Our Board


NSSA at Mt. Vernon for Advancement Board of Directors and Executive Advisory Board Members

Robert Holland, Jr. Chairman of the board Robert Holland Jr. currently is an active corporate director and the chief mentor, managing partner, and advisory board member of Essex Lake Group, LLC, a profit enhancement firm with resources concentrated in Shanghai, New Delhi, and New York. Just prior to joining Essex, he was a general partner with the private equity firm CSW in NYC. Until April 2001, he was chief executive officer and sole owner of WorkPlace Integrators, a southeast Michigan company (and turn-around challenge) he acquired in June 1997 and sold in April 2001.

Prior to WPI, Holland was president and chief executive officer of Ben & Jerry’s, the Vermont-based ice cream maker. Holland previously served as chief executive officer of Rokher-J, Inc., a New York–based holding company for participating in business development projects and providing strategy development assistance to senior management of major corporations. Prior to his most recent stint with Rokher-J, he was chief executive officer and a major stock holder of Gilreath Manufacturing, Inc., an automotive parts supplier, and chief executive officer and principal owner of City Marketing, a corporation whose primary business was a successfully restructured beverage distribution company in southeast Michigan.

Holland is the chairman of the board for the MVTSYCA and former chairman of the board of trustees of Spelman College, Atlanta, Georgia, where he served as a trustee for 25 years. He is a former member of the board of trustees of the Cranbrook School and the Henry Ford Health System. He is also active on these corporate boards: CT/Boardroom Consultants (advisory board), Carver Bank Corp. (lead director), Essex Lake Group, Lexmark International, Inc., and PepsiCo (advisory board).

Franklyn Richardson Board member Dr. W. Franklyn Richardson is senior pastor of the historic Grace Baptist Church in Mount Vernon, New York. He has been the head of this vibrant, diverse, multi-staffed ministry since April 1975. Under his leadership, the congregation has continually thrived, growing to include more than 4000 members as well as a second church in Port St. Lucie, Florida.

A longtime community builder and organizer, Dr. Richardson has played a pivotal role in the grassroots efforts of reestablishing a cultural bridge between community and education. He is singularly responsible for leveling the ground by fighting for equitable opportunities in public education in the Mount Vernon community, and he has manned the front lines in the battle for just and affordable housing development. His steadfast efforts have resulted two Grace Church–related community development corporations that have constructed more than $100 million in affordable housing to date.

This distinguished theologian is an internationally sought-after preacher, lecturer, and facilitator, having preached on several continents. For the past 30 years, he has been heard throughout the tri-state area on WVOX radio and is viewed on national television every Sunday morning. He is the author of the widely acclaimed Power of the Pew and has written extensively on faith-based community developments. Of note: Mission to Mandate in the National Urban League’s State of Black America. In addition to such articles, Dr. Richardson’s most powerful sermons can be found in publications including Keep the Faith (Welcome Rain Publishers) and Joy to the World (Simon & Schuster).

A man of enormous compassion, intuitive reason, absolute commitment, and an incisive mind, Dr. Richardson demonstrates in his persona the marvelous union of passion and intellect. He is a national advocate for economic equity and his counsel and advice are widely solicited in several major corporate boardrooms throughout America. Dr. Richardson currently serves as a director or trustee for Pepsi Cola (ethnic advisory board), the Ujamaa Community Development Corporation, the Harvard University Divinity School Summer Leadership Institute for Church-based Community and Economic Development, Comcast Corporation and NBC Universal Joint Diversity Council, and Grace Community Development Corporation. He is chairman of the board of the National Action Network, the Conference of National Black Churches, American Legacy Magazine, and Virginia Union University.

Dr. Richardson is married to Inez Nunnally Richardson. They are the parents of three adult children and the grandparents of five.

Roberta Harris Board member Dr. Roberta Harris grew up in Brooklyn, New York, and moved to Westchester with her husband 20 years ago. She is the mother of three wonderful children, and she is currently dean of the King Graduate School at Monroe College’s New Rochelle campus.

Prior to her tenure at Monroe, Dr. Harris worked in corporate America for more than a decade in direct marketing, product management, global marketing, and strategic planning for Time Inc., Reader’s Digest, J. Crew, Coach (Leatherware), and TIAA/CREF. She earned her MBA and her doctoral degrees in marketing and international business from Pace University’s Lubin School of Business.

