Who We Are
The Teams that Make QUALITYstarsNY Work

Helga Yuan Larsen appointed new Director of QUALITYstarsNY

August 7, 2017 – The New York Early Childhood Professional Development Institute of the Research Foundation of the CUNY is pleased to announce the appointment of Helga Yuan Larsen as the new Director of QUALITYstarsNY.

“After an expansive search, Helga stood out as the candidate who could best lead QUALITYstarsNY going forward during an exciting time of continued growth,” said Sherry M. Cleary, Executive Director of the New York Early Childhood Professional Development Institute, which oversees and coordinates all aspects of QUALITYstarsNY. “We are impressed with Helga’s deep experience in and understanding of early childhood education and its stakeholders. I am confident in her ability to lead QUALITYstarsNY into the future.”

Ms. Larsen joined QUALITYstarsNY earlier this year as Assistant Director. With over 10 years of experience in the field — serving previously as Regional Early Childhood Manager at STG International — she has provided training and technical assistance to Early Head Start and Head Start programs with consultation, training, policy and procedure development to promote high quality services to children and families. She holds a Master’s degree in Early Childhood Education from the University of Pennsylvania and a Bachelor’s degree in Psychology from Barnard College, Columbia University.

The Administrative Team

Mary Hayes: Quality Improvement Manager, QUALITYstarsNY

Mary Hayes has been in the forefront of the quality improvement movement in early education since 2001, first at Quality New York and now for QUALITYstarsNY. As the Quality Improvement Manager for QUALITYstarsNY, Mary has worked collaboratively with her team of Quality Improvement Specialists to implement approaches that help program administrators become more effective managers and leaders, key characteristics of high-quality programs for young children. Previously, Mary served as the Director of Early Childhood Quality Assurance Initiatives at the Federation of Protestant Welfare Agencies (FPWA) in NYC. Ms. Hayes has extensive experience in higher education as an instructor in early childhood education and leadership development and is a frequent workshop presenter at local and national conferences. Ms. Hayes holds a Master’s Degree in Supervision and Administration for Early Childhood Education from Bank Street College of Education and a Bachelor’s Degree in Early Childhood Education from Fitchburg State University.

Contact: mhayes@qualitystarsny.org


Jaime Perez: Rating Manager, QUALITYstarsNY

Jaime Pérez has been the Data and Rating Manager of QUALITYstarsNY since 2014. In this role, Jaime manages QUALITYstarsNY’s quality rating and data reporting/analysis functions, as well as the relationship with our external data system developers. Originally from New York City, Jaime has a B.A. in Political Science & Economics and is fluent in several languages.

Contact: jperez@qualitystarsny.org


Hamish Strong: Web & Database Administrator, QUALITYstarsNY

Hamish Strong has been the Web and Database Administrator, building websites and data systems for NY Early Childhood Professional Development Institute since 2008. Hamish has worked with QUALITYstarsNY since the Field Test in 2010. He built and maintains the QUALITYstarsNY website. Hamish consults regularly on the data systems underpinning the QUALITYstarsNY rating system, and develops ad-hoc data systems as needed. Hamish earned a BA in Sociology from Bard College, along with the Max Weber Award in Sociology. After graduating, he joined the NYC Teaching Fellows and earned a MSEd in Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages (TESOL) and taught elementary-level ESL for two years.

Contact: hamish.strong@cuny.edu


The Quality Improvement Specialists

QUALITYstarsNY utilizes Quality Improvement Specialists (QI Specialists) to provide guidance and direction to early learning and development programs and providers through the QUALITYstarsNY process. QI Specialists have expertise in Early Childhood Education and Child Development and are adept at administrative practices, such as strategic planning, the creation of budgets, and better business practices.

Bala Soto: New York City

With a Masters in Early Childhood Development, and as a certified elementary Montessori Guide, Bala Soto has been involved in multiple community outreach projects during her career as a teacher, program director, trainer, mentor, and coach for more than 20 years. Inspired to share what she has learned with others, Bala branched out to create ClearOneSource (COS). COS, Communities Living Empathy Awareness and Remembrance–a vehicle through which she provides educators, parents, and children with a holistic approach to learning. Dedicated to guiding educational programs in schools and homes through the process of creating community, her work is streamlined to facilitate the means by which programs can co-create adaptive systems that support their needs.

