Priscilla Chan, CEO
Priscilla is a pediatrician and an education entrepreneur. In particular, she is interested in integrating her work in health and education through designing and implementing interventions addressing adverse childhood experiences. Prior to entering medical school, she ran an afterschool program in Boston and taught 4th and 5th grade science at the Harker School.
Priscilla earned her BA in Biology with Spanish Citation at Harvard University and her MD at University of California, San Francisco (UCSF). She also completed her pediatrics training in the UCSF/PLUS Pediatrics Residency. Priscilla also serves as an active board member of Start-Up: Education.
Meredith Liu, President and COO
Meredith has a been working in urban K-12 education for over a decade. Most recently, she was the chief financial officer at Match Education, a high performing charter management organization and teacher training program. Prior to that, Meredith served as the managing director of the School Turnaround Group at Mass Insight working with state education agencies and school districts to improve their lowest-performing schools, and as a dean and then board member at Codman Academy, a Boston high school co-located with a health center. She began her career at Bain & Company.
Meredith earned a BA in Economics from Dartmouth College and an MBA at the Harvard Business School. She is also a proud graduate of the D.C. Public Schools.
Andrew Elliott-Chandler, Principal
Andrew worked in east San Jose for the last ten years, teaching and leading in district and charter elementary schools. In between, he spent two years teaching integrated technology at an international school in Shanghai, China. Andrew is a deep believer in the power of joy in learning and meeting the multiple dimensional needs of kids.
Nora Razon, Family and Community Engagement Manager
Nora is originally from Mexico and grew up in East Palo Alto. Over the course of her career, Nora has worked closely with youth and families in a variety of different roles, including at the Peninsula Conflict Resolution Center, the Legal Aid Society, and College Track. Most recently, she was a program coordinator at the Renaissance Entrepreneur Center in East Palo Alto, responsible for developing and leading financial literacy programs for families.
Jessica M. Schumer, Pediatrician and Health Partner Liaison
Jess is a practicing primary care pediatrician and public health advocate. She is passionate about improving community health and designing innovative systems, specifically in early childhood. Jess completed her undergraduate studies at Rice University in Houston and her MD at Tulane University in New Orleans. During medical school, she was involved in starting the first student-run, primary care clinic for post-Katrina residents and created a multi-disciplinary health and wellness initiative in rural Louisiana. She completed her pediatrics residency in the UCSF/PLUS program and a chief resident year at The San Francisco General Hospital and Trauma Center. She is currently a Maternal-Child Health Fellow at the UCLA Center for Healthier Children, Families and Communities and practices in Long Beach, CA.
Lindsey Luebchow, Director of Special Projects
Lindsey is dedicated to making the education system more equitable so that it can meet the needs of underserved children. She has worked in education policy, government, and school operator roles at the federal and local levels. Most recently, she was an attorney and school advisor for Success Academy Charter Schools, a high-performing charter management organization in New York City. Prior to that, she worked at the U.S. Department of Education on civil rights monitoring and policy development for federal education programs.
Lindsey earned a BA in Public Policy Studies from Duke University and a JD from Yale Law School.
Naoko Kudo, Director of Operations
Naoko has been working in K-12 and nonprofit operations management for the last eight years. Most recently, Naoko was a Director of School Operations and later the Director of Network Support Operations at Achievement First, where she oversaw Operations team management, communications, learning and development, knowledge management, and data integrity. Prior to Achievement First, Naoko worked at Gap Inc., Obama for America, the Corporation for National and Community Service, New Leaders, and School of One.
Naoko holds an M.S. in Economics from the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania and is a proud product of the NYC public education system.
Tamara Sobomehin, Business and Operations Manager
Tamara believes in helping people make meaningful connections in order to facilitate new opportunities for peace, unity, personal growth, and success. After graduating from the Talented and Gifted Magnet High School in Dallas, Texas, Tamara attended Stanford University, where she earned a BA in Psychology.
Tamara has worked for several organizations in the Bay Area including Level Playing Field Institute, Live In Peace, Inc., EPASA, Boys & Girls Clubs of the Peninsula, and Team Esface, combining her interests in advocacy, education, and child development with her personal mission to make popular culture positive. Tamara is also a blessed mother of four amazing children, the proud wife of Olatunde Sobomehin, and a humble singer in the locally acclaimed East Palo Alto reggae band - RAFA - whose focus is to bring healing to people through their music, words, and individual actions.