Dr. Harris believes that educators need to redefine education and the learning environment in the 21st century to allow for more flexible kinds of learning. She believes that learning is not about preparation for a job. Learning is the job. As a result, we need to transform our learning platforms into more collaborative learning environments that involve a team approach similar to what has been adopted in the global business world. A collaborative learning model will facilitate meaningful learning that will lead to endless employment opportunities for our youth.

Clinton I. Young Board member and former Mayor Clinton I. Young moved to Mount Vernon when his father, the late Dr. Clinton I. Young, Sr., was appointed principal of Nathan Hale School (now Cecil Parker). The Young family had previously lived in Charleston, South Carolina, and Montgomery, Alabama. Dr. Young’s appointment was a historic and celebrated moment in Mount Vernon, as he was the first African American to be appointed as a school principal in the city. Mayor Young’s mother, Evelyn, is a retired Mount Vernon elementary school teacher who taught for many years at Graham School. His close-knit family also includes three sisters, one of whom, Ann Young-Berkeley, has taught for many years in the Mount Vernon School System and is currently at Nelson Mandela Community School. Mayor Young is a 1968 Mount Vernon High School graduate. He was an outstanding track and cross-country runner and in his senior year was listed among the best half-milers in the eastern United States. He also participated in many other student clubs and organizations.

Young is the former vice chairman of the Westchester County Board of Legislators. He was first elected to the legislature in 1995 as the 13th District’s county legislator representing the city of Mount Vernon. He previously served as the board’s majority whip and in 2002 became the first African American to hold the position of majority leader.

Young was elected in November 2007 to serve as the 20th mayor of Mount Vernon. Mayor Young began his tenure as CEO of the City of Pride and Greatness on January 1, 2008. Under the Young administration, the city saw remarkable progress in the areas of public safety, public works, and infrastructure improvements as well as record levels of development—all achieved during the worst economic conditions since the Great Depression.

Dominick Abitino Board member Dominick Abitino is the oldest of three brothers who have assumed responsibility for running their family business, Abitino’s Pizza and Italian Kitchen, established in 1992 in Midtown Manhattan. Over the years, Abitino’s Pizza has opened other locations throughout Manhattan, including one at John F. Kennedy International Airport in the American Airlines Terminal 8.

Abitino has maintained a life-long commitment to philanthropy, children and education throughout the greater NY area. His service on the MVTSYCA is just one example of his dedication to the success of children and the improvement of education in Mount Vernon and throughout the greater New York area. “We have to invest in our children and in their education if we want to see our communities and our nation grow towards a bright, successful future,” explains Abitino.

Abitino and his wife Lucy are proud parents of three beautiful children.

Satish Jagnandan Board member Dr. Satish Jagnandan holds a Bachelor of Science in chemistry from Fordham University, a Master of Arts in mathematics education, and a Master of Education with a specialization in school administration and supervision from City University of New York (CUNY) Graduate Center. Dr. Jagnandan completed a doctorate degree in executive leadership at St. John Fisher College at the College of New Rochelle in July 2012. His study focused on mathematics achievement among high school dropouts under the direction of Dr. Ronald D. Valenti and Dr. Welton Sawyer.

Dr. Jagnandan has over 12 years of experience as a classroom teacher at both the elementary and secondary levels. Currently, Dr. Jagnandan is employed as the administrator of mathematics and science (K-12) with the Mount Vernon City School District in Mount Vernon, New York. He leads multiple committees and is launching several initiatives in an effort to enhance curriculum delivery, improve supervision of such delivery, and provide learning opportunities for all students in preparation for 21st century employment and college pursuits. His vision is to design and sustain rigorous curricula that reflect research-based instructional practices and sets high expectations for students, teachers and leaders; provide practical opportunities and tools for differentiated and small group instruction; pace skills and strategies that are relevant to high-stake assessments; and use ongoing assessment to monitor student achievement and focus on the “whole child.”

Dr. Jagnandan, an active father of two boys, continues to seek techniques and methods for encouraging students to become life-long learners. He believes, with the appropriate teacher-preparedness and curriculum that meets the needs of diverse learners, all students can learn!

Curtis J. Woods Board member Commissioner Curtis J. Woods, P.E. is a native of Brooklyn, New York. Commissioner Woods was originally appointed in May 2000 in the dual capacity of deputy commissioner of public works and city engineer for Mount Vernon. He was appointed commissioner of public works in January 2012. He is a graduate from Brooklyn Technical High School and received his Bachelor of Science in civil engineering from the University of Hartford, Connecticut. Commissioner Woods received his professional engineering license in the state of New York in 1992.

