NONIE K. LESAUX, Ph.D. Chair
JAMES PEYSER, Secretary of Education (ex-officio)
NICKI RUIZ DE LUZURIAGA
ALISON SCHONWALD, M.D.
MARYLOU SUDDERS, Secretary of Health and Human Services* (ex-officio)
Nonie K. Lesaux, Ph.D. Chair
Nonie K. Lesaux, Ph.D. is the Juliana W. and William Foss Thompson Professor of Education and Society. Her research focuses on promoting the language and literacy skills of today's children from diverse linguistic, cultural, and economic backgrounds, and is conducted largely in urban and semi-urban cities and school districts. Lesaux's work has earned her the William T. Grant Scholars Award, and the Presidential Early Career Award for Scientists and Engineers, the highest honor given by the United States government to young professionals beginning their independent research careers. She has served on the U.S. Department of Education's Reading First Advisory Committee, and the Institute of Medicine and National Research Council's Committee on the Science of Children Birth to Age 8. Lesaux's developmental and experimental research on school-age children and youth investigates language, reading, and social-emotional development; classroom quality and academic growth; and strategies for accelerating language and reading comprehension. Her research on our youngest children, with colleague Stephanie Jones, focuses on the challenge of simultaneously expanding and improving the quality of early childhood education, at scale (The Leading Edge of Early Childhood Education, Harvard Education Press, 2016). Lesaux's research appears in numerous scholarly publications, and its practical applications are featured in three books: Teaching Advanced Literacy Skills (Guilford Press, 2016), Cultivating Knowledge, Building Language: Literacy Instruction for English Learners in Elementary School (Heinemann, 2015), and Making Assessment Matter: Using Test Results to Differentiate Reading Instruction (Guilford, 2011). She is also the author of a widely circulated state literacy report, Turning the Page: Refocusing Massachusetts for Reading Success, that forms the basis for a Third Grade Reading Proficiency bill passed in Massachusetts.
Sheila Balboni is former the Executive Director and currently consultant to the Community Group, a private non-profit management agency located in Lawrence, MA that develops and manages programs in early education, professional development for teachers, elementary school management (both charter and district) and child care resource and referral. She has served on several state task forces and planning committees such as the Governor’s Commission on School Readiness and is a past trustee of Northern Essex Community College and the Mass Cultural Council. She is a past president and founder of the Mass Charter School Association and past president of the Massachusetts Association of Child Care Agencies. Sheila is the recipient of the Merrimack Valley Athena Award from the Greater Haverhill Chamber of Commerce for her work in helping women reach their leadership potential and the Lawrence History Center and Immigrant Archives’ award for her work in preserving the physical and human assets of Lawrence. She has a master’s degree from the Harvard School of Education.
Paul Belsito is the Executive Director of the Irene E. & George A. Davis Foundation. Paul was appointed in the spring of 2020 to advance the Foundation’s work and mission in Hampden County and to reaffirm the Foundation’s commitment to excellence, innovation, and equity in education. His proactive vision, strategic direction, and his track record of success in community organizing and mission-driven philanthropy will enhance and further define the Foundation’s legacy and work as Hampden County comes out of a critical period and enters a transformational moment that will define the region for generations to come.
Paul has served on several boards and commissions over his career and currently serves on the Board of Educare Springfield, the board of advisors for the Massachusetts Business Alliance for Education and a member of the steering committee of the Early Childhood Funder Collaborative. Committed to racial and gender equity, He is a recent alum of Capital Collaborative, a program of Camelback Ventures, which brings together leading philanthropists across the country to deepen their commitment to equitable grantmaking.
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.
David Cruise is the President and Chief Executive Officer of MassHire Hampden County Workforce Board, Inc. He was most recently the Director of Business and Employer Services for the REB and was responsible for directing the design and implementation of the Precision Manufacturing Regional Alliance Project. Previously David was the Executive Director of Human Resources for the Public Schools of Springfield, Massachusetts. He is also a member of the Springfield Business Leaders for Education.
Jamella earned a bachelor’s degree from the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences at Cornell University, where she also minored in business. After graduating from Cornell, she deferred pursuing her master's in education at Harvard to serve as a corps member and service leader at City Year of Columbus. From there, while earning her master’s at the Harvard Graduate School of Education, she worked as an elementary school teacher at King Elementary School in Cambridge, MA; worked as a facilitator in the Harvard Summer Literacy Institute; and as a literacy teacher at the Dorchester Neighborhood Charter School. Upon graduating, at the behest of former President Clinton and President Nelson Mandela, she moved to South Africa to manage the Clinton Democracy Fellowship at City Year, helping to lead that organization’s first international expansion initiative. After several years in South Africa, Jamella returned to the United States to work as a vice president of communications and professional development for the Ohio Charter School Association and vice president of development and special initiatives at Concept Schools in Chicago.
In 2010, Jamella earned a Juris Doctor at The Ohio State University Moritz College of Law, a program for which she was the Katherine C. Jones Scholarship recipient and was also awarded the Marsha Schermer Scholarship by the Columbus Bar Foundation. While in law school, Jamella worked as a two-year summer associate at the law firm of Dinsmore & Shohl, LLP, and taught in the Ohio Law & Leadership Institute, a program developed to provide an opportunity for high school students from underserved communities to learn skills that may help them become lawyers and leaders in their communities. At graduation, Jamella was awarded the Harry S. and Georgina Lett Memorial Award for outstanding service to the Moritz College of Law. A recipient of numerous other awards, Jamella has also been awarded the Compaq Leadership Award, an award honoring alumnus of City Year who have distinguished themselves through continued civic leadership and commitment to service.
