A Board of Trustees governs the Children’s Center. The Board consists of parents, staff, and members of the community who are elected by the general membership of the Children’s Center. The Board has full legal responsibility for the Center. The officers are voted in once a year and parent participation hours are waived for those serving as officers.
The Board meets at 7:00 p.m. on the third Monday of each month through Zoom. Meetings are open to anyone wishing to attend. There are six standing committees of the Board: Finance, Fundraising, Strategic Planning, the Committee on Trustees, Personnel, and Facilities. Everyone is encouraged to serve on one or more of these committees, for which work hour credit is given.
Parker, Heidi Smith
Olga Batygin is a daughter of an elementary school teacher and a scientist, and as a result she had been deeply involved in education starting from a young age. She believes that every single child is entitled to a quality education, and the Children’s Center at Caltech has given her own children the access and opportunity to be successful later in life.
As a result of her strong belief that the primary tool allowing control over one’s own life is education, Olga has fostered a continued commitment to supporting equitable access to quality learning environments. Part of her ethos is that early STEM education is essential for the development of young inquisitive minds, allowing the capacity later in life to challenge the status quo and design one’s best life. Currently, Olga serves as the Co-Founder and CEO of Lucinetic, an early-stage startup that is enabled by AI and elevates the letter of recommendation ecosystem. Before that, Olga spent more than a decade in various roles at Caltech, staffed the Caltech Childcare Committee, and started several programs from the ground up. Olga’s skills as a strategic manager in operations, administration, and communications, ranging from tech startups to established businesses and academia, allows her to design and implement complex programs to meet mission-critical goals. Olga’s deep experience with Caltech administration, and her far-reaching network at the Institute and beyond will enable an efficient and positive communication pathway between the CCC, Caltech administration, and the community.
As a first-generation immigrant, Olga is reminded daily of the good fortune of having had the opportunity to grow up, become educated, and subsequently raise her children in a system that values learning and individuality. Olga considers herself responsible to support the CCC and those who have been instrumental in this effort, as well as to do what she can in offering that level of access to quality education to partners in the community by supporting the CCC’s external efforts.
Catherine Clark is the proud mother of a penguin, Wilfrid, and a visiting associate professor of history and visual culture at Caltech. Her husband, Brian Jacobson, is Caltech’s Professor of Visual Culture. She and Brian met in PhD programs at USC, and while she is a tenured associate professor of history and French studies at MIT, Catherine is delighted to be back in Southern California.
Catherine’s father was a pediatric cardiologist turned University of Utah administrator who worked tirelessly to improve healthcare for all children across the Intermountain West. Her mother is a registered nurse who in the 1960s was part of the child psych team at Bellevue Hospital in New York City that contributed some of the earliest research about autism. Her own childhood was filled with conversations about the importance of child development and how both education and healthcare were needed to foster healthy, happy, socially engaged people.
Catherine feels fortunate that her little family has landed in a community that is constantly thinking about what high quality early childhood education looks like and about how to maintain the highest possible standards while also embracing and integrating change. Her child has thrived at the CCC. She loves watching him learn and deploy his natural curiosity (and passion for trucks!!). Catherine wants to bring her experience with fundraising and pedagogical oversight as well as analytic skills, project management know-how, and positive energy to help the CCC do what it does so well.
Chantal Morgan D’Apuzzo’s connection with Caltech began as a graduate student in the chemistry department n years ago. She and her husband, a former Caltech postdoc, were CCC parents until their daughter left for elementary school. Chantal was a Bunny Room Parent and served on the Finance Committee before joining the Board. Chantal is currently the Caltech-appointed Board member and sits on the trustees and personnel subcommittees.
Currently, Chantal is an Associate General Counsel at Caltech, managing patent litigation cases and providing legal advice to the Institute in matters involving research. Prior to returning to her alma mater Caltech, Chantal advised clients with patent prosecution matters at Finnegan and Wilson, Sonsini, Goodrich & Rosati P.C. in the Bay Area, and patent litigation at Munger, Tolles and Olson in Los Angeles. She clerked for the Honorable Mariana R. Pfaelzer in the Central District of California, assisting the Judge with complex patent cases.
