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Tamie Rittenhouse, Chair
Pediatric Medical Services – The Children’s Center
Tamie Rittenhouse has been a member of the ECDC for ten years. She has served as the ECDC as Secretary, and is currently the Chair of the Commission. Over the years she has worked on many projects and subcommittees including the CARE Fair and the KidsZone Community Built Playground. Ms. Rittenhouse’s educational background includes early childhood, and special education. She holds a Master’s Degree from Old Dominion University in Speech-Language Pathology. She has taught as adjunct faculty at Old Dominion University and has acted as clinical supervisor for Master’s graduates seeking their Certificate of Clinical Competence. For the past 16 years, Ms. Rittenhouse has worked with children and the administration of children’s programs at the Children’s Center. Her work has included early Intervention and rehabilitation services for children with disabilities. She is currently the Director of the Children’s Center’s Early Head Start Program, and is responsible for services at five sites across Western Tidewater.
Lori White, Vice Chair
Obici Sentara Hospital Representative– Healthy Families/First Steps
Lori White currently serves as the Co-Chair for ECDC. Ms. White graduated from Tidewater Community College with an Associate Degree in Science and Louise Obici School of Nursing. She is a Registered Nurse. She has worked at Sentara Obici Hospital for 28 years. She started as a RN on the Women’s Center and then moved to the Newborn Nursery and then taught Childbirth and Breastfeeding classes. Since 1997 she has been the Healthy Families Family Resource Specialist Supervisor for Sentara Obici Hospital. In 2001, Ms. White also became the First Steps Coordinator. She now coordinates the Universal Screening Referral Pilot. Ms. White is also the Chair of the Catch ‘em Early program and March of Dimes fundraiser for Sentara Obici Hospital. She serves on the Suffolk Literacy Council and Western Tidewater Smart Beginnings committees. She sits on the Regional First Steps Committee and was able to start the first “First Steps program” in Virginia at Sentara Obici Hospital. Ms. White has been married for twenty-seven years and has one son and one daughter.
Staff Representative – Suffolk Department of Social Services
Azeez Felder is the Director of the Suffolk Department of Social Services and has served in this capacity since December 2012. Mr. Felder has over 26 years of experience in the human services field, which includes 14 years of working for the Administration for Children’s Services in New York City. Upon relocating to the Commonwealth of Virginia, Mr. Felder served as the Child Protective Services (CPS) Sexual Abuse Unit Supervisor for the Chesapeake Department of Human Services. For the past twelve years, Azeez Felder has served the citizens of Suffolk in various supervisory and administrative capacities while at the Department. In 2008, he was selected as the Assistant Director of Financial Services and was responsible for Social Services Benefit Programs, the Workforce Development Center and all local CPS appeals as a Local Hearing Officer. Under his leadership in 2011 and 2012, the Suffolk DSS Benefit Program area was named among the Top 15 Best-In-Class Social Service agencies out of 120 in the Commonwealth and one of the Top 5 in the State among large agencies.
Azeez Felder currently serves on several boards and commissions including, The Suffolk Literacy Council, Tidewater Youth Services Commission, United Way Emergency Food and Shelter Program Board of South Hampton Roads, and the Nurse-Family Partnership Community Advisory Board among others. Mr. Felder started his education as a Head Start student in Queens, New York. He entered college at age 16 and completed his B.A. degree in Psychology at Binghamton University in New York. Mr. Felder earned his Master of Arts degree in Industrial and Organizational Psychology at Brooklyn College at age 22. He is married and has three adult children.
Gin Staylor is a founding member and served for five years as the first Chairperson. She was the Director at Growing Up at Obici and developed the Child Development Center. She also developed the program for NSA Early School, and has teaching experience with the preschool and first grade populations. Ms. Staylor graduated from Old Dominion University with an Elementary Education Degree and a Master’s Degree in School Administration. Currently she is a Technical Assistant for Virginia Quality specializing in Teacher/Child Interactions. She was the 2005 recipient of Suffolk’s Chamber of Commerce Athena Award. Ms. Staylor served as Chairperson for Suffolk’s Community Built playground and was a past Chairperson for Suffolk CARE Fair. She is married and the mother of three adult children. She is the grandmother of eight.
Superintendent’s Designee – Suffolk Public Schools
LaToya W. Harrison serves as the Assistant Superintendent of Curriculum and Instruction in Suffolk Public Schools. Dr. Harrison is a dedicated educator and throughout her career has served as a teacher and principal in Washington, D.C.; an executive director in the Charlotte-Mecklenburg School district and as the founder of an education nonprofit, SOAR Education, Inc. She holds an Ed.D. from the Urban Superintendents Program at Harvard University, an Ed.M. in Education Policy and Management from Harvard, an M.Ed. from Regent University and a B.A. in Sociology from the College of William and Mary. Dr. Harrison’s mission in life is to help children reach their full potential.
Dr. Harrison resides in northern Suffolk with her husband Dwain and daughter Ava Grace. She is a member of Bethel Worship Center church where she volunteers with the Children’s Church ministry.
