Our Team

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Digital Pioneers Academy FoundER & Principal: MASHEA ASHTON

Mashea recently returned to the Washington, D.C. area after spending the last 20 years implementing and scaling best practices in urban education across the country. Mashea is deeply committed to changing the narrative about students who live in Ward 7 and 8 in Washington, D.C. Her family has been in Washington, DC for six generations and her early career started as a special education teacher at Anne Beers elementary in D.C. Most recently, Mashea served as the CEO of the Newark Charter School Fund, where she oversaw a $48 million initiative to support the quality growth of charter schools. Before leading the Newark Charter School Fund, Mashea served as the executive director for the New York Program, and senior advisor for charter school policy, for New Leaders for New Schools. Mashea has also served as the executive director for Charter Schools for the New York City Department of Education and the national director of recruitment and selection for the Knowledge is Power Program (KIPP). Mashea is a frequent speaker and panelist for charter school and education reform advocacy organizations around the country.  

Mashea has a M.Ed. in special education with an emphasis on learning disabilities and emotional disturbance and a B.A. in sociology and elementary education from the College of William and Mary. She and her husband are the proud parents of twins who are in first grade.

Digital Pioneers Academy Entrepreneur-in-Residence: Joanna Klekowicz

Core expertise: Instruction, computer science, professional development, and curriculum
Joanna comes to Digital Pioneers Academy after successfully scaling the RePublic Computer Science Program which  now impacts over 10,000+ students. At RePublic, Joanna solidified the vision of the program, shaped strategy, and led all partnership work. Joanna first joined the movement for educational equity after witnessing the injustice of the school-to-prison pipeline while tutoring inmates at the Suffolk County House of Corrections in Boston. Post college-graduation, she joined Teach for America and taught in Memphis. As a 5th-6th grade math and science teacher, she served as the head of Math Common Core while leading her students to achieve more than 2.5 years of growth. After moving back to her hometown of Chicago, Joanna worked with TNTP-Chicago Teaching Fellows to train and develop high school math teachers. She then ventured into the financial sector where she worked as an investment consultant and honed business development skills. 

Joanna graduated from Boston College with a B.S. in Psychology with a concentration in Neuroscience and a B.A. in Sociology. She received her M.Ed. from Christian Brothers University.

Digital Pioneers Academy Director of OperAtions: Nima Farshchi

Core expertise: Creating operational systems, business development, management, and vendor relationships

Nima joins Digital Pioneers Academy after being an operational leader at charter schools in both Washington, D.C. and New York City. He was drawn to working in urban education because of his passion for creating the greatest trickle-down impact in under resourced communities, through his business development and management skills.

Nima began his journey working as an Operations Coordinator at Success Academy, but most notably Nima was the Business Operations Manager for Success Academy Bed-Stuy 1. He helped lead the school to reaching the 4th highest percentage of scholars passing the 2016 New York State Tests in all of New York State. Nima was also responsible for school’s procurement, communication, event planning, and facilities; receiving a 2nd place ranking amongst the 41 schools’ network-wide review metrics. Nima returned to his home in the Washington, D.C. area in Fall 2017 to pursue his Master of Business Administration from the University of Maryland, and also worked as the Director of Operations of Excel Academy Public Charter School in Ward 8.

Before working in charter schools, Nima worked at the United States Chamber of Commerce Foundation, collaborating with a team to develop the Business for Good Map, an interactive database analyzing 3500 Corporate Social Responsibility initiatives of 140 corporations.

Nima graduated from the University of Maryland with dual B.S. degrees in Operations Management and Accounting, and also a Minor in Leadership Studies.