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Early Childhood Systems Development

The Early Childhood Investment Corporation has pioneered the development of innovative, community-wide systems to improve the quality of early childhood support and care.  Most noteworthy is our contribution to the creation of an ongoing technical assistance support for the state-wide network of Great Start Collaboratives and Parent Coalitions.  Members of our team know how to help local stakeholders develop the clarity of vision, mission and strategy that is essential to creating effective and efficient early care and education systems.

You can learn about our Early Childhood Systems Development work here.

Our Experts

Sheila Allen joined the Early Childhood Investment Corporation in January 2015 as Data Systems Manager, Great Start to Quality.  In her role, she implements data governance and management practices to ensure the quality of GSQ data and the integrity of the QRIS. She also, ensures all systems and platforms related to the Great Start to Quality program are operable, accurate and reliable.


Sheila has more than 20 years in Computer information Systems from business systems analysis to computer application programming in various computer languages. She has worked to create, modify, and test the code, forms, and scripts that allow computer applications to run, worked from specifications from software developers or partners, assisted software developers by analyzing user needs and designing software solutions, and has developed and written computer programs to store, locate, and retrieve specific documents, data, and information. Sheila received her Bachelor's Degree in Computer Information Systems from Baker College.

Michele Chenier joined the Early Childhood Investment Corporation in 2010 and is a Technical Assistance Specialist working with Great Start Parent Liaisons around the state.   Ms. Chenier provides orientation for new Great Start Parent Liaison and Collaborative Directors as well as consultation, training and technical assistance to support the Great Start Network, which includes Parenting Leadership, Developing Strong and Effective Groups (Adaptive Schools), Parents Partnering for Change, and Authentic Parent Leadership & Voice. 

Ms. Chenier brings over 12 years of early childhood experience to ECIC including six years as a Preschool Center Assistant at a private preschool and two years as the Great Start Parent Liaison in Delta County.
Ms. Chenier received a Business Administration degree from Bay College.  Continuing her education, she is a MPHI Certified Trainer – Parents Partnering for Change and is pursuing Adaptive Schools Associate Trainer Certification.  Ms. Chenier is a certified Strengthening Families trainer.

Bryn Fortune is the Projects Manager for Parent Leadership at the Early Childhood Investment Corporation.  In this role, Ms. Fortune oversees a variety of projects and initiatives in areas related to parent education, involvement, engagement and leadership.  She joined the Investment Corporation in 2009.

For over 30 years, Ms. Fortune’s career in early childhood has focused on the area of authentic parent voice, engagement and leadership in a variety of state and community models.  She has extensive background and professional experience in leadership development, adult learning theory and curriculum design, training and facilitation practices and designing for change addressing social justice challenges. Throughout the 1990’s and early 2000’s, Ms. Fortune was the Director for Michigan’s Parent Leadership Program and its training initiative for Early On (the state’s early childhood intervention system).  From the winter of 2009 until the fall of 2010, in her original role with the Investment Corporation as Director for Great Start Parent Coalition Training and Technical Assistance, Ms. Fortune oversaw the growth and development of this statewide parent volunteer network from 900 members to over 10,000.

In her current role with ECIC, Ms. Fortune oversees the planning, development, design and implementation for the following projects:

  • Maternal and Infant Early Childhood Home Visiting (MIECHV) for parent engagement and leadership for Michigan's early childhood home visiting system, as well as, the community level Local Leadership Group.
  • Collaborative Improvement & Innovation Networks (CoIIN), Family Leadership Home Visiting Coach for Continuous Quality Improvement at the national level for the Title V Maternal and Women's Health Program.

Michelle Golus joined the Early Childhood Investment Corporation in April 2015 as the Director of Great Start to Quality Professional Development.  She provides oversight and leadership for Great Start to Quality - program and provider participation, professional development and technical assistance. She oversees the planned programs of technical assistance provided to the regionally located Great Start to Quality Resource Center Directors, Quality Improvement Specialists and Consultants. She also works in partnership and collaboration with the Director of Great Start to Quality Assessment and Systems to ensure successful implementation and ongoing excellence of Great Start to Quality.

Ms. Golus has devoted the last 15 years of her career to promoting excellence in early childhood education programs. Ms. Golus has held many roles during her tenure in the field including: Classroom Teacher, Early Education Director, Trainer, Parent Educator and Liaison, Curriculum Developer, Program Evaluator, Consultant, Speaker, Coach and Mentor. She has worked with students, families, and educators in both the private sector and public sector and is committed to providing the highest level of quality standards and programming in early childhood education.

