Debra Nelson, MS.
Debra Nelson, MS is Chair of the Council.
Ms. Nelson represents the New Hampshire Head Start Collaboration Office as the State Director. She joined the NH DHHS, Division for Children, Youth and Families as Head Start Collaboration Office administrator in January 2007, where she promotes access to quality services and collaboration between Head Start and early childhood programs/services at the state and local levels. Previously, she engaged in an array of projects for more than 16 years at the University of NH Institute on Disability/University Center for Excellence on Disability (IOD), serving as director, co-director, and evaluator of multiple federal, state and private foundation grants; assistant director of the IOD; and clinical assistant professor in the Child and Family Studies department. While at the IOD, Ms. Nelson secured over $2.93 million in grant funding to advance quality early care and education for all young children and their families.
She received her master’s degree in early childhood/special education from the University of Oregon and has accrued over 25 years of experience in the early care and education field, including early intervention and preschool, family support, education, training and technical assistance, grant writing, research and evaluation, systems change and policy development. Ms. Nelson serves on numerous boards and committees and has co-authored several publications related to children and families. Ms. Nelson was the Chair of the Early Childhood Advisory Council Steering Committee.
Erin Boylan is Vice Chair of the Council.
Erin is a 2002 graduate of Elmira College with a B.S. in Elementary Education. She also holds a Master’s Degree in Sports Administration from Southern New Hampshire University. Currently she is the Family Support Service Coordinator for Easter Seals Child Development & Family Resource Center in Manchester. Erin oversees parent education, parent support groups, HiSet preparation program as well as donation distribution. Erin currently serves as president of Family Support New Hampshire, as well as being appointed to the SPARK NH state council by Governor Maggie Hassan. Previously Erin taught various ages from preschool to high school around the state of New Hampshire. Erin also has over twelve years of high school and college cheerleading coaching experience.
Kerry Wiley is the Part C Coordinator for the Family Centered Early Supports and Services Program of NH. This program serves children who are at risk for or have delays or disabilities, in their natural settings. Kerry is dedicated to collaboration with mutual respect at all levels of the FCESS system and across Early Childhood Systems. Kerry has over 20 years of experience serving families with young children. Her experience includes work in child care, preschool, public school, home visiting, abuse and neglect prevention, Family Centered Early Supports and Services, as a parent, and stepparent. Her professional interests include Quality Improvement and Personnel Development. Kerry is passionate about promoting equity for people of all abilities, socioeconomic status, race, ethnicity, gender, and culture.
Kerry is a black belt in the martial art of Muay Thai and a blue belt in Brazilian Jui Jitsu. She is an avid reader and gardener.
Betty Gilcris is the Head Start Director for the Tri County Community Action Head Start program. She has worked at Tri County CAP Head Start for the past 28 years. She started with Head Start as a parent while her husband was in the early years of his construction company. She was soon recognized for her natural skills as an early childhood educator and recruited to pursue the early childhood education field. Head Start was her gateway to this path with early childhood education and encouraging her to continue her education. Betty spent the next 10 years teaching at Groveton Head Start and then 2 years at Lancaster Head Start. She was then recruited and promoted to a management within Tri County CAP Head Start. Over the next 12 years she was responsible for several management and then administrative areas before her promotion to the director position in July 2015.
Betty’s educational background includes an associate degree in early childhood education and a bachelor degree in early childhood administration. She is a member of the Coos Coalition for Young Children and Families’ Leadership Team and the New Hampshire Head Start Director’s Association.
Betty is a lifelong resident of Groveton NH where she still resides with her husband of 42 years. She is the proud mother of 2 wonderful daughters.
Charna Aversa is the representative of the New Hampshire Interagency Coordinating Council.
Ms. Aversa feels fortunate to have found her passion in working with young children and their families. She has been in the field of Early Childhood Education for the past thirteen years. Ms. Aversa’s current position as the Disabilities & Mental Health Services Manager for Strafford County Head Start allows her to collaborate with Family Centered Early Supports & Services and five LEAs, coordinating services that support success for all children in an inclusive setting. Previously, She provided Title I services in an elementary school setting. Her educational background includes a B.S. in Family Studies, an M.Ed. in Early Childhood Education and post-graduate coursework through the Institute on Disability at the University of New Hampshire. Ms. Aversa has been a member of the New Hampshire Interagency Coordination Council since 2007. Currently, she is the vice-chair of the NHICC and looks forward to serving on the Early Childhood Advisory Council as its representative. Ms. Aversa was a member of the Early Childhood Advisory Council Steering Committee.
Ruth Littlefield represents Part B, Section 619 of IDEA.
Ms. Littlefield, M.Ed. is former preschool special education teacher and has served as the NH Department of Education, Preschool Special Education consultant since 1992. In this role, Ms. Littlefield manages the federal Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) preschool special education grant. She has been essential in supporting the development and implementation of the statewide Preschool Technical Assistance Network (PTAN) which promotes quality, developmentally appropriate and culturally competent programs for NH’s young children with special needs and their families. In order to comply with federal requirements, , Ms. Littlefield worked with stakeholders to establish New Hampshire’s first Preschool Outcome Measurement System to measure progress for preschool children with disabilities. Ms. Littlefield was a member of the Early Childhood Advisory Council Steering Committee.
