New York State is responsible for educating millions of our youth. Behind executive decisions, great and small, lies exceptionally talented and dedicated leaders who work to craft both long-term educational policy and the day-to-day work of running a school. PoliticsNY’s Power Players in Education recognizes these public officials, policymakers, superintendents and scholars, advocates and activists, and labor, business and nonprofit leaders who work day in and day out to ensure New York’s students get the very best education. The following list is organized alphabetically by last name.
For conversations with several of these leaders in education, check out our video series PoliticsNY with Skye.
Brooklyn Borough President and 2021 Mayoral Candidate
Eric was elected Brooklyn Borough President in 2013 by putting together a diverse coalition of Brooklynites to become the borough’s first Black leader. As the representative of one of the nation’s largest counties, Eric — now the Democratic nominee for Mayor of New York City — has fought tirelessly to grow the local economy, reduce inequality, improve public safety, and advocate for smart policies and better government that delivers for all New Yorkers. Eric also became a national leader on public health policy after learning he had developed Type 2 diabetes. Following his diagnosis, Eric completely changed his diet and his body, reversing the disease and launching a personal mission to educate New Yorkers about preventative care and wellness. By partnering with civic organizations and health experts, his work has already led to successful, proactive public health efforts across the city and increased education in schools and with high-risk populations in lower-income areas. Before becoming active in local politics, Eric served as a captain in the New York Police Department, where he helped to build the first computerized system for tracking crime in the city, which led to historic gains in public safety.
President and Chief Executive Officer of Turnaround for Children
Brigid Ahern is President and Chief Executive Officer of Turnaround for Children, a nonprofit that translates the science of learning and development into tools, practices, and systems for educators to help all students thrive, particularly children who have been impacted by adversity. From 2014-2018, as Chief External Affairs Officer, Brigid oversaw Turnaround’s communications, development, executive, policy and systemic impact departments and served on the organization’s leadership team. Before Turnaround, Brigid led development for Uncommon Schools and served the New York City Department of Education as Senior Manager of Operations for the Partnership Support Office.
Michelle J. Anderson
President of Brooklyn College
Michelle J. Anderson was named the 10th president of Brooklyn College in 2016. Since that time, she has led the college in developing a new strategic plan, obtaining accreditation for the Murray Koppelman School of Business, launching the “We Stand Against Hate” initiative, and obtaining excellent national rankings for student body diversity, academic excellence, and value. Since the onset of the pandemic, President Anderson has worked tirelessly to keep all members of the campus community safe and to ensure that students have what they need to succeed during this challenging time.
David C. Banks
President and Chief Executive Officer of Eagle Academy Schools
David C. Banks is a nationally recognized education leader, the President and Chief Executive Officer of the Eagle Academy Foundation, and the founding principal of The Eagle Academy for Young Men, the first school in a network of innovative all-boys public schools in New York City and Newark, New Jersey. David’s visionary approach to education emphasizes a partnership between schools and communities based on the guiding principles of academic excellence, leadership, and character development. David and the Eagle team have proven that a high-quality college preparatory education for young men of color can be provided in a public-school setting, as Eagle Academy students achieve outstanding high school graduation and college matriculation rates. In 2014, David was chosen as one of seven Black Male Achievement Social Innovators nationwide by the Leadership and Sustainability Institute for demonstrating tangible results in improving the life outcomes of African American boys and men. David is a co-founder of Black EdFluencers United, an organization dedicated to influencing and developing the capacity of Black educators and raising awareness about systemic challenges within education.
Interim Chief Executive Officer of Achievement First
Fatimah Barker is the current Interim Chief Executive Officer of Achievement First, a network of public charter schools that serves over 15,000 students, the majority of whom are Black, Latinx, or low-income. Ms. Barker works closely with the superintendent of AF as well as the executive director of AF Accelerate to improve and expand resources for students within the network and those outside of it. She has spent 15 years at Achievement First, working to ensure that the organization meets the needs of parents and students.
