Adriana Abich dedicated her career to providing quality education to all students. She is a graduate of Occidental College where she studied English and Comparative Literary Studies. She also completed her credential in Occidental’s post graduate program. After leaving Occidental, Ms. Abich worked in several districts teaching students in grades 2 through 5. Through this experience, she developed a passion for improving literacy instruction for all students. This motivated Ms. Abich to take on a position as a Literacy Coach in L.A.U.S.D. She served as a Coach for the teachers in a large elementary school for 4 years. At the same time Ms. Abich continued her education at California State University, Northridge, where she graduated with a Master’s degree in Educational Leadership and Policy Studies. In addition to earning her degree, Ms. Abich also completed her Administrative Services Credential. In 2010, she joined PUC Schools as an Assistant Principal and then Principal of Nueva Esperanza Charter Academy. During her years at Nueva Esperanza, literacy continued to be her focus. Ms. Abich and her team developed Guided Reading classrooms which resulted in tremendous growth and achievement in English Language Arts for all students. Over the past 3 years, Ms. Abich has worked as Deputy Superintendent and now Regional Superintendent of schools for PUC. In this role, she works to develop the 10 schools and the school Leaders to ensure quality educational choices in the cities of Sylmar, Pacoima, San Fernando, and Lakeview Terrace.
Leslie Chang was born in Nicaragua and raised in Los Angeles by an immigrant Nicaraguan mother and Chinese father. She is the youngest of three and a first generation college graduate in her family. She attended Catholic schools in the Northeast Los Angeles area. Leslie graduated from Mount St. Mary’s College and received her Bachelors of Sociology, completed her credentialing program and graduated with a Master’s of Science in Education. Immediately after receiving her Bachelors, Leslie began teaching at a parochial school in Cypress Park, where she built her teaching foundation and love for students and parents. Four years later, she began teaching at CALS Charter Middle School as the 8th grade Humanities and Reading teacher. She knew it was the perfect school because she would continue to work with the same community of students and parents of the Northeast Los Angeles. Soon after, she became the Assistant Principal and Principal of the school. In her ten years with PUC, Leslie has focused her commitment to developing a school with a rigorous college ready experience, thriving student scholars, strong parent engagement, highly effective teachers, and teacher leaders. As Superintendent of Instruction and Leadership, Dr. Chang will support the students, leaders, and staff in all of our schools to reach exemplary levels of excellence and achievement.
Karman Mak leads PUC’s Induction Program which supports new teachers to develop and grow. She conducts mentor trainings and professional development. Along with heading the induction program, Karman is an instructional coach providing on-going support for all teachers in grades 6-12 teaching a variety of subjects. Previously, she served as principal and prior to that assistant principal for PUC Triumph Charter Academy.
Karman began her teaching career in Medford Public Schools located in a suburban of Boston. She then moved to Roxbury Prep, a high performing urban charter in Boston. At Roxbury Prep, Karman received her National Board Teacher Certification in Early Adolescence in Social Studies. Throughout her career, she has been dedicated to empowering students to succeed in college and beyond to meet her vision of providing equitable education for all.
Karman holds a B.A. in Sociology/Anthropology and Education from Swarthmore College and a M.Ed. from Salem State University.
Meredith McOlvin is the Director of Inclusion and Special Education for PUC Schools. She oversees the special education and inclusion departments in all PUC schools and helps to support teachers and leaders in developing effective special education practice. She also maintains collaborative relationships with LAUSD and local charter agencies. Previously, she was an inclusion specialist at Lakeview Charter High School. She began her career teaching high school English in Philadelphia, PA, and went on to obtain a credential in special education. For five years she taught in the School District of Philadelphia, working with all types of special education placements and eligibilities. However, her experience in supporting students with special needs goes back to her job that began in high school as a 1:1 aide for a student with Autism, leading vocational workshops, and being a nanny for a student with Autism while in college. Meredith holds a B.S. in Education from Villanova University, an M.Ed in Special Education from Chestnut Hill College, and is currently pursuing her Ed.D in the Educational Leadership Program at UCLA.
Gerard Montero was born and raised in the Northeast San Fernando Valley and entered the field of public education at Montague Elementary School over three decades ago. His experience in the charter arena began 20 years ago when Mr. Montero served as a key member of the teacher leadership team during Montague’s conversion to charter status in 1995 and served on the governance board for over 10 years. Deeply committed to excellence in public education and the success of all children Mr. Montero, began as a teaching assistant and then became a teacher. After several years in the classroom, Mr. Montero became Bilingual Coordinator and eventually became Executive Director. Mr. Montero earned his B.A. teaching credential and M.A. in Educational Administration at California State University Northridge.
