Supporting teachers and students on their paths toward excellence
Service-oriented and eager to help, our leadership, administration, and staff are champions of the school community. While their key focus is supporting the teachers in the classroom, they work hard to ensure every student and family has a positive experience. Whether they are the front-and-center, visible faces of our school or the unsung, behind-the-scenes heroes, leadership, administration, and staff are invaluable in upholding our culture and values.
Ms. Abrams College Counselor
Ms. Abrams brings her educational expertise to meet students with support, respect and understanding while working together to achieve their post-graduation goals. With a dual degree from Teachers College, Columbia University, Ms. Abrams holds a Master of Education in Counseling Psychology and a Master of Arts in Psychology in Education. She received her Bachelor of Science in Human Development and Education from SUNY Binghamton and an advanced certificate in College Counseling from Columbia University, which includes school counselor certification in New York State. As an educator, Ms. Abrams aims to help all of her students reach their fullest potential by establishing creative pathways for each student’s aspirations. Ms. Abrams chose BASIS Independent Manhattan because of the supportive and collaborative nature of the entire community, where academic and personal performance assures student growth and development each year. During the summers, Ms. Abrams works on the leadership staff at a summer camp. She also loves to explore New York City’s Broadway shows and different cuisines and cultures.
Ms. Bandarenko Director of Student Affairs, Lower School
Ms. Bandarenko received a dual master’s degree in education from Bank Street, in elementary education and literacy. She also holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in English from Hamilton College. Ms. Bandarenko is so excited to return for a fourth year with BASIS Independent Manhattan. She spent three years progressing through the roles of Kindergarten Teaching Fellow, Learning Expert Teacher, and Humanities Subject Expert Teacher. Next, Ms. Bandarenko spent several years in the corporate sphere working in education technology consulting and academic intervention design and implementation. She is thrilled to be back with BASIS Independent Manhattan as the Director of Student Affairs. She is passionate about child development is mission-aligned with our school by placing equal focus on students’ academic, social, and emotional growth. “In my role as the Director of Student Affairs, I channel my diverse experiences to foster robust connections within our community – bridging families, students, and educators. Every interaction enriches my journey.” In her spare time, Ms. Bandarenko enjoys being a newlywed, creative writing, fitness, trying new recipes, and snuggling up with a good book.
Mr. Belotto Dean of Students, Upper School
Mr. Belotto received his undergraduate degree in history and holds a Master of Arts in History with a concentration in European History. Born and raised in South Florida, he received both of his degrees at Florida Atlantic University and then went on immediately following graduation to teach at a private school in Boca Raton. That is where he honed his skills as a teacher and learned the best strategies to help students reach their own, individual, academic excellence. What Mr. Belotto enjoys most is employing these strategies for each of his students at BASIS Independent Manhattan every day. After two years in the classroom at BASIS Independent Manhattan, Mr. Belotto is excited to be a part of the Student Affairs team as the Dean of Students at Upper School (grades 6-12). His goal is to make sure that each student receives the necessary support to achieve success both in and out of the classroom. He also is eager to continue growing school spirit and a strong sense of community with an enhanced student experience and events that build connections between students across grades. In his spare time, Mr. Belotto loves watching any and all sports (especially his hometown Miami Dolphins!), traveling to new places, and spending quality time with his fiancée and their golden retriever.
Ms. Benchimol Director of Student Affairs, Lower School
Ms. Benchimol received her master’s degree and a postgraduate degree from Paris Nanterre University in International Business. After graduating from college, her husband’s career took them to Tokyo and Hong Kong until moving permanently to New York in 1999. During these different moves, Ms. Benchimol worked in the corporate world but always found a way to teach French “on the side.” While raising her children in New York, she decided to switch careers in 2012 and combine her two passions, the French language and spending time with curious children. In her fifth year at BASIS Independent Manhattan, Ms. Benchimol continues to happily serve our school community as the Director of Student Affairs at the Upper School (Gr. 6-12). Her goal is to continue ensuring all students are happy and that they feel supported in their academic and social journey through middle and high school, with the support of the Dean and the Guidance Counselor. She prides herself on being accessible to students and students alike while fostering a safe environment for all. Outside of school, Mrs. Benchimol loves spending time with her family. She loves cooking, trying new foods, going to the movies, traveling, and discovering new cultures. She has been a fan of New York City since she was eight years old. You can find her taking long walks around the city for hours on end.
