Our Mission

Our mission is to invest in people, programs, and partnerships that will improve public education systems by putting the interests of children first. Our vision is that each and every child will break down the walls of inequity through the creation of high-quality public education systems.


Barbara Martinez Executive Director

Barbara was born in Newark, grew up in the North Ward, and attended Elliott Street School, Ridge Street School, and Our Lady of Good Counsel High School.

Barbara joined NJCF from Uncommon Schools, where for the past eleven years she was its media chief and worked on developing the organization’s advocacy capabilities. Uncommon runs North Star Academy Charter School, the largest charter network in New Jersey, serving over 6,300 K-12 students across 14 Newark campuses. She also serves on the board of directors of the New Jersey Public Charter Schools Association.

Prior to Uncommon, Barbara was an award-winning investigative reporter at the The Wall Street Journal, where her beats included commercial real estate, healthcare and public education. She is a co-founder and former president of the board of the Hoboken Dual Language Charter School, a Spanish immersion K-8 school that her children attended.

Barbara is also the founder of the Dow Jones News Fund’s Business Reporting Program and served on the board of the DJNF, a non-profit organization that promotes careers in journalism among college students, particularly students of color in order to diversify newsrooms. Through DJNF, Barbara helped start student newspapers at her old high school as well as at St. Benedict’s Academy, and would often arrange for her WSJ colleagues to routinely come to Newark to work with the young student journalists.

Barbara is the mother of three daughters and graduated from New York University.

Kennisha Miles Deputy Director

Kennisha’s entrance into the education sector was via a competitive fellowship through Education Pioneers, in which she brought her diverse project and relationship management skills to the City of Newark to advocate for change. At the Newark Charter School Fund, she led policy and programmatic initiatives that required strong collaboration within the public and private sector.

She has also served as liaison for key partners in the City of Newark’s Education Office, Newark S.T.E.A.M. Coalition and Newark Public Schools. Prior to that, she worked in the private sector, where her work included managing projects to improve Customer-facing products and services in the financial industry.

A graduate of Temple University, Kennisha also dedicates time to serving her community by working with organizations such as Butterfly Dreamz, the Nigerian Healthcare Foundation, New York Cares, and the Central Brooklyn Food Coop. She’s currently a Leadership Newark Fellow C/O 2022.

Galen JohnsonDirector of External Relations

Galen comes from a family of passionate educators, school leaders, and coaches. His professional experience has always centered around promoting the success of children, including working in foster care, coaching high school and college cross country and track & field, and teaching middle and high school physical education in the East Orange School District.

Most recently, Galen was the Director of Youth Leadership Development at The North Ward Center, where he led numerous programs and activities for youth including a Little League Baseball program, and the largest youth basketball league in Newark.

A graduate of The College of New Jersey and St. Mary’s College of California, Galen is a proud supporter of all Philadelphia sports teams and jogging in the occasional 5K. He resides in Newark with his partner Mikaela and their daughter Gia.

Colleen Schulz-EskowSenior Director of Public Policy

Colleen comes to NJCF after 20 years of service at the New Jersey Department of Education, holding a multitude of roles during her tenure, including Deputy Chief of Staff where she was responsible for managing the Department’s legislative affairs and policy development division.

Most recently she led the Department’s COVID-related response efforts. Colleen is proud of her work at the Department and hopes to leverage her experience to directly enhance opportunities for New Jersey’s students and families.

Colleen received her Bachelors Degree in Political Science from Rutgers University, as well as, her Master’s degree from Rutgers University, Edward J. Bloustein School of Public Policy. She is also a proud alumni of the Eagleton Institute of Politics.

Colleen enjoys spending time with her family and is active in many local charitable organizations in her hometown of Hamilton Township.