Board Member Biographies
James Peyser, Secretary of Education
As Secretary of Education, Jim Peyser directs the Executive Office of Education which is responsible for early education, K-12, and higher education in Massachusetts. Secretary Peyser sits on each of the boards governing the Commonwealth’s education agencies – Department of Early Education and Care, Department of Elementary and Secondary Education, and Department of Higher Education as well as the University of Massachusetts system. He is Governor Baker’s top advisor on education and helps shape the Commonwealth’s education reform agenda.
Prior to his appointment as Secretary, he served as the Managing Director at NewSchools Venture Fund, a non-profit grant-making firm that seeks to transform public education in high-need urban communities by supporting innovative education entrepreneurs. From 1999 through 2006, Jim served as Chairman of the Massachusetts Board of Education. Prior to joining NewSchools, Secretary Peyser was Education Advisor to Governors Bill Weld, Jane Swift and Mitt Romney, where he helped shape state policy regarding standards and assessments, school accountability, and charter schools. In 1995, he served as Under Secretary of Education and Special Assistant to the Governor Weld for Charter Schools.
He previously spent seven years as Executive Director of the Pioneer Institute for Public Policy Research, where he helped to launch the Massachusetts Charter School Resource Center, which supported the development of the state’s first charter schools. Before joining Pioneer Secretary Peyser held various positions at Teradyne, Inc. in Boston, an electronic test equipment manufacturer.
Secretary Peyser holds a Master of Arts in Law and Diplomacy from The Fletcher School (Tufts University) and a Bachelor of Arts from Colgate University.
Jay Gonzalez, President and Chief Executive Officer, CeltiCare Health Plan, Chair
Jay Gonzalez is President & CEO of CeltiCare Health Plan of Massachusetts, Inc. From January 2007 through January 2013, he served under Governor Patrick in the Executive Office of Administration and Finance, including as Secretary of Administration and Finance beginning in October 2009. Prior to joining the Patrick Administration, he was a Partner at the law firm Edwards Angell Palmer & Dodge LLP, where he focused on public finance. During his time with the Patrick Administration, Gonzalez oversaw state finances and helped the Commonwealth achieve its highest bond ratings ever. He also worked closely with the Legislature to enact and implement a number of significant government reform initiatives, including transportation reform, pension reform and municipal health care reform. Gonzalez lives in Brookline with his wife, Cyndi, and two daughters.
Joni Block is a Grants Specialist with the Brockton Public Schools where she oversees state and federal grants for young children and their families. Joni has had experience in educational policy issues at the local, state, national, and international levels involving curriculum, instruction, and assessment issues. Joni previously served as a consultant to several Departments of Education and to the Massachusetts legislature’s past Early Education and Care Advisory Committee. Her teaching experience has encompassed preschool through graduate programs where she focused on inclusive practices and providing access to quality education for ALL. Her work involves collaboration with families, educators, and community organizations. Joni was a member of the Wheelock faculty, teaching and coordinating early childhood and leadership courses and programs. Joni has a Master’s degree in Education, Early Childhood/Special Needs from Rhode Island College, and a Bachelor of Science degree in Special Education and Elementary Education from Southern Connecticut State College.
Joni and her husband, Cliff Shatz, are the founders of Rosie’s Rafikis, Inc., a non-profit organization providing education, health, and community support in rural Kenya. Rosie’s Rafikis Inc. was established to honor the memory and good deeds of their daughter Rose.
JD Chesloff, Executive Director, Massachusetts Business Roundtable
As Executive Director at MBR, JD is responsible for developing and implementing the strategic framework and direction for MBR in partnership with the Chair, Executive Committee and Board of Directors. He works with MBR Task Forces and MBR leadership to develop its agenda on public policy matters—particularly in the areas of competitiveness, health care, education, and transportation and infrastructure—and convey those ideas to opinion leaders and policy makers to help inform their deliberations.
JD has worked in and around Beacon Hill for more than 20 years. In the Legislature, he was the Chief of Staff to the House Committee on Commerce and Labor, and was the education issues analyst and Deputy Budget Director for the House Committee on Ways and Means. After working as both a budget analyst and Assistant to the President at the University of Massachusetts, JD worked as the Legislative Director for State Treasurer Shannon O’Brien and then as Issues Director for the O’Brien-Gabrieli gubernatorial campaign in 2002. He joined MBR in 2004 after serving as Legislative/Issues Director for the Early Education for All (EEA) Campaign, where he was responsible for developing and driving legislative support for EEA’s legislation and agenda which included the creation of the Massachusetts Department of Early Education and Care. He currently serves on the Department’s Board. In addition, he is Chair of the Governor’s STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) Advisory Council’s Executive Committee, and is a Trustee at the Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts. He also serves on the Board of The Discovery Museums; the Board of the Massachusetts Business Alliance for Education; and the Advisory Board of ReadyNation.
JD holds a Masters in Public Affairs from the McCormack Institute of Public Affairs at the University of Massachusetts Boston, and has a Bachelor’s Degree in Law and Public Policy and Telecommunications Writing from Syracuse University. He lives in Arlington, MA with his wife Lori and his two daughters, Sadie and Tessa.
