Leadership Team

We are teachers and dreamers who see a new future for education.  What we offer is a natural outgrowth of the practices we have developed -- and continue to refine -- in our own classrooms.

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Kareem Farah

FOUNDER & Executive Director

Kareem Farah earned a B.A. in Finance from Washington University in St. Louis and M.A. in Secondary Education from Johns Hopkins University. After joining Teach for America in 2013, he spent six years teaching in schools that support highly diverse student populations from low-income communities in Hawaii and DC. Kareem was awarded the 2018 Standing Ovation Award for Excellence in Classroom Innovation for his blended, self-paced, mastery-based approach to teaching and learning. Shortly after, he and Robert Barnett founded The Modern Classrooms Project. 

Barnett Teaching

Robert Barnett

FOUNDER & CHief OPerating officer

Robert Barnett has taught math, entrepreneurship, computer science, English, and law, at the high-school and university level, in Washington, DC and Switzerland.  He founded the Eastern SERVE Portal, has written about education for several local and national publications, and spoke at TEDxLeysinAmericanSchool. A native of Washington, DC, he is a former City Year corps member and holds degrees cum laude from Princeton University (A.B.) and Harvard Law School (J.D.).


Board of Directors

Our board of directors is a diverse team of leaders whose experience and wisdom guides our work.

Rod Nazemi is a Senior Director of Finance at Under Armour, Inc., a Baltimore-based sport performance apparel company. Mr. Nazemi supports Under Armour’s Global Marketing, Product, and Category Management organizations, working closely with the Chief Marketing and Chief Product Officers to drive the company’s growth and investment strategy. Before joining Under Armour, he spent 11 years at Procter & Gamble in a variety of Finance and Strategy leadership roles, and 2 years at Chobani leading the company’s Sales & Marketing Finance organization. Mr. Nazemi is a graduate of the University of Virginia’s McIntire School of Commerce.

Rod Nazemi

Senior Director of Finance & Marketing, Under Armour


Muna Shami is the Director of Research and Evaluation at the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts. She has 20 years of experience in research and evaluation in education. Muna has supported and implemented national and local education initiatives that seek to improve the lives of children and youth by bridging research, policy, and practice to improve outcomes. Dr. Shami holds Masters degrees in counseling and developmental psychology and earned her Doctorate in education studies from American University.

Muna Shami

Director of Research & Evaluation, John F. Kennedy Center


Mr. Elghanayan, 39, is the president of Rockrose Development Corp., a real estate development firm active on several fronts, including high-rise residential development of 2,500 units in the Court Square section of Long Island City; an office property acquisition initiative in downtown Washington, D.C., and an ongoing development effort in Manhattan’s Hudson Yards. The family-owned company integrates its own leasing, sales and marketing, asset management, development, acquisitions, property management, design and planning, finance and construction. Before joining Rockrose, he taught English for two years at Park West High School, a low-performing public school in Manhattan.

Justin Elghanayan

President, Rockrose Development Corporation


Shawna Dix

Assistant principal, Hardy Middle School (DC Public Schools)

Laura McGinley is Senior Director of Development at Uncommon Schools, a 52-school network of K-12 charter schools serving 18,000 students throughout the northeast, where she oversees private and government philanthropy. Prior to joining Uncommon, Laura spent seven years overseeing annual giving at New York University, and worked in development communications for the Educational Alliance, a settlement house on Manhattan's Lower East Side. Laura earned her Master of Public Administration degree from NYU's Wagner School of Public Service and a Master of Fine Arts in Writing from Sarah Lawrence College.

Laura McGinley

Senior Development Director, Uncommon Schools


NED Mandel

Board Chair, Literacy Lab // Board Treasurer, Horizons National.


