KIPP Foundation Leadership Team

We believe that all students will learn and achieve at high levels if given the opportunity.

John Alford
Chief Network Growth Officer
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John Alford

Chief Network Growth Officer

As the Chief Network Growth Officer, John manages the team of Relationship Managers and Strategy Leads at the KIPP Foundation. Additionally, John directly supports a portfolio of regions including New Orleans, Memphis, and Delta. Prior to returning to KIPP, John worked at the New York City Department of Education where he served as Senior Director in the New Schools office, training founding and turnaround principals as a key strategy in the District’s turnaround effort.

Prior to that, John was the Founder, CEO and middle school principal at Langston Hughes Academy Charter School in New Orleans. John helped establish New Schools for New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina and taught fifth grade math at KIPP Ujima Village Academy. John spent four years with the KIPP Foundation during its founding years, first as a Trailblazer and later as the National Director of the Trailblazing team. John has a B.S. in Industrial Engineering from NC A&T State and an MBA from Harvard Business School.

FAVORITE QUOTE:

"Nobody’s built like you. You design yourself." – Shawn Carter

WHO INSPIRES YOU?

My Dad. He demanded excellence and lived what he preached.

Courtney Bell
Chief People Officer
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Courtney Bell

Chief People Officer

Courtney has over 20 years’ experience in human resources, compensation/benefits, talent acquisition/management, talent strategy and values-based leadership coaching. As Chief People Officer, Courtney will lead talent strategy, mitigate risk to the organization and implement talent policies/programs that foster an inclusive work environment where everyone can thrive and grow. Courtney began her career in healthcare as a Human Resources Manager and later as a Human Resources Director. Prior to joining the Foundation, Courtney held several roles at American Express and Ameriprise Financial. She has worked in education for the past 10 years as a Chief People Officer, Managing Director of Talent and Director of Human Resources with KIPP Metro Atlanta Schools.

Courtney earned a B.S. degree in Urban Policy Studies with a specialization in Human Resources from Georgia State University and an MBA from Shorter University in Rome, GA. She completed the Human Resources Management Program at Kennesaw State University and received a certificate in Human Resources. She currently holds a SHRM-CP certificate from the Society of Human Resources Management (SHRM) and a PHR certificate from the Human Resources Certification Institute (HRCI). She also received her mediation certificate from the Justice Center of Atlanta.

Courtney believes that stewarding the hopes and dreams of others is her calling. Her faith is her life compass. Her dog Coco loves to play and snore. She enjoys spending time with her family/friends, reading, and traveling the world.

Favorite quote from anywhere, including KIPPisms:

"Try to be a rainbow in someone’s cloud." – Maya Angelou

Person who most inspires you:

My mother, Vivian Marie Bell

KIPP Foundation Chief Financial Officer Garfield Byrd
Garfield Byrd
Chief Financial Officer
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KIPP Foundation Chief Financial Officer Garfield Byrd

Garfield Byrd

Chief Financial Officer

"Money can be accumulated and lost, but investments you make in yourself can make you very rich indeed."

As Chief Financial Officer (CFO), Garfield Byrd leads the Finance, Grants, Financial Planning and Administration teams at KIPP. Prior to joining KIPP, Garfield spent 25 years in both non-profit and for-profit sectors providing accounting and financial guidance to numerous organizations that had a commitment to positively impact lives and increase access to education. Garfield served as Chief of Finance and Administration for the Wikimedia Foundation, where he worked to support a global network of chapters to improve financial and governance practices. Garfield also served as the executive sponsor for Wikimania, the global conference of the Wikipedia and Wikimedia community, and was awarded San Francisco Bay Area CFO of the Year for a Non-Profit Organization.

Garfield has also served as CFO of The New Teacher Center, CFO of the Silicon Valley Community Foundation, and Treasurer of Pacific Collegiate School. Garfield has an MBA and a B.S in Business Administration from John F. Kennedy University. Garfield enjoys spending time with his high school sweetheart, of over 35 years, in Sausalito, CA and their two sons.

Who inspires you:

I am most inspired by people doing good deeds when they don't have to.

Favorite College Course:

Management Accounting

Jonathan Cowan
Chief Research, Data & Innovation Officer
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Jonathan Cowan

Chief Research, Data & Innovation Officer

"What I love about KIPP is our constant focus on what's best for kids and our relentless quest to learn and get better."

