photo by Barbara Reid


Board Members

Karen Ross
Karen Ross works very part time as a Registered Dietitian for HeartFit for Life. She taught classes at the Palo Alto Medical Foundation for many years. Karen loves volunteering in the community. She was President of the Junior League of Palo Alto-Mid-Peninsula, the Hidden Villa Board of Trustees, and the Palo Alto Community Fund. She was also on the Board of Directors of Avenidas, and was involved in leadership in SCAN (Sports, Cardiovascular and Wellness Nutritionists), a practice group of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. She has a BS from Purdue University and a MA from San Jose State.
Ellen Jones
Ellen M. Jones is a Senior Vice President at UBS Financial Services. She focuses on wealth management for high net worth individuals. After majoring in American Intellectual History at Radcliffe College, Ellen attended graduate school at U.C. Berkeley and then worked as an economic analyst for American Airlines. After taking some time off to raise her children, she returned to work as a high school teacher at Menlo School in Atherton before beginning a new career in the financial services industry. She has lived in Menlo Park for over 40 years and has three children and six grandchildren. She enjoys hiking, reading and playing competitive bridge.
Sara Hackett
Sara Hackett has been Teaching Kindergarten and First Grade in East Palo Alto for 10 years. She has a Bachelors Degree in Social Science, a Masters Degree in Curriculum and Instruction and a Reading Specialist Credential from San Jose State University. She received her Multiple Subject Teaching Credential from Cal Poly San Luis Obispo. She is active in Delta Kappa Gamma, a women's professional educator organization, currently serving as her chapter's Secretary. She is passionate about teaching for social justice and inspiring a love of reading in her students.
Lara Burenin
Lara Burenin has been a teacher and literacy coach in East Palo Alto and Oakland, and is currently the Director of Curriculum & Instruction in the Ravenswood City School District. She began working in Ravenswood during college as a reading tutor, which inspired her to become a teacher. She is honored to have been serving in the community over the past 16 years. Lara is passionate about helping Ravenswood students foster a love of reading and writing, and supporting teachers with instruction across the content areas.
Nisha Pillai
Nisha wants to live in a world where all children have access to quality education, everyone has time to read all the books they want to, and distance running doesn't lead to aches and pains. She currently spends most of her time volunteering, running, and answering a million variations of "but why?" from her children. She has spent 15+ years in the tech industry as a product manager, strategy consultant, and software developer. She holds a B.Tech in Computer Science from the University of Kerala and an MBA from the Tuck School of Business at Dartmouth.
Shafi Saxena
Shafi was born on Waikiki Beach and now lives in Menlo Park. She is a brand and product strategist who has worked across several industries. She founded her own company, Better Botanicals, then worked as Global VP Dove Skin and CMO Microsoft India. Most recently, as Chief Brand and Communication Officer of News Republic, she helped lead a mobile media startup to a successful exit. Shafi is a docent at the Palo Alto Arts Center and has been volunteering with art and education-centric causes for most of her life. She has an M.A. in International Relations from Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies (SAIS).
Annie Howard
Annie Howard is a teacher in Ravenswood City School District. She teaches second grade at Brentwood Academy. She received her Bachelors Degree at San Diego State and her Reading Specialist credential from San Jose State. She is passionate about social justice and equity in education.
Jenna Wachtel
Jenna Wachtel is the Social Media Coordinator for EPAK. She has taught in both East Palo Alto and Palo Alto and currently leads the Early Learning Initiative for the New Teacher Center, a non-profit dedicated to accelerating teacher practice to improve outcomes for all children. In her role, Jenna supports preschool and transitional kindergarten teachers and coaches in East Palo Alto and San Francisco with professional development and intensive coaching. Jenna is an enthusiastic supporter and advocate for EPAK!