The Collaboration for Early Childhood uses an innovative model for decision-making. In addition to the Board of Directors, a Collaboration Council builds consensus on activities and the IGA Governing Board oversees agreements with the municipal taxing bodies.

Board of Directors

Board of Directors

Penny is a program and policy-oriented financial professional, experienced in working with non-profit organizations. She is active in educational and civic matters, being a former member of the Financial Advisory Committee for OPRF, Citizen’s Council of OPRF, the Transitions Committee for the Oak Park Middle Schools, and the Oak Park Plan Commission. As a mother of three daughters, she personally understands the critical role of early childhood development. Amy has been actively involved with children and education in Oak Park and River Forest for nearly 20 years, most recently serving on the Board of Education for Oak Park and River Forest High School District 200. Her professional experience includes practicing labor and employment law for several years before founding McCormack Schreiber Legal Search, a legal recruiting firm in Chicago.
Becki worked as the director of a special education cooperative and then an assistant superintendent for Elk Grove School District 59. In that capacity, she worked closely with district leaders and teachers to ensure that students with disabilities could access curriculum and were appropriately supported across school settings.
Marcus completed his PhD in Literacy, Language, and Culture at University of Illinois at Chicago. His research and writing was cultivated by undergraduate and graduate education at Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs), a music education career in characteristically urban schools, and his work designing and leading a literacy intervention for 4th grade Black boys. Within his broader interest in literacies and race, Marcus’ research will continue to document teachers’ understandings of race and examine the influence these understandings may have on teacher efficacy, student identification, pedagogical reasoning, and teaching practices in literacy instruction.
Gordon is a business and commercial real estate lender at Community Bank of Oak Park River Forest. He has more than 20 years of experience in community development and commercial banking in Oak Park. He is also an Oak Park Housing Authority Commissioner. In addition to his banking career, Gordon spent nine years with the U.S. Department of State as an American Diplomat in Bucharest, Moscow and New Delhi.
Louise worked in commercial real estate lending at Continental Bank and Bank of America for 23 years. She holds a Masters of Management, Finance degree from Northwestern Kellogg School of Business. Since retiring, she has enjoyed volunteering, reading, quilting, taking numerous classes and traveling. Her family is steeped in education; one son is a law professor, another son and daughter and her husband are middle school teachers. Louise was on the board of the Oak Park Education Foundation for nine years, serving as treasurer. She was Co-President of the League of Women Voters of Oak Park and River Forest for two years, and treasurer of the Cook County League of Women Voters for four years. She also served on the St. Giles Parish Council and volunteered at the Oak Park & River Forest Food Pantry.
Bernadette has been the executive director of ABC Toon Town since 1988. She holds a Bachelor's degree in Business Administration from DePaul University and a Master's degree in Education from National Louis University. Bernadette also has 20 years of corporate experience in HR/Employee Benefits.Bernadette has been the executive director of ABC Toon Town since 1988. She holds a Bachelor's degree in Business Administration from DePaul University and a Master's degree in Education from National Louis University. Bernadette also has 20 years of corporate experience in HR/Employee Benefits.
Elizabeth serves as a Practice Manager at Advocate Health Care Children’s Hospital where she manages three health care sites, including the Pediatric Development Center which provides evaluation and treatment of children with developmental disabilities. Previously, Elizabeth was the long-time Executive Director of the Children’s Clinic, which provides pediatric medical, dental, and social services care, regardless of ability to pay. Elizabeth is also a former board member for Oak Park School District 97, and spearheaded the Collaboration's Physicians' Network.
Gina is an Oak Park resident and a pediatrician and assistant professor at Rush University Children’s Hospital. She has also served on Rush’s Child Protection team for the past 7 years, providing guidance on cases of suspected child abuse and neglect. Gina has recently taken on the role of Director for Community Health for Pediatrics, and has been working on building a maternal-child health initiative for Rush’s west side communities.
Chris is a National Board Certified teacher who has worked as an early childhood educator in both public and private settings for over 15 years. He has also worked for 8 years as a Mentor Teacher for the Academy for Urban School Leadership, training new teachers for placement in classrooms serving at-risk populations. Chris holds an M.Ed. from the Erikson Institute, an M.A. in Theological Studies from The Claremont School of Theology, and a B.A. in Religion from St. Olaf College. He has been an active member of the Ounce of Prevention Fund's Education and Outreach Committee (EOC) for the past three years.
Carollina is a former chair of the Collaboration’s board, and served as the co-president of PTO Council for Oak Park Elementary School District 97 and co-chair of the Children's Services committee for the League of Women Voters of Oak Park/River Forest. As a first-generation American whose family qualified for free and reduced-price lunches, Carollina is a firm believer that high-quality learning experiences beginning at birth are key to success in life outcomes.
Julie is the manager of the client service team at William Blair, a Chicago investment bank. Julie and her family moved to Oak Park five years ago. She has two children, ages seven and nine. She has volunteered for Chicago Cares and Bernie’s Book Bank, and at Hatch Elementary School.
Allison was born and raised in Oak Park and attended District 97/200 schools. She holds degrees from Emory University (Psychology Major and Global Health Minor) and Michigan State University (Ph.D. in Clinical Psychology). She is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Psychiatry at Rush Medical Center, where her research focuses on working with young children who have autism spectrum disorders and their families.
David is the founder and director of Farther Foundation, a charitable scholarship organization providing opportunities for low-income youth to participate in educational travel programs. Following a career in private business, he worked for Illinois Action for Children and was the program officer at the Oak Park-River Forest Community Foundation, as well as a board member of the Oak Park Community Chest/United Way.
Jeff is an advocate and advisor dedicated to political bridge building and learner-centered education. He serves on the Board of Trustees of the Convergence Center for Policy Resolution and on the Advisory Board of Convergence’s Education Reimagined initiative. He also chairs the National Advisory Council of the Johns Hopkins University School of Education. Jeff previously served as the President of the District 200 Board of Education. He also became an active member of the Collaboration in 2009 helping to develop and implement a major donor program, and restructure our By-Laws. He served as our Treasurer from 2012 – 2013 when he resigned to join the District 200 Board of Education. He has a Masters in Public and Private Management from the Yale School of Organization and Management, a JD from New York University School of Law, and a BA from Johns Hopkins University.

