Strong Foundations For Our Youngest Children


Debi Mathias

Debi Mathias serves as the Director of the QRIS National Learning Network with the BUILD Initiative, a broad cross-section of partners at the state and national level focused on the development and implementation of quality rating and improvement systems (QRIS). Previously, Debi served for 7 years as Director of Early Learning Services, Office of Child Development and Early Learning (OCDEL) in Pennsylvania. Her responsibilities included leadership and support of teams responsible for design, implementation and monitoring of a variety of programs and initiatives including Keystone STARS, Family Support programs, the state Pre-K program, Head Start, the state professional development system, standards aligned systems (learning standards, assessment, curriculum framework etc.), PELICAN data base, program evaluation and research. Debi understands early learning at every level, having served for nearly 30 years as Program Director, SUM Child Development Inc., where she created and managed a multi-site NAEYC Accredited early care and education program serving 800+ children ranging in age from six weeks to 12 years.[email protected]


Kate Tarrant

Kate Tarrant, Ed.D. M.P.A. is the Director of Research and Evaluation for the New York Early Childhood Professional Development Institute. She has worked as an independent early childhood research and policy consultant with numerous national, state, and local organizations, such as the BUILD Initiative, the Foundation for Child Development, the New York State’s Early Childhood Advisory Council, the New York City Administration for Children's Services. She co-authored a book on the early care and education workforce, co-edited a volume on early childhood transitions and alignment, and written numerous book chapters, reports, and journal articles. Her work focuses on comprehensive early childhood systems, workforce development, and quality improvement policy. Tarrant earned a doctorate in education from Teachers College, Columbia University and an M.P.A. from Columbia University's School of International and Public Affairs. [email protected]

Aisha Ray


Aisha Ray has taught at the Erikson Institute for 20 years. She was named Senior Vice President for Academic Affairs and Dean of Faculty on July 1, 2009. Her areas of research include cultural and situational contexts of child development, early childhood professional development, father-child relationships in urban communities, and early childhood services for immigrant children and families. She is currently leading a project with Barbara T. Bowman to understand and improve teacher preparation to successfully educate children of diverse cultural, linguistic, and economic backgrounds. Dr. Ray also serves as a Senior Research Associate at the University of Pennsylvania's National Center on Fathers and Families. She has previously held faculty or research appointments at DePaul University and the University of Chicago. In addition, she has served as a consultant with the Annie E. Casey Foundation, Chicago Public Schools, Council of Great City Schools, the Illinois Fatherhood Initiative, National Center for Strategic Nonprofit Planning and Community Leadership, FirstSchool of the University of North Carolina, BUILD Initiative, Ounce of Prevention Fund and Child Trends. [email protected]

Lori Connors-Tadros

Lori leads the work of CEELO to provide technical assistance to build capacity of state education agencies to improve outcomes for children birth through third grade. She conducts research and facilities decision-making to ensure states develop evidence-based policy to support program quality, effective teaching, and developmentally appropriate learning. She collaborates with other technical assistance organizations to leverage expertise and resources in support of states’ goals. She previously held the position of Vice President of Children and Family Services at The Finance Project, directed federally funded technical assistance for state child care administrators, conducted research on family/community impact on children’s learning, worked at the state level to support inclusive settings for children with disabilities, and was a preschool special education teacher.[email protected]

Jana Martella

Jana co-leads and supports all operations of the Center, including the development and execution of strategic and responsive technical assistance (TA), analysis and review of all products and publications, tailoring TA activities and materials for use by SEAs and RCs, and providing direct TA to multiple states. She brings more than thirty years of experience in education, including as a teacher and assistant school administrator, SEA legislative liaison and coordinator for federal programs. A central part of her focus has been on education system and program improvement through standards-based reform, including her work in promoting improved opportunities in early childhood education. She has worked on multiple initiatives designed to advance high quality in early childhood education and in child and adult care in the states. [email protected]