Nemours BrightStart! Leadership
Experience, expertise and a passion for helping children grow up healthy are all hallmarks of the Nemours BrightStart! leadership team.
Laura Bailet, PhD
Operational Vice President of Nemours BrightStart!
Dr. Bailet has many years of experience working with children with learning disorders. She established the Neurocognitive Assessment Program within the Division of Neurology at Nemours Children’s Specialty Care, Jacksonville, and directed this program for nearly 18 years before creating the Nemours BrightStart! initiative at the request of the Nemours Board of Directors.
She is a licensed school psychologist and has expertise on a wide range of neurocognitive problems, including dyslexia, autism, attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), nonverbal learning disabilities and learning disorders associated with various medical conditions. Dr. Bailet has conducted several research studies and published numerous peer-reviewed journal articles and book chapters.
Dr. Bailet is a strong believer in Benjamin Franklin’s adage: An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. She is the driving force behind Nemours BrightStart!’s unique and innovative program to promote reading success and prevent reading failure, by combining the fields of neuroscience, population health, child development and education to create powerful tools that level the playing field for all budding readers.
Dr. Bailet earned her undergraduate degree at Wake Forest University in Winston-Salem, N.C., and her master’s and doctoral degrees from Northwestern University in Evanston, Ill.
She is a frequent speaker at local, state and national conferences and participates in many community presentations to educate the public about reading development, dyslexia and related topics. For these accomplishments, the Florida Times-Union selected her as the top “Change Agent” in Jacksonville in 2006. She also is the 2006 recipient of Jacksonville’s prestigious EVE Award for her success in creating the Nemours BrightStart!. She is currently a member of the Library of Congress Literacy Awards Advisory Board.
Lenora S. Gregory
Managing Director of Nemours BrightStart!
Lenora S. Gregory is the Managing Director of Nemours BrightStart!. Previous positions at Nemours included Manager of Special Projects in Corporate Services and Associate Director of Development for the Nemours Fund for Children’s Health.
Other positions external to Nemours have included Vice President of Development and Head Start Director for Episcopal Children’s Services (ECS) and Chief of Children’s Services for the City of Jacksonville, Fla.
Mrs. Gregory is a co-founder of Family Care Connections, serves as Vice Chair of Florida Covering Kids, and is a member of the National Association for the Education of Young Children and the International Reading Association.
Mrs. Gregory holds a MS in Child Development and Family Relations from the University of North Carolina-Greensboro and a BS in Child Development from the University of Alabama. Lenora holds a Certificate in Fund Raising Management from The Center on Philanthropy at Indiana University.
Lenora is actively involved in her community and state. She is a member of the Jacksonville Women’s Network, the Jacksonville Chamber of Commerce, sustaining member of the Junior League of Jacksonville, co-founder of Family Care Connections, the Association for Fundraising Professionals, National Association for the Education of Young Children, and the International Reading Association. In 2007, she chaired the Jacksonville Public Library Foundation’s Much Ado About Books. Currently, Lenora serves as Vice Chair of the Florida Covering Kids and Families Coalition.
Kathy Ingram, MSW, CFRE
Director, Business Development & Community Engagement
for Nemours BrightStart!
Ms. Ingram was an Executive Director with Easter Seals before joining Nemours in 2003 — and moved to Nemours BrightStart! from the Nemours Fund for Children’s Health where she served as the Associate Director of Development.
Earlier in her career, Ms. Ingram provided leadership for Northeast Florida nonprofit organizations addressing mental health, addictive disease, juvenile justice and physical rehabilitation. Ms. Ingram earned a bachelor’s degree in Social Work/Education and a master’s degree in Social Work Program Planning and Evaluation from Florida State University. She attained a Certificate in Fund Raising Management at Indiana University, and Proposal Writing at Rollins College. She is a Certified Fund Raising Executive and a Registered Clinical Intern (social work).
Ms. Ingram is a member for the Association of Fundraising Professionals, and the Association of Healthcare Philanthropy,
Grants Professionals Network, Jacksonville Community Council, Inc, and volunteers her time with a Ponte Vedra Environmental group and her church.
Ms. Ingram lives in Ponte Vedra Beach, Fla., with her Pug, Marley, enjoys creative writing and kayaking, and is studying to become a Florida Master Naturalist.
Nemours BrightStart! Advisory Council
The Nemours BrightStart! Advisory Council brings together a diverse range of backgrounds, expertise and knowledge, all focused on our mission: To provide leadership, advocacy, research and services to reduce the effects of dyslexia and reading failure.