As the Chief Research, Data & Innovation Officer at the KIPP Foundation, Jonathan Cowan partners with and oversees: KIPP’s national Research & Evaluation, Insight & Analytics, KIPP Through College, and Technology teams.

Prior to joining KIPP, Jonathan spent over ten years at The Boston Consulting Group (BCG) where he assisted senior executives of large, complex organizations in addressing strategic, operational, and organizational issues and in managing large scale change. As a principal and then as a partner and managing director at BCG, Jonathan spent several years helping to build and lead BCG’s public education practice. Jonathan has an MBA from Harvard Business School, an MPA from Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government, and a BS in applied mathematics from Yale University.

Jonathan lives in the greater Chicago area with his wife Kris and their three sons.

Favorite College Course:

Intro to Micro Economics

Shelley Goode
Chief Development Officer
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Shelley Goode

Chief Development Officer

Shelley is charged with leading fundraising initiatives for the Foundation. She came to KIPP most recently from Oxfam America, where she served as Vice President of Resource Development. She has 30 years of experience in fundraising, marketing and communications, and nonprofit leadership.

Shelley has promoted solutions and raised funds for issues that include women’s empowerment, STEM initiatives, poverty, migration, homelessness and affordable housing, addiction as well as the reintegration of veterans back into society. She has tackled issues that challenge local environments and emphasized the importance of diversity and inclusion as elements of the solutions. Shelley has raised hundreds of millions of dollars throughout her career, building high-level relationships with individual, foundation, and corporate donors. She has served some of the world’s largest and most respected institutions – including Volunteers of America, the Smithsonian Institution, Spelman College, Syracuse University, and Johns Hopkins University.

Shelley currently serves on the boards of The College of William & Mary Foundation, the Morgan Stanley Global Impact Funding Trust (MS GIFT), and the Massachusetts Chapter of the Association of Fundraising Professionals. She has also led the boards of the Arlington Community Foundation and Doorways for Women and Families, a nonprofit organization in Arlington, VA offering shelter and programs to abused, homeless, and at-risk women and families. Shelly holds a B.A. in arts administration and political science from Mary Baldwin University. She is a 2014 graduate of the Leadership Arlington Signature Program and a 2015 graduate of Leadership Greater Washington.

FAVORITE QUOTE:

"We are not what we know but what we are willing to learn." - Mary Catherine Bateson

WHAT DO YOU WANT TO BE WHEN YOU GROW UP?

A backup singer

KIPP Co-Founder Dave Levin
Dave Levin
Co-Founder                                            
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KIPP Co-Founder Dave Levin

Dave Levin

Co-Founder                                            

"Whenever people question or have doubts about the future, they just need to come into a KIPP school and see the tremendous effort and optimism of our students and teachers. They will see the best of America at work."

From teacher, to principal, to Executive Director, Dave has taken on many roles since co-founding KIPP in 1994. Dave currently works with KIPP leaders on instructional innovation, leadership development, and teacher training.

Throughout his career, Dave has been awarded: The Robin Hood Foundation’s John F. Kennedy, Jr. Hero Award, an Ashoka Fellowship, the National Jefferson Award for Distinguished Public Service by a Private Citizen; the Charles Bronfman Prize, a national service award from Spelman College, Honorary degrees from Duke and Yale University; and the Presidential Citizen’s Medal, our nation’s second highest presidential award for a private citizen.

Dave holds an honorary doctorate of Humane Letters from both Yale University and Duke University. He earned his bachelor’s degree from Yale University. Outside of KIPP, Dave helped co-found five organizations: Relay Graduate School of Education, the Character Lab, Zearn, nXu, and Together Education. Dave lives in New York City with his wife, two sons, and three dogs.

Favorite College Course:

Daily Themes: a writing course

What do you want to be when you grow up?

A yellow lab

Neyha G. Rajan
Acting General Counsel
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Neyha G. Rajan

Acting General Counsel

Neyha G. Rajan comes to KIPP Foundation as a trusted legal advisor and business executive providing practical, holistic, and innovative advice to achieve business goals and outcomes while anticipating and minimizing risk. She is a seasoned litigator and transactional expert on global privacy, data security, corporate governance, finance, I/P, employment, consumer protection, marketing, and complex tech transactions, corporate and nonprofit compliance. In addition, she has been a leader in corporate diversity, equity, and inclusion initiatives.

