School Leadership

Stephen Dare, Head of School

Stephen is the Head of School at Hong Kong Academy. He earned his undergraduate degree in Education from Nottingham Trent University in the United Kingdom and his Masters in International Education and Administration from Oxford Brookes University. After starting his career as a pre-school teacher in Southeast England, Stephen worked as an administrator in international schools in North and South America as well as in Southeast Asia. He has been a co-trainer for the Principals’ Training Center Summer Institutes for Curriculum and Leadership and for Leadership and Team Dynamics and is currently in the process of becoming a Cognitive Coaching trainer. Stephen has presented on aspects of coaching and the role of coaching in building institutional trust at schools and conferences in Hong Kong and the Asia-Pacific region. This year, he will be starting his doctoral studies on how schools can build cultures of trust through professional development and what role student voice has in this process. He is the Treasurer of the Association of China and Mongolia International Schools (ACAMIS) Board and sits on the East Asia Regional Council of Overseas Schools (EARCOS) Board and the Next Frontier Inclusion and Common Ground Collaborative Advisory Boards.
Teresa Tung, Secondary School Principal

Teresa is the Secondary School Principal at Hong Kong Academy.  She holds a Bachelor of Arts in Psychology, a Masters of Teaching from the University of Virginia and a Certificate of International School Leadership from the Principals’ Training Center.  As a member of the IB Educator Network Teresa contributes regularly to IB curriculum development, she also serves as a workshop leader and school visit team member. Exemplifying her belief in contributing positively to the world, Teresa is a part of the Compass Education network, developing programmes for school teachers, leaders and youth for a sustainable future. She is also a course leader for Sky School, a global high school that provides access to high school education for refugee learners.
Virginia Hunt, Primary School Principal

Virginia Is the Primary School Principal. She holds a Master’s Degree in Early Childhood and Elementary Education and an Advanced Master’s in Educational Leadership for Change both degrees were earned from Bank Street College, New York. Virginia holds New York State Certification in Early Childhood and Elementary Education as well as Administrative Certification for Pre-Kindergarten - Grade 12. Virginia is an International Baccalaureate (IB) World Leader trainer and regularly presents regionally and Internationally with a focus on leadership and the Primary Years Programme. She is also a Next Frontier Inclusion Reviewer and has supported schools on their journey to inclusion regionally. Virginia has taught grade levels Pre-Kindergarten - Grade 5. She began her international career by opening an international school in Frankfurt, Germany. Prior to joining Hong Kong academy in 2007, Virginia worked at the American school of Dubai in a range of teaching and administrative roles. She lives in Sai Kung with her husband, son and daughter, both of her children have come through Hong Kong Academy as students.
Kristel Solomon-Saleem, Learner Support Director

Kristel is the Director of Learner Support at Hong Kong Academy. She is a graduate of Temple University in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania USA , with a Bachelors of Science in Elementary and Special Education. She became certified in both areas prior to receiving her Masters Degree in Educational Psychology. Kristel began her career overseas with starting a Learner Support programme in Abuja, Nigeria in 2007.  Prior to working with international schools, she taught and mentored students within the high incidence and “at risk” population in, Pennsylvania and Baltimore, Maryland.  Kristel’s passion for teaching and learning have lead her to working closely with the Next Frontier Inclusion Conversation as a workshop leader and Design Team Support member. She has had the opportunity to lead workshops for The Special Education Needs In Asia Conference (SENIA), Eastern Asia Regional Council of Schools (EARCOS) and contribute to the IB Guidelines for Inclusive Education. In addition to working with other international school’s Learner Support programmes, Kristel continues to do work with the American Chambers of Commerce Education Affairs Group, in effort to support international schools in Hong Kong to become more inclusive.
Cheryl Palamarek, Admissions and Enrolment Director