Contact: bsoto@qualitystarsny.org


Brigid Daly-Wagner: Finger Lakes

Brigid Daly-Wagner is originally from Indiana but has lived in Rochester for the past twelve years. She has been in the field of early childhood education for twenty years, working as a preschool teacher, center administrator, professional development provider, and college instructor. Brigid has been a QI Specialist with QUALITYstarsNY in the Rochester and Buffalo area since the Field Test in 2010.

Contact: bdalywagner@qualitystarsny.org


Charlene Harvilla: Southern Tier

Prior to joining the Quality Improvement Specialist team, Charlene Harvilla served as Director at Grand Care Children’s Center and as Director/Teacher of Blessed Sacrament Preschool. She has 25 years of experience working with children in day care, preschool, school age and UPK programs. At present, Charlene is a member of Building Brighter Futures for Broome, and serves on the school readiness committee. She is also a board member of the YWCA of Binghamton. Charlene graduated from Binghamton University, earning a Bachelor’s degree in Sociology. She also has an Associate’s degree from Broome Community College in Early Childhood Education and a Children’s Program Administrator Credential from NYSAEYC.

Contact: charvilla@qualitystarsny.org


JoAnn Toth: Capital District & North Country

JoAnn Toth has over 21 years of experience in the early childhood field as an early childhood teacher and administrator. She has been a Quality Improvement Specialist for QUALITYstarsNY since the Field Test in 2010 and has worked with a wide range of daycare centers, UPK programs, and family providers across the Capital District and North Country to improve the quality of their educational programs and services.

Contact: jtoth@qualitystarsny.org


Joyce Guimaraes: Lower Hudson Valley

Joyce Guimaraes has a NYS Certification, N-6. Her degrees are in Elementary Education and Developmental Reading. She also holds a New York State Administrator Credential. Joyce has been the Director of a licensed and accredited center for 38 years and has been a Quality Improvement Specialist since the field test in 2010.

Contact: jguimares@qualitystarsny.org


Kathy Moss: New York City

Kathy Moss has been in the field of Early Childhood Education for more than 15 years in many different capacities. She has been a Preschool Teacher, Center Director, Education Manager and Head Start Training and Technical Assistance provider for many years. Most recently, Kathy has worked as a consultant in Early Head Start and as a Start-up Planner and Mentor Coach. Kathy’s diverse background has allowed her to assist program administrators and staff members as they adapt their policies, procedures and systems in their efforts to achieve a higher quality of service delivery for the children and families in their programs.

Contact: kmoss@qualitystarsny.org


Karin Sperb: Long Island & Brooklyn

Karin Sperb has been a bilingual Quality Improvement Specialist for QUALITYstarsNY since the field test in 2010 and has over 20 years of experience in the Early Childhood field. Karin attended Bank Street College of Education in NYC where she earned a Master’s degree in Bilingual Early Childhood Education. As a teacher and Education Director of a Head Start program, Karin had the opportunity to work closely with immigrant families, as well as to develop a sound early childhood program for preschool children. As a site director and later as a Director of Programs, Karin developed UPK programs that were conducted by a Community Based Organization (CBO) for two Long Island school districts and served as a liaison between the CBO and school districts. Karin later worked as a Bilingual Early Childhood Specialist for the Child Care Council of Suffolk where she had the opportunity to provide professional development through workshops and technical assistance for programs.

Contact: ksperb@qualitystarsny.org


Marlene Selig: Long Island Area

For 19 years, Marlene Selig served as the Executive Director of an NAEYC accredited child care center. She was also an early childhood teacher in NYC Public Schools and in programs on Long Island. Throughout her career Marlene has focused on honing her ability to implement developmentally appropriate programs for young children, working as a partner with families, and guiding teaching teams to work effectively to meet young children’s needs. When she retired from working at the program level, Marlene remained in the field by conducting workshops for early childhood professionals and mentoring parents and staff in Family Place Libraries on the value of play. Marlene attended Queens College and has a Master’s Degree in Education, specializing in early childhood. Marlene has been a Quality Improvement Specialist since the field test in 2010.

