Our Founding Team

New Village Academy Founding Team

New Village Academy Governing Board Agendas and Minutes are documents of public record.  

Minutes and Agendas of Governing Board Meetings can be found at this link

Romey Pittman, M.Ed., M.A., Founding Head of School

Founding Principal Romey Pittman’s educational journey has included a broad range of experiences, working in traditional public schools, charters, and alternative learning programs.  She has been involved in the founding of six schools as a school leader or as a consultant/coach.  She has engaged deeply with several innovative approaches to school structure and learning, including EL Education (Expeditionary Learning), Sudbury Schools, Place-Based Education, Glasser’s Choice Theory, and Montessori, as well as community mentoring programs like Baltimore’s Thread, drawing the best practices from each approach to form a coherent vision for an innovative high school in Annapolis. 

Throughout her 25-year career in education, Pittman had wrestled with the stubborn problem of how to meet the motivational challenges and educational needs of youth who do not readily buy into the unwritten contract between students and schools: “We teachers will ‘pay’ you students with good grades and a diploma, if you do your seat time in the classes we assign to you and complete the exercises we tell you to do.”  Since her thesis at Brown University, "Verbal and Non-Verbal Communication Between Black Students and White Teachers," she has understood that this failed contract is inextricably connected with questions of race, equity, and social justice in schools, and is a problem that resides in schools, not in the young people they are meant to serve.  

After teaching at Suitland High School (PGCPS) in the early 90s, founding a Sudbury School in Upper Marlboro, working as a School Designer with EL Education, and serving as Academic Director of Southwest Baltimore Charter School, Pittman returned to the classroom at Annapolis High School in 2019 to re-immerse herself in a conventional public-school setting, coming home to Anne Arundel County to see what she could do to contribute to the complex issues surrounding motivation and education, race, and class.  Being back in the classroom for the last four years sharpened her analysis of the challenges and clarified her vision of the solutions required to meet the needs of high school students, so many of whom are uninspired or disengaged.  She is thrilled to be working with a stellar founding team and visionary partner organizations to create an innovative educational endeavor that inspires young people who are disillusioned with school to take charge of their own education and future through real-world learning that is supported, accountable, and individualized. 

Governing Board

Darius Stanton, M.A., Board President

Darius A. Stanton was recently appointed by the Register of Wills in Anne Arundel County as Chief Deputy to manage the executive functions/operations of the agency. Known for his solid track record of transforming the way public, private, and government sector entities operate, Stanton's love of people and emphasis on providing high-quality services to communities and organizations drives his work with both large and small-scale companies and government agencies that want to create positive change based on results. Stanton has deep experience in operations, as Project Manager with the DC Housing Authority, and Vice President of Operations for the Boys and Girls Club of Greater Washington and Baltimore regions. He holds a Master of Human Service/Administration degree from Lincoln University. 

Monica Lindsey, M.A., Board Vice President

Monica Lindsey's passion is working with students with learning differences, and she is a highly qualified English and Special Education teacher with AACPS. She also holds certifications in Reading and Pupil Personnel Work. She is a member of the AACPS Joint Commission on Eliminating the Achievement Gap, co-chair of Connecting the Dots, a grassroots racial justice organization that she helped found in 2017, and recipient of the Fannie Lou Hamer Award from the Martin Luther King Jr. Committee of Anne Arundel County, Maryland; the Alan Hillard Legum Award; and the MSEA Human Civil Rights Award. 

Marcus Jones, M.A., Board Treasurer

Marcus Jones is a former manager at Wells Fargo Bank, and currently works for the US Department of Agriculture. A resident of Baltimore, Mr. Jones has deep roots in the Annapolis and South County areas. A product of Anne Arundel County Public Schools, the mission of the New Village Academy resonated especially strongly with Mr. Jones. Jones received his post-secondary education from the University of Baltimore (B.A. of Government and Public Policy) and the University of Maryland at Baltimore County (M.A. of Public Policy Concentration in Public Management). 

Akeda Pearson-Stenbar, Ph.D.

Dr. Akeda Pearson-Stenbar is a Bowie State University professor and expert in teacher development, serving as Director of the Advanced Studies in Teaching and Learning Program and leading their Master’s Program in Culturally Responsive Teaching. She previously served as AACPS School Community Engagement Liaison and as Deputy Director of School Administration for the Baltimore Teachers Network. Her consulting company, Premier Training and Professional Development, strengthens quality systems for organizational effectiveness, equitable practices, accreditation preparation, as well as school improvement programming.

Angela Brisbane, M.A. 

