Achievement First Amistad High School
Achievement First Amistad High School is a college-preparatory public charter school in New Haven, Connecticut. Achievement First Amistad High provides a life-altering education that prepares students for the opportunities and responsibilities they will face in college and beyond. The school was founded in 2006 based on one innovative premise: close the achievement gap by providing a prep-school-quality education to inner-city students. Achievement First Amistad High combines rigorous courses and high expectations with a host of support services more common at affluent and private high schools, including SAT prep, intensive college counseling, tutoring and explicit character education. Achievement First Amistad High is recognized as a national model of education reform, proving what is truly possible when urban students receive a world-class education.
Achievement First Amistad High has one goal: 100% of students will be accepted into four-year colleges and universities. The school prepares students to meet this goal by providing a challenging course of studies and supporting students in their growth outside the classroom. In the classrooms at Achievement First Amistad High, all students are prepared to take responsibility for their own learning. As students’ progress from grade 9 to 12, instruction shifts from a teacher-directed approach to student-led exchanges of ideas. Outside of class, students grow as athletes, volunteers, leaders and responsible community members through participation in the school’s extracurricular, athletic and arts programs.
Sandy Mackie is the Director of Operations at Achievement First Amistad High School. She joined the Amistad High School team in June of 2010, just in time to watch the second batch of Amistad High graduates take the stage for Senior Signing Day. She transitioned to be the Director of Operations for AF Hartford Middle School in 2014 and then returned to Amistad High, her original AF home, in 2018. She earned a Bachelor’s degree in Psychology from Wesleyan University and subsequently worked in Wesleyan’s University Relations office prior to joining Achievement First. Sandy was born and raised in New York City but currently resides in Middletown with her husband and 3 children.
Cecil Barnes rejoins the Achievement First Amistad High School Team and Family after a one year hiatus as Dean of School Culture. During his hiatus he severed as a History Teacher and 10th Grade Level Leader at a charter high school in Harlem, New York. Prior to his arrival to Achievement First in 2013, Mr. Barnes taught History in Boston, Massachusetts where he was also a Dean-In-Residence. Prior to his tenure in Boston, Mr. Barnes taught Music in Kansas City, Missouri. Mr. Barnes began his career teaching History and Music in his hometown of Los Angeles, California. Mr. Barnes has taught Global History, Band, Choir, AP European History, and AP World History. Mr. Barnes holds a Bachelor of Arts Degree from California State University, Los Angeles and a Master of Arts Degree from Teachers College, Columbia University.
Jennifer Caruso, a 15- year educator, serves as an Academic Dean, Leadership Coach, and manages the Special Services Department in her current role of Dean of Leadership and Special Services. As a founding member of the Achievement First Amistad High School team, Jen has held the following roles; science teacher, Dean of Students, Academic Dean, and Academic Dean of Students. Through these roles Jen’s passions lie with working with families, building relationships with scholars, and coaching teachers. Prior to joining Achievement First, Jen has worked as a high school science teacher in Minnesota, and a middle school science teacher in Washington Heights in New York City. She earned a bachelor’s degree in Biology from Union College, a Masters or Arts degree from Teachers College, Columbia University, and her 092 Certificate for Admiration and Supervision from the Residency Program for School Leadership. Her time outside of school is spent with her family. She is the mother of three children, Kathryn age 5, Jack, age 3, and Margaret 6 months.
David Constant is the ELA Academic Dean at Achievement First Amistad High School. Before joining AFAHS in 2014 as a 9th-grade composition teacher, he spent 3 years at Litchfield High School in Connecticut, where he taught English 9-12, journalism, and AP English Language and Composition. During the 2013-14 school year, his students celebrated a 100% pass rate on the AP exam. Since arriving at Amistad, David has taught Composition I, worked as a curriculum facilitator and fellow, and also coached the boys and girls high school track team during their inaugural season. David graduated with a B.A. in journalism and English from the University of Connecticut, and he earned his M.A.T. with secondary education certification from Sacred Heart University.
Arley Pekrul received her BA in History and Secondary Education from Stonehill College and her MA in Education Interventions from the University of St. Joseph. Arley has been teaching history since 2008 and has been a part of the Achievement First Team and Family since 2012.
Emery Sykes is the Dean of College Services at Achievement First Amistad High School. She has worked at the school since October of the 2007-2008 school year. She began her career at AFAHS as the founding college counselor, a role she enjoyed for six years before her current role. During her time as the Director of College Counseling, Ms. Sykes successfully designed and implemented the school’s college application process and supported four senior classes in securing 100% college acceptance. As the Dean of College Services, Ms. Sykes supports a team of seven professionals who ensure that scholars are appropriately prepared to go TO and THROUGH college. Ms. Sykes earned a Bachelor of Arts Degree in Human Development from Connecticut College.
Josh Taylor is the STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) Academic Dean at Amistad High School. He joined the AFAHS faculty in 2015. Previously, he taught Physics, Chemistry, and Engineering at Noble Street Charter School – Johnson College Prep (JCP) in Chicago, Illinois. During his tenure at JCP, he was awarded Teacher of the Year, served as a Grade-Level Chair, a Science Department Chair, and an Assistant Dean of Instruction. Josh earned a Bachelor of Science Degree from the Georgia Institute of Technology and a Master’s Degree from the University of Illinois – Chicago. He is currently pursuing a Doctor of Education (Ed.D.) Degree from the Johns Hopkins University School of Education.
Jeffrey Blaine is the dean of students for the 10th grade. He got his undergraduate in English with a concentration in creative writing and his Master’s Degree in secondary education at Adelphi University in Garden City, NY. He started his journey with Achievement First as a TIR (teacher in residence) at Amistad Middle School. He taught Literature & Pre-AP seminar before transitioning to his new leadership role.
Ricky Horton is the 9th Grade Dean of School Culture at Amistad High School. He is joins the Amistad faculty this school year after 10 years spent at Elm City College Prep Middle School. During his time at Elm City, he taught Physical Education and Health for 6 years and served as the Electives Director and Grade Level Chair. Most recently, Ricky served as the 7/8th Grade Dean of Students for the past four years before coming to Amistad. He earned a Bachelor’s of Science in Education at SUNY Cortland and a Master’s of Science with Health Education Focus at Southern Connecticut State University.
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