Mission

Pollyanna advances systemic change by developing stronger communities.

Strategy

Pollyanna works with academic and other institutions to achieve their diversity, equity and inclusion goals. Through its unique conference models, discussion platforms, and racial literacy curricula, Pollyanna increases cultural competence.

Team

Jan Abernathy

Pollyanna Partner

Jan Abernathy is Chief Communications Officer for The Browning School (NY) a K-12 all-boys school with 400 students. She is also the president of New York City Independent School Communications Professionals (NYCISCP), co-founder of Black Advancement Networking Group (BANG) and principal of a consulting firm, Jan Abernathy Strategic Communications. 

Jan is a trustee of the Grace Church School (NY) and is chair of the CASE-NAIS 2022 conference, as well as co-chair the NYSAIS Advancement Committee. She has written for Independent Schools magazine on crisis communications and how schools responded to the “Black at” movement and has been featured in the recent CASE Currents article “What is Equity?” Jan has presented and facilitated at many conferences including NAISAC, the NAIS’ New Heads Institute, CASE-NAIS, the NYSAIS Advancement Conference and the NJAIS Diversity Conference. Her two children graduated from the Dalton School (NY) in 2016 and 2020.

Ivy Alphonse-Crean

Pollyanna Facilitator

Ivy Alphonse-Crean is the Director of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion at an independent school in Massachusetts. Ivy believes that children and adults should be seen, heard and safe within their school communities. She is currently completing 200-hour Yoga Teacher Certification (CYT 200 and Social-Emotional Learning Facilitator Certification (SEL*F) [completion date: August 8th, 2023]. At her current school, Ivy guides the affinity spaces and dialogue groups for students and adults, including the community of parents and caregivers. She also manages the SEL program for grades 1-5 and serves on the board of Horizons.

Ivy has worked in single-sex environments and has experience as an advisor an ELA educator. She has presented at the NYSAIS Diversity Conference, AISNE Diversity Conference, People of Color Conference, and Carney Sandoe FORUM Diversity. Ivy is a contributing author to the anthology Teaching Beautiful Brilliant Black Girls and her writing can also be found on WBUR.org, as well as in Independent School Magazine. 

 

Casper Caldarola

Pollyanna Founder

Casper Caldarola founded the New York based, non-profit, Pollyanna in 2015. Casper has worn many hats in independent schools: alum, parent, administrator, and trustee, and saw different levels of commitment to DEI work. She felt and still feels the most important aspect of this work is to keep the academic, social, and emotional needs of the student at the center. Casper founded Pollyanna to support the schools that have made a commitment to building a more inclusive school community through multi-constituent conference models, workshops, community  assessments and racial literacy curriculum.

Casper’s experience includes serving as president of the Dalton School Parents Association. During her tenure, she created a more inclusive community, developed a new budgeting structure making it possible for parents of different socioeconomics to volunteer, hosted more events at school to take the pressure off of in-home hosting, and introduced monthly topic-driven parent discussions to find additional ways to bring the community together. In addition, Casper was the Communications Director at the Allen-Stevenson School and was tasked with helping to develop and implement equity initiatives, such as, developing a more inclusive hiring process and creating Parent Chats with topics that focused on DEI. Before joining the independent school world, she was a marketing and advertising executive.

Casper now serves on the Board of Seeds of Peace. She was a trustee at the Dalton School for 10 years and served as a member of the Executive Committee, chaired the Committee on New Trustees and Community Life & Diversity Committee, and was on the strategic plan steering committee, and has also served on the boards of Parents-in-Action and Generation Citizen.

Jay Golon

Pollyanna Program Designer & Facilitator

Jay Golon is an educator with 20 years of experience as a teacher and administrator in independent schools. He currently works with Pollyanna’s clients to design and facilitate workshops that advance the work of equity and justice. 

Jay believes that all students flourish in just, equitable, and identity-safe learning environments. Ensuring that every child and family can be the fullest, most authentic version of themselves in all of their communities is at the heart of his work as an educator.

He spent the first part of his career in the classroom as a Middle School Social Studies teacher at the Trevor Day School in New York City, the Epiphany School in Dorchester, Massachusetts, and The Dalton School in New York City. He also served as Dalton’s Middle School Assistant Director for Curriculum and Dean of Students for five years followed by three years as Middle School Principal at the Friends School of Baltimore. 

Jay earned a B.A. from Wesleyan University in American Studies and Theater and a Masters in School Leadership from Harvard University. 

Claire Hannan-Radomisli

Pollyanna Director of Operations

Claire Hannan-Radomisli joined Pollyanna in 2018 as a Project Manager and eventually took on the role of Director of Operations. Much of her work involves partnering with schools to plan and develop Pollyanna conferences for their communities.

