Organization

Governance

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.

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.

Carmen Lica
Board Member

Carmen Lica is the Director and founder of Step by Step Center for Education and Professional Development (CEDP) Romania. Since 1998, Carmen and her team have worked to expand the Step by Step network of preschools and schools, making a difference in over 500,000 children’s lives in the past 25 years.
 
Carmen is a recognized expert on teacher training and education programs for children age birth to three in Romania. She has introduced several innovative educational programs, such as the FasTracKids Program — the first ICT program in schools to support the development of life skills — and ReadyNation Romania  a business network advocating for increased public and private investments in ECD in Romania. She is also a member of the ECD Working Group with the president’s office.
 
In November 2019, Carmen was decorated with the title of “Knight” by the President of Romania in recognition of her important contributions to education reform and policies in Romania. Read her full bio.

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
Honorary Board Member

Sarah Klaus is an adjunct Assistant Professor at Georgetown University’s Center for Child and Human Development. She 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.