Board Members

Voting Officers
Chris Gabrieli, Chair (Biography)
Veronica Conforme, Chair of Finance, Administration, Accountability & Performance Advisory Council (Biography)
Alex Cortez (Biography)
Bill Walczak, Community College Trustee Representative, Chair of Strategic Planning Advisory Council

Voting Members
Danielle Allen, Ph.D., (Biography)
Mary Burns, University of Massachusetts Trustee Representative
Harneen Chernow, (Biography)
Ann Christensen (Biography)
Cindy Mack, Student Member, Bridgewater State University
Paul Mattera, J.D., State University Trustee Representative (Biography)
Judy Pagliuca (Biography)
Christina Royal, Ed.D., (Biography)
Patrick Tutwiler, Ph.D., Secretary of the Executive Office of Education (Biography)

Non-Voting Positions
Noe Ortega, Ph.D., Ex Officio, Commissioner of Higher Education, Secretary to the Board
J.D. LaRock, J.D., Ed.D., Co-Chair of Finance, Administration, Accountability & Performance Advisory Council
Francesca Purcell, Ph.D., Co-Chair of Strategic Planning Advisory Council
Andrew Whitcomb, University of Massachusetts Student Advisor, University of Massachusetts Lowell (Biography)

Chris Gabrieli, Chair

Headshot of Chairman Chris Gabrieli

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Chris Gabrieli was appointed to the Board of Higher Education by Governor Baker in March 2015. He is the co-founder of three non-profit education innovation and reform initiatives and a lecturer at Harvard’s Graduate School of Education.

As the co-founder of Massachusetts 2020 / National Center on Time & Learning, Gabrieli has been at the forefront of the movement to expand learning time for disadvantaged students. He is the Chairman of the Springfield Empowerment Zone Partnership, a groundbreaking partnership between the state and district aimed at accelerating success for middle school students. He is a Partner Emeritus at Bessemer Venture Partners where he helped entrepreneurs build biotechnology companies.

Gabrieli has served in several higher education board roles at Harvard, Boston University’s School of Public Health and Clark University. 

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Danielle Allen, Ph.D.

Danielle Allen, Ph.D. is James Bryant Conant University Professor at Harvard University, where she is a professor of political philosophy, ethics, and public policy. She is a seasoned nonprofit leader, advocate for democracy, and was a leading national voice on the pandemic response. She’s also a distinguished author and a mom. A past chair of the Mellon Foundation and Pulitzer Prize Boards, and former Dean of Humanities at the University of Chicago, Allen continues to serve as a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and American Philosophical Society.

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Harneen Chernow

Harneen Chernow is a Director of the 1199SEIU Training and Employment Funds (TEF), a multi-state healthcare workforce intermediary providing education and training opportunities to over 300,000 members in Massachusetts, New York, New Jersey, Maryland, Washington DC and Florida. Of central importance in her work is TEF’s partnership with the public postsecondary education system, where members complete their degrees and obtain necessary credentials. Chernow’s focus and experience is in expanding career advancement and educational opportunities to workers who have been systemically excluded from succeeding in postsecondary education, helping them access family-sustaining jobs and careers.

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Ann Christensen

Ms. Christensen is currently the president of the Clayton Christensen Institute for Disruptive Innovation – a nonprofit, nonpartisan think tank focused on solving institutional problems in business, education, and health care. She oversees operational development and the organization’s growing research programs. Under her leadership, the Institute has established a visiting fellows program, expanded its education work to include higher education, and added a global prosperity division.

Previously, she worked at Huntsman Gay Global Capital, a private equity firm. She also worked at Deloitte Consulting and spent time working at Elan Pharmaceuticals, an Irish biotechnology company. After receiving her bachelor’s degree from Duke University, Ms. Christensen lived in Mongolia, where she taught in high schools and universities, and worked to facilitate job training and home building.

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Veronica Conforme

Veronica Conforme is chief executive officer of UP Education Network, the largest non-profit school management organization in Massachusetts that operates five turnaround schools in Boston and Lawrence. Ms. Conforme is in charge of setting the strategic and operational vision for the UP Education Network and UP Academy Schools. Since 2010, UP Education Network has worked to transform low-performing schools in Massachusetts into exceptional learning environments. The organization currently serves more than 2,600 students.

Previously, Ms. Conforme served as the chancellor of The Education Achievement Authority of Michigan, where she developed a district-wide strategic plan and implemented an accountability system based on an evaluative tool called the “performance framework” which was adopted in legislation for all Detroit schools. She spent a decade working at the New York City Department of Education in various roles including chief operating officer, chief financial officer, and deputy chief schools’ officer. She received a bachelor’s degree from Syracuse University and a master’s in public administration and public policy from Columbia University.

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Alex Cortez

Alex Cortez is a partner with Bellwether in the Strategic Advising practice area. Alex has 19 years of experience working in education and social change as a consultant, a school operator, and in philanthropy. Alex has deep experience helping organizations scale a combination of their direct impact in serving students; their widespread impact by building the capacity of partners to replicate their model; and their systemic impact by shifting mindsets, relationships, and power to in turn shift policy, practice, and resource flows. Alex has also led multiple field building efforts at Bellwether, including Admission - an effort to explore how we can build a more equitable and effective system of postsecondary pathways.

Prior to joining Bellwether, Alex was a managing partner with New Profit, a national venture philanthropy, where he focused on funding and advising nonprofits growing their impact in K-12 and postsecondary education. He also led an initiative to scale efforts that supported parents in exercising their innate power to create and sustain change.

