BOARD OF DIRECTORS
Richard Martinez is Superintendent of the Pomona Unified School District (PUSD). Martinez is dedicated to closing the achievement gap and preparing youth for a 21st century global economy by promoting high standards for all students. His professional career began as a crisis intervention counselor in Bell Gardens, where he served in the police department, providing crisis response and counseling services in the areas of child abuse, domestic violence, and gangs. His career in education began in the Montebello Unified School District as a Child Welfare and Attendance Counselor. In PUSD, he has distinguished himself as a team builder and effective collaborator. He serves on many local, county, and state boards and committees in areas that have included school leadership, finance, urban education, legislative policy, safety, guidance, and child welfare. Martinez is proud to share that he is a product of Head Start and the Los Angeles Unified School District. He earned a bachelor’s degree in social work from California State University, Los Angeles, and obtained his counseling and administrative credentials from the University of La Verne.
Francie Alexander is the Senior Vice President and Chief Academic Officer for the Intervention Solutions Group at Houghton Mifflin Harcourt (HMH). She manages the evidence-based portfolio of research projects, with a specialized focus on translating research results into recommendations for product development. Francie provides thought leadership to the group on topics ranging from early learning to support for struggling adolescent learners. She has been a frequent guest on NBC’s TODAY Show and has written columns for The New York Post. Francie has authored almost 60 children’s books including Dots! Dots! Dots! At the Museum and Curious George Sight Word Readers. Prior to joining LAUP’s Board of Directors, she served on LAUP’s Corporate Council. Francie’s work as an educator started as a first grade teacher in LAUSD.
Kathleen Malaske-Samu recently retired from the County of Los Angeles where she addressed child care and development issues for 22 years, including serving as the Director of the Office of Child Care from 2001 to 2015. Prior to her work with Los Angeles County, Malaske-Samu was the Executive Director of a child care resource and referral agency serving the eastern San Gabriel Valley. Her child development classroom experience was earned in Minnesota and California, working with preschool and school age children. She holds a B.A. in Child Psychology from the University of Minnesota, and M.A’s in Human Development from Pacific Oaks College, and Urban Planning from University of California Los Angeles. Malaske-Samu was appointed to the LAUP Board of Directors by Supervisor Sheila Kuehl in 2015.
Nestor Barrero is an experienced labor and employment attorney with the national law firm of Constangy, Brooks, Smith & Prophete in Century City. He advises large and medium sized employers on all aspects of labor and employment law including compliance with anti-harassment, discrimination, privacy and workplace laws, effective performance management, negotiation of executive agreements, planning for layoffs, mergers and acquisitions, and defending wrongful termination cases in mediation, arbitration or litigation. He was formerly corporate counsel for NBCUniversal Media LLC and Union Bank, and was associated with the law firm of Sheppard, Mullin, Richter & Hampton in Los Angeles.
Barrero received his BA in Psychology from UCLA and his J.D. degree from UC Hastings College of the Law in San Francisco. He is bilingual in Spanish and is a part time adjunct professor of Business Law and Human Resources Management at Pasadena City College and Azusa Pacific University and a frequent speaker, trainer and lecturer.
Barrero is a member of the California State Bar Labor and Employment Law Section. He has also served on the Board of the Constitutional Rights Foundation, and is a member of the Hispanic National Bar Association and the Association of Corporate Counsel. Barrero has served as President of the California Employment Law Council. He is also active in professional and community organizations such as the Bilingual Foundation of the Arts and the UCLA Academic Advancement Program. Barrero, who is a resident of Monrovia, was elected to the LAUP Board of Directors to represent the Corporate and Development sectors in 2011.
David Crippens is a consultant who brings over 30 years of nonprofit management, fundraising, and media development, with a major focus on providing interim leadership and management for nonprofit agencies facing transitional challenges. He formerly served as senior vice president of Foundations and Education for KCET-TV. In that capacity, he was responsible for raising more than $70 million for programs and educational services. He is also the beneficiary of many awards for his service to education, broadcasting, and nonprofit organizations.
Crippens currently serves on the Unite-LA Board of Directors, as well as the Los Angeles Workforce Investment Board Youth Council, and is a former member of the School Construction Bond Citizens Oversight Committee. He is a graduate of Antioch College and San Diego State University. Crippens was appointed to the LAUP Board of Directors by Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas in 2011.
