Our Leadership Team

Nikki Barnes

Managing Director of Secondary Schools



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Ms. Barnes has spent her professional career teaching in and advocating for public schools. She has over 20 years of classroom experience in elementary, middle and high school.

Her accomplishments as a teacher include being the first Black classroom teacher to earn National Board Certification in the state of Virginia. She was also one of two teachers chosen to represent the state of Virginia at the National Teacher Forum in 2000 held in Washington, DC. She also has nearly 10 years of experience working in educational non-profit organizations focusing on teacher quality issues and minority community outreach including overseeing a multi-million dollar partnership with The Tom Joyner Foundation to increase the number of fully licensed teachers of color in high minority, high poverty districts.

Ms. Barnes joined the KIPP MA Team and Family in 2013 as a 6th grade Humanities Teacher at KIPP Academy Boston. After serving as the Dean of Students in 2014, she became the school leader in 2015. Under her leadership KIPP Academy Boston Middle has seen some of the highest student growth in the state of Massachusetts including having three grade levels be among the top ten schools in the KIPP Network with the highest Reading growth on the Measure of Academic Progress assessment

Ms. Barnes is a graduate of Virginia Polytechnic University (1991) and Virginia Commonwealth University (2003) where her graduate research around Teacher Leadership led to the creation of the VCU Center for Teacher Leadership.

Ms. Barnes is the proud mother of her two children Adrianna a first grade teacher, and Jordan a student at Tufts University.

Caleb Dolan

Executive Director



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Since 2011, Caleb Dolan has served as Executive Director for the KIPP Massachusetts region. Under his leadership, KIPP:MA has grown from operating one middle school in Lynn serving nearly 370 kids and families in grades 5-8 to a network of 2 districts in Lynn and Boston currently serving over 1,880 kids and families in grades K-12.

Mr. Dolan began his teaching career in 1996 as a Teach for America corps member in rural North Carolina. In 2000, he joined KIPP and co-founded the third KIPP school in the country on a peanut field in Gaston, NC with 80 5th graders. He taught and led KIPP Gaston College Preparatory (GCP) for eight years and oversaw the addition of a high school to the KIPP Gaston network in 2005. This expansion enabled KIPP Gaston to serve over 700 KIPPsters in grades 5-12. Under Mr. Dolan’s leadership, 100% of students in GCP’s first three graduating classes were accepted to college.

In 2009, Mr. Dolan moved back to New England to serve dual roles as chief academic officer for KIPP Academy Lynn Middle School and director of principal development for the KIPP Foundation. As KIPP Lynn’s chief academic officer, Mr. Dolan was in charge of coaching teachers and incoming leaders, while his role as director of principal development allowed him to mentor and coach new KIPP principals across the country. He also led the team that created the KIPP Framework for Excellent Teaching that serves as the professional development model utilized across all KIPP regions today.

The KIPP:MA region will continue to grow under Mr. Dolan and hopes to serve over 2,500 kids in grades K-12 in Lynn and Boston by 2020.

Mr. Dolan graduated from Colby College and lives in Boston with his wife, Joanna, and daughters, Tallulah and Mavis.

In 2014, Caleb was named one of Boston’s 40-under-40 Business leaders by Boston Business Journal.

Rachel Heuisler

Managing Director of Talent



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Rachel joins KIPP MA as the Managing Director of Talent. Rachel began her career teaching pre-kindergarten and coaching varsity basketball in Belgium. She moved to New York and taught fifth and seventh grade at Public School 7 in East Harlem. In 2006, Rachel eagerly joined the founding staff at KIPP Infinity Middle School in West Harlem as the sixth grade writing teacher. In 2010, she transitioned to the KIPP NYC Recruitment Team, helping the region expand from four schools with 200 employees to eleven schools and over 800 staff members. Most recently, Rachel served as KIPP NYC’s Senior Director of Leadership Development, overseeing training and support for novice teachers through principals. Rachel holds a B.A. in African American Studies from Duke University and an M.A. in elementary education from Hunter College. Outside of work, Rachel can be found making forts and muffins with her husband, Chris, and their children Shane and Brooke.

Emily Rodriguez

Managing Director of Elementary Schools



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Emily Rodriguez joined KIPP Massachusetts in 2012 as the Director of Leadership Development. Prior to joining KIPP, Mrs. Rodriguez spent seven years working with two highly successful charter school management organizations in New York City, Success Academies and Explore Schools (ESI). Mrs. Rodriguez began as the Dean of Students at Explore Charter School, ESI’s flagship school, before being promoted to the role of Upper School Academic Director. During her tenure as Academic Director, student test scores increased 23% in ELA and 25% in math. Mrs. Rodriguez most recently served as the Director of Literacy for the ESI network, which consists of four elementary schools and one middle school. At Success Academies, Mrs. Rodriguez served as the founding principal of SA 3 elementary school. During her time as principal, the school earned an “A” rating on the NYC Department of Education’s school report card and student test scores were 30% higher than the NY State average. Mrs. Rodriguez began her career as a middle school teacher, working in public schools in NYC and Philadelphia. She is a graduate of the University of Miami and holds masters degrees from Queens College and Pace University. Mrs. Rodriguez lives in Boston with her husband, Ventura, and their three children, Isaac, Sabina, and Nia.

Mekka Smith

Chief of Staff



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Mekka Smith joined KIPP Massachusetts in 2016. She is originally from Atlanta, GA, and started teaching in 2007 through Teach For America, where she worked with brilliant first and second grade students in Miami, Florida for five years. Mekka has been actively involved in new teacher development through working at TFA summer institutes in Atlanta, Houston, Philadelphia, Tulsa, and Boston. In 2012 she joined the Teach For America-Massachusetts regional team and spent the next few years coaching teachers in elementary, middle, and high schools as well as supporting alumni to find high impact, school-based roles in local district and charter schools. Mekka has worked to further strategic approaches to diversity, equity, and inclusiveness in education through leading diversity sessions for education professionals, creating a foundational summer scope and sequence for beginning teachers, and serving as the chair of The Collective-Massachusetts, a board that supports alumni of color in the Commonwealth. She is a graduate of Amherst College and has a Master’s degree from Harvard Graduate School of Education.

Kevin Taylor

Chief Operating Officer



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Kevin Taylor is Chief Operating Officer, with management responsibility for the finance, technology and real estate teams and is actively involved in the advocacy efforts for the region. Prior to joining KIPP:MA, Kevin was Director of Finance for Achievement First, where he was responsible for budgeting and forecasting for AF’s New York, Connecticut and Rhode Island schools and the network office; federal, state, local and philanthropic revenue recognition, reporting and compliance; and leading AF’s “scaling with excellence” finance initiatives, including implementations of an automated accounts payable system, online credit card and personal expense reimbursement tool, online budgeting and forecasting portal and fixed asset software. Prior to joining AF in 2012, Kevin worked in corporate and divisional finance at children’s book publisher, Scholastic; high-stakes educational assessments producer, The Princeton Review; and enthusiast magazine publisher, PRIMEDIA. A former news reporter, Kevin majored in political science and mathematics at Tuskegee University. He is pastor of the oldest African-American church in New Bedford and is actively involved in the community. Indeed, Kevin sees education as a form of ministry and the civil rights movement of the 21st century and is working tirelessly to close the achievement gap, increase literacy, and impact education for students of all ages and socioeconomic backgrounds.