Mark Claypool is a social entrepreneur who believes that all children can advance academically, behaviorally and socially if they are given the right tools in the right environment.
He obtained a Bachelor’s Degree in Psychology and a Master of Arts in Sociology from Middle Tennessee State University. He has held various positions in both state government and the private sector in mental health, juvenile corrections and education, and has more than two decades of experience in K-12 education, special and alternative education, behavioral health and residential treatment programs.
A social worker and education administrator, Mark grew frustrated by decreasing resources for children with learning differences, so he founded Educational Services of America (ESA) in 1999. Under his leadership, the company has become the nation’s leading provider of behavior therapy and alternative and special education programs for children and young adults, and, in 2015, completed a rebranding to ChanceLight Behavioral Health, Therapy and Education.
Mark is a judge of the annual Penn Graduate School of Education Business Plan Competition a panelist at the annual BMO Harris Back to School Education Conference. He is a frequent speaker about the value of public-private partnerships in education and behavioral learning, and, in 2015, he co-authored a book exploring the topic: We’re in This Together: Public-Private Partnerships in Special and At-Risk Education.
Mark serves on the advisory board for the Association of Professional Behavior Analysts and is co-writing a book examining the discord between special education practice and the growing discipline of Applied Behavior Analysis for children who have autism spectrum and related disorders.
He volunteers to read to children at a Nashville elementary school and is president of the board of directors of Book’Em, a nonprofit that seeks to inspire a love of books and reading in all children, and collects and distributes books to children and teens in lower-income families who might not otherwise have books of their own.
Allison O’Neill is an experienced operator and instructional leader with a proven record of directing and guiding teams through rapid growth while maintaining programmatic, instructional and operational integrity. As president and COO of ChanceLight, Allison’s primary responsibilities include development and execution of organizational, instructional and operational strategies to fulfill organizational goals; support for divisional and corporate leadership in the oversight of school and center operations; efficient execution of instructional and behavioral programs, systems and processes; student/staff safety; compliance; district relations and community outreach; goal attainment, and stewardship of resources.
Allison’s expertise in enhancing processes and infrastructure to support new programs are instrumental in supporting the company’s continued growth. Allison joined Ombudsman as a certified teacher in 1997 and served as regional manager, director of center operations, senior vice president of operations and EVP and COO of ChanceLight’s Education division. She is a graduate of Marquette University.
Don Whitfield is a seasoned finance and accounting professional with more than three decades of experience in both private industry (publicly traded and privately held service companies) and public accounting, with special expertise in the youth services industry. He is responsible for leading the ChanceLight Behavioral Health, Therapy and Education accounting and finance department, and has overall responsibility for financial planning and reporting, capital formation, accounting, tax, treasury and risk management.
Since joining ChanceLight in 2003, Don has established a team of professionals and brought discipline to all aspects of finance, including accounting, finance, tax and operations finance for each of the company’s business units. Don earned an accounting degree from Western Kentucky University and an electrical engineering degree from Vanderbilt University. He is a veteran of the U.S. Navy and a Certified Public Accountant.
Karen LeFever, Ed.D., leads a dedicated business development team and the efforts to affect the company’s growth strategies. She has special expertise in leading the development of partnerships that connect public school and school district achievement concerns with innovative services and programs that benefit students, school districts and communities. She is an established industry expert, thought leader and educator with broad-based management experience who combines strategy excellence with strong financial management.
An experienced educator and administrator, Karen provided nearly a decade of leadership as principal of three large urban schools in two states – one of which was both a recognized California Distinguished School and Title 1 Achieving School. Karen’s academic credentials include a Doctor of Education in Educational Policy, Planning and Administration; Master of Science in Special Education; and a Bachelor of Science in General Studies.
Emily Langfeldt, Executive Vice President, Chief Program Officer
Emily Langfeldt is the instructional leader of ChanceLight Behavioral Health, Therapy and Education, responsible for driving the development of systems and processes to ensure educational programs are designed to meet the needs of diverse student and district populations; establish performance metrics to ensure performance accountability; and maintain consistency and accountability across the company.
Emily has led major strategic initiatives resulting in increased student achievement and significant improvements in learning, outcomes and program operations. Emily leads curriculum and instruction, clinical and behavioral services, integrity assurance and data and reporting. She began her career at ChanceLight as a teacher in 1998; since then she has served as regional manager, assistant vice president of operations, vice president of program operations and vice president of program integration and accountability. She earned a bachelor’s in Psychology from Boston University and is pursuing a master’s in Educational Psychology.