Tillman Gruber is the Vice President of Sales Planning at Sony Pictures Television. Tilmann is a 15-year entertainment industry veteran, having excelled at strategic sales planning and finance. Prior to Sony Pictures Television, he worked at Warner Brothers Home Entertainment and New Line Cinema in various corporate and divisional capacities, with both an international and domestic focus throughout his career.
Bishop Henry W. Hearns, Sr.
Bishop Henry W. Hearns, Sr. has been actively involved in civic and other community activities for much of his life. A retired Chief of the Environmental Branch at Edwards Air Force Base in the Antelope Valley, Hearns is the only African-American minister ever elected to the City of Lancaster City Council. He served for 10 years as vice-mayor and two terms as mayor of Lancaster. Hearns continues to serve on numerous boards and committees, including the United Way, NAACP, the Housing Urban Development Community Development Act Board, the American Cancer Society, the Advisory Board for the Boys & Girls Club, and as program sponsor for the Antelope Valley Black Infant Health Program. In 1965, Hearns was selected as senior pastor for the Living Stone Cathedral of Worship Church in Sun Village. Hearns was appointed to the LAUP Board of Directors by Supervisor Michael Antonovich in 2011.
Chris brings nearly 25 years’ experience in the global financial service industry to the LAUP board. She joined SunAmerica in 1993 and became part of AIG when it purchased SunAmerica in 1999. She currently serves as AIG’s general counsel for its global Consumer Insurance segment, serving on the executive leadership team and several governance committees. Chris is a member of the California State Bar, often using her law experience for pro bono service and brings with her depth of experience in corporate governance and related activities.
Karen Schoenbaum is the Executive Vice President and CFO at California United Bank. Karen began her career at the Big 4 accounting services firm EY, after leaving to hold senior positions at several prominent financial institutions. She has been a member of California United Bank’s Senior Leadership Team since 2009—managing investor relations, overseeing public financial reporting, the investment department and the Treasury function as well as maintaining the SOX/COSO internal control framework for the organization and ensuring strong corporate governance. A proud USC alumnus, she loves USC football, and serves as a director with USC’s Leventhal Board of Advisors.
Ani holds a dual appointment at LMU, where she serves as an Associate Professor in the LMU School of Education and as the Director of the Children’s Center. Ani’s research interests focus on developing best practices in caring for children in group settings. Before LMU, Ani had served as the Executive Director of the UCLA Infant Development Program, the Academic Administrator of the UCLA Applied Developmental Psychology Program, and the Executive Director of the Los Angeles Family School. Beyond her academic appointments, Ani travels extensively assisting limited resource countries develop programs to elevate the quality of care for children without guardianship residing in institutional settings.
José is the founder of Sensis, a cross-cultural marketing agency driving behavioral change. Under José’s direction, Sensis has grown into an award-winning advertising and marketing agency listed on Inc. 5000’s ranking of America’s fastest growing private companies eight years running. Before Sensis, he was the founder of TuRumbo.com. José is also a regular contributor for industry publications like MediaPost, AdAge and Mashable.
Liem Vu is the Managing Vice President, U.S. Markets for Pariveda Solutions. Liem brings over 25 years of expertise in the technology consulting industry to LAUP’s Board of Directors. In his current leadership position, he develops strategies and plans for market expansion across all offices in the U.S. Prior to this role, Liem held executive leadership positions at Neudesic, Hitachi Consulting and BearingPoint—while remaining active in the Southern California philanthropy community.
Scott L. Hippert
Chief Executive Officer
Scott Hippert is a highly respected nonprofit leader with a successful track record of creating and strengthening initiatives for the youngest generation of Americans so that they will be successful in school and life. He brings to LAUP more than a decade of experience in managing early childhood initiatives and public policy advocacy – at the regional, state and national levels. His experience leading nonprofits and large-scale initiatives spans several decades. Scott previously served as the President and CEO of Parents as Teachers, a nationally recognized voice for early childhood education with headquarters in St. Louis, Missouri.
