Meet Our Administration & Staff
The Grayson School takes pride in our incredible Administration & Staff. Each member of our team brings strong, diverse experience as well as passion and commitment for gifted education to our school.
Melissa Bilash is the Founder of The Grayson School and a state-wide and nationally-recognized expert on educational practice and policy. She strongly believes, and has made it her life’s work, that there should be no upper limit to what these extraordinary children can learn.
As a federally-trained educational advocate, Ms. Bilash has received special Congressional recognition for her work, and has co-authored chapters in both the University of Denver Perspectives in Gifted Education: Legal Issues (Vol. 7), and the latest National Association of Gifted Children (NAGC) Guide to State Policies in Gifted Education. For nearly two decades, she successfully gained access for countless families to meet the needs of their gifted children through her private advocacy practice, Advocacy & Consulting for Education (ACFE).
Ms. Bilash serves as an Advisory Board Member for Gifted Research and Outreach (GRO), and has been honored twice by the Pennsylvania Association for Gifted Education (PAGE) for her work in the field. She is proud to be invited regularly to speak at national and international forums for gifted children, including the World Conference for Gifted and Talented Children, NAGC, Supporting the Emotional Needs of the Gifted (SENG), and Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s (MIT) SPARK and SPLASH programs.
Ms. Bilash is guided by her view that any gifted child with dreams and visions for their future deserves to be taught something new every day, to have their questions answered, and to let their academic needs drive the scope of what they are being taught.
Kristen Luke Brooks
Kristen Luke Brooks brings over two decades of fundraising and marketing/communications experience to Grayson. Her goals to deepen and expand philanthropic partnerships are an integral part of the growth of our school.
Ms. Brooks earned her B.S.N. degree in Nursing from Georgetown University and a M.B.A. from UNC’s Kenan-Flagler Business School. Kristen currently volunteers her time as a Board Member of the Association of Fundraising Professionals – Greater Philadelphia Chapter. She is the former Director of Development at Peter’s Place in Radnor, having additional professional fundraising experiences and advancement responsibilities at Holy Child School at Rosemont, The Salvation Army, The Haverford School, Villanova University School of Law, LaGrange College, and The American Cancer Society.
Ms. Brooks is most impressed by the power of community at Grayson, and the continued growth opportunities that are possible when passionate individuals look beyond limitations and dream big together.
Ally Cordera brings experience as a social media content creator and designer to develop social media and graphic design needs for our Admissions, Marketing and Development team.
Ms. Cordera earned a B.A. degree in Art Direction and Advertising from the Klein College of Media & Communications at Temple University.
Jessica Curtiss has a strong background in teaching and extracurricular activities for children. As one of the Founders of The Grayson School, she leads with compassion and humility, and a simple, but effective philosophy: work hard and be nice to people.
Coach Curtiss holds a B.A. degree in Secondary Education Social Studies and a minor in Coaching from Millersville University. Prior to her work at Grayson, her experience includes teaching, writing curriculum, mentoring coaches and teachers, and handling the daily operations of a local children’s athletic facility. She also served as Site Director for the Episcopal Academy location of ESF Camp, where she managed year-round enrollment for over 1,000 families.
From leading the planning and execution of school events and multi-week summer camp programs, Coach Curtiss also treasures her time on the field and in the gym, teaching physical education to our PreK and Kindergarten students. Her belief that the development of strong and healthy bodies as well as minds begins with our youngest students.
Luke Aslanian Davis
Luke Davis creates a warm and friendly environment as you enter our doors or contact us by phone.
Mr. Davis is working on his Masters degree in Theatre at Villanova University. He holds a B.A. in Theatre from Allegheny University.
Nancy De Bellis
Nancy De Bellis brings a deep and robust expertise in marketing and communications, business development and general management to The Grayson School. Her commitment to data-driven decision making allows the school to refine and grow its programming, internal and external messaging, and web presence through content marketing.
Ms. De Bellis holds a B.S. degree in Business Administration from Bryant University, with multiple executive leadership certificates from the University of Michigan Ross School of Business. She has led award-winning product and program development under the Crayola and Liquitex brands, as well as licensing and strategic alliances with other top brands such as IBM, Benjamin Moore, Hallmark, Mattel, and Disney. Her experience spans both the consumer and educational markets, international general management, and new business development for online and experiential retail environments. Ms. De Bellis is the joint owner of four design patents in the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office.
Skilled at translating strategic thinking into action-oriented plans, Ms. De Bellis is a thought leader who is equal parts analytical and creative. She is an agile professional whose skills have powered successful and ongoing efforts to widen the reach of the school’s admissions capabilities and development prospects.
Kimm Doherty is a founding member of the Grayson team, and brings a strong commitment and deep passion for gifted education to Grayson. She leads our Lower School faculty through mentoring, planning and adapting units, guiding professional development, and individualizing each student’s learning experience.
Mrs. Doherty holds a M.Ed. in Gifted Education from the University of Connecticut, home of the National Center for Research on Gifted Education. Certified in both Elementary and Middle School education, her experience spans both public and private school classrooms.