Ms. Ceballo Academic Programs Manager, Lower School
Ms. Ceballo is passionate about and dedicated to the field of education. She has always enjoyed working with children from her early days as a babysitter to most recently being a preschool teacher in New York City. Currently, Ms. Ceballo is working toward an Associate in Early Childhood Education and is thrilled to be a part of the BASIS Independent Manhattan Community. She was drawn to the dynamic environment and knows that she will enjoy coming to work here every day. When she is not working or going to school, Ms. Ceballo can be found spending time with family and doing fun activities together. She also loves to try new food and paint.
Ms. Choe Director of Admissions
A graduate of Yale University, Ms. Choe received a Bachelor’s Degree in Economics and began as an investment banker before transitioning to merchandise planning for the next decade. Growing up in New York, Ms. Choe is a product of the NYC public school system. Her interest in education, though, began after her first daughter was born and her family moved abroad to Abu Dhabi. While there, she fell in love with the rigorous yet nurturing school community at her daughters’ international school. When they returned to New York in 2017, Ms. Choe joined TestingMom.com as the Director of Emerging Businesses. In that role, she helped launch an in-person tutoring center in Manhattan that focused on Gifted & Talented Testing, as well as New York State Test Prep. Most recently, Ms. Choe worked as the Director of Operations at NORY (a STEM education company). She is excited to be at BASIS Independent Manhattan, supporting prospective families as they navigate the admissions process. Having experienced the public and private school admissions cycles for her daughters, Ms. Choe brings a level of empathy and insight that she hopes will help families during their own journey.
Ms. Dickens Associate Head of Operations, Upper School
Ms. Dickens holds a Bachelor’s degree from Angelo State University in History and Political Science. She also earned her Master of Arts in Curriculum and Instruction. Growing up as an “army brat,” she traveled around the world but wound up calling Texas (and now New York) home. After spending nine years in the classroom, Ms. Dickens stepped into the role of Director of Student Affairs to help shape a positive and joyful upper school experience for all BASIS Independent Manhattan students. She is continuing that mission as the Associate Head of School for grade 6-12 students at the Upper School. She remains passionate about incorporating her work with the Justice, Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion (JEDI) Action Group in ways that ensure our students are growing into well-rounded people that care and empathize with others. Specifically, Ms. Dickens enjoys providing service opportunities for students to volunteer or work in the community, which is something she has done as the National Junior Honors Society faculty advisor. As a life-long learner, Ms. Dickens also believes in the importance of teachers and administrators growing in their respective positions. She has consistently worked with the Association of Middle Level Education (AMLE) as both a presenter at their annual leadership conference and a contributor to their online magazine. She hopes that her enthusiasm for teaching will inspire other teachers to continue growing and looking for unique ways to present their content material. In her spare time, Ms. Dickens loves singing karaoke and dancing like no one is watching. You can also find her taking walks around her neighborhood with her husband or reading a good fiction book on her commute from Brooklyn!
Ms. Figueroa Associate Head of School, Lower School
Ms. Figueroa is originally from Los Angeles, California. She moved to Tucson, Arizona, to attend the University of Arizona and graduated with a Bachelor of Science in Psychology with minors in biology, family studies, and religion. While on the path to becoming an Optometrist, she took a turn down a new beautiful path that catered to the love she has for education and children. Ms. Figueroa has been a part of the BASIS Curriculum Schools network since 2013, teaching math, science, and engineering, and she took part in the grand opening of a BASIS Curriculum school. In her down time, she loves to walk with her pit bull Tyson, exercise, and master her new personal goal of creating a Vietnamese dish every month.
