Community First School Leadership Team

School Leader:

Timothy R. Goodwin is the school founder. He promotes a unique style of education that incorporates the whole family and community in the learning process. His relationship-based and place-based approach relies on helping children and families identify their purposes, passions, and desires as avenues for academic engagement and growth. By lessening the focus on standardized test scores, getting students out of their seats and into the world, and increasing the belief in each child’s unique gifts and talents, Timothy has seen great increases in student learning at all levels.Under his leadership, Hartford Youth Scholars and Community Farm of Simsbury were founded and developed into strong and sustainable non-profit organizations.

As the Dean and then Principal at the Culinary Arts Academy at Weaver High School from September 2012 through June 2015, Timothy oversaw several school-wide improvement initiatives, including an enrollment increase of 19%, the average student RIT score in reading up 300%, the average student RIT score in math up 250%, behavioral referrals down 70%, attendance up 8%, and chronic absenteeism down 16%.

Board of Directors:

Nyesha McCauley (Chairperson) is the Director of Communications at Everyday Democracy, an organization that has carried out and studied the process of bringing diverse people together for more than 25 years. She has been a strong advocate for improving education in Hartford for over 20 years and supports CFS through launch and operations by building communication and community relations.

Denise Best (Vice Chairperson) is an educator, an education organizer, and Chair of the Upper Albany NRZ where she has resided for 35 years. She holds a master’s degree from Trinity College where she served as a senior administrator before retiring to work in community development. Denise sits on a number of local boards and is currently the President and CEO of Voices of Women of Color. Denise served as an initial member of the CFS design team.

LaTroya Blue (Secretary) is a Community parent of three children and a member of the Hartford Parent University parent advocacy group. She is also a Hartford City Mission volunteer, providing homework support to Hartford children in grades 1-5 during daily after school programs.

Anthony Byers is the Executive Director of Hartford Youth Scholars (HYS) a 501c3 non-profit whose mission is to give students from Hartford the opportunity to change their lives through education. Under Anthony’s leadership Hartford Youth Scholars currently supports over 250 students and boasts a 100% high school graduation rate and an 85% college completion rate (within 6 years).  In 2013 he received the CAEOP Trio Achiever Award, and in 2015 he was named one of the area’s 100 Men of Color and Hartford Business Journal’s 40 Under 40. As an original member of the CFS Design Team, he has provided great insight into after-school and summer academic support components.

Dr. Peter LeMaire is the Chair of the Department of Physics & Engineering Physics at Central Connecticut State University (CCSU). He has chaired the department since 2014 and worked as a professor at the university since 2001. Dr. LeMaire will assist in the development and continuous improvement of the STEM curriculum at CFS. He also brings a wealth of experience in directing school reform and sustainability. Dr. LeMaire is also working to establish computer-learning centers in his native country of Ghana. Additionally, he is excited to connect CFS with the Center for Africana Studies at CCSU.

David P. Marks spent forty-two years in all facets of the investment world. He was Chief Investment Officer and President of Allianz of America from 1991-2001; Cigna Investments 2002-2003; Citigroup Investments 2003- 2005 and lastly at Cuna Mutual/Member Capital Advisors. He was involved in all public and private asset classes, Risk Management, Portfolio Theory and Alternative Asset classes. David received his CFA designation in 1978. He is a graduate of Hartford’s Weaver High School and seeks to be a leader in helping revitalize North Hartford through education.

Ethan Reid is a Vice President at Morgan Stanley and began his career in Wealth Management in 2000. Ethan currently serves on the board of directors for High School, Inc., an academy in Hartford preparing students for a career in the insurance and financial services industries. He is past president of Intercommunity, Inc., a non-profit focusing on recovery from mental illness. Ethan is a graduate of UCONN and Hartford Public High School.

Lashawn Robinson is a Community parent of five children and a member of the Hartford Parent University parent advocacy group. She has worked in various capacities within local schools to support parents as they navigate the school choice system. She will support CFS by advocating for and promoting the organization with parents.

Alexander Thomas is a life-long resident of Hartford and a Director with the Youth and Families Center at the Wilson Gray YMCA. He has a great desire to see CFS and other Hartford schools and children experience success. He will continue to support CFS through launch and operations by promoting it in North Hartford, and working with residents to develop branding.


Dr. Dolores S. Cole is a visionary leader and educator with 30 years of experience. She is a successful leadership coach, advisor, problem solver, curriculum leader, administrative supervisor, and a strategic planner for school improvement at the school and district level. She has held several positions in education including classroom teacher at the elementary level, literacy coach, turnaround specialist, principal, Executive Principal, and Executive Director of Early Literacy. Her expertise in literacy, turnaround and leadership development generates an energy and passion that motivates and excites others to perform at their maximum potential and will help ensure CFS teaching and learning is of the highest quality.

