Our Mission

We work collaboratively with partners to foster a system of high-quality, equitable schools in DC by:

  1. Aggregating philanthropy and making grants to high impact schools, human capital, and advocacy organizations.
  2. Providing strategic and advisory support as our grantee organizations grow.
  3. Orchestrating efforts across schools, nonprofit, government and philanthropic leaders to support citywide efforts to improve schools.

Together with our partners, we’re taking a citywide approach to achieving our vision and looking beyond unproductive debates to focus on creating the conditions all students need to thrive. We’re working to bring families into the heart of our collective efforts; helping to foster real input into educational decision-making and prioritizing access to school choices that reflect their needs. And throughout our efforts, we’re championing a high bar for quality and equity across our city’s schools.

Our Strategy

We are committed to doubling, over the next five years, the number of underserved students who are college and career ready, with a particular focus on at-risk and special education students. By focusing on these children, who represent fifty-five percent of all public school students in Washington, DC, we can help to create truly high-quality schools for our entire community.

Our ambitious goal is guided by strategy that seeks to: [We might create three icons to accompany these points]:

  1. Increase the number of excellent schools
  2. Align school options to student needs and family demand
  3. Nurture the environment the city needs for sustainable, high-quality schools


Our Team

Maura Marino, Executive Director
Maura previously served as the Managing Partner of the DC Schools Fund in NewSchools Venture Fund’s Washington, DC office. Maura also served as Program Director and Lead Teacher at East Palo Alto High School, a charter school in Northern California founded by Aspire Public Schools. During graduate school, Maura worked on the Network Growth Team at the KIPP Foundation, implementing their national growth strategy. Maura earned a BA with honors in American Studies from Stanford University, an MA in teaching secondary social studies from Columbia University, and an MBA from Harvard University. Maura sits on the board of directors for Charter Board Partners, DC Prep, E.L. Haynes and Ingenuity Prep Public Charter Schools, as well as the Bainum Family Foundation.
Maura earned a BA in American Studies from Stanford University, an MA in teaching from Teachers’ College, and an MBA from Harvard University.
Sarah Barrett
Sarah Barrett focuses on diligence and management assistance for Education Forward DC grantees. She was previously a Senior Analyst with NewSchools Venture Fund’s Washington, DC offices.  Sarah is also a fellow in the Education Pioneers cohort.

Sarah previously served as a Senior Associate Consultant at Bain & Company, supporting clients on strategy, merger integration and organization change management projects.

Sarah earned a B.S. from University of Southern California where she studied Business Administration and Urban Policy and Planning.

Sujata Bhat
Sujata Bhat focuses on diligence and management assistance for ventures for Education Forward DC.and was previously an Associate Partner in NewSchools’ Washington, DC office.

Prior to joining NewSchools, she was the founding Executive Director of My School DC, the common application and lottery system for district and public charter schools in Washington, DC. In its first year of operation, My School DC collected applications from more than 22,000 students for approximately 200 schools. Prior to My School DC, Sujata was the Director of Operations at DC Prep, a high-performing charter network in DC. In her role she managed human resources, technology, student enrollment, and afterschool programs for the network. Sujata holds an A.B. in human development from the University of Chicago and a Master’s in Public Affairs from the Woodrow Wilson School at Princeton University.

Kyani Dennis
Kyani Dennis was the Venture Team Assistant in the Washington, DC office of NewSchools Venture Fund.

Kyani brings over 10 years of administrative and lobbying experience, specifically in the Washington, DC landscape, to Education Forward DC, including having served as Corporate Relations Manager at the US Chamber of Commerce.  Kyani is a native Washingtonian and her desire to see the city flourish on all levels especially educationally, is what attracted her to joining the NewSchools team.  She is currently seeking her Master’s Degree in Commercial Real Estate Development from Georgetown University, with hopes of helping guide the shape of Washington, DC’s real estate platform.

She is a wife and mother of three, an avid traveler and a lover of everything Italian and French.  She has also authored a series of children’s books and is a lifestyle blogger that blogs about exciting things to do in Washington, DC.

Vanessa Gonzalez
Vanessa Gonzalez focuses on diligence and management assistance for ventures for Education Forward DC and was previously an Associate Partner in NewSchool’s Washington, DC office.

Prior to joining NewSchools, Vanessa was a Design and Implementation Consultant at Education Elements, where she worked closely with school leaders and teachers across the country to launch blended learning models. Vanessa began her career as a consultant at Bain and Company, where she advised clients in a variety of industries on strategic and operational issues. She also advised nonprofits as a consultant at The Bridgespan Group. During graduate school, Vanessa was an Education Pioneers Fellow at AUSL, a teacher residency and school turnaround operator in Chicago.

Vanessa earned a BA in Economics and Spanish from Emory University, as well as an MBA and MA in Education from Stanford University.

Jay Martinez
Jay Martinez focuses on management assistance and strategy development for Education Forward DC. He was previously an Analyst in NewSchools Venture Fund’s Washington, DC office.

Prior to joining NewSchools, Jay worked at Chicago Public Schools as an Education Pioneers Fellow and then continued on as analyst. At Chicago Publics Schools, he maintained compliance analytics and conducted data analysis to improve instructional supports and services provided to students. Jay earned a BA in Psychology as well as a Masters in Public Policy from the University of Chicago.
Shalini Shybut
Shalini Ananthanarayanan Shybut focuses on diligence and management assistance for grantees for Education Forward DC. She was previously an Associate Partner in NewSchools’ Washington, DC office.

Prior to joining NewSchools, Shalini was a Senior Director at E.L. Haynes Public Charter School, where she led the school’s implementation of Response to Intervention.  In this role, she worked closely with school leaders and teachers PK-12 to improve the school’s ability to meet the needs of underserved students, especially those students who were significantly behind, students with disabilities, and English Language Learners.  Shalini also led annual planning and several key strategy projects as E.L. Haynes expanded to full size.

Before coming to E.L. Haynes, Shalini served as a consultant to the Recovery School District on charter evaluation, following several years as a management consultant at McKinsey & Company.  At McKinsey, she led teams and advised leading education and private sector organizations on strategy, performance improvement, and organizational effectiveness.  Shalini started her career with Teach For America as a fifth grade teacher in a bilingual inclusion classroom.

Shalini earned a B.A. in Social Studies at Harvard College and an Advanced Certificate in Bilingual Childhood Education at Pace University.