Chantal earned an undergraduate degree in chemistry from Princeton University, a doctorate in biochemistry from Caltech, and a law degree from Stanford Law School. Chantal also serves on the Board of the International School / Lycée International de Los Angeles.
Megan Denison is the Senior Director of Development for the Division of Geological and Planetary Sciences at Caltech, and mother to Graham (CCC Alumni) and Connor (Penguin). She has more than ten years of experience raising critical funds for institutions of higher education and hospitals. Megan would welcome the opportunity to use her skills and breadth of experience to ensure the strength of the CCC in perpetuity. Creating short- and long-term fundraising plans will help our wonderful teachers and staff have the resources they need to encourage our children become lifelong learners. The CCC has played a central part of her experience as a new parent; it would be her privilege to support the community that has already done so much for her and her family.
Megan is married to Jonathan, an engineer at JPL who works in mission operations on the Curiosity Rover. They are grateful that the CCC has done everything it can to keep our children healthy and safe while still providing an environment that fosters their curious minds.
Jim Franke is a retired entrepreneur and businessman who now spends his time raising his two boys and helping both private and not-for-profit organizations set, pursue and meet their goals. From an early age, Jim has been interested in childhood development and education; and he has pursued this interest both professionally and personally by serving on the Boards of Directors of several non-profits as well as earlier in his career being a member of the non-profit practice at McKinsey & Co.
Jim has a BA in Economics and Political Science from Duke University and an MBA from Stanford. Today, Jim is focused on helping the CCC continue to provide exceptional early childhood education. He is also dedicated, together with his partner Steve Bialecki, to raising their two young boys to be life-long learners.
Olivia Garcia – During the past 17 years Olivia has been working at the CCC which has a STEM based curriculum with children ranging in ages from 6 months to 5 years old. She believes in and supports The Children’s Center at Caltech. Olivia has been a constant dedicated and devoted champion for CCC while staying abreast of new STEM research, brain development and techniques to help not only bring it into the CCC classrooms but to enhance the understanding of these topics for the teachers, staff, and families.
Throughout her 20-year career in the field of Early Childhood Education, she has had numerous roles, Parent, Lead Teacher, presenter locally, nationally, and internationally. Additionally, she has had a previous role on the Board from 2017-2019. Due to many years of being in the classroom, Olivia possesses a well-rounded understanding of what it takes to meet the needs and requirements of a classroom, the various developmental needs of children and how to build and maintain partnerships with each child’s parents. This knowledge and experience will allow her to assist existing and incoming staff to have a better understanding of what it takes to be a teacher at the CCC.
Michelle Gierach – is a Principal Scientist in the Earth Science Section and Associate Scientist of the Earth Science and Technology Directorate at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory. She received her BS and MS in Meteorology from Florida State University, PhD in Marine Science from the University of South Carolina, and was a postdoctoral associate in the Applied Marine Physics Division at the University of Miami’s Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science. The Gierach’s – Michelle, John, and their sons – have been fortunate to be part of the CCC community since 2018. Michelle and John have loved seeing how the STEM curriculum has framed their sons’ cognitive approaches to life, and how well adjusted the CCC children are to enter kindergarten in comparison to their peers. The Gierach’s truly appreciate being part of such a unique and special place.
Alma Gharib-Brady’s connection to CCC started as a preschooler enrolled at the center while her father attended graduate school and her mother worked as a staff scientist at Caltech. Alma also worked at CCC as a summer teacher’s aide after graduating from Polytechnic high school. She and her husband, Sean Brady, have a son starting in the Dolphin room and a daughter in the Raccoon room. Alma is currently a Clinical Research Director and Staff scientist at Children’s Hospital Los Angeles where she directs research studies examining the effects of toxic stress on child development, and the various conditions that influence resiliency in infancy and early childhood. Her research background includes visual behavior and eye-tracking. Alma earned her PhD from Caltech in 2015 studying social neuroscience in clinical populations such as ASD and completed a postdoc at USC. Prior to that, she earned an MA in Art History from Columbia University and a BS in Biology from UC San Diego. Sean leads a medical device company that was spun out of Caltech. Caltech and CCC are special to Alma and Sean, and their extended family. The Brady family values the influence of the CCC curriculum and staff on their children’s lives and loves being a part of the CCC community.