Her enthusiasm for creating rich, engaging content for young students has led her beyond the classroom too. She worked at the Franklin Institute Science Museum, where she used a National Science Foundation grant to design innovative hands-on science units for Philadelphia public schools. She started the local Radnor chapter of PAGE (Pennsylvania Association for Gifted Education) and later became the State Affiliate Director for PAGE, helping parents across the state to improve gifted education in their communities. Along the way, she was also elected to serve on the Radnor Township School Board for a 4-year term.
Mrs. Doherty brings her multifaceted educational background, her love of educating elementary students, and her expertise with professional development to help grow Grayson.
Rita Fitzgerald has decades-long experience in educational administration, office management, purchasing, and supporting all business functions.
Formerly Office Manager for Advocacy and Consulting for Education, Inc., Ms. Fitzgerald supported Melissa Bilash and her team in the founding of The Grayson School, and remains an instrumental member of our staff.
Sharon Furda brings professional experience in the fields of education, public relations, publishing, advertising, and marketing to her role. Born in Malaysia, she has lived in Australia, Singapore, the Czech Republic and the UK, and adds a rich cultural and international experience to our team.
Ms. Furda graduated from Monash University in Australia with a Bachelor of Economics and Minor in Business Administration. She received her NJ State Dept. of Education Certificate of Eligibility with Advanced Standing (PK-3) from the College of St. Elizabeth and holds a Professional Teaching Certificate (PK-4) in the Commonwealth of PA. She has most recently taught Kindergarten and K-prep at Sprout House and Washington Avenue Schools in Chatham, NJ.
Derek Graves shares his multidisciplinary expertise and background in the development of curriculum that builds computational thinking and delivers complex science, engineering, and mathematics courses and electives for our gifted students.
Mr. Graves holds a double degree from Swarthmore College in mathematics and philosophy, and pursued additional mathematics pedagogy coursework at Brown University. Prior to that, he earned an I.B. diploma from a United World College school in Mbabane, Swaziland. Prior to taking on this role, Mr. Graves taught Advanced Mathematics, Computer Science at Grayson.
Meredith Hafer adds specialized expertise in gifted adolescents, acceleration, enrichment, curriculum development, and independent school leadership to The Grayson School.
Ms. Hafer holds a M.Phil. from Harvard University and a M.A. in Educational Psychology with an emphasis in Gifted Education from the Neag School of Education at the University of Connecticut. Before joining Grayson’s team in 2017, Meredith served as Head of School at The Beacon School in Connecticut. As an educator and school leader, she has provided professional development and presented on gifted education across the nation, including at the National Association for Gifted Children (NAGC), the Connecticut Association for the Gifted (CAG), Supporting Emotional Needs of the Gifted (SENG), the National Association of Independent Schools (NAIS), and ArkansasIDEAS in conjunction with PBS.
Ms. Hafer is most passionate about spending her days counseling students, advising families, and guiding our Middle and Upper School faculty on meeting the needs of gifted students.
Elizabeth Kenepp brings a love of learning to her teaching, and strong organizational, leadership, and event coordination experience to her role at Grayson.
Ms. Kenepp holds a M.Ed. degree from Cabrini College and a B.A. degree in History and Classics from Randolph-Macon College. She has both teaching and professional experience in event coordination and promotion, customer service, and leading employee training programs in the restaurant industry prior to joining our team.
Ms. Kenepp develops and coordinates a range of extended program scheduling, classroom substitute schedules, and car line procedures. During the school day, she can be found tutoring, substituting a class, or assisting in test preparation where she emphasizes and supports executive function-building skills with her students.
Drae McComas provides The Grayson School with responsible, thorough, and sound financial practices in her role as Assistant Controller.
Ms. McComas holds her bachelor's and master's degrees from the University of Pennsylvania. She brings over 10 years of experience in finance, budgeting, treasury, debt management and financial systems in both the private and public sectors handling Fortune 500 companies as well as state and local governments.
Ms. McComas believes that the trajectory of education should be geared towards the creation of a safe space for students on an individual basis.
Jennifer Nance, Esq.
Jennifer Nance, Esq. is a Founding Trustee at The Grayson School, and has spent most of her professional career advocating for the rights of special education and gifted education students and their families.
Ms. Nance earned her J.D. from Temple University’s Beasley School of Law and holds an undergraduate B.A. degree in English from Hendrix College. Ms. Nance has also presented nationally on gifted education, including at the National Association for Gifted Children (NAGC) Annual Convention and the Supporting Emotional Needs of the Gifted (SENG) Annual Conference. Her recent work includes co-authoring a chapter on legal issues in gifted education in the University of Denver’s Perspectives in Gifted Education: Legal Issues (Vol. 7), as well as a chapter in NAGC’s Guide to State Policies in Gifted Education (2nd ed.). In her prior work with AmeriCorps, she supervised and trained members delivering after-school services and civics-based curriculum to more than 600 students across 16 different schools in the Philadelphia area.
