CityHealth Pre-K Learning Network Staff and Advisors

CityHealth Team

Shelley Hearne serves as president of CityHealth, an initiative of the de Beaumont Foundation and Kaiser Permanente designed to catalyze policy solutions for cities' success. In addition, she is executive director of the Forsythia Foundation and a visiting professor of Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. Most recently, Shelley helped reestablish the Big Cities Health Coalition, a forum for the top health officials of the nation’s largest metropolitan areas. Previously, Dr. Hearne was managing director of The Pew Charitable Trusts’ Health Group, overseeing its food safety, medical safety, financial security, and biomedical programs. She was founding executive director of Trust for America’s Health, a national nonprofit dedicated to optimal health for every person and community. Shelley has also held leadership positions on national commissions and in state government.

Shelley has extensive experience with the media, testifying before federal and state legislatures, and numerous publications. Her public service includes serving on the Radiation Effects Research Foundation board, which monitors atomic bomb and Fukushima nuclear accident health impacts.  She has received wide-ranging recognition for her work, including Bowdoin College’s Common Good Award, the Rutgers’ Senator Frank Lautenberg Award in Public Health, and APHA’s Executive Director Citation as a champion of public health and the public interest. Shelley has a B.A. with honors from Bowdoin College (where she serves as a Trustee) along with a doctorate in environmental health science from Columbia University’s School of Public Health.

Amanda Fuchs Miller has 25 years of advocacy, policy, research and communications experience inside and outside of government.  As President of Seventh Street Strategies, Amanda consults with non-profits to provide advocacy, policy and communications support.   She spent three years as Vice President of Government Affairs at Teach For America. Amanda previously worked on the Hill (as Senator Mikulski’s Policy Director and as Investigative Counsel for the Senate Judiciary Committee), in the Obama Administration (at the Department of Justice), in the Clinton White House, and on the Obama-Biden and Clinton-Gore transition teams.   After college, Amanda spent more then a decade working to help Democratic candidates get elected, doing research and policy work on campaigns and at national political organizations – including as Director of Policy and Research on Barack Obama’s 2004 U.S. Senate campaign. Amanda graduated with a joint degree from Northwestern University School of Law (JD) and Harvard University’s Kennedy School of Government (MPA).  She serves as an Adjunct Professor at American University in the School of Public Affairs and School of Education, and an adjunct faculty member at Loyola University Chicago School of Law, where she teaches Legislation Law and Advocacy. She has served as the editor of Harvard’s Institute of Politics’ Campaign for President: The Managers Look for the last four presidential campaigns. She currently serves on the board of the Homeless Children’s Playtime Project and DC Alliance of Youth Advocates (DCAYA).  

Walker Irving is the Director of Events for CityHealth and has fifteen years of experience working in government, non-profits and the private sector. She has helped organizations build their brands through events, project management and relationship building as well as strategic traditional media, digital and social media. She also has extensive experience in planning and executing special events, conferences, fly-ins and Capitol Hill visits for advocacy groups, lawmakers, and Fortune 500 corporations. She worked in Congress for seven years, for Senators Hillary Clinton and Mark Warner. Before joining CityHealth, she served as the Director of Special Events for the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum. She also worked on the congressional affairs team for Hillary Clinton’s 2008 Presidential Campaign. She holds a Bachelor’s of Political Science from Trinity College in Hartford, Connecticut.


Ellen Frede, Senior Co-Director at NIEER and Research Professor at the Graduate School of Education, will serve as Project Director. In her work, Ellen applies what she has learned throughout her varied career in early childhood education that has spanned over 40 years. She has extensive experience as a teacher of ages 0-8, curriculum and professional development specialist at the HighScope Foundation, teacher educator at The College of New Jersey, researcher, pre-k administrator for the New Jersey Department of Education, education lead in a large Head Start grantee and early learning lead at the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. Ellen views ECE systems development from multiple lenses: research, utilization focused evaluation, staff development, and teaching and learning. Widely sought-after as a consultant, she has considerable experience assisting cities in developing pre-k programs, for example, she co-authored the Seattle PreK for All Action Plan developed for the Mayor’s Office and the City Council of Seattle and authored the Menu of Options for San Antonio Pre-K Program produced for the Pre-K Brain Trust of San Antonio Mayor Julián Castro on their early education initiative. She is currently assisting the NYC Department of Early Childhood Education in developing a coherent quality support system.