Commissioner Woods has over 30 years’ experience in the engineering field. He joined the New York State Department of Transportation in September 1984 as a junior engineer after one year of working as an engineer for the URS Consulting Engineering firm. During his 16 years with N.Y.S.D.O.T. he received an “Excellence in Engineering” award in 1995 from the department.

Commissioner Woods is a retired major with over 20 years of service with the engineering branch of the United States Army Reserves. He is also an Iraq War veteran (OIF II) 2004 – 2005. He currently resides in Mount Vernon with his wife and two children.

Saundra Johnson Austin Board member Saundra Johnson Austin is the Senior Vice President for Operations of the National Action Council for Minorities in Engineering, Inc. (NACME). She received the Bachelor of Science (B.S.) degree in Civil Engineering from The Pennsylvania State University, and the Master of Business Administration (M.B.A.) degree from the University of Notre Dame.

Prior to joining NACME, she served as the first President and CEO for St. Michael’s High School in Santa Fe, N.M.; and from 2005-2008 she served as the Executive Vice President for the Community Partnership for Lifelong Learning (CPLL) in Benton Harbor, Mich. From 2000-2005, she served as the Executive Director of the National Consortium for Graduate Degrees for Minorities in Engineering and Science, Inc. (GEM). From 1994-2000, she held the position of Director of the Minority Engineering Program at The Pennsylvania State University. Johnson Austin also worked for seven years with Bechtel Power Corporation in Gaithersburg, M.D.

In addition to her professional titles, she has also been a long-time advocate for the education of underrepresented minorities in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM), and has published and presented several papers on the topic at national conferences, to government agencies, and Fortune 500 companies.

It was recently announced that Ms. Johnson Austin was named The Pennsylvania State University Outstanding Engineering Alumnus for 2015. Her innovative and cutting-edge way of developing the Literacy, Education and Workforce Development System as the head of CPLL, earned her the Inaugural Community Educational Leadership Award at the 2nd Annual Celebrate Literacy Conference: Strengthening Our Communities in Benton Harbor, Michigan in 2007. While she was enrolled in the M.B.A. at the University of Notre Dame, she received a Selected Professions Fellowship by the American Association of University Women (AAUW) for the 2004-2005 academic year. In 1998 she was named Minority Engineering Program Director of the Year by the National Society of Black Engineers (NSBE) and received the Outstanding Contribution by Minority Engineering Program Administrator award from the National Association of Minority Engineering Program Administrators (NAMEPA) in that same year. The Pennsylvania State University also recognized her In Honor of Outstanding Contributions Improving Equal Access and Cross-Cultural Relations in 1995.

Ms. Johnson Austin and husband, Rev. Clyde L. Austin, Jr. reside in White Plains, NY since joining NACME in 2010. She is a step-mother to Joshua and Charity Austin, who both reside in South Bend, Ind.

Leonard Abbott Board Member Leonard Abbott was born and raised in the Hampton Roads area of Virginia and attended Bayside High School in Virginia Beach where he was a four-year letterman in football and track. After graduating from High School, Leonard attended Randolph-Macon College in Ashland Virginia. During his time at RMC Leonard was a three year letterman for the college football team and was a part of several on campus organizations. It was at Randolph-Macon College where Leonard began his philanthropic work. Leonard participated with Big Brother Big Sisters, Rotary Club of Richmond, VA. , and in 2005 established the on campus community outreach program Brothers for Change during his senior year in college. Under his leadership Brothers for Change received many accolades for the community service work which included after school tutoring, cleaning parks, winterization of homes, and community activity day’s for the youth in addition to many more programs.

After receiving his Bachelor’s Degree in Accounting from RMC, Leonard pursued a career in finance with AIG for several years. Upon his departure from AIG, Leonard started his career with Best Buy in 2008 where he quickly rose through the ranks and became a General Manager for Best Buy’s Mount Vernon location in 2013. While at Best Buy Leonard continued his passion for community service and partnered with numerous organizations in the Mount Vernon community putting together educational and recreational programs for the youth. It was also in 2013 when Leonard incorporated “1 Change at a Time” to establish his foundation for community outreach.

