ELAS Ed-visor Bios


Stephen M. Clement, III Josie Holford  Paul M. Ness 


Dane L. Peters Mary Claire Ryan Joan S. Shell


Lydia Spinelli Ellen Stein Ann Sullivan Kate Turley


Stephen M. Clement, III

After 28 years as a celebrated and distinguished Headmaster, Stephen M. Clement, III recently retired from The Browning School, a K-12 school for boys in Manhattan. Prior to Browning, he was the Director of the Walden School and Assistant Headmaster of the Dalton School. He has been sought after and served on numerous boards, currently the Millbrook School and Robert College in Istanbul, Turkey. He has also served on the Boards of The Brearley School, Brick Church School, The Episcopal School in NYC, and George Jackson Academy.

Steve has assumed leadership roles in associations that support the work of independent schools as Past President of the NYSAIS Board of Trustees, The Guild of Independent Schools (NYC), Interschool (NYC), Independent School Multi-Media Center, Headmasters Association, as well as the Chair of NYSAIS Commission on Accreditation.

Although based in NYC, Steve has deep personal roots in Western New York and strong ties to the Hudson Valley. He attended the Nichols School in Buffalo and The Hill School in Pennsylvania prior to his undergraduate years at Yale and his graduate years at The Union Theological Seminary where he completed his M. Div. He completed his education at the Harvard University School of Education and earned an Ed.M. and an Ed.D.


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Josie Holford

Josie Holford has had a distinguished career as a leader in independent school education beginning in London. She was the Director of both the Trevor Day School Middle and High School, and most recently the Head of School at Poughkeepsie Day School, retiring after ten years in that role. Among her areas of expertise are board structure and leadership, strategic planning and diversity work.

Currently, Josie serves as a member of the NYSAIS Board of Trustees, a member of the Board of the Independent Curriculum Group, and an Educating Modern Learner advisor. She is also a blogger with a robust following.


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Paul M. Ness

Paul Ness has had a long and distinguished career in independent school leadership, serving as Chief Financial and Operating Officer of the Bronx Preparatory Charter School, Director of Finance and Operations at Collegiate School (NY) and Concord Academy (MA) where he also taught mathematics. Paul has been active in national and regional independent school organizations as chair of various committees for the New York State Association of Independent Schools and Independent School Association of Massachusetts, and on numerous visiting committees. He has served on the Personnel Board of the Town of Concord, MA (Chair)  and on the boards of Fayerweather Street School (Cambridge, MA), Gay Lesbian and Straight Education Network (NYC, Treasurer) and currently the Bloomingdale School of Music (NYC: Secretary, Vice-President, President) and the Rochester Philharmonic League (Treasurer).


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Dane L. Peters

Dane recently retired as Head of Brooklyn Heights Montessori School, a Toddler through 8th-grade school in Brooklyn, New York.  Prior to heading BHMS for eleven years, he served as Head of Mooreland Hill School in Connecticut for eleven years. He has served as the Administrator for the New York State Association of Independent School’s (NYSAIS) Experienced Leaders Advising Schools (ELAS) program.

Among his thirty-eight years teaching and coaching in independent school education, ten were served in boarding schools. A Klingenstein Fellow and former lecturer and graduate student Field Coach at the Klingenstein Center, Dane served as Director of the New England New Teachers Seminar, on the faculty of the NAIS New Heads Institute, and as a mentor with the NAIS/E.E. Ford Fellowship for Aspiring Heads. He also served as the Director of NYSAIS Beginning Teachers Institute; served on the Experienced Teachers Institute; and chaired the Professional Development Committee and the Council for Professional Learning and Collaboration for NYSAIS. He has chaired many accreditation visiting committees for both NYSAIS and the Connecticut Association of Independent Schools.

He has served on thirteen non-profit boards, three as president and two as head of school. He recently served as a Secretary on the NYSAIS Board of Trustees and the Treasurer of the American Montessori Society (AMS) Board of Directors where he is currently serving as the Vice President.

His articles have appeared in Education Week; NAIS’s Independent Teacher (currently serves on the Editorial Board), Independent School (served as chair of the Editorial Board), and The Savvy Trustee Newsletter; Montessori Life (currently chairs the Editorial Advisory Board), M: The Magazine for Montessori Families, Montessori Leadership, Parents’ League Review, Public School Montessorian (where he has a regular column), Teaching Children Mathematics, The Head’s Letter, and The Trustees Letter. His first book Independent by Design was published in 2014. You can read many of his articles on his blog, www.danesedblog.blogspot.com.


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Mary Claire Ryan

Mary Claire Ryan was the Co-Founder of the Cornelia Connelly Center on the Lower East Side of Manhattan, an NYSAIS accredited school. This pioneering school has established itself as a model for quality education for underserved middle school girls.  Most recently she served as the President of St. Aloysius School in Harlem and before that as President of the Jesuit Volunteer Corps in Baltimore, MD, Executive Director of NativityMiguel Network of Schools and Executive Director of the Bronx Charter School for Excellence.

