Leadership

Board of Directors

David Wilbur, chair Joyce Robinson, vice chair Evan Pan, treasurer Lisa Brown Shawnee Carrington
David Wilbur, chair Joyce Robinson, vice chair Evan Pan Lisa Brown Margarita Buitrago
Marlen Gomez Giselle Navarro-Cruz Inga Rodriguez Patricia Huffman, past chair emeritus  
Marlen Gomez Giselle Navarro-Cruz Inga Rodriguez Patricia Huffman,
past chair emeritus
 
 
David WilburDavid Wilbur has been on the board of directors of Options for Learning since 2010, serving as the chair since 2017. With multiple degrees in engineering and training in management, he worked as an engineer, manager and director for a small aerospace firm for more than 35 years. In 2013, his wife and he founded a nonprofit company providing education and mentoring services to children and families in East Los Angeles.
Lisa BrownElizabeth (Lisa) Brown has been a board member since 2016. Lisa is a founding partner of Grube Brown & Geidt LLP, and is an experienced trial attorney, specializing in the defense of complex employment lawsuits. She graduated from the University of Chicago Law School, was named a 2013 Rising Star with the Southern California Super Lawyers and a 2016 Super Lawyer with the Northern California Super Lawyers, and is a sought-after speaker by corporate counsel and human resources leaders on issues of employment law. Lisa joined the board as part of her commitment to early education, school choice and quality of education while researching schools for her three children.
Margarite BuitragoMargarita Buitrago has been a member of the board of directors since October 2019, and served as Options for Learning’s interim CEO from June 2018 to June 2019. She started her professional career in public accounting in Los Angeles and rose to the level of senior manager before leaving the “Big Four” to be the director of financial reporting and accounting at a Fortune 500 firm. She continued her career at various organizations in progressive levels of responsibility in both the public and private sectors as well as in both the corporate and divisional areas of organizations. She is currently an executive business consultant. Margarita earned an MBA from UCLA's Anderson School and a bachelor's degree in accounting from Loyola Marymount University in Los Angeles. She is a certified public accountant and is a member of the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants.
Marlen GomezMarlen Gomez is a director with CliftonLarsonAllen LLP, a professional services network. She specializes in planning, directing and supervising audits of charter schools, foundations, nonprofits, and private colleges and universities. She has more than a decade of experience and consults with nonprofits on a variety of accounting and tax-related matters. Marlen has a bachelor's degree in accounting from the University of La Verne and is a certified public accountant in California. 
Andrew Levey is a California licensed attorney with extensive experience in employment law and human resources management. He currently serves as the vice president of human resources and organizational development for Community Partners, a 501(c)(3) fiscal sponsor. Andrew provides leadership and guidance in all personnel matters including employment/labor relations, training and development, talent management and employment law.
 
Prior to joining Community Partners, Andrew was the chief human resources officer at Nigro, Karlin, Segal, Feldstein & Bolno, LLC where he oversaw all human resource functions. He has also worked at Paramount Pictures, where he served as the vice president of human resources-legal. He received a J.D. from the University of the Pacific, McGeorge School of Law, and a bachelor's degree in political science from UC Berkeley.
Giselle Navarro-CruzDr. Giselle Navarro-Cruz is an assistant professor of early childhood studies in the College of Education and Integrative Studies at Cal Poly Pomona, where she teaches courses on multilingualism, infant development, and early learning and care (ELC) teacher practicum. Dr. Navarro-Cruz earned her Ph.D. in education from Claremont Graduate University, a master's degree in child development from Cal State L.A., and a bachelor's degree in psychology with a minor in applied developmental psychology from UCLA. Dr. Navarro-Cruz’s passion for ELC began when she was an assistant teacher at the UCLA childcare center, as well as a research assistant for several UCLA children research labs. Her research interests focus on enhancing access and quality to ELC using a funds-of-knowledge framework. Currently, her research examines how institutions of higher education (IHE) support parenting students as they navigate child care access and service on campus. In addition, Dr. Navarro-Cruz also conducts research that explores how IHE are preparing ELC teachers to work with multilingual children and their families. She advocates for the well-being and equity of access and quality care for young children and families.
Evan Pan
Evan Pan has been a board member since 2016. He is currently the chief investment officer and managing partner for Pan Global Advisers, LLC, and is also the chief investment officer and partner of Tax Efficient Asset Management Solutions, Inc., a multi-family office RIA. Evan has more than 20 years of world-class investment experience, including his previous positions as chief investment officer for The Fuller Foundation and director of investments at Caltech endowment. Prior to that, he was a portfolio manager at Dimensional Fund Advisors and vice president at Pacific Investment Management Company. He is a chartered financial analyst and a member of the CFA Society of Los Angeles. Evan holds a bachelor's degree in economics from UC Irvine and a master's degree in business UCLA's Anderson School.
 