GG Weisenfeld, Assistant Research Professor, has been the lead in researching the Pre-K medals criteria on the CityHealth report using her experience as a researcher on the annual State of Preschool Yearbook and the Gates Foundation Landscape of Essential Elements for Effective Pre-K. Her vast knowledge of preschool policy across states and cities has been instrumental in her role with the Center for Enhancing Early Learning Outcomes (CEELO) the state TA center for the US Department of Education. At CEELO she provides responsive and intensive technical assistance on designing and implementing early childhood policies and programs to states and localities. GG’s research interests include early childhood system alignment and fiscal policies; leadership; and identifying and measuring quality indicators. She previously held the position of Hawaii’s Director of the Executive Office on Early Learning in the Office of the Governor, worked on state level birth to grade three alignment as the P-3 Director of Early Learning for Hawaii P-20, was a professor at the City University of New York, and was an Early Head Start/Head Start Director and preschool teacher.

Jennifer Brooks is an independent consultant, providing advice and support to philanthropy, non-profits, and governments on using evaluation, metrics, and evidence-based practice to strengthen the impact of programs for children and families. Most recently, Dr. Brooks served as Senior Program Officer at the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, helping to shape the foundation’s strategic investments in high quality public early learning programs. Prior to joining the foundation, Dr. Brooks had experience at the National Governors Association – managing technical assistance to states on human services, workforce, and economic development programs – and leading Governor Hickenlooper’s NGA Chair’s Initiative Delivering Results. Dr. Brooks has also worked in government, where she led a research and evaluation portfolio for the federal Head Start program, and in think tanks. She has served on a National Academic of Sciences panel evaluating methods for promoting better use of economic evidence in social programs for children. Dr. Brooks received her Ph.D. and M.Sc. in human development and family studies from Penn State University and a M.A. in public policy from the University of Chicago.

Carla Bryant has over thirty years of national experience creating culturally competent policies, programs, and procedures for comprehensive early learning, P-3, elementary, family support and after-school programs. As the Chief of the Early Education Department for San Francisco Unified School District (SFUSD), she was responsible for administrating 12 early education schools with prekindergarten (PK) through transitional kindergarten (TK) students, supporting 74 elementary schools aligning curriculum and instruction PK-3rd grade, and integrating community based PreK and District practices with the assistance of City departments (i.e., First 5 SF, Office Early Care and Education). During her tenure, SFUSD's kindergarten readiness benchmark improved from 37% to 55% in three years. Before going to SFUSD, Carla was a strategic advisor for the City of Seattle where she co-created Seattle Early Education Collaborative (SEEC). SEEC is a community based early learning system that joined disparately funded programs (federal, state, local, and private) into one system that included joint assessment & accountability, professional development, and transition processes. SEEC as an integral part of the Seattle Public Schools P-3 model and was highlighted by the National League of Cities (NLC) as one of four cities with progressive plans to align the early learning and K-12 education systems. Dr. Bryant received her Ph.D. from the University of Washington in special education, M.Ed. in early childhood education from Georgia State University, and BBA in marketing from the University of Central Oklahoma.

Advisory Team

Sarah Baray has been the CEO of Pre-K 4 SA since July 2016. She holds a Ph.D. in Executive Public School Leadership from the University of Texas at Austin and has more than 25 years of experience in education.  She began her career in the Austin Independent School District where she served in various roles including teacher, curriculum specialist, principal, and district administrator. Dr. Baray also spent more than 13 years as a professor at Texas State University where directed the Ph.D. in School Improvement program and conducted research related to educational equity and educator preparation.

Libby Doggett is leveraging her 40-plus years of leadership and management skills honed through work in schools, Head Start, and child care with children with and without disabilities to build public will and strong, diverse local coalitions in Texas to improve children’s readiness for Kindergarten. Recently Doggett served as the Deputy Assistant Secretary for Policy and Early Learning at the US Department of Education, overseeing both the Early Learning Challenge and the Preschool Development Grant programs. In that role, Doggett provided birth to age eight expertise and policy guidance to the Secretary and served as the Department of Education’s early learning liaison to the White House, the Department of Health and Human Services, and other federal and state agencies. Prior to returning to Department of Education, where in the nineties Doggett served as executive director of the Federal Interagency Coordinating Council for infants, toddlers, and preschoolers with disabilities and their families, Doggett worked with the Pew Charitable Trusts. There she directed the Pew home visiting campaign, where she oversaw a robust research agenda and worked with advocates in target states to build political and public understanding and support for data-driven investments that align with federal guidance. Prior to that, Doggett directed Pre-K Now, a 10-year campaign to advance high-quality, voluntary pre-kindergarten for all three- and four-year-olds in states across the country. Through its successes, Pre-K Now significantly increased the investments and number of children attending state-supported pre-k. Doggett also worked for the National Head Start Association, directing their HeadsUp!Reading program to improve literacy instruction in early learning classrooms across the country. She began her career as a bilingual first-grade teacher at Ortega Elementary School in Austin and holds a doctorate from the University of Texas in early childhood special education.