Dr. Brittany Olivieri Birken is the CEO of the Florida Children’s Council, leading businesses, organizations, agencies and other key stakeholders in efforts that support Florida’s children, youth and families. She coordinates resources and system development activities to enhance Florida’s collective efforts and ensure children are healthy, well cared for, learned, and prepared for a successful future. With recognition of the critical linkages between educational investments and economic development, Dr. Birken works closely with business and decision makers to create policies that support the current workforce, promote economic revitalization and develop a sustaining educational infrastructure to ensure talent growth and expansion for a continued vibrant and prosperous future for Florida.
In addition to her role with the Florida Children’s Council, Dr. Birken serves as a member of the Child Abuse Prevention and Permanency Council, a board trustee for the Florida Chamber of Commerce Foundation, a member of the Workforce Florida Board of Directors, a member of Leadership Florida’s Class XXXIV, a member of Nemours BrightStart! Advisory Council and serves on many committees of the Florida Children and Youth Cabinet. Through her work on the Innovation and Talent Caucus aligned to the Chamber of Commerce Six Pillars, as well as supporting the development of the Workforce Florida, Inc., Talent Pipeline initiative, Dr. Birken is focused on leveraging public and private partnerships in support of a comprehensive workforce development system.
Dr. Birken earned her Ph.D. in Child Development from Florida State University and has served at every level of the early education service delivery system. As a U.S. Health and Human Services Research Bureau Scholar, she has contributed to federal, state and local research, and has worked in many state-level education program and policy areas. As the former Director of the Office of Early Learning, Dr. Birken did extensive work in the development and implementation of a comprehensive, integrated system for Florida’s early education programs.
Marti Coley joined Nemours Children’s Health System on December 29 as the new director of government relations for Florida. Marti works with governmental entities and community organizations from Jacksonville to Pensacola. She has three grown children: Kristin, Vance and Hunter.
Coley started her professional career as an English teacher, teaching on the middle school, high school, and college levels. She worked with Chipola College in Marianna, Florida, for over 20 years.
Prior to joining Nemours, Marti was elected to the Florida House of Representatives and served from 2005 to 2014. She served as the Speaker pro tempore her final two years. Throughout her legislative career, Marti was a strong advocate for education, children’s issues, cancer research, and economic development.
Jerri Franz is the director of Strategic Executive Communication at Nemours. She is responsible for internal and external CEO communication support on business and strategic initiatives, and media relations to support achievement of Nemours mission.
Prior to joining Nemours, she produced a new five-year Strategic Plan for United Way of Northeast Florida and was responsible for executing internal and external constituent events and messaging to communicate United Way’s strategy and evolution as a community impact organization. She joined United Way following three years of public service as communications director and speechwriter for Florida’s Chief Financial Officer and Cabinet member, Alex Sink, which included the period of the Deepwater Horizon Gulf Oil Spill in 2010.
With a banking and financial services career that spanned more than 20 years and 29 bank mergers, Jerri managed media relations for the second largest operation in the NationsBank franchise with $45 billion in assets, served as the Florida bank’s primary spokesperson, counseled senior executives providing messaging for media interviews, and served as the management liaison for business continuity communications. She has also led the public relations components of turnaround operations in banking, merging brands, corporate rebranding, consolidations and executive support to introduce acquired associates to new employers.
A graduate of the University of Florida, Jerri holds a bachelor’s degree in journalism with a minor in public relations and marketing. She has been an accredited member of the Public Relations Society of America since 1985 (APR) and received her Certified Public Relations Counselor credential from the Universal Accreditation Board through the Florida Public Relations Association in 2015. Married with one daughter, Jerri and her family make their home in Fleming Island, Florida.
Kim Kelling Engstrom is the Director of Educational Services at WFSU-TV, a PBS member station in North Florida. She is the community face of the station, connecting families and educators to the wealth of educational content available through public media.
Jacksonville native W.C. Gentry received his Juris Doctorate magna cum laude from the University of Florida College of Law in 1971. He is a Board Certified Trial Lawyer who has handled some of Florida’s most high-profile cases involving public health, safety and education. Since 1987, he has been recognized as one of The Best Lawyers in America. One of the highlights of his professional life was successfully representing the State Of Florida against the Tobacco Industry, culminating in a multi-billion-dollar settlement and major public health benefits.
In a career spanning more than 40 years, Gentry has also helped move the needle on community issues. He played a key role in establishing Jacksonville’s first Ethics Commission and led Mayor Tommy Hazouri’s campaign to eliminate the city’s odor problem. He was appointed by Mayor John Peyton as Education Chair of The Jacksonville Journey, a community-wide anti-crime initiative, and also chaired the Florida Council on Education Policy, Research & Improvement.