During 2011 and 2013 Mr. Montero served on PUC’s governance board. In 2013 he joined the PUC family as Compliance Coordinator. During that year Mr. Montero followed his dream to start a charter that would represent his core values of excellence, commitment, and love of learning. In 2014, PUC Community Charter Elementary became the first and only PUC elementary in the Northeast San Fernando Valley and currently serves over 300 students from Kindergarten through Fifth grade.
Mr. Montero, is also a proud PUC parent. In June 2016, his son graduated from Community Charter Early College High School.
Prior to his experience as a middle school principal, Nik Orlando has had extensive experience connecting the art community to the school community with city murals created by students at a Garden Park, as well as city art shows with student work included at Long Beach Art Walks and various performances. His experience also includes personal community based art experiences with stage and installation work with TEEN Magazine Cover, Long Beach City Halloween Event, California State University, Long Beach and the Festival of the Five Senses, The Perfect Circus, sponsoring foster children with musical instruments and grass roots community art collectives creating art/performance shows for the city. His teaching experience includes history, English, and journalism instruction for grades six through eight at CALS Charter Middle School, as well as history, English, and art instruction for grades six through eight at Constellation Community Middle School in Long Beach. He earned a Bachelor of Arts in Art and Multiple Subject CLAD Clear Teaching Credential from California State University, Long Beach and a Master of Arts in Collaborative Educational Leadership from Fielding Graduate University.
Dr. Jennifer Reyes is an educator dedicated to building educational excellence and engagement for all students. Prior to serving as Regional Deputy Superintendent for the Valley schools, she served as Instructional Leader and then Principal for PUC CCECHS for the past eight years during which time the school reached exemplary levels of excellence in student achievement, and also became a California Distinguished School. Dr. Reyes has a background in progressive education and seeks to build a program that prepares students for college success by developing their thinking skills and immersing them in the arts, activities, and service to their community. Dr. Reyes is a graduate of Scripps College and UCLA.
Christine Sartiaguda is Director of Clinical Services at PUC and founder of the Clinical Counseling Program. She has over 17 years of clinical experience. Christine is a Licensed Marital and Family Therapist and Registered Art Therapist who clinically supervises Marital and Family Therapy Trainees/Interns as well as Art Therapy Interns. Having graduated with honors with a Bachelors in Psychology, Christine continued on to graduate with honors with her Masters in Marital and Family Therapy specializing in Art Therapy, both degrees from Loyola Marymount University.
Prior to coming to PUC, Christine worked at G.L.A.S.S., a non-profit agency helping at-risk youth in foster care. In her position as Director of Training, Program Director of a Day Program, Senior Therapist and Group Home Therapist, Christine was able to demonstrate her versatility, leadership and clinical expertise. In addition to having worked in residential care, Christine has worked at psychiatric hospitals as an Art Therapist, co-facilitating groups for mentally ill adult patients as well as out-patient clinics and schools as a marital and family therapist. Christine has also been an associate professor at Phillips Graduate Institute and has been a guest speaker at graduate classes at Loyola Marymount University and CSUN.
In her current position as Director of Clinical Services, Christine over sees the Clinical Counseling Program, Psychological Testing Services, contracted clinical services to outside agencies and all other clinical services within PUC as well as provides direct counseling services and individual and group supervision to the clinical counseling trainees/interns. She is committed to providing optimal clinical services to the students and families at PUC.
Dr. Gasca graduated from Georgetown University in May 2003, with a double major in Government and Psychology. Gloria was born and raised in Los Angeles and takes pride to live in a community that strives for their excellence. Dr. Gasca was inspired to pursue a career in education during her time as a Research Assistant for Georgetown University/NIH’s sponsored grant entitled DESARROLLO (Developing Educational Supports And Reading Resources Of Limited English and Literacy Of parents). The passion for education was also reinforced during her time as a Coro Fellow where she realized the strengths, and discrepancies of our educational system. She has continued her commitment to education through her time with PUC Schools. She began teaching with PUC Schools at PUC Milagro Charter School during the 2006 school year. She has developed through PUC and has grown in her leadership. She is a current principal at PUC Excel and was an integral part at securing the charter renewal for another 5 years. She constantly seeks local partnerships with non-profits to improve the opportunities that her students have to grow in their leadership. Gloria received her masters degree in educational psychology and teaching credential at Pepperdine University and received her Administrative Credential along with certificates in special education and charter school leadership from Loyola Marymount University. She earned her doctoral degree from Loyola Marymount University in Education Leadership for Social Justice.