Paige Bray is the Associate Professor of Early Childhood Education at the University of Hartford. She is a teacher and supervisor in Pre-K3 to Grade 3 early childhood classrooms. She focuses on teacher inquiry and authentic practice questions that inform more reflective and effective teaching practice. Seeing herself as an advocate for children and families, Paige teaches collaborative approaches to working with communities, schools, and families. Montessori education is ever-present in her life, including Montessori Concentration program development and research.

Carol M. Ciotto is the Interim Assistant Dean for Accreditation and Partnerships in the School of Education and Professional Studies at Central Connecticut State University (CCSU). Before taking on this role, she served as a Professor in teacher preparation and as the Physical Education Program Coordinator for the Department of Physical Education and Human Performance. Prior to CCSU, Carol spent 23 years as a teacher, an assistant principal and a principal in the Connecticut public-school setting. Carol is a well-known presenter at the state, regional, national and international levels in the areas of pedagogy, curriculum and instruction, social-emotional learning, and brain-based learning through movement (for children, adults and seniors).  She is the co-author of the book “PASS: A Guidebook to Creating Physically Active School Systems” and has published several articles in various educational journals.

Scott Connors leads FlowStone Partners as President. He is responsible for product development, fundraising, transaction origination, due diligence, structuring, and closing. Since 1993, he has sourced or been directly involved with the investment of nearly $7 billion. Prior to joining FlowStone Partners, Scott spent 22 years at Landmark Partners, one of the oldest and one of the leading private equity and real estate secondary purchasers. Scott is the recently retired Board Chair of Hartford Youth Scholars, a non-profit focused on educational enhancement and access for the underserved youth of Hartford, CT. He also serves on the Board of Visitors of the University of Maine at Farmington.

Patricia Kelly is the Founder, President/CEO, and Head Riding Instructor at Ebony Horsewomen in North Hartford. She is a trained equestrian instructor with over 37 years of experience. She is a certified Urban Riding Instructor, Master Urban Riding Instructor, and certified Equine Husbandry Instructor. She is also certified in Equine Assisted Growth, Learning and Therapy as a Hose Specialist by EGALA as well as in Horse Safety. She is a former United States Marine who leads workshops and seminars in equine-assisted therapy and psychotherapy, food justice, and advocates for the mental health and wellness in youth.

Dr. Kimberly T. Kostelis is the Dean of the School of Education and Professional Studies at Central Connecticut State University (CCSU). Before taking on this role, she served as the Chair of the Department of Physical Education and Human Performance and as a Professor teaching undergraduate level courses in teacher preparation, as well as undergraduate and graduate level courses in Research Methods in Exercise Science and Athletic Training. She is co-author of the book, “Designing and Conducting Research in Health and Human Performance”, written a book chapter on assessment in Physical Education, and published several articles in various educational journals.

Trudi Lebron is the Founder of ScriptFlip!, which she started in 2013 with the goal to help young people change the way they see themselves, and change the way communities see them. Trudi has trained thousands of youth and hundreds of youth workers, educators, parents, and non-profit professionals. As an original member of the CFS Design Team she has provided support in developing the research based professional development and teacher training components.

Jami Silver is currently Director of College Advising at her alma mater, Kingswood Oxford School, a coed college preparatory school in West Hartford, Connecticut.  She was the founding college counselor at Achievement First Hartford High School, a public charter school in Hartford, and she worked with the first three graduating classes of students in navigating their post-secondary choices. Jami has spent her entire professional career in education and most of her years in the field of college admission and college access, working on “both sides of the desk” as an Admission Dean at Connecticut College and Wesleyan University, and later as a college counselor at the Loomis Chaffee School. Equity, inclusion and access are critical components to Jami’s professional and personal work.

Sheldon Wermes is a fundraising and development specialist who joined the CFS effort in January 2019 to help further develop the CFS Board of Directors as well as raise working capital to open the doors at CFS with confidence. Sheldon is a marketing and business development specialist who started two successful companies based in Fairfield County. He has more than 40 years of experience working with business and non-profit leaders. He served as the Chief Development Officer of Medsend – a global medical mission’s ministry –and orchestrated its fiscal turnaround from 2010-2016. A Rochester Institute of Technology graduate, Shelly served as a U.S. Army Infantry Lieutenant in Vietnam. Shelly is active in his church and served on the board of the Christian Mission for the United Nations Community for over 20 years.

Julia Yakovich works for UConn’s Office of Public Engagement. She is in charge of a curriculum-based program at UConn that integrates a variety of service projects into classes. She has the opportunity to work with energetic and innovative faculty at the university who choose to focus their students’ learning goals and objectives alongside a community partners goals and objectives.