Valora Washington

Chief Executive Officer & President

     Dr. Valora Washington is an internationally recognized authority in early childhood education. She is known for conceptualizing, leading, and executing significant change initiatives impacting policy, programs, and practice in higher education, philanthropy, and national nonprofits as well as in local, state, and federal government programs.

     During her decade tenure as CEO of the Council for Professional Recognition, Dr. Washington advanced and professionalized the field of early childhood education with her leadership of the largest credentialing program for early educators in the United States, the Child Development Associate (CDA) Credential™. Accomplishments included 25% increase in applications, 42% increases in renewals, and 107% decline in appeals. New initiatives include the establishment of 6 national conferences; The CDA Gold Standard Certification for training institutions; international programs in China, Egypt, UAE, and Panama;  on-line application processes  (which grew from 0 to almost 90%); new Essentials text and workbook; cyber sales; review-observe-reflect verification visit system;  white paper series; high school CDA programs; renewal amnesty programs; outreach and assessments in up to 23 languages; and alumni group.  

     Dr. Washington is considered a pioneer in early education, having been named as a Legacy Leader by the Center for Enhancing Early Learning Outcomes (CEELO), for having shaped the early childhood education field, having a unique perspective on the history and context of today’s policy initiatives, and for developing strategies to address the issues that impact child outcomes.

     Certified as an Association Executive and as a Credentialing Specialist, Dr. Washington co-founded Voices for Michigan’s Children, the Early Childhood Funders Collaborative, and The CAYL Institute (a leadership development program for practitioners). 

     She formerly served as Vice President at Antioch College and the Kellogg Foundation and as a tenured faculty member at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. She has held leadership roles with the Massachusetts Governor’s School Readiness Commission; Voices for America’s Children; NAEYC; Black Caucus of the Society for Research in Child Development; National Head Start Association Commission on 2010; Boston Children’s Museum; and Wheelock College.

     She was named one of “25 Most Influential Working Mothers” by Working Mother magazine, chosen as one of “Ten Outstanding Young Women of America” from among 62,000 nominations, and in 2018, named by Exchange magazine as Doyens (the most respected or prominent person in a field). Dr. Washington has authored over 50 publications including Children of 2010 and Children of 2020. She has also co-authored Ready or Not: Early Care and Education’s Leadership Choices – 12 Years Later; The New Early Childhood Professional; and Guiding Principles for the New Early Childhood Professional.

     In addition to a Ph.D. in Child Development/Education from Indiana University at Bloomington, Dr. Washington holds four honorary degrees and professional recognition from numerous organizations including the Barr Fellowship; Leadership Greater Washington; Boston AEYC; NAEYC Black Caucus; Cambridge Resource and Referral; Center for Adoption Research; National Association of Black Social Workers; United Way of Massachusetts Bay; and numerous others. 

Brenda Gadson

Chief Operating Officer

     Brenda Gadson is the owner/operator of her consulting firm, BMG Consulting. This firm builds on her 35 years of experience of executive leadership. She founded, incorporated and lead Boston Center for Community and Justice, Inc. (BCCJ) a social justice leadership development organization. She was the Founding Executive Director for the Massachusetts Families for Kids (MFFK), an adoption and foster care systems reform initiative in 18 states. She also served as Executive Director of the Roxbury Multiservice Center in Boston.

     Using her extensive management skills focused on the long-term sustainability of small and mid-sized nonprofit organizations, Brenda is frequently tapped to stabilize and support leadership transitions. Brenda has developed an exceptional reputation for both coaching/mentoring new executives and for impactful organizational or program assessments. A seasoned social worker, her social justice experiences have led to significant roles in the Early Childhood Education (ECE) field with an emphasis on the professional development needs of the adults working in that field.

     As a skilled communicator, Brenda is the co-author of two books: The New Early Childhood Professional: A Step-by-Step guide to Overcoming Goliath and Guiding Principles for The New Early Childhood Professional. She delivers effective keynote speeches and professional development workshops or seminars on a variety of subjects including system reform, organizational development, change strategies, strategic planning, social justice issues, community building methodologies, team building, and child welfare.

     Active in community affairs, Brenda has also served, as a member, trustee, and officer, on numerous community and professional organizational boards that are dedicated to children, education, social justice, diversity, religious and political concerns.

