Founder & CEO
Roxana Reid, MSW
Roxana Reid is the Founding Director of Smart City Kids and Smart City Tutors. Born in Panama, she migrated to New York City as a child and was educated in New York City Schools at every level. Nationally sought for her expertise in education related topics, her depth of understanding of education systems and their nuanced impact on the child and family, Roxana is adept at homing in on best practices for helping families.
Smart City Kids is the first and only continuing education consulting education service in the market place to offer comprehensive education services in the Nursery – College admissions space. Through her leadership and vision, Roxana created the blueprint that has become the industry standard for all other services in the market today.
The in-depth, comprehensive approach to educational consulting Roxana has created is one that guides families and students to self-actualize through their search for just-right educational fit. She and her team of advisors – all former admissions directors, nursery school directors, placement directors, and teachers – work closely with each family to demystify the admissions process, set realistic goals in terms of seeing children as they are, and strategize the best targets. Roxana knows that true success is about finding the right match. In fact, over 98% of all Smart City Kids full-service families are admitted to their first-choice school. Smart City Kids has served the New York area for longer than any other education advisory company. It is the GO-TO organization for schools, non-profit organizations, corporations, and agencies serving children and families looking for in-depth advice on nursery to college admissions. It is the premiere consultant firm where heart meets brain.
Under Roxana’s leadership, Smart City Kids operates as the sole educational advising firm for Memorial Sloan Kettering, New York Law School, New York City’s Speyer School for gifted learners, Jewish Community Project Nursery in Tribeca, and First Presbyterian Nursery School. Roxana served on the education division board of Manhattan Media for 20 years, which highlights great schools from Nursery school through High School, public and private. She has served or currently serves as Placement Consultant, supporting exmissions processes for over twenty top New York City nursery schools and Independent Schools. She served as Director of Placement at the JCC Nursery school where she helped to place scores of students into independent private and public schools in Manhattan. In 2016, when the Mandell School moved to close its doors, Roxana led Smart City Kids in supporting the school’s closure, helping to transition 150 students across nearly 115 private, boarding, and public schools. Smart City Kids’ corporate clients include BlackRock, Cerberus Capital Management, GCM Grosvenor, Weil Gotshal & Manges LLP, and UBS.
Roxana has served on the Board of Trustees at Manhattan’s Friends Seminary, where she has also served as Chair of the Admissions/Financial Aid Committee, the Executive Committee, and the Diversity Committee of the Board. For 12 years, Roxana led Smart City Kids as the sole admissions consulting group to serve the entire New York University campus providing support to faculty, administrators, recruits, and NYU students in search of school placement for their children. She formerly served as an adjunct professor at NYU’s School of Continuing Education and Professional studies in the Career Education and Life Planning Department, where she taught educational policies. She was appointed to the task force responding to recommendations outlined by the visiting committee of the New York State Association of Independent Schools.
Beyond her significant expertise in the world of School Admissions, Roxana has both a Law Degree and a Master’s Degree in Social Work from Columbia University, where she majored in School Based Services for Children and Families. She is committed to the vision of helping students find the most ideal home. A parent of two children, Roxana is very active in her adult children’s lives. This lifelong New Yorker has been educated at every level by the NYC school system.
Roxana is a proud part of the following organizations:
Lorelle Babwah BrennenCollege Division
Lorelle Babwah brings over a decade of experience in higher education and has a passion for helping young people navigate their educational journeys. She has invaluable knowledge of the application process, having worked at Duke University and the University of North Carolina. At Duke, Lorelle started out as Assistant Director of Student Services, working in both admissions and recruitment, and is currently active as a senior career coach. At UNC she oversaw a college preparatory and mentoring program and advised scholars for the prestigious Morehead-Cain Scholarship Foundation, which is the oldest merit scholarship at the country’s first public university, with a 3% acceptance rate. Lorelle also spent years as a college counselor, guiding students at independent schools across the world to places at select US universities.
Lorelle holds both her BA and JD from the University of North Carolina Chapel Hill and a graduate certification in Counselor Education from North Carolina State University. She is also a certified mindfulness and meditation coach, specializing in emerging adults. She brings a mindful approach to her work with students, focusing on self-awareness, curiosity, and intentionality in selecting a best-fit university. When not working with students, Lorelle loves playing pickle-ball, cycling, and learning in general. She has tried her hand at metalsmithing, Mandarin, and break-dancing so far, and is always on the hunt for new pursuits.