Elizabeth Childs, M.D., M.P.A.
Dr. Childs is the former Commissioner of the Massachusetts Department of Mental Health and has an extensive background in serving people with mental illness in both the private and public sectors. She holds Diplomates in Adult, Child and Adolescent Psychiatry from the American Board of Psychiatry and Neurology, an A.B. from Mount Holyoke College, an M.D. from the University of Cincinnati College of Medicine, and an M.P.A. from the Harvard Kennedy School of Government. She completed her residency in 1990 and her child/adolescent fellowship in 1992 at the Massachusetts Mental Health Center. She is associated with Carney Hospital in Dorchester, MA, serving as the Chief and Director of Psychiatry from 1996-2003. She is appointed to the National Institute of Mental Health Advisory Council. She has been an active member of the Massachusetts Psychiatric Society, serving as its president 2002-2003. Dr. Childs has held academic appointments at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Harvard University, and the University of Cincinnati.
Dr. Childs is a former Head Start parent and member of the Head Start Parent Council and Policy Committee. She has two children, and resides with her husband in Brookline where she is an elected member of the Brookline School Committee.
Katie Joyce is the Vice President for Policy and Domestic and International Government Relations at Massachusetts Life Sciences Center. She previously held positions as Chief of Staff to former Lieutenant Governor Timothy Murray and Senior Advisor to Governor Deval Patrick. Joyce also has worked for then-U.S. Senator John Kerry and Massachusetts Attorney General Martha Coakley. She received a Bachelor of Arts in Political Science and Communications from Boston College, and a Master of Public Management from George Washington University. Joyce is a native of Holyoke and resides in Natick with her husband and three young children.
Sharon Scott-Chandler, Esq.
Sharon Scott-Chandler, Esq. is currently the Executive Vice President of Head Start and Children's Services for Action for Boston Community Development. Sharon has been engaged in early child policy and services for ten years. She previously served as the Director of Child Care Choices of Boston, the Child Care Resource Referral Agency for the Metro Boston Region. Sharon has a degree in law from Northeastern University and was the former Director of Legislative and Intergovernmental Policy and Assistant Attorney General for Massachusetts Attorney General, Scott Harshbarger. Prior to that, she was also an Associate in a Boston law firm and a Legislative Aide to a U.S. Congressman in Washington, DC. She was a 2005 Schott Foundation Fellow and serves on numerous Boards & Taskforces related to Early Childhood and youth issues. She is a native Bostonian who now resides in Natick with her husband and three young children.
Marylou Sudders, Secretary of Health and Human Services
Eleonora Villegas-Reimers, Ph.D.
Dr. Villegas-Reimers is currently Chair of Elementary Education Department and Associate Professor at Wheelock College. She has worked as a high school teacher, an assistant principal and served as an international student advisor at the Harvard Graduate School of Education. Her extensive academic resume includes expertise in child cognitive development and published research on improving teacher professional development, particularly in developing countries, and in values education, particularly democratic values and skills. She also serves on the Subcommittee on English Language Learners of the Massachusetts Board of Elementary and Secondary Education's Committee on the Proficiency Gap. Dr. Villegas-Reimers is the representative on the Board filling the role of Early Education Evaluator.
Mary E. Walachy
Mary Walachy is the Executive Director of the Irene E. & George A. Davis Foundation. Hired in 1997 to manage the affairs of the Davis Foundation, Walachy’s responsibilities include development of the organization’s strategic direction, general oversight of its administration, developing proactive and new funding initiatives, developing the Foundation’s funding and application guidelines and reviewing grant proposals.
Under Walachy’s direction, the Cherish Every Child Initiative, a city-wide initiative focused on improving the lives of children from birth through age five and their families in Springfield by helping to ensure that they enter kindergarten ready to succeed, has been a critical ally in the successful passage of universal Pre-K legislation in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. The initiative has also successfully engaged the workforce development and family literacy establishment in recognizing the long-term return on investments in early education.
Named the 2005 “Woman of Distinction” by the Pioneer Valley Girl Scout Council, Walachy is active and engaged in community work beyond her role at the Davis Foundation. She is the Co-Chair of Homes Within Reach – City of Springfield Plan to End Homelessness, a Member of the Board of Directors and Executive Committee of the Springfield Chamber of Commerce, a Trustee and Member of the Coordinating Council of the Pioneer Valley Planning Commission Plan for Progress, and a Member of the Steering Committee of the Massachusetts Early Education for All Campaign.
Joan Wasser Gish, J.D., M.A.
Joan Wasser Gish brings a breadth of public policy experience to the Board. Currently Principal at Policy Progress, a consulting firm, Joan previously served as a Senior Policy Advisor to United States Senator John Kerry with whom she worked on a wide range of matters including those related to education, children, and families. Joan was also the Director of Research and Policy at Strategies for Children where she produced numerous papers and reports on early education and care. Joan also worked as an attorney on cases related to expanding educational opportunities for all children, and has testified before Congress in support of legislation that would benefit the early education and care field.