Leadership Team



Christina Reyes, Founder & Executive Director

Christina founded Inwood Academy in 2009. She successfully lobbied for a change in New York State law allowing the school to give preference in the application lottery to students who speak English as a second language. Today, the school continues to reserve 50% of enrollment each year for English Language Learners, and she and her co-founders have built a differentiated learning environment and community-based school culture that serves the distinct needs of each and every member of the student body. Christina holds a Bachelor's degree in Secondary English and a Master's degree in Educational Leadership from Columbia University's Teachers College and has four years of classroom experience teaching 6th through 8th grades in Inwood and Washington Heights. She has worked as an educational specialist for World Vision, an international non-profit organization working towards community development in New York City. Christina lives in Washington Heights with her husband, Edward Reyes, a New York City Police Officer, and their children, Anne and Seth.

Jenny Pichardo, Chief Operating Officer/Chief Financial Officer

Jenny joins Inwood Academy from the International Leadership Charter High School (ILCHS). At ILCHS she secured a $17.5 municipal bond financing for a new facility, becoming the first NYC charter school to secure funding through Build NYC. Prior to joining the charter community, Jenny worked in the financial sector for over 14 years. She began her Wall Street career in 1997, working at Muriel Siebert & Co. Inc., in the firm’s retail division. In 1999, she joined Siebert Capital Markets, working directly with the managing director and assisting the sales force and traders with equity, fixed income and mutual fund trades. From 2001 to 2009, she was Vice President—promoted from AVP in 2005—of the Institutional Equity Sales and Trading Division and developed and managed institutional relationships at Utendahl Capital Partners, LLC. Jenny graduated Magna Cum Laude and received her BA in Economics from Lehman College. She previously held FINRA Series 7, 24, 55, 63, 65 and NY State Insurance Licenses. Jenny is a Washington Heights Native and is married to Zoilo Pichardo. She is the mother of two children, Ethan and Abigail.

Valerie Hoekstra, Middle School Principal

Valerie was a founding member of Inwood Academy and helped write the Charter Application in 2009. She led the Special Education Team for five years and served on the Instructional Leadership Team before taking on her role as Middle School Director and Principal in 2015. She started her career teaching third grade and special education students on a U.S. Air Force base in North Dakota. Her long term interest was in special education for native Spanish speakers. Several moves and four children later Valerie worked in a resource room with seventh and eighth graders at Zurich International School, and discovered her love for middle school students. She later supervised graduate students at the Dean Hope Center for Educational and Psychological Services at Teachers College. Valerie completed an undergraduate degree in Special Education and Elementary Education at the University of North Dakota, minoring in Spanish, and obtained an M.A. as a reading specialist at Teachers College, Columbia University. She and her husband, Marten Hoekstra, raised four children. 

Mary Hackett, High School Principal

Mary began working at Inwood Academy in 2012 as a fifth-grade special education teacher. She transitioned into teaching History and English and was a founding member of Inwood Academy High School. Mary is impassioned working with the students and teachers at Inwood Academy. Her focus on student growth has been based on close collaboration with her peers. She is grateful to continue to work with exceptional faculty as their instructional leader of the High School. Prior to joining Inwood Academy Mary worked in New York City's District 75 Schools where she served students with special needs and is a Cohort 20 New York City Teaching Fellow.


Jason Marchena, Director of Athletics

Jason joined Inwood Academy in 2013 and served as a teacher for Physical Education and Health and the Director of Enrichment for the middle school before taking on his current role as head of athletics for the middle and high school. Prior to joining the team, he worked as a Physical Education Teacher at Inwood's Manhattan Christian Academy. He received his Bachelor's degree in Sports and Exercise Science at Cedarville University and his Master's in Business Administration at Jones International University. Jason was born and raised in northern Manhattan. He and his wife, Laura Marchena, live in Washington Heights.


Jose Grullon, Assistant Principal of Data and Assessment

Jose joined Inwood Academy in 2012 as a fifth-grade math and science teacher. He was promoted to the Middle School Director of Curriculum and Instruction for STEM before transitioning into his current role in 2017. Prior to joining Inwood Academy, Jose was a founding sixth-grade math teacher at a dual language NYC public middle school and a Program Manager at Computers for Youth (CFY) where he worked with several public schools in the five boroughs. Jose is a 2008 Teach for America alumnus. He received his undergraduate degree in English from Binghamton University and a Master’s of Science in Education, dual language/bilingual middle school education, from Bank Street College of Education. In 2017, Jose earned a Masters in Educational Leadership from New Visions For Public Schools Collaborative Leadership Advancing School Success Program at CUNY, Hunter College. Jose is a Washington Heights native and lives in Inwood with his wife, Yelitza.


