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.
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.
Ivy Wong is an educator and advocate for early care and education. She has worked with a number of Massachusetts non-profits including Boston Chinatown Neighborhood Center (BCNC) and The Eliot School of Fine and Applied Arts. At these organizations, she wrote curriculum and managed classrooms of preschool through high school age children. Here, she supported with the 2021 relaunch of CAYL by digitizing and organizing program files, assisting with back office infrastructure, designing and building the new CAYL website, and creating graphics and programmatic materials for the CAYL Catalyst Webinar Series. Her passion is to work with and uplift immigrants and communities of color through education.