She has served on many boards, among those are NYSAIS member schools: Cornelia Connelly Center, Cristo Rey New York High School and School of the Holy Child.  She has also served on the boards of Public Prep/Girls Prep Charter School, Nativity Mission Center, Oak Knoll School in Summit, N.J. and Connelly School of the Holy Child.  

Mary Claire brings experience in founding, leading, and collaborating to guide mission-driven schools and organizations, from start-up through growth, setbacks and strategic choices. She has a great deal of experience working with governing boards, supervision, mentoring, and professional development of staff, the ability to find common ground for setting priorities and devising plans of action within changing situations.


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Joan S. Shell

Joan S. Shell joins the ELAS group having recently retired as Director of Finance at Village Community School, following a 26-year executive banking career at three major banks. She brings broad experience and expertise in the areas of financial planning, which include budgeting, investment management, financing capital projects, debt management, retirement planning, benefit and compensation planning, facility management and financial aid planning.

Joan has served on the Board of Trustees of her alma mater, Vassar College, including membership on its Executive Committee and the Steering Committee of its Capital Campaign. In addition, she Chaired the Board of Vassar’s National Alumni Association. Joan also holds a M.A. from Brown University and a M.B.A. in Finance from Fordham University.

Joan has been active in the philanthropic sector, serving on a number of non-profit boards and their finance committees including treasurer for the Parent Board of Friends Academy on Long Island and Board member of the Youth Service Opportunities Project.


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Lydia Spinelli

Lydia Spinelli recently retired as Director of The Brick Church School having served in that role for 36 years. She founded and continues directing Summer Steps, Brick’s summer program for low-income four- and five-year-old children who are entering or applying to NY independent school kindergartens. Twenty-six independent schools serve as partners in this endeavor. She is also the President of the African Dream Academy Foundation that supports the African Dream Academy (ADA) in Monrovia Liberia. ADA is a Nursery through 11th grade school that provides a free education, hot lunch, uniforms and busing to 850 of the poorest children in the world.

The Brick Church School was the second early childhood school in the state to join NYSAIS and Lydia has chaired many Visiting Committees and served on the NYSAIS Accreditation Commission for 8 years and the Professional Development Committee for 10 years. She initiated a NYSAIS conference for early childhood directors and lower school heads in 2007.

Dr. Spinelli received her Ed.D at Teachers College, Columbia University in Curriculum and Teaching specializing in early childhood education. She has presented at many conferences and authored a number of articles. She is Chair of the Board of Early Steps which seeks to place children of color in independent school kindergartens and first grades. Early Steps collaborates with Summer Steps in identifying children from qualifying families who also come from the partner schools. Lydia also serves on the Board of the Parents League of New York and, throughout her career, filled many roles for the Independent Schools Admissions of Greater New York (ISAAGNY): Trustee, Co-chair of the Executive Board, Chair of the Early Childhood Director’s Group and ERB Liaison.

Lydia brings to ELAS extensive experience in all aspects of leading an early childhood school and was particularly successful at leading a school within a church. Her broad involvement with the NYSAIS accreditation process would make her an excellent resource for early childhood schools thinking of joining NYSAIS.

Her leadership as a Director and Founder with schools and her work as a Trustee and as an instructor at Teachers College, Columbia University, as well as her extensive work on the NYSAIS accreditation process makes her an excellent resource to consult in many areas, especially early childhood schools, mentoring school leaders, navigating schools with oversight organizations such as churches.


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Ellen Stein

After a celebrated sixteen years of service as the Dalton School’s Head of School, Ellen recently retired from that role. During her tenure as the Head of School, she oversaw the school’s global outreach to include partner schools in China, India, Singapore, Turkey and Argentina, and the diversification of the school’s student and faculty population. Ellen led institutional advancement efforts that resulted in an enviable and robust endowment, successful capital campaigns and a notable increase in annual giving. She presided over the renovation and expansion of the school’s buildings to include new Arts and Science centers and a STEAM center, now named in her honor, the Ellen C. Stein Center for Collaborative Study. Before her appointment as Dalton’s Head of School, Ellen was the Associate Head of School, the Director of the First Program (K-3) and served one semester as the Acting High School Director.

Prior to coming to Dalton, Ellen was the Vice Principal at Friends Seminary where she also served as both the Director of Development and Director of Admissions. She began her career in independent schools at the Brearley School as a lower school teacher. Ellen holds an MBA from Columbia School of Business and a B.A. from the University of Pennsylvania where she received the President Gaylord P. Harnwell Award for Outstanding Service to the University.

Ellen has served on numerous non-profit Boards including the Columbia University Medical School Advisory Board, Deerfield Academy, The Cathedral School of St. John The Divine, Grace Church School, Parents League of New York, The University of Pennsylvania Graduate School of Education. Additionally, Ellen has been the Chair of New York Interschool Heads, Trustee to the Parents League of New York, ISAGNY and the Guild of Independent Schools. She has been a program mentor for the NAIS Fellowship for Aspiring Heads. She is currently a NYSAIS Commissioner for Accreditation.