Angela Brisbane is a professional graphic designer, an art and design teacher at Annapolis High School, and has been an adjunct professor at the Univerisity of Maryland, Southern New Hampshire University, and the Art Institute of Pittsburg.  She was formerly Director of Marketing and Communications for West Virginia Wesleyan College. She has also worked extensively in the nonprofit sector in service of marginalized communities and is working on a project to purchase and staff a home for unhoused youth in Anne Arundel County.  

Cheryl Nkeba, M.S.

Cheryl Nkeba, a graduate of the NAIS Fellowship of Aspiring Heads 2020 Cohort, is an educational leader with over 20 years of experience. Ms. Nkeba is an administrator, music director, and teacher, with a B.S. degree in Music from Norfolk State University, an M.S. in Music Education from West Virginia University, and G.P.D. in Bassoon Performance from Johns Hopkins University. In addition, she holds an Educational Leadership for Independent Schools certification from Johns Hopkins University and a Diversity Leadership Institution certification from NAIS. She served as the founder/director of the Mitchellville Community School of the Arts, Education Director of the Prince George’s Philharmonic Education Program, and currently as Education Director of the DMV Music Academy. She has performed as principal bassoonist of several chamber music groups. Currently, Ms. Nkeba is a Music History and Instrumental Music teacher at Gilman School in Baltimore, Maryland. 

Emanuel Fernández

Emanuel Fernández is the new Exectuive Director of the Organization of Hispanic Latin-Americans (OHLA).  Fernández joined the OHLA team in 2022 with the vision of helping to restore the organization and grow in its capacity. Of Argentine nationality, he arrived in the US four years ago with his family and worked in agriculture. In Argentina, he worked for the City of Lanus in the Communications Department and later in the Department of Athletics. He also served in the City Council as an advisor, and later joined the Department of Protection of Citizen’s Rights as one of the three advisors to the department.

Funmi Osunfisan, CPA, PMP

Funmi Osunfisan is a financial analyst specializing in Data Analytics, Risk Analysis, Financial Planning, Reporting and Analysis, Business Process Analysis, and Project Management for government, private, and non-profit sectors.  Ms. Osunfisan is currently a Manager of Financial Planning and Analysis at Fannie Mae, and previously served in the same role at the Children’s Guild, a multi-million dollar non-profit operating nine charter schools in DC and Maryland.  She has also worked as a strategic and financial analyst for Exelon Corporation and the Maryland Department of Housing.

Haley Waltner

Haley Waltner is a student at Annapolis High School who aspires to found her own project-based learning boarding school someday.  

Ms. Waltner has been an active member of the New Village Academy Youth Advisory Board, helping to design the school’s educational program, determine marketing strategy, and advocate for the founding of New Village Academy. She serves on the Education and Accountability Committee.  She spent this summer interning at the AACPS District Office. 

Karen Johnson, D. Min.

Karen V. Johnson, D.Min, Senior Pastor, co-founded First Christian Community Church (FC3) in 1991 with her husband, the late Apostle Richard Johnson, III.  Beginning with only eight people, the congregation has grown to over 500 members. Under her leadership, FC3 provides pastoral and outreach services to Fairfield Nursing Home, the Light House Shelter, Heritage Harbor Rehabilitation and Nursing Center, Hope House and the Chrysalis House for Addictions Rehabilitation. 

“Pastor K” is former co-chair and currently serves on the strategy team of Anne Arundel Connecting Together (ACT). ACT is a non-partisan organization made up of 28 faith and community-based organizations and businesses building the necessary power to enable people in our communities to have a place at the tables of power where decisions are being made that affect this generation and generations to come. 

Laura Gutierrez

Laura Gutierrez is the Manager of the Office of Community Services of the City of Annapolis. With a background in community and political organizing in the US and Argentina, Gutierrez has brought together stakeholders to better serve Hispanic communities in her role as the Hispanic Liaison for the Office of the Mayor of Annapolis and to connect and enrich the entire Annapolis community as Community Services Manager.  She also serves as chairperson of the Anne Arundel County Immigrant Affairs Commission, and a board member of the Anne Arundel County Commission for Women.  

Mari Fernandez

Mari Fernandez has been a progressive educator in a variety of contexts in Puerto Rico and the US. She founded Puerto Rico's first Sudbury school. Since moving to the US in 2007, taught Spanish at Monarch Academy Glen Burnie, Anne Arundel County's first EL Education charter school, where she honed her skills as a project-based learning facilitator and curriculum designer. Most recently, Ms. Fernandez teaches ESOL at Annapolis High School, where she has developed a program to support long-term English learners to transition to independence from the ESOL program.

Martha Blaxall, Ph.D.

