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DC Prep’s Home Office team establishes, supports, and ultimately oversees each campus as well as the health and stability of the organization – all while striving to support terrific teaching and learning in every classroom.
DC Prep’s School Leaders build a unique and close-knit learning community at each school campus.
Jonathan Caldera is the Resident Principal at Edgewood Elementary Campus for SY19-20, and will be stepping into the Principal role in SY20-21. Jonathan has previously served as an Assistant Principal and as the Dean of Students at EEC. He has received principal training from Relay Graduate School of Education’s National Principals Academy, and from DC’s School Leader Lab. Jonathan attended James Madison University for his Undergraduate Degree in Education and George Mason University for his Graduate Degree in Education.
Neema Desai is passionate and enthusiastic about working with children and building communities that inspire growth, love, and a commitment to bettering our world. Neema joined DC Prep in 2011. Throughout her time at DC Prep, she has served as a math and literacy teacher, founding teacher, and Assistant Principal of Academics and Culture. Before joining the DC Prep team, Neema was a special education teacher in New York, where she completed Teach for America. She has a BS from George Washington University and a MS from Bank Street College.
Avise Hayes is Principal of the Edgewood Elementary Campus (EEC), and joined DC Prep in 2013. Prior to this role, she served as the Assistant Principal of Culture leading student and team culture efforts throughout EEC. After completing her time as a Teach For America (TFA) corps member in Philadelphia, she stayed in the city to teach in a public middle school. She then became a Reading Curriculum Coordinator and TFA’s Professional Learning Community Coordinator. At KIPP Philadelphia Charter School she was also a 7th grade teacher and Chair, as well as the Assistant Principal. Avise’s BA is from Spelman College, and she holds two MS degrees from Chestnut Hill College and National Louis University.
Kent Strader joined DC Prep in 2013, and is the Benning Elementary Campus (BEC) Principal. Prior to this role, he served Benning Elementary students as an Assistant Principal of Academics, the Math, Science, and Social Studies Instructional Coordinator, Math Department Chair, and a 3rd Grade Literacy teacher. Outside of DC Prep, Kent served as a Resident Principal of the Dante Alighieri Montessori School and PA Shaw Elementary School in Boston, MA and a 1st and 3rd grade teacher in New Orleans, LA. Kent earned a BA from Georgetown University and an MEd from the Harvard University Graduate School of Education.
Rachel McClam joined DC Prep in 2010 after completing two years as a Metro DC Teach For America corps member, and currently serves as the Edgewood Middle Campus (EMC) Principal. Prior to that role, she served as an Assistant Principal of Academics as well as a 5th grade Math teacher. Rachel’s previous experience includes teaching 3rd grade at a DC charter school and student teaching experience in Durham, NC. Rachel holds a BA from Duke University and an MAT from American University.
Erin Waldron is the Principal of the Benning Middle Campus. She joined DC Prep in 2013 and, in her tenure, has served as an Assistant Principal of Academics and Founding Faculty member at the campus, where she taught 4th grade Math in the school's inaugural year. Before joining the DC Prep team, Erin was a founding 6th grade math teacher with Teach For America in Brooklyn, and then became math department Chair and an Assistant Principal. She has a BS from Georgetown University and an MS from Teacher U at Hunter College.
Laura Maestas, Chief Executive Officer, joined DC Prep in 2016 and previously served as the Chief Talent Officer. Prior to DC Prep, Laura was the Chief Talent Officer at Uncommon Schools – overseeing Recruitment, Organizational Learning, Performance Management, Human Resources, and Uncommon Impact, as well as serving as a member of Uncommon's Executive Team. While at Uncommon, she also served as the Chief Operating Officer for the Teach Like a Champion team, where she helped identify effective ways to share best practices with other school systems and educators. Laura also has extensive experience working in traditional school systems, as the Director of School Leadership for the New York City Department of Education, and at both the district and state level while a management consultant at McKinsey & Company. Laura received her bachelor’s degree in Political Science and Economics from Kenyon College, where she was a Latino Scholar and Phi Beta Kappa. She also earned a J.D. from NYU School of Law, where she was a Dean's Scholar. She is a member of the New York bar.
Maura Englender joined DC Prep in 2013, and is the Senior Director of Student Support. Prior to this role, she served as Principal, Resident Principal-in-Training, as well as Assistant Principal of Academics at the Benning Elementary Campus (BEC). Maura began her tenure at DC Prep as a Literacy Coordinator at BEC, working with the Kindergarten through 3rd grade Literacy teachers to develop curriculum and improve their instructional practices. Prior to joining the team, Maura taught high school history in North Carolina and served on Teach For America’s DC staff. Maura earned a BA from Lewis and Clark College and an MEd from the Harvard University Graduate School of Education.
