Celebrating Our Past as the Pillar for our Future

Foundation Academy recently gathered as a community to celebrate our Community Champions – including our FA OGs who have been members of our learning community for more than a decade.

“Your commitment does not go unnoticed,” said FA CEO Sheria McRae. “You are helping drive us into our future.”

When FA opened its doors in 2007, Johanna Soto and Valeen Vaccaro were here! Ms. Soto is now our Director of Operations and Ms. Vaccaro is FA’s math content coach.

Mrs. McRae shouted out Ms. Soto, saying “She was here before me, a Trentonian dedicated to the city of Trenton, to our families and to our scholars.” And when Ms. McRae joined FA, she and Ms. Vaccaro shared a classroom where she quickly realized ‘the bar was set high for staff at FA.”

Moving forward, Mrs. McRae recognized former CEO Ron Brady (2009), and FA Collegiate teacher and coach Chris Torino (2010) who taught PE in the school’s “cafegymatorium” – a large room where scholars played garbage can basketball and learned ballroom dancing. 

Mrs. McRae also joined FA in 2010 as Middle School English teacher, before becoming principal, Chief Academic Officer, and, in July 2022, FA’s Chief Executive Officer. 

Next, Alice Lubrano-Weiss, Jacqueline Martinez and Isabel Goss (2011) who have filled several roles over the years. Ms. Lubrano-Weiss is now an Elementary School teacher, with Ms. Martinez handling admissions and other scholar programs, and Ms. Goss leading FA Collegiate as principal.

“Thank you so much,” Mrs. McRae said. “They didn’t have one role, one title –they did what was necessary.”

In 2012, Kali Beth Erstein joined FA and continues to inspire as a teacher, while Barbara Zjawin and Damien Castagne brought data and technology expertise to the school. “Use of data and technology transformed what learning in the classroom looked like. We’ve come a long way,” Mrs. McRae noted.

The following year, Tom Dougherty, Calvin McRae, and Vianney Anzures joined FA – the same year FA opened our 363 W. State Street campus. Ms. Anzures now teaches Spanish and is a grade level chair and advisor for National Honor Society, Poder and other student activities. Mr. McRae has taught social studies and math to scholars in elementary and now high school. Mr. Dougherty switched his subject when FA needed a math teacher. 

“These are the kinds of staple teachers that our scholars know – and who know our scholars,” Mrs. McRae said. 

In 2014 FA gained Director of Talent Lolade Onashile, Dean of Students Corin Rushing-Francis (now Director of Enrichment), teachers Brian Kelley, Chris Henry and Erin Dougherty, and Carlos Gonzalez, nighttime custodial supervisor.

Erin was 2014 and I think Anthony, John, and Bloom 2015

Mrs. McRae laughed that she had declined to hire Mr. Henry initially – but quickly changed her mind and called him back.

2015 was the year Anthony Petralia joined our IT team; and FA also welcomed College & Career Advisor John Salvetta, FA Collegiate math teacher Laura Bloom. Middle School Dean of Culture Shea Lightfoot also joined FA that year “and she has driven that culture ever since,” Mrs. McRae noted. 

Celebrating our colleagues and recognizing the unique talents each person brings to FA is one way we intentionally build a learning community equipping our scholars, families and staff to grow and thrive. FA is a learning community rooted in shared beliefs and values that L.A.S.T. – Love, Accountability, Support, and Trust.

Learn more about joining our community

Michelle Ruess