Flamboyan Foundation opened its doors in Washington, D.C. in 2008 with the mission of improving educational outcomes for children in some of the worst performing schools in the nation. On average, only 14% of 8th graders in the Washington, D.C. perform on grade level in reading1 and more than 90% of D.C. Public School students drop out of high school, never enter college, or fail to get a college degree.2
We began our work by asking stakeholders what education strategies proven to improve student achievement were not being adequately addressed. These informal conversations led us to commission a local landscape assessment of family engagement and education advocacy practices, which we eventually chose as our areas of focus for the region. As we soon discovered, parents have felt dissatisfied and frustrated with Washington, D.C. schools for decades. There has been a general feeling among families that most D.C. schools do not welcome family involvement, do not treat parents as capable of supporting their child’s learning, and were not open to the opinions of parents who desired to take part in their children’s education.
We believe that in order for children to succeed, families and schools need to work together and share in the responsibility of education. As such, this is the issue that Flamboyan Foundation is trying to address in Washington, D.C.
2 Kernan-Schloss, A., & Potapchuk, B. (2006). “Double the Numbers for College Success: A Call to Action for the District of Columbia.” Washington, D.C.: DC College Access Program, et al.
Staff: Washington, DC
Director of Communications
Christiane Leitinger is the Director of Communications for Flamboyan Foundation. She oversees all aspects of the organization’s communication and outreach efforts from the Flamboyan Foundation office in Washington D.C., and she works closely with the Communications Manager in the sister office of Flamboyan Foundation in Puerto Rico.
Christiane has a broad education and nonprofit background with roots in Montessori, Early Head Start and international service-learning. Christiane began her career as a Montessori educator serving communities of need in Denver, CO. Her classroom experience was the foundation for her work in Early Head Start as a Montessori mentor to new teachers in at Montessori –based Early Head Start program Family Star.
Christiane translated her education experience into a new realm when she directed the international service-learning program Pennies for Peace. From 2005 to 2011 she built Pennies for Peace into an award-winning tool for both students and educators, which reached through all 50 states and into 50 countries around the world. She produced the comprehensive Pennies for Peace Toolkit, and was Executive Producer of a 2009 call-to-service concert event – Journey of Hope – at legendary music venue Red Rocks in Morrison, CO.
Christiane has a Bachelor’s Degree in German Literature from Grinnell College, a Master’s Degree in Education from Loyola College in Maryland, and Association Montessori Internationale certification for Assistants to Infancy. Her professional experiences reflect Christiane’s belief that powerful, transformative learning opportunities are key to human and social progress.
Manager of Professional Development
Diana Suarez is Manager of Professional Development at Flamboyan Foundation. She writes and facilitates teacher trainings focused on improving family engagement at the school and classroom level. Diana also serves as a coach to partner schools, and provides logistic and content support to leadership teams. She provides expertise in structures and content that engage families to build academic partnerships.
Before coming to Flamboyan, Diana worked as a teacher in DC Public Schools. She came to DCPS as a Teach for America (TFA) corps member. She taught 1st and 2nd Grade and is certified in ESL and Special Education. At Powell Elementary Diana served as the family engagement teacher lead for the school’s Family Engagement Partnership with Flamboyan. Prior to joining TFA Diana co-owned and operated Wagamuffin Pet Care LLC., a local pet care company. Diana has a Bachelor’s Degree in English from Catholic University and a Master’s Degree in Elementary Curriculum and Development from George Mason University.
Emily Schulman is the Program Assistant at the Flamboyan Foundation. She provides administrative and coordination support to school partnerships and manages training and event logistics. Prior to this role, Emily worked through AmeriCorps as the Community Outreach Coordinator at DC SCORES, a nonprofit that provides after school programming for low-income youth in 42 D.C. public and public charter schools.
Emily received her Bachelor’s Degree in Public Policy from the College of William and Mary. At William and Mary, Emily founded an international service trip to Nicaragua, was an advocate for First Book, and worked for college admissions providing tour and interviews for prospective students. Emily looks forward to working towards improving educational experiences for D.C. students through her work at the Flamboyan Foundation.
Gina Mandracchia is the Program Associate at Flamboyan Foundation. She manages the data systems and financial procedures with Flamboyan’s partner schools, and supports Flamboyan’s program staff in delivering high quality work and streamlining processes. Prior to this role, Gina was the Program Assistant at Flamboyan, where she managed data collection and provided administrative support to the team. Gina comes to Flamboyan with a passion for education and experience in research and administrative support.
She joined Flamboyan upon graduation from UC Berkeley with a bachelor’s degree in history. At Berkeley, Gina designed an after-school theater arts program for English Language Learners at an Oakland, CA elementary school. Previously, she was Research and Administrative Assistant to HHG Higher Education Consulting, where she worked on strengthening diversity at colleges and universities. In 2011, Gina volunteered as an English Conversation Teacher at Liceo Righi, a high school in Bologna, Italy.
Senior Director of Advocacy
Helen Westmoreland is the Senior Director of Advocacy at Flamboyan Foundation. She leads the Foundation’s efforts to help families demand and access high-quality schools in the District of Columbia. Helen oversees development and execution of the Foundation’s strategic plan for education advocacy. In addition, she designs evaluation systems for the Foundation’s programs. Before stepping in to this role, she managed the Foundation’s school and principal partnerships and helped identify partners, strategies, and exemplary programs to help Flamboyan Foundation achieve broad impact in our family engagement focal area.
Before coming to Flamboyan Foundation, Helen worked for the Harvard Family Research Project, where she provided research, evaluation, and technical assistance support to non-profits, philanthropies, government agencies, and research policy organizations across the country. She also consulted with a variety of organizations to document and share lessons learned with others in the field. Prior to that, Helen oversaw student tutoring services and site evaluations for community-based afterschool programs in the Duke-Durham Neighborhood Partnership.
