Top 10 Early Childhood Education Power Brokers In The Boston Area
Early childhood education (ECE) seems to be getting more interest from powerful people every day. But, who are the power players in early childhood education? The below list is my subjective list of the Top 10 Early Childhood Education Power Brokers in the Boston area based on my experiences as an educator, researcher, and advocate in the area the past 15 years. I’ve included their official biographies along with sources of the biography for each person listed.
1. Amy O'Leary. At every early education event in the Boston area I’ve been to the past 15 years, Amy O’Leary seems to be there. She is a tireless advocate for ECE and holds multiple positions. Amy O’Leary is “president of The National Association for the Education of Young Children’s Governing Board. director of Early Education for All (EEA), a campaign of Strategies for Children (SFC), an advocacy and policy organization that works to ensure that Massachusetts invests the resources needed for all children, birth to age 5, to access high-quality early education programs that prepare them for success in school and life. Amy joined EEA in 2002 as the early childhood field director and has also served as the campaign’s deputy director. Prior to joining SFC, Amy worked as a preschool teacher and program director at Ellis Memorial in Boston. In 2017, Amy was elected as President-elect of the NAEYC Governing Board. She will serve two years as President and one year as Past President following her one-year term as President-elect. Amy was previously elected to a four-year term on the NAEYC Governing Board in 2011. She serves as an adjunct faculty member at Wheelock College in Boston and Quinsigamond Community College in Worcester. Amy is a member of the Massachusetts Early Literacy Expert Panel, the Massachusetts Birth through Grade 3 Advisory Group, and the Massachusetts Department of Early Education and Care Advisory Committee. In addition, Amy presents at national, state, and local conferences and provides technical assistance to advocates and legislators in other states. Amy earned a master’s degree in public administration from the Sawyer School of Management at Suffolk University. She holds a bachelor's degree in psychology and early education from Skidmore College.”
2. Thomas L Weber: Commissioner of The Department of Early Education and Care. Tom Weber was hired in the Democrat Deval Patrick’s administration and has continued to serve under Republican Charlie Baker. This is no small feat in our partisan world. “Tom Weber was appointed Commissioner of the Massachusetts Department of Early Education and Care in September, 2013 after serving as Acting Commissioner of the department since March, 2013. During his tenure, the Department has expanded early education and care services for eligible families in need, advanced an agenda for higher program quality and increased workforce supports, adopted a series of health and safety improvements and initiatives including a differential licensing model that uses enhanced risk assessment tools and practices for monitoring programs, strengthened the Department’s licensing and background record check Information Technology (IT) systems, implemented a single system for issuing payments to state-subsidized child care programs, and with the support of the legislature provided the largest rate reimbursement increase for those programs in a decade. Commissioner Weber led the Commonwealth's successful application for a federal Preschool Expansion Grant, which provided $60 million over four years to support free, high-quality preschool in five communities across the state, and he oversaw the implementation of the Commonwealth's $50 million Federal Race to the Top - Early Learning Challenge Grant, which supported numerous program quality improvement initiatives.
Prior to his appointment, Commissioner Weber served as Undersecretary at the Massachusetts Executive Office of Education where he oversaw budget and finance, legal and legislative affairs, information technology, policy, communications, and general administration. During his tenure at the Executive Office of Education, he served as the Secretary of Education’s principal advisor for early education and care and designee to the Board of Early Education and Care, and was also responsible for formulating and implementing strategies leading to the Achievement Gap Law of 2010 and the community college reforms of 2012.
Previously, Commissioner Weber worked as Legislative Director at Strategies for Children/The Early Education for All Campaign, Director of Community Partnerships at the Office of the Massachusetts Attorney General, Deputy Research Director at the Massachusetts Institute for a New Commonwealth (MassINC), Assistant Director of Government Affairs at the Greater Boston Chamber of Commerce, and Senior Issues Manager at the Office of United State Senator John F. Kerry.
Commissioner Weber is a graduate of the College of the Holy Cross and Suffolk University Law School. He is a native of Lynn, MA and currently lives in Reading, MA.”
3. Anne Douglas. Anne is another ECE superhero who seems to be working on 100 projects at once. “Anne Douglass, PhD, is associate professor of early childhood education and founding executive director at the Institute for Early Education Leadership and Innovation at the University of Massachusetts Boston. She has been designing and leading innovative academic and leadership development programs for early educators at UMass Boston since 2009. Her institute cultivates and supports the entrepreneurial leadership of early educators and child care business owners, and produces cutting-edge research on leadership, innovation, and change in early education.
Douglass is an expert on leadership, quality improvement, and professional development strategies and policies that promote talented, diverse, entrepreneurial leadership from within the child care workforce. She is the author of a new book entitled Leading for Change in Early Care and Education: Cultivating Leadership from Within. She studies relational organizational theory to understand how workplace relationships and organizational structures can positively influence early educators’ capacity to improve teaching practices and build partnerships with families. She brings extensive research and professional development expertise in the areas of family engagement and support, STEM teaching and learning, and instructional leadership. She is co-author of the book Engaging young engineers: Teaching problem-solving skills through STEM, published in 2015.
