Sofara International

Community Team Members

The majority members of the Sofara International team represents Harlem as a resident, business owner, parent or educator.  Each member has a vested interest in improving the quality of education in the community, improving the the educational experiences for our children, and ensuring that Sofara International Charter School continuously and consistently stays at the forefront of educational innovation.

Voyka Soto, Educator, Founder / Executive Director, resident and parent of two children in Harlem is an Educator who has more than 19 years experience working with high needs populations in special education, bilingual and Gifted and Talented settings both domestically and internationally. She holds a teaching and learning Certification from the International Baccalaureate Organization and holds a Masters in International Curriculum and Instruction through the Foreign Affairs Spouses Teacher Training program sponsored by the U.S. State Department. As an overseas Educator, Ms. Soto worked in the Middle East to plan, start and assist to accredit special needs programs and to plan and start new schools. This included areas from development and planning to implementation and opening. She has experience developing strategic plans for reorganizing and restructuring processes and procedures through systemic reform for the Federal Magnet grant, and assisting in developing alignment plans for accreditation including the International Baccalaureate Organization, European Council of International Schools (currently CIS), and the Middle States Association of Colleges and Schools.

Katie Taylor, Director of Teaching and Learning, is an educator with experience as a supervisor, administrator, school leader, learning specialist, and program director. In her 14 years as an educator, Ms. Taylor has served students both in the United States and abroad and in urban and suburban settings. This includes being a teacher in East Harlem’s CSD 4. She has strong expertise in special education as well as in implementing and streamlining data driven programs to raise student achievement. Ms. Taylor has also worked with academic and socio-emotional curriculum for students and inspiring educators in implementing it.

Nermin Ahmad, proposed Board of Trustees Chairperson and Harlem resident, is an international strategic planner, innovative thinker and stakeholder engagement specialist. Ms. Ahmad, in the roles of Project Manager or Managing Director, has assisted many public and private institutions to develop and implement strategic plans for a variety of targeted areas of concern. These include projects such as working with the Houston Independent School District to evaluate facilities, notably for food management to make these multipurpose (schools and first response) and resilient to disasters; and creating an environmental Management Plan for Ferrous Metals sector, for which she researched and developed recommendations for Russia’s Ministry for Environmental Protection under World Bank loan. Additional clientele include the NYC Department of Education, the NYC Office of Emergency Management, the United Nations, The Supreme Allied Command Transformation, and several ministries of foreign affairs worldwide.

rashard-headshotRashard Dyess-Lane, proposed Board Vice-Chairperson and a Harlem resident, brings major finance, compliance and business management expertise to the Sofara International Board. He has handled million dollar procurement budgets including for the Global Alliance for Vaccines & Immunization (GAVI) and the Patomac Electric Power Company. As a Global senior business leader with cross-functional experience in project management, supply chain management, and operations management he has operational understanding and experience with strategic sourcing, process re-engineering, product development, system implementations and information/data management.

robert-deutschRobert Deutsch (retired), proposed Board Treasurer, is the former Head of US Equity Arbitrage. Robert built and managed multiple business lines for the bank including: Stock Index Futures Arbitrage, Convertible Bond Arbitrage, Risk Arbitrage (Mergers and Acquisitions, Special Event), Statistical Arbitrage, Global Pairs Trading, Structured Equity Finance, Volatility Arbitrage, Securities Lending Group, and Dedicated Technology Staff. Mr. Deutsch’s current passion is music and he is looking forward to assisting in building a music program for Sofara’s students.


Henry Comas, proposed Board Secretary, is a lifelong resident of East Harlem, is a passionate member of the Sofara team. He currently serves as subject matter expert to Region II in Emergency Management, Disaster Preparedness, Protection, Recovery and Continuity of Operations Planning. As such he has aided many through disaster relief including victims of Hurricane Katrina. Mr. Comas also serves as an Executive board member and Secretary of the Acacia Network Inc. The 2nd largest Hispanic nonprofit organization in the country and the largest in New York State. He has also served on the board of the Upper Manhattan Empowerment Zone.

holley-drakeford-hsHolley Drakeford, proposed Trustee and a Harlem based L.R.B. of commercial property,  spent several years being a Senior Broker at Giscomb Realty, one of Harlem’s oldest Commercial real estate firms. He now runs his own firm, the Drakeford Realty Group in East Harlem. Mr. Drakeford is a member of Manhattan Community Board 11 where he has served as a member of the Economic Development, Culture and Tourism Committee; Land Use and Landmark Committee; and the Licenses and Permits Committee.  This is in addition to being a member of several professional Real Estate committees and being a member of the Next Generation Group.

Kevin V. G. Wells, Esq., proposed Trustee, parent and Harlem resident, is a Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) attorney who helps companies understand their complex Sustainability and Human Rights operational circumstances and assists companies to actively engage and work with their respective stakeholders to mitigate brand risk.  He is an expert in global supply chain diversity / inclusion matters based on almost 20 years of U.S. and global CSR experience in the corporate, nonprofit and public sectors. Mr. Wells has managed projects, and written and/ or edited sustainability reports across all industry sectors. Most recently, he has worked in the  Agricultural and Mining sectors, prepared and edited reports outlining Human Rights Assessment programs and has launched and led CSR practices in the United States, South Africa, United Emirates, South America and Taiwan. Currently Mr. Wells leads CSR projects specifically designed for the indigent community and local Small/ Medium Enterprises (SMEs) inclusion covering Human Rights reports on Environmental, Labor and NGO issues in designated regions for Nima Hunter, Inc.