Jackie Cowell is Executive Director of Early Learning NH, a statewide organization committed to ensuring that all New Hampshire children have the opportunity to reach their full potential. She also serves as co-chair of the Seacoast Early Learning Alliance, a groundbreaking group of early childhood education programs working together in an innovative way to be “better together.” Upon graduation from the University of Virginia, Jackie joined the Peace Corps and taught high school math in Mali, West Africa. She worked for five years for Save the Children in Sudan, running an emergency relief, hand-dug wells, and community development program. Jackie directed two New Hampshire early childhood education programs, both of which shared a mission to give priority of service to vulnerable families: White Birch Community Center in Henniker and the Seacoast Community School in Portsmouth. In Greenland, she helped establish the Community School of SAU 50, the first, combined preschool and full-day early learning program housed in a Seacoast public school. Jackie has served as adjunct faculty in the Early Childhood Education department of the NH Technical Institute, Director of Development and Early Childhood Policy for the Children’s Alliance of NH, Public Policy Chair of the New Hampshire Association for the Education of Young Children and Chair of the New Hampshire Child Care Advisory Council. Under her leadership, Early Learning NH received the prestigious Mary Stuart Gile Award in recognition for its “commitment to the development of the next generation of early childhood professionals.” Jackie is a recipient of the Exemplary Leadership and Community Partnership Award from the NH Division for Children, Youth and Families.
Jackie lives in Henniker with her husband, Dague. Their daughter, Samantha, was an English Teacher in Peace Corps-Kazakhstan and currently works for Docent Health in Boston. Their son, Ben, studied sustainable agriculture and bio-energy and is a Peace Corps volunteer in Madagascar.
Kristin Booth currently serves as the Administrator for New Hampshire’s Child Development Bureau (CDB), but has worked in the Bureau for eleven years where she has monitored contracts, awarded credentials, written rules and policies and worked in revising NH’s QRIS.
Prior to coming to the CDB, she worked in child care programs as a teacher and director and served several years in Child Care Resource and Referral. Kristin has led or served on many task forces over the years that have helped shape systems and policies in NH. She is currently leading the CDB and stakeholders through the process of implementing the many changes required by the Child Care Development Block Grant Act of 2014. She is excited about the positive possibilities the Act brings to children, families and providers and looks forward to the day when funding will support the changes to the fullest extent.
Kim Firth represents the New Hampshire Philanthropic Community.
Ms. Firth is a Program Director at the Endowment for Health, where she manages a portfolio of grants, projects, and policy initiatives addressing children’s mental health and geographic barriers to health. Before joining the Endowment, she served as a Planning and Policy Analyst for the New Hampshire Department of Health & Human Services, Office of Health Planning and Medicaid. She also served as the Grant Manager for the Health Care Fund, Community Grant Program, a public endowment created by the Legislature. Prior to working at the New Hampshire Department of Health and Human Services, Ms. Firth served as the Project Director for the Strafford County Domestic Violence Project, a federally funded initiative to create a multi-disciplinary prosecution team for domestic violence criminal cases in the county. She also served as the Director and Program Coordinator for the AmeriCorps Victim Assistance Program, which used AmeriCorps members as advocates for survivors of domestic and sexual violence in District Courts and police departments. Ms. Firth received her Bachelor of Arts from New England College.
Tricia currently serves as senior policy advisor in the Office of Medicaid Services within the New Hampshire Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) where she works on a range of policy issues related to the state's Medicaid program. She previously served at DHHS from 1992 - 2007 in a number of legal and policy positions working on a wide range of issues including mental health, substance misuse, child protection, juvenile justice and health care. From 2007 - 2015 Tricia served as the Advocacy Director at New Futures, a nonpartisan nonprofit advocacy organization where she continued her advocacy work at the federal, state, and local level on substance misuse and health care issues. She is a graduate of Harvard Law School and the College of Wooster. Prior to attending law school she taught junior high school mathematics in Ohio.
Michelle Lewis represents the New Hampshire Parent Information Center.
She is a parent of two young children (ages 6 and 4), one who has a physical disability and speech delay. Ms. Lewis is chair of the Interagency Coordinating Council (ICC) and serves on the State Advisory Committee for Special Education. In December 2009, she received the IDEA Infant Toddler Coordinator Association Regional Parent Leadership Award. She has presented at many state and national conferences on parent involvement in special education. Ms. Lewis is currently the Project Director for the Parent Training and Information Center (PTI) project at the Parent Information Center and an early childhood transitions project, supporting early childhood professionals in their work with families and children transitioning from Part C to Part B. She holds a M.Ed. in School Counseling and has worked with families and systems for over 15 years. Ms. Lewis has successfully led numerous state and federal grant programs and initiatives, the majority of them focused on IDEA. Ms. Lewis was a member of the Early Childhood Advisory Council Steering Committee.
Rhonda Siegel is the recently appointed Maternal and Child Health Section Administrator and Title V Director for the State of New Hampshire’s Division of Public Health Services. As such, she has oversight over a complex program with over 60 contracts, 15 federal grants and many programs including injury prevention. Prior to May of 2014, she was the Injury Prevention Program Manager for 11 years with five years prior as the Health Promotion Advisor. Ms. Siegel has worked with collaborators on best practice program development, implementation, and evaluation with regards to injury prevention. She continues to work on a range of injury issues including acting as the chair for the New Hampshire Falls Risk Reduction Task Force, the State’s Teen Driving Committee, the Communications Subcommittee of the Suicide Prevention Council, the Injury Prevention Advisory Council and the Sexual Violence Prevention Committee. Ms. Siegel has over 25 years in the field of public health.
Mark Vallone is principal of Epping Elementary School. He has worked as a teacher, curriculum specialist and administrator in elementary, middle and high schools. A graduate of Bowdoin College, he earned graduate degrees in political science and educational administration from the University of New Hampshire. He has served as president of the New Hampshire Council for the Social Studies and as a Christa McAuliffe fellow. Mark is married and lives in Epping, NH.