Board of Directors 2023-2024
James Nieves Bermúdez grew up in the town of Hatillo, Puerto Rico. He decided to become a teacher when he was in high school. After graduating high school in 1996, James attended the University of Puerto Rico, School of Education, and majored in Spanish. During his junior year in college, he had the opportunity to be part of the Cordova Internship. He worked at the office of the Resident Commissioner of Puerto Rico in Washington DC, where he covered congressional hearings related to education. After completing his internship, he returned to Puerto Rico to finish college where he received the medal of excellence in student teaching.
James graduated from the University of Puerto Rico in May of 2002. While in Puerto Rico, James had the opportunity to interview with the Syracuse City School District and obtained a teaching job at the George W. Fowler High School. He taught all levels of Spanish, including Spanish for Spanish Speakers and Distant Learning Spanish. In May 2009, James completed his Master’s Degree at Syracuse University in the Spanish Language, Literature and Culture program. He has held many leadership roles such as department chair, building union representative, secretary of the Syracuse Teacher’s Association and Coordinator of the Twilight Academy. James also had the opportunity to be part of the Teacher Advisory Council to the Commissioner of Education of New York State. In October of 2013, James received the Educator of the Year Award from the Nosotros Radio, in Syracuse, NY.
James completed his Certificate of Advance Studies at the State University of New York at Oswego in Education Leadership. In September of 2014, James had the opportunity to become Vice Principal of the Westside Academy at Blodgett. James is part of the recruitment team for the Syracuse City School District and the ELL Core Leadership Team. In July 2018, James became the Principal of Seymour Dual Language Academy where he currently works. He has been part of the Syracuse Westside community for the past 17 years.
Dr. Eliezer Hernández
Eliezer Hernández was born in Guaynabo, Puerto Rico, and raised in a bilingual, multicultural household in the South Bronx to a Dominican immigrant. After graduating from high school, he attended SUNY Oswego, earning a Bachelor of Arts in Music and a Master’s in Education. He served as President of Nuestra Esperanza, the Latino Student Union, and a co-founder of Phi Iota Alpha Latino-American Fraternity, Inc. chapter at SUNY Oswego. Dr. Hernández earned his doctorate in Executive Leadership from St. John Fisher University in May 2020. His dissertation focused on the identification and the Influence of Urban School Leaders’ Personal Beliefs, Attitudes, and Behaviors on Leading Urban Social Justice Schools.
Dr. Hernández worked as a Spanish teacher in the Auburn Enlarged City School District for ten years. While in Auburn, he became the Spanish Club advisor and founded the José de San Martin chapter of La Sociedad Honoraria Hispánica. In 2010, Dr. Hernández joined the Syracuse City School District as an administrative intern and later became a vice principal at the Westside Academy at Blodgett. In 2014, he became the principal of Delaware Primary School, where he began building a PreK-5 bilingual school in Syracuse. He now serves as the Coordinator of Data Management for the Syracuse City School District.
In the community, Dr. Hernández serves as the President of the Auburn/Cayuga County Branch of the NAACP, a board of directors of the National Math Foundation, a board of directors of AADUNA, Inc., and secretary of the Minority Professionals Association. He is serving his fourth term on the Auburn Enlarged City School District Board of Education. Dr. Hernández is the secretary and Spanish Language Delegate of NYSABE.
Lyda Ragonese is the Assistant Director for the Office of English as a New Language, World Languages and Bilingual Education in the Syracuse City School District. She is a Hmong-American from Laos and is a fluent speaker of Hmong. She began her teaching career in 1993 as an English as a Second language teacher at Franklin Elementary before moving to Frazer K-8 School in Syracuse. She has her TESOL certification from Le Moyne College and M.A. in Reading Education from Syracuse University. After leaving the classroom, her experiences varied in the fields of student learning objectives (SLO), APPR, and was elected as the treasurer of the teacher’s union in Syracuse. She has served as an adjunct professor at Le Moyne College and earned her Certificate of Advanced Studies (C.A.S.) from Syracuse University in Educational Leadership.
Dr. Jordan González
Dr. Jordan González started his career teaching English as a Foreign Language in Madrid, Spain. He followed his passion for bilingual education and became an ENL and Spanish for Heritage Speakers Teacher for five years, in the New York City Department of Education.
Dr. González then served as the Director of Language Acquisition for Yonkers Public Schools, where he led K-12 programs in Bilingual Education (Dual Language and Transitional Bilingual Education), English as a New Language, and World Languages, across forty schools. During those four years, he provided leadership and professional learning to principals, teachers and families on ELL-English Language Learner state regulations (CR-Part 154), ELL programs, and instruction for language development. Dr. González started and cultivated the NYS Seal of Biliteracy program in Yonkers, in 2017, where seniors graduate with formal recognition of their proficiency and academic achievement in English and a World Language.
Currently, Dr. Jordan González serves as the administrative coordinator and lead resource specialist for the Long Island Regional Bilingual Resource Network (L.I.RBERN), where he provides technical assistance, professional development, and support to school districts in Nassau and Suffolk counties as it relates to ELLs. He participates in NYSED taskforce committees for the Office of Bilingual Education and World Languages (OBEWL) including the NYS Seal of Biliteracy Taskforce and is currently the Chair for the ELL Graduation Rate Taskforce.
Lastly, Dr. González is a TESOL and Bilingual Education faculty member at St. John’s University, where he prepares the next generation of K-12 teachers for certification and ELL instruction. His research interests include feedback in second language writing development, language and literacy instruction within culturally and linguistically diverse classrooms, and ELL educational policies.
Priscilla Zarate has dedicated her life to ensuring that English language learners (ELLs)/bilingual students and their families are provided the supports (i.e., academic, linguistic, and social emotional) necessary to achieve in school and beyond. She started her career in 1999 in Queens as a bilingual teacher and later coordinator of the program. From 2008 to 2015, she served as the assistant bilingual coordinator for the second largest school district in New York State: Brentwood School District.
Later, she was invited by the deputy chancellor for the New York City DOE’s Division of English Language Learners to become the executive director for the entire citywide division, where she oversaw the provision of ELL services and bilingual programs for 150,000 English language learners in 1,600 schools throughout the five boroughs. Part of her responsibilities included building the capacity of superintendents, school leaders, and teachers in all subject areas. She also led citywide initiatives to create and expand dozens of bilingual programs. Zarate worked closely with the New York City chancellor and deputy chancellors to create policies that ensured equity, excellence, and accessible supports and resources for the academic success of ELLs. Much of these resources are still in use to this day.
Currently, she serves as the director of ENL Pre-K to 12 in the Port Washington School District. Zarate also serves in a number of other roles within various organizations, such as a trustee on the Suffolk County Community College Board of Trustees, the chairperson of the Suffolk County Hispanic Advisory Board, board member of 100 Hispanic Women of L.I., Long Island Latino Teachers Association (LILTA), and Latina Moms Connect, Inc.
In 2013, she was recognized by the Town of Babylon and Supervisor Rich Schaffer as a “Hispanic Leader Serving and Guiding Our Nation with Pride and Honor.” That same year, State Senator Phil Boyle honored her as a Hispanic Leader in the Brentwood community. More recently, Zarate was selected as “Administration of the Year—2022” by the New York State Teachers of English to Speakers of Other Languages (NYTESOL).
Ms. Zarate believes that “every child deserves high quality educational programs that value, respect and represent the cultural diversity and languages that students bring into their school communities.”