Melisha “ Mel” Jackman has a long standing history of prioritizing a vision of equity, academic excellence and inquiry for students and families. Prior to joining Brooklyn Kindergarten Society, she was on the executive leadership team and served as the Managing Director of Out of School Time and College Scholars programs at East Harlem Tutorial Program. Mel led the strategic vision to ensure that students in grades K-16 had access to high quality programs and experiences that supported the academic, advocacy and social emotional skills necessary to gain acceptance, persist and graduate high school and college.
Mel has held multiple pedagogical and leadership positions within public schools in New York City. Her instructional career has been dedicated towards creating opportunities for both students and adults to have authentic and meaningful experiences that support deep thinking, curiosity and advocacy. In 2007, she was featured in the New York Time for innovative teaching.
Mel served as the founding science teacher, Early Childhood Director, and Assistant Principal of Arts and Letters School in Brooklyn, New York. During her six- year tenure at Arts and Letters she helped to expand the school to serve grades K-8 and created the science and social studies infused curriculum for its early childhood program.
In 2014, Mel began her tenure as both a middle school and high school principal serving students in Harlem and the South Bronx. She was recognized by the Manhattan Borough President in 2016 for her efforts to create yearlong enrichment, early college exploration and career exploration opportunities for her students. Throughout the years, Mel has served on leadership panels at Bank Street College of Education and Teachers College and continues to raise awareness about creating equity in education.
Mel holds both a Bachelor of Science degree in Chemistry from City College and a Master of Arts degree in Chemistry Education from City College. She was a LEAP Fellow and earned an advanced certificate in Educational Leadership from Baruch College. She currently lives in Brooklyn with her two teenage daughters, Jaime and Melanie.
Programs & Curriculum
Originally from Atlanta, Georgia, Ashley Williams earned a Bachelor’s Degree in Social Work from the University of Georgia and Master’s Degree in Special Education at Hunter College. She is currently pursuing her Doctorate in Education, with a focus in Leadership and Learning in Organizations, at Vanderbilt University.
Ashley was a classroom teacher for nearly a decade. She started her career in education as one of the founding staff members at Coney Island Prep, one of the first charter schools in South Brooklyn. There, she was a 5th grade special education math teacher. During that time she also designed a remedial math curriculum for students who were struggling to meet grade level expectations. Ashley was instrumental in shaping the school’s grade retention process, and later assumed the role of Dean of Student Supports where she was charged with overseeing the special education program. While at Coney Island Prep, Ashley also spent a summer as one of Teach For America’s School Directors. In that role, she served as a summer principal and led a team that trained and developed new educators in preparation for their first full year of teaching.
Wanting to diversify her teaching pedagogy and experience, Ashley went on to teach 1st and 2nd grades at KIPP Infinity in Harlem and the Chapin School on the Upper East Side. Ashley’s passion for helping marginalized communities influenced her decision to return to Coney Island Prep as the Director of Family and Community Engagement. The organization had since grown to serve over 1,000 students in grades K-12 across 3 campuses. As the Director of Family and Community Engagement, Ashley was responsible for working closely with school leaders to ensure families felt connected to their child’s educational experience and the greater Coney Island community. She created the organization’s vision for family engagement as well as developed the yearlong priorities and metrics, and supported Principals and Directors of Operations in creating systems and initiatives to fulfill the set goals. Ashley also oversaw student enrollment, and led the initiative to adopt an online enrollment system. She helped refine the organization’s enrollment expectations, timeline, and processes. Dedicated to promoting racial equity within schools, Ashley was also a part of the team that planned and facilitated quarterly staff trainings on Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion.
In her free time, Ashley loves to travel, spend time with her family and friends, and read. She is excited to join BKS as the Deputy Director of Family and Community Engagement so that she can continue the work of empowering families and communities.
Deputy Director of Family and Community Engagement
Seray Almamy joined Nat Azarow Children’s Center in 2012 as a Group Teacher. He holds an Associate’s of Applied Science Degree in Education from Bronx Community College and a Bachelor’s Degree in Sociology as well as a Master’s Degree in Childhood Education from City College.
Previously, Mr. Almamy worked for Bright Horizon at New York Presbyterian Hospital and Grand Street Settlement’s Early Childhood Program as well as a Teaching Assistant for ten years in Bronx Community College’s Education & Reading Department. Prior to his immigration to the United States, he taught in Sierra Leone and The Gambia.
Director, Nat Azarow Children’s Center
Marcia Thompson has been an Early Childhood Educator for more than 27 years. She taught preschool for almost 10 years and for the past 17 years, Ms. Thompson has worked as a Center Director. Marcia received most of her Early Childhood Education training at City College and gained certification as a Teacher and School Administrator.
