As a national non-profit based in Los Angeles, we maintain a decentralized leadership structure that emphasizes local governance of our schools.
Our structure balances the need for consistently exceptional school quality with our need for empowered and responsive local leadership. All members of the CWC Schools learning community are professionals with a record of outstanding results who work together to ensure student success includes mastery of both content and emotions, so that our students can meaningfully connect with each other, be part of any community, and courageously decide who they are in the world and how they want the world to be.
CWC Schools Staff Bios
Co-Founder & Chief Executive Officer
Kriste Dragon is the CEO and Co-Founder of Citizens of the World Charter Schools, a national network of public charter schools that challenge students to realize their full potential and thrive in a diverse society. Citizens of the World is committed to serving diverse communities throughout the U.S. with schools currently in Los Angeles, New York, and Kansas City.
Kriste began her work in education as a middle school mathematics teacher in South Los Angeles. She later served as Executive Director for Teach For America Los Angeles and Vice President of Regional Operations for Teach For America’s western regions. She has led professional development at UCLA’s Center X, and has chaired several charter school boards throughout Los Angeles. Kriste currently serves as the founding co-chair for the national advisory board of The Collective, Teach For America’s national alumni of color association.
Kriste has a Juris Doctorate from the University of Georgia and a bachelor’s degree in communications from the University of Alabama. She is a Broad fellow and an Aspen Pahara fellow.
Chief of Talent and Leadership
Vanessa Rodriguez began her education career as a bilingual elementary school teacher in the Bronx and as the school chapter leader for the United Federation of Teachers. Vanessa brings expertise in instruction, leadership, and evaluation. She joined Citizens of the World after serving as the Chief Talent Officer of Newark Public Schools (NPS) where she led the implementation of a ground-breaking pay for performance teacher contract. NPS has 64 schools, 7,000 employees and a student population of 37,443, and is the largest school system in New Jersey.
Previously Vanessa was the Chief Executive Officer of District 79 - Alternative Schools and Programs for the New York City Department of Education. This district is a unique citywide network of more than 300 alternative schools and programs serving more than 65,000 disengaged, over-aged, under-credited students. Vanessa also served as chief of staff and chief operating officer of District 79, and led the talent development and strategic planning process of the district. Prior to District 79 she was the national director of recruitment and admissions for New Leaders where she helped school districts across the country recruit and select exemplary school leaders. She also worked in various capacities for Teach For America, including leadership roles in Houston and New York City.
Cadhla ’Keely’ Ball
Executive Director of Academics
Keely joins Citizens of the World after 18 years of service in school-based and nonprofit roles that have been characterized by a fierce passion for constructivist learning and a deep commitment to social change.
Previously, she served as the Managing Director of National Program for Citizen Schools. In this capacity, she oversaw program design, curriculum development and program innovations for a national organization serving 5,000 students in 30 urban schools across the country. Prior to Citizen Schools, she worked as a professional development coach for Teachers College Columbia University, directly supporting small high schools in the South Bronx by coaching new teachers; facilitating professional development for faculty; and working directly with school leaders on instructional strategy. Keely began her work in education as a 6/7 grade Humanities teacher, where her curriculum focused on experiential and project-based learning. This is where she learned that good teaching starts with asking good questions—a lesson she’s carried forward in all roles.
Keely holds Masters degrees from Teachers College Columbia University in Curriculum, Instruction and English Education.
Alison joined the Citizens of the World team after serving as a founding teacher and founding principal within the Citizens of the World Los Angeles region. Previously, Alison was a teacher, instructional leader, and social emotional learning coach, in a variety of urban and international schools in the U.K and U.S. She has led work in curriculum design and assessment, global citizenship, mindfulness, and mission-driven environments. These areas have been the focus of Alison’s work as an accreditation team member of the Council of International Schools.
Alison graduated from the University of Edinburgh, with a bachelor and masters degree in Education.
New Site Development and Community Engagement Director
Andrea Arroyo joined Citizens of the World in February 2013 after spending 15 years as a manager, strategist and advocate in the nonprofit and economic development sectors.
Most recently, Andrea served as Director of Grants at LA’s Promise, helping to secure over $4 million of funding from private foundations, public agencies, corporate partners and other supporters to enhance educational initiatives at LA’s Promise schools. Before that, she served as Managing Director of District and School Partnerships at Teach For America, where she led the placement of over 250 new teachers in LA County.
Andrea previously worked at two consulting firms focused on integrated real estate advisory and affordable housing services. She assisted in the development of over 45 affordable housing projects and advised clients to help them make strategic investments and improvements in their communities. In addition, Andrea spent two years as a 2nd grade teacher at Saul Martinez Elementary School in Mecca, California.
Andrea earned a Masters in Public Policy from the University of Southern California and a Bachelor of Arts in Political Science and Sociology from Pitzer College. She is an alumna of the CORO Fellowship in Public Affairs.
Director of Organizational Data and Analytics
Jonathan joined Citizens of the World after serving as Vice President of Compliance and Data Strategy at ExED in Los Angeles. In that role, he oversaw the organization’s data reporting and data management services for over 90 charter schools. Previously, Jonathan worked as an Associate Consultant at the District Management Council in Boston, MA. There he provided strategic consulting to public school districts with a goal to identify strategies to raise student achievement, improve operations and lower costs. He also worked in providing investment management services to non-profit institutions such as universities and foundations.
Jonathan graduated from Tufts University with a B.A. International Relations and Economics.
Director of Special Projects and Communications
Director of Policy, Research & New Site Strategy
Andrew joined Citizens of the World as Research and Policy Analyst, where he is responsible for outreach, charter-petition development and compliance. His previous nonprofit experience includes working at The Wonder of Reading in Los Angeles, where he was responsible for data collection and coordination of programming. He has also worked at the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence in Washington, D.C, and prior to that, Oxfam in Great Britain. Andrew grew up in Great Britain and graduated from the University of Manchester, majoring in American Studies and specializing in American 20th-century history. During his studies, Andrew attended The University of Maryland at College Park for an exchange semester, where he met his future wife.
Karen joined Citizens of the World after serving in administrative support roles at IBM and PricewaterhouseCoopers. As an IBM employee, Karen participated in the IBM/USC eMentor Program and worked with fourth and fifth grade students to improve computer literacy at Kingsley and Ann Street elementary schools in Los Angeles. Prior to that, she participated in Pricewaterhouse’s Junior Achievement Program as a trained classroom volunteer and led activities for first and second grade students at a public school in New York City. Karen’s background includes reporting on local school events as a newspaper reporter and editor for The Northwest Herald in Crystal Lake, Illinois. Karen earned a Bachelor of Arts degree from Hunter College at the City University of New York.
Executive Assistant to the CEO
Jaime Dow serves as Executive Assistant to the CEO for Citizens Of The World. His duties are to assist the Chief Executive Officer in moving forward the organization’s agenda for diverse education across the country. He is a professional with over 18 years of experience organizing and assisting for top-level executives and personalities in the National Democratic Party and Entertainment Fields.
A graduate of Hampton University, Jaime began his career working for the White House Political Director under the Clinton Administration. He moved from Washington, DC to Los Angeles in 1997 and spent several years managing various political and entertainment accounts where his duties included setting up offices, assisting in the organization and execution of various projects, running the day-to-day affairs of these offices, and overseeing travel and scheduling for multiple high-level executives. Jaime’s many clients have included Earth, Wind & Fire, Anthony Anderson, Will and Harry Smith (The Smith Family), Flex Alexander, The DeBarge Family, and Dr. Timothy Shriver (The Shriver Family) to name a few.