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 an Early Childhood Education and Care advisor from the Netherlands. He has been working for ISSA member Sardes for 19 years, before starting his own business AllesindeWind in 2020. 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.

Vesna Bajsanski-Agic
Board Member

Vesna Bajsanski-Agic has been Executive Director of the Mozaik Foundation, based in Bosnia Herzegovina (BiH), since 2008.

The Mozaik Foundation is the biggest social enterprise in Eastern Europe. It creates programs which contribute to economic and social stability by mobilizing local resources and sustaining socio-economic development. Through their programs they build communities and support citizen’s actions, including YouthBanks. Mozaik promotes the development of local talent and young entrepreneurs; it aims to create an outfit of young people who will create jobs and be role models in the future.

Before joining Mozaik, Vesna worked with DUGA in Sarajevo and as a Program Manager at the Center for Educational Initiatives Step by Step. She was educated at the University of Sarajevo and in the United States of America.

Deepa Grover
Board Member

Deepa Grover is an Early Childhood Development Expert with extensive experience in the areas of child development and child rights, gender, human development and behaviour change communication. As Senior Adviser, Early Childhood Development at UNICEF’s Regional Office for Europe and Central Asia (until 2019), Deepa provided technical leadership, management advice and programming support for strategic responses to early childhood development in the region. She 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.

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.

Sarah Klaus
Board Member

Sarah Klaus is Director of the Early Childhood Program at the Open Society Foundations (OSF) and also served as the first Executive Director of ISSA from its inception to 2006.  The Step by Step Program, OSF's flagship program, was initiated in 1994 to promote reforms that support universal, accessible, quality early childhood education and development in Central Eastern Europe and the former Soviet Union. OSF's early childhood work now extends globally with an increasing focus on advocacy, policy, and development of leadership to support populations at risk. Sarah has been working with the program since its inception. Sarah received her Bachelor's degree in Russian Studies from Brown University and her Master's degree in Developmental Psychology from Columbia University Teacher's College.

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.