Meet the 2020-2021 Board
The Collaboration for Early Childhood’s Board of Directors meets monthly. In addition to the Board of Directors, a Collaboration Council builds consensus on activities and the Intergovernmental Agreement (IGA) Governing Board oversees agreements with the municipal taxing bodies. A Founders Board was created in 2012 to offer institutional memory and guidance.
Becki became the Board’s Chair in July, 2020 and has been a member of the Board since 2016. Since joining the Board she has served on the Health and Development Committee. Becki is a retired special education teacher and administrator. She taught students who are deaf/hard of hearing for ten years in northwest Indiana and at the Illinois State University Laboratory Schools. Becki then supervised programs for students with disabilities at the LaGrange Area Department of Special Education, served as Executive Director of the LICA Special Education Cooperative, and was Assistant Superintendent for Special Education, Early Childhood, and Student Services in Arlington Heights District 59. Post-retirement she has worked as a consultant for school districts in the Chicago area. Becki holds a bachelor’s degree in special education and a master’s degree in educational administration from Illinois State University. A mother of three grown children and grandmother of four, her lifelong focus and passion has been supporting and empowering students and their families.
Board Vice Chair
Rupa Datta has lived in Oak Park since 2009. Since college, Rupa has had many professional and volunteer roles dedicated to improving access to quality educational experiences. She is a nationally-recognized researcher on the economics of early care and education. Closer to home, she served on the Oak Park Elementary District 97 school board from 2015-2019, having previously participated in other D97 and Collaboration committees. She and her husband have two children in the Oak Park public schools.
Gordon Hellwig is the treasurer of the Collaboration’s board. He has been a board member since 2013. He has worked for community development banks and commercial banks for nearly 25 years. He is now the Managing Director of Lending for Illinois and Northwest Indiana at IFF, a nonprofit community development financial institution (CDFI) that provides capital, consulting, and thought leadership to nonprofit organizations that provide services in low-income communities or to persons with disabilities. In addition to his years on the Collaboration’s board, Gordon was a Commissioner of the Oak Park Housing Authority for five years. He also has been a member of the Greater Austin Development Association, an organization of landlords and others that seeks to provide safe, quality, affordable housing in the Austin community, since 2012.
Bernadette joined the Collaboration’s Board of Directors in June 2013. She is currently the Executive Director of ABC Toon Town, and for over 16 years, she has devoted her career to working on behalf of children and families in the Oak Park/River Forest community. She holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Business from DePaul University, and a Master’s Degree in Educational Leadership from National Louis University. Her desire is to nurture, teach, and guide young children so they will become successful, lifetime learners.
Elizabeth has a 40- year career in health care administration. She was Executive Director of the Oak Park Infant Welfare Society Children’s Clinic for 20 years which provides medical, dental and social services care to children. She recently retired as Operations Manager of the Advocate-Aurora Pediatric Developmental Center managing an eight-million-dollar budget which supported assessment and treatment of children with cognitive and social developmental challenges. She is the past President of the District 97 School Board and was keenly interested in the student achievement and opportunity gap of those starting kindergarten. She was an early supporter and Board member of the Collaboration. As President of the Oak Park and River Forest League of Women Voters, Elizabeth chaired the committee that developed the first Early Childhood Resource Directory which the Collaboration now produces. Elizabeth received a BA from Oberlin College and a Masters in Health Services Administration from the University of Michigan School of Public Health. Elizabeth is now reliving early childhood experiences as she is spending a lot of time with her 4 grandchildren, ages one month to five years!
Gina Lowell, MD, MPH, is a Pediatrician and Director of Community Health for Pediatrics at Rush University Children’s Hospital. In her work at Rush Hospital, Gina develops maternal-child health initiatives that address the intersection of social determinants of health and maternal-child health outcomes through multidisciplinary collaboration and partnerships with community, city and state stakeholder institutions. Concurrent with these efforts, she is a general pediatrician at the Rush Pediatric Primary Care Center and a consultant for Rush’s Child Protection Team, providing care for children who have suffered maltreatment and those that have entered the foster care system.
