Our Board

Joel Goering, Chair

Senior Charter School Finance Specialist at EdOps

Joel Goering is a Senior Charter School Finance Specialist at EdOps, a DC-based firm that provides business management services to charter schools and other education nonprofits. Joel moved to DC in 2011 after completing his MBA at the University of Texas at Austin. Before this, Joel spent three years in Kansas City as the Project Director for the Rainbow Mennonite Children’s Defense Fund Freedom School. During this time, he also worked as a community organizer at Rosedale Development Association and was a founding board member of the Immigrant Justice Advocacy Movement. Currently Joel is a member and trustee at Peace Fellowship Church in DC’s Deanwood neighborhood, and is an alumnus of the Mennonite Voluntary Service program. He is a member of Young Education Professionals DC. Joel has been a board member since 2012 and sits on the Development Committee.

Julia Toro, Vice Chair

Owner of Julia M Toro Law Firm, PLLC

Julia Toro is the founder and owner of Julia M. Toro Law Firm, PLCC, an immigration law firm based in D.C. She speaks fluent Spanish and serves primarily Hispanic clients. She received her law degree from DePaul University in Chicago, and earned her Masters of Laws (LL.M.) in International Human Rights from American University. Julia is a member of the American Immigration Lawyers Association, and in 1999 she was chosen as a Fellow for the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights at the Organization of American States. This fellowship helped to bring human rights cases against the governments of some Central American countries. Julia is half Colombian and half Spanish, and has lived in D.C. since 1998. She frequently visits the adult education classes at Briya to speak on immigration issues, and she offers free immigration consultation services to Briya students. Julia has been a Board member since 2013 and sits on the Development Committee.

Yizel Romero Octaviano, Secretary

Briya Student

Yizel Romero Octaviano is a student in Briya’s Advanced II class. She was born in Mexico, and came to the United States in 2000. While pregnant with her first child, Yizel began a program at The Family Place; the teachers there encouraged her to enroll in the classes at Briya after her baby was born because it offered more advanced English classes. But when Yizel’s son was born he was very sick, spending many months in the hospital. The hospital provided Spanish translators for Yizel, but she wanted to be able to speak to the doctors and advocate for her son on her own. She enrolled in Briya, where she has now been a student for six years. She works at Angelico’s Pizza, participates in her children’s school events, and speaks to teachers and therapists in English just as she dreamed she would. She is currently on track to earn her high school diploma, and her long-term goal is to enter into the Medical Assistant Program. Yizel became a Board member in 2013, and sits on the Academic Committee.

Emmanuel Caudillo, Treasurer

Special Advisor for the White House Initiative on Educational Excellence for Hispanics

Emmanuel Caudillo holds a degree in Political Science from the University of Southern California and a MPP in Education Policy from George Washington University. He is a Special Advisor for the White House Initiative on Educational Excellence for Hispanics. Emmanuel is active in the DC education committee, serving as a board member with the Young Education Professionals. A native Spanish speaker, he has lived in Washington, D.C. since 2006. Emmanuel joined the Briya Board of Trustees in 2012, and sits on the Finance Committee.

Doris Garay

Family Engagement Facilitator/Social Worker

Doris Garay is a Family Engagement Facilitator Social Worker III for the Department of Family Services in Fairfax, Virginia. Doris holds a degree in Multicultural Adult Education from George Mason University and a Bachelor of Science in Infant and Family Education/Early Childhood from Universidad Javeriana in Bogota, Colombia. She has over 20 years of experience working in education and social services in the metropolitan DC area. Doris is a former Briya staff member.

Charlotte Baer

Educational Consultant

Charlotte Baer is a lifelong educator who has worked in many adult education settings, developed school curriculum, and taught at the university and high school levels. She first became involved in adult education in Boston where she worked with the Massachusetts State Department of Education, supporting ESOL (English for Speakers of Other Languages) learners and creating curriculum frameworks to inform adult education standards. Charlotte came to D.C. as a consultant in 1998, and provided support to nonprofits offering adult education. Prior to Briya becoming a charter school, Charlotte monitored class structures and outcomes, visiting several times a year to check progress. She volunteers at two public gardens in the city. Charlotte has been a Board member since 2012, is a member of the Strategy Team, and sits on the Academic Committee.

Whytni Kernodle

President of Obra S. Kernodle III, Esq., P.C.

Whytni Kernodle graduated magna cum laude from Temple University and earned her law degree from University of Pennsylvania Law School. A member of both the California and the District of Columbia Bar Association, she works as an attorney and uses her Spanish language skills to serve clients. She is President of Obra S. Kernodle III, Esq., P.C., a Philadelphia lobbying firm. Whytni is a longtime member of the executive board of the PTA of Francis Scott Key Elementary School, an English-Spanish immersion school in Arlington. She takes part in annual month-long cultural and language immersion study in Mexico and Costa Rica. Whytni joined the Board member in 2014, and sits on the Development Committee.

Todd Shears

Founder and Owner, BlueSail Advisors LLC

Todd Shears is the founder and owner of BlueSail Advisors LLC, a financial planning and investment advisory in Washington, DC. Todd moved to DC in 1982 after completing his bachelor’s degree in Political Science at Grand Valley State University in Allendale, Michigan. He spent the early part of his career working for non-profit associations before transitioning to financial services. Todd has been a board member since April 2016 and sits on the Finance Committee. Interestingly, his first job in Washington was with the National Schools Boards Association.

Nishit (Nick) Sheth

Business Manager at Subsystem Technologies, supporting Federal Aviation Administration (FAA)

Nishit Sheth currently holds a Business Manager position with Subsystem Technologies, a Virginia-based firm that provides engineering and management services to the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA). Nishit supports the Surveillance Services group within FAA’s Air Traffic Systems Directorate to help implement the next generation of national airspace capabilities, including future airborne collision avoidance system (ACAS-X) and Automatic Dependent Surveillance-Broadcast (ADS-B, a precise satellite-based surveillance system). Originally from India, Nishit moved to the US in 2006. Nishit received a Bachelor of Science degree in Economics from University of Maryland. As the son of an active social worker, Nishit followed his mother’s footsteps by serving as a Briya Finance Committee member before becoming a Full Board member in 2016.

Deborah Spitz

Program Specialist, Office of Early Learning at the U.S. Department of Education

Deborah Spitz is a program specialist in the Office of Early Learning at the U.S. Department of Education, where she is the team leader for the Race to the Top – Early Learning Challenge program. She has managed other federal early learning and literacy programs including Even Start Family Literacy. Previously, she was the Deputy Director of the D.C. Appleseed Center for Law and Justice, where she managed research projects relating to education. She has worked as a policy analyst and grant manager for DCPS and DC PCSB. She received a law degree from Stanford in 1996 and is completing a master’s degree in education psychology at George Mason University.

Yapsis Palacios

Briya Student

Yapsis Palacios is a student in Briya’s Advanced II class. She moved to the US from her native Colombia in 2010 without knowing any English. After arriving in DC, Yapsis started taking English classes at Lado International Institute, and then began studying at Briya in fall 2012. Yapsis has two children, ages five and two. Her older son attended Briya with her when he was younger, and her second son started at Briya when he was six weeks old and is currently in the toddler class. She appreciates knowing her son is nearby receiving care and kindness from his teachers while she is studying. Yapsis worked as an accountant in Colombia, and her goal is to get a master’s degree in accounting from a university in the United States. She has been a Board member since July 2015.