CDL is directed by a volunteer Board of Trustees comprised of business, educational, and civic leaders who share in CDL’s passion for ensuring that every child has an equal opportunity for a solid education.
CDL has spent more than two decades developing an international network and collaborating with the world’s best minds to create initiatives using research-based best practices that deliver increased student achievement. Our Board of Trustees, Professional Advisory Board, Community Advisory Board and professional staff provide CDL with sound leadership and valuable resources.
Board of Trustees
A governing board of 10 elected or appointed to direct the policies of an educational institution.
Holly Sharp, CPA, CFE, CFF
Shareholder and Director
LaPorte Sehrt Romig Hand
Glenny Lee Buquet
Former Member, Louisiana Board of
Elementary and Secondary Education
Gregory N. Rattler, Sr.
First Vice President, JPMorgan Chase
Joseph P. Lopinto, III
Sheriff, Jefferson Parish Sheriff’s Office
Cynthia Hedge Morrell
CEO, Lusher Charter Schools
Founder and President, The Slone Group
Deputy Superintendent, New Orleans Police Department
Director of the Public Integrity Bureau
Professional Advisory Board
A group of 12 professional individuals who have volunteered to offer advice and guidance to CDL.
Robert B. Brooks, Ph.D.
Assistant Clinical Professor,
Harvard Medical School
G. Emerson Dickman, III, J.D.
Attorney at Law
Immediate Past President
International Dyslexia Association
Michael Fullan, Ph.D.
Ontario Institute for Studies in Education,
University of Toronto
Sam Goldstein, Ph.D.
Department of Psychiatry,
University of Utah School of Medicine
Salt Lake City, UT
Edward M. Hallowell, M.D.
Child & Adult Psychiatrist;
Senior Lecturer, Harvard Medical School;
Director, Hallowell Center for Cognitive and
G. Reid Lyon, Ph.D.
Synergistic Education Solutions
Louisa C. Moats, Ph.D.
Moats Associates Consulting, Inc.
Joanne Quinn, MBA
Quinn Consultants, Inc.
Craig T. Ramey, Ph.D.
Distinguished Scholar and Professor
Virginia Tech Carilion Research Institute
Carol Rolheiser, Ph.D.
Centre for Teaching Support and Innovation
University of Toronto
Timothy Shanahan, Ph.D.
Distinguished Professor Emeritus
University of Illinois at Chicago
Robert Sternberg, Ph.D.
Provost and Senior Vice President
Oklahoma State University
Community Advisory Board
A group of 11 individuals from the community who have volunteered to offer advice and guidance to CDL.
Herschel L. Abbott, Jr.
Jones Walker Law Firm
Kelvin Adams, Ph.D.
St. Louis Public Schools
Gerard Ballanco, M.D., FAAP
Gordon Blundell, Jr., M.D.
Child & Adolescent Psychiatrist
Louisiana State Senator
President, DonahueFavret Contractors
The Honorable John W. Greene
Judge, 22nd Judicial District (Ret.)
Stephen Hales, M.D.
Hales Pediatrics, New Orleans
Ruby Bridges Hall
President, Ruby Bridges Foundation
Mary Lou Ochsner
Robert D. Reily
Chairman, The Standard Companies
A group of 7 individuals who help CDL run smoothly.
Acting President and CEO
Vice President of Advocacy
Early Childhood Program Assistant
Early Childhood Coordinator
Early Childhood Specialist
Director of Business Operations
Director of Early Childhood Programs
President & CEO Emeritus
Frank Williams, MS, is the Center for Development and Learning’s interim president and CEO. He has over 40 years of experience in senior executive positions. Positions he has held include CFO and assistant treasurer of the Democratic National Committee; CFO of Medicaid, New York City Human Resources Administration; vice chancellor of finance at Southern University – Shreveport; executive director and CFO of a recruitment and training program for women and minorities; CFO of a New York ,three billion-dollar healthcare and pension fund; executive director of a national resources development organization; founding executive director of Greater New Orleans Education Foundation; founding chair of Brothers Empowered to Teach; and founding board member of Orleans Public Education Network. Frank’s community activities include being a founding board member of three New Orleans public charter schools, of which he served as treasurer for two and currently chairs the third; serving as board chair of the Southern University – New Orleans (SUNO) Foundation; serving as chair of his church’s strategic planning committee that is responsible for a $35 million capital project; serving on the boards of three community-based nonprofit organizations; and chaired the board of directors of the Broadmoor Education Corridor in New Orleans. In addition, Frank served as chair of CDL’s board of trustees and board member of the United States Youth Council where he led political youth study tours in Western Europe. Frank attended New Orleans public schools and holds a bachelor’s degree in accounting from SUNO and a Master of Science in business from Manhattan College in Riverdale, NY.
Emily DiStefano, MS, CFRE, CDL’s vice president of advocacy, has developed an extensive network of business and community contacts during her 30-year history of working with staff and volunteer leaders to advance the missions of nonprofit organizations, academic units, and government agencies. In addition to Emily’s ability to lead teams through conceptualization, assessment, planning, resource/capital acquisition, and implementation to achieve outcomes, she brings advocacy expertise to CDL that includes planning, coordinating, and lobbying for passage of bills; coordinating briefings for committee staff and legislators; and organizing grassroots structure and training. Emily’s successful advocacy campaigns include passage of legislation for the Louisiana Children’s Trust Fund and the Louisiana Children’s Code. Her successful capital and major gift campaigns have raised over $45M for education, healthcare, social service and civic organizations.
