KairosPDX Prepares For The Bright Future Ahead



16 July 2021

KairosPDX Appoints Marsha Williams as CEO and Zalika Gardner as CECO

Organizational leadership changes position KairosPDX for its next decade of advancing its mission and vision to close education achievement gaps for Black as well as other students of color.

Portland, Oregon, July 16, 2021. KairosPDX is excited to share the appointment of Marsha P.J. Williams as its Chief Executive Officer and Zalika Gardner as Chief Education and Culture Officer. Over the next year, the organization will continue to expand and enhance the organization to advance KairosPDX’s critical mission. The evolution of the leadership team to manage the multiple growing services and initiatives under the KairosPDX umbrella is a result of work over the last year by the Co-Founders and the Board of Directors to expand the organization’s capacity to do great work.

Kali Thorne Ladd, a Co-Founder who has served as KairosPDX’s Executive Director, will be departing the organization at the end of August and embarking on a new position to lead the Children’s Institute as their new Chief Executive Officer. The Board is grateful for Kali’s dedication and trailblazing work and look forward to her successes in her professional journey.

Marsha Williams is a seasoned executive, who brings a wealth of diverse organizational skills and thought leadership to community-based and national organizations, most notably currently serving as the Chapter President of the Portland Willamette Valley Chapter of Jack and Jill of America, Incorporated, and as a Trustee on Warner Pacific University’s Board. Williams is a KairosPDX Co-Founder who has been co-leading the organization as the Operations Director since its inception. She has also chaired the Kairos Board of Directors for the past several years. Before KairosPDX, Williams worked in the health care sector, with over a dozen years researching and publishing in academic medicine. Williams received her Bachelors from Brandeis University, where she played collegiate basketball, and subsequently completed a Fellowship in Policy Research at Harvard Medical School.

A Master Educator with over 27 years of experience as a gifted teacher, trainer, facilitator, and leader, Zalika Gardner has worked with primary age children as well as adult learners as an adjunct professor and professional development expert. She has been co-leading KairosPDX as the Education Director since its inception and will continue to oversee all educational innovation as well as ensure the organization’s culture and mission work hand-in-hand. Gardner received her Bachelors from Scripps College and earned her MA in Educational Leadership and Multicultural Studies from Columbia University’s Teachers College.

“I am excited about this next phase for KairosPDX. I am proud of the many years of collaborative and extraordinary work led by the Co-Founders. Marsha and Zalika have been a critical part of the success of KairosPDX and I know the organization will continue to thrive and grow under their leadership. This is another Kairos opportune moment in time, in which something special is happening!”
– TIFFANI PENSON, KairosPDX Board Chair

“I have been a huge fan of KairosPDX from the beginning. Zalika and Marsha are exceptional leaders and will take the school, and all that it does for kids, families, and community to the next level of success. All students should experience the enrichment and learning environment created by these educational leaders.”
–JOE MCFERRIN II, President & CEO of Portland Opportunities Industrialization Center (POIC)

About KairosPDX

KairosPDX was established in 2012 by five Co-Founders with a mission to eliminate racial achievement and opportunity gaps by cultivating confident, creative, and compassionate leaders. A multi-faceted non-profit organization, the primary activities of KairosPDX include: KairosPDX Learning Academy, serving grades K-5, established in 2014; KairosPDX Family Engagement and Early Learning Network, Education Policy and Advocacy, and KairosPDX Training Academy, established in 2021. All of our work is anchored in neuroscience and research that informs us of how important it is to tether academic growth with social and emotional growth embedded in cultural taxonomy and norms.


Media Contact:

Kaaren Heikes

Board Secretary, KairosPDX

(503) 380-8564


Remembering Andrew Ayala

Andrew Ayala

Click here to submit a tribute message or image for Andrew Ayala

Our hearts are heavy as we share that one of our beloved employees, Andrew Ayala, passed away unexpectedly, October 21, 2020 and is no longer with us. Andrew joined staff here at KairosPDX in October 2019, though in ways it feels much longer.

Andrew integrated himself into the fabric of KairosPDX and all its functions. Though his work was focused on policy and grants, his heart extended far beyond these things. Andrew loved the work that Kairos did with children and families and when he had a break, could often be found in a classroom helping out as needed. He was especially proud of our Latinx youth and was honored to be a face that they could recognize, that looked like them. One of these Kairos leaders earned a spot on television for his piano skills and he literally beamed. Andrew believed in the concept of “see a need, fill a need”. Whether it was staying late at Family Engagement events to help clean up or sharing jokes in the staff lounge to cheer people up, or greeting families at the door…he enjoyed all the things.

