If you have an interest in joining our Board of Trustees please review the Board Roles and Responsibilities 

and then email us here, a member of our Governance Committee will get back to you.


Matthew Duncan, President

Matthew Duncan is a Partner at Ernst & Young LLP and the father of two children, one who is gifted with Dyslexia and attends Athena Academy. Matthew has lived and worked in Australia, Vietnam, Nepal, Eritrea, the United Kingdom and the United States. Matthew’s work experiences include serving as a Project Manager for the Fred Hollows Foundation, an international development organization working towards eliminating avoidable blindness. Matthew is an IRS-­enrolled agent permitted to practice before the IRS. Matthew has a bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering (Hons.) from the University of Technology, Sydney, as well as a post-­graduate diploma in operations management and an MBA from Macquarie University, Sydney.



Carla Rayacich, Founder

Carla Rayacich is an experienced, successful entrepreneur in Silicon Valley, and the mother of two delightfully dyslexic children--twins. She has an MBA from Stanford University. She has worked with children Preschool through Elementary in music education, and mindfulness practices that improve learning. When her own children struggled to learn both in a traditional setting and in a school geared for dyslexics, she went in search of methods that would be more effective for her twins. She brought together a group of experts who integrated the best techniques to create the unique curriculum of Athena Academy. Carla used her skills as an entrepreneur and manager to start up and lead the organization, and to find the best people to teach the children.

Ortal Arel,

Ortal Arel, MBA, Ph.D., Trustee

Dr. Ortal Arel who holds an MBA and a Ph.D. in Electrical and Computer Engineering is passionate about education. She has served as a Senior Lecturer at various universities and held significant roles in the tech-ed space. Alongside her pedagogical, teaching and business pursuits, her extensive research contributed to several esteemed publications, predominantly focusing on areas of cryptography, security, and wireless sensor networks. Currently, Dr. Arel is channeling her expertise into diversity in education, technology and real estate investments.
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Stephen H. Chou, Psy.D, Trustee

Stephen H. Chou, Psy.D. is a supervising clinical psychologist in private practice both California and Colorado. Dr. Chou is a former founder and Director of Training and Research at the Summit Center and a former Director with the Board of Directors with Supporting the Emotional Needs of the Gifted (SENG).
Dr. Chou is also a former adjunct professor with the University of Denver and former adjunct professor at Alliant International University – California School of
Professional Psychology in San Francisco, CA and Hong Kong, supervising clinical psychologist at the Chinatown Child Development Center through the Department of Public Health with the City and County of San Francisco, and Executive Director of the Big Sibling Program.
Dr. Chou practices from a developmental, strengths-based, and multicultural stance through individual and family counseling, as well as through intellectual, neuroeducational, and, neuropsychological assessments, with children, families, and adults, especially with those who are gifted, talented,twice-exceptional (2e), and multiexceptional. Dr. Chou also presents at state, national, and international conferences on a variety of topics in giftedness and twice-exceptionality.
Dr. Chou is delighted to support Athena Academy in its mission to support children with dyslexia promote healthy growth and development, to develop confidence and positive self-esteem/self-concept.
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Elizabeth Douglas, Trustee

Elizabeth Douglas is currently the CEO of wikiHow.com, the world's largest how-to website. Driven by wikiHow's mission to reach everyone on the planet, Elizabeth collaborates with her teams to create innovative solutions for growing and scaling wikiHow. Under Elizabeth's leadership, wikiHow has grown over 1500%, and today is visited by more than 100 million people every month across 230 countries and territories.
Elizabeth holds a Bachelor's degree in Computer Science from Stanford, as well as an MBA from Stanford's Graduate School of Business. Prior to wikiHow, Elizabeth worked as a User Experience Engineer at Apple. While working at Apple, she served as the President of Women at Apple, a group dedicated to supporting women in tech.
Elizabeth currently lives in the Bay Area with her husband and two young daughters.
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James Formato, Trustee

Jamie Formato earned a BS in Physics from the University of Massachusetts at Amherst, and a MS in Biomedical Engineering from Worcester Polytechnic Institute. He has been teaching high school physics, math, engineering and other sciences for over 25 years in independent schools. He spent many summers training undergraduates to become secondary school educators in the physical sciences. Since moving to the Bay Area, he has been at Menlo School in Atherton, where he currently serves as teacher and chair of the Science and Engineering Department. In these roles, Jamie has worked with teachers to make classroom practices more equitable and inclusive, and has built outreach programs with area nonprofits to bring underserved communities into his school’s engineering spaces. Jamie has extensive experience on committees and task forces in schools, including school accreditation as a visiting team member.

