Morning Meeting


Every child deserves a chance to achieve.


The mission of the Amani Public Charter School is to provide Mount Vernon, New York students in the 5th through 8th grades with the academic skills necessary to succeed in competitive high school programs, college and the career of their choice.


Morning meeting.
Founders Picture

Our History

The concept of Amani began at their kitchen table.  Founders Charles and Debra Stern then formed a coalition to bring a high performing charter school to Mount Vernon, NY.  The Sterns, along with other public school parents, educators and business people joined forces to develop the school's charter application. In 2010 the New  York State Education Department authorized Amani Public Charter School.  Amani is the first and only charter school in Mount Vernon. Admission is open to all children, including those with special needs and English language learners.  Nearly all of our students reside in Mount Vernon. Students are admitted through a random lottery held each April.


2010 The school's application is approved by the New York State Education Department.
2011 Doors open with 80 children in grade five, in a church basement. The school receives a generous start-up grant from Walton Family Foundation. Music and arts added to curriculum through Dancing Classrooms and Young at Arts.
2012 Amani prevails in a series of lawsuits brought by Mount Vernon City School District against the State Ed Department, intended to revoke its charter. Latin classes added to curriculum plan.
2013 In order to accommodate grades five, six and seven Amani operates classrooms and facilities in three separate churches in close proximity.
2014 Amani reaches full enrollment, with children in grades five through eight.
2015 Newly renovated facility opens at 60 South 3rd Avenue in Mount Vernon. At last, the entire school is under one roof. The first cohort of children graduate eighth grade. Amani's girls' basketball team wins Charter School Athletic League Championship.
2016 Amani is re-authorized by New York State Education Department. 100% pass rate on Algebra Regents Exam. First theatrical play: You're A Good Man, Charlie Brown. Amani scholar participates in the Scripps National Spelling Bee.

Our Team

Debra Stern
Executive Director

Mrs. Stern brings to Amani her experience as a college administrator, adjunct faculty member and social worker.  She is also a public school parent and an active member of the Alumni Council of Cornell University.  She holds a Masters in Social Work from College of New Rochelle, and a Master of Educational Administration from Teachers College, Columbia University.  A New York City native, Debra grew up in New Rochelle and then lived in Mount Vernon for many years, where she founded the Friends of Mount Vernon Public Library, and also served as President of the districtwide PTA Council.  This unique background makes her exceptionally qualified to lead the organization as it grows and pursues its mission of educational achievement.


Reinis Visners
Director of Curriculum and Instruction

Mr. Visners has over 15 years of experience in urban education.  Beginning as a Special Education teacher in the Bronx, Mr. Visners has taught math, humanities and science.  He most recently served as an instructional coach at the middle school level. He has trained new teachers for the NYC Teaching Fellows and served as an adjunct instructor at Mercy College.  Mr. Visners earned a Bachelor of Arts in Political Science from the University of New Haven, a Master of Education degree in Special Education from Lehman College, and an Advanced Certificate of School Leadership and Administration from the College of St. Rose.


Bruce Tanner
Director of Operations

Mr. Tanner earned a Bachelors Degree in Business Administration from Long Island University, C. W. Post.  In addition, he is a graduate of The Institute of Culinary Education Professional Chef Program. Mr. Tanner brings over 15 years of event planning, programming and management, along with his extensive culinary background, to his responsibilities for the day-to-day operations services for the school.  

Philip Salmon
Director of Finance


Michelle Danko
Director of Pupil Personnel Services

Ms. Danko brings a wealth of experiences in Special Education. She earned a Masters in Educational Leadership and Administration from Western Governors University, a Masters in Curriculum and Instruction from the College of New Rochelle and a Bachelor of Science in Special Education from the College of Mount Saint Vincent.

Jamell Scott
Dean of Scholars and Families, Upper School
Athletic Director
Mr. Scott earned a Bachelor of Science in Education from the State University of New York at Cortland and is currently pursuing a Masters in Physical Education as a Coaching Pedagogy.  Mr. Scott is also the Commissioner at MVP Basketball Camp.