Gentry served on the board of the Early Learning Coalition of Duval from 2006-2014. In 2008, he was elected to the Duval County School Board which he chaired from 2010-11. Under his leadership, Duval County greatly expanded Pre-K centers in neighborhood schools and leveraged VPK with Title I funding to provide full day Pre-K services. The citywide "Read It Forward Jax" initiative was also launched, providing intensive professional development in literacy and expanding after-school and summer reading programs. While on the School Board, he was twice appointed by the Governor to education task forces where he served as vice chairman.
Convinced that literacy – particularly early literacy – is of central importance to solving Duval County’s education problems, Gentry recently founded Read It Forward Jax Coalition, a 501(c)(3) organization designed to engage the community around literacy, build a culture of reading in Jacksonville and align community partners and resources with Duval Schools to maximize local children’s reading proficiency.
Liana Rothstein Hood is an attorney with the law firm of Adams, Rothstein & Siegel, P.A. She is a graduate of Emory University and Stetson University College of Law. Ms. Hood was one of the first two females selected to guard for the American Red Cross Volunteer Lifesaving Corps in Jacksonville Beach, Florida. She was a member of the Jacksonville Jaguars "ROAR" and was selected to represent her teammates at the 2009 Pro Bowl in Hawaii. Ms. Hood alongside her husband, Blake J. Hood, are proud parents to their daughter. Ms. Hood is a passionate advocate for children's literacy.
Linda M. Lanier has a long personal and professional history of working to improve the lives of children and their families in Jacksonville.
Ms. Lanier is the former Executive Director/CEO of the Jacksonville Children’s Commission, an autonomous department of the City of Jacksonville and one of eight funded children’s services councils in Florida. The Commission serves this northeast Florida community of almost 900,000 people by funding prevention and early intervention programs for children and their families. Serving the Commission and its board of directors from 2003 to 2012, she was responsible for managing the city’s investments in programs proven to improve the lives of children and families, while providing elected officials and the public with the assurance that the commission’s $60 million budget provided high value for the taxpayer.
From 1997 to 2003 Ms. Lanier is was the Executive Director of the Sulzbacher Center, a full service, 24 hour homeless shelter that provides over 350 men, women and children with shelter, meals, case management and medical care, including psychiatric and dental care. Prior to 1997, Linda had a 26 year history of service to Planned Parenthood in Cincinnati, Ohio and later as the Executive Director of the Jacksonville Florida affiliate.
She is a native of Great Britain and was raised in Cincinnati, Ohio. Ms. Lanier received her Bachelor of Science degree from the College of Education and Home Economics at the University of Cincinnati. She has served on many community and state boards, and in 2000 she was appointed to the Commission on Homelessness by Governor Jeb Bush. Ms. Lanier has been honored with numerous community awards for her service and leadership, including the National Council of Jewish Women, the Mary Nolan Award from the National Organization for Women and the EVE Award in 2003. She has been widely recognized for her innovative approach to public funding of human services by groups such as the National League of Cities, and her work as chairman of the board of the Florida Afterschool Network.
Retired since 2012, Linda remains involved in civic life through: her service on the Atlantic Beach Community Development Board; as a leader in the establishment of a Florida Historic Byway – A1A Ocean Islands Trail; a member of Nemour’s BrightStart! Advisory Committee; a member of Nine in 15 which promotes the involvement of women in elected offices; the Cultural Council’s Grant Panel; and, the Beaches Museum and History Park.
Linda is married to Michael Lanier, and their family includes Adam, Andrew, Sara, daughters-in-law Sarah and Nadia, and four beautiful grandchildren. She lives in Atlantic Beach where she enjoys island life, boating, gardening, and books of all types.
Melba Luciano was named as Superintendent for the Osceola School District in July, 2012. Mrs. Luciano brings to the position a wealth of experience from her 30 years in education. The positions she has held range from being a classroom assistant, a teacher, a principal, and then to Assistant Superintendent of Curriculum and Instruction. She began her career with the Osceola School District in 1986. She earned her bachelor's degree in Health Education from Hunter College in New York and a master's degree in Educational Leadership from Nova University.