She served as President of the Parents Association at The Dalton School from 2013-2015. During her tenure, Claire promoted community building and inclusion, and supported the many diversity/affinity groups at the school. She was instrumental in establishing the New Parent Welcome Committee, the Gay and Lesbian Parent Group, and the Hispanic/Latino Parent Group. In addition, Claire served as a Trustee and was a member of the following Board committees: Community Life & Diversity and New Trustees. She has volunteered at the Dalton Diversity Conference for many years and attended the Glenn Singleton training, “Beyond Diversity.”

Claire graduated Summa Cum Laude from N.Y.U. with a BS in Cultural Anthropology. Much of her coursework focused on the study of gender, identity, race, religion, sexual orientation from a global perspective.

Claire lives in New York with her husband and their three boys.

Jason Craige Harris
Mediator, Facilitator, Educator

Jason Craige Harris is a voice for healing, transformation, and the power of storytelling. He brings together insights from diverse fields as a facilitator, conflict mediator, leadership coach, and spiritual teacher. He works in a variety of contexts, with a range of constituents, and across industries to promote cultures of dignity, belonging, and repair. He regularly advises leaders on how to solve big challenges, manage complex crises, and pursue lasting change.

As a researcher, educator, and strategist, Jason holds expertise in organizational development; dignity and belonging; dialogue and group dynamics; the psychology of identity and leadership; and conflict transformation and restorative justice. In all of his work, Jason draws on a deep well of research, practice, and mindfulness to transform leaders, teams, and organizational cultures.

Jason is committed to educating the public. Jason is a member of the speakers bureau at Pollyanna, a national organization working to promote racial literacy and cultural competency. He writes on issues pertaining to leadership, culture, conflict, abuse, repair, and religion / spirituality. Jason is also the Social Impact Producer for a documentary with Impactful entitled Race to Be Human, a film on how to talk about race and mental health. In addition, he serves as a senior partner at a consulting firm that serves organizations around the world.

Previously, Jason was the director of diversity and inclusion at a NYC independent school, where he co-led the school’s peace, equity, and justice department, and taught courses at the intersection of ethics, history, and religion. Jason sits on the boards of Seeds of Peace, Hidden Water, and Getting to We.

Shernice Lazare

Pollyanna Facilitator

Shernice Lazare has been a career educator for almost 30 years, 15 of them as a teacher. After teaching she joined the UCLA Lab School and UCLA Center X, where she led staff professional development and equity-based leadership. From 2014 – 2022, she founded a diverse-by-design K-8 charter school in San Francisco and is currently the founding Head of DEIB & Talent for Citizens of the World, Los Angeles. Shernice is a strong believer and advocate for quality education for all students, especially those who have been historically underrepresented and undersupported in schools.
 
Shernice sits on the executive board for The Bay School, an independent 9-12th grade high school in San Francisco and is the board chair for a small nonprofit organization, edwell – that’s devoted to teacher wellness and retention. She has a BA from Emerson College and holds two Master’s degrees from UCLA and Cal State University, Northridge (CSUN) in Urban Education and Education Administration, respectively.
Jacqueline Nelson

Pollyanna Partner

A progressive educator and equity practitioner, Jacqueline Nelson has taught in and worked with K-12, co-ed, and single-gender independent schools for over a decade. As an early childhood educator, with a master’s in General and Special Early Childhood Education from Bank Street School of Education, a DEIJ practitioner, and consultant, Jacqueline leverages her experience in the classroom and as a member of senior leadership to design and facilitate a number of diversity initiatives and equity programs including student and adult race-based affinity groups, K-12 anti-bias curriculum design, professional development centered around culturally responsive teaching, and DEI parent engagement.

With a resolute commitment to inclusive excellence and educational equity, in addition to her role as the director of equity and inclusion at an independent school in Connecticut, Jacqueline serves as Vice-Chair of the Connecticut Association of Independent Schools (CAIS) Commission on Diversity at Independent Schools (CODIS); is a former member of the New York State Association of Independent Schools (NYSAIS) Diversity Committee; is a trained SEED (Seeking Educational Equity and Diversity) leader.

Chelsea Schuster

Pollyanna Marketing Partner

Chelsea Schuster is the founder of Audacious Impact, a cause-marketing consulting firm helping nonprofits expand their reach and drive meaningful engagement with stakeholders and investors.

Prior to consulting, Chelsea spent nearly a decade managing communications, stakeholder engagement, and fundraising initiatives at leading civic organizations and startups including Generation Citizen, Citizens Union, Common Cause New York, and Nextdoor.

