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FirstLine Schools

We believe New Orleans can be the first city in America where every child goes to a great school.

FirstLine Schools Leadership

Jay Altman, Co-Founder and CEO

Since 1990, Jay has partnered with like-minded parents and educators to provide quality educational opportunities for students in New Orleans open-admission public schools. He taught in the city for several years before co-founding New Orleans Charter Middle School. He was also a founder of James Lewis Extension School, New Orleans Outreach, New Orleans Summerbridge, and Leading Educators. As director of education for London-based ARK schools from 2005 to 2008, Jay helped develop a British network of academies, charter-like schools in complex urban environments. He also was instrumental in establishing two training programs there – Future Leaders for aspiring principals of open-admission schools, and Teaching Leaders for mid-level school leadership.

Joseph Neary, Chief Operating Officer

Joe moved to Louisiana in 2008 from New York. Prior to working at FirstLine, Joe spent six years as a Bursar at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in New York and seven years in charter business operations for Edison Schools. With over 30 years of professional experience and 14 years working with charter schools, Joe brings his expertise in finance, budgets, legal, contract performance, school operations, federal and state statues and regulation compliance, human resources and grants management to FirstLine Schools.

Claudia Barker, Executive Director, Edible Schoolyard NOLA

A native New Orleanian, Claudia has enjoyed serving the non-profit community for the past 30 years both as an executive and as an independent consultant specializing in programs that benefit youth.  From 2004 to 2011 Claudia served as the Executive Director of New Orleans Outreach, an organization dedicated to improving the quality of public education in New Orleans by bringing community resources and volunteers into the schools.  Before this she served as Director of Young Aspirations/Young Artists (YA/YA), Inc., an arts and social service organization that trains urban youth to become professional artists.  As Executive Director of Edible Schoolyard New Orleans, Claudia manages FirstLine Schools' nationally known seed-to-table garden and food education programs and the network's comprehensive school wellness initiative. 

Rebekah Cain, Director of Development & Communication

Rebekah comes to FirstLine Schools from the local chapter of the American Red Cross where she was the Manager of Marketing and Communication.  Prior to her time with the Red Cross, Rebekah had ten years experience in relationship management, first at the Smithsonian Institution and later at a wholesale tourism company.  Rebekah volunteered in a leadership capacity for two dog rescue organizations in Washington, DC, Boston and New Orleans over a nine-year period.  Rebekah has a Master’s Degree from The George Washington University and is looking forward to talking to you about FirstLine Schools.

Brett Hunt, Director of Finance

Brett Hunt brings 12 years of accounting experience to FirstLine Schools, with a BS in Accounting.  Prior to working at FirstLine, Brett had 6 years experience in government and nonprofit accounting.  Noted Saints fan, father of two and all-around awesome guy, Brett ensures the fiscal accountability that allows our schools the freedom to think innovatively about education. 

Kirsten Feil, Director of Academic Support

Kirsten Feil graduated from Furman University with a BA in Sociology, and through Teach for America became a Reading teacher at St. Mark's Treme Street Academy, then taught Social Studies at New Orleans Charter Middle School for 5 years.  After Katrina, Feil evacuated to the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill to get a Masters in School Administration.  She returned to New Orleans in 2008 to help rebuild New Orleans public schools with a focus on curriculum development and teacher development and training.  You may see Kirsten running around town training for marathons.

Ryan Bennett, Director of Teacher Development

A first-generation college graduate of New York University, Ryan's professional life has been focused on expanding opportunities for students. Ryan joined FirstLine after 5 years leading teacher development work at Teach For America in New York and here in Greater New Orleans. Prior to that, Ryan was a high school math teacher in St. John the Baptist Parish. Ryan's other work has included beginning and expanding youth development work in New York and Kansas--including starting the New York City Youth Congress, an opportunity for youth to engage with civic leaders and influence city and state-wide policy decisions. Ryan also currently serves as board chair for Einstein Charter School.