Prior to his chief executive role at Parents as Teachers, Scott served as President of the Virginia Early Childhood Foundation in Richmond, VA, where he successfully launched the startup of a public/private/nonprofit partnership that provided support to school-readiness initiatives throughout Virginia. He also served as the Vice President and Chief Operating Officer at Ready 4 K in St. Paul, Minnesota, and directed public awareness and funding efforts for Family and Children’s Service, one of the state’s largest community/family service agencies. He spent his early career in broadcast and telecommunications, serving as an executive news producer, anchor and reporter.
Dawn A. Kurtz, Ph.D.
Chief Program Officer
Dawn A. Kurtz, Ph.D. has worked in the Child Development and Early Childhood Education fields for more than 15 years. As the Chief Program Officer for LAUP, Kurtz oversees Provider Operations for an early learning network that impacts over 11,000 children each year. She is also responsible for the Research & Evaluation, Workforce & Professional Development and Program Support Departments.
Prior to joining LAUP, Kurtz spent six years at First 5 LA where she played an integral role in the conceptualization, planning, development, and oversight of various phases of funding initiatives designed to improve the well-being of children and their families in Los Angeles County. During that time, she managed First 5 LA’s Early Childhood Education portfolio, which included LAUP, School Readiness, Family Literacy and Workforce Development.
Earlier in her career, Kurtz was a Project Director for a study on the impact of neglect on adolescent development in the School of Social Work at the University of Southern California, a subject in which she is published. She has also worked as adjunct faculty at Cal State University, Los Angeles and Whittier College, where she taught courses in Psychology and Child Development.
Chief Financial Officer
As the Chief Financial Officer (CFO) for LAUP, Fernando Almodovar oversees the finance, accounting, and business services of the organization.
Fernando brings over 25 years of experience in both the for-profit and nonprofit sectors. As a financial professional, he is skilled in building and leading efficient teams, and thinking strategically to produce positive results.
Prior to joining LAUP, Almodovar was the Chief Financial Officer and Chief Operating Officer at Hispanic Scholarship Fund (HSF), the nation’s largest Hispanic nonprofit organization. At HSF Fernando had oversight responsibility for all finance and accounting activities, grants management, risk management, and human resources functions. He also worked closely with the President and CEO, the other members of HSF’s executive team, and the Finance Committee of the Board of Directors, to ensure that the organization was strategically positioned to fulfill the organization’s mission and goals to advance higher education opportunities for the Hispanic community.
Almodovar’s private sector experience includes leadership at a subsidiary of Home Depot, where he served as the Director of Finance and Controller. He also worked at Mattel, Inc. in the Internal Audit Department and in the Operations Finance Division. Through his bilingual ability, Almodovar’s work took him to Mexico, Venezuela, Colombia, Chile, and Argentina. He worked as a liaison between the Mexico manufacturing plants and corporate headquarters.
Fernando is a Certified Public Accountant in California; holds a bachelor’s degree in Accounting from California State University, Fullerton; and a Master’s in Business Administration from Loyola Marymount University, with a concentration in Finance with an International Certification. He also serves on the board of the South Central Family Health Center as Chairman of the Board.
Chief Operations Officer
As Chief Operations Officer and General Counsel of LAUP, Bill Sperling provides legal counsel to the CEO, senior management, as well as the LAUP Board of Directors. Sperling also manages outside counsel and litigation, drafts contracts, participates in negotiations, and manages the organization’s contract review and compliance processes.
Within his multifaceted role, Sperling oversees network compliance for LAUP early learning providers, manages the process of setting quality levels for all centers and organizations in the LAUP network, and manages the Human Resources Department.
Prior to arriving at LAUP in 2006, Sperling worked as a business litigator for several different Los Angeles law firms. His practice experience includes corporate litigation as well as environmental regulation. Early in his career, Sperling worked for the Maryland State Attorney’s Office as a prosecuting attorney.
Sperling earned his law degree from American University in Washington, D.C., and moved to Los Angeles in 1998.
Together, our directors have more than a century of leadership experience in nonprofits, business and early childhood education.
Managing Director of Information Technology
With over 20 years of experience working in Technology, Robert Lazo joined LAUP in 2005. As Managing Director of Information Technology, Lazo oversees the IT department and is responsible for IT department systems, support and maintenance–which includes designing, building and implementing the infrastructure. During his time at LAUP, Lazo has shaped LAUP to embrace technological advances, ensuring that LAUP staff and stakeholders leverage the latest technology tools to achieve LAUP’s mission.