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Ann Sullivan

Ann Sullivan was an honored Head of School at The School of the Holy Child in Rye, New York where she served for fourteen years. While at The School of the Holy Child she expanded the arts and athletic programs, expanded and diversified the student population, and initiated the Global Service and Study Programs, now named the Ann F. Sullivan Global Studies Program, which include study and service in Ghana, Italy, China and Peru. Additionally, she presided over the expansion of the school’s campus and the establishment of a robust endowment. Ann has served as the Acting Head of School at the Lincoln School in Rhode Island where she provided support for the transition to the Head of School. Most recently she has served as the Associate Head of School at Rye Country Day.

Prior to the School of the Holy Child, Ann was the Director of Development, Director of Admissions, Director of College Counseling and English Department Chair at Friends Seminary.

Ann has served on a number of Boards of Trustee including Friends Seminary, Windward School Cornelia Connelly Middle School, Rye Free Reading Room and College of the Atlantic. While at the School of the Holy Child, Ann worked with the Generoso Pope Foundation. In addition, Ann was a founding member of the Online School for Girls’ Consortium.


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Kate Turley

Kate has been an educator for four decades. In 2017, she completed eighteen years as Principal of City and Country School. Founded in 1914, City and Country is a recognized leader in progressive education for children from toddler through 8th Grade. Under Kate’s stewardship, City and Country transformed from a schoolhouse comprising three brownstones and some rental space, to a full campus encompassing seven brownstones and the adjacent courtyards. C&C’s student body expanded from 240 to 360 children and the school’s savings expanded to include an endowment, which included a fund specifically for supporting teachers’ professional development.

Prior to City and Country, Kate was the Middle School Head at the Spence School (K-12) where she started her career teaching French to Middle and Upper School students and serving as the Director of Student Activities. Under her leadership, the Middle School developed its own identity within the larger school. A focus on the developmental and learning needs of middle schoolers and girls, specifically, were hallmarks of her tenure.

Throughout her long career, Kate has been an active member of many professional organizations. She fulfilled numerous roles for NYSAIS (New York State Association of Independent Schools), serving as a Trustee and the Chair of NYSAIS’ Board of Commissioners on Accreditation. She has been a frequent member of Visiting Committees for accreditation and chaired accreditation visits from 2001 to 2019. Along with her NYSAIS work, Kate has served other New York City independent schools, including the School at Columbia University as a member of its Advisory Council. Kate is currently a Trustee of the Lycée Français de New York (N - 12) and the Brooklyn Heights Montessori School (N - 8). She is a member of the Committee on Trustees at both schools.

With decades of working with students and families nursery through high school, and experience with Boards and accreditation, Kate is well-situated to support schools in the areas of: early childhood, K-8, and single-sex education; managing the small school and fundraising; Board governance and Head of School/Board relations; and accreditation.

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NYSAIS Events Registration
    • May 13, 2021 Diversity Practioners Conference 2021: Divesting from Systems of Oppression, Investing in Communities of Transformative Freedom 10:00 AM to 4:00 PMeSeminar
      This event will meet over three separate days: May 13, 19, and 21, 2021 from 10 a.m.-12 noon; and 4-6 p.m. on each day
      Online via zoom
      Keynote speakers: adrienne maree brown and Yolanda Sealey Ruiz
      Presenters: Franny Choi, Dr. Adam Falkner, Carlos Andrés Gómez, Lauren Whitehead
      Audience: Equity and Diversity Practitioners (Directors, Coordinators, Liaisons, etc.), Members of Equity and Diversity Committees/Councils

      Hosted by NYSAIS Diversity Committee

      Details and registration here.
    • May 13, 2021 Grading for Equity: What It Is, Why It Matters, and How It Can Transform Schools and Classrooms 4:00 PM to 5:30 PMeSeminar
      Online via zoom
      Presenter: Joe Feldman and Dr. Shantha Smith, Crescendo Education Group
      4:00 p.m. to 5:30 p.m.
      Audience: Middle and Upper School teachers and administrators
      Details and registration here.
    • May 17, 2021 Finishing Well - Retiring from Schoolwork During a Pandemic 4:00 PM to 5:30 PMeSeminar
      Online via zoom
      Presenter: Jennifer Bryan, Re-Set School
      4:00 p.m. to 5:30 p.m.
      Audience: School personnel who are retiring in 2021
      Details and registration here.
    • May 18, 2021 Community Matters: Advisory Program 4:00 PM to 5:30 PMeSeminar
      Online via zoom
      Presenter: Katie Leo, Facing History and Ourselves
      4:00 p.m. to 5:30 p.m.
      Audience: Teachers and Administrators, grades 5-12
      Details and registration here.
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