Elizabeth Gaines is the Founder and Director of The Children’s Funding Project, which aims to close equity and opportunity gaps for children and youth by helping communities employ innovative strategies to effectively leverage existing funding and generate new revenue. She has gleaned these skills and interests over her lifelong career as a direct service provider, an advocate, and a policy analyst. Since 2005 she has led the Children’s Cabinet Network and is the nation’s leading expert on children’s cabinets and councils. While overseeing the Forum for Youth Investment’s state and local policy efforts she identified innovations around the country and shared those policy solutions with other local, state and national organizations. From this unique vantage point she helped policy leaders develop tools and techniques to improve their use of data, increase their policy alignment, and more efficiently apply resources toward greater impact.  When she joined the Forum in 2005, Elizabeth had already built a youth advocacy career; her commitment began with seven years leading after-school and community-based youth programs at the Atwood Community Center in Madison, Wis. She later served as youth policy analyst for Citizens for Missouri’s Children, where she lobbied state lawmakers, convened a youth development network, and led the “Invest in Missouri’s Children” campaign to secure tobacco settlement dollars for child and youth development activities. A native of St. Louis, Mo., she attended the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

Milagros Nores, Co-Director for Research at NIEER, oversees research operations at NIEER, while pursuing her own research as well. Her expertise and interests are in early childhood development, data-driven policy development, evaluation design, economics, cultural diversity, and English language learning. Dr. Nores leads an early childhood study in Colombia, a study on parental-child educational practices for minority children in the U.S. and currently leads evaluations of West Virginia’s, Philadelphia’s and Seattle’s preschool programs. Her background is in early childhood attainment, the economics of education, poverty, and international and comparative education. She has a Ph.D. in Education and Economics from Columbia University and an Ed.M. in Educational Administration and Social Policy from Harvard University. Dr. Nores previously worked as a Postdoctoral Research Associate at the Taubman Center in Public Policy, Brown University, where she taught Education Policy in a Comparative Perspective, and Economics of Public Policy. Dr. Nores also consults for various organizations in education projects in Latin America and Asia.

Jason Sachs is the Executive Director of Early Childhood Education for Boston Public Schools, where he oversees preschool and kindergarten programs across the district. A graduate of the Harvard Graduate School of Education, he worked previously in the Massachusetts Department of Education’s Division of Early Learning Services and has served on the Governing Board of the National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC).

Josh Wallack is the Deputy Chancellor for Early Childhood Education and Student Enrollment at the New York City Department of Education. In this role, Josh oversees the Pre-K for All and 3-K for All initiatives, as well as the Office of Student Enrollment, which manages admissions to pre-k programs, kindergarten, middle school, and high school and efforts to advance school diversity and equity. Prior to this, Josh was Deputy Chancellor of Strategy and Policy, after serving as the Department’s Chief Strategy Officer. As Deputy Chancellor, Josh oversaw the implementation of New York City’s Pre-K for All initiative. Through Pre-K for All, New York City successfully tripled the number of four-year-olds attending free, full-day, high-quality pre-k since 2013. Josh also oversaw the Chancellor’s Strategic Planning Office, which led the reorganization of the 900-person school support operation at the Department, the set of regional support centers that provide instructional and operational support to schools. Previously, he was Vice President for Early Childhood at the Children’s Aid Society, and Chief Operating Officer for the New York City Economic Development Corporation.

Albert Wat is the Senior Policy Director of the Alliance for Early Success, leading a portfolio of state and national Alliance partnerships and investments focused on pre-K and the education continuum birth through grade three. Albert is responsible for leading the learning policy strategy. Albert was a Senior Policy Analyst in the Education Division of the National Governors Association Center for Best Practices, where he worked on early childhood education issues from birth through third grade. Before this Albert was the Research Manager at Pre-K Now, an advocacy campaign at the Pew Center on the States, where he authored a number of policy reports, managed research activities for the initiative, and provided staff and states analysis and information about the latest Pre-K and early education research and policy developments. Albert brings extensive experience in state policies on literacy and social-emotional development, pre-K access and quality, learning standards, assessments, data systems, and alignment between early learning policies and practices and education reform initiatives, especially in the early elementary years. In 2014, Albert served on the committee of the Institute of Medicine’s study on The Science of Children Birth to Age 8: Deepening and Broadening the Foundation for Success, which released the report, Transforming the Workforce for Children Birth Through Age 8: A Unifying Foundation. He is working to support the implementation of the report’s recommendations by sharing its findings and their policy implications with early education organizations and states around the country. Albert has a Bachelor’s degree in Psychology, a Master’s degree in Education from Stanford University, and a Master’s in Education Policy from George Washington University.