In Dec. 2014 Leonard was awarded the “Business of the Year” award by the Mount Vernon Chamber of Commerce for philanthropic work that was done in the Mount Vernon Community. Also during his time as GM, Leonard partnered with the Westchester Crime Stoppers and Mount Vernon Police Department for the first Gun Buy Back program that issued retail gift cards instead of cash to prevent the repurchase of weapons. In July of 2015 Leonard decided to depart from his management role in retail and take on his Executive Director role full time to expand the vision of 1 Change and seek his passion for developing young people.

Michele A. Nicholas Board member Michelle A. Nicholas is a development professional with over 12 years of experience building cultivation and solicitation strategies for the creation of government, corporate and foundation relations. Michelle currently serves as the Manager, Corporate Relations and Annual Giving for HealthCare Chaplaincy Network (HCCN).

Michelle is a certified NY State Rape Crisis Hospital Advocate and an Associate Board member of the NYC Alliance against Sexual Assault. She is a volunteer coordinator for the American Red Cross, a member of Big Brother Big Sister, UN Women New York Metro Chapter, Rotary Club of Wall Street and is a graduate of the Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI) Citizen’s Academy. Michelle resides in Westchester with her son, Michael.

Karen Spencer Board Member Karen Spencer is President and Creative Director of Karen Spencer Design, Inc. and Spencer Creative Group. Spencer Creative Group delivers creative marketing solutions for digital and traditional media. Spencer Creative Group was created as the digital division of Karen Spencer Design, Inc. , which was founded in 1983.Karen started the company after 9 years as a Senior Art Director for PW Communications, Inc., an international medical publisher on Madison Avenue.

The company has been designing and developing websites since 1996. Karen is passionate about good design and believes that good design isn’t pretty—although it is often beautiful. Good design solves problems, fosters brand awareness and guides the viewer through today’s info clutter.

Spencer Creative Group primarily focuses their design and marketing expertise in the areas of healthcare, luxury retail, finance, education and spirits marketing. SCG’s clients include Fortune 1000 businesses and numerous small to mid-size firms.

Karen has taught graphic design at Elizabeth Seton College and has advised interns from SUNY Purchase who have gone on to successful design careers. She has served on The Board of Directors of The Advertising Club of Westchester and the Board of Directors of the Child Care Council of Westchester. The company is active in The Business Council of Westchester.

Karen has a great interest in architecture and has been a docent and house captain for the Accent on New Rochelle House Tour for many years. She is an active member of The Art Deco Society of New York City. Karen and her husband John Heidenreich are bronze level ballroom dancers and long-term residents of Westchester County.

Karen holds a B.A. in Fine Arts from the University of Bridgeport and M.S. in Communication Design from Pratt Institute.

Jennifer Flowers, MBA Board Member Jennifer Flowers is an accreditation and nonprofit management consultant and the founder and President of Accreditation Guru, Inc. With more than 18 years dedicated to working in the nonprofit and accreditation arenas, Jennifer is exceptionally qualified to lead client organization through the initial accreditation process, as well as to guide those already accredited to successfully earn and maintain re-accreditation.

Jennifer’s prior experience serving as Director of Volunteer Services and Accreditation Commission at the Council on Accreditation (COA) in New York City as well as working with a variety of nonprofits in the education, health care, religious and social services sectors provide her an intimate knowledge of what Peer Reviewers look for during a site visit and what Commissioners need to make an informed accreditation decision. This, in turn, will give your agency an inside track on the road to accreditation.

Through her combined business focus and nonprofit experience, Jennifer offers clients additional expertise in organization-wide long-term strategic planning, board of directors’ development, retreat facilitation, performance and quality improvement (PQI), risk management, the creation of policies and procedures necessary to comply with accreditation and licensing standards and the formation of effective volunteer management programs. She also develops and delivers customized training workshops on a variety of governance topics, including board of directors’ roles and responsibilities, exceptional governance practices, board self-assessments and more.

Prior to founding Accreditation Guru, Inc. in 2009, Jennifer has held key management positions in both for-profit and nonprofit organizations. She earned her B.A. in Sociology from the University of California, Berkley and holds an MBA in International Management from Thunderbird School of Global Management. Jennifer is also certified in Nonprofit Board Education by BoardSource.

Jennifer is active and long-term resident in Westchester County and supportive of several non-profits.