Joyce Robinson
For more than 40 years, Joyce has been a passionate advocate for children, families, and the professionalism of the early childhood education field. After working many years as an elementary school teacher, and then as a coordinator in Pasadena Unified School District’s Early Childhood Program, she moved to the private nonprofits' early childhood education sector and head start. Joyce was a senior program officer with the Low Income Investment Fund (LIIF) for five years. During her time with LIIF, she administered the LA County Bridge Fund. As part of the childcare division of LIIF, Joyce assisted state-funded early childhood education directors serving in organizational development and capacity building.
 
Joyce has also worked with Opportunities Exchange, Inc. in partnership with First 5 LA, to establish early childhood education Shared Services Alliances with Center Directors and family home educators throughout LA County. She continues her early childhood education work through her consultant organization, Crazy Quilt Solutions.
 
Joyce has a master’s degree in human development from Pacific Oaks College, an MBA from Azusa Pacific University and a bachelor's degree from the University of Illinois. She holds a California teaching credential, an administrative services credential and a community college instructor's credential. Joyce continues spreading her early childhood education messages as an adjunct instructor at community colleges and Pacific Oaks College. As part of her advocacy work, she is an active member of the California Association for the Education of Young Children (CAAEYC) Public Policy Committee, promoting state and federal legislation to uplift the early childhood field.
 
Joyce lives in Altadena and has two daughters and one grandson. In her personal time she enjoys tending her outdoor yard, especially the vegetable garden and fruit trees. As time permits, she carves out moments for reading, expanding her computer skills, visiting with friends, volunteering in the community and singing in two gospel choirs.
Inga RodriguezInga Rodriquez has been a board member since 2015. She works at Cal State San Bernardino's Office of the President. Inga has worked at St. Jude Medical Center as a liaison between the hospital and governmental and health care agencies. She has extensive experience doing community outreach, parental education and case management. Inga is proud of her past work experience in the diverse fields of automotive and higher education. Her children have attended Options for Learning programs, including Head Start.
José has been a board member since 2019 and currently serves as secretary. He recently retired after having served 20 years as Los Angeles County Superior Court judge. He served his entire career as a criminal court judge, primarily assigned to felony trial court. José remains active in alumni affairs for his college and is married.
Randy joined Options for Learning's board of directors in 2020, where he has served on the Personnel Committee and Strategic Planning Committee. Randy is currently the chairman of the Personnel Committee, a position in which he brings 20 plus years of experience. He is a collaborative leader with extensive multi-unit experience ensuring the customers' needs are met internally and externally.
 
Randy pursues work activities to achieve the mission and business priorities of the organization. He has served on the diversity board of the San Diego Urban League, the Covina Chamber of Commerce and the Covina Lions Club board. Additionally, Randy has worked with Children’s Hospital Los Angeles for more than 20 years and was awarded humanitarian of the year.
 
Randy has been married to his wife Nancy for 46 years and has two children, four grandchildren and three granddogs.
Pat HuffmanPat Huffman has been an integral part of Options for Learning since the formative years of the agency. Trained as a registered nurse, she has professionally worked in programs devoted to children and families. Pat has been an active volunteer in her community, serving on various committees and boards, working on education, advocacy and health issues such as early childhood education, family issues, and mental health.

Executive team

Paul Pulver, CEO Dolores Meade, COO Kelly O'Connell, deputy executive director Dominic Alpuche, CFO
Paul F. Pulver
Dolores Meade Kelly O'Connell Dominic Alpuche
 
Paul Pulver, CEO
Paul Pulver has been the chief executive officer for Options for Learning since 2019. As CEO,
he oversees all programs and operations related to the child care and support services provided to more than 15,000 children annually in the greater San Gabriel Valley area within Los Angeles County. Options for Learning has more than 90 sites and almost 300 classrooms served by a staff of more than 700 employees and an annual operating budget of more than $100 million. He has worked in the nonprofit arena for more than 30 years and has a reputation for facilitating organizational growth.