Ms. Nance is privileged to have served in various roles at Grayson, including In-House Counsel, Director of Admissions, and Founding Co-Director. Her leadership and experience across functions is instrumental in developing the organizational processes that enable continued growth and development of our school.
Kristina Ayers Paul, Ph.D.
Dr. Kristina Ayers Paul brings a depth of experience in gifted education to Grayson, and was an inaugural member of The Grayson School’s Research Advisory Board informing the development of our research-based program, serving for over ten years before joining our staff to lead curriculum and professional development.
Dr. Paul earned her Ph.D. in Educational Psychology with a focus on Gifted Education and Talent Development from the University of Connecticut, where she also completed a Graduate Certificate in Program Evaluation. Dr. Paul has evaluated and provided program development services for gifted programs in Connecticut, Massachusetts, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and South Carolina.
Prior to Grayson, she was the Special Assistant to the Superintendent for Research & Program Evaluation with the Lower Merion School District. Prior to that position, she was an assistant professor of Gifted, Creative, and Talented Studies at Purdue University where she provided leadership for the teacher endorsement program in gifted education.
You’ve probably heard Susan Pedersen’s voice in some capacity as she coordinates many facets of The Grayson School’s enrollment and academic administration, liaises between families and senior administration, and edits Grayson’s weekly newsletter, The Gryphon-gram.
Ms. Pedersen earned her M.A. degree in English from Villanova in 2014. She has taught at the University of Delaware and for The Princeton Review. While she has held many other positions in fields unrelated to education, she has always managed to find opportunities to help others, and herself, learn. These ventures include developing bilingual training materials for a food processing facility; showing cafe employees how to make the perfect omelet; and helping coordinate Villanova’s annual literary festival.
Ms. Pedersen’s extensive experience as a writer lends itself well to a vibrant community that has much to say.
Amy Stoios is a staunch advocate for students who require accommodation in the classroom. Her strong experience and academic background has always centered around maximizing the educational experience for students whose needs fall outside typical learning styles.
Ms. Stoios holds a M.Ed. from Eastern University in Multicultural Education with a focus in reading, and a B.S. degree in Psychology from The Pennsylvania State University in State College, Pennsylvania. During her graduate study, she was awarded membership in Kappa Delta Pi, an international honor society in the field of education. Ms. Stoios has also earned graduate-level certification from the Pennsylvania Department of Education as a Supervisor of Special Education as a capstone to her additional certifications as a Reading Specialist, Elementary Education (K-6), and Mentally and/or Physically Handicapped Students. She has over 100 hours of professional development in gifted education.
Most recently, she has taught both graduate and undergraduate courses at Eastern University’s School of Education where her classes emphasized children who need special support in their learning, including key components of teaching gifted students. She has also worked as an Elementary Special Education Liaison for the West Chester Area School District, where she acted as a Local Education Agency (LEA) in meetings for students identified as special education and/or gifted learners. Her career prior to her LEA work also reflects her lifelong commitment to helping children with special educational needs. She worked as an early intervention specialist for children in the Philadelphia area. She has been part of a therapeutic support team for Central Montgomery County and has acted as a behavioral health worker in Flourtown, Pennsylvania.
Ms. Stoios’s educational philosophy is that each student should have the opportunity to develop his or her unique potential through access to a quality educational program in a supportive learning environment.
Susan Sullivan brings experience in recruitment from both the private sector and higher education to her role at Grayson, and is happy to return to school admissions.
Ms. Sullivan earned her M.B.A. in Finance from Keller Graduate School of Management and a B.S. in Business Administration from Millersville University. She has a collaborative approach and believes in exercising the highest levels of integrity in her role, guiding students and their families from inquiry to orientation.
Ms. Sullivan enjoys forming close connections with our families and students, and introducing our school to the greater community.
Jill Williford Wurman
Jill Wurman maintains a strong understanding of academic performance, pedagogy, social-emotional development, and longitudinal outcomes, and synthesizes research findings for Grayson’s administrators, faculty, and parents so that the school’s practices can continue to reflect the best practices in gifted education.
Ms. Wurman holds an M.A. in English Language & Literature from the University of Pennsylvania and an A.B. in English from Princeton University, whence she graduated Phi Beta Kappa; she has also studied literature at both Oxford and Cambridge Universities in England. She has worked as a publishing consultant and a literary agent, and leverages her personal passion for literature and books in her role as Grayson’s “Ersatz Librarian,” in which role she is responsible for the “care and feeding” of the more than 10,000 books in the school’s ever-growing collection. She has presented at the World Council on Gifted and Talented Children’s biennial conferences as well as at NAGC, Supporting Emotional Needs of the Gifted (SENG), the Pennsylvania Association for Gifted Education (PAGE), at MIT’s SPARK and SPLASH programs, and at the American Psychological Association annual convention. Recently, she co-authored a chapter for the University of Denver’s Perspectives in Gifted Education series: Legal Issues (Vol. 7).
Ms. Wurman has taught high school English and also a course of her own design for exceptionally gifted students at Duke University’s Talent Identification Program (Duke TIP). She is a self-professed “research nerd” who jumps at any opportunity to sit in a classroom and learn.