New Teacher Center CEO Names Executive Team to Lead Organization into the Future

Nonprofit reinforces commitment to underserved students and educator effectiveness

SANTA CRUZ, CA – June 6, 2019― Desmond Blackburn, CEO of New Teacher Center (NTC), a national nonprofit focused on improving student learning by accelerating the effectiveness of educators, named his Executive Team.

Executive Team members include:

  • Chiara Garonzik, Chief Strategy Officer
  • Atyani Howard, Chief Program Officer
  • Kamilah Jones, Chief Marketing and External Affairs Officer
  • Arthur Millis IV, Chief Operations Officer
  • Ali Picucci, Chief Impact and Learning Officer

The Executive Team will execute the organization’s new vision: that every systemically underserved student, from preschool through high school, receives an equitable education from excellent educators who empower them to reach their full potential in classrooms, communities, and beyond.

To ensure this happens, Blackburn has chosen an Executive Team who are equally dedicated to this mission. Collectively, the team will pool their diverse backgrounds and professional experiences to develop and deliver quality, evidence-based professional learning opportunities that advance student learning.

Blackburn’s Executive Team will be responsible for leading the organization’s future mission, brand, program, and delivery. They will help further the organization’s commitment to and investment in evidence-based professional learning. By understanding what works and sharing these best practices with district partners and the field, NTC is increasing student learning and disrupting the predictability of inequitable educational experiences and outcomes for students with the highest needs.

“When we truly understand what works, we not only offer our district partners a better professional experience but the whole education field,” noted Blackburn. “With the quality professional learning opportunities that NTC offers, educators increase their instructional practice, students learn more, and we can begin to close the education gap that has persisted for far too long.”  


Desmond Blackburn, Chief Executive Officer

Desmond Blackburn took the role of NTC’s Chief Executive Officer in August 2018. As CEO, Blackburn leads the nonprofit’s vision and strategy.  Building upon the organization’s positive impact working with districts and educators who serve systemically underserved student populations, Blackburn has made a significant commitment to and prioritization these students. This includes low-income students, students of color, students with disabilities, English language learners, among many others. Blackburn began his career in education in 1996 as a High School Math Teacher for Broward County Public Schools (BCPS) where he additionally served as an Assistant Principal, Principal, Director of School Improvement, Area Superintendent, and the Chief of School Performance & Accountability. In 2015, he became the Superintendent of Schools for Brevard Public Schools (BPS). Under his leadership, BPS achieved 65% proficiency on 3rd grade literacy assessments, the 10th highest graduation rate in the state, three schools earned the distinguished Blue Ribbon award, and the State of Florida graded BPS an “A” for two consecutive years. As a school district leader, Blackburn served both state and national organizations including the Florida Association of District School Superintendents (FADSS) and Chiefs For Change. He is a Broad Academy Fellow and Governor Rick Scott recently appointed him to serve on the Marjory Stoneman Douglas Safety Commission. Blackburn earned his Ph.D. in Educational Leadership from Florida Atlantic University and M.S. in Educational Leadership from Nova Southeastern University. His fraternal affiliations include the Prince Hall Masonic Lodge and Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Inc.

Chiara Garonzik, Chief Strategy Officer

Chiara Garonzik will serve as NTC’s Chief Strategy Officer. In this new role, she will oversee the organization’s strategy, development, and legal operations. Garonzik has served NTC for over 5 years – most recently as the Chief of Staff – and brings a strong educational equity perspective to the team having previously been a first-grade teacher in New York City Public Schools. She also sat on the Board of Directors of World Savvy, a national education nonprofit that works with educators, schools, and districts to integrate the highest quality of global competence teaching and learning into K-12 classrooms. Garonzik earned her J.D. from Columbia Law School and her Master’s in Bilingual/Bicultural Education from Columbia University’s Teacher College.

Atyani Howard, Chief Program Officer

Atyani Howard will lead NTC’s partner engagement, program delivery, school leadership, early learning teams. Howard will be directly responsible for ensuring that NTC has the proper financial and operational practices, administrative and reporting procedures, technology, and people systems in place to support NTC’s program and product delivery. Howard’s experience in both the nonprofit and education sectors will strengthen the organization’s ability to expand and deliver high-quality programming. Prior to her role at NTC, Howard served as the Vice President of Academics on the Client Team for TNTP, where she led on business development, program delivery, and ELL program development. Howard earned her Master’s degree in English Language and Literature from Northwestern University.

Kamilah Jones, Chief Marketing and External Affairs Officer

Kamilah Jones will take on the role of Chief Marketing and External Affairs Officer having previously served as NTC’s Vice President of Marketing and External Affairs. Jones will oversee the organization’s brand and positioning. Prior to working at NTC, Jones served as the Vice President of Innovation and Brand Experience and Vice President of Brand Marketing & Digital Strategy at Teach for America. She is a leader in multicultural markets and social impact marketing, mobilizing consumers and communities toward social impact through exceptional brand experiences. Jones has developed and executed marketing communications and event programming for Verizon, Sony Pictures, PepsiCo, Nordstrom, Obama for America, and the National Urban League. She currently is an Advisory Council Member at Texas A&M University’s College of Liberal Arts where received her Bachelor’s in Journalism, Public Relations, and Strategic Design.

Arthur Mills IV, Chief Operating Officer

Arthur Mills IV will be directly responsible for ensuring that NTC has the proper financial and operational practices, administrative and reporting procedures, technology, and people systems in place to support NTC’s future. Mills previously served as the Executive Director of Talent Management and Organizational Strategy for Fulton County Schools in Atlanta, Georgia, offering him a unique perspective to this work. He is currently Chair-Elect of the McCombs School of Business MBA Alumni Advisory Board at The University of Texas at Austin and serves as a member and Board Financial Secretary for the 100 Black Men of Atlanta. Mills received his M.B.A. in Finance, Strategy, and Community Development from The University of Texas Red McCombs School of Business, as well as his M.Ed. in Educational Leadership and Administration from The Broad Center.

Ali Picucci, Chief Impact and Learning Officer

Ali Picucci will now serve as NTC’s Chief Officer of Impact and Learning after having previously held the role of Vice President of Improvement and Impact. Picucci will oversee the organization’s product development and impact, reinforcing the commitment to evidence-based professional learning that drives educator effectiveness and student learning. Picucci has overseen the organization’s impact for the nearly 7 years she has been with NTC. Prior to her time at NTC, she served as the Director of Evaluation and Research at Resources for Learning. Picucci attended the University of Texas Austin where she received her Ph.D in Statistics and Research and her Master’s in Curriculum and Instruction.

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