Ms. Garagoda Arachchige Auxiliary Program Coordinator, Lower School
Ms. Garagoda-Arachchige has worked as a high school psychology teacher, counselor, and special education coordinator for over ten years in Sri Lanka. She earned a Bachelor of Arts and a Master of Science in Psychology. In addition to her degrees, Ms. Garagoda-Arachchige holds a Post Graduate Level 7 Diploma in Education Management and Leadership, and she has completed her Cognitive Behavioral Therapy training from Kings College London Resource Centre in Sri Lanka. Regarding her work in mental health, Ms. Garagoda-Arachchige is a Microsoft Innovative Educator Expert (MIE) and a trained coordinator for MindUp mindfulness and Social Emotional Learning curriculum. She has also worked as a mental health counselor and a volunteer at the National Institute of Mental Health, Sri Lanka, through which she gained immense experience in working with children and adults in vulnerable situations. Apart from her academic and professional interests, Ms. Garagoda-Arachchige is an ardent reader, and a lover of dance, music, and traveling. She credits having empathy and developing awareness of cultural relativism to her travels and experiencing different cultures.
Mr. Golding Technology Coordinator, Lower School
Mr. Golding is proud to be a native New Yorker, born and raised in the Bronx. His journey into information technology began at Pennsylvania State University, where he studied computer engineering. Before joining BASIS Independent Manhattan as the Technology Coordinator, Mr. Golding was a field technician for Peloton Cycle. He also holds a cybersecurity certification from CompTIA. When he is not working, Mr. Golding loves to travel and try new food.
Ms. Hill Academic Programs Coordinator, Lower School
Ms. Hill received a Bachelor of Arts in History and International Studies from Arcadia University. She also earned a Master of Arts in Medieval and Renaissance Studies from Columbia University, and completed an additional certification in Classical Studies, also from Columbia. It was during her time studying abroad in Scotland and Greece that Ms. Hill discovered her passion for history and a calling to pursue academia. She is dedicated to bringing her experience as a scholar into the classroom and school setting so that every student can discover something that excites them. Ms. Hill has been a Subject Expert Teacher for grades 4-5 teaching Latin, Classics and History before moving into the Academic Programs department. Ms. Hill is thrilled to be a part of BASIS Independent Manhattan’s competitive global approach to pedagogy and have the opportunity to share her enthusiasm for Classics with her students. Outside of the classroom, you can find Ms. Hill walking her cat Frasier in Central Park or catching a play in the Theater District.
Ms. Hilowitz Admissions Manager, Lower School
Ms. Hilowitz holds a Bachelor of Science in Special Education from the University of Arizona. She is state-certified in Elementary Education and Special Education. Immediately following college, Ms. Hilowitz followed her passion by becoming a substitute teacher at a school near where she grew up in New Jersey. From there, she became a 1st-grade teacher in New York City and also spent time in kindergarten classrooms. After four years at BASIS Independent Manhattan as a Learning Expert Teacher, Ms. Hilowitz took on the role of Admissions Manager for the Lower and Upper School campuses. Over the past four years, Ms. Hilowitz has been an integral part of the primary school program, building strong, nurturing relationships with our younger students and families. As a Teacher Mentor, she has helped support and train colleagues with their professional development. In her admissions role, Ms. Hilowitz aims to increase conversion in all grades. She is excited to share her energy, passion and experience with prospective families and cannot wait to bring new, supportive and loving families to our community!