Jacquelyn Flowers

Artist and Former Acting Chair, DC Small Business Office


Roger Sherman

Managing Director, Waneta Strategies // Of Counsel, Jenner&Block

George Farah is the founder and executive director of Open Debates. He is also a partner at the law firm Handley Farah & Anderson, where he develops and litigates cases against powerful interests in pursuit of justice. U.S. News & World Report described Farah as a “political debate expert and election watch dog,” and PBS called him a “remarkable” author who exposed the “secretive process by which party handlers ensure there won’t be a real discussion of the issues” at the presidential debates. He is the author of the book “No Debate: How the Republican and Democratic Parties Secretly Control the Presidential Debates” (Seven Stories Press: 2004), and his articles have been published in The Washington Post, The Boston Globe, The Philadelphia Inquirer, The Denver Post and other publications. He has appeared on hundreds of television and radio programs, including ABC’s “Nightline,” “NOW with Bill Moyers,” “20/20,” “CBS Evening News,” “NBC Nightly News,” “CNN Lou Dobbs Tonight,” “Countdown with Keith Olbermann,” “ABC World News,” “Fox & Friends,” “CNN American Morning,” Al-Jazeera’s “Inside Story” and “MSNBC’s Lester Holt Live.” Farah has given several talks about the political process and the need for electoral reform at colleges and universities. He graduated from Princeton University and Harvard Law School.

George Farah

Partner, Handley Farah & Anderson

Samantha Liapes has more than 25 years experience supporting the development and sustainability of social justice organizations at the local and national level. Additionally, as a certified co-active and somatic coach, Samantha supports the healing and develops the leadership capacities of community organizers and advocates. Since 2009, Samantha has provided leadership to Coleman Advocates for Children and Youth, a nationally renowned youth and parent-led community organization advancing equity in public schools. As the Development and Communications Director, she manages the organization’s individual, foundation, government, and corporate fundraising programs, as well as media advocacy and online and print communications. Samantha facilitated Coleman's most recent strategic planning process, a one year effort involving staff and board members, youth and parent leaders, funders and donors, and dozens of community stakeholders and allies. Before joining Coleman Advocates, Samantha ran the Generational Alliance (GA), a national network of progressive youth and student organizations working to promote the voices, vision and leadership of young people from historically disenfranchised communities. Samantha also worked with the Ella Baker Center for Human Rights for eight years, serving as the Director of the Bay Area PoliceWatch project, the Staff Development Coordinator, the Development Director, and the founding Director of the NYC PoliceWatch project. After working at the Ella Baker Center, as an independent consultant, Samantha provided training and consultation to numerous local and national organizations in the areas of resource development, membership growth, project management and communications.

Samantha Liapes

Communications & Development Director, Coleman Advocates for Children and Youth

Arman Gokgol-Kline is a partner at Ruane, Cunniff & Goldfarb LP, an investment firm based in New York City. From 2008-2013 he was a member of the Board of Directors of Medicines360, a San Francisco based not-for-profit organization focused on introducing low cost pharmaceuticals and medical devices for the care of women in developing and developed markets.

Arman GokGol-Kline

partner, Ruane Cunniff & Goldfarb LP

Mr. Bunch is a partner at the Washington, DC law firm of Cohen Milstein Sellers & Toll PLLC. He holds a law degree from the William & Mary School of Law and a Bachelor’s degree in Government and Classical Studies from the College of William & Mary. Additionally, he holds a Master’s degree in Administration, Planning, and Social Policy from Harvard University’s Graduate School of Education. Mr. Bunch is Co-Founder and Chairman of Global Playground, an organization that builds schools and other educational infrastructure throughout the developing world; Founder and a member of the Board of Directors of Ascanius: The Youth Classics Institute, a nonprofit organization that promotes the study of Latin and Greek in the elementary and middle school classroom; and a member of the Board of Directors of Virginia21, an organization that advocates on behalf of college and university students in Virginia. He has also served on the Board of Directors of the Northeast Confidence erence on the Teaching of Foreign Languages, an organization that promotes the study of foreign languages more broadly. In 2016, the Governor of Virginia appointed Mr. Bunch to the Board of Visitors of the College of William & Mary, the university’s governing board.

Doug Bunch

Co-founder & Chairman, Global Playground