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Thurgood Marshall Academy School Leadership

Richard Pohlman, Executive Director

Richard Pohlman has over a decade of experience in the Washington, D.C., education, legal, and policy sectors.  Prior to joining TMA, he served as the Chief of Operations and Policy and as Acting Head of School at E.L. Haynes Public Charter School.  He also served as the Director for the District of Columbia’s Race to the Top program and Attorney Advisor to the Office of the State Superintendent of Education. Mr. Pohlman was a Presidential Management Fellow at the United States Department of Education, and served as Special Assistant at the United States Attorney’s Office.  Also a former teacher, he has had five years of classroom experience working with upper elementary and middle school students.  A native of Indiana, Mr. Pohlman earned a B.A. in Philosophy from Indiana University, and a J.D. from New York’s Pace University School of Law where he graduated cum laude and served on the editorial staff of the Pace Environmental Law Review.  He lives in the District of Columbia with his wife and two children.

Melanie Sala, Head of School

Melanie Sala holds a Bachelor of Science from The Pennsylvania State University, a Master of Education from the University of Massachusetts, and a post-graduate certificate in Educational Leadership from George Washington University. Ms. Sala began her career in education as a middle and high school English teacher, for which she received the Rubenstein and Impact Awards for Highly Effective Teaching. Prior to joining the Thurgood Marshall Academy family, Ms. Sala also served as a department chair, an instructional and literacy coach, an assistant principal and central office administrator. She has taught Master’s candidates at George Washington University’s Graduate School of Education and Human Development and worked to prepare new teachers through The New Teacher Project.  After working to strategically support student achievement and the growth of teachers in these contexts, Ms. Sala is excited to return to her true passion, working directly with students, teachers and families in a mission driven high school committed to excellence. At the heart of Ms. Sala’s work is her unwavering commitment to securing equity, equality, social and economic justice by providing every student with an exceptional and compelling high school experience that leads to college, career and engaged, empowered citizenship.

Bridget Abbas, Director of Curriculum and Instruction

Bridget Abbas holds a Ph.D. in Curriculum and Instruction from the University of South Florida (USF), a M.A. in English Literature from USF, and a B.A. in English Literature and Political Science from the University of Florida. She has worked in education for over ten years and held many roles: district administrator, secondary teacher, instructional coach, university instructor, and university supervisor. Before joining Thurgood Marshall Academy as the Director of Curriculum and Instruction, she served as the Interim Director of Secondary Literacy for D.C. Public Schools.

Dr. Abbas is an experienced and active educational researcher currently working with a USF-based research group examining the middle-to-high-school-transition. Committed to connecting research and practice, Dr. Abbas has presented at a myriad of educational conferences for both researchers and practitioners including the National Council of Teachers of English, Association of Middle Level Education, and the American Educational Research Association. Her work has been published in peer-reviewed journals including the Journal of Research in Education and Phi Delta Kappan.

Martrice Gandy, Director of Specialized Instruction

Martrice Gandy is passionately committed to building rigorous, equitable, and inclusive spaces for students with disabilities through innovative collaboration between schools, families, and non-profit organizations. She is a native of Niagara Falls, NY but has lived in the DC/MD area for almost 10 years. Miss Gandy started her formal career in teaching in Baltimore City Public Schools through the Baltimore City Teaching Residency program after being inspired to begin teaching special populations from her undergraduate work in the AmeriCorp Jumpstart program in Charlottesville, VA. While in Baltimore, Miss Gandy served as a Special Educator, an English teacher, and eventually a Special Education Coordinator. She was then awarded an Education Pioneers Graduate Fellowship in which she consulted on talent and performance management projects for the TNTP – Pathway to Leadership in Urban Schools (PLUS) program in Philadelphia and Camden, NJ. She has also worked with Leading Educators and DC Public Schools as an English teacher and English Department Chair through the Teacher Leadership Institute (TLI) program. Miss Gandy has participated in, presented on special topics, and consulted for several educational organizations, charter school boards, and professional organizations. In addition to working at TMA, Miss Gandy serves as a Special Education Advocate for parents in Maryland. She earned a Bachelor’s of Arts in English/Philosophy from the University of Virginia, and a Master’s of Science in Educational Leadership and Graduate Certification in School Administration from Drexel University.

Sanjay Mitchell, Director of College and Alumni Support

Sanjay Mitchell has been working the college admission/counseling profession for more than 10 years.  He started at the University at Albany (SUNY) where he served as the Assistant Director of Undergraduate Admissions.  Currently Mr. Mitchell serves as the Director of College and Alumni Programs at Thurgood Marshall Academy PCHS, ensuring that 100% of eligible seniors are accepted into college, 98% complete the FAFSA application, 90% enroll in college immediately after high school, and boast a more than 60% college retention and graduation rate with the alumni support.  Mr. Mitchell has  presented and served on several committees with the New York State Association of College Admissions Counseling (NYSACAC), National Association of College Admissions Counseling (NACAC), National College Access Network (NCAN), and the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools (NAPCS).  Mr. Mitchell earned both his Bachelor’s and Master’s Degrees from the University at Albany and currently resides in the Washington, DC area.

Nikki Williams, Head of School, New Campus

Nikki Williams began her career as a high school biology teacher in 2000.  She then went on to teach middle school science, was Magnet Coordinator, and was a founding Assistant Principal for the first and only single gender public school in North Carolina.  With a focus on early college and leadership Ms. Williams cultivated a partnership with a local university and was the sole administrator.  This allowed students to earn two years of transferrable college courses on the university campus.  Through her leadership, each student amassed upwards of 60 credit hours to transfer to a 4-year university.   As a first generation college graduate herself and former military soldier Ms. Williams has made it her life work to ensure students have exposure, opportunity, and access to college.  A native of North Carolina, Ms. Williams earned her B.S. in Biology from North Carolina Central University cum laude,  and later went on to earn her Master’s in School Administration from North Carolina State University.