Board of Directors



Shyaam Shabaka, Board President

Shyaam has over 33 years of leadership experience in the fields of public health and sustainable urban agriculture. He is the Founder and Executive Director of the Eco Village Farm Learning Center in Richmond, California, and previously served as the Director of Health Planning, Education, and Promotion for the City of Berkeley Public Health Department. Shyaam has worked on a wide range of projects to promote environmental, social, and economic justice in low-income urban American communities and in Sub-Saharan Africa. Highlights include serving as a United Nations election observer for the first democratic elections in South Africa and attending the World Summit on Sustainable Development as a Ford Foundation delegate. Shyaam has completed numerous consultancies for governments and non-profit organizations working to eliminate poverty and improve public health, including the Albert Einstein College of Medicine Department of Community Health, the City and County of Los Angeles Redevelopment Agency, and the West County Partnership for the Public’s Health. Shyaam has made an enormous contribution to ICRI through his many years of service to the organization, including over 10 years as the Board Chair.


Chris Ellison, Secretary

Chris Ellison is a partner at Ellison, Schneider & Harris, a California law firm specializing in energy, water and environmental law. Since admission to the California bar in 1977, Chris has specialized in energy matters, concentrating on transactional, regulatory and arbitration work on behalf of energy suppliers, customers, trade associations and regional reliability organizations. After working for the California Energy Commission, the California Department of Justice Environment Section and another private law firm, Chris helped found Ellison, Schneider & Harris in 1990. Since then, he has been a leading participant in the restructuring of the electric industry to promote open access transmission, customer choice, reliability standards, competition, licensing of new power plants and the promotion of renewable energy. Chris also serves as an arbitrator for the American Arbitration Association.

Chris has actively participated before the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, the California Energy Commission, the California Public Utilities Commission and other agencies regarding a variety of energy and related environmental issues. He has been active within several Western electricity forums on matters of transmission access and electric reliability. He was selected by the California Bar Association to serve on its Committee on the Environment. He has been selected by other attorneys for inclusion in “Best Lawyers in America” (2006), selected for “Northern California Super Lawyers” (2005, 2006) and by Sacramento Magazine for “Best Lawyers in Sacramento” (2006).


John Sanchez

John has served as an ICRI Board member since the summer of 2010, and as Board Chair since January 2012.  His overall focus is to further strengthen the effectiveness and viability of ICRI in our core mission of childhood care and education through our worldwide programs and collaborations.  Specifically, he is increasing the Development activities of the organization, strengthening the Board through the strategic addition of new members, and improving the oversight of our overseas programs and services, especially those in Nepal and in Africa.

His education (B.S., M.S., Ph.D., U.C. Berkeley) is in Materials Science and Electronic Materials, and he has experience in Silicon Valley as a researcher, technical manager, and executive (Vice President) in large corporate entities as well as in venture-funded start-ups.  He was Associate Professor of Materials Science at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor. His commitment to improving childhood education worldwide has increased as his daughter (Emilie) completes her second year teaching in Spain (Madrid) and as his son (Martin) completed a two year Peace Corps commission teaching young children in Gobabis, Namibia.

Leslie Falconer

Leslie Falconer is the President and CEO of the Experience Early Learning Co., publisher of early childhood books, music and preschool curriculum. She has written, produced and published several children's books, child development tools including the Mother Goose Time preschool curriculum and children's music CDs. Leslie has been invited to be a guest author for various early childhood education journals and has spoken on related topics for several early childhood education organizations. She is also the trustee of the Alabaster Fund which supports early childhood education initiatives worldwide. On her downtime, Leslie loves to be outside hiking and enjoying beautiful Traverse City, Michigan with her husband three active daughters.

Ellen Hall

Ellen Lynn Hall is Executive Director of Boulder Journey School and director of the Boulder Journey School Teacher Education Program in partnership with the University of Colorado Denver. Ellen has over 30 years of experience in the field of early childhood education, working with children, families and educators as a teacher, administrator, mentor and consultant. Ellen travels internationally, sharing the work of Boulder Journey School with educators, policy makers, and child advocates. Her research focuses on children’s rights, with an emphasis on children’s right to participation. Ellen has been published in textbooks and journals and presents frequently at national and international early childhood conferences and meetings. She holds a M.Ed. from Smith College and a Ph.D. in Educational Leadership and Innovation from the University of Colorado, Denver.

Melanie Jones

In 1999 Melanie Jones left a lucrative career in the corporate sector to devote herself full time to the character education program for youth she began in 1986. She is the founder and director of Speak to Children, a non-profit organization specializing in teaching children and teens character development. Melanie has worked expansively to integrate her program in education and devoted years traveling nationwide and globally teaching the lessons in schools, associations, as well as training teachers and parents. She believes in teaching the whole child, educating both on the academic, social and personal level. Fostering self-awareness and educating youth with life skills create leaders who bring positive social change and influence society in a constant changing global world.

Melanie studied psychology, child development and sociology. She earned her BA from the University of San Francisco and has a Masters of Science in Organizational Development from the Masagung Graduate School of Management at the University of San Francisco. 


Avonelle Hanley-Mills

Avonelle Hanley-Mills is the CEO of the The Parent Movement, a strength based organization focusing on the innate strength and resilience of the parental figure and the child/youth.