Prior to LAUP, Lazo worked for Crystal Cruises, managing their infrastructure, and for Bank of America where he began his first assignment in IT supporting users.
Lazo has a B.S. in Computer Science from California State University Long Beach.
Schellee Y. Rocher
Senior Director of Provider Services
Bringing more than 25 years’ experience in the field of early childhood education, as the Senior Director of Provider Services, Schellee Rocher manages the operations and direct support given to providers in the LAUP network, which includes the coaching teams that support the providers. She plays a key role in the strategic planning and external collaborations for LAUP, as well as the countywide roll out of the county’s Quality Rating and Improvement System (QRIS). During her tenure at LAUP, she also led the implementation of the California Child Signature Program for Los Angeles County.
Prior to joining LAUP, Rocher worked as a Head Start teacher in Atlanta and was a director of two centers in New York; one of which began with 30 children, and now services over 300 children in 3 locations across Harlem, New York. She was an early childhood education coach for New York City’s Administration for Children’s Services Agency for Child Development. She also managed the Early Childhood Education Special Projects Unit at Crystal Stairs, Inc., a Los Angeles-based resource and referral agency.
Rocher has a B.A. in Child Development from Southern University in Baton Rouge, La., and an M.A. in Curriculum and Instruction from the University of St. Thomas in St. Paul, Minn.
Director of Applications Development
As the Director of Applications Development, Dennis Ebuen develops and implements data collection systems utilized by internal and external partners to LAUP, as well as manages the custom built internal operating system of the company. Prior to joining LAUP in 2007, Ebuen was Vice President of Change Management at Bank of America, working primarily in the Collections and Student Lending divisions, focusing on large-scale technology implementations. He was also a consultant at Technology Solutions Company, where he was involved in various CRM and ERP projects for companies such as Toshiba, HP and Agilent Technologies.
Ebuen has a B.S. in Applied Mathematics-Economics with a specialization in Computing from the University of California, Los Angeles.
Director of Marketing and Communications
As Director of Marketing and Communications, Kristin Feltz provides direction and leadership related to the communication of LAUP’s mission, goals and achievements to the external community and internal teams. Feltz works closely with the Executive Leadership team to guide all marketing strategies including branding, collateral and editorial development, media strategies, advertising, social media and business services.
Kristin has over 15 years of corporate marketing experience within the entertainment and education industries. Prior to joining LAUP, she worked with leading education organizations including Kaplan and Knowledge Universe, which ignited her passion for advancing the education of young children.
Feltz has a B.A. in Marketing and Public Relations from Marquette University in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.
Director of Strategic Initiatives
Alexandra Himmel brings over 20 years’ professional experience within the early childhood education field. As Director of Strategic Initiatives, Himmel leads the design and execution of programs aligned with LAUP’s Strategic Plan, such as the California State Preschool Program QRIS Block Grant, Quality Start Los Angeles, the upcoming Infant/Toddler Block Grant and the First 5 California IMPACT Grant. In addition, she oversees the Family Engagement team, which empowers programs with tools and strategies to engage families–including The Strengthening Families framework from the Center of the Study of Social Policy.
In 2006 Alexandra joined LAUP as a coach, working shoulder-to-shoulder with providers as they implemented quality improvements and prepared for their first quality rating. Prior to LAUP, Himmel worked as teacher, assistant director and director at Bright Horizons early learning centers in the greater Boston area.
Himmel studied early childhood education at University of Vermont.
Director of Public Policy
Elsa Jacobsen oversees LAUP’s public policy efforts; developing and executing strategies to advance policies that support high-quality early learning. Through candidate forums, legislative briefings, public comment, budget advocacy and a host of other measures, she and the Public Affairs team seek to develop new early learning champions and to elevate the ECE field.
Prior to joining LAUP, Elsa served as a law clerk at Young, Minney & Corr, LLP, a leading charter school law firm. She also served fellowships with the California Charter Schools Association (CCSA), the California Department of Education and the office of the late Congressman Tom Lantos (D-CA). Elsa has a B.A. in History and an M.A. in Education Policy Analysis and Evaluation from Stanford University, and a J.D. from BYU Law School.