Melody Levine Morris is the Principal at PUC Santa Rosa Charter Academy. Before becoming principal, Melody served as the Assistant Principal at PUC Santa Rosa Charter Academy for four years focusing on math instruction and Inclusion Special Education. Before joining PUC she served as the Director of School Transformation with the Partnership for Los Angeles Schools in which supported schools in professional development and instruction. Melody was previously a Senior Educational Consultant with the Consortium on Reading Excellence and worked with over thirty schools across the country to provide professional development in best practices in literacy instruction. Melody also served as a Teach For America School Director in Long Beach Unified School District and began her career in education as a teacher in the Compton Unified School District. Melody received her undergraduate degree from the University of California at Berkeley and holds a Master’s degree in Education with an emphasis in Curriculum and Instruction from California State University Los Angeles.
Connie Rivas is the principal of PUC CALS Charter Middle & Early College High School where she has served for over ten years. Her passion for education is deeply rooted in both her personal narrative which includes being among the first in her family to graduate from college along with her own critical consciousness related to social justice. The various capacities in public school settings in which she has served span eighteen years and have all positively influenced and continuously reaffirmed her commitment to education reform in service of students, families, and communities. She has worked closely with students, parents, teachers, administrators, professors, social workers, policy makers, and public figures to continuously engage in the dialogue related to education reform. She is a champion for students and a zealous advocate for special education, quality teaching and learning, inclusivity, data driven practices, cultural competence, social-emotional learning and development, home-to-school partnerships, service learning and college and career education in support of all students. She received a Bachelor of Arts degree in history from California State University, Northridge and later received a Master of Science in Special Education from National University. She is dedicated to ensuring that schools serve as a vehicle for all students to find their purpose, voice, identity, and develop the cognitive and non-cognitive skills to self-actualize in order to uplift themselves, their family, and their communities now and forever.
Sascha Robinett is the founding principal of Milagro Charter School, providing students with both a bilingual and arts integrated education. Prior to starting the school she worked for a national arts-integrated school reform initiative, Different Ways of Knowing, designing and facilitating professional development workshops and creating school programs in arts integration, literacy, teacher leadership, standards-based instruction, and data-driven decision making and receiving intense training from professional artists and arts educators in visual arts, drama, dance, and music. During her classroom teaching experience – in grades three through twelve – she worked with the Amory Center for the Arts in Pasadena to create and implement an arts-integrated sixth grade curriculum program and wrote a school-wide grant (Arts In The Schools) to bring music education from kindergarten through sixth grade to her school. She holds both a clear multiple subject/CLAD credential and a preliminary administration credential. She received her B.A. in Sociology from University of California, Santa Barbara and her M.A. in Educational Leadership from California State University, Los Angeles.
Chanel Young-Smith started her career in education in 2003 when she obtained her first teaching position at Los Angeles Leadership Academy Middle and High School. She joined the PUC family in August 2013 as Assistant Principal for PUC Schools.
Ms. Young always felt it was important to expand her knowledge in her professional field and hungered to perfect her craft. She decided to look at other levels of education. PIO PICO Elementary gave her the experience in the multiple subject classrooms where she was able to see education through a different lens. She also became an Adjunct Professor at Antioch University servicing the Education and Teaching Credentialing Dept. She later worked with LAUSD as a BTSA support provider to support teachers in the clearing of their credentials.
In 2012, Ms. Young became the Dean of Students for Los Angeles Leadership Academy. It was there she expanded her knowledge in Administration and built relationships to enhance her leadership skills.
She earned her B.S. degree in Kinesiology at the University of Southern California and Master’s degrees in Education and Education administration at Antioch University, Los Angeles and CSUDH, respectively. With her Certificate in Educational Leadership from Loyola Marymount University and her teaching and Administrative credentials, she continues to be a part of the PUC family as Principal of PUC eCALS and is excited to continue her professional life by supporting students and teachers.
After many years of experience in Education as an administrator, teacher, coach, and department chair, Adam Almeida joined the PUC Lakeview Charter High School team in July, 2015 as Principal. Adam started at PUC as an Assistant Principal at PUC Triumph Charter Academy in Sylmar, CA. Prior to that, Adam served the students and families in the El Monte Union High School District for seven years as an Assistant Principal of Activities and seven years of classroom experience during which he served as a Social Science department head and a Varsity Baseball Coach. Adam participates in WASC as a member of visiting accreditation committees and is a member of the Association of California School Administrators.