Cheryl is originally from Canada and graduated from University of Alberta with a major in Elementary Education and a minor in Special Education. She has held multiple roles in international education over the last two decades including Assistant Director of Learner Support, Director of Admissions, Primary School Assistant Principal and Early Childhood Educator. Cheryl has lived and worked in many countries including New Zealand, Canada, Germany, Japan, United Arab Emirates and Bahrain. Cheryl joined Hong Kong Academy in August of 2014 where she is currently the Director of Admissions and Enrolment.
Andy Birch, Technology Director

Andy is the Director of Technology at Hong Kong Academy. Andy joined HKA in 2009 as a grade 5 teacher, having previously worked in London, Bangladesh and Beijing as a primary teacher and ICT co-ordinator. Since joining HKA, Andy has been the primary ICT co-ordinator, become an IB PYP workshop leader, helped develop the ICT in the PYP framework with the IB, received a Master’s in Educational Technology and become Director of Technology.
Andy juggles the responsibilities of supporting all technology at HKA, with being the father of two young children, one who is in the early years at HKA, as well as spending many hours exploring the hills and trails around Sai Kung.
Dale Willetts, Chief Financial Officer

Dale Willetts is HKA's Chief Financial Officer. Joining HKA in 2009, his first five years of contributions at the school included the planning, financing, construction and transition to HKA's purpose built campus in Sai Kung. Since the move to the new campus in 2013 Dale's focus has been on adopting best practices in independent school operations, financial procedures and systems to support HKA's mission and strategic priorities.
A native of Canada, Dale has lived in Hong Kong for the past 26 years. Prior to joining HKA, Dale was a successful entrepreneur with investments in the food and beverage industry in Hong Kong and early childhood education in Shenzhen, China. His experience also includes 5 years of serving on the Board of another leading, private, independent school in Hong Kong where he made meaningful contributions in areas of school finances and governance. Dale and his wife Alyssa have one child currently attending university in Canada.
Jennifer Swinehart, Research, Development and Communications Director