Jane Gertler, Ed.D.Special Education Consultant
Dr. Jane Gertler joins Smart City Kids as an Educational Consultant concentrating in advising families whose children are in need of special education services. Jane understands the unique needs and requirements of every child with special needs. She approaches the challenge of finding a fitting environment in which her clients’ children will thrive with sensitivity, knowledge, and experience.
As the former Director of The Office of Teaching and Learning at The Churchill School and Center, a K – 12 school for students with learning differences in New York City, Jane knows that finding the right school program is a complex task. She also knows the immeasurable joy parents feel when their child comes home from school with a smile, feeling good about themself, and looking forward to the next day. This knowledge is what guides her mission.
Before arriving at The Churchill School and Center, Dr. Gertler spent more than 20 years as a school administrator in Westchester, serving as Director of Special Education in Irvington. She also served as the Director of Special Education and Director of Curriculum, Assessment and Professional Development in Edgemont. She holds a B.S. from Cornell University, a Master’s in Education from New York University, and a Doctorate in School Leadership from Fordham University. She is here to help.
Martha HirschmanNursery Education Consultant
Over the course of her career, Martha Hirschman has served in a variety of roles in several independent schools. These roles include dorm parent, teacher, advisor, trip leader, Director of Admissions, Head of Lower School and Assistant Head of School. Martha has spent time in both girls’ schools as well as co-ed schools, and has worked with students from grades Pre-K-12. She worked at the Chapin School, Grace Church School, The Hewitt School, and Dwight School. Martha has had extensive experience in admissions and enrollment management, and is familiar with the New York City independent school landscape. She is a passionate and dedicated educator who enjoys working with families as they navigate the admissions process.
Martha has a B.S in Education from the University of Michigan, and an M.F.A. from New York University. She has been active in the Independent Schools Admissions Association of Greater New York (ISAAGNY) and has served on several NYSAIS school accreditation teams. Martha is also a long-standing board member of Early Steps.
Martha and her husband are both educators and have raised their daughter in New York City independent schools, she has navigated the admissions process from preschool to college. Martha is delighted to join Smart City Kids as a consultant.
Mariel Kessel, MACollege Division
Mariel Kessel has worked in the education field for over fifteen years. She began her career working in MBA admissions at Columbia Business School. After several years there, she moved on to become Associate Dean for undergraduate admissions at Princeton University, where she worked to identify the right candidates for admissions. It was at Princeton that Mariel discovered her passion for working with adolescents. She used her vast knowledge of the admission process to help students apply to colleges and universities with a focus on best fit.
Mariel understands the stress and pressures around the college admissions process. Building strong relationships with her clients at Smart City Kids, Mariel works closely with them to identify goals and create plans and structure so they can achieve the goals they set for themselves. One of her favorite things about her job is to help students find their voice in the process. Working with Mariel, students come to understand that the process is as much about them choosing a school as being admitted to one. Mariel has worked with students who attend competitive schools from around the world. She has a solid grasp of a wide variety of curriculums available to students, and she is well-equipped to help students face the unique challenges ahead of them. Mariel holds a B.A. from Smith College and a M.A. from Columbia University. Mother to two small children, Mariel enjoys hiking and reading In her spare time.
Erica PapirCorporate Specialist, Nursery Education Consultant
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Erica is an Early Childhood Education Consultant and Corporate Specialist. Her focus is on the nursery school admissions process, and on educational advising in Westchester, NY. Bringing a sense of calm and sensitivity to her work with families, Erica works in a systematic, organized way to guide parents through the overwhelming aspects of the admission process. As a parent herself, she understands the demands parents face, including those involved in taking control of their child’s educational journey.
In addition to her consulting work, Erica offers parenting sessions to support parents through transitions or challenges with their children. She understands that parenting is complicated and is ready to help with compassion backed by personal and professional knowledge and experience. The support she offers covers a range of topics relevant to young families, from how to handle a move or welcome a new baby to easing separation anxiety. Erica also coordinates workshops for both corporations and schools on the topics of education, parenting, and public and private school admissions.
For 17 years, Erica was the Director of Admissions at The Caedmon School. As a member of the school’s senior administrative team, she was responsible for enrollment management, for the school’s marketing and communication, and for Co-Chairing the Financial Aid Committee. Erica managed all aspects of the admissions process, from tours to parent interviews and applicant playgroups. She was responsible for admissions decisions for applicants to all levels of the school. She designed a highly personalized admissions process for families and created various programs and events for applicant and current families.
