Who we are

KairosPDX was founded by a diverse group of leaders who understand the pivotal role that education plays as a gateway to opportunity. We know that many came before us and fought for the right for all kids to learn, to be in good schools, to have the chance to overcome systemic poverty…
Yet we are faced with a reality that there still exists two worlds -and they are split on soci-economic and racial lines. One need only look at said schools to see who is who. We are faced with a persistent achievement gap that perpetuates inequity and the denial of opportunity that so many fought for, died for.
We believe we can do better. We believe we can provide a model that narrows that gap and develops young people that do not just know how to pass a test, but know how to help their neighbor, know how to lead, know that they can change the world for good.



Left to right: Kaaren, Marsha, Zalika, Kali & Jasmine

Kali Ladd, KairosPDX Board Member, Founding Executive Director

Kali is a social entrepreneur who is a passionate advocate for equity and education transformation with a background that spans from teacher to program manager to policy maker over the last 18 years. After spending four years as Education Director for Former Mayor Sam Adams, Kali pursued establishing and co-founding KairosPDX, a non-profit dedicated to closing opportunity and achievement gaps for historically marginalized children.

In May 2012, Kali won election to the Portland Community College Board of Directors.  In 2016, Kali was appointed by Governor Brown to the Early Learning Council of Oregon where she also currently serves. In addition to her national work, Kali has worked overseas in South Africa teaching and supporting the development of two community based projects: a community library and women-owned bakery. Kali is a 2016 American Leadership Forum fellow and in 2017 was nominated to Portland Business Journal’s Forty Under 40 entrepreneur group.

Kali resides in Portland with her husband and two young children. She received her Bachelor’s degree in Elementary Education and Psychology from Boston College and earned a Master’s Degree in Education Policy from Harvard University.

Zalika Gardner, KairosPDX CECO – Chief Education and Culture Officer

Former Opal Charter School Anchor Teacher / Equity Consultant. Zalika has worked with primary aged children for the past 22 years. After beginning her teaching career in the Los Angeles Public Schools, Zalika spent the last thirteen years teaching first and second grade at Catlin Gabel School. As an adjunct professor in the Lewis and Clark Graduate School of Education and Counseling for six years, Zalika taught Child Development, Literacy and Historical Perspectives in Education. As a founding partner, Zalika has co-designed the scope, trajectory and focus of KairosPDX program and theory of change. She serves as instructional leader for KairosPDX Learning Academy facilitating partnerships with educational institutions as well as recruiting, sustaining and training educators and volunteers.

Born and raised in N.E. Portland, Zalika resides in N. Portland with her husband and 3 children. Zalika received her BA in Psychology from Scripps College and earned her MA in Educational Leadership and Multicultural Studies from Columbia University’s Teachers College.

Kaaren Heikes, KairosPDX Board Secretary

Kaaren has served in the public education arena for 22 years. For the past ten years, she has served as the key leader in Oregon’s charter school movement, providing extensive technical assistance to charter schools, charter developers, and district sponsors, as well as working at the state level to influence legislation, policy and practices.  Kaaren will bring her expertise to the work of building and managing the non-profit as well as providing organizational administration of KairosPDX.

Kaaren is a Northwest native and continues to live in the Pacific Northwest with her husband and 3 children. Kaaren has earned an M.S. in K-12 Policy and Administration, a B.A. in English, and certification in both in K-12 Administration and Secondary Teaching.

Marsha Williams, CEO – Chief Executive Officer

Former Project Manager, OHSU, School of Medicine. Marsha has over 16 years professional experience researching, writing, managing and coordinating over 15 research grants in academic medicine. She is first generation American and served for over 6 years with the Haitian Health Institute, in Boston, exposing underserved youth to enrichment and college preparatory programs as well as helping high school students navigate the college application process.

Marsha comes to Oregon from New York by way of Boston and resides in Portland with her husband and four young children. Marsha received her bachelor’s degree in sociology with an emphasis in health, law & society and women’s studies from Brandeis University.

KairosPDX Board Members:

  • David Anderson, Associate, Schwabe, Williamson, and Wyatt
  • Brooke Brownlee, State Legislative Affairs Manager, Portland General Electric
  • Kira Cador, President, Rembold Properties, KairosPDX Board Vice Chair
  • Ashley Clinkscale, Senior Vice President, Communications, Community & Diversity and Executive Director of the Trail Blazers Foundation, Portland Trail Blazers
  • Stuart Ellis, CEO and Founder, Charter School Capital
  • Tyrone Foster, President, Precision Landscape
  • Melissa L. Naito, Community Activist
  • Chris Nelson, Principal, Capstone Partners LLC
  • Tiffani Penson, Minority Evaluator Program and Supplier Diversity Officer, City of Portland, KairosPDX Board Chair
  • Mark Washington, KairosPDX Board Treasurer, Executive Vice President CBRE Capital Markets
KairosPDX Advisory Board Members:

  • Michael Alexander, Past President Urban League of Portland
  • Swati Adakar, Past President and CEO, Children’s Institute
  • Jeffrey Camarillo, Assistant Director, Stanford Teacher Education Program (STEP), Pablo Alto, CA
  • LaTrece Gaither, Counselor/ Instructor, OHSU Avel Gordly Center for Healing
  • Daniel B. Garrie, Esq, Senior Managing Partner & General Counsel, Law & Forensics, LLC
  • Amy Han, Director of School and Systems Leadership Opportunities, Teach for America
  • Margaret Hinshaw, President, Insight Center
  • Megan Irwin, Administrator for Early Childhood Education, Beaverton School District
  • Julie Mancini, Executive Director, College Possible
  • Ben Sand, CEO, The Contingent
  • Daniel Valliere, Chief Executive Director, REACH
  • Fran Von Schlegell, Education Advocate
  • Ken Weigel, Consultant

The KairosPDX Board of Directors generally meets quarterly. The Learning Academy section of the meeting is public. Please contact Carrie at carrieb@kairospdx.org to ensure you have access for the meeting as well as if  you are requesting interpretation services.

Our next meeting is scheduled for Wednesday, January 26, 2022 at 6:30pm.

Agenda:  Learning Academy Updates, Fundraising Event

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