For over 8 years, Ms. Golus was the administrator of an early learning program whose foundation was based upon best practices, qualified staff, and collaborative relationships with the families and surrounding communities. This program was one of the first early learning programs in the state of Michigan to earn a 5-star rating through Great Start to Quality. As an educator and administrator, Ms. Golus demonstrated her commitment to linking hands-on learning to educational standards and is committed to creating culturally relevant and child centered, play-based early childhood environments.  Her experiences and education work in tandem to promote the importance of play, developmentally appropriate practices, and excellence in all facets of early childhood education.

Ms. Golus has also worked as a professional development trainer and a national lecture trainer educating adults all across the nation in topics such as: excellence in early childhood education, curriculum and best practices, assessment and observation, literacy and math foundations, professionalism in the early childhood field, parents as partners, as well as an entire collection of HighScope training modules.

Most recently, Ms. Golus served as a Quality Improvement Specialist for the Wayne, Oakland and Macomb Great Start to Quality Resource Center. Ms. Golus was instrumental in recruiting and supporting numerous home-based and center-based childcare providers’ participation in Great Start to Quality.  Ms. Golus attributes her successes with these providers to her ability to relate to them as one who had chosen to participate in Great Start to Quality and achieved the highest star rating. She was able to share first-hand knowledge, encouragement, and successful experiences with each of the providers she met and supported.

Ms. Golus continues to use her education and experiences to speak at conferences and lead workshops in hopes of helping to advance a culture of excellence in all of ECIC’s work. She is committed to educating parents, current and future educators alike in our pursuit of creating a better tomorrow for all children.

Ms. Golus received her Master of Science Degree in Early Childhood Education from Erikson Institute’s School of Child Development, a Bachelor of Science Degree in Early Childhood Education from Rochester College’s School of Education, and an Associate of Science Degree in Early Childhood Studies from Macomb Community College.  She considers herself to be a student of lifelong learning and holds multiples training certificates in early childhood assessment methods, literacy foundations, and more. She capitalizes on every opportunity to learn something new and has plans to further her formal education.

Ms. Golus believes that we can all make a difference in the lives of young children. She believes we can achieve this goal through a commitment to excellence, collaborative utilization of resources, reflection of the past, and intentional practices and purposeful design for the future. Her motto stands, “It is time to be bold – there is always a solution”.

Christy Opsommer joined the Early Childhood Investment Corporation in October, 2016 as Director of Assessments and Systems, Great Start to Quality.  In her role, she provides leadership and oversight for the assessment, validation and technology systems of Great Start to Quality. Prior to joining the Investment Corporation, Christy was Manager of Quality Improvement at Learning Care Group.   

Ms. Opsommer has more than 15 years of experience in Early Childhood Education, building effective collaborative and cross-functional partnerships, creating systems and resources for quality improvement, training and managing others, and grant writing, budgeting and implementation.

Ms. Opsommer received her Bachelor’s Degree in Family Community Services with an Early Childhood Education concentration from Michigan State University. 

Alissa Parks

Alissa Parks joined the Early Childhood Investment Corporation in 2008 and has served in many different roles for ECIC including Senior Director, Consultant, and is currently a Senior Technical Assistance Consultant supporting Great Start Collaboratives and Great Start Parent Coalitions across the state. She is a skilled facilitator and trainer and has expertise in group development and dynamics, designing and implementing effective collaborative meetings and technical assistance and training initiatives, and leading strategic planning efforts.  Ms. Parks has worked at both the state and local level leading a variety of systems reform efforts, primarily focused within the areas of early childhood, housing and homelessness, mental health and juvenile justice, substance abuse, and child welfare.

Ms. Parks has extensive experience at both the state and local level in building effective partnerships and implementing collaborative-based human service and early childhood initiatives.  Her prior experience also includes administering and coordinating 12 community change efforts simultaneously within a county boundary utilizing a variety of adaptive leadership skills and techniques.  She has also administered several statewide grant programs and has been involved in systems change efforts for almost 19 years.

Ms. Parks received her undergraduate degree in Criminal Justice with a focus on youth services and sociology from Saginaw Valley State University and her Masters of Public Policy and Administration from Michigan State University with an emphasis on evaluation and organizational leadership.  She has been trained in a variety of individual, group and planning processes including Adaptive Schools, Cognitive Coaching, and the ABLe Change Framework.

Kenneth Roubal joined the Early Childhood Investment Corporation in 2016 as a Data Analyst.  In this role, he works across multiple projects to provide data analytics that support data-driven decision making and inform the Investment Corporation’s implementation of innovative, high-quality, research-based early childhood practices and policies.

For eight years prior to joining the Investment Corporation, Ken worked in the field of mental health in concurrent capacities as a clinical researcher at an outpatient clinic and as a direct-care provider for Community Mental Health.  His research background in clinical psychology focused on child and caregiver interactions, functional impairment, inter-rater agreement, and caregiver’s perceptions of strain.  His clinical experience concentrated on developmental disabilities and administration of standardized clinical assessments.  Ken continues to pursue his research interests both at the Investment Corporation and with colleagues outside of the organization - he was recently published in the Journal of Child and Family Studies (January 2017).