Jen Hebert is the Early Childhood Program Assistant at CDL where she works with teachers who are participating in CDL’s CDA Cornerstones Louisiana BESE-approved Early Childhood Ancillary Certificate program. Jen has worked in the field of early childhood education for over 15 years as a teacher, mentor, and child care center director designee. Jen received a bachelor’s degree in child development and a minor in health education from the University of Southern Mississippi. Jen is an approved Child Development Associate (CDA) Professional Development Specialist and an Infant, Toddler, and Pre-K CLASS reliable observer.
Denise Howell, as CDL’s programs manager, spends much of her time organizing CDL’s annual Plain Talk about Literacy and Learning. She also coordinates the logistics and collects data for all professional learning sessions conducted by CDL professionals. Prior to coming to CDL, Denise worked with the Youth Service Bureau in St. Tammany Parish as their referral coordinator and the assistant coordinator for the Youth Service Bureau’s annual fundraiser, Chef Soiree.
Suzanne “Suzea” Millerhebert, M.Ed., is an early childhood coordinator at CDL. With over 30 years of experience in education across multiple states, primarily in early childhood, Suzea uses her passion to support early childhood educators from all walks of life. Suzea has a bachelor’s degree in elementary education from Southeastern Louisiana University and a Master of Education from the University of New Orleans in curriculum and instruction with a focus in early childhood and a minor in special education. Additionally, she is a CLASS reliable observer in infant, toddler, and Pre-K.
Mary Hannah Mills is an Early Childhood Specialist at CDL. Mary is passionate about the field of early childhood education with a specific focus of working to ensure positive growth and development for all children. Mary’s academic and professional experience in early childhood education enables her to support early childhood teachers in providing high-quality care and experiences for every child. Mary received a bachelor’s and a master’s degree in human development and family science with a focus in early child development from Mississippi State University.
Cindy Phillips is CDL’s director of business operations. Cindy oversees CDL’s accounting and risk management issues. Cindy brings extensive non-profit financial management experience to CDL, having previously worked for the Volunteers of America, managing multi-million dollar budgets with various program delivery models. Cindy holds a Bachelor of Science degree in Finance and a Bachelor of Science degree in Accounting from the University of New Orleans.
Amy E. Poirier is the director of early childhood programs at CDL where she enjoys working side-by-side with early childhood professionals to provide support and thereby positively affect outcomes for young children. Amy’s extensive experiences in the field as an early childhood teacher, center director, and director of curriculum and training allow her to develop professional learning services for early childhood professionals, organize and implement early childhood mentoring and coaching efforts, and support CDL’s early childhood team in meaningful ways. Additionally, she has worked as a program monitor, coach, trainer, and curriculum specialist for several statewide programs. Amy is an endorsed Louisiana Pathways trainer, an approved Child Development Associate (CDA) Professional Development Specialist, a Zero-to-Three approved trainer, and provides training and technical support for the Infant, Toddler, and Pre-K Classroom Assessment Scoring System (CLASS). Amy is the creator and program administrator of CDL’s Louisiana Board of Elementary and Secondary Education approved Early Childhood Ancillary Certificate Program, CDA Cornerstones. Amy knows that children benefit most from high-quality interactions provided by teachers who understand child development and early childhood pedagogy, and that relevant, on-the-job coaching and mentoring support significantly increases these skills. Amy received a bachelor’s in education from Wichita State University and is currently pursuing a master’s degree in early childhood education at Kansas State University where she is researching early childhood pedagogical leadership.
Lauren Richardson is CDL’s graphic designer. She designs and prints all training and promotional materials, including all materials for the annual Plain Talk about Literacy and Learning Institute. She also updates and creates graphics for the Plain Talk app and CDL’s website. Lauren graduated from Louisiana State University College of Art and Design in 2008 with a Bachelor of Fine Arts with a concentration in graphic design.
Alice Thomas, M.Ed., is the founder of CDL and the president and CEO Emeritus. Alice’s work has been guided by a steadfast belief that all children, regardless of how they look, where they come from or how they learn, can and will achieve school success when provided with highly effective teachers and positive, supportive learning environments. In addition to executive duties, she facilitates professional learning for school leaders, teachers, and related specialists. Alice previously served as a teacher, counselor, and intervention specialist. She has taught university graduate courses on differentiating instruction for struggling students. She is a Learning Forward Academy graduate. She is the creator and director of the annual evidence-based Plain Talk about Literacy and Learning Institute. Alice is coauthor of the Plain Talk about Learning professional learning curriculum, the Right from Birth parent/caregiver training curriculum, and the Teens & Tots curriculum; and editor of CDL’s online blog. Alice completed a fellowship in neurodevelopmental variations at the University of North Carolina – Chapel Hill, and doctoral level studies in change leadership at the University of Toronto. She is the recipient of the New Orleans Children’s Defense Fund’s Champions for Children award and the International Dyslexia Association’s 2013 Presidential Award for Excellence.