Taylor Hathaway-Zepeda is a partner at Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher LLP, where she advises companies and non-profit organizations on a variety of legal matters including mergers and acquisitions, governance matters and major transactions. Taylor received her bachelor’s degree magna cum laude in Economics from Harvard University. After Harvard, she earned a master’s degree with a focus on international economics from the University of Cambridge in the United Kingdom. She then returned to Harvard Law School to earn her law degree, where she was an editor of the Harvard Law Review. Taylor deeply values CCC’s unique emphasis on early STEM learning and exploration, and her family is grateful to be part of the CCC community.
Alexander V. Hirsch is a professor of Political Science in the Division of Humanities and Social Sciences at Caltech. He and his wife Melanie Thomas have been a part of the CCC community since their (now) five-year old son Gabriel joined Diana’s Dolphins; their younger son Benjamin later followed in his footsteps. Alex has felt extraordinarily fortunate to have his boys in such an amazing environment for early-childhood education, and has been impressed beyond words by the skills, dedication, and professionalism of its teachers, working under Susan Wood’s incredible leadership. He hopes to give back to the CCC community by contributing his skills and experience in financial planning, group decision-making, and education administration to the CCC board, as it seeks to maintain and grow the Center’s leadership in ECSTEM education in a difficult and rapidly changing educational and sociopolitical environment.
Joann Li is a proud parent and loves to see how her son, Conn, has grown over his last three years in this wonderful community. She is a mother of three children and a passionate worker in the art field as a local gallery owner. Not only does she care about her kids’ education and development, she also dedicates herself to providing education for all children, especially knowledge in the arts. Joann aims to provide art education to children in the Pasadena community through hosting CCC’s 50th Anniversary event at her gallery, Ai+ studio, and beyond. She would be honored to host further exhibitions and activities for the students to build their confidence and foster their own style of artistic expression. During the pandemic, her gallery provided virtual tours for the CCC community and was pleased to contribute hand sanitizers and masks for the ongoing protection for the CCC family. She looks forward to providing further help to create positive and memorable moments for the students. Joann is grateful for CCC’s dependable faculty and inclusive community, and appreciates the opportunity serve as board member.
Pauline McPeake has been an early childhood educator for over 20-years. Since 2011 she has served as the Executive Director of the Growing Place in Santa Monica, a non-profit organization with three NAEYC accredited infant/toddler/preschool programs. Pauline is also an adjunct professor at Santa Monica College and member of the Santa Monica Early Childhood Task Force. For 15-years, she has personally and professionally benefitted from sustaining a relationship with the ED, Susan, educators at CCC, and its exemplary curriculum for young children. While Pauline absolutely loves her career and also enjoys time with her family and friends, taking in the natural beauty of Southern California, and reading.
Jose Osorio is currently the lead teacher of the Beavers, and honored to serve as a member of the Board of Trustees. Before joining the CCC, he worked with children ranging from preschool to middle school age in a variety of programs. He has 12 years of experience as an educator and has served in leadership roles at every center he has had the opportunity to be part of. Jose obtained his degree in Child Development with a Multiple Subject Matter emphasis from California State University Los Angeles and found his passion to be in supporting young learners to construct their own knowledge through rich experiences. As a teacher and future CCC parent, his goal is to serve as a representative of both, and look for opportunities that will benefit all members that make up the CCC.
Heidi Smith Parker hails from the Midwest and grew up on a farm. Involved in 4-H while growing up, she feels more at home outdoors than in and has never met an amphibian she didn’t like. Heidi trained as a biologist and obtained her BS in Animal Science from the University of Illinois and PhD in Biological Sciences from Columbia University. She completed a postdoc at UT-Austin before becoming a federal grant consultant. Dr. Parker is currently the Grant Strategist at USC-Dornsife College of Arts, Letters and Sciences, helping scientists on the USC faculty secure federal funding.
Her husband, Joe Parker, is an Assistant Professor of Biology and Biological Engineering at Caltech. They have three sons—Jonah, a CCC Graduate, Eden and Oscar, who have inherited their parents’ love of the natural world. The Parker family loves the CCC and its focus on early STEM education and exploratory learning.