Since 2009, she has been awarded over $8 million in external funds to support research and training projects in which she serves as the principal or co-principal investigator. Her research has been published in a wide range of academic journals and books, and she presents nationally and internationally at academic, policy, and professional meetings.”
4. Jack Shonkoff, M.D., is the Julius B. Richmond FAMRI Professor of Child Health and Development at the Harvard T.H. Ch an School of Public Health and the Harvard Graduate School of Education; professor of pediatrics at Harvard Medical School and Boston Children's Hospital; and director of the Center on the Developing Child at Harvard University. He currently serves as chair of the National Scientific Council on the Developing Child, a group whose mission is to bring credible science to bear on public policy affecting young children, and chairs the JPB Research Network on Toxic Stress. In 2011, Shonkoff launched Frontiers of Innovation, a multi-sectoral collaboration among researchers, practitioners, policymakers, investors, and experts in systems change who are committed to developing more effective intervention strategies to catalyze breakthrough impacts on the development and health of young children and families experiencing significant adversity.
Under the auspices of the National Academy of Sciences, Shonkoff served as chair of the Board on Children, Youth, and Families and the committee that produced the landmark report, From Neurons to Neighborhoods: The Science of Early Childhood Development. He also served as a member of the Panel on Child Care Policy, the Committee on the Assessment of Family Violence Interventions, and the Roundtable on Head Start Research.
Shonkoff's honors include being elected to the Institute of Medicine of the National Academy of Sciences and the American Pediatric Society; being designated National Associate of the National Academies; and receiving the C. Anderson Aldrich Award in Child Development from the American Academy of Pediatrics and the Award for Distinguished Contributions to Public Policy for Children from the Society for Research in Child Development.
Shonkoff has served on the core scientific group of the MacArthur Research Network on Early Experience and Brain Development, the Governing Council of the Society for Research in Child Development, and the Executive Committee of the Section on Developmental and Behavioral Pediatrics of the American Academy of Pediatrics. He has authored more than 150 publications, including nine books; co-edited two editions of the Handbook of Early Childhood Intervention; and served on the editorial board of several scholarly journals, including Child Development.
5. Marie St. Fleur: Marie is the most passionate speaker I have ever heard about ECE and her bio is impressive “Marie St. Fleur is a highly effective and
passionate organizational leader and consultant. With 30 years of legislative, municipal and legal leadership linking public and private resources, she facilitates transformational changes that enhance the quality of life in vulnerable communities.
Her experience as an attorney, legislator, senior leader in municipal government and nonprofit executive ensures she makes a difference for her clients. She has driven grassroots research on early education and care and workforce systems, advocated for change in the public sector, and expanded the engagement of families, providers, policymakers, government agencies and the public.
As the former CEO and President of a state-wide nonprofit, Ms. St. Fleur spearheaded the formation of the influential Put MA Kids First coalition, securing increased investment in early education and care in Massachusetts for two consecutive fiscal years. She also lead the creation of the Early Education Small Business Innovation Center, the first of its type in Massachusetts.
Ms. St. Fleur was appointed by Mayor Thomas M. Menino on June 13, 2010 as the Chief of Advocacy and Strategic Investment for the City of Boston. In that capacity Ms. St. Fleur led the Mayor Menino Circle of Promise Initiative and oversaw the Department of Intergovernmental Relations, The Office of New Bostonians, The Small and Local Business/Boston Jobs for Boston Residents Policy and his Diversity and Reentry Initiatives.
Former State Representative Marie St. Fleur was first elected to serve in the Massachusetts House of Representatives in 1999, and is the first Haitian-American elected to state office in the United States. As the House Chair of the Joint Committee on Education, Arts and Humanities, Representative St. Fleur championed two-way bilingual education, alternative education and led the establishment of the new Massachusetts Board and Department of Early Education and Care.
A former Assistant State Attorney General and Assistant District Attorney Ms. St. Fleur has significant experience protecting underserved communities in the areas of criminal justice, human services and civil rights.
A graduate of the University of Massachusetts at Amherst, Representative St. Fleur earned a Law Degree from Boston College Law School. Ms. St. Fleur served as Chair of The Advisory Council for the Haiti Fund at The Boston Foundation, is a former trustee of the Boston Bar Foundation and past President of the Massachusetts Black Lawyers Association. She has been featured on WCVB Television’s City Line and Chronicle, WGBH Television’s Greater Boston, Boston Magazine and Commonwealth Magazine. Ms. St. Fleur is a recipient of Boston Business Journal’s 2014 Women Up award and currently serves on the Board of Directors of the Dorchester Boys and Girls Club, and Nativity Preparatory School.”
6. Sharon Scott-Chandler, Esq. “As Executive Vice President/Chief Operating Officer, Sharon Scott-Chandler fills the number two position at ABCD, playing a key role in overseeing ABCD’s wide array of human services programs. Scott-Chandler brings a wealth of experience to this position. A vital member of the ABCD leadership staff since 1999, she served as Vice President, ABCD Head Start and Children’s Services, since 2003. In that position she provided leadership to the $30 million citywide ABCD Head Start program serving 2,400 low-income, preschool children and their families in 24 centers throughout Boston’s neighborhoods.