David Boehm, Director of Technology

David has extensive finance, operations, and educational experience. He is a committed social entrepreneur, using his expertise in process re-engineering and financial operations to effect positive change in our educational system. Prior to joining Inwood Academy, David taught Math for five years at Morris Academy for Collaborative Studies in the Bronx. His past experience also included senior management roles at Brown Bros. Harriman, Alliance Capital, SWIFT and was Founder & CEO of NeXtgen Technology. He received graduate degrees from The City College of New York—CUNY and Boston University School of Management. David is married to Nancy Boehm and they have one son, Christopher.

Kevin Garcia, Director of Operations

Before joining Inwood Academy, Kevin was working in operations for five years at both traditional NYC public schools and public charter schools, and most recently as an operations manager for KIPP NYC College Prep. He chose the field of education rather than the corporate industry route because he felt he would make a bigger impact in life by helping children in troubled communities. Kevin received a Bachelor of Science degree in Public Accounting from Fordham University. He was born and raised, and currently still lives, in The Bronx.

Erica Reyes, Director of Talent Management

Erica was formerly employed at Gap Inc. for 13 years, spending the last 10 as a store manager for the highest volume store in NYC’s North Market. She spent much of her time leading the store team in meeting sales goals, customer service targets, and Operating and Human Resources objectives through execution, coaching, and accountability. Erica is a native of Washington Heights and is the mother of one son, Jonelvis.


Denise Canniff, Director of Development and Communications

Denise joined Inwood Academy in 2014 and in her current position provides leadership and direction for fund development activities including individual giving, institutional giving, fundraising events, and is responsible for media relations, marketing, and communications. Her non-profit career prior to Inwood Academy included senior management roles at the Metropolitan Museum of Art and the New York Public Library. While at the Met Museum, Denise built a digital marketing and fundraising team from the ground up, raising $2.5 million dollars annually, and launched its social media channels, collectively reaching 2 million followers. Prior to her non-profit work, she was a Marketing Director for a media organization, developing and managing public relations, advertising, and direct marketing. Denise received a Bachelor's degree in Marketing from the City University of New York, Baruch College, and a Certificate in Fundraising from New York University. Denise raised a son and daughter in the city and both children are attending college.

Jeannie Infante, Director of Family and Community Engagement

Jeannie is an educator, mother, and a native Inwood community member. She started her career as a teacher and worked as a Community Outreach Director at a charter school before joining the Inwood Academy team. Jeannie received her undergraduate degree in Political Science at the City College of New York and a Master's in Public Administration from John Jay College of Criminal Justice. She is passionate about utilizing engagement strategies to boost student achievement and improve the overall well-being of students, families, and their communities. Jeannie is married to Willie Infante and is the mother of two children, Emily and Nathan.


Steven Brady, Assistant Principal of Humanities, Middle School

Steve began his career at Inwood Academy in 2013, as a seventh and eighth grade social studies teacher. He also served as the Social Studies Department Head and Content Specialist before moving into his current role. Steve believes a quality education involves a blend of content knowledge, critical thinking, and literacy skills. He comes to Inwood Academy with more than five years of nonprofit and higher education experience, working as an academic program manager. He received dual degrees from Boston University’s School of Education: a Bachelor’s of Secondary History Education and a Masters of Policy, Planning and Administration with a focus on Community Education.

Ashley Carbaugh, Assistant Principal of STEM, Middle School

Ashley was a founding faculty member of Inwood Academy and taught math in grades five through eight before advancing to her current position. She has served on the Instructional Leadership Team since 2012. Growing up, Ashley attended New York public schools and graduated as valedictorian of her high school. She received a B.A. in Biblical and Theological Studies from Wheaton College in Wheaton, IL. Prior to Inwood Academy, she taught in the Inwood and Washington Heights area for 10 years and overseas in Argentina and China. While at Inwood Academy, Ashley's students have consistently outperformed students in the school district, New York City and state on the standardized math state exams. During the 2016-17 school year, she taught an eighth grade advanced class where 100% of her students passed the Common Core Algebra Regents High School Exam.

Daniel Gaffney, Assistant Principal, High School

Dan began as an English tutor at Inwood Academy the month that the school opened, and since then has worked in a variety of roles within the school. At the middle school he taught English and US History and in the high school he taught Global History, AP World History, and Computer Science. He most recently served as high school Academic Dean, responsible for academic programming. In addition to Inwood Academy, Dan taught history and served as an English Language Learner specialist at high schools in the Bronx and Syracuse, NY, and taught adult English as a Second Language in Chinatown. He has a B.A. in History from SUNY Geneseo, an M.A. in Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages (TESOL) from Hunter College, and is enrolled in the Educational Leadership Program at Stony Brook University. He and his wife, Leah, live in Inwood with their daughter, Evelyn.

