Board Bios

Rochelle (Shelley) Benning, EBIA Co-Founder,Board Chair, Chief of Staff and Executive Director, Office of the Chief Technology Risk Officer Kaiser Permanente
Rochelle (Shelley) Benning – Shelley is a co-founder and the board chair of East Bay Innovation Academy. A business leader with 20+ years of experience in Audit, Risk, Compliance, and Finance, Shelley currently serves as the Chief of Staff and Executive Director – Office of the Chief Technology Risk Officer for Kaiser Permanente, the largest managed healthcare organization in the United States. Previously she worked as a Director of Internal Audit for Charles Schwab & Co and the Operations Finance Director for Levi Strauss Europe Middle East and Africa. Shelley was a 2010 participant in the Aspen Institute – NewSchools Fellowship program, “The Aspen Seminar on Leadership, Values, and The Good Society”. In 2012 she completed Harvard Business School’s High Potential Leadership Program, and began coursework to attain Stanford University’s Advanced Project Management certification. She has an MBA and BS degrees from San Francisco State University, and holds Certified Information Systems Auditor (CISA) and Project Management Professional (PMP) professional certifications. Shelley lives in Oakland with her husband and two sons.
Ken Berrick, Founder and Chief Executive Officer of Seneca Family of Agencies
Ken Berrick is the founder and Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of Seneca Family of Agencies, a nonprofit agency dedicated to providing Unconditional Care to children and families through comprehensive mental health, education, juvenile justice, placement and permanency services. He’s a Governor’s Appointee on the California Child Welfare Council, a two-time former President of the California Alliance of Child and Family Services and serves on the Board of the California Council for Community Mental Health Agencies. He currently serves on the Alameda County Board of Education, as the Trustee for Area 3. He is a Past-President of the Alameda County Board of Education and Past-President of the California County Boards of Education. He is co-author of the book, Unconditional Care: Relationship-Based, Behavioral Intervention with Vulnerable Children and Families, and serves on numerous policy planning groups at both county and state levels. Mr. Berrick has been a resident of Alameda County since 1983. He lives in Oakland with his wife and their two children.
Kelly Garcia, Founder and Executive Director of Summit Public School K2, EBIA Board Secretary

K2 is a 7th-12th grade program serving a diverse community from within the West Contra Costa Unified School District. Under her leadership, the school opened its doors to its first class of students in August 2014 and fully implemented Summit’s Next Generation Learning model. In addition to executing the academic program, Kelly has been successful in building a school community that embraces and inspires all relevant stakeholders. As the longest standing member of the Summit Public Schools Leadership team, she has also been instrumental in bringing restorative justice practices to the organization as well as mentoring new school leaders.

Prior to opening Summit K2, Kelly was the Executive Director of Everest Public High School, the second school in the Summit Public Schools network. Under her leadership, EPHS met all of its growth targets, developed a positive school culture, and graduated its first class of seniors. She developed the school leadership skills necessary to run a high performing charter school while serving in many different roles at the original Summit Public School, Summit Prep. While at Summit Prep, Kelly was the founding history teacher, Director of Admissions, Dean of Students, and Assistant Director.

Kelly received her B.A in History and a certificate in the Children and Society Curriculum from Stanford University. She also holds an Ed.M. in Teaching and Curriculum from Harvard University’s Graduate School of Education.

Laurie Jacobson Jones, EBIA Co-Founder, Board Vice Chair and Treasurer, Vice President, Oracle Corporation
Laurie is a co-founder and board vice chair and treasurer of the East Bay Innovation Academy. A technology leader with 20+ years of experience, Laurie is currently a Vice President of Development at Oracle. Previously. Laurie founded Customer Zen, a consultancy practice supporting technology companies to build and scale customer delivery operations. She has also worked as the VP of Operations at, VP of Professional Services Operations at SupportSoft, VP of Global Customer Support at Embarcadero Technologies, and as the VP of Customer Support at PeopleSoft. Laurie has a BA from San Jose State University and a certification in early childhood education. Early in her career, Laurie taught and was the assistant director of a preschool. Her work with children has continued since through volunteer roles at the Junior Center of Arts and Science, Girl Scouts, Girls Leadership Institute and Camp Reel Stories. Laurie lives in Oakland with her husband and two daughters.
Saamra Mekuria-Grillo, Chief Operating Officer (COO) at the Pahara Institute
Saamra Mekuria-Grillo is the chief operating officer at the Pahara Institute. Prior to joining the Pahara Institute, Saamra was an associate partner at Bellwether Education Partners. Before Bellwether, Saamra was a consultant at Bain & Company, where she worked on organizational design, strategy, and due diligence projects for clients in education, private equity, healthcare, and pharmaceuticals. Saamra also spent several years at Google, during which she focused on training and management of Google’s customer service sales and operations team. While at Google, Saamra spent over a year in India, as one of the founding team members of Google’s Hyderabad office. Saamra has a deep passion for education reform, which she has tapped through several projects with KIPP Bay Area Schools, and as a founding board member of the Mission Preparatory School, a charter school serving low-income students in San Francisco’s Mission and Excelsior districts. Saamra holds an MBA with a certificate in Public Management from the Stanford Graduate School of Business, and a bachelor’s degree from Yale University, where she double majored in History and International Studies. She is also a proud graduate of the Boston Latin School, the first public school in the United States. Saamra lives in Oakland, CA with her husband.
Kimberly Smith, EBIA Co-Founder and CEO and Founder, Pahara Institute

Kim is a co-founder and non-voting board member emeritus of the East Bay Innovation Academy. Kim is a veteran in the education reform arena, and currently serves as the CEO and founder of the Pahara Institute, a national nonprofit that aims to identify, strengthen, and sustain diverse high-potential leaders who are transforming public education. Its programs, including the Pahara-Aspen Education Fellowship (previously the Aspen-NewSchools Entrepreneurial Leaders for Public Education Fellowship), are designed to identify seasoned leaders in education reform, and through a time-tested dialogue approach, strengthen, and sustain their efforts to bring about transformational improvements in our public schools – especially those in under-served communities. She is widely recognized as an innovative and entrepreneurial leader in education, and was featured in Newsweek’s report on the “Women of the 21st Century” as “the kind of woman who will shape America’s new century.”

Immediately prior to the Pahara Institute, Kim was co-founder of Bellwether Education Partners. Earlier in her career she served as a founding team member at Teach For America, created and led an AmeriCorps program for community-based leaders in education, and managed a business start-up and completed a brief stint in early online learning at Silicon Graphics. After completing her M.B.A. at Stanford University, she co-founded and led NewSchools Venture Fund, a philanthropy focused on transforming public education through social entrepreneurship, where she helped to catalyze a new, bipartisan, cross-sector community of entrepreneurial change agents for public education.

Ms. Smith has helped to incubate numerous education and social change organizations and has served on a range of boards, which currently include those of PaharaBellwether Education Partners, NewSchools Venture Fund, Rocketship Education, and ROADS Charter School. She has authored or co-authored a number of publications about innovation and social entrepreneurial change in education, including “What Is Educational Entrepreneurship?”, “Social Purpose Capital Markets in K–12”“Creating Responsive Supply in Education”“Innovation in Education: Problems and Opportunities”, “Supporting and Scaling Change: Lessons from the First Round of the Investing in Innovation (i3) Program”, and “Steering Capital: Optimizing Financial Support for Innovation in Public Education.” She is a Henry Crown Fellow at the Aspen Institute and a member of the Aspen Global Leadership Network. She is based in the San Francisco Bay Area, where she lives with her husband and two daughters.