Earlier in her career, Neyha was an associate at Morrison & Foerster LLP, appellate counsel for California inmates with civil rights and other constitutional claims, and a Commissioner on the Commission on Persons with Disabilities, appointed by the City of Oakland’s Mayor Elihu Harris. Neyha is a Bay Area native and has a B.A. in Economics from U.C. Berkeley (Go Bears!), and a J.D. from U.C. Davis.

Who Inspires You

My mom, an immigrant, feminist, disability rights activist who always offered amazing food and excellent hugs.

Favorite College Course

Development Economics

Kinnari Patel-Smyth
Acting Chief Executive Officer
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Kinnari Patel-Smyth

Acting Chief Executive Officer

Kinnari Patel-Smyth joined the KIPP Foundation as President, Network in 2021, tasked with building on the strengths of the network to ensure that we reach our shared mission. As of May 2022, Kinnari was appointed to Acting CEO, and she is honored and energized to serve the Foundation and network in this capacity. Previously, Kinnari was the executive director with KIPP Metro Atlanta Schools. During her time in Atlanta, the region grew from 5 to 11 schools and serves over 5,000 students. Kinnari joined the KIPP Metro Atlanta Schools team in 2012 as the chief academic officer and served in that role for two years before becoming executive director.

Prior to joining KIPP, Kinnari served as a team member with the Explore Schools Network in Brooklyn. While at Explore Schools, she participated in the national New Leaders principal preparation program, served as the principal of Explore Charter School for five years, and was the managing director of schools responsible for supporting schools and leading the principal residency program.

Kinnari began her career as an elementary school teacher in Atlanta and Fort Worth, driven by the belief that education has the power to be the true equalizer in our country—a belief that continues to fuel her work. She earned her bachelor’s degree in elementary education from Salisbury University in Maryland and her master’s degree in school administration from Pace University in New York. Kinnari loves to travel and enjoys cooking with her family! Kinnari lives in Atlanta with her husband, daughter, and two bunnies.

 

Who inspires you?

My mom. My mom is loyal, courageous, and always finds the good in any situation and/or person.

Favorite course in college

Astronomy! I loved our evening labs and I truly enjoyed learning about something new and magical!

Benny Vásquez
Chief Equity Officer
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Benny Vásquez

Chief Equity Officer

As the organization’s first Chief Equity Officer, Benny Vásquez is responsible for setting and implementing an overarching vision of diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) that works to eliminate systemic organizational marginalization and promotes inclusion and anti-racist practices.

Benny’s journey includes working as the Co-Executive Director of Center for Racial Justice in Education where he trained educators in dismantling racism in their classrooms and communities. He was also the Director of Diversity at The Town School and the Director of Education at GLSEN – the Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network.

In addition to being a published author, his work has included co-chairing the Diversity Committee for the New York Association of Independent Schools, training public school teachers on the Respect For All initiative, collaborating with the NEA in developing materials for No Name Calling Week, and developing social justice focused programming for mission based non-profits. He is also one of the co-founders of The CARLE Institute (Critical Analysis of Race and Learning in Education): An Institute for White Educators.

Benny Vásquez describes himself as a lifelong learner and a seeker of justice. A native of Brooklyn, he graduated from Wesleyan University with a B.A. in African American Studies and Sociology, He has masters in Curriculum and Teaching from Columbia University and an MPA from the Wagner School of Public Service at New York University.

Benny identifies as a parent and an Afro-Latinx Black Queer intersectional activist who has a strong passion for social justice, liberation and anti-racism work within communities and anywhere where children learn.

What was your favorite course in college?

Black Feminism and Masculinity: Dialogue, Struggle and Alliances

Favorite quote:

“¡Pa’lante Siempre Pa’lante! – The Young Lords

Meet a Few KIPP Foundation Teammates

Opportunities at the KIPP Foundation

KIPP schools, KIPP regions, and the KIPP Foundation are united by a common mission, a commitment to excellence, and a belief that if we prepare students with the skills and confidence to pursue the paths they choose, they will build a better tomorrow for themselves, for all those who will follow them, and for us all.