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About us

Who we are

We are journalists, public school parents, and public school advocates dedicated to improving schools for our own children and for every child in the city. We believe that engaged, informed parents can promote racially and economically integrated schools of the highest quality. Furthermore, we believe that excellent public education is crucial to the functioning of a democratic society.

We provide authoritative independent information about New York City's public schools. We want to tell you what's really going on, because test scores don't tell the whole story. We visit hundreds of schools each year and interview thousands of people—principals, teachers, students and parents. We observe what’s happening in the classrooms, cafeterias, hallways and even the bathrooms.

Insideschools is a project of the Center for New York City Affairs at The New School and is supported by grants from the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation, the David L. Klein Jr. Foundation, the New York Community Trust and the New York City Council Speaker’s Initiative. We are also supported by reader donations, and advertising revenue.

Insideschools was founded in 2002 by the nonprofit organization Advocates for Children before moving to the Center for New York City Affairs in 2010.

Our paid staff is small. We welcome volunteers. Write us at if you would like to help.

Our team

Clara Hemphill, founder and senior editor of Insideschools, is the author of New York City's Best Public Elementary Schools: a Parents' Guide, New York City's Best Public Middle Schools, and New York City's Best Public High Schools. Hemphill was an editorial writer and reporter for New York Newsday, where she shared the 1991 Pulitzer Prize for local reporting. Her children attended public schools in Manhattan and the Bronx. She is senior editor at the Center for NYC Affairs at the New School.

Pamela Wheaton has been on staff at Insideschools since 2002 and is now managing editor. She edits the blog, has visited and reviewed hundreds of schools and leads workshops about school choice. She collaborated with Hemphill on a series of guides to New York City’s best public schools. Wheaton was a producer of PBS television programs and a reporter and editor at the Buenos Aires Herald. Her two daughters graduated from New York City public schools.

Jacquie Wayans is the assignment editor and on-camera voice of Insideschools. She offers workshops and advice for parents on school choice. She is a co-author of the New York City Best Public School guides and has visited more than 250 schools. Most important, she is the mom of three public school children. A Bronx resident, she served on the Community Education Council for District 10 for the 2009–10 school year.

Ed Yau and Chris French are web developers at Insideschools.

Our contributors past and present

Judy Baum, an Insideschools volunteer, passed away on Dec. 20, 2013. Judy reviewed schools and answered readers' questions for the Ask Judy section. She served for 20 years as director of information services for the Public Education Association, before coming to Insideschools where she counseled thousands of parents on how to find good schools. Her children, now grown, attended New York City public schools.

Aryn Bloodworth visited and reviewed schools for Insideschools. She is a former public school teacher in the US and abroad and is a member of the Center for New York City Affairs' Education Project. She has a master's degree in Urban Policy with a focus on education from The New School and reviewed schools in all five boroughs.

Skip Card visited and reviewed schools for Insideschools and wrote the Elementary Dad column. Skip is a longtime newspaper reporter and editor, who until 2010 worked as a copy editor for the New York Post. He is also the author of the trail guide Take a Hike: New York City, which had a second edition published in spring 2012. Skip lives with his wife and daughter on the Upper West Side.

Dr. Jane S. Gabin is an independent college counselor in New York City. She has worked at several private schools in the metro area, including the Frisch School, Little Red School House and Elisabeth Irwin High School, and the United Nations International School. She was an admissions officer for 10 years at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, and an English teacher at Chapel Hill High School and at her alma mater, Queens College of the City University of New York. She is a member of the National Association for College Admissions Counseling and its New York and New Jersey chapters.

Marni Goltsman is a former Insideschools web developer who blogs about her experiences as a special ed mom. Her career ranges from computer programming for Lockheed Martin to musical-theater writing (Ducks and Lovers) to founding a shopping website that automatically donates to charity (

Tom Jacobs is a PhD student in education policy at the New School. He is a member of the Center for New York City Affairs’ Education Project team, and his research explores the intersection between education and poverty. Tom visited and reviewed schools for Insideschools.

Meredith Kolodner was an education reporter at the N.Y. Daily News for three years. Before that she covered the United Federation of Teachers and several other city unions for The Chief-Leader newspaper. Her oldest daughter is now enrolled in a public school in Brooklyn.

Eliana Mascio is a photographer for Insideschools, as well as a reviewer and forum moderator. She is an artist and writer, who received her BA and master of fine arts degrees from Brooklyn College, CUNY. She taught college-level art and created lessons for young children. Her child attends a New York City public school.

Sharon McCann-Doyle reviews District 6 schools for Insideschools. Formerly a professional ballet dancer, Sharon is now the mother of three and a member of the School Leadership Team and co-president of the Parents Association at her children's school. In 2003 she co-authored a qualitative review of charter schools  for the Women's City Club of New York. She is a vice president at Partners With Parents, a tutoring and educational consulting company.

Mellen O'Keefe produceed and wrote videos for Insideschools as well as the occasional blog post. She was a member of Parents for Inclusive Education (PIE), a television news producer for ABC News and a graduate of Boston College. Her two children graduated from NYC public schools. Mellen now lives and works in California.

Lydie Raschka visits and reviews schools for Insideschools. She is a former public school teacher who works as a Montessori teacher-trainer during the summer and a freelance writer during the school year. Her son attended public school in Manhattan. She is a graduate of Bank Street College.

Aimee Sabo writes and edits reviews for Insideschools. She is a former editor for Time Out New York magazine and an events coordinator for Housing Works Used Book Cafe. She holds a BA in English literature from Stanford University, but her proudest achievement is the rearing of her two energetic and creative sons. One attends NYC public school, and the other is on his way.

Anna Schneider was a reporter for Insideschools and staff member at the Center for New York City Affairs at the New School. She holds a BA from the University of Wisconsin in history and journalism and is working towards her masters in media studies at the New School.

Liz Willen is editor of the award-winning Hechinger Report, at Teachers College, Columbia University.  She is a former senior writer focused on higher education at Bloomberg Markets magazine. Willen spent the bulk of her career covering the New York City public school system for Newsday. She has won numerous prizes for education coverage and shared the 2005 George Polk Award for health reporting with two Bloomberg colleagues. Willen is a graduate of Tufts University and Columbia University’s Graduate School of Journalism, and an active New York City public school parent.

Helen Zelon reviewed schools for Insideschools and wrote extensively for the blog. She writes about education and city life for City Limits magazine and other publications and has taught writing and drama at Sing-Sing prison. Helen is the proud parent of three New York City public school students.

Laura Zingmond reviews schools for Insideschools and writes about education for the website and other publications. An attorney and native New Yorker, Laura has two children, who are the fourth generation in their family to be educated in the New York City public schools.