Linda T. Brown, Director of Student Support

Linda matriculated through Orleans parish public school system. She is a Certified Special Educator and a Licensed Master Social Worker with a Masters +30. Linda has served Students With Disabilities since 1996 with the belief that all children can and must be educated. She has worked as a Classroom Teacher, Coordinator, Supervisor, as Director of Special Education for The Street Academy Charter School and various other positions in her area of expertise.  As Director of Special Education at FirstLine Schools, it is Linda's task to support our schools with quality programming, and to achieve positive outcomes for our students through collaboration with School Leaders and Network Teams.

Aron Michalski, Director of Operations

Aron Michalski began his career in service with AmeriCorps, followed by a stint as a Construction Superintendent with Habitat for Humanity. He first came to the Gulf Coast with the Youthbuild Katrina Rebuilding Project in Gulfport, Miss. Aron’s work in Gulfport introduced him to KaBOOM!, the national nonprofit that partners with communities to build playgrounds. As a Project Manager for KaBOOM! Aron met FirstLine Schools and together they built a playground here in New Orleans at Arthur Ashe Charter School. His experience and enthusiasm for coordinating large numbers of people to work for the good of the community brought him to Green Charter School, where he served as School Operations Manager for two years before becoming Director of Facilities for FirstLine.  A practiced vegetarian chef and a fan of many styles of music, Aron brings his philosophy that “systems should work for people” to all FirstLine campuses.

David Durand, Director of Community Partnerships

David A. Durand Jr., Esq. currently serves as  Director of Community Partnerships for FirstLine Schools.  In this capacity, he develops relationships with area organizations to support educational programming at our schools.  He also supports operations, facilities, public grant management, and athletic program development at each of our campuses.  David is a New Orleans native, who previously served as Director of Operations for Cesar Chavez Public Charter Schools in Washington, DC after working as an auditor for Ernst & Young, LLP in McLean, VA.  He earned Accounting and MBA degrees from Howard University in Washington, DC., his law degree from Tulane University in New Orleans, and is licensed to practice law in the State of Louisiana.

Angela Herbert, Director of Summer and Extra-Curricular Programming

A New Orleans native, Angela has been in education since 1996. She received her BS in Psychology from Loyola University, and her Masters in Education in Special Education from the University of New Orleans. Angela began her career as a Special Education Teacher in Jefferson Parish, after which she moved to Teaching Responsible Earth Education (TREE) as Earth Educator and Assistant Director. Angela joined New Orleans Outreach in 2006, eventually becoming the Executive Director in 2011. Outreach's model connects schools with community resources to meet the needs of schools and the students. Angegla was integral to Outreach's transition from being an independent non-profit organization to becoming a program of FirstLine Schools. Passionate about giving our scholars learning experiences outside the traditional classroom, Angela is excited to be a part of the FirstLine Family. 

Chris Liang-Vergara, Director of Instructional Technology for Personalized Learning

Chris Liang-Vergara joins FirstLine from the Noble Network of Charter Schools in Chicago, which also brought us the leaders of Clark Prep High School. As the Technology Integration Specialist for Noble, Liang-Vergara helped the highest performing network of open enrollment charter schools in Chicago develop systems that both improved teacher efficiencies and student performance. Before that position, Liang-Vergara was the 9th grade Physics teacher, who set the network record for most student growth on the ACT Explore science test.  Liang-Vergara has also taught in Puerto Rico, Chile and Beijing.  This former college DJ and new dad is passionate about the design of public education to help stuents with social mobility and equality, and hopes to help FirstLine leverage technology purposefully to improve each student's educational experience.


FirstLine Schools - Education for Life

Mailing address: PO Box 791729, New Orleans, LA 70179
Physical address: 300 N. Broad Street, Suite 207, New Orleans, LA 70119| Phone (504) 267-9038 | Fax (504) 287-0019