Newsmakers for June 2007

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Eckerd Youth Alternatives, a major provider of services to troubled youth, recently filled two of its top spots. David Dennis was hired as CEO in late April and quickly brought in Washington juvenile justice veteran Richard Nedelkoff to serve as chief operating officer.

Dennis’ pedigree seems to make him the perfect fit to lead Eckerd, which is based in Clearwater, Fla., and contracts with government agencies to work with about 10,000 youth a year in nine states: Florida, Georgia, North Carolina, Louisiana, Tennessee, Ohio, Vermont, Rhode Island and New Hampshire. He was most recently a district administrator for the oft-troubled Florida Department of Children and Families

Zulayka Santiago has resigned, effective in September, as executive director of El Pueblo, the statewide Latino advocacy group based in Durham, N.C. She joined the agency in 2003 as director of youth programs, then led it through a period of growth after succeeding Andrea Bazan-Manson, who served at the top for six years. A succession plan and a management team of three senior staffers will guide the agency until a new executive director is chosen. Santiago said she will continue to support El Pueblo but wishes to devote more time to personal matters. Contact: (919) 835-1525.



Kermit “KC” Burton, a senior associate with the Baltimore-based Annie E. Casey Foundation (assets: $3.6 billion), has been loaned to the Louisiana Disaster Recovery Foundation (LDRF) to serve as its interim CEO through September, or until a permanent CEO is found. At Casey, Burton is responsible for introducing foundation initiatives that benefit disadvantaged children and families – a background that will serve him well at the Baton Rouge-based LDRF, which was created after Hurricane Katrina to help rebuild devastated communities. Contact: (225) 383-1672,

The Los Angeles-based California Endowment (assets: $3.6 billion) has appointed veteran health care administrator B. Kathlyn Mead as its new senior vice president and chief operating officer. Mead had been CEO of the Council of Community Clinics in San Diego. The Endowment, which makes grants to organizations and institutions that expand access to affordable health care for underserved communities and individuals within the state, has awarded 8,900 grants since 1996 totaling some $1.7 billion. Contact: (213) 928-8622,


The president of the New York-based Foundation Center, Sara L. Engelhardt, announced that she will retire next year after 20 years. During her tenure, the foundation’s budget grew from $8 million to $20 million. Contact: (212) 620-4230,

The New York-based Rosie’s For All Kids Foundation (assets: $38 million) has opened a Washington office to advocate on behalf of children from low-income families and for changes in the foster care system to help get older children adopted. Founded by actress Rosie O’Donnell in 1997, the foundation has been responsible for opening 27 daycare centers in low-income communities and contributing $3 million to help children from low-income families in New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina. Contact: (202) 203-0448,

James R. Tallon, president of the New York-based United Hospital Fund, has been named chairman of the board of the Commonwealth Fund (assets: $600 million), also based in New York. Tallon headed New York Gov. Eliot Spitzer’s (D) Health Care Policy Advisory Committee during the gubernatorial transition period in 2006. Contact: (212) 606-3853,

Earl Lui has been named program director for environmental health and work grants and health grants for the Woodland Hills-based California Wellness Foundation (assets: $1 billion). He comes over from the San Francisco-based Consumers Union, where he served as senior counsel. Contact: (818) 702-1900,

Sandra Matthews, a senior program officer at the Chicago-based Michael and Juanita Jordan Endowment Fund, has been named vice president of external relations for Illinois Action for Children (also based in Chicago). Contact: (312) 823-1100,

Texas businessman Harvey Najim has created the Harvey E.Najim Family Foundation to focus on children’s issues in the San Antonio area. Najim sold part of his company, Sirius Computer Solutions, and used a portion of the profit to jump-start the new foundation. He told the San Antonio Express-News that he hopes to raise more than $200 million over the next five years, with a focus on helping local children’s charities through grants averaging $144,000. Contact: (210) 283-6717 or

The Cambridge, Mass.-based Schott Foundation for Public Education (assets: $55 million) has selected John H. Jackson as its new president. Jackson, a former policy adviser to President Bill Clinton, came to Schott after seven years with the NAACP, where he served as chief policy adviser and national director of education.

The foundation is known for creating the Positive Future for Black Boys Initiative, which, through several studies, revealed the extent to which the education system fails young black males. Contact: (617) 290-7795,



Morna Murray has left her post as director of youth development for the Washington-based Children’s Defense Fund to become legislative counsel for Sen. Bob Casey (D-Pa.). She will focus on health and children’s issues. Contact: (202) 224-6324,

Comedian and game show host Howie Mandel served as the celebrity public face last month for a coalition of national mental health, counseling and education organizations that visited Congress for National Children’s Mental Health Awareness Day. During a briefing on Capitol Hill, Mandel told members of Congress and their staffs about his childhood obsessive-compulsive disorder and fear of germs, which cried out for attention but were not dealt with because of the stigma associated with mental health issues.

The briefing was held to provide information from the U.S. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration about the mental health issues affecting youth. The event was sponsored by, among others, the Rockville, Md.-based Federation of Families for Children’s Mental Health. Contact: (800) 789-2647,


Prisoner-rights advocate Will Harrell, who helped draft reform legislation for the Texas Youth Commission after a spate of abuse scandals that made national headlines, has been named ombudsman for the state’s juvenile correctional system.

Harrell left his position as executive director of the Texas ACLU to become a watchdog and voice for youngsters in the TYC, which is the country’s third largest juvenile detention system. He told the Houston Chronicle that he “wrote a bill to include the strongest possible model ombudsman’s office, never thinking that I was describing my own job.”

The scandals that have rocked the TYC in recent months include charges of sexual assault and beatings of juvenile inmates by high-ranking staff. (See “A Swift Kick in the Pants,” April.) Since March, eight staff members have been arrested, 19 have been fired, and 62 others are involved in termination proceedings. The most recent revelations involve an investigation into whether 60 teenage inmates have had their bones broken by guards at TYC facilities.

Harrell, who has worked on prison issues for 20 years, told the Chronicle: “Whether you like ACLU policies or not, the fact that they have selected the director of the ACLU of Texas sends a strong message.” Contact: (512) 424-6130,