Founders Board

A Founders Board was created in 2012 to offer institutional memory and guidance.

Founders Board

Eric is a businessman and attorney. He serves as the co-chair of Foundations for Success, the Collaboration's major gift fundraising campaign. He was the first chair of the Collaboration and previously served for eight years on the Oak Park Elementary School District 97 Board of Education, with three as the president.
Catherine retired as the executive director of the Oak Park River Forest Day Nursery in 2013, a position she held since 1989. She has more than 30 years of experience in the early childhood field and holds an undergraduate degree in Child Development and Family Relationships from Northern Illinois University, and a Master's Degree in Early Childhood Leadership and Advocacy from National Louis University.
Joan has directed the First United Church Nursery School for 33 years. Joan has served on the board of Chicago Metro AEYC, is a member of the NAEYC Community Collaboration Interest Forum, and is a former Collaboration president.

Collaboration Council

The Collaboration Council provides input and advice to the Board and the staff on all matters regarding the affairs of the Collaboration.

Collaboration Council Members

  • Allie Wainer, Collaboration Board of Directors
  • Amanda Heiman, Park District of Oak Park
  • Amy McCormack, Community Member
  • Ann Courter, Community Member
  • Becki Streit, Collaboration Board of Directors
  • Bernadette Hicks, ABC Toon Town, Collaboration Board of Directors
  • Barbara Grooms, Park District of Oak Park
  • Bob Spatz, District 97 School Board
  • Carollina Song, Collaboration Board of Directors
  • Carolyn Newberry Schwartz, Community Member
  • Catherine Amato, Lurie Children's Health Partners
  • Catherine Hart, Collaboration Founder's Board
  • Chris Miller, Collaboration Board of Directors
  • Christine Li-Grining, Loyola University Chicago
  • David Weindling, Farther Foundation, Collaboration Board of Directors
  • Debbie McCann, Community Member
  • Deborah Al-Waraqi, Lutheran Child & Family Services
  • Diana Rosenbrock, Community Member
  • Elizabeth Lippitt, Collaboration Board of Directors
  • Ellen Farrar, Wonder Works
  • Emily Culbertson, Community Member
  • Eric Gershenson, Collaboration Founders Board
  • Faith Arnold, Community Member
  • Felicia Starks Turner, District 97
  • Gail Shelton, New Moms
  • Gina Lowell, Collaboration Board of Directors
  • Gordon Hellwig, Collaboration Board of Directors
  • Heather Duncan, Collaboration Director of Early Learning
  • Holly Spurlock, District 97 School Board
  • Jackie Moore, District 200 School Board
  • Jeff Weissglass, Collaboration Board of Directors
  • Jennifer Little, Collaboration Manager of Family Engagement
  • Joan White, First United Church Nursery School
  • John Borrero, Collaboration Executive Director
  • Julie Stevens, Community Member
  • Karen Boozell, District 90
  • Kathleen Kurtz, Easterseals
  • Kathy Stohr, IL Governor's Office of Early Childhood Development
  • Keecia Broy, District 97 School Board
  • Kristin Raack, Consultant, Collaboration for Early Childhood
  • Laura Crawford, Collaboration Director of Operations
  • Lenita Edgeworth, Easterseals
  • Linda Francis, Oak Park-River Forest Community Foundation
  • Linda Horwitz, Fussy Baby Network
  • Liz Bethell, Child & Family Connections #7
  • Lori Pulliam, Oak Park Public Library
  • Louise Gates, Collaboration Board of Directors
  • Marcus Croom, Collaboration Board of Directors
  • Mary Anne Moharaj, Oak Park Public Library Board Member
  • Melissa Ehmann, Child and Family Connections #7
  • Michele Suedbeck, District 97 ELSE Coordinator
  • Michelle Howell, Easterseals
  • Paul Carbery, Community Member
  • Paul Goyette, Community Member
  • Penny Wallingford, Collaboration Board of Directors
  • Rachel Wood, Community Member
  • Ralph Lee, Community Member
  • Ruth Martin, Pilgrim Community Nursery School
  • Sarah Valaika, Community Member
  • Shannon Ellison, Collaboration Coordinator of Health & Development
  • Shelley Harris, Oak Park Public Library
  • Wendy Daniels, Consultant, Collaboration for Early Childhood