Walter J. Eddie, Executive advisory board member Walter J. Eddie was awarded a Bachelor of Science degree, with honors in Criminal Justice and a Certificate in Business Administration from Mercy College. He earned a Master of Science Degree in Education with honors from Herbert H. Lehman College. Mr. Eddie also received his Professional Diploma in Supervision and Administration with honors from Fordham University Graduate School of Education.

Mr. Eddie currently holds the position of Director of Registration and Community Liaison for the Yonkers Public Schools District, fourth largest in the state. As such, Mr. Eddie is responsible for managing the placement of 27,000+ students into the 39 schools that make up the city’s school district. Mr. Eddie manages a staff of nine specialists that control the Open Enrollment, Balloting and Appeals process. Prior to the above, Mr. Eddie held the position of Director of Finance and Program management for Today’s Students, Tomorrow’s Teachers, a notfor-profit organization focusing on providing a teacher preparation program for students of color. The program spanned an area of four states, New York, Connecticut, Massachusetts and Virginia. Mr. Eddie also held the position of Executive Director of The Office of Career Advancement at Monroe College. The department provided services to students from all academic levels in the areas of Career Assessment; Career Counseling; and Workplace Skills Assessment. Previous to that, Mr. Eddie was the Executive Director of Corporate Outreach & Graduate Career Advisor at the college and was responsible for targeting and developing new employment and internship markets for Monroe College with a specific focus on the King Graduate School. In his initial role at the college, Mr. Eddie served as the Executive Director of Student Development & Residence Life where he managed a robust residential housing program for a national and International student body.

In 2000 Mr. Eddie served as Director of The Boys’ Club of New York’s Elbridge T. Gerry, Jr. Clubhouse and was responsible for the implementation of educational and recreation based programs. Prior to his position at BCNY, Mr. Eddie was Executive Director of The Walt Frazier Youth Foundation. The Foundation provided educational opportunities to inner city students who showed initiative, by placing them in summer internships with prestigious companies.

Before taking on the position with the foundation, Mr. Eddie worked as an educator in the Yonkers Scholl District. Mr. Eddie held two key positions, Assistant Principal of The Museum Junior High School for the Gifted and Talented and Human Relation Facilitator. In the capacity of Human Relations Facilitator, he conducted training and staff development workshops on diversity and multicultural issues, effective decision making, conflict resolution, and problem solving.

Mr. Eddie and his wife Marcia are proud parents of two young adult children and long-time residents of Westchester County.

Michael Nisbett Executive advisory board member Michael Nisbett is currently employed at Hunter College, CUNY where he manages the college’s Technology Resource Center. The center offers technology workshops and provides one-on-one assistance to faculty, staff, and students. He has held this position for nearly 20 years. Under his leadership the center has expanded and developed many programs and initiatives. One of which was the Zabar Internship Program. This program hired computer science students and provided them not only financial support but mentorship and professional training as well. The center also collaborates with the college’s educational technologists in order to enhance student learning by using the latest technologies for effective teaching.

For eight years he served on the Hunter College Association board, a 13-member committee responsible for the supervision and review of Hunter College student activity fee–supported budgets. Since 2008 Michael has served as a steering committee member for Hunter College’s Black Male Initiative. The program’s goal is to support and mentor the institution’s minority students as they navigate college life. He also serves as an advisory board member for the Hunter College Liberty Partnership Program. This program provides services to high school students who are at risk of dropping out.

For nine years, Michael worked as the director of his church’s summer day camp. He is now serving as chairman of the board at his church, The Youth Mission of Life. From 2004 to 2010 he worked as a volunteer mentor at Irvington’s Abbott House, and for four years he volunteered as a mentor at Dobbs Ferry’s Children Village. He currently volunteers for iMentor, a web-based mentor program that empowers students from low-income communities to graduate high school, succeed in college, and achieve their ambitions.

Michael is married to Lois Helen. They are the parents of two adult children, Robert and Jaclyn, and the proud grandparents of Kayla and Eric.

David A. Paterson Executive advisory board member and 55th governor of New York state (2008-2010), former Governor David Paterson became New York’s 55th governor on March 17, 2008. He immediately raised eyebrows when he warned of an impending fiscal crisis in his inaugural address.

Governor Paterson was ahead of the national curve in predicting and acting on the state’s fiscal downturn. Despite the greatest economic crisis New York state has ever faced, Governor Paterson enacted sweeping reforms on a wide range of issues facing New Yorkers.

