The ISSA Council is the heart of ISSA governance. The Council is composed of all Full Member organizations and guides the Association’s strategy and the work of the Secretariat. The Council holds a General Assembly Meeting annually in which it discusses Association business and elects a Board of Directors.

ISSA's Board members work on a voluntary basis. The Board meets in person at least twice a year. The ISSA Secretariat conducts the official business of the Association and is responsible for delivering services to ISSA members and ensuring that the ISSA objectives are met.

All members of the ISSA Board, the ISSA Council, the ISSA Membership Committee and the Program Committee are unremunerated for their duties. 

ISSA Board

Henriette Heimgaertner
Board President

Henriette Heimgaertner is the Co-founder & Managing Director of the Berlin Early Childhood Institute for Quality Development. She has more than 25 years of experience in developing sustainable early years programs in various European countries including Poland, Czech Republic and Slovakia. Henriette co-authored the statutory early years curriculum for the region of Berlin.

She has served on ISSA’s Board and other bodies in the past, and brings a great deal of experience both in board advising and as a speaker at conferences and seminars.

Cornelia Cincilei
Board Treasurer

Since 1994, Cornelia Cincilei is Director of Step by Step Moldova (Programul Educational Pas cu Pas). Step by Step Moldova is one of the country’s leading educational NGOs, promoting systemic changes at policy and practice levels, including pre- and in-service teacher training systems, based on ISSA principles of quality pedagogy. Cornelia Cincilei was member of the first two ISSA elected Boards (1998-2004), member of ISSA Program Committee, and contributor to several ISSA conceptual documents. A.o. she served on the (director) board of the Consultative Group for ECCD. As of 2018 she has joined the Board of Directors. 

Jeroen Aarssen
Board Secretary

Jeroen Aarssen is a Senior Education Consultant, CPS. Previously, he has been working for ISSA member Sardes for 19 years. His areas of expertise include language development, multilingualism and executive function. As a project leader, Jeroen worked on numerous projects: TINK ('14-'18), a nationwide in-service training program for childcare staff in the Netherlands; several international ECEC and primary education projects, including a recent Erasmus+ multilingual project for refugee children. Jeroen is author of De Basis Voorbij (Beyond the Basis), a reference book in a training program for preschool professionals in the Netherlands.

Elena Misik
Board Member

Elena Misik is Program Manager at Step By Step Foundation for Education and Cultural Initiatives Macedonia. She has engaged in education for development for more than 20 years. She first worked for UNICEF and now Step by Step Macedonia. As an expert researcher, program developer, project manager and evaluator, Elena has worked on over 20 projects for organizations such as the World Bank, USAID, the Foundation for Open Society Macedonia, UNDP and for the EU.

Elena has been a member of ISSA’s Membership Committee since 2015, and in that capacity she made important contributions to work related to membership recruitment and services.

Deepa Grover
Board Member

Deepa Grover has an extensive experience in the areas of child development and child rights, gender, human development and behaviour change communication. As Regional Advisor at UNICEF’s Office for Europe and Central Asia (until 2019), Deepa provided technical leadership and programming support for strategic responses to ECD in the region. Deepa joined the Abu Dhabi Early Childhood Authority in 2020, where as a Senior Advisor she is contributing to the establishment of a comprehensive ECD system in the Emirate. Deepa has an academic background in Child Development and holds a doctorate from the University of Sussex, UK.

Leslie Falconer
Board Member

Leslie Falconer is the President and CEO of the Experience Early Learning Co., and the co-founder and trustee of the Alabaster Fund. As CEO of Experience Early Learning Co., she has published several early childhood development tools, including the Mother Goose Time preschool curriculum. Through the Alabaster Fund, she has supported increase to education and social entrepreneurship across the globe. Leslie also established, and chairs, the new Global Education Lab within the Nexus network, a global movement to bridge communities of wealth and social entrepreneurship to create unique opportunities for measurable global impact.

Michel Vandenbroeck
Board Member

Michel Vandenbroeck is the Head of the Department of Social Work and Social Pedagogy, at the Faculty of Psychology and Educational Sciences, at Ghent University, Belgium. Michel Vandenbroeck is also the Chair of VBJK – Centre for Innovation in the Early Years, one of ISSA’s member organizations.

In the first part of his career, Michel gained extensive experience in setting up projects of innovation in early childhood education, both in Belgium and more broadly in Europe. These projects included professional development of staff and leadership, advocacy and working with policy makers. Later, in his academic career, where he combines research and teaching, he has pursued themes around the respect for diversity, accessibility of services for children from families in precarious situations, inclusion of children with special needs, quality and professionalism, including issues of working conditions for the early years workforce. He has authored many articles and books in the field, constantly challenging paradigms with the lens of social justice in child- and family-focused policies and pedagogy. Michel Vandenbroeck brings to ISSA his extensive experience in advocacy and influencing theory and policy, both locally and internationally, as well as his insights on approaches to create stronger synergies between practice, research and policy.

Since the late 1990s, in his capacity of VBJK President and also as an internationally recognized expert in the early years field, Michel Vandenbroeck has had regular contacts and collaborations with ISSA in diverse partnership projects and initiatives.

Sarah Klaus
Board Member

Sarah Klaus was the director of the Open Society Early Childhood Program, prior to its closure at the end of 2020.  Over a period of 26 years, the program advanced the rights of young children by supporting ambitious initiatives and advocacy to reshape early childhood development practices and institutions, on the one hand, and scaled up the power and capacity of civil society groups and professionals, on the other.  The program aimed to improve services and policies for all children, with a specific focus on Roma children and children in other minority communities, children with disabilities, refugees, and children living in poverty and in remote areas. Beginning in 2006, Sarah expanded its original focus in Central Eastern Europe and Eurasia to include Africa, Asia, Latin America, and the Middle East. In 1994, Sarah helped launch Step by Step, the Foundations’ flagship early childhood program, and in 1999, the International Step by Step Association, a network established to support early childhood professionals in Central Eastern Europe and Eurasia. She served as the association’s Executive Director from its inception to 2006.

Sarah holds a doctorate in international early childhood education from the UCL's Institute of Education in London, an MA in developmental psychology from Columbia University Teachers College and a BA in Russian studies from Brown University.

Liana Ghent
Executive Director, non-voting Board Member

Liana Ghent is Director of ISSA since 2006. Under her leadership, the association expanded its programmatic portfolio and grew significantly, with member organizations from across Europe (East and West) and Central Asia. Over these years, ISSA also broadened its scope to address various aspects of Early Childhood Development.

Liana has over 25 years of nonprofit leadership experience. Previously she was Co-President of the Civic Education Project (CEP), an organization working in higher education in Europe and the former Soviet Union. She served on several boards, including the Consultative Group for ECCD and the Leadership Council of the Global Compact for Early Childhood Development. Currently, she is a member of the Executive Group of the Early Childhood Development Action Network (ECDAN) and WHO's Advisory Group for the Nurturing Care Framework. Liana is a certified Kripalu Yoga Teacher.