Karena West, Assistant Principal of Academic Intervention Services, Middle School

Karena was a founding member of Inwood Academy as an English as a second language specialist (ESL). In 2015 she was promoted to Director of Academic Intervention Services and advanced to her current role in 2017. As an ESL specialist, she worked to develop students' English skills through pull-out and push-in support, the co-teaching model, and self-contained classes. She also contributed to curriculum development and served as both Middle School Scheduler and Testing Coordinator. Prior to joining Inwood Academy, Karena was an ESL teacher at a high school in Philadelphia. She graduated Cum Laude with a B.A. from Dickinson College and received her M.A. in Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages (TESOL) from Teachers College, Columbia University. Karena and her husband, Shaun, live in Yonkers with their children, Ainsley and Connor.

Denise Hykes, Middle School Director of Afterschool, PSW Program

Denise comes to this role with over thirty years of working with youth and their families in Washington Heights and Inwood. She enjoys helping youth find their unique gifting in life and seeking ways to empower them to accomplish their goals. Her experience includes teaching Middle School Math and English, initiating youth service projects (locally, nationally, and internationally), coaching basketball teams of all ages, coordinating youth ministry at a local church, directing summer camps, developing and empowering current young leaders in our community and school, and networking with other youth service providers in the Heights. She has her Masters in Urban Youth Culture and seeks to build on the solid foundation that has been laid by the previous Inwood Academy afterschool directors.

Frannie Laughner, Director of Academic Intervention Services, High School

Frannie was a founding member of the high school at Inwood Academy in 2014, and from its first year has enjoyed teaching in co-taught classes in the English and History departments. She is passionate about making sure all students receive the supports they need to be and to feel successful at school. Before joining Inwood Academy, Frannie taught Global History (self-contained, general education, and honors) in a campus of NYC DOE public schools in the Bronx that would've been the zoned schools of many of Inwood's current students. Frannie is a 2012 Teach for America alumna. She holds a Bachelor of Arts in English and History from Barnard College and a Master's of Science in Teaching Exceptional Adolescents from Fordham University.

Raiderys Martinez, Director of School Culture, Middle School

Raiderys joined Inwood Academy in 2015 and served as Dean of Students before being promoted to her current role. Prior to joining Inwood Academy, she worked for a charter school in East Harlem as a Behavioral Specialist and for a nonprofit organization as a Case Planner, working with at risk families to prevent the placement of children out of their homes. Raiderys received her undergraduate degree from Utica College of Syracuse University and will receive her Masters in Social Work with a concentration in Leadership and Macro Practice from Fordham University in May 2018. Raiderys was born and raised in Washington Heights and currently lives in The Bronx.

Nilson Mejia, Director of School Culture, High School

Nilson joined Inwood Academy in 2012 as a Teachers Apprentice. He served as Dean of Students then Behavior Intervention Specialist working with our Tier II and III students before taking on his current role. Since 2012, Nilson completed his undergraduate degree in Psychology from the City College of New York —CUNY and with the help of Inwood Academy he earned a Master's of Science in Education (M.S.Ed.) in School Counseling from Alfred University in New York. Living and working in the Inwood community, Nilson uses his experience and education to help students develop character and other skills that will help them succeed in our ever-changing society.

Karla Morales, Associate Director for College and Career Success

Before working at Inwood Academy, Karla spent more than fourteen years at the City University of New York (CUNY) as a Lecturer/Counselor for the Department of General Counseling at Bronx Community College, an Academic Advisor for the ASAP Program at Borough of Manhattan Community College, and as a Cohort Coordinator for the Bronx Institute GEAR UP Program at Lehman College. She utilized her administrative, pedagogical and counseling background to develop and implement academic services in an educational institution. Her experience as an education professional provided the background needed to effectively inspire student appreciation for educational inquiry and the motivation and desire to promote academic, career, personal, and social development of students. Consulted and collaborated with professors, teachers, school administrators, school psychologists, and social workers in order to develop and implement strategies to help students be successful in the education system. She has a Bachelor's in Psychology and a Master's of Science in Counselor Education from Lehman College. Karla was born in Puerto Rico, raised for the most part in The Bronx. She is married to Andres Villar and they have a daughter Amaya.

Kenneth Tejeda, Director for College and Career Success

Kenneth developed the school's physical education program and an athletics program that grew to more than fifteen interscholastic athletic teams, which continue to run throughout the fall, winter, spring and summer seasons. He transitioned into his new role in 2017. Prior to joining Inwood Academy, Kenneth completed his B.A at Cedarville University in Ohio. He went on to complete his M.S. in Family, Youth and Community Sciences, with a concentration in Non Profit Leadership, from the University of Florida. He is certified in the Danielson Teacher Evaluation Rubric along with a certification in Effective Post Secondary Planning. Kenneth was born in The Bronx, but raised in Washington Heights. He and his wife, Hannah, live in The Bronx and are expecting their first child.