our national

governing board

Our Board Chairs posing for a photo with a Saga Education frame

our board

Alan Safran_Saga Education

Alan Safran

Alan Safran is Co-Founder, CEO and Chair of the Board of Saga. He has had a 30 year career in public education, at the state and local levels. He served 9 years at the Massachusetts Department of Education, including a period as the state's Deputy Commissioner of Education for Policy and Administration.

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He led the Match Charter Public School network in Boston for 9 years, where he was the co-designer of the school's high dosage tutoring program, the first such model in the country (and helped coin the phrase "high dosage tutoring."). He and AJ Gutierrez then incubated the dissemination of high dosage tutoring out of the Match School base, to Lawrence MA, Stamford CT, and Chicago, IL, and then, in 2014, founded the edtech nonprofit Saga. Alan has a law degree from George Washington University, a bachelor's degree from Princeton, and he and his wife split their time between Boston, MA and Washington, DC. They have three grown children, in DC, NY and LA, and a mid-size, middle-aged black labrador, Colbie.

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Alex Cortez

Alex Cortez is the Managing Partner of the education portfolio at New Profit, a venture philanthropy organization based in Boston, Massachusetts.  Before that he was Chief of Staff, Strategy and Execution on the leadership team of KIPP Houston Public Schools. In this role, Alex led the region in creating a new long-term growth plan to double the number of schools in Houston.

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Alex has also led the region in developing its systems and practices in annual priority-setting and data-driven management, has overseen the region’s ‘to and through college’ programming, worked with the Board to evolve their practices, and led various internal initiatives to build scalable systems to support continued growth. Prior to KIPP Houston, Alex served at the KIPP Foundation as a Regional Director of Network Growth and Sustainability, working with leadership teams across the country in both large and small regions to help them respond to their biggest challenges and opportunities for growth, performance and sustainability. Prior to his work with the KIPP, Alex was a Manager at The Bridgespan Group where he led a variety of client engagements in education, youth development and philanthropy. While at Bridgespan, Alex also authored several nonprofit case studies and research into mergers and collaborations in the nonprofit space. Alex started his career in for-profit management consulting working for clients in financial services, telecommunications, private equity and state government. Alex graduated with a BA in Political Science from Columbia University. He received his MBA from Harvard Business School and MPA from Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government.

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Antonio J. Gutierrez

AJ Gutierrez is a trailblazing education leader and social entrepreneur who has dedicated his career to accelerating educational equity. As the Co-Founder of Saga Education, AJ's leadership has guided the organization to nationwide expansion. Under his stewardship, Saga Education has received numerous accolades, including being named one of Fast Company's Most Innovative Companies in 2020 and earning a Level 1 ESSA rating.

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With a keen focus on corporate strategy and product innovation, AJ has led a successful ed-tech acquisition and established strategic collaborations with renowned organizations such as NORC, the University of Chicago Education Lab, and the University of Amsterdam. His fearless approach to innovation has cultivated valuable partnerships with esteemed philanthropic organizations, including the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative, New Profit, Walton Family Foundation, Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, Blue Meridian Partners, and the Overdeck Family Foundation. A respected thought leader and guest lecturer at MIT, AJ's tireless commitment to evidence-based policy has significantly impacted education policy at local and national levels. His influence has spurred initiatives like the National Partnership for Student Success (NPSS), which aims to improve educational outcomes for all students. A Posse Scholar, AJ holds a BA from Union College and an MBA from Boston University Questrom School of Business. In 2023, he was awarded both the prestigious Pahara-Aspen Education Fellowship and the Hermes Creative Platinum Award.