Andrew likened KairosPDX to be a family for him, and it showed. He loved his family of origin, and his eyes would light up when he spoke of his grandmother and brother, but he saw KairosPDX to be his Portland family. And fortunately for Kairos, we enjoyed not only his hard work ethic but his thoughtful repose and kindness that he showered upon everyone. He was resilient and optimistic, responsible and a quick learner; a storyteller whose laughter and smile could light up a room. More than anything, Andrew cared about being a positive force for good and was deeply troubled by racial inequity and societal injustice. He represented KairosPDX in the Pre-School for All Taskforce and was an advocate on the Student Success Act policy group. For him, KairosPDX embodied his heart and soul’s work – to make community better.

KairosPDX will suspend all activities, Friday, October 23, 2020 to give ALL KairosPDX staff and community members time to grieve this heartbreaking loss.  Therefore, there will be no school for KairosPDX Learning Academy students; we will resume school with assembly on Monday, October 26th at 9:00am. Click here to submit a tribute message or image for Andrew Ayala.

Check out KairosPDX’s, Kali Thorne Ladd interviewed on AM Extra on KOIN Tuesday, June 9, 2020.

KairosPDX Listed on My Oregon News, Resources for Supporting Racial Justice in Oregon, June 4, 2020

Resources for Supporting Racial Justice in Oregon

OPB Think Out Loud, June 2, 2020

Listen to KairosPDX Executive Director & CoFounder, Kali Thorne Ladd, discuss What Are Children Taking From The Protests?

KairosPDX’s Kali Thorne Ladd featured on KGW on having meaningful, actionable conversations about race

Press Conference with Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler and Black leaders on May 31, 2020

Featuring our own, Kali Thorne Ladd, listen to her specific message during the Press Conference.

Check out the Oregonian, “Opinion: Oregon’s ‘data driven’ coronavirus strategy is missing key data on race.” Co-authored by, KairosPDX’s Executive Director, Kali Thorne Ladd, on Friday, May 15, 2020.

KairosPDX staff receive a shout-out from a parent in the publication PDX Parent, on piece focused on “How’s Homeschooling going?, May 13, 2020. 

Check out the Oregonian, “Opinion: The racial disparity of COVID-19’s impacts are well-known. Oregon officials aren’t doing anything about it.” Co-authored by, KairosPDX’s Executive Director, Kali Thorne Ladd, on Wednesday, April 29, 2020.

Watch as Lamar Hurd on NBC Sports Northwests’ Hurd Mentality, interviews Kali Thorne Ladd about KairosPDX on Tuesday, April 14, 2020.

The Portland Observer, features, Kali Thorne Ladd’s tips on Mitigating COVID-19 Trauma on Kids, April 9, 2020.

KairosPDX Charter Renewal Hearing

Watch the Portland Public Schools, Public Hearing for KairosPDX Learning Academy on February 13, 2020

KairosPDX receives Portland Monthly Magazine 2019 Light a Fire Award in the category of Exceptional Community Contribution, read more here.  During the Gala, the audience voted for one of the awardees in the seven categories to win a $30,000 advertising package as well as the proceeds from the evenings raffle tickets ($5,500) and KairosPDX won! This award belongs to our amazing KairosPDX Team!



KairosPDX landed on Portland Business Journal’s ‘Most Admired Companies in Oregon’ list within the nonprofit sector for the second year in a row! This year we made the top 10, and will be honored on Thursday, December 5, 2019, check out the full list here.

Check out Co-Founders Marsha Williams and Kali Thorne Ladd interviewed on MetroEast Community Hotline, aired Wednesday, November 20, 2019.

KairosPDX Co-Founders, Marsha Williams, Zalika Gardner & Kali Thorne Ladd receive the 2019 Women of Excellence Award for Education from the Portland Alumnae Chapter of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc. on May 18, 2019

KairosPDX Receives the Emily G. Gottfried Human Rights Award for Outstanding Organization on December 7, 2018

KairosPDX recently received one of our most honorable recognitions to date– the Emily G. Gottfried Human Rights Commission Award. The Human Rights Commission is focused on building peace and ending discrimination; this was also a life-focus for Emily Gottfried. While this is certainly the bedrock of what Kairos is about, we recognize we’re still early on our journey making such a recognition humbling.

We are strengthened knowing this award belongs -not only to us- but every person and organization that has been part of our story. When Kairos was founded in 2012, we dedicated ourselves to being an organization for the community and by the community. This has been our reality every step of the way. This work on behalf of children has been a phenomenal journey thus far and we are so grateful for all the people who have come along side us. Together, we are making a difference. And so, to our collective KairosPDX family, this award belongs to you.

KairosPDX featured on OPB, October 28,2018 Listen to “Kairos Tries New Approach To Closing The Achievement Gap In Portland”

KairosPDX featured in Portland Tribune, August 29,2018 ‘Black kids matter,’ chanted KairosPDX supporters at Portland school board meeting.

KairosPDX receives “In the City, For the City” Partnership Award from Warner Pacific University on April 14, 2018


Our KairosPDX Co-Founder, Zalika Gardner, spoke at the 4th installment of TEDxPortland.