Erica frequently spoke on admissions panels for the Parents League of New York, New York Family Magazine, and Early Steps. She is an alum of New York City Independent Schools, and she received a B.A. in Sociology from Brandeis University. While at Brandeis, the Admissions Office was her second home, where she worked closely with the Director on various student volunteer initiatives. Erica lives in Westchester and has a thirteen-year-old daughter and a nine-year-old son. She is an active member of the school’s PTA, volunteers in the classroom, and Chairs numerous events for the school. She formerly Chaired a junior committee of Friends of Karen, a charity for children with terminal illnesses, and she currently participates on Brandeis’ Alumni Admissions Counsel. Erica is totally dedicated to supporting families, making sure the decisions they make are ideal for their child's education journey.
Adriana PayneBoarding School Consultant, K-12 Education Consultant, Managing Director
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Adriana Payne is an Educational Consultant specializing in K-12 advisory. She is passionate about demystifying the school process for families. In helping students and families navigate the complexities of school options and problem solve with good humor, she is committed to finding the environment where each child will flourish. Adriana is warm, curious, and deeply intuitive. She brings thoughtfulness and care to the process of finding a school.
Adriana was the Director of Admission and Associate Head of School at The Mandell School in New York, overseeing all admissions, enrollment, communications, and marketing. Prior to Mandell, Adriana ran her own independent communications consultancy in New York and London.
Raised in Chicago, Adriana attended an independent school, and then set her sights further east to earn a bachelor’s degree in religion from Hamilton College. She enjoyed living in the UK and France, broadening her experience and her knowledge of education. She is an active volunteer for the JDRF (Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation), and at Hamilton College, where she is the Vice Chair of the Alumni Association. She also volunteers at Hamilton’s career center. An avid reader, writer, and lover of books, she also volunteered at the New York Public Library for many years.
Adriana has raised her two children in New York City navigating each stage of the school process from preschool to college as a parent. When not advising families, she enjoys traveling, cooking, contemporary art and architecture, music, hiking, skiing, and theatre.
Lisa SchalkEducational Specialist
Lisa has been drawn to serious writing since the ripe old age of nine, when after reading Louise Fitzhugh’s Harriet the Spy, she mapped out her own Spy Route and began earnestly writing about her neighbors’ lives.
After moving to New York City, with English degree in hand, Lisa worked as a writer in the worlds of advertising and marketing on accounts ranging from Hershey’s Chocolate Milk to American Express. When she became a mother she continued writing on a freelance basis, but shifted her primary focus to parenting her three children. As she accompanied them on their educational journeys, she served on such Friends Seminary school committees as the Diversity Committee and the Learning Differences Committee. She began to write about education – and all of this led to her decision to become a teacher.
Lisa accepted a teaching position at Chelsea Day School and became a graduate student at Bank Street College of Education, where she earned a Master’s Degree in Early Childhood Education. At Chelsea Day School she worked closely with her teaching associates to create and maintain a warm, nurturing, and challenging environment for her students with specific focus on social and emotional safety, creative expression, and cognitive development. She led a dynamic teaching team to plan and execute curriculum that was relevant, engaging, and developmentally appropriate. She wrote informative Daily Recaps and Monthly Newsletters to parents, highlighting the momentum of her curriculums and explaining the what’s how’s, and why’s of her work. She wrote detailed progress reports for each student twice yearly.
Additional roles, accolades, and activities:
- Served as Director of the CDS Summer Program for four years, leading a staff of 23 teachers in a six-week program that served an average of 100 families with children aged two to seven years old.
- One of 15 New York City teachers to receive a 2014 Blackboard Award for Teachers.
- Served on the governing board of the New York City Chapter of National Association of Education for Young Children (NAEYC).
- Attended an intensive, weeklong North American Study Group for Teachers in Reggio Emilia, Italy.
In 2001, Lisa also began working with Smart City Kids families, helping clients navigate the often daunting school essay process. After 18 years of a remarkably fulfilling teaching career, Lisa has begun a new chapter by officially joining the Smart City Kids team as an Educational Specialist. She is thrilled to continue her work with families, pulling from her experience as a professional writer, a mother, and an educator, helping them in their search for the best school fit for their children.
Jackie Sirgo, MAK-12 Education Consultant, Lead Boarding School Consultant
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Jackie has spent her entire professional career focused on access and equity to K-12 schools, colleges, and universities. She has a particular interest in the history of educational institutions as it pertains to the students each serves. Over the years, she has developed the skill set to fully understand the complexities of a student’s academic profile, which greatly informs her recommendations. Schools she suggests to clients are both academically and emotionally appropriate, a balance she feels is critical in allowing every student to reach their fullest potential.
