Co-Chair of ECEC
CEO of Primrose Schools
As CEO of Primrose Schools, Jo Kirchner has a lifelong mission to deliver a nurturing environment and a quality early learning foundation to help children become confident adults who love who they are and what they do. Jo leads strategic direction and external brand leadership efforts for Primrose, including the launch of Primrose on Premise℠ employer-sponsored schools.
She joined the company in 1990 as Vice President and became President and CEO in 1999. Under Jo’s leadership, Primrose has grown from four schools in metro Atlanta to 425 schools nationwide.
Co-Chair of ECEC
CEO of New Horizon Academy
Chad Dunkley is Chief Executive Officer for New Horizon Academy and Kinderberry Hill Child Development Centers. He oversees operations, marketing, strategy, and finance, and drives the culture of continuous improvement at all New Horizon and Kinderberry Hill locations.
Chad has served on the board of ECEC since 2001. Chad is also President of the Minnesota Child Care Association (MCCA), and was elected to serve a 4-year term on the governing board of the National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC) in 2012. Chad received his J.D. from William Mitchell College of Law and his B.A. in management from Hamline University.
Treasurer at ECEC
Chief Financial Officer at KinderCare Education
Tony Amandi is the CFO of KinderCare Education (KCE). KCE is the nation’s leading private provider of high-quality early childhood education and school-age programs, serving more than 185,000 children from six weeks to 12 years old at more than 2,300 locations nationwide. KCE is the parent company of the KinderCare, KinderCare at Work, and Champions brands. As CFO, Tony leads the accounting, treasury, external reporting, finance, information systems and procurement functions. He is responsible for multiple functions across the company, including financial planning and analysis (FP&A), the controller’s organization, internal audit, tax and risk, and procurement. Prior to his promotion to CFO in June of 2019, Tony served as the senior vice president of KCE’s financial planning and analysis and was previously Corporate Controller.
Before joining KCE Tony worked at PricewaterhouseCoopers for nearly 10 years in their Audit and Assurance practice. He worked with clients to complete their annual audits and improve processes and controls. Tony also assisted with engagements related to clients’ acquisitions, debt, and stock offerings. He gained extensive Sarbanes-Oxley experience in this role. Tony also served as the project leader for a Fortune 100 company during the first year of 404 controls implementation and integrated audit approach and lead the audit and advisory engagements of public and non-public, multinational and multilocation companies. When he left PricewaterhouseCoopers Tony was the Senior Manager of their Portland, Oregon office.
Tony earned his Bachelor of Arts in Finance and Accounting from the University Honors College at Oregon State University. He earned his Master of Business Administration from the Marshall School of Business at the University of Southern California. Tony is a Certified Public Accountant in the State of Oregon and is a Certified Treasury Professional. Tony lives in Portland with his wife and their three children.
Secretary at ECEC
CEO of Cadence Education
Dave Goldberg is Chief Executive Officer of Cadence Education, one of the largest early childhood educators in the country. Dave has over 20 years of experience leading franchise, hospitality, and service companies, and specializes in formulating strategy, improving the customer experience, enhancing operations, branding, and launching new concepts.
Prior to Cadence Education, Dave served as Senior Vice President, New Programs at 2U, a leading provider of online education. He contributed to the companies 30%+ annual growth, and was one of the management team members involved in successfully taking the company public (NASDAQ: TWOU).
North Carolina Licensed Child Care Association
Charles Hodges has served as the executive director of NCLCCA since 2019. As executive director, he leads state and federal public affairs efforts and oversees all facets of member and board relations, finance and communications. Charles is also the owner and founder of Insight Advocacy and Communications, which specializes in public affairs and public relations for small to mid-size businesses, organizations and non-profits.
He has more than 20 years' experience in public affairs, grassroots organizing and advocacy, communications and public relations gained in Washington, DC and North Carolina. Before returning to North Carolina and working at the largest public affairs firm in the Southeast, Charles worked in Washington, DC, with the global PR firm Hill and Knowlton Public Affairs and the American Heart Association, where he managed communications for state and federal advocacy initiatives in their DC-based government relations office.
Learning Care Group
Mark R. Bierley is Chief Executive Officer of Learning Care Group, the second-largest for-profit early education and care provider in North America. Learning Care Group operates more than 900 schools in 36 states, the District of Columbia and internationally. As CEO, Mark is responsible for all aspects of the company’s strategy, leadership and operations.
Mark joined Learning Care Group in 2012 as Chief Financial Officer, then served as President and Chief Operating Officer until he was appointed as the CEO on July 1, 2019. Mark leads more than 20,000 Learning Care Group employees in delivering excellence to the families served throughout a portfolio of school brands: Childtime, The Children’s Courtyard, Creative Kids Learning Centers, Everbrook Academy, La Petite Academy, Montessori Unlimited, Tutor Time, and Pathways Learning Academy.
