Executive Leadership

Kaye Savage
Founder and CEO

Kaye Savage began her career as a certified special education teacher working with low-income students in Prince George’s County, Maryland. Her passion to make a difference led to policy research work at the Urban Institute and later into the public service arena concentrating on local and federal government programs targeting urban economically distressed communities. Kaye worked in the White House on the Historical Black College and Universities (HBCUs) Initiative. Most recently, she served the Program Manager for the District of Columbia Family Education Network, a special parent training initiative of Fight for Children.  She has also worked as the National Director for the 21st Century School Fund and as special Project Manager on a staff augmentation contract in the Office of Facilities Management of the District of Columbia Public Schools. Kaye began her college education at Mary Washington College of the University of Virginia and completed her undergraduate work with high honors at Howard University where she also earned a Master’s of Science degree with distinction with a concentration in developmental psychology. Kaye was an Intergovernmental Fellow during her tenure at the Department of Housing and Urban Development and earned her MPA from the University of Southern California. Kaye is a Building Excellent Schools Fellow and member of the Board of Trustees for the National Coalition of Girls Schools and National Network of Schools in Partnership.

Kaye was awarded her BA and MS in Psychology from Howard University and her Master in Public Administration from the University of Southern California.

Lela Johnson
Chief of School Culture and Student Life

Lela is a founding team member of Excel Academy.  In addition to Executive Principal, she has served on the academic leadership team as Dean of Students and Special Education Coordinator.  Lela can be credited with developing the School’s character education program and providing support for students receiving special education services.  Lela has devoted her career to supporting children with special academic, emotional, and social needs.  She has worked at Community Services for Autistic Adults and Children in Rockville and as a Special Education Specialist in Prince George’s County and D.C.

Lela graduated from the University of Maryland, Baltimore County with a BA in Psychology and received a Master’s Degree in Special Education and Human Development from George Washington University.

Nikki Ayanna Stewart
Chief Academic Officer

Nikki joined Excel as a founding teacher in 2008.  No stranger to academic achievement, she graduated Summa Cum Laude, is a fifth generation teacher, and has received numerous graduate fellowships and awards for her research and writing on African American girls and education.  She is widely recognized for her work in the field of Women’s Studies and inaugurated a Women’s Studies column in Ms. Magazine.  Nikki is a long-time girls’ rights activist, having served as the DC Community Coordinator for Girls Incorporated, a consultant to DC Campaign to Prevent Teen Pregnancy, and as Community Education Director at DC Rape Crisis Center.

Nikki was awarded a BA in Women’s Studies from Spelman College and received fellowship awards from Northwestern University, University of Maryland, and University of Georgia.

Valencia Warnock
Chief Operating Officer

Valencia joined Excel in 2011.  Prior to Excel, she served as Executive Director for the Boys and Girls Club and the National Centers for Addictions and Substance Abuse.  Additionally, she held leadership positions at the Carmelo Anthony Youth Development Center and CARE After-school programs at the Living Classrooms Foundations in Baltimore, MD.  Valencia is devoted to empowering young people with the tools necessary to become successful, healthy, and productive citizens.

Valencia graduated with a BA from Savannah State University.

Lisa Williams
Chief Advancement Officer

Lisa joined Excel in July 2013.  She is an educator with Independent School experience, most recently as Upper School Dean of Student Affairs and All-School Community Service Coordinator at Flint Hill School in Oakton, VA.  Responsible for the student-life experience of over 500 students, Lisa was instrumental in developing student leadership, co-curricular programming, community partnerships, and she co-chaired the inaugural TedxYouth@FHS in 2012.  Lisa is an advocate of school choice and single-sex education.  She taught for 7 years in the Middle School at Stone Ridge School of the Sacred Heart in Bethesda, MD, where her daughters attended.

Lisa was awarded her AB from Dartmouth College and M.A.T in Secondary Education from Boston College.  She is currently a student at the University of Virginia in the M. Ed Social Foundations of Education program.

Philip Mitchell                                                                                                                                                                                                                             Chief of Staff

Philip joined Excel in 2011 and feels privileged to work across all aspects of the school community.  He has traveled extensively as a professional photographer documenting progress on various social relief programs. Wanting to look beyond the camera, Philip began managing those programs amidst some of the world’s most challenging and diverse communities. This work has taken him around the globe, and he has dedicated his career to ensuring equal educational access for all.

Philip graduated with a Bachelor’s Degree from Georgetown University. He still practices his photography, and his images can be seen throughout the school.