Jackie Reyes worked at CCC for 16 years as a Bunny, Dolphin, and Penguin Lead Teacher. She has watched as the center has grown to what it is now. She recently accepted a position to be a Spanish Teacher/Assistant Director at Phoenix Global Green School in September 2021. Jackie has a Master’s degree in Education/Child Development and has been an active member of CCC Fundraising committee for several years in the past. Jackie wants to see CCC continue to set standards in Early Childhood not only as an ECSTEM School, but as a model for educators and surrounding communities. Being part of the CCC board allows her to continue to make CCC a great place for children, staff, teachers, and parents. Finally, Jackie is also a parent to two wonderful girls ages 14 and 16.
James Salzmann is the proud father of Jack, a CCC Raccoon; and the husband of Dehn Gilmore, a Professor of English at Caltech. Originally from the East Coast, the family lives in Eagle Rock. James and Dehn have been delighted to see Jack thrive at CCC and are eager to give back to the CCC community, including through James’s service as Secretary of the Board of Trustees.
James is an attorney at Munger, Tolles & Olson LLP, where his practice focuses on professional liability, complex civil litigation, and government investigations; recent representations have included universities, other large law firms, and museums and cultural institutions. Before joining Munger Tolles, he served as a federal law clerk to the Honorable John Kronstadt in the Central District of California. Previously, James held strategic development positions at Sotheby’s and Phillips auction houses in London and New York; he also has experience managing online auctions and was a board member and operations director at an international fine-art advisory firm.
James is a graduate of Harvard University, Sotheby’s Institute of Art, and the University of Southern California Gould School of Law.
Zhen Tao is a Senior Partner at Third Square Capital Management with a focus on equity investments. With over 18 years of experience analyzing companies both domestically and abroad, she has a wide breadth of knowledge across industries. Zhen has a strong passion for community engagement and currently serves on the South Pasadena Finance Commission which advises the City Council on matters related to finance, budgeting, and investments. Zhen currently serves on the Finance Committee at CCC.
Having been at a few schools before landing at CCC with her two kids, Zhen deeply appreciates the sense of community and excellence in education that CCC fosters. Zhen is a graduate of the Wharton School with a degree in Finance and Information Systems. She also serves as an alumni interviewer for the University of Pennsylvania. Zhen has two boys currently in the Koala and Dolphin classes, with a third soon to join the Bunnies.
Shaina Villalobos is a Business Administrator at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory managing multi-million dollar budgets and a large workforce. Shaina hopes to utilize her finance and facilities background to continue to protect and grow the CCC by maintaining the campus beauty, as well as functionality, using informed financial decision making. Her connection with the CCC began in 2018 while working as part of Caltech Facilities and Faculty Housing. In 2021, she became the proud mother of soon to be Dolphin, Marceline, and knew she would feel the most comfortable leaving her little one at the CCC as opposed to other centers.
Shaina and her husband, Gregory, can see and appreciate the exceptional impact the staff and CCC campus has had on their child. Watching their daughter grow here has given Shaina such confidence in Marceline’s current and future wellbeing and she would like to contribute in any way she can to continue to cultivate the CCC’s strong positive reputation within the community.
Susan Wood’s experience over the past 40 years includes serving as a classroom instructor overseeing classroom teachers, coordinating community college preschool practicum students, and providing developmentally appropriate activities for children.
After 20 years in the classroom Susan chose to work in an administrative level as a director of two university child care centers; as adjunct faculty teaching early childhood classes such as Curriculum Planning, Child Human Growth and Development; Child Psychology; as partner and trainer for the Center for Child and family Services Head Start; as a trainer for Los Angeles County Office of Education; and as a UCLA Extension instructor.
Susan’s passion to support early childhood educators in providing research based, high quality child education has led to the creation of community outreach programs which have included: workshops, a director support group, research projects, and study groups. She founded and hosts the Annual Early Childhood Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (ECSTEM) Conference. In 2022 the ECSTEM will celebrate 12 years. She is an active member of National Association for the Education of Young Children and National Science Teachers Association and has presented workshops on a national level in the areas of early childhood curriculum with an emphasis on science education.
She received a MA in Child Development from Pacific Oaks College, Pasadena, CA.