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Board of Trustees:
Davon Russell, Chair and Co-Lead Applicant
Davon Russell is the President of WHEDco, a Bronx-based community development organization and the school’s founding partner. A lifelong educator and mentor who believes in the transformative power of the arts, Davon has been responsible for creating and implementing WHEDco’s research-driven early childhood and youth programs. He began his career at WHEDco as a part-time after school teacher and steadily rose through the organization over 20 years, serving as Executive Vice President from 2007 – 2017. Under Davon’s supervision, WHEDco’s youth programs—serving infants, toddlers, school-age youth, and teens—have achieved stellar results, city-wide recognition, and steady growth. As Executive Vice President, he oversaw WHEDco’s day-to-day operations and programming, and spearheaded all staff meetings and retreats, building upon WHEDco’s solid structure and impeccable track record in community development. Davon was appointed by Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz, Jr. to sit on the NYC Department of Education’s Community Education Council and received the PASEsetter Award Certificate in 2001 for his outstanding service to the city’s youth. He previously served as a Program Coach in The After School Corporation’s Coach-Mentee Program, and on the Advisory Committee of the Madison Square Garden Cheering For Children Foundation. Davon is the co-founder and Board Chair of the South Bronx Early College Academy Charter School, opened in 2015, and serves on the Board of Directors of the Grace Church School. He earned a BA in Telecommunications and Film, as well as an MA in Theatre, from the University of Oregon, Eugene.
Felicia Franklin, Treasurer
Felicia Franklin is a life-long resident of the South Bronx and an entrepreneur with deep roots in the community. She is currently on the Board of Directors of the Grace Church School, sitting on the Educational Committee and Long Range Planning Committee, in addition to serving as the Board liaison to the school’s Diversity Council. She formerly served on the Board of Directors of the Dalton School, serving as the Board Secretary, in addition to sitting on the Development Committee, Diversity Committee, and Committee on Trustees. Ms. Franklin is passionate about bringing the quality of education present in schools like Dalton and Grace Church, both independent schools, to children in her own community through the South Bronx Early College Academy Charter School.
Nancy Biberman, Secretary
Nancy Biberman is the Founder and President Emerita of WHEDco, a Bronx-based community development organization. She served as WHEDco’s Founding President for 25 years, from 1992 – 2017, and now serves as a Senior Advisor for Housing Development, where she oversees the development of Bronx Commons, WHEDco’s third affordable housing development. Ms. Biberman is an expert on green, affordable housing and community development with over thirty years of experience in advocating for greater equity and justice in New York City. She began her career as a Legal Services lawyer and went on to help create the SRO Law Project. While studying at Columbia University’s School of Architecture and Planning with a Revson Fellowship, she conceived and developed the West End Intergenerational Residence. Subsequently, she developed over 700 units of affordable housing in the Highbridge section of the Bronx. Ms. Biberman has received the Paul Davidoff Award for Leadership in Housing and Equal Opportunity from the American Planning Association, the Fannie Baer Besser Award for Public Service from Rutgers Law School, and a James A. Johnson Fellowship from the Fannie Mae Foundation. Ms. Biberman received her BA from Barnard College of Columbia University and her JD from Rutgers University School of Law. She serves on the Board of Directors of Hostos Community College Foundation and the Freelancers Union Insurance Company.
Jodi Benjamin-Schneider is a literacy educator in the New Haven Public Schools. She directs an annual Shakespeare production for students in Grades 5-8. She serves on the Executive Board of New Haven Reads, a one on one tutoring non-profit servicing over 550 students per week who are struggling with literacy skills. Ms. Benjamin-Schneider is a Board Member of The Point, an organization dedicated to youth development and the cultural and economic revitalization in the Hunts Point section of the Bronx. She is also a member of the Programming Committee for Friends of the Children in Harlem, a mentoring organization which pairs a professional mentor with a student for their entire childhood, kindergarten through graduation. Ms. Benjamin-Schneider is passionate about advocacy initiatives that work toward improving outcomes for students, and that give students access to the great education they all deserve.
Dr. Valerie Capers
Dr. Valerie Capers has been lauded by the New York Times as one of the nation’s preeminent jazz educators. She has served on the faculty of the High School of Music and Art, the Manhattan School of Music, and Bronx Community College (CUNY), where she was chairman of the Department of Music and Art for 8 years. As a jazz pianist, Valerie Capers has performed with such musicians as Dizzy Gillespie, Wynton Marsales, Max Roach and Paquito D’Rivera, just to mention a few. Dr. Capers is a composer and arranger. She has received several distinguished commissions, among them are: the Smithsonian Institution, Meet the Composer, the Fund for Artists International, and the CUNY Research Foundation. Oxford University Press publishes her “Portraits in Jazz”, a collection of intermediate piano pieces. Valerie Capers is an inductee in the Bronx Walk of Fame. She has also been honored as one of the Bronx “Living Legends”.
Lori Chemla is a philanthropist with a strong commitment to the arts and education. She currently sits on the Board of Governors for the Bard Center for Curatorial Studies and the Hessel Museum and is a Trustee of the Chinati Foundation. She is also a member of the Whitney Film and Video Committee and the Bronx Museum Education Committee. Previously, she spent two decades as the Co-President of ALTOUR, one of the nation’s largest travel agencies serving the luxury and mid-markets. Ms. Chemla has been a steadfast supporter of WHEDco’s work for the past five years, including taking a lead role in WHEDco’s capital campaign, which will help support the South Bronx Early College Academy Charter School.
Andrea Cohen is an employment and business affairs attorney with over 30 years of legal experience. She currently has her own law practice, which focuses on representing employees in contract and severance negotiations, and representing television production legal affairs. She spent the previous 25 years as an attorney with the ABC Television Network, with the last ten years as Vice President of Business Affairs for ABC News. As the first person in her family to graduate college, Ms. Cohen believes that education is the great American equalizer and dedicates her free time to ensuring that young people have the educational support they need to succeed. Ms. Cohen volunteers with Let’s Get Ready, where she provides one-on-one college admissions mentoring to a low-income, first generation high school student in Westchester, and with Yonkers Partners in Education (YPIE), where she is a member of its Advisory Board. She has also previously served on the High School Principal Search Committee for the Edgemont School Board, and as a member of its Good Business Practice Committee. Ms. Cohen received her BA from Brooklyn College and her JD from George Washington University Law School.
Serigne Gningue is an Associate Mathematics professor and the chair of the Middle and High School Education Department at Lehman College. He received his B.A. from the University of Dakar in Senegal, his M.A. from Lehman College and his Ph.D. from Columbia University.