Dr. Blaxall is a retired economist with a lengthy professional career in economic policy and economic development. She served in the federal Office of Management and Budget in health policy and international trade, taught health policy at G.W. University, and was a Senior Scholar at the National Academy of Medicine.

Since moving to Annapolis, she has focused on non-profit work, serving as Treasurer of Anne Arundel Women Giving Together, as a Vice President of the Community Foundation of Anne Arundel County and as Treasurer for the Anne Arundel County Public Library Foundation. She is currently a member of the “Rise Up” Committee at The Banneker-Douglass Museum, formed to raise private funds in support of the Museum’s many educational programs and art exhibitions.

Nakiyah Lewis

Nakiyah Lewis is a senior at Annapolis High School and a member of the NJROTC program.  She has been a member of the New Village Academy Youth Advisory Board since its inception and has actively participated in letting the Annapolis Community know about New Village Academy at festivals and other events.  

Ms. Lewis plans to pursue a career in the military or in counseling, or both.  She is currently interning with the City of Annapolis and working at Mason's Favorite Lobster Rolls.  

Paul Dyer, Ph.D.

Dr. Paul W. Dyer has devoted 40 years to learning and studying human development at the master's and doctoral levels, with advanced degrees in the study of Neuroscience, Neuroanatomy, Stress Management, Psychology, Applied Psychology, and Neuro-Linguistics Programming. He is also a Grandmaster of Martial Arts, an inductee in several national and international martial arts halls of fame, and an Army veteran with 15 years of service. Dr. Dyer is an active member of the Caucus of African American Leaders of Anne Arundel County, a member of the AACPS Equity Advisory Committee, a board member of the People Escaping Poverty Project, a racial sensitivity educator, an organizer and leader of free self-defense clinics for women and children, and a volunteer in multiple Annapolis-area community programs and organizations.

William F. Rowel

Will Rowel is senior advisor to the Mayor of Annapolis and Director of Public Engagement and Community Relations. Rowel is a journalist, poet, actor, playwright, project manager, political strategist, and change agent who brings personal experiences, as well as, critical and strategic thinking to bear on pertinent social issues. From his work in philanthropy and community-based advocacy, to policy initiatives and prose, Rowel seeks to increase equity and awareness through any and all mediums. He recognizes that his own experience in an innovative/progressive educational program greatly impacted his ability to think differently from his Annapolis peers in high school, and helps him understand the importance of New Village Academy's outside-of-the-box approach.

Advisory Board

Carl Snowden, M.A.

Carl Snowden is a longtime Annapolis civil rights advocate and convener of the Caucus of African American Leaders. As one of the first Black students to integrate Annapolis High School, he was suspended for leading a walkout to demand better representation in the curriculum and school leadership. Snowden's career spans over five decades of work and advocacy to promote civil rights and ensure free speech and opportunity, particularly for people of color, as an elected City Councilman in Annapolis, government official with the State of Maryland, and entrepreneur.

Eric Devito, J.D.

Eric DeVito currently serves as General Counsel at Greenberg Gibbons commercial real estate developer, managing all legal affairs, Human Resources, IT, and Risk Management teams. He has been a practicing attorney for more than 20 years in both private practice and as an in-house counsel including real estate transactions, general business consultation, evaluation of tax incentives, economic development, and energy supply. Additionally, Mr. DeVito is Chair of the Anne Arundel Economic Development Corporation (AAEDC), whose mission is to support business and serve as a catalyst for business growth in Anne Arundel County, increasing job opportunities, expanding the tax base, and improving quality of life. AAEDC provides investment and technical assistance and fosters community revitalization initiatives. 

Fish Stark, M.Ed.

Fish Stark is an educator and social entrepreneur who designs programs that help students build their voice, leadership, and social-emotional skills. He is the Head of Program and Curriculum at Legends, an ed-tech startup creating preventative mental health skill-building apps for students, and was Director of Programs at Peace First, a nonprofit that trains and funds youth activists around the world to create student-led social justice projects. Fish has worked with the Red Cross, Lady Gaga's Born This Way Foundation, the Aspen Institute, and Child Trends to institute best practices in youth voice and youth-led social action.

Fish holds a Master's in Education from the Harvard Graduate School of Education and a Bachelor's from Yale University with a certificate in Education Studies. He got his start as an education entrepreneur building student-run bullying prevention programs as a high school student in Anne Arundel County, and serves on the boards of the International Bullying Prevention Association and Kindness Grows here.

Jeff Armiger. M.A.