Sunita Mohanty, Director of Early Childhood & Parent Systems
Sunita is passionate about bringing together the fields of health sciences, education and technology to give children and families a strong start from early childhood. Previously, Sunita started LumiKids (by Lumosity), a digital playspace for young children to have fun while exploring adaptive & intuitive early learning activities. Sunita's prior career includes being a founding team member of an education analytics startup, venture philanthropy investing to support urban school districts and roles in finance. Sunita serves on the Board of Directors of the San Francisco Children's Creativity Museum.
Sunita earned a BBA from University of Michigan and a joint MBA / M.A. Ed (with a focus on Learning Design & Technology) from Stanford University.
Shawneece Stevenson, Manager of Parent Program
Shawneece has joined The Primary School as the Manager of Parent Program. Shawneece began her work in Early Childhood Education as a Parent Educator in Parents as Teachers Program in Cincinnati, Ohio. This work inspired her to pursue a Masters in Social Work Administration from the University of Cincinnati. Shawneece has had variety of organizational and family service experience working with young children, their families, and communities in which they live. Most recently, she managed a local Regional Center’s California Early Start Program serving infants and toddlers with developmental disabilities and their families. Shawneece has a strong value of supporting families through the development of their child. Most importantly, she is a wife and parent of three children with a variety of health and educational needs. She is a proud parent of the Ravenswood and Sequoia Unified School Districts.
Becky Johnson, Special Education Senior Teacher
Becky spent the past eight years working in Education, spanning multiple grade levels, multiple roles, and multiple states. She is committed to serving all students, and dedicated to building programs and schools that support students with diverse needs. Becky has served as a teacher, behavior coach, camp counselor and Assistant Principal across public and charter schools in San Jose, and teaches a course on Positive Behavior Management at Loyola Marymount University.
Becky received her BA from the University of Southern California, and her Masters in Special Education from Hunter College/Relay in New York City.
Vanessa Ibarra, Lead Teacher
Vanessa grew up in East Palo Alto is first-generation college graduate in her family of six. Vanessa has spent the last four years working at Bing Nursery School teaching 2 to 5-year-old children. Through out the course of her career, Vanessa has spent a significant amount of time volunteering and working with a variety of age-groups ranging from Pre-K to 8th grade in East Palo Alto and Massachusetts. Vanessa is passionate about serving her community and helping all children receive a well-rounded education during the most important years of their lives. She believes wholeheartedly that a child’s success is greatly enhanced when teachers and parents are partners in the learning process. Most recently, Vanessa volunteered with 10 Books A Home, a non-profit organization in EPA, where she spent two years mentoring and working alongside a 3-year-old and her mother as they prepared for the transition to kindergarten in the Ravenswood School District.
Vanessa earned her BA in Psychology and Early Childhood Education in addition to obtaining her teaching credentials from Mount Holyoke College in Massachusetts.
Krystina Tapia, Lead Teacher
Krystina is an Early Childhood Educator that is passionate about creating innovative curriculum that is individualized and accessible for all children. She is a S.T.E.A.M. (Science, Technology, Engineering, Art & Design, Mathematics) nerd and loves to find relevant ways to incorporate these concepts in her work with young children. Krystina believes that all children are capable and competent individuals that can reach their full potential with support, guidance and love. She is excited to brush up on her native Spanish speaking skills while working at The Primary School.
Krystina earned a BA in Psychology and minors in Spanish and Applied Developmental Psychology from UCLA and a MA in Early Childhood Education from Teachers College, Columbia University. She also has a certificate in Digital Technologies and the Early Childhood Environment from Bank Street College of Education.
Jen Merz, Lead Teacher
Jen worked as a teacher in East San Jose for the last seven years. She is passionate about early literacy and developing a love for reading and learning. Jen believes in supporting all students by working closely with families to meet the diverse needs of each child.
Jen received her BA in Psychology from the University of California, Los Angeles. She discovered her love for teaching working as an Assistant Teacher at the UCLA Lab School. Jen is proficient in Spanish.
