School Leaders

Paul Bambrick-Santoyo

Chief Schools Officer, 9-12

Paul Bambrick-Santoyo is the Managing Director of middle school and high school for Uncommon Schools Newark, which comprises ten North Star Academy schools. During Bambrick-Santoyo’s twelve years at North Star, the schools have seen dramatic gains in student achievement, making them among the highest-achieving urban schools in New Jersey and winners of multiple recognitions, including the US Department of Education’s National Blue Ribbon Award. Author of Driven by Data, Leverage Leadership, and Great Habits, Great Readers, Bambrick-Santoyo has trained over 10,000 school leaders worldwide in instructional leadership, including multiple schools that have gone on to become the highest-gaining or highest achieving schools in their districts. Prior to joining North Star, Bambrick-Santoyo worked for six years in a bilingual school in Mexico City, where he founded the International Baccalaureate program at the middle school level. He earned a B.A. in Social Justice from Duke University and his M.Ed. in School Administration via New Leaders from the City University of New York—Baruch College.


Julie Jackson

Chief Schools Officer, K-8

Julie Jackson, former high school Principal and founding elementary school Principal, has taught mathematics to urban NJ students for over 10 years. Jackson moved quickly from full-time teacher to a leadership role at North Star Academy, serving for two years as Dean of Students and then leading the development of the high school program as its Principal. In 2002, she was the recipient of a Dodge Leadership Award for principals who have shown strong leadership and initiative. Julie was named 2012 Administrator of the Year by the New Jersey Charter Schools Association and won Teach For America’s prestigious Peter Jennings Award for Civic Leadership in 2013. Through workshops and speaking engagements, Julie has trained thousands of teachers and school leaders across the country. As Managing Director she oversees instruction at all Newark and Brooklyn Uncommon elementary schools.


Before coming to North Star, Julie taught Language Arts and Math at Martin Luther King, Jr. Elementary School in Paterson for four years, where she co-chaired the school improvement team, coached a competitive girls basketball team, and was honored in 1998 as Teacher of the Year. She earned a B.A. in Communications from Shippensburg University (1992), an M.Ed. in Educational Administration from William Paterson University (2002), and did graduate work in African-American Studies at the University of Wisconsin. She began her career as a Teach For America corps member, where she also served as a professional development advisor.


Juliana Worrell

Associate Managing Director, Elementary Schools

Juliana Worrell joined North Star in 2007 as a founding lead teacher at Vailsburg Elementary School. She later went on to found North Star’s third elementary school, Fairmount Elementary, and served as principal of both West Side Park Elementary and Alexander Street Elementary Schools. Throughout her years at North Star, Juliana has done extensive work as a curriculum writer, supporting K-4 Literacy development for Uncommon Schools. Juliana is co-author of the book Great Habits, Great Readers, which is a comprehensive guide for K-4 Reading instruction in the light of Common Core. Juliana’s trainings are at the heart of education reform, and have been attended by several thousand school leaders and teachers from across the US and other countries. Her leadership has been featured in the book Leverage Leadership, as well as numerous articles, for her ability to develop teachers and leaders in the areas of data analysis, curriculum planning, and classroom instruction. In addition to her work at North Star, Juliana has done adjunct work for the Relay Graduate School of Education and the Summer Principals Academy program at Teachers College, Columbia University. She holds a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and a M.A. in Education Leadership from Teachers College, Columbia University.


Serena Savarirayan

Associate Managing Director, Middle Schools

Serena Savarirayan is the Associate Managing Director of the North Star Academy middle schools. Prior to her current role, Serena was the founding principal of North Star Academy Vailsburg Middle School. Now a fully grown, 5-8 middle school, Vailsburg Middle has successfully implemented North Star’s model of data-driven instruction, strong culture of achievement, and rigorous professional development for teachers. In the first four years of the school, state test results in all content areas met or exceeded the NJ statewide average, with 97% of students in grade 8 scoring proficient or advanced in both Math and ELA. Before founding Vailsburg Middle, Serena taught 5th grade language arts, 8th grade English, and served as Instructional Leader and Grade Level Leader at North Star’s Clinton Hill Middle School. In addition to her work at North Star Academy, Serena works with the National Principals’ Academy Fellowship at the Relay Graduate School of Education to lead professional development for school leaders across the country. She began her teaching career in 2002 as a Teach for America corps member in Paterson, NJ, where she taught 5th grade for four years. Serena is a graduate of Northwestern University.


Michael Ambriz

Chief Operating Officer

Michael Ambriz joined the North Star family in May 2008 and serves as its Chief Operating Officer. In this role he is charged with all non-instructional aspects of North Star’s work and supporting its growth to serve as many Newark students as possible. Immediately prior to joining our staff, he served as the Managing Director, National Institute Operations for Teach For America, where he was responsible for overseeing all marketing, admissions, technology, human resources, and finance projects related to corps member training. While at Teach For America, he helped to launch two inaugural training sites before then driving operations for the then six summer institutes. Ambriz holds a B.S. in Electrical Engineering from the University of California, Los Angeles, and originally hails from California. He hopes to someday invent a machine that will transport LA weather to the East Coast.


Cynthia Leger

Associate Chief Operating Officer, Elementary Schools

Cynthia Leger joined North Star Academy in August 2010 as an Operational Fellow. She went on to serve as the founding Director of Operations of North Star Academy Fairmount Elementary, leading the operational aspects of the school until  June 2014. Ms. Leger is currently the Associate Chief Operating Officer, working with North Star Academy and Camden Prep. Prior to North Star, Ms. Leger worked as a Research Associate for the organization ReLearning Curve, where she designed and managed studies related to the integration of technology into instruction. Ms. Leger’s previous work experience also includes researching education programs for Scholastic Inc. and UNICEF-India. Additionally, Ms. Leger worked for five years writing and editing educational materials in Philadelphia, PA and Hong Kong, China. She received her B.A. from Swarthmore College in 2003 and her M.P.A from NYU’s Robert F. Wagner Graduate School of Public Service in 2010.


Jason Russell

Associate Chief Operating Officer, Middle Schools

Jason Russell joined the North Star family in January 2011 as the Director of Operations at Clinton Hill Middle School. After three years leading Clinton Hill Middle School operations Jason took on the challenge of Associate Chief Operating Officer for the North Star Middle Schools. In this role he is charged with supporting all school-based operations leaders in all non-instructional aspects of North Star’s work.  Jason is a Brazilian/American who came to Uncommon from the corporate world where he gathered management skills as Regional Sales Manager for Warner Bros. Brazil and project management skills as International Business Development Specialist at MeadWestvaco Brazil. Jason holds a B.S. in Business Administration from the University of Richmond. One day he would love to open a North Star in his home town of Sao Paulo, Brazil.