Ms. Nadia A. Bennett Executive Director, Central

Ms. Bennett is a woman driven by her passion to see children and communities – often scarred by the effects of poverty and oppression — not just surviving, but thriving. She earned her undergraduate degree at Dillard University, received her Master’s degree in Education Administration and Policy from Howard University, and recently completed the Urban Superintendents Academy through AASA. Ms. Bennett has served in education for over 12 years, most recently as Principal of one of the few successful high school turnarounds in the city of Philadelphia. As a leader in education, Ms. Bennett has developed a unique set of skills and has a proven track record of strong adult management that leads to strong student outcomes. Under her leadership, student attendance increased more than twenty percent and state test scores doubled, as did the number of students scoring a twenty-one or higher on the ACT exam. These results are due not only to Ms. Bennett’s ability to develop teachers, but her keen ability to analyze data and make data-driven decisions.

Born to descendants of the Bay Island of Roatan, Honduras, and a native of New Orleans herself, Ms. Bennett developed a deep love of culture and a resilient spirit. Whether it is through her role as an Executive Director, Principal, Adjunct Professor, or Speaker, she is committed to changing the narrative for people of color in America by closing the Opportunity Gap. Daily, she works to educate not only the youth, but aspiring teachers and leaders. Ms. Bennett gleaned a wealth of knowledge during her time in Philadelphia, and while she loves the students and families in North Philadelphia, she knows her leadership also has a transformative and profound impact on the students at CAPS Central.

Ms. Maria Picone Principal: Grades K-3

Ms. Picone is very proud to currently hold the position of principal for kindergarten through grade 3 at College Achieve Central Charter School.

Having grown up in Paterson, Ms. Picone had a strong desire to return to urban education and follow in the footsteps of the exemplary educators who supported her in her youth. She started her career as a classroom teacher in Bloomingdale, and during that time, received the school level Governor’s Teacher Recognition Award. After moving into the role of school counselor/student assistance coordinator, she was recognized in 2006 by the NJ Bias Officers Association for efforts to “reduce bigotry and hate.”

During the 2018-2019 school year, Ms. Picone held the position of Director of Early Childhood Education at Marion P. Thomas Charter School in Newark, where she served on the Superintendent’s Academic Leadership Team, supported the founding of MPTCS’s preschool program, and supported teaching and learning for grades Pre-K to 2. Prior to that, Ms. Picone held the position of principal for six years at University Heights Charter School, also in Newark, and acted as Director of Early Learning (Grades Pre-K to 2) during the 2017-2018 school year. During her time at University Heights, Ms. Picone founded the school’s Pre-K program, making it one of the first charter schools in the area to open its doors to 3-year-olds and supported the school’s expansion and curriculum advancement. Preceding this, Ms. Picone held the position of Supervisor of Curriculum and Instruction, Special Education, and Testing in Prospect Park.

Ms. Picone has completed an Advanced Graduate Program in Educational Administration and has a Master’s Degree in Counseling, Human Services, and Guidance from Montclair State University, where she also completed a post-baccalaureate teacher certification program and an undergraduate degree in English. Currently, she is an advisory board member for NJ School Resource Officers Association (NJASRO) and holds the position of Vice-President of Public Policy of NJAEYC (NJ Association for the Education of Young Children). She has also participated in presentations to educators at various conferences, such as facilitating a workshop at the Spring 2019 NJAEYC conference entitled, “Understanding Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs) and their Impact: Supporting the Development of Trauma Sensitive Classrooms.”

Ms. Roseann Liriano Principal: Grades 4-6

As a champion for equitable education, Ms. Liriano has dedicated her 20-year career to closing the opportunity gap and defending the rights of children. She brings this passion to CAPS Central as the Principal of grades 4 through 7 and as the Director of Bilingual and English Language Learning programming.

Born in Tampa, Florida, Ms. Liriano graduated with a Bachelor’s degree in Education and English as a Second Language. Moving to New Jersey, she completed her Master’s degree at Seton Hall University. She went on to teach for many years in schools across the state, often focusing on the needs of English learners. In 2019, Ms. Liriano was appointed to the New Jersey Student Learning Assessment Committee for Bias and Sensitivity.  She has served frequently as a guest speaker addressing immigrant students and families, and she has received recognition for her educational leadership on multiple occasions.

