Downtown Brooklyn

Historic Brooklyn Kindergarten Society names Ashley Williams as executive director

Founded 1891, BKS serves 7 pre-K centers in central Brooklyn

June 10, 2024 Special from Brooklyn Kindergarten Society
Ashley Williams, new executive director of BKS. Photos courtesy of Brooklyn Kindergarten Society
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DOWNTOWN BROOKLYN — Brooklyn Kindergarten Society (BKS), a leading non-profit in early childhood education, has announced Ashley Williams as its new executive director. After a comprehensive search over the last several months, the BKS Board of Directors named Williams as the new executive director to lead the organization as they continue to expand their work around inclusive learning. Williams will take on her role starting June 12.

“Williams is a tireless advocate for our students and their families and will continue to build on the outstanding work that the BKS team of leaders and teachers has accomplished over the last several years,” said incoming BKS Board Chair Anthony Cattarina. “BKS weathered the pandemic, worked to help students adapt to learning loss, and provided support for students with developmental delays and learning differences while simultaneously delivering new and improved resources to our students. As incoming Board Chair, I am excited to have the opportunity to partner with Ashley in our new roles. I have no doubt that under her leadership, BKS will reach new levels of excellence in helping our students achieve an equal first step in their education.”

Anthony Cattarina, incoming Board Chair.
Anthony Cattarina, incoming Board Chair.

Cattarina is a native Brooklynite, spending his early years in the Marine Park area of Brooklyn. His family later moved to Atlanta, where he graduated from the Marist School and went on to attend Georgetown University in Washington, D.C., studying economics. Upon graduation, he returned to New York and co-founded Turntable Lab Inc., an online retailer of musical media and equipment, where he is still co-CEO today. He and his family have made Brooklyn their home for 15 years.

For 133 years, The Brooklyn Kindergarten Society has been the original “born in Brooklyn” organization and has provided high-quality early childhood education to working families. BKS has grown up with the borough and is a leader in equal access to high-quality early childhood education. BKS sees its mission as providing an equal first educational step to some of our borough’s youngest learners.

Brooklyn Heights and other brownstone communities have led fundraising efforts to help BKS in its mission. At one period in mid-20th century Brooklyn, the key fundraiser for BKS was a fancy “coming out” ball for Brooklyn debutantes called the Yuletide Ball. Since the 1920s, the largest fundraiser for BKS has been the Yuletide Ball. Funds raised at the ball are critical to providing resources to BKS’ Music & Movement Program, which brings tennis, violin, and dance lessons into our seven centers. Yuletide also funds our state-of-the-art Sensory Gym, which provides occupational therapy for all BKS students with learning differences and developmental delays. Together, these programs inspire, challenge, and cultivate our students’ cognitive, emotional, and social development as they expand their fine and gross motor skills. Since 1920, generations of Brooklynites have looked forward to the Yuletide Ball, an annual gathering to support Brooklyn kids and celebrate the holidays.

The appointment of Williams as executive director focuses on her many years of teaching and leadership across K-12 charter, independent, and early childhood settings. From 2020-2023, she served as Brooklyn Kindergarten Society’s Deputy Director of Family and Community Engagement, where she managed the Family Services team across all seven centers, oversaw student enrollment processes, and worked closely with all enrichment and health consultants to best support BKS’ children and families.

“Growing up in the inner city of Atlanta, I became keenly aware in high school of the educational and economic disparities impacting many black and brown communities, like my own,” added Williams.

Williams brings with her a Doctorate of Education, with a focus on Leadership and Learning in Organizations, from Peabody College at Vanderbilt University. Williams is a passionate educator and leader who was most recently a Senior Director at CCS, a global strategic fundraising consulting firm. Williams will manage BKS’ $9.5 million annual budget, its seven educational centers, sensory gym, and teaching staff that serve hundreds of two to five-year-olds in three community districts in Central Brooklyn.

BKS opened the first-of-its-kind “Sensory Gym” in NYCHA housing in May 2023 to provide occupational therapy to students with learning differences, developmental delays and those on the autism spectrum. For more information on BKS, click here

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