Member of the State University of New York Board of Trustees
Joseph W. Belluck was appointed as a member of the State University of New York Board of Trustees on June 3, 2010, and reappointed in June 2021. He graduated in 1989 with a B.S. in Sociology from Binghamton University and, in 1994, graduated magna cum laude from the University at Buffalo School of Law, where he later served as an adjunct lecturer on mass torts. Mr. Belluck previously served as counsel to the New York State Attorney General, representing the State of New York in its litigation against the tobacco industry, and as director of attorney services for Trial Lawyers Care, an organization dedicated to providing free legal assistance to victims of the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. He is an active member of several bar associations and serves as a member of the New York State Commission on Judicial Conduct.
Executive Director of the New York State Parent Teacher Association
Kyle McCauley Belokopitsky, Esq., her husband Doug, and their two sons are longtime residents of North Greenbush in Rensselaer County. Kyle is a tireless community volunteer and leader, a mom, attorney, and child advocate, serving as Executive Director of the New York State Parent Teacher Association. She has committed her life to supporting children and families, and is extremely proud of her work in family engagement, supporting students with disabilities, and diversity and inclusion. Kyle specializes in education policy after years of working in both the New York State Senate and Assembly. Before her service to the state’s Parent Teacher Association, she represented New York State United Teachers, working on state budget, and other high-profile issues such as testing, teacher and principal evaluation, and receivership. She represented the New York State Council of School Superintendents as the assistant director for government relations and the New York State Catholic Conference as director of government relations.
Chief of Staff for the New York City School Construction Authority
As Chief of Staff to the School Construction Authority, Andrea Bender oversees the agency’s implementation of the SCA’s Five-Year Capital Plan, and is directly responsible for the SCA’s public engagement on hundreds of school construction projects across the City. Andrea and the SCA team have spearheaded the implementation of the Mayor’s 3K-For-All expansion, which will add thousands of new 3K seats across the City. In addition, Andrea and the SCA team have been critical partners in the efforts to reopen the City’s schools during COVID. Prior to joining the SCA, Andrea spent more than a decade in public service in the New York State Senate, the New York City Council, the United States Senate, and the Mayor’s Office of Operations. Andrea received her master’s degree in public policy from the NYU Wagner Graduate School of Public Service and her undergraduate degree in journalism from the University of Missouri. Andrea lives with her family in Queens.
New York State Assemblyman and Chair of the Committee on Education
In 2019, Assemblyman Michael Benedetto was named Chairman of the New York State Assembly’s Committee on Education. During his 3-year tenure as Education Committee Chair, he has sponsored and passed historic APPR (Annual Professional Performance Review) legislation, presided over Assembly Education hearings on New York City Specialized High Schools’ admission requirements, the future of New York City school management, as well as investigating possible revisions to the New York State Education funding formula. In the 2021 legislative session, under Assemblyman Benedetto’s leadership, the Campaign for Fiscal Equity decision was fully funded for the first time and his landmark Whistleblower Act was signed into law. Before being elected to State Assembly in 2004, Mr. Benedetto spent 35 years teaching at the elementary and secondary school levels. During this time, he ran the first “very special” Olympics for multiply handicapped children, became an “in-service” instructor, teaching other teachers about special education, and received numerous awards for his achievements in education.
Executive Director of the New York Charter Schools Association
Yomika S. Bennett is the Executive Director of the New York Charter Schools Association, a nonprofit membership organization that serves as a unified voice for the over 300 public charter schools and the 150,000+ students that attend them, representing their interests at the local and state level. In this role, Ms. Bennett works to ensure that charter schools are recognized by lawmakers and other stakeholders as high-quality public school options that serve students from communities across the state. She is committed to eliminating inequity in the education system; in May this year, she embarked on a statewide public tour to #StandUp4EdEquity. She and her team provide support to public charter schools and fight every day to ensure that every child in New York has the choice to attend a great public school. Prior to joining NYCSA, Ms. Bennett spent nearly two decades in government and government relations.
Interim Executive Director of New York Appleseed
Nyah Berg is the Interim Executive Director at New York Appleseed. New York Appleseed is a nonprofit organization that advocates for integrated schools and communities across New York City and state. Ms. Berg oversees New York Appleseed’s initiatives and projects — several of which have led to formative policy wins for integration efforts in New York City. Prior to Appleseed, Nyah was the Education Equity Organizer at ERASE Racism, where she spearheaded the Student Voices Campaign and continued development of their Education Equity Initiative. Nyah created workshops, actions, and events to educate Long Island educators and students on topics such as implicit bias, student advocacy, culturally responsive education, and suburban segregation. Nyah’s professional and personal life has driven her passion to amplify others that are systematically not heard in policy development for real integration and educational equity in New York City and state. She holds an M.A. from Teachers College, Columbia University, in education policy with a specialization in education law and a B.A. with a concentration in English and Educational Studies from Vassar.
