ECMS Board Members/Founders

Current Board Members

  • Mira Debs (President), Executive Director of Education Studies, Yale University
  • Alayna Stone (Vice President), Assistant Attorney General, State of Connecticut
  • Dave Low (Treasurer), Teacher, The Sound School
  • Keith Krolak (Secretary), Architect, ECMS Parent
  • Susan Clark, ECMS Guide
  • Jose Cuapio, Local Business Owner, ECMS Parent
  • Fernando Muniz, Chief Executive Officer, Community Solutions, Inc
  • Michael Nast, Educational Consultant, Former Superintendent of Stamford Public Schools
  • Rise Nelson, Director of the Afro-American Cultural Center, Assistant Dean of Yale College

Founding Board Members

  • David Low, Teacher, Sound School
  • Eliza Halsey, Executive Director, Elm City Montessori School
  • Erik Clemons, CEO, ConnCAT
  • Joan Bosson-Heenan, Program Director, Yale Center for Genes, Reading and Dyslexia
  • John Freeman, Former Principal, Annie Fisher Montessori Magnet School, Hartford
  • Kenna Barrett, Kenna Barrett Consulting
  • Kia Levey, Project Director, MOMS Partnership
  • Mira Debs, Executive Director, Education Studies Program, Yale University
  • Priscilla Coker Palmer, President, AMI-US Foundation

David Low, Teacher, Sound School
A classroom teacher with 20 years’ experience, Mr. Low has played an integral role in New Haven’s extensive School Reform initiative since its inception, negotiating the landmark teachers’ contract, coordinating the creation and implementation of the new teacher evaluation process, sitting on the City-Wide Reform Committee, and serving as Chair of the Teachers’ Working Group on School Reform. His work in the classroom, as well as the role he has played in shaping the future direction of the school system as it prepares to transition to personalized, mastery-based learning for all students, led to his being recognized as New Haven’s 2012 Teacher of the Year. Mr. Low also created and facilitates the Educators for Progress, Innovation and Collaboration (EPIC) Forum, wherein teachers share best practice and create district-wide professional development outside of school time.

Eliza Halsey, Executive Director, Elm City Montessori School
Eliza Halsey is the Executive Director of ECMS. Prior to joining the ECMS team, she was the New Haven Director of All Our Kin, a nonprofit that trains, supports and sustains community child care providers. Until April 2013, Eliza was the Director of Quality Assurance and Evaluation for Public Allies, a national leadership development organization. In 2003, Eliza worked with a team of community leaders to establish Public Allies Connecticut and then became its first staff member. She joined the Public Allies National Office as a Regional Director in 2006 and assumed her position as Director of Quality Assurance and Evaluation in 2008. In addition to these roles, she has served as Interim Director of Public Allies sites in Chicago and New York. Eliza began her work in youth/leadership development in 2000 at a small NGO in Nepal working with street children in Kathmandu. Prior to her work at Public Allies, she was the AmeriCorps Director at Leadership, Education, and Athletics in Partnership (LEAP), a leading youth development organization in New Haven, CT. Eliza was born and raised in New Haven, where she has been active in a number of community groups and nonprofit boards. She was an Elm City Fellow (Annie E. Casey Foundation) in 2009-10 and participated in the Nonprofit Forum Community Leadership Program in 2003-04. She holds a B.A. in History from Yale University and a Master’s in Public Administration at New York University’s Robert F. Wagner Graduate School of Public Service.

Erik Clemons, CEO, Connecticut Center for Arts & Technology (ConnCAT)
Erik Clemons is the founding CEO and President of the Connecticut Center for Arts and Technology (CONNCAT), a non-profit organization based on the model of Bill Strickland’s, National Center for Arts and Technology, which is dedicated to creating empowering arts based educational environments for at-risk public school students and training programs for under and unemployed adults. Erik has an extensive background in non-profit management. Prior to joining CONNCAT, Erik served as the Executive Director of Leadership, Education, and Athletics in Partnership (LEAP), providing academic and social enrichment programs to youth between the ages of five- twenty-three. Prior to his position at LEAP, Erik served as Director of Vocational Training, at New Haven Job Corps Center. A lifelong resident of Connecticut, Erik is active member of his New Haven community. He currently serves on the Boards of: Cornell Scott Hill Health Center, New Haven Housing Authority, New Haven Legal Aid, CT Voices for Children. Additionally, Erik is a member of the New Haven Public School Education Reform Committee.

Joan Bosson-Heenan, Program Director, Yale Center for Genes, Reading and Dyslexia
Joan has directed clinical research at the Yale University School of Medicine for over eleven years. She has directed studies of child development, head and neck cancer, pediatric, type one diabetes sensor trials and currently serves as the Program Director for the Yale GRaD (Genes, Reading and Dyslexia) Study, an international study of genes and reading disability in minority and Spanish bilingual youth. Born and raised on the Connecticut shoreline Joan and her family moved to the Fair Haven neighborhood five years ago. She has served as Co-Chair of the Chatham Square Neighborhood Association and with the group continues to work toward a healthier, cleaner Fair Haven.