Helen has authored numerous publications on the topics of family engagement, education organizing, and out-of-school time. In 2011, she was invited to join the National Family, School, and Community Engagement Working Group, a leadership collaborative whose purpose is to inform the development and implementation of federal policy related to family, school, and community engagement in education.
Helen received a master’s degree in education policy and management from the Harvard Graduate School of Education and bachelor’s degrees in Spanish and biological anthropology from Duke University.
Senior Director for Sustainability and Growth
Jennifer Smith is Senior Director for Sustainability and Growth in Flamboyan Foundation’s DC office. Her work focuses on sustainability of the Foundation’s current programs and scaffolding long-term program growth. She manages relationships with key partners, including: school principals; community-based organizations; district leaders; and local and national funders.
Prior to joining the Flamboyan team, Jennifer was Chief Transformation Officer for the Rhode Island Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (RIDE). At RIDE she provided oversight for development of systems to transform persistently low-performing schools, and to implement quality controls for the state’s charter school sector. Jennifer spent three years at The Education Trust, training teachers and school leaders to understand the critical need for rigorous instruction, aligned to quality content standards, assignments and assessments.
Jennifer is a career educator. She served as Executive Director of the District of Columbia’s Principal Leadership Institute, Principal of the Capitol Hill Cluster School, Associate Principal at William Henry Middle School in Dover, Delaware, and as an elementary and middle school classroom teacher. She has also consulted, facilitated and taught as adjunct professor – most recently with George Mason University’s School of Education Leadership. Jennifer was a member of the Aspen Institute’s “Commission on No Child Left Behind” – convened to gather information and make recommendations for potential reauthorization of the law.
Jennifer earned her Doctorate from the University of Pennsylvania’s mid-career doctoral program, a Master’s degree in education administration from The George Washington University and a Bachelor’s degree from The Catholic University of America in elementary education.
Director of Program Development & Training
Ms. Lela Spielberg is the Director of Program Development and Training at Flamboyan Foundation. In this role, she designs programming for the foundation’s Family Engagement Partner Schools, and oversees training quality across the organization. She also manages teacher curriculum development, and designs and facilitates professional development for teacher training organizations.
Previously, Lela was the Education Policy Analyst for the National Parent Teacher Association (PTA), where she monitored and analyzed legislation, regulations and federal funding streams related to public education and family engagement in education. During her tenure at PTA, she spearheaded the bipartisan introduction of the Family Engagement in Education Act of 2010 in the U.S. House of Representatives.
Prior to joining PTA, Lela was a Teach for America (TFA) corps member in Phoenix, where she taught 4th grade and facilitated professional development for other corps members on investing and engaging students and families, data-driven instruction, and classroom management. Lela holds a Master’s Degree in Elementary Education from Arizona State University and a Bachelor’s Degree in History from Brown University.
Susan Stevenson is Executive Director of Flamboyan Foundation’s Washington, D.C. office. She shapes, implements, and oversees all aspects of Flamboyan Foundation’s strategy and manages the team in Washington, D.C.
Susan brings over twenty years of experience in non-profit management, strategic planning, early childhood development and education to her role at Flamboyan Foundation. She began her career in international development, working for Save the Children in Bolivia. Susan served as Vice President, Latin America and later as Vice President, International for Ashoka. At Ashoka, Susan oversaw expansion of programs in Latin America from two to eleven countries and, in her capacity as VP, International, she managed 45 staff in 31 countries.
Susan spent several years with McKinsey and Company as a management consultant in McKinsey’s New York and Buenos Aires offices. She co-founded, and served as President of, En Route Entertainment, a start-up company providing movie and hardware rentals to Amtrak train travelers. Susan also co-directed Success by 6, United Way America’s national network of 350 early childhood initiatives.
More recently, Susan became involved in D.C. education as a strategic planning and organizational development consultant with a D.C.-based education non-profit and through numerous years of active involvement in her children’s DCPS school, as Local School Advisory Team co-chair, annual campaign co-chair and recruitment committee member.
Susan has a master’s of business administration from the Stanford Graduate School of Business and a bachelor of arts in political science and Spanish from Indiana University.
Director of School Partnerships
Zakiya Reid is the Director of School Partnerships at Flamboyan Foundation. In this role she collaborates with the family engagement team to provide high-quality professional development, coaching and technical assistance to school-based personnel, while managing strategic partnerships with non-profit organizations to improve family engagement. The goal of her work is to transform the way families and educators partner on behalf of children in Washington D.C.
Prior to joining the Flamboyan team, Zakiya was the principal of Bancroft Elementary School in Washington, D.C. Zakiya led a turnaround effort at Bancroft that resulted in a more cohesive school community, increased student achievement and enrollment. Zakiya led a successful family engagement effort in partnership with Flamboyan. Under her leadership, 97% of teachers conducted home visits and over 250 families received a home visit by their child’s teacher. While at Bancroft, Zakiya became a strong advocate for family engagement through the partnership with Flamboyan.
Prior to her work in education, Zakiya worked as a statistician with two federal agencies in Washington, D.C. In a quest to find work that aligned with her commitment to social justice, Zakiya entered the world of education as a Teacher for America (TFA) corps member in Baltimore, Md. Over the last 13 years, she has worked in both the public and charter systems as an administrator and as a teacher. As an educator, she is committed to improving the experience of children and families in under-resourced communities.
Zakiya holds a Master of Administration from Trinity College, Master in Teaching from Johns Hopkins University and a Master in Survey Methodology from the University of Maryland, College Park. She also holds a Bachelor of Mathematics from Tuskegee University.