Dr. Alva Roché-Green earned her Medical degree in 1999 from the Louisiana State University School of Medicine in New Orleans after earned a B.S. Degree in Biological Sciences form the University of New Orleans in 1994. She completed a combined Internal Medicine and Pediatrics residency at Baylor College of Medicine in Houston, Texas in 2002 and practiced at Ochsner Health System in New Orleans from 2002 until 2008 when she followed her husband to Jacksonville, Florida. She worked as an Internal Medicine hospitalist at Baptist Medical Center South from 2008 – 2009 before being finding her 2nd calling in Hospice and Palliative Medicine. She worked as an Associate Medical Director at Community Hospice of Northeast Florida before starting a fellowship in Hospice and Palliative Medicine at Mayo Clinic which she completed in August 2011.
While completing her fellowship, she found something was missing…children; she loves caring for them and had not found a place in Jacksonville where she could care for adults and children simultaneously. Having multiple board certifications often means one has to choose between them, but at Mayo Clinic she was fortunate to find a position where there was a strong desire for her to practice all three specialties in one setting. She is currently a Consultant in the Department of Family Medicine at Mayo Clinic in Florida and holds the rank of Instructor at Mayo College of Medicine in the departments of Family Medicine, Pediatrics and Palliative Medicine in addition to being the Associate Program Director for the Palliative Medicine Fellowship. She is a fellow of the American Academy of Pediatrics and the American College of Physicians in addition to being a member of the American Academy of Hospice and Palliative Medicine. She is active in resident and fellow education and lectures throughout Mayo Clinic and the community promoting healthy lifestyles and good preventive care for children of all ages including ensuring children are getting appropriate developmental assessments in the infant, toddler and preschool ages so they are ready to enter the school system when the time comes.
She lives in Jacksonville, FL with her husband Broderick and 4 year old son Jackson. In her spare time she loves spending time with her family, attending sporting events and reading which has been a lifetime love for her. The best books are anything with a happy ending and those she gets to read to her son every night before he goes to bed.
Sarah Sprinkel is the Senior Associate of Florida Services for Florida Virtual Schools. Commissioner Sprinkel generates a new enthusiasm for the potential of online learning. Her assignment includes planning goals, objectives, activities and timelines for FLVS’ launch into elementary education. To perform that job, she brings insights gained as both a classroom teacher and a program manager.
Rachel Vitti's work as a public school champion began as a classroom teacher in New York City. Her shift into dyslexia research and advocacy began when she recognized the lack of evidenced-based, resources within the public school setting for bright students who struggled to read adequately. She has since rallied stakeholders to address the large disconnect between students with dyslexia and appropriate instruction and supports. She is noted as the architectural founder of The GRASP Academy, a public school of choice, in Jacksonville, created to fully serve students that fit a dyslexic profile.
She currently serves as the Executive Director of The GRASP Alliance, a non-profit organization designed to engage, enlighten and empower the families, students and staff associated with The GRASP Academy. She holds a Masters in Teaching from Salem College and a Bachelors of Science from Wake Forest University. She and her family live in Jacksonville, Fl. As a career educator, wife. mother of four, and exceptional-student advocate, Rachel has promoted dyslexia awareness as a Parent Advisory Council member for Understood.org, the 2015 Webby Award winning online resource for parents of children with learning and attention issues, she has helped to pave a way for parents to finally find appropriate advice and services for their children. Rachel is also a Board of Trustees member of WJCT, and Education Executive Committee Chair of The Jacksonville Zoo and Gardens and she additionally serves as an Advisory Board Member for the Jacksonville University College of Health and Science.
Dr. Julie A. Washington is a professor in the Department of Educational Psychology and Special Education-Program in Communication Disorders at Georgia State University. Dr. Washington has a joint appointment in Developmental Psychology and is an affiliate faculty member with the Language and Literacy Initiative. Dr. Washington's work has focused on understanding cultural dialect use in young African American children with a specific emphasis on language assessment, Specific Language Impairment and academic performance.
Tracy Zimmerman is the Executive Director of the North Carolina Early Childhood Foundation, an nonprofit organization working toward the vision that each NC child has a strong foundation for lifelong success and reading proficiency, supported by the nation’s best birth-to-eight system. Tracy has more than 20 years of experience working on behalf of public interest organizations and issues. Prior to joining NCECF, she served as the Public Engagement Director at The North Carolina Partnership for Children’s (NCPC) and was part of a four-member team, led by NCPC’s President that provided strategic direction for the organization. As part of her engagement efforts, Tracy crafted and obtained funding for the First 2,000 Days campaign. She also has served as Public Relations Director at FPG Child Development Institute at UNC and Senior Vice President at The Hauser Group, a Washington DC-based public relations firm working on behalf of nonprofit organizations and public interest causes.