Director of Human Resources & Administration
As Director of Human Resources & Administration, Kim Robinson is responsible for the overall strategic direction of Human Resources, including labor policy and recommendation, performance management, compensation and benefits, hiring, training, organizational development, and employee relations.
Robinson joined LAUP in 2011, bringing more than 25 years of relevant human resource experience from the legal industry, where she worked in the capacities of human resources director and administrator. She is a member of the local chapter of Association of Legal Administrators where she sits on the Board of Directors and serves as section-chair for the Human Resources division. Robinson often provides human resources expertise for other human resources professionals, and is often sought out for HR consulting. She has written several articles on various human resources matters. Robinson has a B.A. in Business Management.
Director of Business Development
Matthew Swearman brings over 14 years of public affairs and public relations experience to LAUP. As Director of Business Development, Swearman proactively builds relationships with key stakeholders and initiates contracts for quality assessments, coaching, and business services. Prior to joining LAUP in 2016, Swearman worked as Director of Business Development for SevenTwenty Strategies – a public affairs and PR firm based in Washington, D.C., where he served nonprofits, corporations and national associations support their missions through effective advocacy and public awareness campaigns.
Swearman currently serves on the board of directors for the Valley Industry and Commerce Association (VICA), as well as Chair of the Ambassador Committee. He is also a volunteer on the marketing committee for the Boys and Girls Club of the West Valley.
Swearman has a B.A. in Education from Pennsylvania State University.
Rosa M. Valdés, Ph.D.
Director of Research and Evaluation
As Director of Research and Evaluation, Rosa Valdés oversees a team of researchers who conduct studies and evaluations focused on LAUP’s programs, and the overall benefits and outcomes of high quality early learning. These projects have a general focus on child outcomes, early care and education workforce, LAUP’s coaching model, family engagement, child development, and curriculum related topics. She and her team also prepare data reports to meet grant requirements and for internal departments’ progress monitoring.
Valdés joined LAUP in 2012. She brings more than 25 years of interdisciplinary research experience, having previously worked at LAUSD as a researcher and manager in the Program Evaluation and Research Branch, and at UCLA’s National Center for Research, Evaluation, Standards and Student Testing as a researcher.
Valdés earned her Ph.D. in Educational Psychology from UCLA’s Graduate School of Education and Information Studies.
Director of Quality Services
As the Director of Quality Services, Angel Walters strategically leads her team in delivering assessments, trainings, and technical assistance to early learning providers in support of QRIS implementation efforts. Walters has more than a decade of experience with LAUP, previously serving as the Director of Compliance and Quality Ratings, and responsible for the development of compliance and quality assessment infrastructures. Prior to this role, she served as a staff certification analyst and helped early childhood professionals navigate the child development matrix process.
With years of nonprofit management and social services experiences, she attributes a previous role of managing a homeless and transitional shelter for women and children as the catalyst and foundation for the work she does now. In addition, her experience working as a specialist in the Early Childhood Unit at Crystal Stairs, Inc. has been instrumental to her commitment to the field.
Walters is an alumnus of the University of California at Los Angeles.
Director of Community Engagement
As the Director of Community Engagement, Amy Williams is dedicated to building the capacity of parents, stakeholders, and community members,
and mobilizing communities to advocate for quality services in their community. She manages LAUP’s Best Start communities as well as LAUP’s Parent Ambassador Program.
She has been with LAUP since 2012, previously serving as the Supervisor of Workforce and Professional Development. She also managed an Early Care and Education Consortium that included county entities as well as over 20 colleges and universities countywide.
Williams’ career has followed a strategic path of supporting and empowering local families; she has worked as a Health Educator for the School District of Philadelphia, and Los Angeles Unified School District, and worked as a Division Manager for California Family Health Councils, where she managed Family Planning Programs. In 2008, she became a program officer for First 5 LA, and later assisted F5LA in managing a community investment initiative for 14 communities aimed at improving quality of life for children ages 0 to 5.
Williams has a B.S. in Political Science/Public Administration from Cal State LA, and an M.A. in Health Science/Community and Public Health Education.