Michelle Hess joined DC Prep in 2010 after completing two years as a special education teacher in Phoenix, AZ public schools through the Teach For America program. In her current role as the Senior Director of Student Support, Michelle works closely with the special education coordinators and counselors at each campus to ensure that students receive appropriate support. In her tenure at DC Prep, she has served as Director of Special Education, Assistant Principal of Culture at the Benning Elementary Campus, and the Benning Elementary Campus Special Education Coordinator. Michelle has a BA from Georgetown University and an MEd from Arizona State University.
Tara O’Flaherty joined DC Prep in 2012 and is currently the Senior Director of Schools. Prior to that, she was the Senior Director of Leadership Support, providing coaching and mentoring to leadership teams and individual campus leaders at all DC Prep schools. Before joining the DC Prep team, Tara was a member of the founding team of Chavez Prep and served as both Assistant Principal and Principal. She served as a school leader for Chavez for seven years and in 2012 was named Principal of the Year by the DC Association of Public Chartered Schools. Tara has a BA from Drew University, an MEd from Lesley University, and an MA from The George Washignton University.
Cassie Pergament joined DC Prep in 2006, and is currently the Senior Director of Programs in the Home Office. Prior to this role, she was Principal of the Edgewood Middle Campus (EMC) from 2011-2016. Cassie also served in a variety of roles at EMC, including Instructional Coach, Chair of the English Department, and member of the school Leadership Team. She began her teaching career with Teach For America in Compton, California where she designed and implemented a program for Gifted and Talented students. Cassie also taught at the KIPP: Bridge Charter School in Oakland. Cassie holds a BA in Political Science from the University of Rochester and an MAT from Loyola Marymount University. During the 2010-11 school year, Cassie earned an MEd in School Leadership and participated in an intensive residency program at High Tech High in San Diego.
Katie Severn, President and Chief Academic Officer, joined DC Prep in 2007 and currently works with the principals at all DC Prep campuses to ensure alignment among schools and the highest academic quality across the organization. Katie served as Principal of DC Prep's award-winning Edgewood Middle Campus from 2008-2011. Previously, she worked at SEED Public Charter School, where she served as Principal, Assistant Principal, and Special Education Coordinator. She began her career as an English teacher in Namibia with the Center for Global Education. Upon her return to the United States, Katie joined Teach For America in Houston where she was recognized as both the New Teacher of the Year and the Special Education Teacher of the Year. She is a graduate of New Leaders and holds a bachelor's degree in sociology from Grinnell College and master's degrees in special education and educational administration.
Suraj Patel, Chief Talent Officer, joined DC Prep in 2017. He works to ensure that DC Prep is able to attract, develop, and retain great people for our schools and Home Office. Prior to this role, he served as the Director of People Operations. Suraj joined DC Prep through The Broad Residency in Urban Education, a two-year executive development program of The Broad Foundation. Prior to DC Prep, Suraj was a Project Leader at the Boston Consulting Group, where he focused on Social Impact projects and the People & Organization topic area. He has also worked with NewSchools Venture Fund (as an Education Pioneers Fellow), Chicago Public Schools, and Chicago International Charter Schools. Suraj earned a BS in Mechanical Engineering and a BS in Finance from the University of Pennsylvania, and an MBA from the University of Chicago.
Dan Englender, Chief Operating Officer and Chief Financial Officer, joined DC Prep in 2011 and originally served as an Assistant Principal at the Edgewood Middle Campus where he oversaw instructional and school culture initiatives. In his current role he manages operations, data, technology, enrollment, and finance and real estate teams across DC Prep's growing network of schools. Dan began his career in education as a Teach For America (TFA) corps member in New Haven, CT, teaching high school math. Dan also worked in a variety of roles at TFA, including Program Director in DC. In the summer of 2011 Dan served as a School Director in TFA's summer institute in Philadelphia. He holds a BS from the University of Michigan.
Emily Johannsen, Senior Director of Operations, joined DC Prep in 2013 where she previously served as the Edgewood Middle Campus Operations Manager. In her current role, Emily manages Operations and Safety teams across DC Prep's network. Emily is also an Associate Resident in the Broad Residency in Urban Education, a two-year executive development program of The Broad Foundation. Prior to DC Prep, she worked at Chicago Public Schools as an Education Pioneers Analyst Fellow where she improved the supplier performance review system and streamlined procurement processes. Emily's past business experience includes a project management position at Deloitte Consulting LLP, and she has also promoted the Young Women’s Leadership Charter School in Chicago through volunteer recruitment and fundraising events. Emily holds a BS from the University of Illinois.