Leadership Team

  • Mark Claypool
    Chief Executive Officer

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    Mark Claypool

    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
    President, Chief Operating Officer

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    Allison O’Neill

    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.

  • Derek Walsh
    President, Chief Operating Officer, Behavioral Health

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    Derek Walsh

    Derek is an experienced behavioral health executive. He advanced from site manager to senior vice president of operations for a multisite, multi-state behavioral health organization headquartered in Texas. During this period, Derek established a centralized call center and revenue cycle management function, a compliance monitoring program and onboarded dozens of treatment centers the company acquired.

    A graduate of the University of Texas at Austin, Derek served as an officer in the U.S. Army, leading teams in the United States and on international deployments. He served in South Korea and in multiple countries in the Middle East and was an expert in the PATRIOT Missile Defense System. Derek was awarded a Bronze Star, which recognizes heroic or meritorious service in a combat zone, and is among the highest honors in the U.S. military.

  • Emily Langfeldt
    Executive Vice President, Chief Administrative Officer

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    Emily Langfeldt

    Emily Langfeldt leads ChanceLight’s Program and Information Technology teams. She is responsible for driving the development of systems and processes to ensure program models are designed to meet the needs of the company’s diverse student, district, client, and patient populations; establishing performance metrics to ensure accountability across the organizations; and establishing effective processes to integrate new companies into the ChanceLight family.

    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.

  • Kevin Mitchell
    Executive Vice President, Chief Financial Officer

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    Kevin Mitchell

    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. As Chief Financial Officer, he is responsible for leading ChanceLight’s accounting and finance department, and has overall responsibility for financial planning and reporting, capital formation, acquisitions, accounting, tax, treasury and risk management.

    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).

  • Rudy Flores
    Executive Vice President, Chief Development Officer

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    Rudy Flores

    Rudy Flores has more than 30 years of experience in education, and prior to ChanceLight he served as an educator, principal and school board superintendent and a consultant and entrepreneur in the fields of education, technology, health care and commercial real estate development. Flores earned a master’s degree in International Business from San Jose International University in Costa Rica and a bachelor’s degree in business administration from the University of Arizona. He is also a graduate of the Disney Way of Leadership and Business Excellence – Disney Institute in Orlando, Fla. Rudy previously served as Senior Vice President of Operations for Ombudsman Educational Services, a division of ChanceLight that provides alternative education programs to serve at-risk students. Flores provided oversight and direction resulting in significant growth for the company’s Arizona-based charter schools and its programs in partnership with Chicago Public Schools.

  • Josh Short, J.D.
    Executive Vice President, General Counsel

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    Josh Short, J.D.

    Josh Short is an accomplished attorney whose expertise includes compliance, regulatory proceedings and trend and data analysis. As General Counsel, he serves as the chief legal officer of the company and leads ChanceLight’s compliance department.

    Josh has a background in both law and behavioral health. He previously served as a behavior support professional and a behavior specialist, and helped provide ABA therapy to individuals, drafted data collection and support plans and conducted training 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.

  • Emily Leonard
    Executive Vice President, Chief Human Resources Officer

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    Emily Leonard

    Emily Leonard leads ChanceLight’s human resources department and partners with leadership across the organization to support ChanceLight’s ongoing growth. She is responsible for developing, leading and guiding recruiting efforts; employee relations; performance management; training and leadership development, and compensation and benefit strategies.

    Emily brings more than 20 years of HR experience in publicly and privately held companies to this role. Her knowledge and experience in managing human resources for mission-driven organizations is instrumental.

    She earned her bachelor’s degree in Sociology from Furman University in Greenville, S.C., and her master’s degree in counseling from Trevecca Nazarene University in Nashville.

  • Cate Lewandowski
    Executive Vice President, Chief Marketing Officer

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    Cate Lewandowski

    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 McLaughlin, Ph.D.
    Board of Directors & Writer in Residence

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    John McLaughlin, Ph.D.

    For more than 20 years, John McLaughlin led business development, government relations, acquisition and research functions that were vital to ChanceLight’s ability to provide services to its students, clients and patients. Most recently he served as Executive Vice President of Research & Analytics until he transitioned to the company’s Board of Directors in 2019. John has written extensively about the interface of public education and private capital, and co-authored two books with ChanceLight CEO Mark Claypool entitled, We’re in This Together: Public-Private Partnerships in Special and At-Risk Education and How Autism is Reshaping Public Education: The Unbundling of IDEA.

    Before joining ChanceLight, John published the influential Education Industry Report and was a tenured associate professor of educational administration. In 1977, he founded Benton Hall Academy, a Nashville-area school for students in need of a small and caring environment. John has served on several boards and advised numerous investment groups, operating companies and education organizations. He holds a Ph.D from the University of Minnesota.

  • Gail Henderson
    Executive Vice President, Special Projects

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    Gail Henderson

    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.

  • Ralph Thompson
    Vice President, Business Development

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    Ralph Thompson

    Ralph began his career with ChanceLight in 2011 as VP, Customer and Community Relations, before joining the Business Development team. Ralph is a proven educational leader with stellar relationships with school district staff and board members, community advocates, local government, law enforcement and juvenile courts, and community organizations.

    Ralph served for 33 years in a number of leadership positions in the Tennessee Metro Nashville Public School system, Tennessee’s second-largest school district where he was named teacher, principal and educator of the year. Additionally, Ralph was awarded the state’s highest honor when named the 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.

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