Patrons and the Board

The Board of Trustees of la Scuola Italiana a Londra is made up of individuals who are connected by the strong belief that the Italian language and its culture are worth keeping alive and teaching, not only to Italians but to anybody else who recognises their value. We also strongly believe that in a developed society, the right to a good education is fundamental. Lastly, we believe that Britain is a very welcoming and generous country to many foreigners and that it is the duty of these foreigners not only to learn its language, but also to embrace and understand its culture. This is why we have elected to create a school which is not only bi-lingual but also bi-curricular.

The Board manages the business side of the school whilst the day to day operations are superbly managed by the joint-Heads Ines Saltalamacchia and Ben Mearhart. The Board of Patrons oversees fundraising operations and gives its input where applicable with contacts and ideas.

Our Patrons

H. E. the Italian Ambassador
Lady Carla Powell
Maria Carmela Viscountess Hambleden
Benito Fiore

Our Board

Our board is composed of people with professional experience in various fields, from teaching to finance, from law to public relations, who volunteer for the school.

Raffaella Celia
Francesca Nelson-Smith
Alberto Pravettoni
Silvia Carrara de Sambuy (aka Silvia Bossi)
Ernestina Meloni
Domenic Pini
Michaela Rees Jones
Anthony Stephen Airs
Serena Olmeda
Laura Arcelli-Fontana (aka Laura Marani)

Raffaella Celia
Raffaella CeliaRaffaella is the Chair of the Board. She joined the project in October 2006 and since then she has been involved in various aspects of the charity’s life including fundraising, events’ organisation and relationships with the Italian Authorities, working closely with the Chair of the Board of Trustees. Her main area of contribution is advising on the  acquisition of the school premises and other legal matters.
She graduated in Jurisprudence at Padua University. She qualified as an Italian lawyer in 2000 and as a Solicitor of England and Wales in 2003. From 2002 to 2008 she practised as a solicitor in the property department of Withers LLP where she specialised in commercial property for corporate clients although she sometimes dealt with private individuals on property and related tax and planning matters.
On the 9th of March 2017 the Italian Ambassador Pasquale Terracciano awarded Raffaella the honour of “Cavaliere dell’Ordine della Stella d’Italia” for her contribution to the promotion of Italian education and culture in the United Kingdom.

Francesca Nelson-SmithFrancesca Nelson-Smith
Founder of the project la Scuola Italiana a Londra, Francesca has devoted her spare time to the idea of opening an Italian school in London for many years. Finally in 2004, she came across the “Italians of London” organisation. With their support and the help of Emanuela Federspil the “A school for the Italians” commission was founded and a team of volunteers to work on the project was put together.
Francesca succeeded Emanuela as Chair of the Board of Governors in 2011 and has maintained the role till August 2017.
Francesca is a PR and marketing consultant. She graduated in Philosophy and Modern Languages (French) at Oxford University in 1989. She started her career as a bi-lingual magazine and book producer for an anglo-italian publisher in London. Subsequently she specialised in the production of promotional events for the SMH-Swatch Group. In London she has worked on a number of charities and business projects.
On the 10th of March 2016 the Italian Ambassador Pasquale Terracciano awarded Francesca the honour of “Cavaliere dell’Ordine della Stella d’Italia” for her contribution to the promotion of Italian education and culture in the United Kingdom.

Alberto Pravettoni
Alberto has been involved in the project since November 2005, and his main focus has been on the financial business planning.He graduated in Business Administration at L.Bocconi University in Milan and attended a post graduate program on Management in Global Enterprises at the American School of International Management (Phoenix, AZ). In 2004, he completed a “Nonprofit Leadership Program” at Harvard University, specifically designed for Trustees.Alberto worked for 13 years as a Managing Director at Goldman Sachs, where he was the Global Head of Fixed Income Operations. Most recently he was a Managing Director and member of the Executive Committee at LCH.Clearnet.Between 2003 and 2007, he sat on the Board of Trustees of “La Scuola d’Italia G. Marconi” in New York.

Silvia Carrara de Sambuy (aka Silvia Bossi)
Silvia joined the project in November 2005 and has mainly contributed to the development of our unique bicultural teaching programme. She graduated in Humanities from the Università Cattolica in Milan and obtained an MA at ISMO on training and human resources management and one in the Theory of Play and Strategic Thinking at the London School of Economics.
Slivia published several papers on comparative European education systems. She has lectured since 1995 on education and training at the l’Università Cattolica in Milan, Faculty of Educational Science, Department of Pedagogy. She also works with two consultancy firms in the same area and was responsible for training at Kraft Foods in Italy. Since she moved back to Milan in 2013 Silvia has been consulting for the prestigious Collegio San Carlo on their bi-lingual and bi-curricular programmes.