President of Columbia University
Lee C. Bollinger became Columbia University’s 19th president in 2002 and is the longest serving Ivy League president. Under his leadership, Columbia stands again at the very top rank of great research universities, distinguished by comprehensive academic excellence, an innovative and sustainable approach to global engagement, two of the largest capital campaigns in the history of higher education, and the institution’s most ambitious campus expansion in over a century. President Bollinger is Columbia’s first Seth Low Professor of the University, a member of the Columbia Law School faculty, and one of the nation’s foremost First Amendment scholars. Previously, as President of the University of Michigan, Bollinger led the school’s landmark civil rights litigation in Grutter v. Bollinger, a Supreme Court decision that for the first time upheld the constitutional right of colleges and universities to engage in affirmative action to advance diversity in higher education.
Donald R. Boomgaarden
President of St. Joseph’s College
Donald R. Boomgaarden, Ph.D., is president of St. Joseph’s College New York. Since arriving at the College in 2017, he has launched a new strategic plan, more than doubled the College’s endowment and saw record high enrollments on all three campuses — SJC Brooklyn, SJC Long Island and SJC Online. Under his leadership, the College is adding new academic programs, improving its campuses and beginning work on a multi-million dollar student center on its Patchogue campus. Dr. Boomgaarden serves on the board of trustees for the Commission on Independent Colleges and Universities, the board of directors for Long Island Association, he is Board Chair of the Association of Colleges of Sisters of St. Joseph, and is chair of the Lower Hudson Valley Consortium of Catholic Colleges and Universities. Dr. Boomgaarden is a graduate of the Eastman School of Music and also studied at the University of Vienna, where he was a Fulbright Scholar.
President and Chief Executive Officer of the Schuyler Center for Analysis and Advocacy
As President and Chief Executive Officer of the Schuyler Center for Analysis and Advocacy, Kate Breslin leads the organization in pursuing effective and thoughtful social policies on issues such as public health and child welfare. Prior to joining the Schuyler Center, Ms. Breslin was the director of policy for the Community Health Care Association of New York State and also has experience examining state budget and tax policies.
Interim Executive Director of The Education Trust New York
Dia is currently the Interim Executive Director at The Education Trust – New York. In that role, she leads an ambitious policy and advocacy agenda focused on improving educational outcomes for children from early childhood through college. Prior to joining Ed Trust – NY, Dia worked with the New York City Department of Education in multiple capacities for over sixteen years. She was a teacher, school founder, and most recently served as the special assistant to the first deputy chancellor. She has worked and supported system-level school leaders domestically and internationally advising on instructional approaches, school design, equitable school improvement, and change management. Dia is a Detroit native. She holds a bachelor’s in Economics from Kalamazoo College and a master’s in Math Education from Brooklyn College. Dia most recently earned a doctorate in Education Leadership from the Harvard Graduate School of Education. In her free time she enjoys following all things Beyoncé and playing with her young children.
Richard R. Buery, Jr.
Chief Executive Officer of the Robin Hood Foundation
A first generation Panamanian-American born and raised in Brooklyn, Richard R. Buery, Jr., has spent his career fighting to advance equal opportunities for families and communities often left behind. In September 2021, Richard became the Chief Executive Officer of Robin Hood, one of the nation’s leading anti-poverty organizations. Most recently, Richard served as the CEO of Achievement First, a network of 41 charter schools across New York, Connecticut, and Rhode Island. Previously, as Deputy Mayor for Strategic Policy Initiatives for the City of New York, Richard was a key architect of the City’s Pre-K for All initiative, enabling 50,000 additional 4-years to get an early start on their education through a free, full-day program. He also launched Schools Out NYC, offering free after-school programs to all New York City middle school students, set up 200 new community school partnerships, and led the City’s effort to recruit 1,000 men of color to become public school teachers.