Prior to joining Options for Learning, Paul served as the executive director for Pathways LA, as vice president of development and communications for Maryvale, and as executive director for United Cerebral Palsy (UCP) of Orange County. Paul has actively participated on numerous boards and committees at the county, state, and national levels. Currently, he is the vice president of the board of the Child Care Alliance of Los Angeles (CCALA), a unique partnership of 10 member agencies that deliver services to thousands of families and child care providers across Los Angeles County. Additionally, he is a board member of Su Misericordia, a faith-based organization serving the indigenous people in Maneadero, Mexico. His prior affiliations include: UCP National Affiliate Services Committee; chair of the UCP National Affiliate Charter Task Force; chair of the Orange County United Way Council of Organizations; and board member for the National Catholic Development Conference and Orange County United Way.

Paul holds a bachelor of arts degree in Christian ministries, as well as a ministry credential from Azusa 
Pacific University. He volunteers his time at Su Misericordia and an organization that provides camp experiences to individuals with disabilities. Paul is involved at his church, enjoys sports and gardening, and cherishes spending time with his three children, daughters-in-law, and three granddaughters.
Dolores Meade
Dolores Meade joined Options for Learning in 1986 as the director of the Surround
Care program. In 1996 Dolores was promoted to associate executive director and joined
the staff in the corporate office. Her position evolved into deputy executive director/chief
operating officer. Prior to joining Options for Learning, Dolores taught elementary school
and was a site director for the Los Angeles Child Care and Development Council.

Dolores has held leadership positions at the state level with California Child Development
Administrators Association (Every Child California), served as vice president of the national
organization USA Child Care, and was a member of the Los Angeles City Mayor's Advisory
team committee under Mayor Tom Bradley. Participating in the growth of the agency, as
new programs were initiated and established programs expanded, has been a rewarding
part of her career at Options for Learning.
 
Dolores holds a bachelor's degree in education from Michigan State University.
Kelly O'Connell has the honor of being the employee with the longest tenure at Options forKelly O'ConnellLearning, having started as the Resource and Referral manager in 1983. Over the past 35 years, she has helped guide the agency’s rapid and steady growth from five staff members providing child care services for 100 children in family child care homes, to the large, multi-faceted nonprofit that Options for Learning is today. Kelly manages the Child Care Services division, which serves children via various programs including Alternative Payment, Family Child Care Education Network, Stages 1, 2 and 3 Child Care, the Resource and Referral Program, and both the Center and FCCH Food Programs.

She has held a variety of leadership roles in the field including: current president of EveryChild California Southern Section; president of the Child Care Alliance of Los Angeles; appointee, First Supervisorial District of the Child Care Planning Committee, and vice president of the Resource and Referral Network.
Dominic Alpuche
Dominic Alpuche has been the chief financial officer for Options for Learning since 2020.
As CFO, he is responsible for overseeing the management of the organization’s finances
and fiscal activities, including risk management, planning, reporting, recordkeeping, and
data analysis, with a budget of more than $100 million. In conjunction with the CEO, he
is also responsible for driving the direction, strategy, and success of the agency’s finances.
With more than 20 years in grant management and financial administration, Dominic has
extensive experience in administering federal, state, and local agency grants, as well as
foundation grants with organizational budgets in excess of $90 million. He combines his
financial skills with a collaborative and forward-thinking management style.

Prior to his position with Options for Learning, Dominic served as the director of finance and senior fiscal officer at the University of California at San Diego Alzheimer’s Disease Cooperative Study (ADCS), as chief business officer for the Leonard Davis School of Gerontology at the University of Southern California, assistant director of business and technology for the Center for Urban Education, and assistant director of budgets and compliance for the TRiO Programs and School for Early Childhood Education.
 
Dominic enjoys traveling and hosting family get-togethers and is most proud of his two children, Nathaniel (18) and Lilia (14). He has volunteered for his kids' activities throughout their early childhood, as board treasurer for their pre-school, vice president and coach for little league, and cub scout chief and den leader for Boy Scouts of America. Dominic is passionate about providing an environment for all children to thrive.

Dominic earned a bachelor’s degree in public policy management from USC and a master’s degree in business administration, accounting, and finance from the Florida Institute of Technology.