Cate Lewandowski, Executive Vice President, Chief Marketing Officer
Cate Lewandowski is the architect of brand identity, positioning, standards and integrity of ChanceLight Behavioral Health, Therapy and Education, and was named Nashville Business Journal Chief Marketing Officer of the Year (medium private company) in 2014.
Cate established a department and built internal capacity to create and maintain multiple websites and digital platforms; develop print, video and online collateral; community relations; advertising strategy, creative and budgets; media relations strategy; issues management; and event planning. Cate serves as a judge of the annual Penn Graduate School of Education Business Plan competition, and is a frequent presenter and presentation skills coach. Cate has developed and managed national and international marketing and communications programs for education, behavioral health, healthcare, corporate and consumer organizations. She is a graduate of Marquette University
John M. McLaughlin, Ph.D., directs the Research & Analytics unit of ChanceLight Behavioral Health, Therapy and Education, which evaluates initiatives, provides reviews of literature, examines specific performance inquiries for school district partners, and conducts and publishes original research. With a background in research design and far-reaching industry connections, John has written extensively about the interface of public education and private capital, and, with Mark Claypool, he is co-author of We’re in This Together: Public-Private Partnerships in Special and At-Risk Education, a book that explores public-private partnerships in education and behavioral learning. With Mark, he is writing a book about autism and the Individuals With Disabilities Education Act (IDEA).
In addition, John is responsible for identifying transaction opportunities for the company, which have contributed significantly to ChanceLight Behavioral Health, Therapy and Education’s growth. Before joining the company in 1999, John published the influential Education Industry Report and was a tenured associate professor of educational administration. In 1977, he founded Benton Hall Academy, a school in the Nashville area for students in need of a small and caring environment.
Gail Henderson provides leadership and mentoring to new leaders in the organization, assists in acquisitions integration and leads other special projects as assigned by the CEO. With more than 40 years of experience in special education leadership and juvenile justice alternative education, she previously served as ChanceLight’s Chief Instruction Officer and Chief Operating officer of ChanceLight Education Division’s Spectrum Center Schools and Programs.
As CIO, Gail developed ChanceLight’s instructional framework, which included aligning systems, processes, professional development and progress monitoring of all classrooms to ensure fidelity of practices and provided oversight, leadership and direction for all academic and behavioral programs to ensure high rates of student growth and achievement.
In her role as Chief Operating Officer of Spectrum Center Schools and Programs, she managed multiple school district partnerships, and designed and implemented evidence-based programs for students with special needs.
Josh Short is an accomplished attorney whose expertise includes compliance, regulatory proceedings and trend and data analysis. Josh has also served as a behavior support professional and a behavior specialist. In these roles, he helped provide Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) therapy to individuals, drafted data collection and behavior support plans and conducted trainings for caregivers, therapists and others. Josh has donated legal services to community legal clinics and indigent individuals. Josh is a graduate of Union University in Jackson, Tenn., and the Cecil C. Humphreys School of Law at the University of Memphis.
Kevin Mitchell has been a key member of the ChanceLight accounting and finance team since he joined ChanceLight Behavioral Health, Therapy and Education in 2004. He serves vital roles in the company’s relationships with investors and banks.
He leads ChanceLight’s acquisitions efforts, directing due diligence, legal documentation and the integration of the acquired companies into the ChanceLight family. He has expertise in acquisition valuation and contract negotiation, and in creating financial strategies to capitalize on growth opportunities.
Kevin earned bachelor’s and master’s degrees in accountancy from the University of Mississippi and is a member of the CFA Society of Nashville, the Tennessee Society of CPAs, the American Institute of CPAs, and the CFA Institute, a global organization of investment professionals committed to professional excellence. Kevin is a Certified Public Accountant and Chartered Financial Analyst (CFA charterholder).
Ralph M. Thompson is an experienced education leader who is responsible for Customer and Community Relations, including assisting with contract retention, working with school district staff and board members, community advocates, local government, law enforcement and juvenile courts, and community organizations such as local YMCA’s, Boys & Girls Clubs, Urban League chapters and child advocacy groups.
Ralph held a number of leadership positions in Metro Nashville Public Schools, Tennessee’s second-largest school district, until he retired after 33 years. He has been named teacher, principal and educator of the year, and was awarded the state’s highest honor when he was named Tennessee Colonel Aide de Camp in recognition of his contributions to education. Ralph is a member of the Tennessee State University Education Wall of Fame and a member of Kappa Alpha Psi.