Jamie’s son attends Athena and has flourished with the amazing teachers and community. He values how Athena’s mission celebrates the dyslexic mind and gives students opportunities to experience their strengths.

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Bridget Mercay, Trustee

Bridget Mercay is a lifelong learner who thinks differently about education as an Independent Education Professional. For the past 11 years, she has taught her own children history, english, and math. Never one to do it alone, she worked to build teams of families to learn together, hiring teachers and organizing spaces for groups of elementary and middle school kids. Along the way, she was immersed in the world of 2E and dyslexic learning styles. Prior to this latest adventure, she worked in sales roles ranging from credit reports at Trans Union to networking software as a partner with Hewlett Packard. More recently, she served as a market manager for 10 years in the media identification space for Audible Magic. She holds a BA in Journalism from The University of St. Thomas in St. Paul, MN.

She, her husband and their two beautiful teenagers led her into the world of dyslexia. Along the way she learned to speak French pretty fluently, has a sweet Bordoodle at home, plays tennis, and is always excited for ski season to arrive.

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Jim Pickett, Trustee

Jim has been an educator for over 20 years at the secondary and college level--most recently as Head of School at Flintridge Prep in La Canada Flintridge. Currently, Jim is a performance and transition coach for professionals in non-profits, entertainment, education, and tech.

Before Prep, Jim was Head of Upper School at Castilleja and Director of High School at Ross School in East Hampton, NY. He spent 13 years at Cranbrook Schools in Bloomfield Hills, MI, as a teaching administrator, Dean of Faculty, and coordinator of Special Projects with the Director of Schools. Jim received his BA in International Relations and Geography in 1988 and his Masters in Geography in 1990, both from Towson University. He continued his Ph.D. work at Syracuse University in Political Geography and Political Economy, later pursuing advanced studies in Geographic Information Systems. Jim has taught at all college levels, community college through graduate, as a visiting assistant professor and assistant professor. He has developed new programs in Mandarin Chinese and integrated studies, led the school-wide strategic planning process at Cranbrook, taught a popular Human Geography elective, and has advanced policies in gender inclusiveness, redesigning the high school experience and social-emotional health and wellness at Castilleja. He’s deeply interested in how people learn and is honored to return to the Athena Board.

Jim’s wife, Susie, is a reading and math specialist working with individual clients throughout California. His daughter Anna is a Castilleja Alumna and a graduate of Mount Holyoke College. The whole family enjoys the great outdoors year-round, biking, walking, and hiking. Self-proclaimed vegan foodies, the Picketts frequent farmers' markets and enjoy all things “food”: growing, cooking, and eating.


Rexford Nickerson, Trustee

Rex's experience includes executive leadership and consulting positions in healthcare companies, community-based organizations, private schools, and support agencies, among others. He is a coaching generalist and leadership consultant with broad knowledge and over 25 years of experience in prevention, intervention, treatment, and advocacy programs serving children, youth, and families. This is a deep and diverse well that leaves him uniquely positioned to contribute to a wide range of issues, needs, and target sets. Rex is a native Californian living on the San Francisco Peninsula.
Doug Sheehy

Doug Sheehy, Trustee

Doug Sheehy is a biotech executive and the father of three teen-age boys, one of whom graduated from Athena Academy in 2021. Doug has spent twenty years in the biotechnology field, currently as Chief Legal Officer at Sonoma Biotherapeutics, he has also held roles as General Counsel and Secretary of Aimmune Therapeutics and Codexis, two Bay Area biotechnology companies. Previously he was in private practice as a corporate lawyer in Silicon Valley. During his career, Doug has helped support the development of new drugs for the treatment of food allergies, and cardiovascular and rare diseases. Doug holds a B.A. in history from Dartmouth College and a J.D. from American University, where he was Editor-in-Chief of the American University Law Review. 

Athena created a welcoming and supportive learning environment for Doug’s son, who thrived at Athena. Doug is excited to help Athena grow and continue to provide an exceptional educational experience for twice-gifted students.


Michelle Bizeau, Trustee

Michelle Bizeau is an educational and wellness advocate whose life's work has been ensuring individuals have access to quality academic and support service programs that empower them to educationally thrive and experience lifelong success. With over sixteen years of experience in initiating, managing, and championing diverse educational programs as a counselor, learning specialist, and school administrator in a variety of public and private K-12 and university settings, she knows how important it is for dyselxic students to find an educational setting that can help tap into their true potential.

Michelle is passionate about supporting Athena Academy in their mission of stretching the boundaries of dyslexia education.

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