Administration team

Mildred Balderrama John Beck Tracy Lynch Denise McCullough Pedro Ramirez
Mildred Balderrama John Beck Tracy Lynch Denise McCullough Pedro Ramirez
Mercedes Rosales Ruby Sevilla Cesar Soto Melissa Takeda  
Mercedes Rosales Ruby Sevilla Cesar Soto Melissa Takeda  
 
Mildred Balderrama joined Options for Learning as a site director with the Surround Care
Mildred Balerrama
division in 1989. Throughout her years of service, she also has had the opportunity to provide leadership to staff within the Enrichment Program and Head Start South El Monte division, where she is the current division director.

As a leader within the agency, Mildred's goal is to continually equip her staff with the tools to become the leaders of tomorrow. For the last 20 years, she has actively participated in church and community activities, raising funds for at-risk youth and women. In her spare time, she enjoys cooking for her family and friends.
John Beck
John Beck has been with Options for Learning for 15 years. He previously worked
at the Walt Disney Company and Sony Pictures. He has a bachelor's in economics
from UCLA.  
Leslie Carmell joined Options for Learning as the director of communications in 2020. Having worked in the nonprofit arena for almost 30 years, she has experience with a variety of organizations, including K-12 independent and religious schools, a cancer support organization, and Catholic and Episcopal churches. Prior to joining the Options for Learning team, Leslie was the director of communications for almost 12 years at a nationally top-ranked school, Polytechnic School in Pasadena. She has also worked on a freelance basis writing and editing for a number of San Gabriel Valley newspapers.

Leslie earned a bachelor’s degree in journalism with a minor in the study of women and men in society at the University of Southern California and a master’s degree in management with an emphasis in information systems from the University of Redlands.
Thessia Carpenter joined Options for Learning as the controller in June 2021. She is most fulfilled in helping organizations achieve their optimal financial goals. As a testament to her curiosity for continued education and learning, she holds a bachelor's degree in accounting from DeVry University, an MBA with a specialization in accounting, and a master's degree in human resources management, both from Keller Graduate School. She is passionate about sharing her talents in this field because of her personal connection to the work.

Previously, Thessia proudly flourished as a Head Start parent, where both she and her children benefited immensely. She believes her passion translates into the work that she produces and the insight she provides in ensuring that all grants are in compliance and no child is left behind. She believes every family deserves an equitable start in life and the same opportunity she did to succeed.
Norma Herrera has been with Options for Learning since 2006. She is currently the Resource and Referral/Stage 1 division director, overseeing the Resource and Referral Department, Stage 1 Department, Emergency Child Care Bridge Program for Foster Children, and Quality Rating and Improvement System (QRIS) coaching programs. She began her career working with young children for several years at a preschool in her local community prior to coming to Options for Learning. Norma is passionate about her service to children, advocating for every family’s access to high-quality child care.

Norma earned a bachelor's degree in liberal studies and a master's degree in education with an emphasis on early childhood education.
Niland Lim possesses 25 years of experience in the education field. She started her career with Options for Learning in 2003, as a parent specialist under the Child Care Services division. Currently, Niland serves as the director of the State Preschool division. Though she found great joy in assisting families with finding the best child care for their children in her previous role, her current role is where she found her true calling. Niland is passionate about providing a high quality of education to preschool children, where they can thrive and grow, and supporting the teachers who make it a possibility.

Niland is an active board member of EveryChild California and holds a bachelor's degree in child development from Cal State Fullerton.
Denise McCullough
Denise McCullough began her career with Options for Learning in 2002 as an education coordinator with Full-day Preschool. Prior to coming to Options for Learning, she was the director of a small Christian center with infant, toddler, preschool, and school-age programs. She was promoted to the Full-day Preschool division director at Options for Learning in 2007.
 
Outside of her role as the director of Full-day Preschool, she advocates for mental health awareness and is passionate about ending the stigma surrounding mental health treatment. As a stage-three rectal cancer survivor, Denise is also an advocate for colorectal cancer screening. She wants others to know that there is no shame in having cancer, regardless of where the cancer is located. In her spare time, Denise enjoys spending time with her family
and swimming.

Denise holds a bachelor's degree in child development from the University of La Verne.
Candy Meade has been with Options for Learning in various leadership positions since 1987. As Subsidized Division director, Candy possesses extensive experience in program development and oversees the management of the voucher-based Alternative Payment, CalWORKs, and Family Child Care Homes Educational Network programs. She holds a bachelor's degree in human development with a minor in child development.
Rosemary Olachea-Heaslip has been with Options for Learning for 32 cumulative years and has dedicated her professional career to working with school-age youth. She has experienced a myriad of changes in the child care field as it has evolved throughout the decades to improve the quality of services to the communities served. She started her career as a site director in Alhambra in the late ’80s, then returned to Options for Learning as an education coordinator. She was later promoted to program director and later the division director in 1996.

