Meet the Team
Elizabeth Arons, Chief Executive Officer
Elizabeth “Betsy” Arons is in her 34th year in public education and her 31st year in human resources leadership in public school systems. She is Chief Executive Officer and founder of the Urban Schools Human Capital Academy–an initiative that focuses on human resources reform and the development of human capital leaders. She has served as Chief Executive Officer of Human Resources, New York City Department of Education; as Associate Superintendent, Human Resources, Montgomery County (MD) Public Schools; and as Director of Human Resources in Fairfax County (VA) Public Schools.
Throughout her leadership roles, Betsy has instituted a number of human capital and human resources reforms to elevate the strategic role of HR in meeting the district’s student achievement goals. From 2007-2011, she worked as a Human Resources/Human Capital Consultant for The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, supporting human resources reform in urban districts such as Atlanta, Denver, Hillsborough County, Memphis, Pittsburgh, Prince George’s County, Oakland, and Tulsa.
Prior to her work with New York City schools, Montgomery, and Fairfax Counties, Betsy served as an assistant principal intern and a high school English teacher. Her Bachelor’s Degree in English and her teaching credentials were earned at the University of California, Berkeley; her Master’s Degree in English at the University of Illinois (Chicago); and her Doctorate in Educational Administration and Organizational Development from American University (Washington, D.C.). She has served as the President of the American Association of School Personnel Administrators and has been a well-recognized leader in the field of Human Resources and Human Capital for public school systems.
Darlene Merry, Chief Academic Officer
Darlene Merry serves as the Chief Academic Officer for the Urban Schools Human Capital Academy and is also a consultant to numerous school districts, educational organizations, and nonprofits in the area of human capital management and organizational development.
In her most recent role as a Senior Advisor to New Leaders for New Schools, Darlene was responsible for serving as a thought leader and a critical consultant in the work of turnaround school leadership, human capital management, and district leadership. Darlene also served as the Chief Academic Officer and head of the Aspiring Principals Program for New Leaders for New Schools. Along with serving as a member of the organization’s executive team to set the vision and direction of the organization, Darlene focused on ensuring that the New Leaders’ recruitment, selection, training, and development model prepared urban school principals to lead schools that promote high levels of academic achievement and success for every child.
Before joining New Leaders, Darlene served as a teacher, principal, and Associate Superintendent for Organizational Development in Montgomery County, Maryland, a large urban/suburban school district that has had significant success in closing the achievement gap. There she served as a leader to develop professional growth systems for principals and other administrators, teachers, and support staff. Darlene received her Bachelor’s Degree in English at Bowling Green University, her Master’s Degree in Counseling at The George Washington University, and her Doctorate in Leadership and Policy Studies at The University of Maryland. In addition, Darlene has participated in the three-year-long Harvard Public Education Leadership Project (PELP).
Danielle Pickens, Chief Program Officer
Craig Chin, Human Capital Partner
Avni Gupta-Kagan, Human Capital Partner
Susan Marks, Human Capital Partner
Michael Moore, Human Capital Partner
Michael Moore has more than 35 years of experience as a K-12 public school educator and has served as a teacher, a high school principal, and a superintendent of schools. His areas of expertise include leadership development, organizational development, and executive coaching.
Recently, Michael led the core program at New Leaders, Inc. as Chief Academic Officer. New Leaders, a national nonprofit, recruits, selects, trains, and supports principals for the most underserved schools in 12 urban areas. While at New Leaders, he led work that developed and implemented a leadership trajectory and assessment, a school diagnostic tool, and a coaching framework. While serving as the Executive Director of New Leaders’ California program, Michael supported 36 urban principals, 13 of whom saw double-digit annual gains in their student achievement results. As a superintendent, he co-founded two multi-district collaboratives to streamline human capital development, improve the quality of governance, and reduce costs. Michael also worked with the Brookings Institution to improve K-12 governance throughout the state of Maine.
Michael has extensive experience with collective bargaining, interest-based negotiation, and performance management systems. His current consulting portfolio includes projects on teacher effectiveness, principal standards and evaluation, the role of the principal-manager, and the creation of talent pipelines in urban school districts. He holds degrees from The Boston Conservatory and University of Southern Maine.
Katie Nesmith Singh, Human Capital Partner
Prior to joining the Urban Schools Human Capital Academy, Katie Nesmith worked at the New York City Department of Education for more than four years in a variety of roles. Most recently, she was a Senior Director in the Office of School Leader Effectiveness, leading the design and implementation of the Department’s principal performance review pilot in 30 schools. In addition to working in the Department’s Office of Product Development, where she managed the launch of a professional learning management system for teachers and school leaders, Katie was also Director of Strategic Analysis in the Division of Human Resources.
Before joining the NYC Department of Education, Katie worked at the World Bank in Washington, DC, where she researched education systems across East Asia and the Pacific Region and supported the Bank’s education program in Mongolia. Katie began her career as an elementary school teacher in East Oakland and East Palo Alto, California.
Katie holds a Master’s Degree in International Management from the University of California, San Diego and a Bachelor’s Degree from the University of California, Berkeley.