Message from the School Director


Greeting CHACS Families, 


I am truly excited to be the next Principal of Cypress Hills Ascend Lower School. I am looking forward to meeting all of you later this summer and getting to know more about your scholars! While we won't meet until August, I wanted to take this opportunity to share a little bit about my background.


I am a lifelong New Yorker, bravo TV superfan, and roommate to an (extremely) ornery cat. I became a teacher because I believe that reimagining our education systems is a critical step towards creating a more just and equal society. I am especially passionate about implementing culturally responsive teaching practices that value and elevate the voices, perspectives, and identities of all students, which brought me to Ascend in 2016. I was drawn to Ascend for its work with Responsive Classroom, and commitment to an inquiry-based approach that enables scholars to take ownership over their own learning.  Throughout my time at Ascend, I have been a second-grade special education teacher at Brownsville Ascend, a Dean of Instruction at Bushwick Ascend, and most recently, the network Director of Lower School Math. I chose to become a Principal because I wanted to return to collaborating with teachers, leaders, and families on creating a joyful yet challenging educational experience for scholars.


In my current role, I’ve had the opportunity to visit CHACS and get a close look at the warm, supportive culture that exists at 396 Grant Ave. I have a deep respect for the existing partnerships that have been forged between teachers and families. I’m thrilled to be joining the CHACS team and to partner with all of you to ensure that your children learn, grow, and have fun during this upcoming school year.


As I join the team, one of my primary goals is to get to know all of you, and to understand CHACS’ strengths and opportunities for growth from your perspective. To that end, during our family orientation in August, I will create space for you to ask questions and share your hopes for this upcoming school year. I look forward to meeting you in August and beginning our work together in supporting your scholars!


In Partnership,


Sophie Balis-Harris

Leadership team


Sophia Balis-Harris

Assistant Principal of Operations

Josue Perea

Assistant Principal (3-4)

Sabrina Banwait

Assistant Principal (K-2)

Yolaine Arthur

Operations Manager

Natalie Fischer 

Operations Associate

Raynell Ramos

Student Services Coordinator

Deja Armstrong

Culture Associate

Abimael Vega

Culture Associate

Brandon Griffith 

Culture at Ascend