Chief Policy & Government Relations Officer
Jonah Stuart is Chief Policy & Government Relations Officer at Teaching Strategies, where he leads the company’s policy, research, and advocacy agenda. Prior to joining Teaching Strategies in 2009, he served as an aide to United States Senator Chuck Schumer. Jonah began his career teaching middle school in Baltimore with Teach For America. He holds a B.A. in History and Political Science from the University of California, Berkeley, and a M.A. in Education from Johns Hopkins University.
As a former educator and the father of three young girls, Jonah has a deep appreciation for high-quality early childhood education. He is committed to advancing policy aimed at improving and expanding access to early learning opportunities for all children.
Director of Government Relations
The Learning Experience
Maggie Moore is Director of Government Relations for The Learning Experience, headquartered in South Florida. Maggie brings a decade of legislative and regulatory experience working in Washington, D.C. Maggie is responsible for representing and executing the company’s advocacy initiatives and public policy strategies across the Federal and multiple state levels.
Prior to The Learning Experience, Maggie worked for government relations and policy research firms representing a diverse list of clients including industry leaders, Fortune 500 companies, and trade associations. Maggie began her career in Washington, D.C. working on Capitol Hill for her then-Representative of Congress and political campaigns.
Maggie holds a bachelor’s degree in political science from The George Washington University.
Spring Education Group
As CEO of Spring Education Group, a best-in-class platform for education, Shawn Weidmann was instrumental in bringing together three premier private school organizations from Preschool - 12 in the United States. Prior to this, Shawn joined Stratford School as the CEO in April 2015. Previously, he was the COO of Public Storage, the world’s largest operator of self-storage facilities with over 2200 sites in the 38 states.
His extensive career as a leader includes being President of Teleflora, the world’s largest network of retail florists; consultant at McKinsey & Company; product manager for Progressive Insurance; and a partner at EHS Partners, a boutique consulting firm. He launched his career as an Army officer, leaving active duty as a Captain.
Stepping Stone Schools
Rhonda Paver is regarded as a leading expert in early childhood care and education. In 2011, the Governor appointed her as the only person in private business to the Texas State Advisory Council on Early Childhood Education and Care. She is also a writer and speaker, having presented multiple times at the World Forum on Early Care and Education and at the National Association for the Education of Young Children’s National Conference.
Her love of learning keeps growing stronger and she finds, as she interacts with them, some of her best teachers are the Stepping Stone children. She has taken what she has learned and made Stepping Stone Schools Central Texas’s largest privately-owned and most respected private preschool.
Tom Wyatt is Chief Executive Officer of KinderCare Education, the parent company of the KinderCare, CCLC, Champions, Knowledge Beginnings, Cambridge Schools and The Grove School brands. These brands collectively provide early learning and school-age programs to nearly 200,000 children in more than 1,700 locations and over 400 programs around the country. Previously, Tom served as President of Old Navy since 2008,
Tom first joined Gap Inc. as President, GapBody in March 2006. In February 2007, he was named head of the Outlet division. Prior to Gap Inc., Tom held the position of President and CEO for Cutter & Buck.
Mary Lou Burke Afonso
Chief Operations Officer, North America Center Operations
Mary Lou Burke Afonso, a 25-year veteran of Bright Horizons, is responsible for overseeing the operational leadership and management of all North America-based child care centers and schools.
The working mother of two daughters, both graduates of Bright Horizons early education and preschool, Mary Lou has the distinction of leading more areas of the company that any other employee. She has held a variety of leadership oversight positions in Finance, Center Operations, Business Operations, Client Relations, and College Coach. She has served as the company’s Controller and worked on the integration of milestone acquisitions in Europe and in back-up care.
Mary Lou has a special interest in growing and developing young women leaders and a dedication to professional recognition for early educators and the work they do. She is a graduate of Boston College and the Boston College School of Management and is also a CPA.
Goddard Systems, Inc.
Dennis R. Maple was named president and chief executive officer of Goddard Systems, Inc., franchisor of The Goddard School preschool system, in September 2019.
A University of Tennessee graduate, Dennis is a transformational leader who excels at leading business turnarounds; attracting, developing and engaging leadership talent; and creating value for internal and external company stakeholders.
Prior to joining Goddard Systems, Inc., Dennis served as president of First Student, Inc., which is North America’s largest K-12 school bus transportation services company, for five years. His emphasis on instilling operating and pricing discipline across North American operations, cultivating an engaged employee culture of performance and accountability, and instilling a relentless focus on the voice of the customer to deliver new product innovation have helped to create a strong, trusted partner in school transportation services.