Jennifer Swinehart is the Director of Research and Development at Hong Kong Academy. She joined HKA in 2010 as an MYP/DP English language and literature teacher and was also the school's IB MYP Co-ordinator for five years. Prior to moving to Hong Kong, Jennifer worked as a middle school English teacher and Literacy Coach in Denver, Colorado in the United States and was also the middle school English Programme Leader at International School Manila in the Philippines. Jennifer facilitates courses on Personalising Learning and Creating Inclusive Communities for the Teachers Training Center Summer Institutes and runs workshops on leadership and change, differentiation and concept-based curriculum at international schools and conferences. She is an IB MYP workshop leader, school visitor, curriculum reviewer and consultant and is in the process of becoming an Adaptive Schools trainer. Jennifer has a Bachelor's degree in Latin and Classical Studies, a Masters degree in Multidisciplinary Sciences and is currently completing her doctoral dissertation about student perceptions of the ways cognitive, metacognitive and affective skills are taught in grades 6-10.
Board of Trustees:
Roles and Responsibilities
The Board is the guardian of Hong Kong Academy’s Mission. It is the Board’s responsibility to ensure that the Mission is relevant and vital to the community it serves and to monitor the success of Hong Kong Academy in fulfilling its Mission.
The Board of Trustees has four standing committees: Advancement, Finance, Financial Aid and Trustees. The Financial Aid Committee operates as a subcommittee of the Trustees Committee. The committees include Board and non-Board members.
If you are interested in joining a Board of Trustees Committee, contact the Board Secretary at
Individual board member bios are below (in alphabetical order):
Tom Baxter
Tom grew up in the Boston area and attended The Roxbury Latin School and Harvard University. Tom works for Wellington Management Company, where he has served in various leadership roles since 2000, including Investment Research and Portfolio Management, Client Relationship Management, Special Projects, and where he currently serves as the Business Manager for the company’s operations across the Asia Pacific region. Tom has been a member of the HKA Finance Committee since 2013 and regularly coaches basketball for the school’s Weekend Sports programme. Tom and Jill have three boys who have each attended HKA since January 2012. The Baxters live in Mid-levels, which is a quick (and mostly downhill!) 40-minute morning commute by school bus to Sai Kung.
John Coffeng
John was born and raised in Canada and graduated from Queen’s University with a BSc in Mechanical Engineering. He and his wife Jeannette moved to Hong Kong in 1995. John worked for UBS for 14 years, most recently as a Managing Director heading the Asian equity derivatives trading team. He is currently on leave from the industry. The family first joined the HKA community in 2005 and have been active members ever since. John helped lead the Building for the Future Campaign to raise funds for the new Sai Kung campus and currently sits on the Finance Committee. John has three children, his two daughters are currently at HKA.
Kate Grant
Kate was born in London and grew up in Sydney. She holds a Bachelor's Degree in Arts from the Univesity of New South Wales, Sydney and a Master's Degree in Business from University of Technology, Sydney. Kate is currently Managing Director, Head of Human Resources Asia Pacific and the HR Chief Operating Officer for Asia Pacific at Deutsche Bank. With over 25 years of experience in Human Resources, Kate has worked across the globe with several multi-nationals including Telstra, KPMG, Cathay Pacific Airways, WPP Group Plc and Deutsche Bank. Prior to moving to Hong Kong, Kate's international experience included stints in Syndey, London and Singapore. Kate and her husband Duncan Paul, who is a secondary school grade parent and PTCO Panel member, have spent the past 7 years living in Hong Kong. Kate and Duncan's son is a secondary school pupil and joined HKA at the Kennedy Town campus in Grade 2. They live in Sai Kung and enjoy being involved in school volunteering initiatives.  
Lauren Houghton
Lauren grew up in Massachusetts and holds a B.S. in Economics from the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania and a J.D. from Boston University School of Law. After law school, she became a litigator in Boston with Hale and Dorr and then in New York with Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison. Later she worked as a white-collar criminal defense attorney at Hafetz and Necheles in New York until she decided to devote her time to her family. She was on the board of the Gateway School of New York, a school for bright children who learn differently. Since moving to Hong Kong in January 2013, Lauren has become a volunteer consultant with Asian Charity Services, providing business-consulting services to NGOs. She lives in Clearwater Bay with her husband and two children, a son and daughter currently attending Hong Kong Academy.
Joshua Kahn
Joshua is Managing Director and Partner at Ion Pacific, where he heads the firm's Funds Advisory business. Josh joined Ion Pacific as part of its acquisition of Old Peak Partners, a strategic advisory firm based in Hong Kong that he founded in 2014. Previously, Joshua was Managing Director at Hamilton Lane, a leading global private equity investment firm. While at Hamilton Lane, Joshua established Hamilton Lane's Hong Kong office, where he helped develop and manage Hamilton Lane’s institutional client base in Asia and was responsible for its investment activities in the region. In addition, Joshua served as a member of Hamilton Lane's Portfolio Strategy Committee, which set the firm's global investment agendas. Prior to Hamilton Lane, Joshua held investment and corporate finance positions with Loews Corporation, a publicly-traded diversified financial holding company. He also spent time as a research analyst at a value-oriented financial markets journal and as an associate in the enterprise valuation group of a global professional services firm. Joshua earned his MBA from Columbia University's Graduate School of Business and holds a B.S. in Economics from the Wharton School and a B.A. in International Relations from the University of Pennsylvania. Joshua has been a member of the HKA Finance Committee since 2013 and was elected to the Board of Trustees in 2017. He and his wife, Tracy, have three children, all of whom are currently at HKA, with their eldest having first enrolled in the autumn of 2011.