Ernestina Meloni
erErnestina joined the project in January 2006 and was mainly involved in the coordination of the bilingual aspect of the curriculum. She graduated in Modern Languages at Cagliari University and completed a Masters Degree in Applied Linguistics at Birkbeck College, University of London. Ernestina has been teaching the Italian Language in the UK for the past thirty years in Oxford and in London. At present she is a teacher and coordinator of the Italian Department at the Lycée Français in London.
She has been working for British and International organizations as a trainer and adviser promoting excellence in language education. She also worked as language adviser for the BBC in the production of various children’s programmes. In 2004 Ernestina won the European Language Award, an Italian Embassy Award for teaching languages through movement and dance and was knighted by the Italian Government as a “Cavaliere all’Ordine del Merito della Repubblica Italiana”. In 2005 she received an award from Chicago University for Best Teaching Practice. Ernestina has been working for various examination boards as Moderator and Principal. At the moment she is working for the Cambridge Examination Board. She has published and she is still publishing articles and educational material on bilingual education and language teaching.

Domenic Pini
Domenic PiniDomenic joined the team in 2010 to help with legal advice and fundraising. Domenic was educated St George’s College Weybridge, Surrey and Cambridge University. After many years working for a number of practices in London, he is now a Partner of Pini Franco LLP.
Domenic was Chairman of the British Italian Law Association 1984 to 1996 and former President of the City of London Rotary Club.
Now he is President of the Mazzini Garibaldi Club Limited and a Council Member of Business Club Italia as well as Freeman of the City of London and a member of the Parish Group of the Church of Our Lady, Lisson Grove, London. Domenic is also a Governor at Cardinal Vaughan School, one of the most successful maintained secondary schools in London.

Michaela Rees Jones
Michaela PicMichaela joined the board in 2014. Following a degree in Modern Languages she pursued a professional career in International Education in Europe and the USA. Early work in teaching was followed by several years working in marketing, publishing and recruitment for Interstudy Inc  and EF.  More recently she has focussed on volunteering and fundraising for a number of local good causes. Through the English Speaking Union Michaela has helped with the EAL programme at a primary school in North Kensington, is Vice-Chairman of The Second Half Foundation and sits on the board of Action Against Cancer, a charity supporting research at Imperial College.

Anthony Stephen Airs
20160203_181957_resized_2Married to Penelope Denise with 2 Children – Stephen Thomas and Natalie Sarah. Anthony is a semi-retired experienced Global Banking Senior Executive, specialist in all fields of International Finance, Markets and Exchanges and has a detailed knowledge of International Banking Regulations and Financial contracts. He is also bilingual Italian. Anthony’s personal expertise includes the ability to logically research and resolve issues and problems solving, track and manage schedules and meet any assigned budgets. Anthony joined the Scuola Italiana team in 2014 as part of the financial team and has greatly contributed to the development of the school.
Anthony is also honorary Vice President of the Italian Chamber of Commerce and Industry for the UK, Member of  The Business Club Italia  and The Club di Londra and President Elect and Honorary Treasurer of The Rotary Club of the City and Shoreditch.

Serena Olmeda
IMG_6062 Serena is one of our Primary teachers and she is the teachers’ representative in our Board. Serena has a degree in Primary Education and a degree in Modern Literature.
Serena has worked for several years as a Primary teacher and as a SEN teacher in Italy and, since she moved to London in 2013, as an Italian teacher for the Department of Education of the Italian Consulate in London.

Laura Arcelli-Fontana (aka Laura Marani) – Special Advisor to the Board
Laura MaraniLaura has been working on project La Scuola Italiana a Londra since the beginning, firstly as one of the Trustees of the Charity and, when the School opened, taking the role of Headmistress till December 2015. Laura was born in Piacenza and moved to Britain when she was 4 years old. She was educated at an English convent school and at an international and multilingual school in Switzerland. She worked as an interpreter until she married and had two daughters, then she attended London University as a mature student where she obtained her degree in Education in 1978. Laura taught at Pembridge Hall School for Girls for 23 years, nine of these as Headmistress, during which time the school was consistently ranked in the top three London primary schools. Laura is currently a Governor of Queen’s Gate School (a charity), and a senior adviser of Hurlingham School. Laura was also a funding Governor of Notting Hill Preparatory School where she played an integral part in its conception and opening.

The board is very grateful to its first Chair, Emanuela Federspil Bernstorf for her enormous contribution to get the school off the ground and opened and for her continued support after she left due to the increase in her work and family commitments.

To read about the HISTORY of the project click here.