Prior to joining Smart City Kids, Jackie served as the Director of Admissions and Financial Aid at the Speyer School. Before that, she served as the Associate Director of Admissions and Secondary School Placement Director, also at Speyer. Her roles required her to identify gifted and accelerated learners using non-verbal assessments and academic achievement tools. She led the financial aid committee, managing a budget of over three million dollars. She collaborated with the school’s marketing team to identify the best forms of outreach to attract families to Speyer. She also supported the Placement Office by establishing relationships with Admissions Directors nationally, both at Day and Boarding Schools. Jackie served as the Secondary School Placement Director at The School of Columbia, and she held the Junior and Senior academic and admissions counselor position for the Higher Education Opportunity Program at Barnard College.
Jackie earned her Bachelor of Art degree in Philosophy from Buffalo State College and her Masters in Higher Postsecondary Education from Teachers College, Columbia University. She sits on the selection committee for the Caroline D. Bradley Scholarship, which offers one of the only merit-based, need-blind high school scholarships to highly gifted students across the United States.
When she is not thinking about access and placement, Jackie enjoys the outdoors, the history of the Americas, and gardening. She lives in New Jersey , where she co-parents three children.
Leila SmileySmart City Tutors Program Manager
Leila began her journey in education while studying sociology at Tufts University. There, she volunteered as a tutor working with high school students as she learned about education policy in her classes. Immediately after graduation, Leila joined Teach for America, where she taught kindergarten in Brooklyn while also earning her Master’s degree in Elementary Education from Relay Graduate School of Education. After finishing her commitment to Teach for America, Leila continued teaching in the second grade, where she specialized in providing reading and math instruction to children who began the year below grade level. Leila particularly enjoyed working with children in small groups, where she could tailor instruction and resources to support the unique needs of her individual students. She soon discovered that her passion for small-group instruction translated to a love of tutoring.
In 2021, she began tutoring students of all ages in academic subjects and test preparation through Smart City Tutors, and in 2022, she became the Smart City Tutors Program Manager. In her current role, Leila uses all she learned in her teaching experience to grow a quality tutoring program, support tutors in their roles, and ensure that all children working with Smart City Tutors are receiving the support they need to reach their full potential.
Ty CottonManager of Operations
Ty James Cotton reviews, designs, and oversees operating systems for Smart City Kids, including SalesForce and website design and maintenance, as well as general and social media outreach. His goal is to help streamline procedures, enabling the company to operate and function as efficiently and smoothly as possible. Ty interfaces with all SCK employees to understand the roles and responsibilities of each so that he can facilitate smooth sailing for all. He is deeply committed to serving a company dedicated to quality education.
Ashley SosaExecutive Assistant
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A child of immigrants from the Dominican Republic, Ashley is a first-generation college graduate from Rutgers University - New Brunswick. There, Ashley majored in Communication with a Specialization in Public Relations, and minored in Digital Communication, Information, and Media. During her time at Rutgers, she played Division I softball, earned a spot on the Dominican Republic's National Softball Team, and founded the Alpha Delta Chapter of Latinas Promoviendo Comunidad/Lambda Pi Chi Sorority, Inc. where she served as President, Public Relations Chair, and Step and Stroll Captain.
A creative at her core, Ashley is also Co-Founder of Skybox Entertainment, a creative collaboration collective for those interested in the music industry, where she puts together concerts and artist showcases. She manages musical artist, Tyler Bryant, and is an artist herself who goes by the name Hatasí. During her free time, she also enjoys creating digital art for Skybox, Mr. Bryant, and other creative ventures. At Smart City Kids, Ashley is responsible for managing Ms. Reid’s calendar and processing client applications. She’s passionate about making sure each family Smart City Kids serves feel seen, heard, and special. She is looking forward to working with you!
Angela ZhengData & Design Associate
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Angela manages all things data and design for Smart City Kids. She provides support for consultants by compiling data and information for every admissions season, managing the company database and SalesForce, and overseeing website design and maintenance.
Angela has a Bachelor’s degree in Architecture, and uses her design skills to format Smart City Kids’ monthly Newsletter, Beyond the Park Bench, as well as weekly social media posts and infographics to promote the various workshops and other events that SCK hosts. Her in-depth knowledge of the intricacies of the admissions process, technology, and topics relevant to families and education is valuable in client outreach and communication. Her fulfillment rests in the knowledge that her work serves families and students searching for a just-right fit in education.