During the next three years, he would reduce New York’s deficit by nearly $40 billion (twice the amount of budget-cutting in any comparable period). He became the first governor to sign legislation attaching criminal penalties to predatory lending during the worst foreclosure crisis in American history. He overhauled the Rockefeller Drug Laws, which excessively punished low-level drug offenders while depriving judges of discretion in sentencing for over 35 years. Governor Paterson introduced landmark civil rights legislation that eventually ended legal discrimination against same-sex couples in New York. He also increased the welfare allowance for the neediest New Yorkers for the first time in 20 years.

In 2009, Paterson settled 200 years of legal debate when the NY State Court of Appeals upheld his appointment of a lieutenant governor, Richard Ravitch.

Since stepping down as governor, David Paterson has hosted a popular drive time talk-radio show on WOR-am in New York City. Governor Paterson served as an adjunct professor of government in 2011 and 2012 at New York University and has since moved to Touro College School of Osteopathic Medicine. Governor Paterson is a highly sought-after speaker by diverse entities and organizations and often appears as a guest commentator on political news programs.

Governor Paterson has been appointed by Governor Andrew Cuomo as 2014 New York State Democratic Party Chairman. His appointment marks an occasion of a former governor’s return to state service.

Pauline Mosley Executive advisory board Member Dr. Pauline H. Mosley holds a Bachelor of Science in Math and a Bachelor of Science in Computer Science from Mercy College; a Master of Science in Information Systems; a Master of Science in Computer Science; and a Doctorate of Professional Studies from Pace University.  She embarked upon a teaching career in 1986, working as a top corporate trainer for Personal Computer Learning Centers of America, Inc. where she trained Fortune 500 executives and personnel in a myriad of software applications.  She developed computer training manuals for Texaco, Pepsi, The Port Authority and McCraw-Hill and was influential in establishing PC and mainframe user-support help desks for Dannon, NYNEX, and Brooklyn Union Gas.

Prior to joining Pace in 2000, she was a tenured CUNY faculty member for 10 years and an adjunct professor at the following colleges: Westchester Community College, Iona, The College of New Rochelle, and Mercy College.  She is the recipient of Who’s Who Among America’s Teachers.  She is a Full Professor of Information Technology in the school of Computer Science and Information Systems at Pace University in Pleasantville and teaches primarily LEGO robotics, systems analysis and design, computer network security, web design and service-learning courses. Dr. Mosley’s research interests include cognitive models for learning robotics and web development.  She has explored pedagogical methodologies that explore the relationships between service-learning and learning and its impact long-term on students.  She is a member of the Institute of Electrical and Electronic Engineers, Inc. (IEEE) and frequently serves on the program committee of national conferences in Information Technology. Journals in which her research has appeared include The Journal of Computing Sciences in Colleges, International Journal of Across The Disciplines and The Academic Exchange Quarterly.

She resides in White Plains with her husband, Paul,  of twenty-one years along with two sons Marcus and Maurice; ages 19 and 11 and their dog Spencer.  She is also an active board member of the YWCA, the YMOL Youth Group, and serves on the first Girls Academy Board in White Plains.

Judith Johnson Executive Advisory Board Judith Johnson is a retired public school superintendent who has devoted her lifetime career to public education. During her extraordinary journey she has received over 30 awards and citations for her groundbreaking work to support children who live in impoverished settings. Born into poverty, she made the decision that she had an obligation to address issues of social justice

In 2008 she received the New York State School Superintendent of the Year award, making her the first African American in the history of the New York State Council of School Superintendents to receive this honor. In 2009 she returned to the Brooklyn College campus that launched her life’s work to be honored as Alumni of the Year.

Her leadership roles have spanned six school districts. She has left behind in each district enduring changes that continue to inspire those who followed her. She retired from the Peekskill City School system in 2011 after 10 years of continuous improvements in student achievement and community engagement.  Most recently she served as the interim superintendent for the Mount Vernon City School District, where a multiyear reform effort is now underway focused on shared leadership and the use of data as a framework for problem-solving initiatives.  Johnson spent just under four years as the national level, serving as deputy assistant secretary and then acting assistant secretary for elementary and secondary education during the Clinton administration. During that tenure she oversaw policy initiatives that focused on charter schools, small schools, technology innovation, the reauthorization of ESEA, and the expansion of the standards movement. She has published op ed and professional articles, submitted testimony, and appeared before state and federal legislative committees.  She sat on national and state commissions.  She served on the executive boards of three professional associations: American Association of School Administrators, the New York State Council of School Superintendents, and the New York Association of Small City Schools, where she served one year as president.