John Mayes, LCSW, ACSW, ADC, officially joined the board in July 2020. He has spent almost 40 years working in community behavioral health organizations. From 2006 to 2018, he served as president and CEO of Trilogy Behavioral Health. He has also been a surveyor for the Commission on Accreditation of Rehabilitation Facilities (CARF) for more than 20 years and an organizational consultant. John spent his career in management and leadership roles. His special interests are not-for-profit management, leadership, mentoring, and staff development. John is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker (LCSW) and Alcohol Drug Counselor (ADC). He earned his master’s degree in social work at the University of Illinois at Chicago. John is a former executive director of the National Alliance for the Mentally Ill of Illinois and an active member of the Oak Park Area Arts Council board of directors.
Christopher D. Miller
Chris began working with the Collaboration in 2013, first as a member of the Development Committee, and soon thereafter as a full board member. Chris has worked in the field of Early Childhood education for almost 25 years. He is currently a senior early childhood practice consultant with Start Early, a Chicago-based non profit. In this capacity he provides professional development in the form of consultation, training and technical assistance to early childhood instructional leaders around the country. Prior to this position Chris was an early elementary school teacher in Chicago Public Schools, and a preschool teacher and preschool site director at locations in both Chicago and Portland, OR. Chris holds a Masters in Early Childhood Development from the Erikson Institute, a Masters of Theological Studies from the School of Theology at Claremont, and a B.A, in Religious Studies from St. Olaf College.
Mark is Professor Emeritus of Education at the University of Illinois at Chicago and Visiting Professor at Peabody College at Vanderbilt University. His teaching and research focus on school leadership, organizational improvement, and educational equity. Most recently Mark’s work examines ways of promoting positive learning environments for children in schools. Mark has published widely in scholarly and professional books and journals and has worked with schools, school districts, state education agencies, and professional associations across the country. He was a Co-Director of the Consortium for Chicago School Research at the University of Chicago and the executive officer of the National Society for the Study of Education. Mark has served on the boards of several Oak Park and Chicago-area not-for-profit organizations.
Julie joined the Board in 2018. She is the Head of Client Service at William Blair in Chicago, and she and her husband are co-owners, along with another Oak Park family, of One Lake Brewing in Oak Park. She moved to Oak Park in 2013, and has two children in elementary and middle school. She enjoys volunteering at organizations such as Bernie’s Book Bank and Cradles to Crayons, along with participating in volunteer opportunities at her children’s schools. She holds a BS in Finance from Indiana University and an MBA from the University of Chicago’s Booth School of Business.
Penny Wallingford is the immediate Past Chair of the Collaboration for Early Childhood and serves on the Human Resource and Finance Committees. During her six years on the Board, she has also been a member of the Governance, Data, and Development Committees. Her favorite Collab activity is volunteering at the Symposium each year, when over 300 early childhood educators gather to collectively sharpen their skills and share their experiences.
For Penny, the Collaboration is a tangible expression of her passion to build better communities as well a meaningful outlet for her love of data-based policy work. Her experience raising three girls in Oak Park helps her to understand some of the common challenges facing all Oak Park parents. Formerly she was a community member of the OPRF Transition Team, facilitating the transition between the middle schools and high schools as well as a member for the Finance Advisory Committee for OPRF. Earlier activities focused on community engagement include chairing the selection process for the former VMA political action committee, being a founding member of FORUM Oak Park, a civic group dedicated to civil discourse around pressing community issues, being the Director of Economic Development for the Village, and of course serving as the “room mom” multiple times at Longfellow School. Currently Penny works at a community bank helping to resolve troubled loans and increase CRA (Community Reinvestment Act) initiatives.
Jeff Weissglass is a political bridge-building advocate, working to identify and promote solutions to political polarization in America. Jeff serves as a board member of the Convergence Center for Policy Resolution and advises public, private, and nonprofit leaders on bridge building ideas and approaches. Jeff also serves on the board of Education Reimagined, a movement building organization that grew out of a Convergence process. He previously served as President of the Board of Education at Oak Park and River Forest High School and as Board Chair of the Johns Hopkins School of Education’s National Advisory Council. Jeff’s career has spanned the fields of law, community development banking, small business development, race relations, philanthropy, education, politics, and nonprofit leadership.
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We champion high-quality early childhood care and learning experiences and support for families so all children develop their full potential.