Through the years, she has worked on a number of projects with other Early Childhood agencies such as Federation of Protestant Welfare Agencies, Professional Development Institute and the National Association for the Education of Young Children.
Director, Tompkins Children’s Center
Myrtle A. Charles began her career in the field of education more than twenty-five years ago when she graduated from Cyril Potter College of Education in her home country Guyana in 1989. She continued her career as an educator when she migrated to the United States in 1996.
She has served in several Elementary and Early Childcare settings in Brooklyn, which also included the Board of Education where she served children at the First Grade and Kindergarten levels. She previously worked in a leadership role, for Lutheran Social Services of New York Early Life Program.
Ms. Charles obtained a Bachelor’s Degree in Elementary Education from Brooklyn College, in 2004, and a Master’s Degree in Early Childhood Education/Special Education (Birth-2) from Touro College in 2012. She is certified in Early Childhood Education (Birth-2) and Elementary Education (1-6). She is currently enrolled at Capella University where she is pursuing her Doctorate in Education with specific focus on School Leadership and Management.
Director, Edwards L. Cleaveland Children’s Center
Interim Center Director, Sumner Children’s Center
Director, Brevoort Children’s Center
Boimah G. Sayway has previously worked as a preschool and UPK teacher. Mr. Sayway’s dedication and passion for education helped him to acquire the role of an Education Director with Lutheran Social Services of New York before joining the Brooklyn Kindergarten Society as a Center Director for Weeksville Garden Children’s Center in the spring of 2019. In 2016, Mr. Sayway joined JumpStart, a campus-based organization that provides voluntary services in low-income communities.
Mr. Sayway is a graduate of Lehman College, with a Bachelor’s Degree in Health Administration. He also earned a Master’s Degree in Childhood Education from Brooklyn College and is currently pursuing a Ph.D. in Special Education.
Mr. Sayway is also an author, publishing a children’s book in 2016 called The Unknown. The focus of the book is to help children develop mathematical concepts using nonstandard measurement with connections to scientific experiences.
Director, Weeksville Gardens Children’s Center
Mary Menchaca has worked in the Early Childhood Education field for 18 years as a teacher, then as an administrator. She was nominated as “Head Teacher of The Year” while at the Archdiocese of New York Head Start, then promoted to Education Director on her fourth year.
Ms. Menchaca obtained her Bachelor’s degree in Education and her Master’s degree in Education in the Philippines. There, she worked as a high school teacher, college instructor, and elementary and primary school teacher and administrator. She took her second Master’s in Early Childhood Education and Special Education here in the United States, then received her certification.
Director, Howard Children’s Center
Angela Terry has worked with and on behalf of children in New York City for more than twenty five years. She started her career as a youth development coordinator and mental health counselor at various community based organizations; then moved onto the New York City Department of Education and worked as a Substance Abuse and Prevention/Invention (SAPIS) counselor, community coordinator, school social worker and consultant. As a consultant for the DOE Angela further expanded her entrepreneurial endeavors to include operating and managing the first wine bar in Bedford Stuyvesant for ten years.
Ms. Terry comes to the Brooklyn Kindergarten Society from the New York City Children’s Cabinet as a policy advisor. There she was responsible for developing and implementing various policy initiatives for the Cabinet’s Fund for Early Learning FUEL community relations program. Currently Angela is the Deputy Director of Administration for BKS and manages the human resources, procurement, facilities and IT departments.
Angela earned a Bachelor’s of Science degree in Social Work from the City University of New York’s York College and a Master’s degree in Social Work from Fordham University.
Deputy Director of Administration
Elena Jaffe obtained a Bachelor’s degree in Early Childhood Education and Educational Psychology in 1986 and a Master’s in Educational Psychology in 1995 in the Ukraine. There, she worked as an Educational Director for seven years and Child Psychologist for three years in daycare programs.
Ms. Jaffe migrated to the United States about twenty years ago. She has worked as an Educational Director for four years at St. Andrew’s Community Day Care Center, affiliated with Lutheran Medical Center. She was employed by Brooklyn Kindergarten Society in 2007 as the director of the Sumner Children’s Center. During that time (2007-2014) that site was NAEYC accredited in 2009 and re-accredited in 2014. She also worked as an Educational Director at Nat Azarow Children’s Center from 2016-2018.
Director Of Compliance
Interim Director of Development & Communications
Amerika Williamson, Chairperson
Anthony Cattarina, Treasurer
Matthew Cosentino, Secretary
Katherine Drew McGhee