Hedy Nai-Lin Chang directs Attendance Works, a national and state level initiative aimed at advancing student success by addressing chronic absence. A skilled presenter, facilitator, researcher and writer, she co-authored the seminal report, Present, Engaged and Accounted For: The Critical Importance of Addressing Chronic Absence in the Early Grades, as well as numerous other articles about student attendance. Deeply committed to promoting two-generation solutions to achieving a more just and equitable society, Hedy has spent more than two decades working in the fields of family support, family economic success, education and child development. She served as a senior program officer at the Evelyn and Walter Haas Jr. Fund and as co-director of California Tomorrow, a nonprofit committed to drawing strength from cultural, linguistic and racial diversity. In February 2013, Hedy was named by the White House as a Champion of Change for her commitment to furthering African American Education. Hedy is also the mother of two school-aged sons who attend public school in San Francisco. Listen to a podcast of Hedy Chang talking about chronic absence in the early grades.
Associate Director for Programs
Cecelia Leong coordinates Attendance Works’ technical assistance resources. In addition to facilitating peer-to-peer sharing between researchers, practitioners and consultants through the Peer Learning Network, Cecelia works closely with the Attendance Works team to identify emerging technical assistance needs in reducing chronic absence and innovative tools to address those needs. With 12 years of experience, Cecelia has used her skills as a writer, researcher and evaluator to document innovation and best practice on issues affecting children, youth and their families. She has focused on the following policy areas: K-12 education reform, universal preschool, integration of social services including school-linked services, family support, and equal access for immigrant students. Cecelia has two school-aged children who are working on perfect attendance.
Associate Director for Policy
Sue Fothergill facilitates Attendance Works’ Network to Advance State Attendance Policy and Practice (NASAPP), a network of more than 100 organizations from 25 states and the District of Columbia. Ms. Fothergill is also responsible for technical assistance at the local and state level and coordinating Attendance Works policy work at the federal and state level. Prior to joining Attendance Works, Sue served as the director of Attendance and Related Strategies for the Family League of Baltimore. Her earlier positions include: director of the Baltimore Student Attendance Campaign with Baltimore’s Safe and Sound Campaign, education advocate with the ACLU of Maryland’s Education Reform Project, director of advocacy and founder City Neighbors Foundation, and co-chair of the Baltimore Education Coalition. Sue is the recipient of the John Brown Education Advocacy Award from Children First and the Distinguished Service Award from the PTA Council of Baltimore County. Sue holds a B.A. in Public Policy from University of Baltimore and is the parent of two wonderful boys.
Special Projects Manager
Karissa Yee Findley has been working in education advocacy, public policy, and non-profit strategy for over a decade. Her early start as a youth activist on the San Francisco Youth Commission and as student delegate to the San Francisco Board of Education led her to dedicate her career towards solutions to close the opportunity gap that many low-income students and students of color face. After interning with the Council of Great City Schools and US. House of Representatives Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, Karissa taught abroad in Suzhou, China. She has worked as a consultant to use program evaluation data and strategic planning processes to improve organizational effectiveness for the nonprofit and philanthropic sectors. Kris was a Policy Analyst for former LA Mayor Villaraigosa’s Office of Education, launching a series of collaborative “listening sessions” that brought local education officials and civil rights leaders together. She also served as the Los Angeles Unified School District’s lead representative on statewide human capital policy and spearheaded the district’s successful effort to win a competitive $49 million dollar federal grant. Karissa has a Bachelor of Arts in Political Science from American University in Washington, DC and a Master of Public Policy from UCLA.
Louise W. Wiener focuses on the connection between attendance and early childhood education. Following an early career in the arts, public service at the U.S. Department of Commerce and extensive volunteer work in juvenile justice, Louise has focused her energies on addressing parent engagement in early childhood education. In 1995, she founded Learning and Leadership in Families Inc., a Washington D.C.-based nonprofit that focuses on hands-on experiential learning to nurture parents’ capacity as their child’s first and most important teacher. As president and executive director of Learn Lead, she developed the Perfectly Punctual Campaign aimed at improving on-time attendance in the early grades. Before that she worked as director of special projects for the National Learning Center at the Capital Children’s Museum.
Linda K. Bowen has served as Executive Director of the Institute for Community Peace, formerly the National Funding Collaborative on Violence Prevention, since its formal inception in 1995. Linda has over 30 years of experience in violence prevention, program management and development, policy analysis, research, community engagement and structural change. Linda previously served as Special Assistant to the Commissioner of the Administration on Children, Youth and Families, Department of Health and Human Services. Prior to that, she was Assistant Dean for Enrollment and Placement at the School of Social Service Administration at the University of Chicago. As Associate Director for Programs of the Center for Successful Child Development, Linda developed and managed programs for a national research and demonstration project to improve child and family outcomes in a major public housing project in Chicago. She and her husband live in Washington D.C.
Yolie Flores serves as a senior fellow focused on coordinating work with the chief state school officers on the Advisory Committee on Eliminating Chronic Absence. Yolie also works as a senior associate with the Campaign for Grade-Level Reading, a key partner for Attendance Works. From 2010 to 2012, Yolie served as the CEO of Communities for Teaching Excellence, a national education advocacy organization working to ensure effective teaching for every student, in every classroom, every year. Yolie served on the LAUSD Board of Education from 2007-2011, where she led efforts to challenge the culture of failure for poor children and children of color. During her tenure, she moved the agenda on choice, teacher effectiveness, parent leadership and engagement, small schools, world languages, and early childhood.
Interim Associate Director for Operations
Nicole Johnson has more than 20 years of experience in nonprofit leadership, program development, group facilitation and resource development. Her professional mission is to change the odds faced by children, youth and families by providing quality consultation to the individuals, informal groups, advocates and organizations serving them. Most recently, she served as Senior Director for Elev8 Baltimore, a full-service community schools initiative. In this role, she successfully planned and launched a strategy to integrate learning, health and family support services into the operations of four schools in East Baltimore. Over a seven-year period, she transitioned the initiative from start-up to sustainability drawing upon her skills as a facilitator, strategic planner, writer and youth worker. Nicole received her Bachelor’s degree in Public Policy from Stanford University and an MBA from the Robert H. Smith School of Business at the University of Maryland, College Park. She resides presently in Baltimore, MD with her husband, son and daughter.
Becky Miles-Polka serves as a trusted advisor to non-profit leaders, coalitions, funders, public and private sector leaders engaged in improving the well being of communities and the people who live in them. She brings experience in community change, population health and maternal-child health. Becky has worked closely with schools in the design and implementation of school based and school linked health services as well as connecting health and education partners to meet the needs of vulnerable children and families. Becky is a Senior Consultant to the Campaign for Grade Level Reading serving as the State Lead for Iowa and has provided leadership for the Campaign’s Healthy Readers Initiative and School Readiness focus area as a member of the senior leadership team. Previously, Becky served as the Executive Director of Healthy Communities at Iowa Health System in Des Moines, Iowa. She received her MS from the University of Colorado and is a Registered Nurse, Certified Nurse Midwife and registered yoga teacher.
For media inquiries or to set up an interview with one of our staff members, contact Amy Battjer at The Hatcher Group. Reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org or 301-656-0348. For information on speaking engagement or on using and adapting Attendance Works materials, contact Associate Director Cecelia Leong at email@example.com.