Our Team

Consultants

Adriana Payne

K-12 Education Consultant, Managing Director

Adriana

Adriana Payne joined Smart City Kids as an Educational Consultant specializing in K-12 advisory. Adriana is passionate about demystifying the school process for families, helping them navigate the complexities of school options and problem solve with good humor and the goal of finding the environment where each child will flourish. Adriana is warm, curious and deeply intuitive, bringing 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 during her six years there. Prior to Mandell, Adriana also ran her own independent consultancy in both New York and London.

Adriana was raised in Chicago where she attended an independent school. She has also lived in the UK and France. She holds a bachelor’s degree in religion from Hamilton College. She is an active volunteer for the JDRF (Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation), and Hamilton College, where she is a member of the Alumni Council’s Executive Committee as the Vice Chair of Class Leadership. She also volunteers at Hamilton’s career center and on their Admissions team, conducting off-site interviews for applicants unable to visit the campus. Adriana has also been a regular volunteer at the New York Public Library.

Adriana has two children in New York City schools. When not advising families, Adriana enjoys traveling with her children, cooking, viewing contemporary art and architecture, hiking, skiing and quiet moments with an excellent book.

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Erica Papir

Corporate Specialist, Nursery Education Consultant

Erica

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.

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Jackie Sirgo, MA

K-12 Education Consultant

Jackie

Jackie Sirgo has spent her entire professional career focused on access and equity to K-12 schools and colleges, and universities. She has a particular interest in the history of educational institutions as they pertain to the students they serve. Over the years, she has developed the skill set to understand a student’s academic profile and make astute recommendations that are both academically and emotionally appropriate and will allow the 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 at Speyer. Her roles at Speyer required her to identify gifted and accelerated learners using non-verbal assessments and academic achievement tools. She led the financial aid committee and managed a budget of over three million dollars. She collaborated with the Marketing Team to identify the best forms of outreach to attract families to Speyer. In addition, she supported the Placement Office by establishing relationships with Admissions Directors nationally, both at Day and Boarding Schools. Jackie also served as the Secondary School Placement Director at The School of Columbia and 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. Jackie also 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, she enjoys the outdoors, the history of the Americas, and gardening. She lives in New Jersey and co-parents three children.

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Jane Gertler, Ed.D.

Special Education Consultant

Dr. Jane Gertler joined Smart City Kids as an Educational Consultant concentrating in advising families whose children may need special education services. Jane understands the uniqueness of each child with special needs and the challenge of finding an environment where children will thrive. 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 disabilities in New York City, Jane knows that finding the right school program is a complex task, but when your child comes home from school with a smile, feeling good about herself, and looking forward to the next day, it’s all worth it.

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, prior to becoming the Director of Special Education and then 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.

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Jill Ortman

College Division, K-12 Education Consultant

Jill

Jill Ortman joined SCK after working as Director of College Counseling at Dwight School in New York for ten years, as well as head of the college counseling program at the High School Attached to Capital Normal University-Dwight school in Beijing. Prior to that, she was the Director of College Counseling at Colegio Menor San Francisco de Quito and Liceo International in Quito, Ecuador and served for many years as President of the School Board at Academia Cotopaxi in Quito.

After graduating from Brown University with a BA and MA in German Literature, and working in San Francisco as a paralegal, Jill and her husband volunteered with the Peace Corps in Ecuador, where they raised their two daughters, both of whom also graduated from Brown. In 2000, she earned a M.Ed. from Boston University specializing in teaching English as a second language.

Over the years, Jill has worked with students taking AP courses, working towards IB Diplomas, and students from schools offering their own advanced curricula. She has successfully guided families with children needing academic support as well as those seeking entry into highly competitive schools in the United States, Canada, the UK, and Europe. Reducing the stress and anxiety that families often feel as they navigate the college selection and application process is Jill’s forte. Her goal is for her students to gain entrance to colleges that not only meet their aspirations but also are good academic and social fits for them.

Jill is skilled at gaining rapport with teenagers in order to provide student-centered counseling but is very conscious of the need for parents to be included in the conversation and final decision. Her dry sense of humor along with her ability to help students maintain a positive yet realistic outlook as they select their high school classes, develop their interests, build a balanced college list, and complete their applications provides the right amount of support, allowing students to feel empowered throughout the process. Over the past 25+ years, Jill has had the opportunity to visit colleges and universities all over the United States, in Canada, China, the UK, Switzerland, France, the Netherlands, Austria, and Germany.

She loves traveling to new destinations as well as to Paris, where her younger daughter’s family resides. She also enjoys reading, cooking and knitting in her spare time.

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Leila Smiley

Smart 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.

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Lisa Schalk

Educational 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.

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Mariel Kessel, MA

College Division

Mariel Kessel has worked in education for over fifteen years. She began her career working in MBA admissions at Columbia Business School but found her passion for working with adolescents in her most recent role as associate dean for undergraduate admissions at Princeton University where she helped to identify the right candidates for admissions. Using the many years spent reviewing admission materials, she has enjoyed her work helping students to apply to college and university with a focus on fit.

Mariel understands the stress and pressures around the admissions process and seeks to build strong relationships with her clients to help them identify goals and create plans and structure to achieve those goals. One of her favorite things to do is to help students find their voice in the process and to understand that this 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 and she has a solid grasp of different curriculums and the unique challenges facing students. Mariel holds a B.A. from Smith College and a M.A. from Columbia University. In her spare time, Mariel enjoys hiking and reading.

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Roxana Reid, MSW

Founder & CEO

Roxana Reid founded Smart City Kids Inc. in 2001 with the goal of helping families identify the best public and private school options for their children. 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 – advisors who are former admissions directors, nursery school directors, placement directors, and teachers – work closely with each family to demystify the admissions process, be realistic in setting 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 95% of all SCK 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 organization that schools, non-profit organizations, corporations, and agencies serving children and families go to 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, and New York City’s Speyer School for gifted learners. 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 ex-missions processes for over twenty top New York City nursery schools including York Avenue Preschool, Children’s Aid Society, JCP, and the Church of Epiphany Nursery School. 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, and 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.

In 2022, Roxana founded Smart City Kids Tutors, a company dedicated to providing quality tutoring for students K – 12.

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 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:

  • National Association of Independent School
  • Independent Educational Consultants Association
  • National Association for College Admission Counseling
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    Administrative Team

    Angela Zheng

    Data & Design Associate

    Angela

    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.

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    Jorge Sarmiento

    Accountant

    Jorge joined Smart City Kids as an Accountant. In that role, he maintains accounts payable, accounts receivable, and monthly billing. Jorge also serves as the key point of contact for all customer account management matters, including contracts, payment, and all expenses. He prepares expense reports and assists with client requests. Within the office, Jorge oversees all administrative staffing transitions and ensures that all employee information is up to date.

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    Robin Johnson

    Executive Assistant

    Robin

    Robin has a unique background as an executive assistant and an educator. She has worked as a personal, administrative, and executive assistant in companies ranging from commercial real estate and boutique fitness to a human rights nonprofit organization. As an educator, she has taught performing arts at public and private schools throughout NYC, and through the YWCA and the NY Public Library. Robin holds a BFA in Drama from NYU Tisch, has studied Shakespeare at RADA, and in a former life was a professional actor. She now brings the joy of drama and dance to children as time allows and directs her own independent short films. At Smart City Kids, Robin is responsible for managing Ms. Reid’s calendar, processing client applications, and organizing special events. She’s passionate about making sure each family Smart City Kids serves feel seen, heard, and special. She’s looking forward to working with you!

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    Ty Cotton

    Manager 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.

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