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 Director of Curriculum and Instruction: Tiffanie Williams
Tiffanie is bringing a breadth of experience and enthusiasm with her as she joins team DPA as the Director of Curriculum and Instruction. Beginning her career as a fourth grade teacher in Ruleville, Mississippi, Tiffanie has spent the greater part of her time working in both the public and charter school sectors in our nation’s capital. For five years, Tiffanie taught fourth and fifth grade students at Gage-Eckington Elementary School before she transitioned to KIPP DC. During her tenure with KIPP DC, Tiffanie worked as a math teacher, vice principal, principal, and campus director where she honed her skills as an instructional expert. Tiffanie is passionate about the academic achievement of our students and wants every child to experience a life that is teeming with choice and opportunity.
Tiffanie received her MAT in elementary education from American University in Washington, DC and her B.A. from Northwestern University in Evanston, Illinois. Tiffanie is a proud native of Cleveland, Ohio where she frequently returns to visit her family.
Digital Pioneers Academy Entrepreneur-in-Residence: Joanna Klekowicz
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
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.
Digital Pioneers Academy Director of Special Projects: Donna MacAlester
Donna joins the DPA team with 10 years of experience in nonprofit management with a background in talent and hr, school culture, operations, development, and community engagement. Donna has a deep belief that everyone deserves equal access to quality public education that will prepare them for choice-filled lives, that all students can learn, and that all children are good. It is up to the adults to create and support schools that are accountable to their results, develop programs to support all students, and foster a community where all children thrive and are their best selves. For the last 7 years, Donna was a founding team member of Collegiate Academies in New Orleans, LA, a high-performing charter network boasting some of the most impressive results for high school students in the country, while also creating innovative and robust special education and restorative programs to support students. Donna supported the CEO in the first phase of growth, moving from 1 school to a charter network with a portfolio of 3 schools. She then worked directly at Abramson Sci Academy creating and growing the co-curricular department from a few after school clubs, to a full fledged high school athletic, performing art, leadership and music department. As a founding team member, she helped create, define and implement many of the staff, student and operational best practices that have been used as a model across the country.
Donna has a BA in American Studies from Tulane University. She and her husband are also the proud parents of twins who are in Pre-K 3, as well as a 6th grader, a 4th grader, and are expecting a soon to be-er in the fall.
Digital Pioneers Academy Dean of Social-Emotional Learning: Jordan Johnson
Mr. Johnson began working in the mental health industry as a residential counselor in 2009 at Elk Hill; which is located in Richmond Virginia. Elk Hill is a residential facility that treats adjudicated youth from ages 8 to 21. While serving youth and families from the community DMV area, Mr. Johnson became the crisis intervention specialist for the organization. He trained staff from the organization and school leaders from local districts on relationship building with youth, communication skills, conflict resolution, and other interventions to keep individuals safe. In addition, Mr. Johnson led psycho education groups with residents to teach them skills in the following areas: stress management, anger management, social skills, health and wellness, and money management.
Mr. Johnson felt that there was a need to reach struggling youth at an earlier stage of intervention and sought out a more direct pathway to impact the community he was serving. This lead to Mr. Johnson joining Uncommon Schools as an Associate Dean of Students, then quickly becoming the Dean of Students of Vailsburg Elementary School in Newark, New Jersey. UnCommon Schools' mission is to serve low income students by giving communities access to urban public charter schools that close the achievement gap. While serving as the Dean of Students for the highest performing charter network in New Jersey, Vailsburg 3rd grade scholars exceeded the nationwide PARCC ELA proficiency rate by 30% and 4th grade exceeded this same test by 40%. As the Dean of Students, Mr. Johnson ensured that all scholars and families met school expectations while also implementing a school wide system that ensured all scholars exemplified the core values of the school: respect, responsibility, courage, caring, and justice. As a testament to his work with his school and community, Mr. Johnson was awarded the Vailsburg Community Service Award in 2017 and received a Senate Resolution from Senator Rice.
Mr. Johnson is moving back to the area with his wife, Brittni Johnson, who is an Assistant Professor at Relay Graduate School. They are expecting their first child in August.
Digital Pioneers Academy Special Assistant to the CEO: Alexis Brown
Alexis joins Digital Pioneers Academy with a passion for education and STEM, and is beyond thrilled that DPA merges the two. Alexis studied engineering in college, and is dedicated to increasing opportunities for young people of color to pursue and excel in STEM fields. She truly believes that DPA is providing critical exposure to and knowledge about computer science, which is important for all students in this era, but especially those hoping to pursue STEM.
Alexis’ professional career began in Chicago as a founding charter middle school teacher with the LEARN Charter Network, where she taught 6th grade science and 8th grade math. Alexis then taught 7th and 8th grade Algebra at NOBLE’s Gary Comer Middle School. While teaching, Alexis also served as a Diversity and Inclusion Seminar Leader for first year Teach For America corps members. Deciding to move back home to the DMV, Alexis taught 8th grade math at Glasgow Middle School in Fairfax, VA. She spent a summer teaching a College Success course to high school students interested in STEM with the Summer Math and Science Academy (SMASH) through the Level Playing Field Institute (LFPI). She then served as a program manager of Ascend, a college persistence and career readiness program with Management Leadership for Tomorrow, a nonprofit based in Bethesda, MD. Alexis regularly volunteers and teaches with the Horizons at Maret, a school-year Saturday and summer enrichment program for DC public school students.
Alexis has a B.S. in Engineering from the University of Pennsylvania.