Jessica Barajas, Associate Teacher
Jessica is passionate about educational equity for children and youth. She was previously a Researcher at Stanford’s Understanding Language Initiative focused on promoting the educational needs of English Language Learners, and the Manager of the Hispanic Heritage Foundation’s Latinos on Fast Track (LOFT) Program, dedicated to inspiring, and preparing emerging Latino students for leadership roles across different industries. Jessica has also very much enjoyed her experience as middle school tutor for the East Palo Alto Stanford Academy (EPASA).
Jessica earned her Bachelor's degree in Education and Political Science with a minor in Latin American Studies from Swarthmore College, and her Masters Degree in Policy, Leadership, and Organization from the Stanford Graduate School of Education. Jessica was born in Los Angeles, California, and raised in Jalisco, Mexico. Jessica feels excited to bring her native Spanish language skills and her biculturalism to her students.
Sarai Villarreal, Assistant Teacher
Hola! I'm Sarai Villarreal, I have been working with youth since 2009, and in the Belle Haven and East Palo Alto community since 2012. That is where my passion for teaching began, and ever since I have been working in various areas of youth development.
I graduated with a BA in Latina/o Studies with a focus on educational equity from San Francisco State University in May of 2016 and am so excited to bring all my experiences and knowledge into the Primary School. Growing up in Redwood City and East Palo Alto has given me a sense of community. It has made proud to be bilingual and a Latina educator that can give back to my community. I look forward to learning and growing together!
Karen Melendez-Alvarenga, Assistant Teacher
Karen Melendez-Alvarenga is a dedicated and qualified early childhood teacher with a passion for children’s learning and care. She has over 12 years experience working in preschool and school environments with children ranging from 1-5 years-old. She is creative, enthusiastic, and sensitive to children’s individual needs. She believes strongly in the value of consistency and routine for children, families, and staff. She also believes that the quality of education a person receives in early life is essential in bringing out that person’s potential and that all children should have access to quality learning and care. Growing up in East Palo Alto, she understands the importance of partnering with families and supporting the local community.
Uwimana Middleton, Assistant Teacher
Uwimana Middleton has over 17 years of experience in early childhood education. She has worked with universities, non profit organizations, and schools fully supporting the developmental needs of children. Her earliest learning experiences fuel her passion to advocate for the misunderstood and underrepresented children in the Bay Area. She is a wife and mother of two (Malaika and Christian). Uwimana and her family have a long history with the city of East Palo Alto. Having volunteered at and supported a variety of East Palo Alto non-profits over the years (Mural Music & Arts Project, StreetCode Academy). A number of Uwimana's close relatives and friends reside in EPA presently. Uwimana has also had the unique experience of working in schools and orphanages in Tegucigalpa Honduras, Lagos Nigeria, and Antigua Guatemala. Before joining The Primary School, Uwimana operated her own family childcare in Union City, CA (Learning for Tomorrow).
Uwimana holds a Bachelors Degree in Human Development with emphasis on Child Growth and Development from Pacific Oaks College.
Valentina Helo-Villegas, Parent Coach
Valentina combines mental health, community empowerment, and education to guide families towards a path of transformation and resiliency. She has extensive experience developing and executing support programs for populations that have been victims of severe trauma. Previously, she was a Bi-Lingual Lead Therapist at CHAC where she led a team of trainees in providing mental health and psycho-educational services to Elementary School students and their families. Prior to that, she was a Clinician at Momentum for Mental Health, and a Clinical Case Manager at Edgewood Center for Children and Families.
Valentina earned a degree in Psychology from Los Andes University in Colombia, her native country, and an M.A. in Counseling Psychology from the Institute of Transpersonal Psychology. She is fluent in Spanish, French and English.
Lydia Marquez, Parent Coach
Lydia has been in the early childhood field for many years, first working as a preschool teacher while a student at the University of Washington, and then as a day camp administrator. She then began her work as a service coordinator with the Early Start program at the San Andreas Regional Center, working with children with special needs from birth to three. She is also trained as a trainer for Touchpoints, and the Program for Infant Toddler Care. In addition, she is trained as an Infant Early Childhood Mental Health Practitioner and Reflective Practice Facilitator. Lydia has come to know the East Palo Alto community through her family that resides here. Lydia is a Spanish speaker.