Prior to First Student, Dennis spent 10 years at ARAMARK Corporation where, for seven of those years, he served as President of Aramark Education, delivering food, nutrition, and facilities services to K-12 school markets.
At First Student and Aramark, Dennis gained valuable insights into the issues facing educators and administrators, particularly issues about ensuring healthy and safe environments for students.
Dennis brings another 20-plus-years of experience with leading CPG companies that include Coors Brewing Company, PepsiCo, Kraft, and The Quaker Oats Company. These experiences have cultivated within him considerable proficiency in using data-driven insights to identify sustainable competitive advantage through product, business model, and service innovations.
Dennis is a member of the Descartes Systems Group board of directors, where he serves as a member of the compensation committee and the nominating committee. He has also served as a board member for various organizations in his hometown of Philadelphia, including the Urban League of Philadelphia, Episcopal Academy, Philadelphia Outward Bound School, Philadelphia Academies and the Paoli Hospital Foundation. He has also been an active participant in organizations that support primary and secondary schools and communities across North America.
Chairman and CEO
Child Development Schools
David Evans is the Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of Child Development Schools (“CDS”). CDS is one of the largest providers of early childhood education and care (“ECEC”) in the U.S. to children from underserved and lower income communities as well as military families. CDS is the fourth largest ECEC provider nationally with more than 270 centers across 11 states, serving over 35,000 children each day. CDS is committed to giving every child it serves “A Great Start in Life.”
Mr. Evans also serves as Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of Glencoe Diversified Holdings, LLC which is a conglomerate engaged in Specialty Chemicals, Insurance, Education and Manufacturing industries. Mr. Evans started Glencoe Capital in 1994 and serves as Chairman and Chief Investment Officer. Mr. Evans has been responsible for over $2.0 billion of private investments in over 100 operating companies.
Mr. Evans earned his MBA with Honors from the Booth School of Business at the University of Chicago and his Bachelor of General Science degree from the University of Michigan. He has served on numerous philanthropic boards, and together with his wife Joan, established the Prosper Road Foundation to address educational access and inequity issues in the United States. Joan and David have two sons - Joey and Jonathan.
Gigi Schweikert is CEO of Lightbridge Academy overseeing 58 open centers in seven states. Gigi is an international thought leader in early childhood education and supervision. With 30 years of experience and 18 published books, in three languages, Gigi has appeared on CBS, NBC, Fox, and the Wall Street Journal Lunch Hour News. Ms. Schweikert has been quoted in The New Times, Entrepreneur, and Forbes.
Ms. Schweikert was the former Director of the United Nations Child Care Centre. Gigi developed and managed on-site employer-sponsored child care programs for Fortune 500 companies including, Johnson & Johnson, Bank of America, and SC Johnson Wax. Gigi was the host of the TV show, “Today’s Family,” but her greatest accomplishment is being the mother of her four children.
Chief Executive Officer
Kiddie Academy® Educational Child Care
Greg has served as Kiddie Academy® Educational Child Care’s Chief Executive Officer since January 1, 2020. He joined the company in 2008 as Chief Development Officer. In 2011, he was promoted to Chief Operations Officer and then to President later that same year. During his tenure with the company, Greg has overseen the company’s expansion, providing overall strategic leadership and guidance, while maintaining direct supervision of several critical components of the business. The company has more than doubled the number of Academies since his arrival. Today, there are more than 275 Kiddie Academy locations nationwide, each delivering the high-quality care and education that has earned the trust and respect of families, educators and entrepreneurs. Greg owns a distinguished track record of more than 30 years of executive-level experience in the educational and health franchise industries. He earned a B.A. from Kean University, where he studied business and psychology. and pursued an MBA at Fairleigh Dickinson University.
President and CEO
The Sunshine House, Inc.
Wes Wooten is the President and CEO of The Sunshine House, Inc, an early education and care company operating more than 100 schools in eight states across the country. As President and CEO, he oversees the company’s strategic direction, operations, finance, expansion, and marketing efforts, and ensures the company delivers on its mission: providing high-quality care and education – every child, every family, every day.
With more than 30 years of industry experience, Wes has made early childhood education and care his passion. Prior to joining The Sunshine House in 2014, Wes served for 25 years as Vice President of Sales and Marketing at Kaplan Early Learning Company. Wes has served on numerous boards and committees over the years and continues to look for ways to share his passion for the positive development of young children.
Wes earned his MBA from the University of North Carolina Greensboro, and his Bachelor of Science in Business Administration from Appalachian State University. A native of Garner, NC, Wes resides in Greenville, SC and is the proud father of two amazing young adults.