Intergovernmental Agreement (IGA) Governing Board

IGA Members

  • Village of Oak Park
  • Oak Park River Forest High School District 200
  • Oak Park Elementary School District 97


Staff Members

John became the Collaboration's Executive Director in October 2018. For almost 30 years, he has devoted his career to working on behalf of children and families in underserved communities, most recently with the National Center on Early Childhood Health and Wellness at the American Academy of Pediatrics. As Manager of Child Care and Education Initiatives, John oversaw educational content for a $34 million, five-year health education and resource development contract funded by the U.S. Administration for Children and Families (ACF). His leadership role on the national early childhood landscape followed more than a decade of similar grant-based work serving children and families on behalf of ACF and its programs. Read more about John.
Email John
Laura has been active with the Collaboration since she joined the Measurement & Evaluation Committee in 2013. She later came on as a consultant with the longitudinal data project, maintained the website and handled on general communications. As the Director of Operations, Laura continues these activities and oversees the internal workings of the organization. Previously, she provided nonprofits and small businesses with technology assistance and was the Technology Manager at Ounce of Prevention. Laura was co-chair of District 97's PTO Council, and was involved with the Irving Schoolyard Project and the South East Oak Park Community Organization.
Email Laura
Heather Duncan, NBCT, is a child development professor, consultant, trainer, coach and the Director of Early Learning at the Collaboration for Early Childhood in Oak Park, Illinois. She helmed her first classroom in Posen-Robbins School District 143 ½, then founded Ahadi Early Learning Center which she directed for 5 years before joining Chicago Public Schools as a preschool teacher. She is a 2015-17 America Achieves National Fellow, a 2016 Chicago Foundation for Education ARLI Research Fellow, a 2018-19 Teach Plus Early Childhood Fellow and winner of the 2018 Golden Apple For Excellence In Teaching Award. She holds a BA in English and MEd in Early Childhood Education from the University of Illinois, a certificate in Early Childhood Leadership from Erikson Institute and is currently pursuing a PhD in Organizational Leadership at The Chicago School of Professional Psychology.
Email Heather
Shannon joined the Collaboration in January 2014 as the Developmental Screening Coordinator. She brings more than 20 years of experience working with children and families. She has held the positions of child care teacher assistant, family service worker, Early Head Start infant and Head Start 3-5 year-old teacher, preschool site director, infant-toddler specialist (working with homeless families and children), Illinois and Indiana early intervention developmental therapist and Indiana early intervention developmental therapist parent advisor (working with families with children diagnosed as deaf or hard-of-hearing). She holds a Master in Early Childhood Leadership and Advocacy from National-Louis University.
Email Shannon
The Collaboration contracts with Tiffany Kelly to conduct hearing and vision screenings. Tiffany is a licensed Hearing and Vision Screening Technician. She has extensive experience screening preschool and school-aged children and has worked for the Chicago Department of Public Health and had contracted with the Illinois Department of Public Health to train other technicians.
Email Tiffany
Jennifer joined the Collaboration in February 2017 as the Parent Resource Coordinator. She brings a mix of marketing and nonprofit experience to the position. Jennifer has worked at a boutique public relations firm in Chicago, taught English to adult students in Quito, Ecuador and prior to joining the Collaboration, she worked in Lake County, IL supporting early learning programs in underserved communities. She holds a BA in Advertising and Public Relations from Loyola University Chicago and speaks Spanish.
Email Jennifer