She received an M.S. in Nonprofit Management from The New School for Public Engagement and a B.A. in Political Science and English from the University of North Florida. Chelsea currently resides in South Florida with her husband, daughter, and cat Moia. 

Naledi Semela

Facilitator

From his very earliest days, Naledi was exposed to the teachings and the fellowship of the People’s Institute for Survival and Beyond, authors of the nationally-acclaimed Undoing Racism. He is a proud alumnus of Prep for Prep, Friends Seminary, Colgate University, and the University of Pennsylvania, where he earned a master’s in independent school leadership. Today Naledi serves as the Director of Equitable Practices and Social Impact at the Browning School, a K-12 boys school on the Upper East Side of New York City, and is also a Trustee at the Town School in NY.

David Smith

Pollyanna Facilitator

David Smith launched David Smith Consulting in 2023 to help independent schools explore and understand the intersection between DEIB, governance, and fundraising/advancement. He most recently served as the Director of Advancement at Saint Ann’s School in Brooklyn, leading an initiative to double the school’s endowment for financial aid. Prior to Saint Ann’s, he was the Director of Development at the Calhoun School from 2010-2013 and then at The Allen-Stevenson School, where he led a $50 million capital campaign to expand the campus.

David has presented sessions on major gifts, capital campaigns, and diversity, equity and inclusion in advancement at NAIS, People of Color Conference, CASE, AFP, NJAIS and NYSAIS conferences. He recently concluded two terms on the board of trustees of the Caedmon School in Manhattan and currently serves on the faculty of the CASE School Advancement Institute and the Fundraising for Heads of School programs. David also serves on the Board of Trustees of the Movement Advancement Project, an LGBTQ think tank.

Louisa Wells

Pollyanna Assistant Project Manager

Louisa Wells brings a wealth of experience in the independent school and corporate worlds. She has worked in various industries including luxury beauty and fashion, as a brand strategist and website manager, children’s fashion, as an art director, and in the independent school community. Louisa has acquired the necessary skills to help facilitate and manage projects, both big and small. She is passionate about the importance of DEI work in all industries in our world today. When Louisa is not working on special projects, she is also a photographer and writer, and her five years working at The Allen-Stevenson school, where she ultimately held the role of Assistant Director of Communications, led to her continued active presence in independent schools in New York City.

Louisa holds a bachelor’s degree from Vanderbilt University, where she studied Communications, Corporate Strategy, and Spanish.

Board of Trustees

Rena Andoh

Rena Andoh is a litigation partner with Sheppard, Mullin, Richter & Hampton LLP in New York. Her broad practice ranges from complex commercial and trade secret/restrictive covenant enforcement cases to False Claims Act cases to intellectual property cases arising out of government contracts. Rena acts as first chair trial counsel in jury trials and arbitrations, and argues in appellate courts, including the District of Columbia Circuit Court of Appeals and the First Department of the New York State Supreme Court, Appellate Division.

Rena is an active supporter of Sheppard Mullin’s diversity and inclusion initiatives. She serves as vice-chair of the Attorneys of Color Success Initiative Committee (“ACSIC”), convened by the chair of Sheppard Mullin to advance the firm’s practices and programs to recruit, retain and promote attorneys of color and LGBTQ attorneys. She also vice-chairs Sheppard Mullin’s Diversity & Inclusion Committee. Rena is a 2015 Leadership Counsel for Legal Diversity (“LCLD”) Fellow, and is an active alumni and mentor in the LCLD organization.

Mia Burton

Mia Burton is an experienced facilitator, consultant and counselor with expertise in developing and leading equity and justice initiatives. In her role as Director of Institutional Equity and Inclusion at Flint Hill School, she leads the development and implementation of policies and programs that sustain an inclusive, equitable, and just school community. Her desire to be a change agent led her to establish MSB Advising to advise organizations and support individuals committed to visionary and transformational equity goals. Ms. Burton earned a bachelor’s degree from the University of Virginia with a double major in English and African & African-American Studies. She received her master’s degree in School Counseling from Marymount University.

Casper Caldarola

Pollyanna Founder

Casper Caldarola founded the New York based, non-profit, Pollyanna in 2015. Casper has worn many hats in independent schools: alum, parent, administrator, and trustee, and saw different levels of commitment to DEI work. She felt and still feels the most important aspect of this work is to keep the academic, social, and emotional needs of the student at the center. Casper founded Pollyanna to support the schools that have made a commitment to building a more inclusive school community through multi-constituent conference models, workshops, community  assessments and racial literacy curriculum.