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Jared Taillefer

Clerk

Jared is the co-founder and CEO of Great Oaks Charter School in Newark, New Jersey.  He graduated from Boston University in 2005 with a degree in Applied Mathematics. He was a member of the 2005-2006 MATCH Corps, the flagship site for high-dosage tutoring. After serving as a tutor, he taught high school and middle school math and served as the Dean of Students at Match Middle School.
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Julia Quinn

Julia Quinn is the Deputy Director of Philanthropy at Citadel, where she works with Citadel founder and CEO Ken Griffin on his personal philanthropy and on the firm’s engagement in the communities where Citadel employees live and work. She was previously the Associate Director of the University of Chicago Crime Lab and Education Lab, where she worked across a portfolio of research projects in Chicago and New York City in partnership with

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government agencies and local nonprofits to use data and data science to improve educational outcomes, prevent violence, and reduce the harms of the criminal justice system. Her work included large-scale randomized controlled trials of educational and social-emotional interventions, work on domestic violence and police reform, and a multi-city, multi-methods study of underground gun markets. She also helped to lead communications and fundraising efforts for the Labs. Prior to the University of Chicago, Julia worked on gun violence and juvenile justice reform, including research on the economic implications of changing the age of juvenile jurisdiction.

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Karine Apollon

Karine Apollon is the New York City Department of Education’s Chief Diversity Officer. In this role, she leads the DOE’s MWBE strategies to greatly expand economic opportunities for women- and minority-owned businesses and our diversity, equity and inclusion strategies in hiring practices. Previously, Karine served as Chief Executive Officer of the educational nonprofit Reading Partners.

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Prior to this, Karine worked for over two decades in a variety of leadership roles at the children’s publisher Scholastic, where she scaled literacy and mentorship initiatives and launched Scholastic’s family and community engagement work, with a focus on supporting and empowering marginalized communities.

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Dr. Karl Reid

Dr. Karl W. Reid is the Vice President for Equity and Inclusion (VPEI) at MIT. He has served as the executive director of the National Society of Black Engineers (NSBE) since 2014. Before MIT, he was the first Chief Inclusion Officer and Senior Provost at Northeastern University. For the over 18 years, he has been a leading advocate for increasing college access and opportunity for low-income and minority youth. Dr. Reid came to NSBE from the United Negro College Fund (UNCF).

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Before his service at UNCF, he worked in positions of progressive responsibility to increase diversity at his alma mater, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), which he left as associate dean of undergraduate education and director of the Office of Minority Education. While working at MIT, Dr. Reid earned his Doctor of Education degree at Harvard University. As an Executive in Residence at Saga, he is a part-time senior leader, focusing on diversity, equity, inclusion and belonging for the entire organization.

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Kassie Davis

Kassie Davis retired as Executive Director of CME Group Foundation and CME Trust in September 2021. She joined CME Trust in October 2006 as its first Executive Director and became Executive Director of CME Group Foundation with its creation in 2008. She was responsible for overall operation of the Foundation and Trust, including strategy development, proposal review, grant evaluation, communications and investment management.

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Davis was with The Chicago Community Trust from 2004 to 2006, where she was senior program officer for arts and culture. From 2000 to 2003, she served as project director of Giving Greater Chicago, an initiative of the Donors Forum of Chicago promoting the creation of permanent philanthropic capital. Earlier, Davis was executive director of the Illinois Arts Council, the state agency responsible for funding the arts. Davis, who holds a B.A. degree from Stephens College and a M.B.A. degree from Loyola University Chicago, entered the world of Chicago philanthropy in 1990 when she started the corporate contributions program at Marshall Field’s.

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Melanie Dukes

Melanie Dukes is the Associate Program Director, K-9 Education for the Overdeck Family Foundation. In this role she manages the Foundation’s in-school investment portfolios, Exceptional Educators and Innovative Schools, focused on K-9 programs that increase the retention of expert educators and support student-centered learning environments, respectively.

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Melanie brings over 15 years of experience with leading education initiatives, building innovative programs, and using technology, data, and analytics to generate new solutions to complex problems. Previously, Melanie worked at 2U, Inc. as a Director in the technology department to support online learning for universities. Prior to that, Melanie worked at Relay GSE, KIPP NYC, MLT (Management Leadership for Tomorrow), Morgan Stanley, and General Mills. She is also a board member for two Brooklyn Charter Schools – PAVE Academy and Launch Expeditionary Learning. Melanie earned an M.B.A. from Columbia Business School, graduated from Georgia Institute of Technology with a B.S. in Industrial Engineering, and is pursuing an M.A. in Education Technology at NYU Steinhardt. She enjoys volunteering, spending time with friends, traveling, and exploring Brooklyn with her loved ones.