Her dedication and passion are just as vibrant today: She is committed to being an advocate for the Surround Care program and the services the agency provides to the community. She values the integral interpersonal relationships with parents, school district personnel and especially all of the staff that make Surround Care a valuable division within the agency. “I am proud of all that we have accomplished together with a common goal to be the best we can be through the delivery of an educational supporting and nurturing program for years to come," Rosemary shares.
Pedro Ramirez
Pedro Ramirez has been the budget director with Options for Learning since 2017. He has more than 15 years of experience working in fiscal planning, with the past 10 years in the nonprofit industry. Pedro has a finance degree from Cal State LA.
Mercedes Rosales
Mercedes Rosales has worked in early childhood education for more than 20 years. Growing
up in Los Angeles allowed her to identify the need for free, quality preschool programs and
motivated her to seek a profession in early childhood education. She attended Cal State LA
and has worked in state-and federal-funded preschool programs in various roles. Mercedes
joined Options for Learning in 2010.
Ruby Sevilla
Ruby Sevilla joined Options for Learning in 2008. Throughout her career, she has focused on
improving the lives of young people and their families. Ruby has worked in early childhood
education for 18 years, 13 of those in head start and state-funded programs. She has served as the division director of Early Head Start since December 2011.

As the division director, Ruby works closely with the Fiscal Department in developing and monitoring budgets, collaborates with community organizations to serve children and families, and focuses on providing high-quality comprehensive services.

In her spare time, she enjoys running and training for marathons, spending quality time
with her family, and traveling to new places. She holds a bachelor's degree in psychology
from the University of La Verne.
Cesar Soto
Cesar Soto possesses more than two decades of experience in operations and facilities
management and has served as the facilities director at Options for Learning since 2015.
During his time with the agency, Soto has addressed and reversed several fiscal impacts
in state-funded projects, overseen the unification of the Facilities Department and
spearheaded the transition to a paperless process. Soto holds a bachelor's degree in
business administration and business organizational management from the University of
La Verne and a project management certification from the University of Redlands.
Melissa Takeda joined Options for Learning as the benefits manager in 2011, and was
Melissa Takeda
promoted to director of human resources in 2013. Prior to joining Options for Learning,
she worked in human resources at JTB Hawaii and Aston Hotels and Resorts in Honolulu, Hawaii.
 
She holds a bachelor’s degree in business administration from the University of
Hawaii and an MBA with a focus on human resource management from Hawaii Pacific
University.
Terry Talavera has served as the division director for Options for Learning Child Care Services Operations and Food Programs since April 2020 and has more than 36 years of experience at Options for Learning. She began her career as a Head Start teacher in 1985, she later transitioned to the Child Care Services division as a Resource and Referral counselor. Before assuming her current role, Terry was the Family Child Care Food Program coordinator for 33 years. She oversees and maintains the operations of the Child Care Services division, which includes 105 employees. She also manages the Family Daycare Food Program, which sponsors nearly 600 licensed daycare providers to ensure they serve nutritious meals to more than 4,800 children living in various communities in and around Los Angeles and San Bernardino counties. She also manages the center-based food program, which serves more than 42,000 meals monthly to 1,300 children enrolled and actively participating in the program.

Prior to working at Options for Learning, Terry utilized her passion for early childhood education and development by working as a preschool teacher at East Los Angeles College Child Development Center and Los Angeles Child Care Child Center. Terry has served as an advisory board member for the Child and Adult Care Food Program (CACFP) Roundtable for the past 25 years. She currently serves as a member of the CACFP Roundtable Executive Committee and holds the position of treasurer.

Additionally, Terry has participated in work groups with the California Department of Education and the United States Department of Agriculture to develop materials for the Child and Adult Care Food Program community, representing Options for Learning and CACFP Roundtable. For 10 years, Terry participated in the Avon Walk, walking 39.3 miles to raise awareness and funding for breast cancer research and treatment. In honor of her mother, whom she lost to breast cancer, Terry and her family raised more than $150,000.

Terry is an active member of her community and enjoys volunteering for events at her granddaughters’ school and supporting local nonprofit organizations, especially those serving children. Terry’s greatest passion is spending as much time as possible with her family, which includes her husband, Peter, two successful children and three grandchildren.