Casper’s experience includes serving as president of the Dalton School Parents Association. During her tenure, she created a more inclusive community, developed a new budgeting structure making it possible for parents of different socioeconomics to volunteer, hosted more events at school to take the pressure off of in-home hosting, and introduced monthly topic-driven parent discussions to find additional ways to bring the community together. In addition, Casper was the Communications Director at the Allen-Stevenson School and was tasked with helping to develop and implement equity initiatives, such as, developing a more inclusive hiring process and creating Parent Chats with topics that focused on DEI. Before joining the independent school world, she was a marketing and advertising executive.

Casper now serves on the Board of Seeds of Peace. She was a trustee at the Dalton School for 10 years and served as a member of the Executive Committee, chaired the Committee on New Trustees and Community Life & Diversity Committee, and was on the strategic plan steering committee, and has also served on the boards of Parents-in-Action and Generation Citizen.

Paquita Davis-Friday

Paquita Y. Davis-Friday is the Senior Associate Dean in the Zicklin School of Business at Baruch College and a professor in the Stan Ross Department of Accountancy. She earned her Ph.D. and Master in accounting, M.A. in Applied Economics and B.B.A from the University of Michigan-Ann Arbor.

Andrea DuBois

Andrea DuBois is a marketing professional and is active in her sons’ school communities. She is a member of the Board of Trustees at St. Bernard’s School. Andrea is a native of Atlanta, graduated from Wellesley College with a degree in French, and lives in Manhattan with her husband and two sons.

Rebecca Gamzon

Rebecca Danziger Gamzon is an experienced educator who has worked and volunteered in public, private and charter schools. She recently served on the Board of Trustees at her alma mater, the Spence School, where she helped lead the Diversity, Equity and Inclusion committee and served as Vice President of its Parents’ Association. Rebecca was a founding member of the Framers Board of Civics Unplugged, a national leadership and civic engagement program for high school students. She earned her Master of Science in Early Adolescence from Bank Street College of Education and a Bachelor of Arts from Yale University in American Studies.

Alessandra Gouldner

Alessandra Gouldner is on the Boards of School of America Ballet, Catskill Arts Society and Dance Gallery Festival Board. 

Josie Hoeber - Jr. Trustee

Currently a senior in high school in Los Angeles, and a Pollyanna intern leading Pollyanna Teen Council.

Destynée Johnson

Currently at Cornell University, and a Pollyanna intern leading Pollyanna Teen Council.

Oliver Kramer

Oliver Kramer is a writer and producer of film, television, and theater. Oliver’s screenplays have been commissioned by major producers in Los Angeles, New York and London. 

Addeson Lehv

Addeson Lehv was our inaugural Jr. Trustee while he was a junior and senior at Trinity School. He will attend Columbia University beginning in the fall 2021.

Deepti Mittal

Deepti Mittal brings substantial interest, commitment and experience with non-profit organizations. She has worked in the areas of gender justice, education and the environment. Deepti is the founder of The Mittal Talwar Team at Douglas Elliman. She is also a partner of a consulting firm, Teamqore, which helps clients optimize their core management areas to make their vision a reality.

Erica Pettis

Erica Pettis is a fundraising professional based in New York, NY. With over a decade in the industry, she now works as a consultant helping non-profits reach their fundraising goals and deliver on their mission.

Tal Recanati

Tal Recanati is an entrepreneur and non-profit advocate who has spent the past 15 years championing causes that promote dialogue, cultivate leaders and provide grass-roots solutions to societal issues. 

Pankti Sevak

Pankti Sevak, currently the Head of School at San Francisco Friends School, has devoted her professional life to fostering what she calls “the magic of school.” A graduate of Cornell University with a Bachelor of Science in Biological Sciences and a Master of Arts in Teaching, she has a broad range of teaching and administrative experiences.

Marjorie Van Dercook

Marjorie L. Van Dercook was the Executive Director of the School of American Ballet from 2004-2017 where she implemented the School’s first Diversity initiative. She served on the Board of New York City Ballet from 1995-2003 and is currently on the Boards of Second Stage Theater and the School of American Ballet where she sits on their Equity, Diversity and Inclusion committees.

Jim Wilson

Jim Wilson has spent 20+ years in executive management with a track record of success in building talented teams and launching, scaling and transforming businesses. His experience includes entertainment and education software, video, music and advertising. He also has extensive not for profit and other board experience.

Alexis Wright

Alexis Wright has been in independent school education for 25 years. He is currently the Head of School at New City School in St. Louis, MO. Alexis earned his MA in Marine Affairs and Policy from the University of Miami and earned a BS in Human Ecology from Rutgers University.