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Meredith Liu

(In memoriam)

Meredith was the President and CEO of The Primary School, a new health and education model in E Palo Alto, CA founded by Priscilla Chan and Mark Zuckerberg. She earned her BA in Economics from Dartmouth College, magna cum laude, and completed her MBA, with distinction, at Harvard Business School (HBS).

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Previously, she served as the managing director of the School Turnaround Group (STG) at Mass Insight – a research, policy, and consulting organization dedicated to fundamentally transforming the state and local education systems that serve our country’s lowest performing schools. She was also a management consultant at Bain and Company and a dean and board member at Codman Academy, a high performing charter high school in Boston.

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Michael Levine

Michael Levine is a Senior Vice President at Nickelodeon and is Sesame Workshop’s Chief Knowledge Officer. Until 2018, he was the founding executive director of the Joan Ganz Cooney Center at Sesame Workshop. Michael previously oversaw Carnegie Corporation of New York’s groundbreaking work in early childhood development and educational media, and was a senior advisor to the New York City Schools Chancellor, where he directed early learning, dropout prevention and after-school programs.

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Michael serves on boards including the Forum for Youth Investment, We Are Family Foundation, Classroom, Inc, Journeys in Film, Woot Math, and DigiLearn. Dr. Levine is a Pahara-Aspen Education Reform Fellow and a frequent adviser to the White House and the U.S. Department of Education. He writes for professional and public affairs journals, including a column for Huffington Post and is a frequent keynote speaker at education and technology conferences around the world. His new book, co-authored with Lisa Guernsey of New America is Tap, Click, Read: Growing Readers in a World of Screens. He received his B.S from Cornell University and PhD in Social Policy from the Heller School at Brandeis University.

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Phyllis Lockett

Phyllis is CEO of LEAP Innovations, an education technology hub in Chicago connecting educators and tech companies from across the nation to research, pilot, and scale instructional technology solutions that advance teaching and learning from early childhood through early college.

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Before starting LEAP, Phyllis was a driving force behind Chicago’s charter movement. As founding president and CEO of New Schools for Chicago, she helped raise more than $70 million to support opening 80 new public schools, primarily charters. Her work more than tripled the number of charter schools and drove Chicago’s first magnet school replication. For nearly a decade, she focused on bringing quality public schools to communities of high need and advocating for school choice.

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Tony Luckett

Tony works in Strategic Partnerships for Facebook. As a long-time “Education Guy,” Tony has dedicated his life to making others successful – first as a school leader in the Marshall Islands, a HS math teacher at Match Education in Boston and recently as Head of Business for Leap.ai and Head of Education for Piazza. He has experience in human centered design (d.School and as a Business Designer at IDEO.org).

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He holds an MBA from the Stanford Graduate School of Business and two bachelors degrees from Dartmouth College (mechanical engineering and sculpture).

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Wendy Haines

Wendy Haines is a Partner at New Profit, a venture philanthropy organization that invests in breakthrough social entrepreneurs. Prior to New Profit, Wendy was the Head of Strategic Programs at UBS on the Community Impact & Corporate Responsibility team where she oversaw the firm’s philanthropic programming in the Americas.

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Before UBS, Wendy spent more than a decade working to advance educational equity in leadership roles across the public and nonprofit sectors, including as the Executive Director of Citizen Schools NY, a high quality after-school program provider, and as a founding team member of New Classrooms, an education technology nonprofit, where she helped create its sales and growth operations. Wendy also raised philanthropic funding for NYC Public Schools and began her career in marketing at American Express. Wendy has a Master of Public Administration from NYU and a Bachelor's degree from The Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania.

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Jennie Magiera

Jennie Magiera is the Global Head of Education Impact at Google, the Corwin bestselling author of Courageous Edventures, and the founder and president of the non-profit organization, Our Voice Alliance, whose mission is to elevate marginalized voices and perspectives to improve equity & empathy in education.

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Her work centers around acknowledging problems and finding innovative ways to navigate them so as to allow teachers and students to dive into classroom “edventures”: student-centered, passion-based experiential learning.