Ms. Hodge Head of School
Ms. Hodge was born and raised in Chicago and has been well versed in the independent school world from a very young age. She graduated from The Latin School of Chicago before earning a Bachelor of Arts degree in Political Science from the University of Iowa. After moving to New York City 22 years ago, Ms. Hodge attended New York University and received a Certificate of Fundraising. Ms. Hodge has over 20 years of leadership and business development experience in both nonprofit and corporate sectors. She spent the last eight years establishing BASIS Independent Schools as premier educational institutions in NYC. Starting in 2014, Ms. Hodge worked alongside the executive team to open BASIS Independent Brooklyn. She served as the Director of Enrollment and Admissions there until fully transitioning to the Manhattan campus after its opening in 2017. With her breadth of experience and expertise, Ms. Hodge advanced into the role of Regional Director for the network’s East Coast schools, focused on maximizing efficiencies and overall performance. In the most recent expansion of BASIS Independent Manhattan to include an Upper School campus, Ms. Hodge was an integral part of the executive team that played a key role in the construction process and opening of the new building. As a member of the Spring Education Group Diversity Inclusion and Belonging Advisory Committee, Ms. Hodge is wholeheartedly committed to creating an inclusive culture and a diverse community. She maintains a priority of creating diverse pipelines of talent while also advancing partnerships with Parents League, ISAAGNY, and RIISE to pave a path of increased opportunities for the school and the local community. Ms. Hodge further explains, “As the Head of School, I feel compelled to reiterate, reinforce and rededicate myself to the principles of diversity, inclusion, and social justice that is at the core of who I am as an educator.” Lastly, not only was Ms. Hodge a former employee at BASIS Independent Brooklyn, but also a parent, and she maintains close relationships across the campuses to synergistically strengthen staff collaboration, school operations, and student-life experiences. Ms. Hodge says, “I am honored to serve in this leadership role, as the success of our school is of utmost importance to me.” On a daily basis, she works across all levels to build a strong academic community for our students. Her strong initiative and extensive knowledge of educational and professional school management, combined with her ability to excel in environments requiring independent decision-making and collaborative thinking allow Ms. Hodge to creatively and dynamically problem-solve and generate long and short-term solutions for our school community. Ms. Hodge is passionate about fostering the social aspects of a school community while remaining focused on the dedicated faculty and staff who care deeply about the well-being and success of every student. She says, “Our fundamental purpose is to guide young men and women to engage with the world, embrace challenging work, and discover that this curriculum is a gift to them.” Outside of school, Ms. Hodge finds solace in her summer weekends in Fire Island playing tennis. She brings her competitive spirit to the court in Central Park, too, where she plays with students and faculty in the annual Wildcat round robin.
Ms. James Health Coordinator, Lower School
Ms. James is a certified nurse assistant with over a decade of experience providing hands-on patient healthcare in a New York City hospital. She also is a Certified Health Education Specialist and has a Master’s in Health Education and Promotion from Herbert H. Lehman College. Her earlier education background includes a Bachelor of Science degree in Health Promotion Management with a minor in Health Education from York College, and an Associate in Arts degree in Human Services from Fiorello H. LaGuardia Community College. As Health Coordinator, Ms. James’s goal is to promote and facilitate healthy behaviors while implementing best practices in supporting the well-being of all students. She chose BASIS Independent Manhattan because of its diverse culture and is excited to be a part of this unique team. She believes “this is an enriching environment that provides the opportunity to discover new depths on professional and personal levels.” Ms. James grew up in the West Indies on the island of Jamaica. The Jamaica Cultural Development Corporation solidified her love for reading, through the island’s annual festival performing arts category. On a local level, she represented her school at performing arts competitions by reciting poetry solo and as part of a group in high school. Outside of work, she enjoys reading and spending time with her very close-knit family.
Ms. Kipps Academic Programs Coordinator
A Detroit native, Ms. Kipps attended Central Michigan University where she graduated with honors, receiving a Bachelor of Science in Education. She went on to earn a Master of Science in School Guidance Counseling from Touro College. It was when she was completing her student teaching requirements in New York City that Ms. Kipps was inspired to pursue school counseling. She found that guiding students in understanding, identifying, and controlling their emotions is where her teaching made the most effective impact on a student’s academic success. In her experience working with high school- and elementary-age children, Ms. Kipps discovered how all grade-level students benefit from learning universal academic and emotional strategies. In 2018, Ms. Kipps had the opportunity to travel to Copenhagen, Denmark, to conduct an independent study on progressive and outdoor classrooms and their impact on student social-emotional learning. As a Dean of Students and educator, Ms. Kipps aims to create a successful educational environment in which every student achieves their academic endeavors. She chose BASIS Independent Manhattan because of the student, family, and community-centered culture. The school’s international student lens is the cherry on top!
Ms. Kissoon Front Office Coordinator, Upper School
Ms. Kissoon grew up in Guyana where she began her career in Customer Service at the age of 13. She wrote the Caribbean examinations in 2009 and graduated with Top Honors with Distinctions in Office Administrations Principles of Business, Principles of Accounts, Electronic Documents, and Preparation Management. In 2010, she and her family came to the U.S. in pursuit of the “American Dream. She became a model and continued to expand her career in Customer Service and Human Resources.