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Meet the State Advisory Council

The Early Childhood State Advisory Council (SAC) brings together up to 23 Governor appointed and at-large public and private early childhood leaders and decision-makers from across sectors to issue recommendations and increase coordination and collaboration to advance a more connected, integrated and evolving early childhood system.

Cheryle Wilcox

SAC Public Co-Chair; Vermont Department of Mental Health

Cheryle Bilodeau Wilcox, LICSW is the Interagency Planning Director for Vermont, Agency of Human Services, Department of Mental Health. Cheryle earned her Bachelor’s Degree in Human Services and Counseling at Lyndon State College and a Master’s Degree in Social Work from the University of Vermont. She has worked in the human service field for over twenty years. Her experience includes working in child welfare, being a foster parent for adolescents and as a trainer and consultant. She has also worked in school-based mental health and as an outpatient therapist. For the past several years, Cheryle has been focused on policy at the statewide level supporting funding and service delivery efforts that ensure children, youth and families receive integrated, family-centered supports.

Chloe Learey

SAC Private Co-Chair; Winston Prouty Child Center

Chloe Learey has been the Executive Director of the Winston Prouty Center for Child and Family Development in Brattleboro since July 2007. After graduating in 2000 from Boston University with a dual degree MBA/ MPH with a focus in Healthcare Management she worked at the Brattleboro Retreat as a Data Analyst for two years, and then became Director of Operations at Monadnock Developmental Services in Keene, NH. Her father owned a summer camp in the mountains of Western Maryland so she had the fortune of growing up in the woods and having fun as a camper, then counselor, and ultimately program director and song leader. She has two children, ages 17 and 19. She graduated from Earlham College with a BA in English Literature and a minor in Biology. Chloe is passionate about helping create communities where everyone is valued and has a chance to develop and contribute their gifts. The development of the Winston Prouty campus is a wonderful opportunity to channel that passion and build an asset that helps our community thrive.

Kim Keiser

SAC Treasurer; Vermont Project Director, Turrell Fund

Renee Kelly

SAC Secretary; Head Start

Renee Kelly serves as Director of the Vermont Head Start Collaboration Office within the Child Development Division. She holds a B.S. in Psychology & Human Services from Lyndon State College, a Certificate in Nonprofit Management from Marlboro College, and has over ten years of experience in human services and early childhood systems that began as an Early Head Start Home Visitor in Newport, VT. She is a 2018 graduate of the Snelling Center for Government Vermont Leadership Institute and is qualified as a Result Based Accountability (RBA) trainer and certified facilitator. Renee is passionate about using her skills and experience to improve the quality of life for Vermont’s most vulnerable children and families. She describes herself as a curious and reflective systems-thinker committed to and excited by using data to inform programmatic and policy-level decision-making. She currently resides in Barre Town with her two young children and enjoys disc golf, tennis, gardening, and reading.

Aly Richards

Let's Grow Kids

Aly draws on her extensive experience in state and national politics and her leadership in education policy to lead Let’s Grow Kids’ whose mission is to ensure affordable access to high-quality child care for all Vermont families by 2025. Prior to joining the organization in 2015, Aly served as the deputy chief of staff for Vermont Governor Peter Shumlin where she led several efforts to support early childhood education, including winning competitive federal grants totaling $70 million and supporting the passage of universal prekindergarten. Aly was selected as a 2013 Toll Fellow by the Council of State Governments and as the 2014 Vermont Champion for Education by the New England Secondary School Consortium. She also served on the 2008 Obama campaign and graduated with honors from Brown University. Aly currently serves as a Trustee of University of Vermont Medical Center and the Vermont Council on Rural Development and was recently named a Changemaker for Children by Save the Children.
Aly grew up in Newbury, VT and now lives in Montpelier with her husband, James Pepper, twin babies Beau and Wesley and dog, Bella.