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senior advisors to the board

Headshot of Diane Hessan

Diane Hessan

Senior Advisor to the Board
Diane Hessan is a successful entrepreneur, researcher and author. She’s the founder and Chairman of C Space, formerly Communispace, which for the last decade has been one of the hottest companies in Boston’s innovation economy. A serial entrepreneur, Diane has consolidated her investment and advisory work into a company called Salient Ventures, which will help accelerate the next generation of growth companies in tech.

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She’s led two companies in the education space, as CEO of Startup Institute, and as EVP of The Forum Corporation, a large training and development company ultimately sold to Pearson. Diane received her M.B.A. from Harvard Business School and her B.A. in Economics from Tufts University.

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Josh Edelman

Senior Advisor to the Board
Josh serves as Transcend’s Head of Network focused on building a vibrant national community of visionary stakeholders throughout the field. These include school and systems leaders, educators, researchers, funders and other supporters with the goal of learning together to advance innovation and prepare all young people to thrive in and transform the world.

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Prior to joining Transcend in the winter of 2022, Josh spent over a decade at the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation as a Senior Program Officer then Deputy Director in the K-12 program before serving as a Senior Advisor for the US Program President. Specifically, when on the K-12 team, Josh co-led a 500M portfolio focused on increasing the number of Black, Latino, and low-income students who earn a high school diploma, enroll in a postsecondary institution, and are on track in their first year to attain a credential with labor market value.

Before Gates, Josh worked in two public school districts focused on creating and improving school options and learning environments. Josh was the Deputy Chief of School Innovation (OSI) for the DC Public Schools, which focused on supporting and empowering 58 DC public schools through the infusion of unique programmatic elements and was the Executive Officer of the Office of New Schools (ONS) at Chicago Public Schools, which worked to recruit, develop, and support schools as part of a mayoral initiative to create 100 new schools over a seven-year period.

Josh has also been a principal at The SEED School, a public charter boarding school in Washington DC, and he taught high school social studies for ten years in Massachusetts and California before working with SEED. 

Josh has a B.A in American History from Harvard University, a Master’s in Education from Stanford University, and a Master’s in Educational Administration, also from Stanford University.  Josh is or has served on the boards of AVID (current), Breakthrough Collaborative, Center for the Future of Teaching and Learning, City Works DC (current), City Year DC, City Works DC (current), Education Forward DC (current), EL Haynes Public Charter School (current – board chair), Leading Now (current), Maya Angelou Public Charter School, The National Alliance of Public Charter Schools and One World Network of Schools (current).

Josh lives in DC with his wife, Heather, and has two young adult daughters, Ellika and Zoe.

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Lewis Leiboh

As a Senior Program Officer at the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, he focuses on educational technology in K-12, particularly the application of emerging technologies to solving complex teaching and learning problems. Lewis Leiboh has spent the past fifteen years leading educational technology teams and programs, combining his experience as an engineer, a startup entrepreneur, and a middle school math teacher.

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Previously, Lewis worked at Google, leading partnerships and business development with top educational technology partners globally, supporting them in building great products, growing sustainable businesses, and reaching and impacting teachers, parents, and students. Before joining Google, Lewis headed up Teach For America's national team focused on educational technology and data systems initiatives. He spent ten years with Teach For America, including as a 7th and 8th grade math teacher in Phoenix, AZ. Prior to TFA, Lewis helped launch and manage wireless start-up software firm Lobby7, provider of a next generation multimodal application platform for mobile operators. He holds a Bachelor of Science in Computer Science and Engineering from MIT, and a Master of Education from Arizona State University. Lewis believes technology can play an important role in the incredibly hard work to improve academic achievement and put students on a different life path.

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Roseanna Ander

Senior Advisor to the Board for Evidence and Impact
Roseanna Ander serves as the founding Executive Director of the University of Chicago Crime Lab (since 2008) and the Education Lab (since 2011), which are part of UChicago Urban Labs. In January 2010, she was appointed to the International Association of Chiefs of Police Research Advisory Committee, and she formerly served on the Illinois Juvenile Justice Commission.

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Ms. Ander also served on the public safety transition teams for both Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel and Illinois Governor Bruce Rauner. Prior to joining UChicago, she oversaw the Joyce Foundation’s gun violence program and led the foundation’s grantmaking in early childhood education. Before working at Joyce, she was a Soros Justice Fellow.

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