As a native of Southern California, Adam attended the University of Southern California as an undergraduate where he was a double major in Political Science and Education. He discovered his passion for teaching and learning while volunteering in local schools in South Los Angeles as well as coaching various sports in afterschool programs. Adam received his administrative credential from Cal Poly Pomona where he pursued a Masters of Education with an emphasis on Educational Leadership.
Emily Biddle is thrilled to be the Principal of PUC Triumph Charter High School. Prior to becoming Principal, she served as the Dean of Instruction for PUC TCHS. Originally from Northern California, Ms. Biddle grew up in a small mountain town with one stoplight. She moved to Los Angeles to attend UCLA, from which she graduated with a B.A. in English Literature. She completed her graduate studies at Pepperdine University, earning her M.Ed. as well as her teaching credential. She began her teaching career at a charter high school in Granada Hills, where she taught 10th and 11th grade English. Following her position in Granada Hills, Ms. Biddle taught at a small charter high school in Pacoima, where she fell in love with the Northeast San Fernando Valley community. She is excited to continue the work this year at PUC Triumph Charter High School and looks forward to collaborating with students, parents, and staff toward school-wide success.
Claudio Estrada, Jr. was born and raised in the San Fernando Valley to Mexican descent parents. As a First-Generation American, he was instilled with his parent’s hard work ethic and drive to pursue the American Dream. After graduating from high school, he completed a yearlong studied abroad program in French language and history in Paris, France and earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in political science with a minor in education at the University of California, Santa Barbara (UCSB.) As an undergraduate student, he worked part-time at an elementary school in Montecito, CA as a special education teaching assistant. During this time, he had the chance to explore the different local school systems through the lenses of many of ethnic studies courses and volunteer projects with the neighboring schools. He soon realized the large discrepancy in the education system that largely divided the allocations of resources and opportunities clearly defined by a zip code. His drive for social justice lead to him to apply the highly coveted Teach For America (TFA) program and was admitted after graduation.
After many successful years as a middle school English teacher, Mr. Estrada went on to complete a Master of Arts in Education Policy and Administration at Loyola Marymount University. Today, he brings his narrative as a Mexican- American/First-Generation American, first college graduate in his family, and strong personal ties to the community into his inclusive learning community. As a school leader, he brings an array of elements of high expectations, individualized attention and care to the development of the whole child. He is not reluctant to hold the mirror up to his students so they can truly identify their true potential and fulfill our collective lifelong goal to uplift our communities. He is honored and privileged to collaborate with a team of multitalented educators and families of the thriving community of Lakeview Terrace as the principal of PUC Community Charter Middle School.
Jen Heller has a passion and dedication to providing quality education, with a focus on reading development, for all students. Ms. Heller graduated with a Bachelor’s Degree in Child and Adolescent Development from Cal State Northridge. While in college, she worked with students in an afterschool day care program and summer camp. Upon graduating, she started to substitute and quickly found a passion for teaching. Ms. Heller went on to pursue a Master’s degree in Teaching with specialization in Reading. It was her desire to help struggling readers that drove her to develop the skill necessary to implement reading interventions. Ms. Heller taught middle school for 6 years prior to coming to PUC. In 2014, Ms. Heller joined PUC Nueva Esperanza as the 8th grade English Language Arts teacher, focusing her time on implementing Guided Reading in the classroom to help increase student’s literacy skills. Ms. Heller’s passion for education continued to grow, as she found that through a focus on reading skills, students were growing at a tremendous rate. This year, Ms. Heller has joined Nueva Esperanza High School as the Principal, in order to help bring the same passion for literacy and growth to the startup high school. It is her vision, that as the NECA High School continues to develop, student will graduate ready for college and careers.
Dr. Akilah Lyons-Moore is Principal of PUC Community Charter Early College High School. With roots in community organizing and a deep level of passion towards the pursuit of academic equity for historically underserved communities, Dr. Lyons-Moore is dedicated to ensuring that schooling experiences are accessible, responsive, and relevant to students, families, and the communities they serve. Prior to moving into school administration three years ago, Dr. Lyons-Moore spent 9 years in the classroom as a high school History teacher. As a member of the community in which CCECHS is located, Dr. Lyons-Moore is excited to return home to continue the mission of PUC. Dr. Lyons-Moore is a graduate of Occidental College and has her Master of Arts in Teaching as well as her Doctorate in Education from the University of Southern California (USC).