Amy Johnson

Parent Child Center Network

Amy Johnson has worked nearly 20 years in the field of human services, both domestically and internationally. Originally from Michigan, Amy started her career as a foster care case manager in Detroit. With a Bachelor of Arts degree in Psychology and a Master of Arts degree in Social Justice and Human Rights, her unique combination of educational and professional experiences has helped her to gain a keen insight into family systems within the broader context of the education, health, and the early childhood world. Amy has been dedicated to enhancing and supporting the well-being of children and families for the duration of her career. As a collaborative and creative leader, she has forged diverse partnerships that have helped to create programming that has sought to strengthen protective factors in families, promote positive child development and parent-child relationships, and mitigate the risk and effects of Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs) and toxic stress. Amy is passionately skilled in the areas of trauma informed care, ACEs and resiliency, Results Based Accountability, collective impact, perinatal mental health and supports, equity & inclusion, and early childhood systems. Amy lives in Burlington with her daughter, Luna and is on the board of the Vermont Chapter of Postpartum Support International. She is currently the Director of the Parent Child Center of Northwestern Counseling & Support Services and the co-chair of the Vermont Parent Child Center Network.

Christy Swenson

Head Start

Christy Swenson spent almost 20 years providing direct service for children and families. She began her career as a speech-language pathologist working for a rural hospital that held the contract for birth to three services for the county. She provided the services for that contract through home visiting and a preschool program, as well as providing outpatient therapy to a mostly preschool population. She then worked in the school system where she developed specialties in autism spectrum disorder and developmental verbal dyspraxia. When Christy joined Capstone Head Start three years ago, she continued working with families, teachers, and home visitors, before moving into the Head Start director role providing support to staff working directly with children and families. Christy lives in Montpelier with her two teenaged sons.

Emily Merrill

Parent Representative

Emily is an At Large Member and the Parent Representative on the State Advisory Council. She brings with her years of volunteer experience, most recently as Chair of Champlain Valley Head Start’s Policy Council. Emily sits on the Families and Communities Committee, where she works diligently to elevate and include family voice to inform program development and delivery across the early childhood system. She appreciates engaging in policy-making for Vermont’s youngest children and families and remains committed to highlighting concrete and lived examples from families that mirror systems-level policy as a way to remind decision-makers of the impacts of our recommendations.

Flor Diaz Smith

Vermont School Boards Association

Flor grew up in Guatemala City. She is a licensed architect in Guatemala, and has been designing in Vermont since 1997. She studied at Francisco Marroquin Architecture School in Guatemala and in Texas A&M, and in Chicago, and also won a scholarship to the Prince of Wales Urban Task Force in 1996. She came to Vermont for an internship at a local architectural firm and fell in love with Vermont and her future husband.
She started her own design studio, diazsmithSTUDIO, 9 years ago to have more time for family and her community volunteering. Her Design Studio consults with other architects on interior design, residential, school design and retail. Residential and interior design are her passions but she also enjoys small commercial and retail design.

Flor’s other big passion is education. She believes that education is a human right and spends a lot of time learning and understanding how to support all kids and how to have a stronger public education and childcare system. A strong public education is the basis of our democracy and the key to successful communities. Flor has served on several boards that support public education. She is currently the Vice Chair of WCUUSD, also a member of the task force on Diversifying the Educator Workforce in New England and Vermont. She is also an appointed member to the State Advisory council for Building Bright Futures in VT. She served on the Vermont School Boards Association for several years; as part of the Executive Committee she had the opportunity to participate in the national work.

She and her husband Dan live at their farm house in East Montpelier with their children Mia, Isabella, and Lincoln.

Ilisa Stalberg

Maternal and Child Health Director, Vermont Department of Health

Julie Cadwallader-Staub

Development Director, Stern Center

Julie has a diverse background in grant management, early education, and nonprofit management. In her previous role as Director of Vermont’s $36.9M Race to the Top grant, she worked to improve school readiness for Vermont’s children. Two years after earning a Masters in Social Work from Rutgers, Julie founded the Maternity Care Coalition of greater Philadelphia and later became founding Executive Director of Hunger Free Vermont. She was also VP of Community Grantmaking at Vermont Community Foundation and Grants Director at the Burlington School District.  In addition to her impressive background in nonprofit work, Julie is a poet whose work has been published in national journals and anthologies.

