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Board Members

Voting Officers
Chris Gabrieli, Chairman (Biography)
Sheila M. Harrity, Ed.D., Vice Chair (Biography)
Veronica Conforme, Chair of Finance, Administration, Accountability & Performance Advisory Council (Biography)
Patty Eppinger, Chair of Academic Affairs & Student Success Advisory Council (Biography)
Bill Walczak, Community College Trustee Representative, Chair of Strategic Planning Advisory Council (Biography)

Voting Members
Mary Burns, University of Massachusetts Trustee Representative
Ann Christensen (Biography)
Alex Cortez (Biography)
Travis Lawrence, Student Member, Massasoit Community College (Biography)
Paul Mattera, J.D., State University Trustee Representative (Biography)
Judy Pagliuca (Biography)
Paul F. Toner, J.D. (Biography)
Patrick Tutwiler, 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
Robert Huttig, State University Student Advisor, Salem State University
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, Chairman

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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Sheila M. Harrity, Ed.D., Vice Chair

Dr. Sheila M. Harrity was appointed to the Board in March 2015 by Governor Baker. She is the Superintendent-Director of Montachusett Regional Vocational Technical School District and a former Principal at Worcester Technical High School, where she was named the 2013 Massachusetts Principal of the Year, and 2014 National High School Principal of the Year. In 2013, the school received the National Blue Ribbon School distinction for outstanding student achievement by the U.S. Department of Education and was the only high school in the nation in 2014 to host President Obama as a commencement speaker.

Her leadership at Worcester Technical High School, where almost 65 percent of the students qualify for free or reduced lunch, was transformative. With an emphasis on a personalized learning environment, Harrity implemented the Early Career and College STEM Innovation Plan. With over 350 industry and higher education partners, students at the school learn from project-based experiences with real-world applications. Graduates from Worcester Technical High School earn industry recognized certifications and credentials as well as college credits. Students are truly graduating both college and career ready.

Harrity received a Bachelor of Arts in Social Work from Providence College. She earned a master's degree in moderate special needs from Assumption College, and a master's degree in early childhood education from Worcester State University. In 2013, she earned her doctorate in educational leadership from Northeastern University. In addition, she received two honorary doctoral degrees in 2014, one from Becker College and the other from Worcester Polytechnic Institute.

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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 leads New Profit's Reimagine School Systems Fund (RSS). The purpose of the RSS fund is to significantly and rapidly increase the number of high performing schools serving low-income students by scaling high-quality operators and removing the political and policy barriers to systemic change in education. Alex also serves on the Boards of Match Education in Boston and Innovate Public Schools in the Bay Area.

Alex joined New Profit after multiple roles with the Knowledge Is Power Program (KIPP). He served as Chief of Staff, Strategy and Execution on the leadership team of KIPP Houston Public Schools. In this role, he led the region in creating a new long-term growth plan to double the number of schools in Houston. Alex also led the region in developing its systems and practices in annual priority-setting and data-driven management, oversaw the region’s “to and through college” programming, worked with the board to evolve their practices, and led various internal initiatives to build scalable systems to support continued growth. Prior to KIPP Houston, Alex served at the KIPP Foundation as a Regional Director of Network Growth and Sustainability, working with leadership teams across the country in both large and small regions to help them respond to their biggest challenges to and opportunities for growth, performance, and sustainability.

Prior to his work with KIPP, Alex was a Manager at The Bridgespan Group where he led a variety of client engagements in education, youth development, and philanthropy. While at Bridgespan, Alex also authored several nonprofit case studies and research into mergers and collaborations in the nonprofit space. Alex started his career in for-profit management consulting working for clients in financial services, telecommunications, private equity, and state government.

He graduated with a B.A. in political science from Columbia University. He received his M.B.A. from Harvard Business School and M.P.A. from Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government.

Originally from New Orleans, Alex currently resides in Brookline, MA with his partner, Jenny, her daughter, Alexis, and Alexis’s four very extroverted guinea pigs.

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Patty Zillian Eppinger

Ms. Eppinger has extensive experience in education-related community initiatives, including serving as the current chair and founding trustee of the Worcester Education Collaborative, an independent advocacy organization working to ensure all Worcester Public School students succeed. She was the co-leader of the Worcester Public Schools Strategic Planning Process and co-founder of Worcester Reads, a consortium of citywide reading-focused organizations.

Currently she is the executive producer and community liaison of a scripted teen drama TV series about the struggles of addiction and recovery. From 2017 to 2018, she served as the interim president of the Ecotarium, New England science and nature museum in Worcester.

Ms. Eppinger worked as a manager of research and information for McKinsey & Company in Boston, and a financial institutions consultant for McKinsey in Atlanta. She received a bachelor’s degree from College of William and Mary and a master’s degree from Dartmouth College.

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Travis Lawrence

Headshot of Travis Lawrence

Travis Lawrence is a student at Massasoit Community College and the student voting member on the Board of Higher Education. During his time at Massasoit, he has dedicated his studies to social sciences, focusing on economics and government in relation to social issues. Along with his studies he has taken multiple leadership roles at the college, including serving as the current Student Trustee for the student body as well as previously serving as the Student Senate Vice President. In addition, he also works at the college as a Presidential Student Ambassador, Student Researcher for the Massasoit Participatory Action Research (PAR) program, and even works as a Residential Researcher for MIT. Travis plans on taking his experience and passion for student advocacy to the Board of Higher Education and the Student Advisory Council to ensure student needs are met across the state.

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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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Paul F. Toner, J.D.

Paul F. Toner is the Executive Director of Teach Plus Massachusetts, a non-profit engaging, elevating and empowering teachers in the areas of education policy and practice in Massachusetts and across the nation.  He is also president of Cambridge Strategic Partnerships, LLC providing education consulting services in Massachusetts and nationally.  Toner is an experienced senior executive in education policy, association governance, labor and government relations.  

Toner is the former president of the 113,000-member Massachusetts Teachers Association (MTA), a position he held from 2010 to 2014. Toner, a middle school social studies teacher and lawyer was elected MTA president after serving four years as vice president. From 1991 to 2001, taught at the Harrington School in Cambridge, MA.  In 2001, Toner was elected president of the Cambridge Teachers Association. As leader of the CTA and MTA, he was a strong advocate for students and members while working with the administration to improve labor-management relations and focus on improving student achievement.

Toner served on many NEA committees at the national level.  He is a member of the Teachers 21 Board of Directors, an appointed member of the Massachusetts Board of Higher Education and the Education Commission of the States. He was a member of the Blue Cross Blue Shield Board of Directors and Group Insurance Commission.  He served on numerous education committees and task forces.  He was a participant in Governor Deval Patrick’s Readiness Project and served on Governor Charles Baker’s Education Transition Committee. He is also a Pahara-Aspen Teacher Leader Fellow.

Toner graduated from Boston University's College of Liberal Arts with a bachelor's degree in political science and international relations. He also holds a master's degree in secondary education from the University of Massachusetts in Boston and a Juris Doctorate from Suffolk University Law School. He lives in Cambridge with his wife, Susan, and their two children, Grace and Jack.

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Patrick Tutwiler

Headshot of Patrick Tutwiler

Patrick Tutwiler, PhD 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

Headshot of 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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Meetings & Events

Jun 6

Academic Affairs and Student Success Advisory Council Meeting

Jun 6

Strategic Planning Advisory Council Meeting *Cancelled*

Jun 6

Finance and Administrative Policy Advisory Council Meeting *Cancelled*

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