In 2017, Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker appointed Scott-Chandler to the Black Advisory Commission, which advises on issues relating to the economic prosperity and well-being of Massachusetts’ black community. From 2007-2010, Governor Deval Patrick appointed her Chair of the Board of the Massachusetts Early Education & Care Department, the primary vehicle for top-level policy and funding decision making affecting the state’s 240,000-plus pre-school children and their families. She remains on the Board as a member. From 1999 to 2003, Scott-Chandler headed ABCD Child Care Choices of Boston (CCCB), the Child Care Resource and Referral Agency (CCRA) for Boston, Brookline, Chelsea, Revere, Winthrop and Everett, providing expert leadership to a program that serves more than 11,000 children, their families and licensed early childhood education providers. Prior to joining ABCD, Scott-Chandler served as an Assistant Attorney General for the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. Before that she was an associate at Morrison, Mahoney & Miller law firm in Boston, and a legislative aide to U.S. Congressman Sidney R. Yates in Washington, D.C..
Scott-Chandler received her law degree from Northeastern University Law School and her bachelor’s degree in political science from Tufts University. She is a Trustee of the Urban College of Boston and a member of the Board of Directors for Cradles to Crayons, MADCA and MASSCAP. She also serves on numerous statewide and city task forces.”
7. Diane Levin: Boston University’s Wheelock College of Education and Human Development “professor Diane Levin’s work focuses on how various factors in society, such as violence and war, poverty, media and commercialization, and educational mandates and testing affect children’s development, learning, behavior and play. She also recommends what we can do to protect children and promote optimal development and learning in relation to each of the societal factors she studies. Dr. Levin has authored (or co-authored) dozens of articles and eight books, including: The War Play Dilemma, Beyond Remote-Controlled Childhood, So Sexy So Soon, and Teaching Young Children in Violent Times.
She is the co-founder of Defending the Early Years (www.deyproject.org), which advocates for developmentally appropriate education in a time of ill-conceived standards and mandates, and Teachers Resisting Unhealthy Children’s Entertainment (www.TRUCEteachers.org), which prepares materials to help parents promote appropriate media and quality play in these times.
She has spoken widely about her work in the U.S. and around the world, and for 15 years has taken her students to Northern Ireland on a service learning program to study how early childhood programs can help communities that have experienced war and conflict heal. To learn more about Dr. Levin’s work go to www.dianeelevin.com.
For more information, visit Dr. Levin’s website: dianelevin.org”
8. Nermeen Dashoush is a Clinical Assistant Professor of Early Childhood Education. Prior to joining Boston University’s faculty, she taught Pre-4th grade in New York City for ten years as a classroom teacher and science specialist. Dr. Dashoush taught curriculum improvement and science education at Teachers College, Columbia University where she mentored pre-service and in-service teachers. Her research has been primarily focused on establishing professional communities of practices and increasing teacher efficacy. Dr. Dashoush teaches the early childhood science methods course, the assessment course and supervises student practicums.
9. Ben Mardell “is the project director of the Pedagogy of Play, a collaboration with the LEGO Foundation and the International School of Billund, exploring how play can have a central part in children’s learning in school. Ben has been associated with Project Zero since 1999, initially as a researcher on the Making Learning Visible (MLV) project and helped co-author Making Learning Visible: Children as Individual and Group Learners and Making Teaching Visible: Documentation of Individual and Group Learning as Professional Development. After continuing his work as a preschool and kindergarten teacher, Ben returned as a researcher on MLV and co-authored Visible Learners: Promoting Reggio-Inspired Approaches in All Schools. Ben is also a professor at Lesley University’s Graduate School of Education and his publications include: From Basketball to the Beatles: In Search of Compelling Early Childhood Curriculum and Growing Up in Child Care: A Case For Quality Early Education. When not at PZ, Ben enjoys playing with his family and participating in triathlons. “
10. Kelly Pellagrini – Director of Wonder of Learning Boston and Charlestown Nursery School. Kelly Pellagrini brings more than 15 years experience in early childhood education. In addition to a B.A. from Bates College, Kelly holds Masters degrees from Smith College and Lesley University, in Curriculum and Teaching and Bilingual Early Childhood Education, respectively. She has worked as a teacher, administrator and curriculum coordinator at the Saint Francis School in Moravia, Costa Rica, public schools in Amherst and Boston, Massachusetts, and at the Smith College Lab School. She has served on the Mayor Advisory Committee for 0-5 School Readiness, and has been active in creating early childhood programs throughout the area. She recently received an Unsung Heroine Award for her extensive civic involvement. In addition to her work at CNS, she serves as an advisor to many schools as well as mentor, instructor and advocate in early childhood. She writes, speaks and consults on early childhood research. When not at CNS, she enjoys time with her family, especially playing with her two children who continue to inspire her work.