She received her bachelors’ degree from Brooklyn College, a masters’ degree in guidance and counseling from New York University, a diploma in advanced studies for educational leadership from SUNY New Paltz, and she is finishing up a doctoral degree at Manhattanville College to replace her status as an ABD student at Teachers College, Columbia University.

She believes that educators are charged to motivate and inspire students to understand the connections between school, a democratic society, and the rest of their lives.

Helen M. Blackwood Executive advisory board member Judge Helen M. Blackwood is a lifelong Mount Vernon resident. After almost 20 years as a tax attorney in the financial services and entertainment industries, she joined the Mount Vernon law department in 2002. As corporation counsel for the city, she gained a reputation for hard work and running an effective and efficient department while addressing the city’s complex legal issues. In 2008, Judge Blackwood was selected as one of only three “New York Super Lawyers” in government practice. In 2009, Judge Blackwood was appointed to the Mount Vernon City Court. In assuming the position of city court judge, she noted, “The Mount Vernon City Court is a crossroads in the city where lives are changed. This is a great responsibility, and I do not take this appointment lightly but with a determination to respect the residents of the city of Mount Vernon and serve their interests to the best of my ability.”

Helen’s father, Ronald Blackwood, was the first African-Caribbean mayor of Mount Vernon, elected in the mid-1980s.

Donald Carey Executive Board member Donald Carey is the son of Hugh L. Carey, elected governor of New York in 1975. Donald Carey is a dynamic presence in the mortgage/title insurance industry. He has been a leader in the public finance sector for 29 years. Carey has been the banker for New York City, New York State, Washington Public Power System, Sisters of Charity Health System, and the Metropolitan Transportation Authority. Previously, Carey was also with JP Morgan Chase, where he was responsible for New York State public finance.

In his real estate platform, Carey is uniquely qualified, and a known ombudsman, for the public-private partnerships evolving as corporations and business, property owners, education, and healthcare join together with municipal government and utility delivery systems to reduce our collective impact on the earth.

Carey is active in his community and has previously served on the New York City Economic Development Corporation board, the Franciscan Sisters Foundation board, and the Mobile Kitchen Classroom board.

He is married to Mary Anne Schmitt-Carey, who is the president of Say Yes to Education, a non-profit firm changing education in inner-city schools one student at a time.

Fred Schwam Executive advisory board member Fred Schwam is owner and CEO of American Christmas, Inc., the leading commercial holiday decorating firm in America. The company designs, manufactures, installs, removes, stores, and refurbishes holiday displays for office lobbies, tenant offices, hotels, restaurants, banks, theaters, shopping centers, retail stores, hospitals, theaters, and television sets. Clients include Radio City Music Hall, Rockefeller Center, Saks Fifth Avenue, Bergdorf Goodman, Macy’s, Cartier, Bloomingdale’s, and Madison Square Garden.

American Christmas is headquartered in a 110,000-square-foot building in Mount Vernon. The company employs 50 people full time and another 125 people seasonally. The company is proud to give back to the community by offering its services as a courtesy to many local not-for-profit organizations. American Christmas has been covered extensively by the press in over 60 newspaper and magazine articles. Additionally, Schwam has been interviewed for television and radio over 20 times.

American Christmas has received numerous honors over the years, including Crain’s New York Business Small Business Award (1997), Initiative for a Competitive Inner City (ICIC) Inner City 100 list (six-time honoree), Crain’s New York Business Forty Under Forty (Schwam in 2002), New York Enterprise Report Best Practice winner for Sales & Marketing (2008), Mount Vernon Business Leadership award (2011), 914 Inc. Wunderkind (Dan Casterella in 2012), Boys & Girls Club of Mount Vernon Corporate Citizenship Award (2013), Business Council of Westchester Forty Under Forty (Casterella in 2013), Westchester Magazine/914 Inc. Small Business Award for General Excellence (2013), and Mount Vernon Chamber of Commerce Business of the Year (2013).

Schwam served on the Armonk Baseball League board of directors for 10 years (2003-2012) and currently serves on the board of directors for both the Boys & Girls Club of Mount Vernon and the UJA-Federation of New York’s Westchester Business and Professional Division.