Contact: mselig@qualitystarsny.org


Sara Lamoreaux: Western Tier & Western New York

Sara Lamoreaux started her career in Early Childhood Education in 1999 as a Head Start teacher in Buffalo, NY. Sara received her Master’s Degree in Early Childhood Education and then became an Education Supervisor for Head Start. From 2003 until September 2012, she served as the Early Childhood Manager for Bethel Head Start, Inc. She was responsible for managing twenty-seven Head Start classrooms, three supervisors, and a staff of over seventy-six teachers, assistants, and child care associates. Her program served 544 children throughout Western New York from ages 3-5. Sara has a great deal of experience working with collaborative partners, UPK programs, and regulatory agencies. Sara is also an experienced trainer and coach who is dedicated to improving the care of young children and families in Erie County.

Contact: slamoreaux@qualitystarsny.org


Emilie Gay: New York City

Emilie Gay been has worked in the early childhood field for over 25 years. She has been an early childhood teacher and education director in both public and private schools and has served as a UPK education director and consultant. In 2013, Emilie was also an NAEYC Legacy Fellow. Emilie is a certified NYS trainer in the Core Body of Knowledge and the Early Learning Guidelines. She received her Masters degree, Teacher's License and Montessori Teacher Credentials from Chaminade University in Honolulu, HI.

Contact: egay@qualitystarsny.org


Heather Schwegler: Dutchess, Rensselaer & Orange Counties

Heather Schwegler lives in Ulster County and has worked in the early childhood field for the last 18 years. Her experiences have been operating a group family child care, providing professional development trainings, coaching, and rebuilding efforts for child care professionals in NYS. Heather currently serves as the president of the Family Child Care Association of New York State (FCCANYS).

Contact: hschwegler@qualitystarsny.org


Diane Farley: Long Island

Over the past 30 years, Diane Farley has worked with young children as a teacher, assistant director, director, counselor, and childcare worker. She has worked in urban and suburban environments as well as small schools, large schools, corporate schools, non-profits, parent co-ops, Head Start, and Universal Pre-K. She has a Master’s degree in Early Childhood Education from City College and extensive experience in leading schools through the NAEYC accreditation and reaccreditation processes. In her years as a teacher, Diane enjoyed working with children every day and seeing their faces light up when they finally “got” something with which they had been struggling. As an administrator she has had the opportunity to guide and mentor teachers so that they, too, could have a positive impact on their students’ lives and contribute to improving early childhood programs.

Contact: dfarley@qualitystarsny.org


Jill Boeck: Western New York

Jill Boeck has been involved in the education of young children for over 30 years. Jill has held previous roles as Director of Education and Training at the Child Care Resource Network in Erie County; Education Department Assistant Professor at Villa Maria College of Buffalo and teaching Grades K-6. She completed her AAS Degree in Early Childhood Education at Trocaire College, Buffalo, NY; BS Degree in Elementary Education at Medaille College Buffalo, NY; and a Master’s Degree at Buffalo State College Buffalo, NY. Jill has experience working with Center, Family and Group Family based child care programs including Public School Universal Pre-K classrooms to increase quality and create a culture of continuous quality improvement.

Contact: jboeck@qualitystarsny.org


Vidya Stark: New York City

Vidya Stark has over 15 years of experience in the field of child development supporting children from prenatal to school age stages of their lives. She has worked in early childhood as a Developmental Specialist, Director of Early Childhood Services, and Deputy Director of Early Head Start, Head Start, EarlyLearn and Pre-K programs in NYC. Because of her commitment to family and community development, most of her work has been based in large community organizations that provide a spectrum of services to promote the holistic wellbeing of children and families in under-resourced, urban neighborhoods. Vidya Stark has her M.Ed. from Lesley University and her B.A from Georgetown University. She currently resides in Brooklyn with her husband, two daughters, cat and dog.

