We believe that education is an important pathway out of poverty and that high-quality early childhood education, family engagement and early social-emotional learning provide the foundation for school success.

Board of Directors

Dr. Glenda Allen-Jones

Dr. Glenda L. Allen-Jones is an account executive at Frog Street Press, which provides educational curricula for the early childhood market. Prior to joining Frog Street, she was Agenda for Children, where she is Director of School Readiness at
Agenda for Children. Dr. Allen-Jones was an Associate Professor of Early Childhood Education and Chair of the Early Childhood Department at Southern University at New Orleans and served on the Transition Team for Youth and Families for Mayor Mitch Landrieu. Glenda has taught pre-service elementary education and early childhood undergraduate and graduate students in higher education for the past 15 years. Dr. Allen-Jones was a member-a-large for the Families, Schools and Community Partnerships special interest group within the American Education Research Association and was the faculty member with oversight and administrative duties at the Dr. Effie O. Ellis Head Start Training Center in Chicago. She currently serves as a facilitator for the Parent Leadership Training Institute.

Dr. Allen-Jones was a contributing member in the State of Louisiana's Early Childhood Advisory Committee (BrightStart Professional Development Workforce Group Knowledge and Early Learning
Standards). She is an advisory board member at Young Audiences of Louisiana, Total Community Action Head Start, The Boys and Girls Club (NFLYET), Louisiana Association for the Education of Young Children and the Greater New Orleans Women's Breakfast. Dr. Allen-Jones holds Masters and Doctor of Philosophy degrees in Education and an undergraduate degree in Applied Psychology from the University of Illinois.

Gilda Duplessis

Gilda Duplessis has been an early childhood educator for over 30 years. For more than 20 years, she has operated Gilda’s Academy, a childcare center in New Orleans for children up to age four, using developmentally-appropriate curricula while also teaching their parents how to be their child’s “first teacher.” In addition, she is the pre-Kindergarten administrator for New Orlean’s ReNew charter schools organization. A member of the National Association for the Education of Young Children, she has also served on the advisory board for the Louisana Council on Child Care and Early Education and as a trainer for Louisana’s “Pathways” program for early childhood education. Gilda holds a BS in Early Childhood Education and a Master’s degree in Special Education and Early Intervention, both from Southern Louisiana University.

Dr. Calvin Gidney

Dr. Calvin L. Gidney, Board Chairman, is an associate professor in the Eliot-Pearson Department of Child Development at Tufts University where he teaches courses in children’s language acquisition, children’s literacy development, children’s language disorders and bilingualism. His research in the area of dyslexia and reading disabilities represents something of a new direction for research in the area of reading disabilities inasmuch as it examines the role that AfricanAmerican English (AAE) may play in the reading difficulties of African-American children. Dr. Gidney has also worked extensively in the areas of bilingualism and dual-language instruction and learning. In addition to teaching courses on bilingualism and language acquisition, he served for several years as the consultant to Medford, MA, Public Schools on the development and implementation of professional development activities for in-service teachers on issues of Sheltered English Instruction and developmental issues of dual-language learners. He is currently working on a book for general audiences on the subject of bilingualism, second-language learning, and language policy in the U.S. Dr. Gidney holds an AB in Russian and Soviet Studies from Harvard College, and an MS and a PhD in Linguistics from Georgetown University.

Lucia “Jenni” Hammer

Lucia “Jenni” Hammer is an administrator at the International School of Louisiana, where she oversees curriculum and assessment on three multi-lingual campuses. Jenni was born and grew up in Spain, and in addition to English and Spanish, she is fluent in French and has studied Italian, Russian and Swahili. In addition to teaching at all levels from Pre-K to college, Jenni is a certified medical interpreter and worked as a healthcare consultant in Washington D.C. She is the President of the Harvard Club of Louisiana, a member of the Krewe of King Arthur, and sits on the Boards of Le Petit Theatre du Vieux Carré and the Krewe of Redbeans. Jenni holds an AB in Hispanic and Latin American Languages, Literatures and Linguistics from Harvard College and an MBA from the University of Arkansas. She moved to the Crescent City in 2007 in time for her child to be born "a true New Orleanian."

Judith Minter

Judi Minter, M. Ed. has been an early childhood educator and advocate for over 30 years. For 20 years, she operated Judi’s Child Care Home (in Chicago and then in Oak Park, IL), providing an enriched home environment with developmentally appropriate, culturally sensitive curriculum for ages three months to five years. Judi was a founding member of the Collaboration for Early Childhood Care and Education of Oak Park, serving on the governing task group and as chairperson of the Symposium committee, annual event bringing teachers, providers, parents and
policymakers together to increase understanding, practice and recognition of early childhood development and its importance in the community. Judi is eager to assist in the dynamic efforts to improve early childhood services in Louisiana.

Indra Sen

Indra Sen is a management consultant in the New York office of the Bridgespan Group, where he advises organizations in the early childhood and healthcare spaces. Previously, he worked for the City of Bridgeport, CT, under Mayor Bill Finch, where he helped launch the city's universal pre-K effort and worked on initiatives related to crime reduction and job creation. Immediately prior, Indra was the Executive Director of a Kindergarten through 8th grade public elementary school. He graduated Phi Beta Kappa from Georgetown University, where he was a recipient of the McTighe Prize, the university's highest honor. Indra also holds a Masters degree in Public Policy from Harvard University’s Kennedy School of Government, where he was a Truman Scholar, Soros Fellow and Harvard Public Service Fellow.

Emily Ostruw Shaya

Emily Shaya is a self-selected New Orleanian with a passion for improving her adopted city, specifically through working with local education nonprofits. Shaya is the founder of Pret a Fete, a supplier of stylish and sophisticated party rental decor and furniture. She received her Bachelors of Science in Management and MBA from Tulane University, where she focused on Strategic Management & Entrepreneurship. Her background includes real estate development and entrepreneurial business consulting. Shaya previously served on the board of New Orleans Outreach and leads the Tulane Young Alumni Association.

Members of Early Learning Focus’ Board of Directors are selected based on their (a) involvement in, and commitment to, high-quality early childhood education, (b) efforts to improve the opportunities available to all New Orleans residents and (c) a sensitivity to the needs of under-served populations.


President: Lisa L. Schlakman

Executive Director, Vice President & Treasurer: David C. Schlakman

Secretary: Jennifer E. Flinn

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