YES Prep Public Schools
Samantha Ramirez

We are excited to introduce you to the new principals for the following schools.

Elementary school principals

Matthew McMahan – YES Prep Southeast Elementary

Matthew McMahan is honored to continue leading at one of the founding elementary campuses for YES Prep after serving as the resident principal for the 2022-2023 school year at Southeast Elementary.

Matt and his family moved to Houston in 2017 and before that, they lived in New York City for eight years. He received his Bachelor of Music from Oklahoma City University in musical theater and during his time in New York worked for Disney, toured North America and performed on Broadway.

In 2015 he joined the New York City Teach for America Corps and worked at Grant Avenue Elementary School in the Bronx. During his time in the classroom, Matt taught first, second and third grade and was trained at the RICE Glascock Institute for Early Education in Storytelling. He received his Master of Science degree in Special Education from Brooklyn College and was part of the Rice University Urban Leaders cohort in partnership with Good Reason Houston. 

Prior to joining the YES Prep resident principal program, he served the YES Prep Brays Oaks community as the literacy specialist and director of campus operations.

Matt is the son of a retired school nurse and is grateful to continue doing what his mom has always called, “worthy work.”

Diana Rios – Elementary executive principal

Diana Rios is entering her 22nd year in education, 15th year in elementary and fourth year with YES Prep. She is a proud native of Medellin, Colombia. Rios earned a bachelor’s degree in education, with a major in Special Education from the University of Antioquia in Colombia and a master's in educational administration from Texas A&M University through the PALS program. She worked as an educator in Colombia and Guatemala before immigrating to the United States. 

In 2005, she relocated to Houston to open a new ESL school and in 2008, she served as a special education teacher at De Chaumes Elementary in HISD. Rios served this community for 11 years in different capacities, including Special Education, general and bilingual classroom teacher, grade level chair, teacher specialist and administrator. In 2019 she began her journey at YES Prep as the founding principal of YES Prep Southeast Elementary. In the four years she has led Southeast Elementary, the campus led the district in high academic achievement and strong family engagement. In 2021, Rios was selected to be part of the Principal Pathway as a Lead Principal.

In addition to working as an educator and school leader in public schools, she enjoys presenting at math conferences. Diana resides in Midtown with her husband Francisco, their chihuahua Dingo and their 12-year-old daughter Sofia, who inspires her daily work as an educator. 

Secondary school principals

Kaitlan Peterson - YES Prep East End Secondary

Kaitlan was born and raised in southeast Houston where she was profoundly inspired by her grandparents, two life-long educators with a deep belief that all students deserve access to an excellent education.  While studying abroad in college, Kaitlan taught English in an under-served community in Madrid, Spain. This sparked her interest in the power of education in international development, and ultimately, in education reform in the United States.  In 2010, Kaitlan began teaching at Marshall Middle School in Houston Independent School District where she taught eighth grade science and served as the science department chair. As a teacher, Kaitlan was struck by the need for more support for first year teachers and transitioned to YES Prep as an instructional coach with Teaching Excellence.  Since then, Kaitlan has served as a dean of instruction, yoga elective teacher, director of academics, resident principal at YES Prep West Secondary and most recently, as resident principal at YES Prep White Oak Secondary. 

When she’s not working Kaitlan enjoys running, practicing yoga, exploring national parks with her family and reading board books with her newborn daughter, Melanie, during tummy time.

Kenya Pinkard – YES Prep Fifth Ward Secondary

Kenya Pinkard has worked alongside Executive Principal Antonio Castillo this past school year as a resident principal and was previously a campus leader at Fifth Ward. As a strong member of the community and based on her scope of work this year as a resident, Kenya will carry the Titan torch well and will continue to impact the culture of achievement. Pinkard is a first-generation college graduate and proud daughter of an immigrant and entrepreneur Korean woman and of an ex-military, Black man from Dallas.

She is committed to advocating for educational equity due to her personal challenges and opportunities that came by way of mentorship, community and access to knowledge. Her multicultural travel and background fueled her passion to serve diverse and marginalized communities by way of education that began in 2005 teaching for HISD.

Currently, Kenya is in her 17th year of service and has a range of experience that includes being an ELA teacher for multiple grade levels, interventionist, literacy specialist, LPAC coordinator, RIT committee chair, operations manager, dean of instruction, assistant principal, and most recently resident principal at YES Prep Fifth Ward Secondary.

As a lifelong learner herself, Kenya has a Bachelor of Business Administration with a marketing focus from the University of Texas at Arlington, a Master of Science in both Educational Management and Reading Specialist from the University of Houston, Clear-Lake campus and is currently a doctoral candidate in Ethical Leadership at the University of St. Thomas. 

Lilian Macias – YES Prep North Central Secondary

Lilian Macias is excited to continue to carry on her legacy and impact the students, families and staff at YES Prep North Central Secondary. Lilian Macias is a Houston “native”, who immigrated from Guatemala at the age of four. As the daughter of immigrants, she has always been taught to value her education.

She attended the University of Texas at Austin, graduating with a Bachelor of Journalism and a Bachelor of Arts in Spanish. Lilian has also received a Master of Arts in Teaching from Relay Graduate School of Education.

As a first-generation high school and college graduate, she is passionate about providing opportunities for students who come from the same underserved communities and believes that it takes a village to raise a child.

Lilian started her career with YES Prep North Central Secondary in 2007, as a YES Corp member. After receiving her bachelor’s, she moved to YES Prep Brays Oaks where she taught middle school ELA, served as the grade level chair and middle school dean of students. She transitioned to the director of student support role at YES Prep North Central and was director at YES Prep Thrive.

Macias has also served as the school director for Credit Recovery and has been a co-lead for the Latinx Leadership Summits.  Most recently, she served as the resident principal at YES Prep North Central Secondary.

She currently resides in the Tomball area with her husband Luis and their four kids: seven-year-old LJ, six-year-old Lilah, two-year-old Leon, nine-month-old Luke and their dog Max. 

Nicci Cole – YES Prep Northside Secondary

Nicci Cole is one of four children born and raised in Lansing, Michigan. She received her Bachelor of Arts in Psychology in 2011 from the University of Michigan. After graduation, Nicci relocated to Houston as a Teach For America corps member where she quickly fell in love with teaching. Cole taught middle school science at Sharpstown International School in HISD for five years. During her time at Sharpstown International, she realized that her passion for education extended beyond the classroom and decided to earn a Master of Business Administration at Rice University as part of the Rice Education Entrepreneurship Program. Nicci also earned her Principal’s Certification at that time in hopes of one day becoming a principal and leading a school.

Nicci continued her work in education at KIPP Academy West and became the year two founding Assistant Principal. As a founding assistant principal, Cole had an opportunity to help build the academic and cultural systems of the campus. After three years with KIPP, Nicci joined the YES Prep Team as director of academics at YES Prep North Forest Secondary and then continued in that same role at YES Prep Northside Secondary where she has remained for the last two years.  Nicci is thrilled with the opportunity to further her impact on the Northside community in her role as principal this year. Outside of work, Nicci enjoys running, cooking, spending time with her dog Nala and traveling whenever possible.

To view the full list of our school principals, click here.

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