Mr. Wayne Bullock Assistant Principal: Grades 4-7

Mr. Bullock is excited to join the College Achieve family as Assistant Principal of the South Campus. Having grown up in multiple low socio-economic areas in Union County, Mr. Bullock entered the field of education through an “alternate route”, in pursuit of a desire to teach Special Education in an urban school. As a student acquainted with economic “challenges” that could potentially hinder a child’s educational experience, Mr. Bullock has always been passionate about diverse learning that meets the needs of all students.

In addition to his Special Education background, Mr. Bullock brings a wealth of knowledge and experience in the areas of Response to Intervention (RTI), school-wide planning and program implementation, and community collaboration. For several years, he has collaborated with staff and community members to facilitate “Tied to Success,” a program he created to enhance self-respect in middle school boys through positive self-image.

Mr. Bullock holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Criminal Justice and another in Sociology from Kean University. Additionally, he completed a master’s degree in Divinity from Northwestern Theological Seminary and a master’s degree in Educational Leadership from American College of Education.

Mr. Bullock believes that high quality education is fundamental to a proud and productive community. He believes that as educators,  it is our duty to serve students by continuously searching for the best interventions and practices to address the challenges they face.

Natica Brown Principal: Grades 7-10

As a young woman, Mrs. Brown did not set out to become a teacher or administrator. Having earned a B.S. in Biology, she sought to fund medical school applications by taking on some substitute teaching work. Noticing that the grade 9 students had posted art collages in their science classroom, Mrs. Brown asked them why. They explained that they had been without a teacher for six months (and some an entire year before that as well), and that the last substitute was an art teacher, not a science teacher. Mrs. Brown decided at that moment that she would not sit for two weeks and let them loose any opportunity to fall in love with science. She asked the students permission to teach them and the students agreed. Within 30 days, Mrs. Brown was on the road to becoming a teacher via the Alternate Route program.

Mrs. Brown continued her career for 7 years as a teacher of Biology, Geophysical Science, and Physics. This included 4 years in Paterson, NJ, where she earned the title “Teacher of the Year”. It also included several years in Newark Public Schools. Along the way, she earned an M.A. in Curriculum and Instruction in Physics.

Over time, Mrs. Brown realized that real change must start at the top. She decided that the best way she could reach children and make a difference was to become a leader and change agent. She began working on earning administrative certifications. In 2013, Mrs. Brown moved from teacher to Vice Principal. In this leadership role, she ensured that her high school graduated 90% of the senior class that entered the school in September. She continued to grow as an administrator, moving attendance rates as well as graduation rates by double digit percentages.

Mrs. Brown has an uncompromising outlook that all students can learn if given a positive learning environment that welcomes investigation and enhances student confidence. She is a collaborative leader, so her vision for school leadership is to develop a clear and shared focus for the school. It is Mrs. Brown’s belief that an educator’s mission is to make school enjoyable, exciting, and supportive — that a student who looks forward to attending school will <em>want</em> to learn.

Ms. Katina Thelemaque Assistant Principal: Grades 7-10

Ms. Thelemaque comes to College Achieve Central Charter School with over a decade of experience leading diverse learners. She took a traditional route to become a teacher because she always knew that she wanted to work with youth. In high school, she found her passion for literacy and went to college to become an Elementary/Middle School teacher so that she could share this passion with children.

After ten years in the classroom, Ms. Thelemaque attended Montclair State University, where she received her master’s degree in Educational Administration. She believes that scholars are capable of excelling in education when provided compassion and support. Her focus is grounded in the 12 Pillars shared by all CAPS schools. She believes wholeheartedly in working to maintain the college culture in which we believe.

In her role of Assistant Principal at CAPS, Ms. Thelemaque not only does everything she can to support students but is also is highly valued by the staff for the masterful way she engages her colleagues in collaborative professional learning.

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