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Our Team

Consultants

Administrative Team

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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 firm was the first continuing education consulting service in the market to offer an in-depth, comprehensive approach to school advisory in New York City. Roxana Reid, a therapist and lawyer by training, created an approach to education consulting 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, school directors, placement directors, and teachers – work closely with each family to demystify their unique admissions processes. Roxana knows that true success is about finding the right match for the student. 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. Roxana served on the education division board of Manhattan Media for 12 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 JCP, York Avenue Preschool, Children’s Aid Society, 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 2007, Roxana founded Smart City Kids Tutors, a company dedicated to providing quality educational enrichment and support for students of all ages. 

Roxana holds 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. A parent of two, Roxana has navigated every step of the admissions process from Pre-School to College. 

 

Roxana is a proud part of the following organizations:  

National Association of Independent Schools  

Independent Educational Consultants  

Association National Association for College Admission Counseling 

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Adriana Payne

Managing Director, K-12 and Boarding School Consultant

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.

adrianapayne@smartcitykids.com
(212) 249-4066

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Jackie Sirgo, MA

Lead Boarding School Consultant, K-12 Consultant

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.

jackiesirgo@smartcitykids.com
(212) 249-4066

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Martha Hirschman

Nursery 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.

marthahirschman@smartcitykids.com

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Denise DeBono

N-5th Grade Consultant

With 30 years of experience in all areas of teaching and learning, Denise has served in a myriad of roles at many independent schools. Some of these roles include Teacher, Camp Director, Director of Admission, Head of Lower School, and Assistant Head of School. Denise has spent time in girls’ schools, co-ed schools, international schools and has worked with learners from nursery – adult. She has worked at schools in New York City, Washington DC, and London including The Packer Collegiate Institute, The Nightingale Bamford School, Grace Episcopal Day School, and The London City Girls School. Denise has extensive experience in admissions and enrollment management, and has enjoyed developing strong relationships with distinguished schools throughout the world.

Denise holds a B.S. in Developmental Psychology from University of Colorado and Masters in Education from George Mason University. She completed extra educational Ph.D course work at University of Virginia, she is a Fulbright Scholar, and has served on several school accreditation teams.

Ultimately, Denise’s approach to school placement is designed to match the whole family to the right program. Denise’s priority is to thoroughly understand the developmental needs of the child and how they fit within the family goals and values. She can pinpoint ideal learning environments that will set each child up for success and ensure the family and educational communities align. She takes great pride in thoughtfully guiding parents and children to a school they can call home.

Career highlights:

  • Fulbright Memorial Scholar – Tokyo, Japan.
  • National Wildlife Federation Curriculum Design Program – Outdoor education for young children
  • The Cultural Connection Foundation: Site Director / Distance-Learning Program. Worked with the University of Cape Town to train teachers and administrators on education reform and instructional leadership.
  • Helped support The Kennedy Center’s “Arts Edge Program” which supports the value of teaching the arts.
  • Rubin Museum of Art Educator
denisedebono@smartcitykids.com

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Mariel Kessel, MA

College Education Consultant

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.

marielkessel@smartcitykids.com

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Lorelle Brennen

College Education Consultant

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.

lorellebabwah@smartcitykids.com

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Chloe Irving

College Education Consultant

Chloe Irving has more than five years of experience in college counseling. She began editing Common App essays as a Junior at Brown University. After graduating, Chloe worked as an admissions coach while reporting for InStyle, Forbes, and Shape. As a consultant, Chloe combines her journalistic research and narrative writing skills with her deep understanding of the college admissions landscape to help students highlight their strengths and discover their unique voices.

Chloe believes that every applicant has a compelling story that, with the right mentorship, can translate into a stand-out application. Organized and empathetic, her hands-on, straightforward approach is geared towards keeping students on track and reducing stress on families as they navigate this ever-changing process. Chloe meticulously studies program rankings, political environment, diversity, academic accommodations, and social culture to help students find options that best align with their values, passions, and learning styles. She puts care into getting to know every client on a personal level in order to help curate a list of schools they love and ultimately choose their ideal fit.

Chloe is based in New York City and is pursuing an M.F.A. in writing from New York University. In her spare time, she volunteers as a National Crisis Hotline counselor and writes and produces radio stories about mental health and healthcare for NPR.

chloeirving@smartcitykids.com

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Darryl Tiggle

College Education Consultant

Darryl Tiggle has acquired more than three decades of expertise in his field, with 20 years of experience working in college admissions before moving on to lead a successful college counseling office at Friends School of Baltimore. Previously Darryl was Senior Associate Director of Admissions at Tufts University where he gained valuable insight into the world of highly selective college admissions. He began his career at Union College (NY), his alma mater, in 1992 as admissions counselor and rose to the leadership role of Associate Dean.

Darryl is nationally recognized for his expertise in every aspect of the college admission process. Throughout his career, he has been featured in several admissions publications including the NY Times best-selling book, “Who Gets in and Why.” In 2021 he was recognized by The Colleges that Change Lives (CTCL) organization as a Counselors Who Change Lives.  Darryl has an extensive network of college admissions professionals with whom he continually collaborates. He has sat in on admissions selection for a variety of highly selective institutions, including colleges in the Ivy League and NESCAC like Dartmouth College and Middlebury College.  Darryl has also served on selection committees for prestigious scholarships at Davidson College and Lafayette College. He regularly trains new admissions professionals and conducts presentations and workshops for organizations including The College Board and the National Association for College Admission Counseling. Darryl is a regularly invited guest on admissions podcasts including The Admissions Beat and College Guidance Network.

Darryl is called upon often for his insights on topics in college admissions.  He sits on the advisory board for the College Board’s College Counseling Advisory Group (CCAG) and their Counseling Admissions Advisory Council (CAAC).  Darryl is also a member of Southern Methodist University (SMU) advisory board.

Darryl is passionate about sharing his knowledge to make the college admission process more accessible and less mysterious. He has a special interest in how the admission process is perceived from the student and parent perspective and is known for putting families at ease.

darryltiggle@smartcitykids.com

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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.

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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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Erica Papir

Director of Business Development and Corporate Relations

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.

ericapapir@smartcitykids.com
(212) 249-4066

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Leila Smiley

Director of Education and Operations

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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Sunit Mayall

Accountant

Sunit has been immersed in the finance, education and event management fields in Sacramento, the Bay Area and New York City. She received her bachelor’s degree in Business Administration with a concentration in Accounting. She began her professional career in 2012 and spent the first year and a half working with various tax firms in the Bay Area. She made her way back to Sacramento where she spent the following 4.5 years with the Department of Social Services and assisted with creating the annual budget for several state and federally funded programs. Sunit takes great pride in contributing to this work as it required being overly meticulous and detail-oriented to properly serve the people of California. On the side, Sunit also coordinates corporate events ranging all the way from team building events to large holiday parties and festivals.

Sunit shifted her way over to NYC and began working with Smart City Kids in 2018 and though the pandemic took her back to her hometown, Sacramento, for a couple of years, she is excited to be back in the Big Apple with the SCK team! Sunit is looking forward to handling all of SCK’s financial, HR and event management duties.

Outside of work, you are likely to find her working out on her Peloton, catching a basketball game, or spending time with her lovely family and friends!

accounting@smartcitykids.com
(212) 249-406×6109

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Angela Zheng

Creative Director

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 edit 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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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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