Megan T. McGarry is the founding principal of PUC Inspire Charter Academy. She discovered her love of education while studying for her BA in Communication Disorders and Cello Performance at Butler University in Indianapolis, Indiana. In 2006 she was accepted into the Teach for America program where she had the great fortune of being placed with PUC Schools. Megan was the founding sixth grade science teacher at Triumph Charter Academy, where she went on to serve as Lead Teacher and Administrative Designee. In 2009 she became the 8th grade science teacher at Lakeview Charter Academy, where she later served as Assistant Principal. She has also held the position of Induction Coordinator and Instructional Team Coach for the entire PUC network. Firmly grounded in the belief that education is a lifelong endeavor, Ms. McGarry completed her Master’s in Education from Loyola Marymount University in 2007 and earned her Certificate in Charter School Leadership from the same institution in 2011.
Fidel Ramirez has accumulated 24 years of successful experience working in the both private and public charter school settings. Currently serving as school principal at PUC Nueva Esperanza Charter Academy in the City of San Fernando.
Mr. Ramirez begun his career as classroom teacher. Eventually serving as Associate Director of Student Outreach and Recruitment Services at California State University, Northridge. He also served as school principal at PUC Community Charter Middle School as well as principal at PUC Community Charter Early College High School. He is a proud parent of three PUC scholars. Mr. Ramirez understands the needs of the communities PUC serves. He has served as PUC Board member over the years and is committed to ensuring the success of all PUC students and staff members. Mr. Ramirez completed his BA and MA at California State University, Northridge.
Melissa began her teaching career St. Louis Public schools at a high school located in North St. Louis. After teaching, Melissa then went on to become a teacher coach for Teach For America. She provided professional development for first and second year teachers and instructional and management on-going coaching and support for teachers K-12 in a variety of subjects. During this time she was trained and certified through the Center for Transformative Teacher Training as a Real Time Teacher Coach and specialized in classroom management coaching. She joined PUC Lakeview Charter Academy as a Dean of Culture and is now serving as Principal. Throughout her career, Melissa has been dedicated to empowering both students and teachers to grow to ensure an excellent education for all.
Melissa holds a bachelor’s degree in psychology from the University of the Pacific and a master’s degree in secondary education from the University of Missouri – St. Louis.
Max Valadez was born and raised in Pacoima, California. He assisted Pacoima Elementary School, Maclay Junior High School, and graduated from San Fernando High School. He has been in education after he graduated from high school for over 20 years. He started as a teacher’s assistant and a librarian for an elementary school and became a 5th grade teacher. He started working for PUC Community Charter Early College High School as a 9th grade integrated science teacher in 2005. Max then moved to work as an 8th grade science teacher for PUC Community Charter Middle School. Then served as a college counselor at PUC CCECHS. After PUC CCECHS, he became the assistant principal for PUC CCMS for 5 years. He came to PUC Triumph Charter Academy as the Dean of Students in February, 2014. In April, 2014, he became the interim principal for the remainder of the 2013-2014 school year and is now the principal for PUC TCA.
Jocelyn M. Velez was raised in the Northeast San Fernando Valley and at a young age had aspirations to become an educator. While a student at San Fernando High School, she worked at a local middle school helping students improve their reading skills and grow their reading levels. Ms. Velez studied at the University of California Riverside where she received a Bachelor of Arts in Liberal Studies and later received a Master’s of Arts in Education from Pepperdine University. While a student at Pepperdine University, she was introduced to the charter school movement and she spent her time working at a charter elementary school. Ms. Velez’s love for teaching prompted her to pursue a Multiple Subjects Credential and a Single Subject Credential in English Language Arts allowing her the opportunity to teach at the elementary, middle school, and high school level. She began her teaching career as a 7th grade English teacher at PUC Lakeview Charter Academy and went on to teach 9th grade at PUC Lakeview Charter High School where she later served as the Assistant Principal. Her love of learning and commitment to her students pushed her to attend Loyola Marymount University where she received a Master’s Degree in School Administration. Ms. Velez is deeply connected to her community and she has grounded herself in the belief that all students will succeed when provided with the right tools; she has dedicated herself to providing equal opportunities to her students. She is honored to continue her work in the community she grew up in as the principal of PUC Community Charter Elementary.