John Freeman, Principal, Annie Fisher Montessori Magnet School
John is Principal of Annie Fisher Montessori Magnet School in Hartford, Connecticut. During his long-time work on behalf of the child, and in addition to being a school leader, John has served as a Montessori elementary guide, a reading specialist, a district-level administrator for Hartford Public Schools, and now, the instructional leader of Hartford’s second comprehensive public Montessori program. In addition, John is currently leading the design process of Connecticut’s first Montessori Adolescent program. He has a B.A. from St. John’s College and completed the Elementary Course at Washington Montessori Institute.

Kenna Barrett, Principal, Kenna Barrett Consulting
Kenna’s 13-year track record involves success in incredibly diverse settings, where she has helped raise millions of dollars in various organizations ranging from start-ups to world-class institutions. Kenna realized her knack for charitable fundraising when she took a summer job as a door-to-door canvasser in college, and was promoted to manager in a week. After obtaining her MA in Philosophy, Kenna returned to fundraising, working with the community-based Sí Se Puede Leadership Program, more than doubling that project’s revenue, and going to raise money for a variety of causes, including social services, the environment, and the national talent search organization A Better Chance. In 2001, Kenna was appointed development officer for Yale University in foundation relations, where she worked with some of the nation’s leading foundations. In 2004, she was appointed Yale Law School’s Director of Leadership Giving and Corporate & Foundation Relations, raising six- and seven-figure gifts for the School and for programs on the changing business environment for media, the rights of immigrants in the post-9/11 world, and more. Kenna has degrees from Wellesley College (BA) and the University of California, San Diego (MA). She is pursuing her PhD in rhetoric and composition at the University of Rhode Island.

Kia Levey, Project Director, The MOMS Partnership
Kia Levey is a New Haven native who has committed 15 years of work and service to the city she calls home. She is  passionate leader and dedicated advocate, deeply connected to challenges faced by communities whose voices are not often recognized. As the daughter of a single mother, the sister of brothers impacted by the plague of community violence and juvenile incarceration and now raising a young son of her own, Kia continues to be motivated to increase her community’s capacity to stop punishing people for being poor, challenged, and victims to the systems that continually fail them. As the project director of the New Haven Mental Health Outreach for MotherS (MOMS) Partnership, Kia continues to strive to build the capacity of individuals , communities and organizations to better respond to the challenges, needs and opportunities that exist for mothers and children who need extra support. Prior to her work with the MOMS Partnership, Kia served as a philanthropic officer at a community Community Foundation coordinating its Communities of Color Initiative and as a program director at Empower New Haven. While at graduate school from 2011-12, Kia advocated for improvements to juvenile diversion and alternative to incarceration programs. In 2012, Kia was recognized by the Connecticut chapter of the National Association of Social Workers as student of the year. Kia serves on the board of directors of several grass-roots, community-responsive organizations. She earned her MSW from the University of Connecticut and a B.A. in Communications from Central Connecticut State University.

Mira Debs, Executive Director, Education Studies Program, Yale University Dr. Debs studies urban education, school choice, school diversity, public policy, and progressive public schools, and she is completing a book manuscript on public Montessori schools. Her other research examines how groups form collective identity through objects, history and their children’s schooling including studies on Italian art, India’s independence struggle and the post-civil rights memory in the American South. Her research has been published in Cultural Sociology, Nations and Nationalism, the Journal of Montessori Research and featured in Education Week and the Christian Science Monitor. Prior to graduate school, Dr. Debs taught high school for five years in Boston area public schools and worked in college admissions at the University of Rochester. She is a founding Board Member of Elm City Montessori School and the founder of Montessori for Social Justice, a grassroots organization of public Montessori educators. Dr. Debs graduated from the University of Chicago, received an MPhil in European Politics and her teacher training from Oxford University and her PhD in Sociology from Yale. She started playing viola in a public school music program in 4th grade and continues to play with local New Haven ensembles.  She also quilts, makes large meals for spontaneous dinner parties and chases after her two children, Gabriel and Francesca.

Priscilla Coker Palmer, President, AMI –US Foundation
Priscilla Coker Palmer is a city of New Haven resident who is currently serving as President of AMI US Foundation, a public charity dedicated to increase the reach of Montessori schools to include those in greatest need. She holds an AMI Montessori primary diploma and taught for several years. She spent 20 years on Wall Street including time as CEO of Brunswick Corporation (now Brunswick UBS Warburg) and has spent the last five years teaching adult literacy in Harlem, New York City to the lowest literacy group of students who in some cases also had no English using Montessori methods.