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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

HemphillClaraClara leads the Center for New York City Affair's policy work on economic segregation of the city's schools, examining why there are schools with high concentrations of poverty even in mixed income neighborhoods. The New York Times called her three books designed to help parents choose good public elementary, middle, and high schools for their children "the most definitive guides" to the city's schools. New York magazine called her one of the 200 most "influential" New Yorkers for her work "empowering parents." As a reporter and editorial writer for New York Newsday, she shared the Pulitzer Prize for local reporting. New York magazine called her writing on the homeless "worthy of Dickens." She was a foreign correspondent for the Associated Press and a producer for CBS News based in Rome. Clara lives in Manhattan with her husband, Robert Snyder. Their two children, now grown, attended New York City public schools from kindergarten through high school.


Pamela Wheaton | Managing Editor 

WheatonPamPam is one of the founding members of Insideschools. She edits the blog, reviews schools, leads workshops about school choice and New York City public schools, and oversees editorial content. She collaborated with Clara Hemphill on a series of books about New York City's best public schools. Pam's background is in journalism: She 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.



Laura Zingmond | Senior Editor

ZingmondLauraLaura reviews schools, writes for the Insideschools blog, advises parents on school choice, and contributes to policy research for Insideschools and the Center. She has visited hundreds of schools across the city and led the research on middle and high schools for a multiyear project evaluating science and math instruction. Previously, Laura worked as a litigation attorney and administrative law judge. Since 2014, she has served as Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer's appointee to the New York City Panel for Educational Policy. Laura is a lifelong New Yorker and her two children are the fourth generation in her family to have attended the city's public schools. She holds a bachelor's from the University of Michigan and a law degree from the Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law.


Lydie Raschka | Writer and Reporter


Lydie reviews schools and writes for the Insideschools blog. She is a graduate of Bank Street College and is interested in education in all its forms. With Clara Hemphill, she co-authored a 2015 report called "Conquering Teachers' Math Anxiety." Lydie is a former public school teacher (grades 1-3) and continues to work as a Montessori teacher-trainer during the summers. Her son attended public school in Manhattan. As a teacher, parent, writer and consultant she has been inside hundreds of New York City schools.



Nicole Mader | Education Policy Research Analyst

MaderNicoleNicole manages the statistical data on Insideschools and contributes research, analysis and data visualization to the Center for New York City Affair's k-12 education policy research projects. Before coming to Insideschools, she taught high school social studies for six years at Samuel Gompers CTE High School in the South Bronx and Lyons Community School in Williamsburg, Brooklyn. She holds a master's in secondary social studies education from Fordham University and a bachelor's in political science from Davidson College. She is currently a Ph.D. candidate in public and urban policy at The Milano School of International Affairs, Management, and Urban Policy at The New School, where her focus is on the potential for integrated student supports to reduce the impact of poverty on educational outcomes in New York City public schools.


Aimee Sabo | Reporter and Copy Editor

SabooAimeeAimee writes and edits content for Insideschools. She has visited elementary, middle, and high schools throughout the city and continues to be inspired by the dedication and creativity of the students, parents and educators she meets. Before joining Insideschools, she served on the Board of the Lungevity Foundation, raising much-needed funds for research in lung cancer. Always a passionate writer, Aimee got her start as an associate editor at Time Out New York magazine, covering every facet of pop culture in New York City, from literary events to restaurants. She enjoys drawing on her varied background to inform her work at the Center where she hopes to be a voice for positive change in education and human rights.


Mahalia Watson | Reporter

Mahalia 2Mahalia visits schools, writes reviews, and contributes to reporting for She is passionate about increasing awareness of schools that serve their communities well, despite conventional belief about their performance based on test scores. She is the founder of Let's Talk Schools, which produces events and provides services that inform and educate parents and families so that they can make good-fit education choices from pre-kindergarten through high school. She has been a project manager and producer in print and broadcast production for more than 15 years. Her son attends a public school in Manhattan. 


Ella Colley | Reporter and Project Coordinator

ColleyEllaElla supports all aspects of Insideschools operations, from website updates to visiting and writing about New York City public schools. A master's degree candidate in international affairs at The New School, Ella is interested in the intersection between media and social issues such as education. Before moving to New York, Ella was the communications and operations manager for an indigenous education enterprise in southern Australia. She had previously completed a bachelor's in international studies at RMIT University in Melbourne and worked in various research, communications and project management roles for Australian nonprofits. She has lived in Mexico and Brazil and speaks conversational Spanish and Portuguese. Ella took these photographs of our team.


Giselle Inoa Aquino | Outreach Research Assistant

InoaAquinoGiselleGiselle works on implementing an Insideschools project aimed at developing partnerships with community-based organizations to provide educational resources to marginalized communities in New York City. She graduated magna cum laude with a bachelor's degree in psychology and criminal justice from Saint Thomas University in Miami. She has several years of combined social work and legal experience. Giselle is currently a master's degree candidate in urban policy analysis and management at The New School and expects to earn her degree in December 2016.


Mick Wieland | Graphic Designer

WielandMickMick contributes to Insideschools on a freelance basis. A skilled designer in both print and digital, he strives to bring style and continuity to all he does. With a B.F.A. from the School of Visual Arts, Mick's long history of success has included design and art direction roles in creative agencies, media firms and publishing houses in New York.




Edward Yau | Software Engineer

YauEdEd is a New York City parent of two young children and software engineer with over 15 years' experience in that field. He built NYC sage, which was an award-winning mobile website (NYC BigApps 3.0) for finding New York City pre-k programs, when he was trying to find a school for his son. He has since taken NYS sage to Insideschools, where he handles the technical aspects of the website.


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 a column called Elementary Dad. 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 as a researcher, writer, and independent educational consultant. For a decade she worked at several private schools in the NY 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 has a PhD in English from UNC-Chapel Hill and is a member of the National Association for College Admissions Counseling.

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 was a PhD student in education policy at the New School. He was a member of the Center for New York City Affairs' Education Project team, and his research explored the intersection between education and poverty. Tom visited and reviewed schools for Insideschools. He now works for the President of the United States' Office of Management and Budget.

Meredith Kolodner was an editor, reporter and school reviewer for Insideschools. Formerly an education reporter at the N.Y. Daily News, she previously covered the United Federation of Teachers and several other city unions for The Chief-Leader newspaper. She now writes for The Hechinger Report at Columbia University. Her two daughters attend public school in Brooklyn.

Eliana Mascio is a volunteer for Insideschools. She leads school choice workshops and represents Insideschools at high school fairs and events. She also visits schools and takes photographs. 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 graduated from a New York City public school.

Sharon McCann-Doyle reviewed 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 produced 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.

Gail Robinson has been visiting schools and contributing write-ups and blog posts to Insideschools since 2012. An independent writer on education and other policy issues and an adjunct professor of journalism at Baruch College/CUNY, Gail was editor-in-chief of Gotham Gazette and has covered politics and environmental issues. Her article on Brooklyn's John Dewey High School won a first prize for education reporting from the Education Writers Association. Gail's two children attended New York City public schools.

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 was awarded her masters in media studies at the New School.

Jacqueline Wayans was the outreach, event coordinator, and on-camera voice of Insideschools, where she worked for more than 10 years. She offered workshops and advice for parents on school choice and is a co-author of the "New York City Best Public School" guides, having visited more than 350 city schools. Most important, she is the mom of three children who've all successfully completed their education in New York City public schools. Her passion is to inform low-income and minority communities about all of the options available to them.

Liz Willen, High School Hustle and Middle School Muddle columnist for Insideschools 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 the parent of two New York City public school graduates.

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.