After law school, Jamella joined the Taft School faculty serving as chair of the Global Studies and Service Department and dean of Global and Diversity Education. In collaboration with Waterbury partners and colleagues, she created the Center for Global Leadership and Service, an "action tank" developed through the Edward E. Ford Foundation Educational Leadership Grant initiative and subsequent matching donations.
Jamella moved to Massachusetts in 2018 to take on the role of VP of People & Culture at Jumpstart. Jamella deeply believes in Jumpstart’s mission and vision that “every child in America enters kindergarten prepared to succeed.” On September 1, 2021, Jamella will move into the role of Chief People Officer at Jumpstart, providing human capital leadership to the organization as it seeks to build a more equitable education system for your children.
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.
Nicki Ruiz de Luzuriaga
Nicki Ruiz de Luzuriaga is the Vice President of Institutional Advancement at Economic Mobility Pathways (EMPath), an organization that transforms people’s lives by helping them move out of poverty and provides other institutions with the tools to systematically do the same. Nicki has worked at EMPath since 2009, focusing on children’s and family issues, with a particular interest in the interdependence of family members in moving out of poverty. She led the development of EMPath’s intergenerational model, The Intergen Project, and co-authored a brief on the theory and practice of intergenerational antipoverty efforts. She also has a strong interest in coaching, both as a vehicle for economic mobility and to develop staff who are serving families. Before joining EMPath, she developed children’s programming at various for-profit and nonprofit organizations and became very interested in how poverty affects children and youth. Nicki completed a master’s in public administration at the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University, where she was awarded a Gleitsman Fellowship through the Center for Public Leadership. She was born and raised in Massachusetts, and currently lives in East Boston with her partner and their young daughter.
Alison Schonwald, MD
Dr. Alison Schonwald is a Developmental Behavioral Pediatrician at Touchstone Neurodevelopmental Center. A member of the Department of Pediatrics at the Cambridge Health Alliance, she is an Associate Professor in Pediatrics at Harvard Medical School. Dr. Schonwald received her medical degree from the University of Pennsylvania and completed her Residency and Fellowship at Boston Children’s Hospital. Dr. Schonwald is active in the American Academy of Pediatrics, the American Board of Pediatrics, and the Society for Developmental-Behavioral Pediatrics. Her clinical expertise includes autism spectrum disorder (ASD) and psychopharmacology for children with disabilities, about which she lectures nationally.
Mora Segal is an Entrepreneur-In-Residence at A-Street Ventures, an initiative focused on seeding and scaling innovative K-12 student learning and achievement solutions for students, families, and schools. Previously, Mora was the CEO of Achievement Network (ANet), an organization dedicated to ensuring students in marginalized communities have access to meaningful, high quality instruction. Over the course of her ten years leading the organization, ANet supported thousands of K-12 schools and systems nationwide with data-driven instruction, instructional leadership coaching, and the implementation of curriculum, assessment, and professional learning systems. Mora led the organization's growth from 60,000 students in 5 states to 350,000 students in 29 states, while deepening its impact for students. Her organization was recognized multiple times by the Non-Profit Times as one of the best places to work.
Prior to ANet, Mora held leadership roles at College Summit (now PeerForward) and SchoolSports (which became ESPN-Rise). She is a proud AmeriCorps Alumna and Coro Foundation Fellow. She is the board chair of the Eli and Phyllis Segal Citizen Leadership Program, a board member of Open Up Resources, a Leap of Reason Ambassador, and a Pahara-Aspen Fellow. Mora received her MBA from Harvard Business School and her BA from Yale University. She resides in Newton with her husband and two daughters.
Marylou Sudders, Secretary of Health and Human Services
Appointed as Secretary of the Executive Office of Health and Human Services (EOHHS) by Governor Charlie Baker in January 2015, Marylou Sudders leads the largest executive agency in state government, a $19.4 billion state budget with 22-thousand dedicated public servants, and oversees critical services that touch almost one in six residents of the Commonwealth. Professionally trained as a social worker, Sudders has dedicated her life to public service and to some of our most vulnerable citizens. She has been a public official, provider executive, advocate and college professor.
With a long record of public service, she was the Massachusetts Commissioner of Mental Health from 1996 to 2003, helping to create the state’s first children’s mental health commission and championing the rights and wellbeing of children, adults and elders with mental illness and their loved ones.
For almost ten years, she headed the Massachusetts Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children, promoting the rights and well-being of some 24,000 children and families.
In 2012, Sudders was appointed to the state’s Health Policy Commission (HPC) for her behavioral health expertise; she remains on this important Commission in her capacity as Secretary. The HPC is charged with improving health care quality while curbing costs. She also spent time as an associate professor and Chair of Health and Mental Health at Boston College’s Graduate School of Social Work. Sudders has served on many charitable boards throughout her career, including the Pine Street Inn, Massachusetts Association for Mental Health and the National Alliance on Mental Illness.
Secretary Sudders’ talent and dedication has been recognized multiple times. She received an Honorary Doctorate from the Massachusetts School of Professional Psychology and was named Social Worker of the Year from the Massachusetts Chapter of the National Association of Social Workers. She was also nationally recognized with the Knee-Whitman Outstanding Achievement for Health & Mental Health Policy from the National Association of Social Workers Foundation.
*Carolyn Kain, Executive Director of the Autism Commission, Designee for Secretary Sudders