Alex formerly served as a regional director of growth and sustainability at the KIPP Foundation, leading network-wide efforts to increase performance and serving as a trusted advisor to the executive teams of five KIPP regions. He also served as chief of staff, strategy and execution for KIPP Houston Public Schools, leading efforts to improve performance and prepare the strategy and organizational systems to grow from 20 to 50 schools. Alex began his career in for-profit consulting, and then nonprofit consulting as a manager with The Bridgespan Group.

Originally from New Orleans, Alex resides in Brookline, Massachusetts. He serves on the boards of multiple education organizations, and serves his community as a member of the Massachusetts State Board of Higher Education. He has a bachelor’s degree from Columbia University, and an MBA and MPA from Harvard University.

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Paul Mattera, J.D.

Paul Mattera is recently retired from Liberty Mutual Insurance in Boston where he served as Senior Vice President & Chief Public Affairs Officer. In that capacity, he was responsible for managing the Company’s global public affairs including regulatory and legislative policy, and political action programs. 

Mattera’s work often brought him to Washington, DC and other state capitols to advocate for policies to expand access and reduce the cost of property and casualty insurance.  Following 9/11, Mattera played a leading role in the design of the Terrorism Risk Insurance Act, a public-private partnership which made it possible for insurance companies to cover terrorism risk at commercially reasonable rates. After the financial crises, he worked with international insurance supervisors to help build a global regulatory framework for insurance.

Prior to his thirty-five years at Liberty Mutual, Mattera practiced municipal law and spent seven years teaching public high school in Revere, Mass.

Throughout his career, Mattera was active on many industry and civic boards and remains active on the New England Council and JFK Library Foundation Boards, as well as the Salem State University Board of Trustees, which he chairs, and serves as the segmental representative to the Massachusetts Board of Higher Education.

Mattera holds a BA in History from the University of Rochester (Rochester, NY) and a JD cum laude from Suffolk Law School (Boston, MA).

He and his wife Judy live in Swampscott, Massachusetts. They have three adult sons.

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Judy Pagliuca

Judy Pagliuca is managing partner at Pagsgroup, where she invests in Boston-based start-up companies. She began her business career at Fidelity Global Bond Fund and the research group on international bonds and currencies, where she was responsible for more than $2 billion in assets. Ms. Pagliuca’s philanthropic efforts are focused on children and education. She is founder of Step Up Your Game, a partnership with the Boston Celtics that strives to alter the academic trajectory of the lowest achieving students in Boston Public Schools. She serves on the executive committee at the Benjamin Franklin Institute of Technology. She is a past trustee of Mass Development and past director of the Mass Turnpike Authority. She holds a bachelor’s degree from the University of Illinois and master’s from Harvard University.

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Christina Royal, Ed.D.

Christina Royal, Ed.D. is the president of Infinite Unlearning, LLC, and recently wrapped up her tenure as the fourth president of Holyoke Community College (HCC), and the first woman, multi-racial, and queer leader to lead the institution from 2017 to 2023. She has served in progressively responsible roles in both higher education, with experience with community college and private four-year institutions, as well as in corporate environments. In her presidency at HCC, she led the creation of the college’s first strategic plan, which prioritized equity by removing barriers for historically marginalized learners, including BIPOC, LGBTQ+, first generation, adult learners, and students living in poverty. Dr. Royal also established the President’s Student Emergency Fund, collaboratively transformed the institution’s shared governance model, launched El Centro to support Latinx students as a Hispanic Serving Institution, expanded mental health services, and secured the largest philanthropic gift to a community college in Massachusetts, among other notable accomplishments.

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Patrick Tutwiler, Ph.D.

Headshot of Patrick Tutwiler

Patrick Tutwiler, Ph.D. is the Secretary of the Executive Office of Education, and the first Black person to ever hold that role in Massachusetts’ history. As Massachusetts Secretary of Education, Tutwiler directs the Executive Office of Education, which oversees early education, K-12, and higher education. Secretary Tutwiler sits on each of the boards governing the Commonwealth’s education agencies, as well as the University of Massachusetts system. He is Governor Maura Healey’s top advisor on education and helps shape the Commonwealth’s education agenda.

Before being sworn in as Secretary, Dr. Tutwiler served as the senior program officer at the Boston-based Barr Foundation, a grantmaking organization focused on arts, climate and education, where he specialized in developing new high school models that will have a positive impact across the entire school system. He has more than twenty years’ experience in public education as a high school history teacher, as a high school principal and as the superintendent of the Lynn Public Schools. As Lynn Superintendent, Secretary Tutwiler led a collaborative, equity-centered effort that resulted in increased graduation rates, decreased push out rates, a more racially diverse faculty and staff, and the establishment of Massachusetts’ second largest early college program. He earned a BA in history from The College of the Holy Cross, a master’s in education from Harvard University Graduate School of Education, and a PhD in curriculum and instruction from the Lynch School of Education at Boston College. He lives in Andover with his family.

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Non-Voting Officers & Advisors

Andrew Whitcomb

Mr. Whitcomb is a Senior at the University of Massachusetts Lowell campus studying Business Administration with a dual concentration in Marketing and Management. A first- generation college student and one of a family of quadruplets, all of whom attend the same University, Andrew joined the UMass Lowell Student Government his freshman year and serves on their Governance, Academic Affairs and Finance committees in addition to serving on the Executive boards of various other campus organizations. Beginning at the age of 10, he has regularly served on steering committees for municipal campaigns and state congressional races. A lifelong resident of Saugus and formerly the youngest member of their annual Town Meeting, Andrew believes in representation with a voice and plans to use his experience in public civil service, community organizing and his passion for helping others to bring a new focus to the 5 campuses in the UMass System.

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Joint Board of Elementary and Secondary Education and A Board of Higher Education Meeting
Thursday, June 20, 2024
3:00 PM - 5:00 PM
Meetings & Events

Jun 20

Joint Board of Elementary and Secondary Education and A Board of Higher Education Meeting

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