In addition to experience in the field of mental health, Ken worked for two years as the Supportive Housing Program Manager for the Greater Lansing Housing Coalition.  In this role, he worked to permanently house homeless families and chronically homeless adults with permanent and severe mental illness.  This experience catalyzed his interest in public service systems and, particularly for homeless families, the impact that process level changes could make on early childhood and the healthy futures of communities.

Ken received two Bachelor’s Degrees from Michigan State University in 2008, one in Psychology and one in Philosophy.  He continued to broaden his knowledge base and skillsets through the completion of trainings on information technology as well as advanced statistical packages and research software.

Michelle Stevens joined the Early Childhood Investment Corporation as a Great Start to Quality Validator in December of 2015. Her current work is focused on ensuring the integrity of the Great Start to Quality rating system by reviewing the evidence submitted by programs and providers as part of their Self-Assessment Survey.

Ms. Stevens began her professional experience in the field of early childhood education by working at Early LCC in preschool classrooms as well as in a variety of supportive roles in the center. Most recently, Ms. Stevens worked at Lansing Community College as a Supplemental Instruction Leader for the Child Development and Early Education program where she helped to guide and support students learning. During this time Ms. Stevens also worked closely with the Child Development and Early Education program’s interim program director to assist with the program’s NAEYC annual report and accreditation renewal process. Ms. Stevens has experience analyzing and aggregating student data to inform and improve the quality of the program’s curriculum and practices.

Ms. Stevens received a Bachelor of Arts in Community Services with a Family System focus from Sienna Heights University and a Certificate of Achievement in Child Development and Early Education from Lansing Community College. She is continuing her education by working towards a Master’s degree in Social Foundations of Education at Eastern Michigan University.

Renae Visscher joined the Early Childhood Investment Corporation as the Race to the Top Early Learning Challenge Grant Project Manager in January of 2017.  In this role, Renae oversees a variety of projects and initiatives in areas related to Race to the Top with a focus on Pathway to Potential Counties throughout Michigan.

For two years prior to joining the Investment Corporation, Renae worked at Child Care Resources, the Great Start to Quality Resource Center for Southwest, Michigan.  She worked for six months as a Quality Improvement Consultant, working directly with Child Care Providers to develop plans to improve the quality of their programs.  After a few months of working at the Resource Center, Renae was offered the role of Race to the Top Early Learning Challenge Project Manager in Kalamazoo County.  She managed the work of the Race to the Top Quality Improvement Specialist and Quality Improvement Consultant in Kalamazoo with Home Child Care Providers and a Subsidized Provider Cohort.

In addition to experience with Great Start to Quality, Renae worked for fifteen years with Lakeshore Head Start on the west side of the state.  She transitioned through the years from a Center Administrator role to that of Training and Volunteer Manager.  In this role, she managed the professional development of all employees, including continuing education and high quality training. She also recruited, trained and oriented volunteers, including parents, high school students, bachelor and graduate level interns. Working with children and families in need and seeing the change a Head Start experience could make sparked her passion for all children to have an equal chance for a quality Early Childhood experience.

Renae received her Bachelor in Psychology with a Child Development emphasis from Grand Valley State University.  She continued her education in 2009 and graduate with her Master’s of Business Administration from Cornerstone University in 2011.

Holly Wingard joined the Early Childhood Investment Corporation in 2009 and is a Technical Assistant Consultant specializing in parent and family engagement and leadership.  In this capacity, Ms. Wingard provides consultation, coaching and training supporting the development of parent and family leadership skills. 

Ms. Wingard began her work in family engagement as an advocate for children with disabilities, specializing in Autism Spectrum Disorders, subsequently broadening her experience in developing family leadership as Berrien County Michigan’s first Great Start Parent Coalition Parent Liaison. In that position, she was responsible for the establishment and continued growth of the Coalition, which included recruiting and supporting parents of young children throughout the county to serve as advocates for early childhood services at the local and state level.

Ms. Wingard also worked as a Technical Assistant for 14 Parent Coalitions in Southwest Michigan and as the statewide Director of Parent Leadership and Public Will Building for the Investment Corporation.

Ms. Wingard received her Bachelor’s Degree in Psychology, with a minor in Sociology from The College of Wooster. She is a skilled trainer who continues to expand her extensive experience in Cognitive Coaching, Adaptive Schools, intercultural Communication, Statewide Autism Resources and Training (START), and numerous leadership methodologies.  Ms. Wingard is a certified Strengthening Families trainer.