Jeff Armiger is a 40-year veteran of community banking and has been involved in commercial business development his entire career.  He is former Market President at BB&T (now Truist Bank) and current treasurer of Anne Arundel Economic Development Corporation, which promotes small business and economic growth across Anne Arundel County.  

Mr. Armiger also serves on the Board of the University of Maryland Medical Systems, the Severn River Keeper, and the West Anne Arundel County Chamber of Commerce. 

Karen-Ann Lichtenstein, M.A.

Karen-Ann Lichtenstein is a passionate advocate for individuals with disabilities and those with complex medical needs.  Lichtenstein serves on the Governor’s Commission for People with Disabilities, and as a CHRC Commissioner. Ms. Lichtenstein served as the President/CEO of The Coordinating Center, a position she held for more than 26 years.  During her tenure, she was responsible for the initiation of the Community-based Care Transitions program and the implementation of The Center’s nationally recognized model for care coordination that serves the spectrum of people with special health needs and disabilities. Lichtenstein also serves on the Women’s Commission in Anne Arundel County. 

Kenneth Starkes

Ken Starkes is Outreach Coordinator for Maryland Hall for the Creative Arts. Mr. Starkes is a community advocate working with the city of Annapolis (Annapolis Feeder Schools, Annapolis City Police Department, Youth Organizations, Church Organizations and Various Communities in Annapolis) to increase opportunities and resources for the entire community and especially for youth.  His organization Hood2Good (H2G) and his longstanding work in AACPS have impacted countless youth in the Annapolis community. 

Pamela Brown, Ph.D.

Dr. Pamela Brown is Executive Director of the Anne Arundel County Partnership for Children, Youth and Families (LMB). Over the past 30 years she has held several leadership positions in the fields of education, social services and government including Vice President of Programs at a not-for-profit agency, Assistant District Administrator for Family Services in state government, Chief-of-Staff for a board of City Commissioners and most recently contractor for the children’s mental health core competencies at the Innovations Institute. She completed her Ph.D. in Educational Leadership at Florida Atlantic University. Her dissertation focused on the importance of community partnerships in diverse neighborhoods to improve outcomes for children and families. 

Patricia Eleazer, M. Div.

Since retiring from the Air Force in 2007, Patricia Eleazer has become a life-long learner and teacher, traveling extensively, teaching elementary school, learning gardening and foraging skills, and supporting the Alkebulan Shule, an Annapolis-based rites of passage school grounded in African cultural traditions. She also served on the Veterans Mental Health Advisory Council in Baltimore, Maryland and established a youth summer camp for boys in San Antonio, Texas. Ms. Eleazer has a passion for archaeology, particularly for the preservation of African American and Native American culture, especially since her father grew up on the Shinnecock Reservation in New York and her mother has both African and North Carolina Cherokee roots. She holds a Master of Divinity degree from Howard University.

Sam Chaltain, MBA

Sam Chaltain is a DC-based writer, filmmaker, and partner at 180 Studio, a global design collaborative dedicated to advancing people’s understanding of the future of learning. Sam began his career teaching high school English and History in the public and private schools of New York City. Since then, he has published seven books, produced two films, and served as a speechwriter for two U.S. secretaries of education. He was the national director of the Forum for Education and Democracy, a Washington, D.C.-based education think tank. He is also the founding director of the Five Freedoms Project, a national organization that equips local educators with leadership development, coaching, and support.

Tatiana J. Klein, M.S., (Former Founding Team member, currently on leave)

Tatiana Klein is a master educator who has made a second career of volunteering - primarily serving the educational needs of Annapolis Hispanic children and youth. She has founded non-profits including the Marshall Learning Center, and has held leadership positions with Anne Arundel Women Giving Together, the Community Foundation of Anne Arundel County, and Centro de Ayuda. She has an M.S. in Education Leadership and Neuroscience from Johns Hopkins University.

Tema Encarnacion, M.A.

Tema Encarnacion is ESOL department chair at Annapolis High School, where she has also been a parent and a student. She is founder of the Chesapeake Language Project, an organization that increases post-secondary educational opportunities for immigrant students in Maryland. She is a former ESOL specialist for Baltimore County Public Schools and former nominee for AACPS Teacher of the Year. She is currently a Ph.D. candidate at Notre Dame University.

Youth Advisory Board

Haley Waltner

Alison Martinez

Nakiyah Lewis

Ann Burns

Gerard Brown

India Watkins

Briaja Bynum

Kammari Abrims

Sav Kerr

Zionna Watkins

Ni'Dra Blair

Isabelle Borys

De'Syre Brashears

James Bates

Diana Juarez-Mendez

Brian Reyes

Jocelyn Santiago

Axel Murcia

New Village Academy Staff

Coming Soon!