a kid, what did you want to be when you grew up? I’ve always been driven by a desire to change children’s lives and often dreamt of becoming a social worker.
- What do you like to do in your spare time? I like to read fiction books and scrapbook memorable events of my life.