Wayne Ysaguirre

Chief Workforce Innovation Officer

Wayne Ysaguirre has joined the CAYL Institute as the new Chief of Workforce Innovation to lead CAYL’s effort to create a regional childcare workforce system in deep partnership with sectoral partners; including employers, workforce organizations, and higher education. 

Ysaguirre has provided leadership on the design and implementation of childcare workforce sourcing, development, and employment systems as an industry consultant and as Executive Director of The Care Institute. The Care Institute worked to transform the systems of care in the United States through partnership, collaborations, program innovation and strategic investments – developing the infrastructure, systems and policies needed to support workers in providing high quality care for America’s children and seniors. 

Prior to that Ysaguirre served as President & CEO of Nurtury. He worked at Nurtury for almost 30 years in multiple roles; starting as a teacher assistant in a toddler classroom and ending his tenure as Chief Executive Officer. Since 1878, Nurtury’s goal has been to close the opportunity gap between children from low‐income families and their middle‐income peers, ensuring that every child enter school ready to succeed. In all these collaborative and catalytic roles Ysaguirre has played an integral role in helping to shape public early education policy, practice, and infrastructure to raise standards in the field nationally, and in Massachusetts, and the city of Boston.

Mr. Ysaguirre serves on the Community Advisory Board of the New England Federal Reserve Bank, the Boards of Boston’s Higher Ground, Massachusetts’s Children’s Investment Fund, and the national literacy organization He serves as advisor to Boston’s Opportunity Agenda birth to 8 Data Group and is a member of the Harvard Center on the Developing Child Pediatric Innovation Initiative, a research network focused on developing biological measures of stress activation in children.

Elizabeth Spisich

Director of Communications

Elizabeth’s passion for early childhood education began in the classroom and has evolved into an accomplished 15+ year career that now continues with the CAYL Institute. After graduating from Michigan State University with a bachelor’s degree in Child Development, Elizabeth spent nine years as a first-grade teacher in Michigan and Virginia. Elizabeth was named Locust Grove Elementary’s Teacher of the Year in 2011.

To further extend her reach and impact in the field, she later joined the HighScope Educational Research Foundation as a Curriculum and Training Specialist. This role broadened her understanding of the inequities and challenges faced by the early childhood education community. She spent five years helping to revamp online learning tools and invest in quality teacher training, worldwide.

During the pandemic, Elizabeth was inspired to better connect with and serve her community. She founded and built a successful countywide website linking local families to kid-friendly resources, businesses, and attractions. In 2021, she was awarded a Women Rise micro-grant from the Michigan Tribe to grow her vision and expand her use of digital platforms and social media to cultivate awareness, build partnerships, and support meaningful investments.

Elizabeth joined The CAYL Institute as a Communication and Marketing Program Associate and now serves as the Director of Communications. Her goal as part of CAYL’s powerhouse team is to utilize her knowledge, vast skill set, and innate creativity to effect tangible change and empower advocates in the world of early childhood education. 



Kori Bardige

Director of Operations - Good Jobs Challenge

Kori Bardige joins CAYL as the Director of Operations for the Good Jobs Challenge Grant. Kori began her career as an early childhood educator. She worked with infants through school age but primarily taught with preschool for children diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder. When Kori left the classroom, she began developing and providing training for early childhood educators in Maryland and was the principal investigator on two grant projects aimed at improving center quality and increasing children’s language and literacy skills. Kori worked on behalf of the New Jersey Department of Education, Office of Special Education Programs as one of two preschool special education consultants for the state, responsible for providing training and technical assistance to public preschool programs aimed at improving quality and increasing inclusion opportunities for children with disabilities. In 2014, Kori opened Learning Circle Consulting and focused on providing consultation and professional development to school districts, child care programs, home visitors, and families. Specialized projects include becoming a trainer for the Massachusetts Kindergarten Entry Assessment (MKEA) grant, co-writing a STEM-focused preschool curriculum, and designing and implementing a year-long PLC focused on social and emotional development for a public preschool program. Kori has been an adjunct professor at Lesley University for the past 7 years.  

Kori serves on the boards of several national and local (MA) organizations focused on education and equity for all children. She is a frequent presenter at state and national conferences including the National Association for the Education of Young Children. Kori holds a master’s degree in special education from Simmons College and a Ph.D. in Early Childhood Education from Lesley University focused on the role of curiosity in learning partnerships. 