Jennifer BrownLibrary Representative- Suffolk Public Libraries
Jennifer Brown is the Youth and Family Services Manager For Suffolk Public Libraries and coordinates programs, services and access for children 0-18 and their families. Ms. Brown received her degrees in History and Interdisciplinary Studies from Old Dominion and her masters in Library Science from Syracuse University. She is currently working on her doctorate in Instructional Design and Technology at Old Dominion. Her research interests include learning and instructional strategies that focus on interaction and modeling, especially between parent and child. Ms. Brown is currently focusing the library's early childhood activities by the leading efforts in providing access to early literacy activities for children 0-5 through the Public Library Association's Every Child Ready to Read initiative and seeking opportunities to bring these services to underserved populations who do not use the library on a regular basis. Prior to her employment with Suffolk, she worked as a youth and family services librarian for the city of Virginia Beach, heading a large outreach initiative to underserved preschools and continuing early activities for kindergarten students by providing monthly visits during the school day in the bayside area.Carol Wilson, Member-at-Large–
Carol has worked with children for most of her life and professionally for more than 30 years. She began her studies of young children in high school where she participated in an Exploring Childhood program. Carol went on to study Early Childhood Education at TidewaterCommunity College, and then transferred to EastCarolinaUniversity where she earned her Bachelors of Science degree in Child Development and Family Relations. She has continued her education at OldDominionUniversity. Carol started her professional career as a kindergarten teacher and has served as the Director of Simonsdale Presbyterian Preschool since 1999. She has worked as a mentor with Smart Beginnings and is a Curriculum Specialist for Virginia Quality. She is an active board member in her local professional organization, SEAEYC. Carol’s passion is mentoring new teachers, sailing with her husband and entertaining her 3 grandchildren.
Henry Lee Dixon, Member-at-Large-
Bonnie Maki, NAEYC Representative
Suffolk Public Schools Parent Resource Facilitator
Bonnie Maki is a lifelong resident of Suffolk. She is the Parent Relations Facilitator for Suffolk Public Schools. Mrs. Maki graduated from Forest Glenn High School, Tidewater Community College, and Christopher Newport University. She holds degrees in Business Administration, Elementary Education and a Masters degree from Old Dominion University. Mrs. Maki served on the planning team for Suffolk Public Schools Early Start program and taught in Early Start. In 2000 she was recognized state wide and nationally as a Distinguished Title I Graduate. Mrs. Maki is a member of Bethlehem Christian Church. She resides in Suffolk with her husband Brian. She enjoys gardening and traveling with her family.
Specialist in Child Development
Marie Baker has been an educator for forty-six years, twenty-eight of which were at Tidewater Community College-Portsmouth Campus. She was an Associate Professor of Early Childhood Education and an Assistant to the Dean of the Public Services and Technology Division. She is an original member of the ECDC, serving as Secretary and willingly participating on various subcommittees of the commission. Ms. Baker is an active member of numerous local, state, regional, and national professional organizations. She is an advocate for children and is often seen in Richmond speaking out for Virginia’s children. In 2004, Ms. Baker was selected as one of eleven recipients receiving the distinguished SCHEV Outstanding Faculty Award for Virginia’s Colleges and Universities. With an undergraduate Degree from Longwood College, a Master’s Degree from Old Dominion University and the completion of many hours of post-graduate work including an international invitation to complete a seminar/course at Oxford University, she continues to use her knowledge to benefit children. Ms. Baker is now a child care facility rater for Virginia Quality initiative. Married to Robert N. Baker III, they share two children, Blake and Rebecca, and three very active grandchildren - Madie, Buddy and Kade.
Gail G. Harrison
Gail G. Harrison has been a member of the Suffolk ECDC for three years. Mrs. Harrison is actively engaged in education in her city of Suffolk, Virginia. She retired as an Adjunct Professor at Paul D. Camp Community College in the field of Early Childhood Education. She has worked in this capacity for 19 years on the Hobbs and Smithfield Campus sites. Mrs. Harrison retired from Suffolk Public Schools and as a Elementary Guidance counselor in 2009 after completing 33 years of working as a classroom teacher. She has extensive knowledge of working with children of all abilities and promoting positive self-esteem, academic, behavior and parenting skills .Her wealth of knowledge afforded her to serve in various capacities during her career. Mrs. Harrison is an active member of various local and professional organizations. She is also a member of the Learning Center Advisory Council. Currently she serves as Chair of the Advisory Council. Mrs. Harrison is an active member of Suffolk Delta Kappa Gamma Educational Sorority. She is a member of Delta Sigma Theta, Inc. She is a member of Mount Lebanon Baptist Church, (The Mount), Chesapeake Virginia. Her educational and personal accomplishments include an undergraduate degree from Saint Augustine’s University, Raleigh, North Carolina (Private Episcopalian) 1976 and a Master’s Degree from Norfolk State University in Urban Affairs and Counseling, 1990. She has been married to Fred Harrison for 35 years. They have a daughter, Lauren Whitney Harrison, who graduated from Suffolk Public Schools, Old Dominion University and completed a Masters Degree from Virginia Tech in 2012.
Child Care Professional - City of Suffolk Parks and Recreation
Mrs. Lakita Watson has served on the ECDC since for 3 years. Since 2003, Mrs. Watson has served as the Director of Parks and Recreation Department for the City of Suffolk. She is a 1997 graduate of Norfolk State University where she received her Bachelor’s Degree in Social Work. She is a 2002 graduate of the Suffolk Leadership Academy and 2003 graduate of the University of Virginia’s LEAD program designed for public service leaders. She is also a graduate of the Virginia Recreation and Parks Society Leadership Training Institute. She is a Certified Parks and Recreation Professional. Mrs.Watson serves on numerous boards and commissions to help ensure people of all ages in Suffolk are afforded the opportunity to participate in healthy, well-rounded activities.
Brenda M. O'Donnell
Brenda M. O'Donnell is the Early Childhood Development Commission Coordinator and acts on behalf of the Commission. Mrs. O'Donnell earned a BA Degree in Recreation Management from Christopher Newport University and her M. S. Ed. in Early Childhood Education from Old Dominion University. Mrs. O'Donnell has worked in the early childhood field for more than 15 years. She and her husband are the proud parents of Liam, Sean, and Owen O'Donnell.