Bob McCullough, Jr., Sofara’s Community Outreach Liaison, is a Bronx resident with deep ties to the Harlem community.  He is the Founder of the Fatherhood Image Film Festival, the steering force behind the revival of The Harlem Professionals Group and Each One Teach One.  Additionally Mr. McCullough is the producer of the documentary “#Rucker50”, a celebration of the basketball legends who created Harlem history.  In the community he was instrumental in the “Move the Mountain” project that addressed the hazardous conditions of vacant lots for neighborhood children.


Bailey Rollins, a Harlem resident and the Sofara International founding teacher, is a bi-lingual educator with a solid foundation in progressive elementary instruction as a Bank Street College graduate. She has a wide variety of educational experiences and knowledge, including curriculum development in foreign languages and data analysis. Currently she holds a position at Community Roots Charter School and has held positions at Ascend Charter School where she was a Head Teacher, the International Preschool, and The Children’s Storefront School. At the Tree of Life Public Charter School in D.C., Ms. Rollins successfully increased teacher sponsored parent engagement with the implementation of parent story time and a mindfulness campaign.


Advisory Members

bioMary Tumbleson is a National Board certified Central Florida Educator experienced working with at-risk children. In her 30 years, she has worked with every grade level and in various positions from administrator to reading coach in private and Charter schools. This includes work as an International Baccalaureate PYP classroom facilitator. She has helped write curriculum and has worked with legislation in creating norms for state tests.  Ms. Tumbleson’s focus is on math and science, however she also holds certification in Educational Leadership and special education; endorsements in reading and ESOL (English for Speakers of Other Languages), and is currently working on a gifted and talented endorsement. As a life-long learner she attends Columbia University twice a year for their Saturday Reunions where she continues to hone her practice on the teaching of reading and writing.

Tom Amico, a marketing and branding expert,  has been creating successful and memorable advertising for more than three decades. He is the co-creator of the hugely successful Aflac Duck campaign that transformed Aflac from an unknown insurance commodity into a brand celebrity and a smashing business success story. Mr. Amico also created memorable advertising for Blimpie’s, Outback, and NAPA, crafting the highly successful “NAPA Know How” campaign, now in its 7th successful year. Prior to joining the agency in 1998, Tom ran the Infiniti/Nissan regional business at TBWA/Chiat Day NY, the Toys ‘R Us and Midas business at Wells NY and the Kmart account at Calet Hirsh Ferrell NY. He is now a partner in and recently undertook the first-ever branding effort for Siggi’s Yogurt and NYU Langone’s patient experience.

 11986327_10206198351172534_2675323859300296951_nTorian Richardson is a professional with 18 years of experience living and working on four continents and journeying through over 55 countries. He offers a comprehensive global perspective to strategic situations, in particular those focused on analytic based growth, organizational competitiveness, market development, and talent management. Mr. Richardson provides ground up strategic and management consulting services to clients worldwide managing all aspects of business operations, including finances, brand, resources, projects and client base. A firm believer in lifelong learning through experience and immersion, Torian has a deep appreciation for intellectual curiousity and an entrepreneurial spirit for himself and the lives of the children he influences. Hidden potential and planting positive seeds of Attitude | Accountability | Action are what he imparts.

Ronald Lawson, a resident of the Bronx with strong ties to Harlem is the newly installed CFO of Care for the Homeless. Mr. Lawson is the former Chief Operating Officer of the International Leadership Charter High School. He oversaw all daily operations including finance, IT, HR, facilities and procurement, and oversaw the construction of a new $12 million dollar, 30,000 square foot school facility. As Business Manager and Corporate Secretary of the Catholic School Region of Manhattan, he oversaw the day to day operations of 15 k-8 schools in the borough. As the Managing Director of Lawson Consulting Associates (LCA), a provider of financial, strategic planning, board development, fundraising and operations consulting to nonprofit organizations, his clients included Columbia University, the Archdiocese of New York, Newark Public Schools, One Hundred Black Men, Inc, the American Indian Community House and the Malcolm X and Dr. Betty Shabazz Memorial and Educational Center. Prior to LCA, Mr. Lawson served as Senior Director of Business Affairs for the Alvin Ailey Dance Foundation,  Chief Operating Officer of the YWCA National Office and as the Chief Financial Officer of New York Mayor David Dinkins’ re-election campaign. Mr. Lawson has also held management level positions with Chase Manhattan Bank, Solomon Brothers, Deloitte & Touch and Ernst & Young. He is an Alumni of College of the Holy Cross, Heinz College at Carnegie-Mellon University and J.L. Kellogg Graduate School of Management at Northwestern University. Mr. Lawson currently sits on the Board of the Holy Cross Alumni Association, is a member of the Board of the YMCA of Greater New York Camping Services Branch and a Trustee and Chair of the Finance Council of St. Charles Borromeo Church, the largest Catholic Church in Harlem.