Kelly Randlett

Program Manager, Center-Based Programming

Kelly Randlett joins The CAYL Institute as the Program Administrator for the Good Jobs Metro Boston Coalition’s Child Care Sector Workforce Pipeline Project. She brings years of leadership and experience to this role having been a Child Care Center Director, Family Child Care System Director, Teen Parent Child Care Program Director, and Early Head Start Director during her career. Over the past two years, Kelly has led The Care Institute’s Workforce Pipeline Pilot work, which served as Proof of Concept for the Good Jobs Metro Boston Coalition’s Child Care Workforce Pipeline Project, striving to create a regional childcare workforce system in deep partnership with sectoral partners; including employers, workforce organizations, and higher education. She is an advocate for Educator, Family, and Child support systems and is passionate about child welfare, especially around foster and adoption support. Kelly has an MEd in Early Childhood and a Certificate In Early Education Leadership from the Harvard Graduate School of Education’s Saul Zaentz Early Education Initiative.

Jynai McDonald

Family Child Care Manager

Jynai McDonald is a native of Springfield, MA. She graduated from Bay Path University and is the Founding Director of a small non-profit organization called Urban Impact Initiative Massachusetts. In 2014 he was passionate about making change in her community, so she learned how to formally organize by joining the Western MA Chapter of Neighbor to Neighbor (an organization that mobilizes people in their community to confront local, state, and national crises). Much of her career has been spent in leadership roles. 

She is the former Family Child Care Coordinator for SEIU Local 509 where she Ied the department in providing representation, training, and services for approximately 2,400 Family Child Care providers throughout Massachusetts. Jynai continued to play a role in the early education and child care field as the Officer of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion for the Common Start Coalition: a statewide partnership of organizations, providers, parents, early educators, and advocates working together to make high-quality early education and child care affordable and accessible to all Massachusetts families.

She currently serves as the Chair of the Board of Trustees at Springfield Technical Community College where she has made it her mission to make sure that the region has access to high-quality accessible and affordable education from birth through adulthood.

Yoni Gordon

Program Manager, Communities of Practice

Yoni Gordon joins the CAYL Institute as the Program Manager of Communities of Practice under the Good Jobs Challenge Grant. Over the past 15 years, Yoni has worked at the intersection of education and workforce development, for CBOs in New York City and the Greater Boston Area. 


Yoni has worked with young people in some capacity since 2004, starting as a lead teacher for the Agassiz Baldwin Center’s after school program housed at the Maria Baldwin Elementary School in Cambridge, MA. After relocating to Brooklyn NY in 2008, Yoni began working as the Site Director for several after-school enrichment programs with the Sports and Arts in Schools Foundation program. 


The turn towards working in early childhood education came in 2013, after being offered the position of Curator of Musical Life with the Children’s Learning Center in Morningside Heights. Yoni spent three years at CLC, working his way up to the position of Assistant Director, while taking courses in Music and Music Education at Teacher’s College at Columbia University. 


After returning to Boston in 2016, feeling a call to work with populations in more immediate need of support, Yoni began working as a career counselor with MassHire Metro North. Most recently Yoni served as the Senior Regional Support Manager with Commonwealth Corporation, helping to administer the YouthWorks grant. In this role Yoni played an instrumental role in planning statewide convenings, serving as a liaison to the Secretary of Labor for the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, and orchestrating site visits to each of the 16 regions throughout the state.


Alessandra Lopez

Administrative Associate/Data Manager

Alessandra Lopez joins The CAYL Institute as the Administrative Associate/Data Manager with the Good Jobs Challenge Grant team. She holds a bachelor’s degree in sociology and criminal justice from Minnesota State University – Moorhead. She has five years of non-profit experience and holds a certification in Leadership within Community Action in the state of Minnesota. Alessandra was introduced to the child care sector while working with Head Start and the Child Care Aware team, working to provide assistance to participants wanting to begin a career in childcare. She is pursuing her master’s degree in public administration with a concentration in nonprofit management through Rutgers University – Newark.

Eileen Conroy

Executive Administrative Assistant

Eileen brings over ten years of administrative & operations to her work at The CAYL Institute. Her focus is to support the team’s expanding operational field, splitting her time alongside The Good Jobs Challenge Grant.

Before her work at The CAYL Institute, Eileen worked as a Business Operations Administrator at Stanford University. She has a background in non-profit environments focused on science and research growth.

Eileen earned her Bachelor of Science degree from Kent State University in Biochemistry and Public Health. She is a long-time resident of the San Francisco Bay Area.