Sean A. Kelly
Sean joined Modern Terminals in Aug 1999. After five-and-a-half years in the capacity of Deputy Managing Director, Sean was appointed as CEO of the company with effect on 1 April 2005. Sean has more than 30 years of experience in the transportation industry. Prior to joining Modern Terminals, he was with American President Lines (APL), where he held a number of management positions, including postings in Asia as APL's Managing Director in the Philippines and in Taiwan. The latter position involved direct responsibility for APL’s operations in Hong Kong and China. In his last position for APL, he had global responsibility as Vice President of Terminal Operations. Sean holds a BA in Accounting from the University of Notre Dame and he has served on a number of international transportation company boards. Sean has two children who both attended HKA.
Joanne Oswin
Joanne was born and raised in Canada. She graduated from Laurentian University with a Bachelor of Arts and then qualified as a Canadian Chartered Professional Accountant. She and her partner, Kylie, moved to Hong Kong in 1999. Joanne worked with PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) for 28 years. She specialised in consulting on corporate re-organisations until 2005 and from then through mid 2017 held the position of Chief Operating Officer for PwC China. Joanne is currently on a career break and enjoying devoting time to her family and supporting various social enterprises. Joanne has been a member of the HKA Advancement Committee since September 2017, chairing the Advancement Committee since September 2018. She and Kylie have one child, who has been enrolled at HKA since 2011.
Neil Raymond
Neil was born in the UK and was educated there until 1990. He attended Warwick and Cambridge University to study Engineering and Management. He travelled extensively before joining Shell Exploration and Production in 1992 to work on Oil and Gas Field development around the world and qualified as a Chartered Engineer. In 1997 he attended INSEAD business school in France to complete an MBA and in 1999 Neil moved to Hong Kong and founded Pacific Prime, an insurance distribution company focused on the automotive and health insurance sectors. Neil and his wife Sunny have lived in Sai Kung since 2009 and have four children, all of whom attend HKA. The family is a long term supporter of the charity "Room to Read".
Chris Ryan
Chris is originally from Melbourne, Australia but has lived in Hong Kong for more than 20 years. He has three sons, two of whom attended HKA when it was at the Stubbs Road campus. One is at University in Australia and the other is now working for a fund management company in Hong Kong. Chris has been in the investment and finance industry for more than 30 years and is Managing Director and Head of Asia Pacific for MSCI Inc. a US company specialising in investment information, risk management systems and portfolio analytics. Chris graduated from Monash University in Melbourne with a Bachelor of Business. He is also a member of the Monash University Global Leaders Forum and is involved in providing a global perspective for development of the university’s regional education presence.
Adrian Valenzuela
Adrian is Co-CEO, Managing Partner and Founder of MCM Partners, a boutique capital markets advisory firm based in Hong Kong. He has over 20 years of experience in the financial industry and prior to MCM Partners, Adrian worked at Barclays Capital as a Managing Director and Head of Distribution for Equity Liquid Markets across the Asia Pacific Region. Adrian served as Managing Director and Co-Head of Global Equities distribution for JP Morgan from 2007 where he was also part of the Global Executive Committee and held various senior positions previously at Merrill Lynch, Morgan Stanley and Lehman Brothers in London and New York. Adrian holds a BA in Economics from ITAM in Mexico as well as other certificates and degrees, including the Senior Leadership Programme from Stanford University, where he sits on the board of their Hong Kong Alumni Association. He currently works as an active mentor and investor in various start-ups in the fields of technology and finance. He is a founder and board member of social-focused technology startup Instant Karma, as well as the Pier Court Shipping Fund amongst others. Adrian has two daughters at Hong Kong Academy.
Catherine Yue Wang
Catherine was born and raised in mainland China. She graduated from Tsinghua University in Beijing with a Bachelor of Engineering in Materials S&E and later from Hong Kong University of Science and Technology with a Master of Science in Financial Analysis. Catherine worked in the finance industry for 10 years, including Equity Research, Investor Relationship Consulting and Asset Management. Now out of the corporate world, she is giving entrepreneurship a try and enjoys her various creative roles including health food R&D, photography, content creation, etc. Catherine has been a member of the HKA Finance Committee since 2017 and joined the Trustees Committee in 2017. She and her husband, Ramiz, have both lived in Hong Kong for over 10 years. They have two children, the older one joined HKA in 2016 and the younger in 2018.