Kate Rogers

Agency of Education

Kate Rogers, M.Ed has worked for over 30 years in many different roles and capacities in early education (e.g., center-based childcare, Head Start, home-visitor, classroom teacher, school district early childhood special educator, and supervisory union prekindergarten coordinator). In her current role at the Agency of Education (AOE), Kate leads the Early Education Team to support statewide compliance and implementation of Vermont’s Universal Prekindergarten Education Law (Act 166) (PreK), IDEA Section 619 Early Childhood Special Education (ECSE), and Early Multi-Tiered System of Supports. Kate leads statewide PreK and ECSE training and technical assistance for school district administrators, early educators and early childhood special educators and community-based private prequalified PreK education programs. As team lead, Kate ensures that Vermont’s Universal Prekindergarten Education Accountability and Continuous Improvement System (ACIS) not only addresses compliance with ACT 166 requirements for over 400 public and private PreK programs but effectively balances the monitoring system with appropriate guidance, training and technical assistance to promote evidence based practices therefore reducing risk of program violation that result in corrective action. Since 2005, Kate has contributed to numerous grant related projects including previous State Personnel Development Grants, Race to the Top Early Learning Challenge Grant, and Preschool Development Expansion Grant. All grants supported infrastructure and systems building within the state’s early childhood arena. Highlights of this work include revision of the Vermont Early Learning Standards, new Kindergarten Readiness Assessment (R4K!S), new Guiding Principles to support the Equitable and Full Inclusion of Each and Every Child and their Family, and establishing Early Multi-tiered System of Supports which was designed as innovation neutral to support, maintain and sustain implementation of practice to support social/emotional, early literacy and language, and mathematics skill and development. Kate collaborates with national leaders from the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Special Education Program, Early Childhood Technical Assistance Center, The Center for IDEA Early Childhood Data Systems, and the National Center for Pyramid Model Innovation (NCPMI). Kate represents the AOE on numerous state interagency and policy committees and is the Secretary of Education’s designee on Vermont’s Building Bright Futures State Advisory Council.

Kenneth Jones

Economic Research Analyst, Vermont Agency of Commerce

Nicole Grenier

Stowe Street Cafe

Nicole Grenier, MHA, holds a Master’s Degree of Health Care Administration from the University of Scranton and has served as a mental health professional with 20 years experience serving children, youth and families across local systems of care in Pennsylvania, New Jersey and Vermont. Nicole first served at WCMHS from 2003-2014 as the director of a School-Based program, and later as the director of our Early Childhood programs, with a brief departure to embrace entrepreneurship as the owner of a local coffee shop. The coffee shop successfully continues under the day-to-day management by Nicole’s committed and capable team, allowing her to proudly return to WCMHS in 2018 as the Director of the CYFS Division where she continues her commitment to advocating for the best possible services and supports for children, families, and staff.

Rep. Jessica Brumsted

Vermont House of Representatives

Jessica Brumsted was born in Warwick, RI and came to VT in 1983 to attend the University of Vermont (UVM) where she earned a bachelor’s degree in political science and economics, and a master’s in public administration from the University of Vermont. Jessica is an experienced government relations professional who started her career in Congressman and then Senator Jim Jeffords’ Vermont office in the late 80s where she worked for 12 years on health care and disability policy before serving as Director of Government Relations at (then) Fletcher Allen Health Care. She left Fletcher Allen to serve as Director of the Vermont Area Health Education Centers Program (AHEC) at UVM for several years before resigning to focus her time and energy on raising her four children. For the last decade, she has been an active community volunteer on numerous committees and boards, and she continues to serve on the Lund Board. In 2016, Jessica was elected to the Vermont House of Representatives to represent Shelburne and St. George. She first served on the Government Operations Committee; currently, she is a member of the House Human Services Committee and the Government Accountability Committee. Jessica is married to John and together they are the proud parents of seven children and seven grandchildren.

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