Contact: vstark@qualitystarsny.org


Eileen Flicker: Hudson Valley

Eileen Flicker has been an advocate for young children and their families for over 30 years. Her experiences include work as an early childhood teacher, childcare director, curriculum coordinator, public school principal, school improvement specialist, educational consultant, and college professor. Eileen is the co-author of Guiding Children’s Behavior: Developmental Discipline in the Classroom (Teachers College Press). She has a Master’s Degrees in Early Childhood Education, Educational Psychology, and Developmental Psychology and a Doctorate in Curriculum and Teaching from Teachers College, Columbia University.

Contact: eflicker@qualitystarsny.org


Mira Berkley: Western New York

Mira Berkley has spent 40 years as an Early Childhood professional. Most recently she retired from her position as Associate Professor and Early Childhood Education Program Coordinator at SUNY Fredonia where she worked from 2001-2015. She also spent 9 years teaching at Jamestown Community College. Prior to becoming an early childhood teacher educator, Mira worked with young children ages 2-6 for 15 years, in a variety of programs: university child care and kindergarten in New Mexico, community mental health and Head Start in Arizona, and Head Start and public school kindergarten in Western New York. Mira has been an active member of the National Association for the Education of Young Children (especially at the local and state levels) and the New York State Association of Early Childhood Teacher Educators. She serves on the board of directors of the Campus and Community Children's Center at SUNY Fredonia and on the advisory board of the Chautauqua Child Care Council.

Contact: mberkley@qualitystarsny.org


Tracey Heatley: Central New York

For the last 20 years, Tracey has been involved in the field of education. Tracey's experience spans public and private schools, early childhood programs, elementary schools and post-secondary school education with the learning disabled population. In the 10 years of her Early Childhood experience, Tracey served as a classroom teacher, program coordinator and assistant director in an integrated preschool setting. These roles have allowed Tracey to provide support and training to program staff and parents in all areas of child and professional development. In addition, Tracey has served as a learning consultant/coach with recent graduates to assess their strengths and barriers to obtaining employment and to help them set achievable goals towards success. Most recently, Tracey has served as an RTI math specialist at the elementary level, providing remedial support to students and training and mentoring for teaching staff. Tracey is passionate about providing quality early childhood education to all children and is committed to working with programs to help them achieve this goal. Tracey lives in Baldwinsville with her husband and 4 children. She enjoys spending summers with her family at their camp in the 1000 Islands.

Contact: theatley@qualitystarsny.org


Sarah Gould-Houde: North Country

Sarah Gould-Houde, M.S.Ed., NYS Level III Credentialed Trainer, and has been a Regional Infant and Toddler Specialist at the Capital District Child Care Council for the past six years. As part of the NYS Infant and Toddler Resource Network, Sarah provided training and technical assistance in seventeen counties to support infant and toddler child care providers. She has been in the education field for fifteen years in the capacities of teacher, mentor, supervisor, coordinator, college professor, Co-Director of the NYZTT Infancy Leadership Circles and trainer in public and private schools as well as Early Head Start and Head Start. Sarah has worked for years on the advisory committee of the Infant Mental Health Association of NY’s Greater Capital Region as the committee chair of Membership and Communication. Sarah has been the lead on the development and implementation of the new NYS Freedom of Movement Certification program.

Contact: sgouldhoude@qualitystarsny.org


Stephanie Straker:

My name is Stefanie Straker. I have worked in early childhood education since 2001. I served as an educational director at a childcare center for 5 years. In the past I have taught children ranging from toddlers to pre-kindergarten and first grade. In addition to my teaching and administrative roles, I have also worked as a Support Team member and for The New York Early Childhood Professional Development Institute. In that role, I was an Early Childhood Coach and a facilitator for teachers involved in the NYC Pre-K For All initiative. While working with QUALITYstarsNY as a Quality Improvement Specialist, I am also pursuing my Ph.D. in Educational Psychology. I am excited to be making an innovate contribution to the changing dynamic of pre-kindergarten education.

Contact: sstraker@qualitystarsny.org