Gene Johnson
Dean of Scholars and Families, Lower School
Title I Coordinator
Mr. Johnson earned a Bachelor of Arts in Communication from Central Connecticut State University where he served as captain of the football team.  This year he will graduate from Touro College with a Master of Science in Adolescent Special Education, grades 7 – 12.  

Yasmeen Livingston
Director of Advancement and Legal 

Ms. Livingston earned a Bachelor of Arts from Fordham University and a Juris Doctor from New York Law School.  She is also a member of the New York State Bar.  Her professional experience encompasses the legal, human resources, and non-profit fields.  Ms. Livingston has a passion for working with children and investing in their future.

Team Leaders
Heath Hasson
Mailyn Irizarry

Beth Johnson
Lorice Townsend
Sean Flanagan 

Support Staff

Tara McLoughlin, Director of Data Management and Math Program Coordinator
Amiell Cobb, Registrar
Maureen Moser, ELA Program Coordinator
Beth Johnson, Science Program Coordinator
Harvey Zuckerman, Coordinator of Guidance and Enrichment
Alysia James, Coordinator of Guidance and Enrichment
Mandy Zoffness, Social Worker
Nicole Francis, Nurse
Ashley Davenport, Office Manager

Kelly Gardner, Office Assistant
Antonio Scott, Head Custodian
Jerry Lester, Custodian

Brittany Woodley, Food Service Associate 

Instructional Staff

Adam Abramowitz

Vivian Boamah

Paul Behanna

Carol Chin

Siobhan Clarke

Milton Cobb

Michael Creech

Stacy Daniels

Alexandra Doñe

Jenelle Dunkley 

Sean Flanagan

Tia Frazier

Carolina Gengo

Michael Grippo


Mariah Grosso

Shayna Hutchinson

Loretta McDonald

Kyle McGowan

Maureen Moser

Sophia Parande

Jonathan Powers

Jessica Richardson

Katty Rodriguez

Teri Scott

RaKeisha Smith

Joy Weissman

Donovan Walker

Malcolm Wright 

Board of Directors

Sid Burke: a partner in the New York Office of DLA Piper LLP (US), a global law firm. Mr. Burke lends his own legal expertise and facilitates pro bono legal assistance for the school. Mr. Burke received his J.D from NYU School of Law and his A.B from Harvard University.


Adell Dowdy: an educational professional with a career spanning over thirty years. Presently Ms. Dowdy is an Adjunct Professor in the Graduate Education Department of Mercy College, Dobbs Ferry, N.Y. She brings expertise in professional and curriculum development as well as school administration. Ms. Dowdy earned a BA from Bennett College in Elementary Education and Reading, an MA in teaching from New York University and the Professional Diploma in Supervision and Administration from the City College of the City University of New York.


David Eichler: a Certified Public Accountant with extensive professional experience as a controller for a multibillion-dollar division of a public company. Mr. Eichler earned his BS in Accounting from New York University and has a long career in the motion picture industry.


Laura Francis: a lifelong resident of Mount Vernon, and a former teacher in the Mount Vernon City School District.  Ms. Francis has a long history of school and community involvement.  She holds a Bachlor of Science from The American University and a Master of Science from Fordham University.


Jim Killoran: Executive Director of Habitat for Humanity, Westchester County. Jim is a graduate of St Josephs College BA Seton Hall University MDiv. and has an honorary doctorate degree from St Josephs College of Maine. He is also the treasurer for the Yonkers Charter School of Educational Excellence. Mr. Killoran believes every student deserves an excellent education.


Stephanie McCaine: Director of Admissions at Purchase College . Ms. McCaine brings a strong operations background as well as visibility into the remote end of the Amani students’ educational journey. Ms. McCaine is a graduate of Skidmore College.


Richard Thomas: Mayor of Mount Vernon, New York.  Mayor Thomas is a graduate of New York University and also attended the London School of Economics and Political Science.


Robert Jones: An entrepreneur and former corporate executive with multi-functional experience spanning consumer goods, retail, and education sectors. Mr. Jones is a Mt. Vernon resident with keen interest in improving the city’s K-12 achievement in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math. Mr. Jones earned a BS degree in Chemical Engineering at Massachusetts Institute of Technology and a MBA degree at Harvard Business School.