ChanceLight Leadership

Mark Claypool
Chief Executive Officer

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Mark Claypool
Chief Executive Officer

Mark Claypool is a social entrepreneur who believes that all children can advance academically, behaviorally and socially if they are given the right tools in the right environment.

He obtained a Bachelor’s Degree in Psychology and a Master of Arts in Sociology from Middle Tennessee State University. He has held various positions in both state government and the private sector in mental health, juvenile corrections and education, and has more than two decades of experience in K-12 education, special and alternative education, behavioral health and residential treatment programs.

A social worker and education administrator, Mark grew frustrated by decreasing resources for children with learning differences, so he founded Educational Services of America (ESA) in 1999. Under his leadership, the company has become the nation’s leading provider of behavior therapy and alternative and special education programs for children and young adults, and, in 2015, completed a rebranding to ChanceLight Behavioral Health, Therapy and Education.

Mark is a judge of the annual Penn Graduate School of Education Business Plan Competition a panelist at the annual BMO Harris Back to School Education Conference. He is a frequent speaker about the value of public-private partnerships in education and behavioral learning, and, in 2015, he co-authored a book exploring the topic: We’re in This Together: Public-Private Partnerships in Special and At-Risk Education.

Mark serves on the advisory board for the Association of Professional Behavior Analysts and is co-writing a book examining the discord between special education practice and the growing discipline of Applied Behavior Analysis for children who have autism spectrum and related disorders. He is also

He volunteers to read to children at a Nashville elementary school and is president of the board of directors of Book’Em, a nonprofit that seeks to inspire a love of books and reading in all children, and collects and distributes books to children and teens in lower-income families who might not otherwise have books of their own.

Allison O’Neill
President and Chief Operating Officer

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Allison O’Neill
President and Chief Operating Officer

Allison O’Neill is an experienced operator and instructional leader with a proven record of directing and guiding teams through rapid growth while maintaining programmatic, instructional and operational integrity. As COO of ChanceLight Behavioral Health, Therapy and Education, Allison’s primary responsibilities include development and execution of organizational, instructional and operational strategies to fulfill organizational goals; support for divisional and corporate leadership in the oversight of school and center operations; efficient execution of instructional and behavioral programs, systems and processes; student/staff safety; compliance; district relations and community outreach; goal attainment, and stewardship of resources.

Allison’s expertise in enhancing processes and infrastructure to support new programs are instrumental in supporting the company’s continued growth. Allison joined Ombudsman as a certified teacher in 1997 and served as regional manager, director of center operations and senior vice president of operations. She is a graduate of Marquette University.

Donald B. Whitfield
Executive Vice President and Chief Financial Officer

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Donald B. Whitfield
Executive Vice President and Chief Financial Officer

Don Whitfield is a seasoned finance and accounting professional with more than three decades of experience in both private industry (publicly traded and privately held service companies) and public accounting, with special expertise in the youth services industry. He is responsible for leading the ChanceLight Behavioral Health and Education accounting and finance department, and has overall responsibility for financial planning and reporting, capital formation, accounting, tax, treasury and risk management.

Since joining ChanceLight in 2003, Don has established a team of professionals and brought discipline to all aspects of finance, including accounting, finance, tax and operations finance for each of the company’s business units. Don earned an accounting degree from Western Kentucky University and an electrical engineering degree from Vanderbilt University. He is a veteran of the U.S. Navy and a Certified Public Accountant.

Ann Eldridge Kolb
Executive Vice President, Chief Operating Officer, Behavioral Health

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Ann Eldridge Kolb
Executive Vice President, Chief Operating Officer, Behavioral Health

Ann Eldridge Kolb is a Board Certified Behavior Analyst (BCBA) who has led the growth of the Behavioral Health division. She serves as COO of ChanceLight Behavioral Health and Education’s Behavioral Health Division and is co-founder of the division’s Early Autism Project (EAP). Ann earned a bachelor’s degree in Psychology and Special Education from Southern Wesleyan University, a master’s in Special Education from Clemson University, a graduate certificate from Penn State University, and BCBA certification under the mentorship of Vincent J. Carbone, Ed.D., BCBA-D, and received extensive training from Glen O. Sallows, Ph.D., BCBA-D, both of whom are leaders in the field of Applied Behavior Analysis.

Ann is a former South Carolina Autism Society Teacher of the Year, and in 2013, Ann and her business partner, Susan Butler, were named Southeast Region Enrst & Young Entrepreneurs of the Year (services category) in recognition of the growth of EAP.

Karen LeFever, Ed.D.
Executive Vice President and Chief Development Officer

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Karen LeFever, Ed.D.
Executive Vice President and Chief Development Officer

Karen LeFever, Ed.D., leads a dedicated business development team and the efforts to affect the company’s growth strategies. She has special expertise in leading the development of partnerships that connect public school and school district achievement concerns with innovative services and programs that benefit students, school districts and communities. She is an established industry expert, thought leader and educator with broad-based management experience who combines strategy excellence with strong financial management.

An experienced educator and administrator, Karen provided nearly a decade of leadership as principal of three large urban schools in two states – one of which was both a recognized California Distinguished School and Title 1 Achieving School. Karen’s academic credentials include a Doctor of Education in Educational Policy, Planning and Administration; Master of Science in Special Education; and a Bachelor of Science in General Studies.

Susan A. Butler
Senior Vice President of Business Development


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Susan A. Butler
Senior Vice President of Business Development


Susan Butler is a dedicated advocate for children and families affected by autism. An executive of a Fortune 100 company and the mother of a child who has autism, Susan worked to bring quality Applied Behavior Analysis services to families in the Southeast. In 2000, Susan left her corporate position and co-founded Early Autism Project with Ann Eldridge Kolb.

Susan works with parents, autism organizations and employers to educate them about accessing funding sources, and with payors to secure coverage for ABA therapy. She works with state and local legislative bodies to help pass laws that provide children with access to services; with families and insurers to ensure families receive the maximum benefit; and with self-funded health plans to add the ABA benefit to their employee health coverage. Susan is a graduate of the University of South Carolina, where she earned degrees in Political Science and Business Administration. PEOPLE magazine profiled Susan’s story in February 2015.

Alan Watson
Executive Vice President and Chief Technology Officer

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Alan Watson
Executive Vice President and Chief Technology Officer

Alan Watson is a skilled technical leader with more than 20 years of experience in information technology infrastructure, project management, application development, and implementation. Under his leadership, the company was honored as the 2012 Citrix Innovation Award winner, an international recognition of the company’s technology innovation.

During this time, the company was profiled in several case histories that highlighted the innovative nature of IT implementation in wireless, WAN optimization and virtualization across 150 locations in 26 states. Alan has increased efficiencies by implementing a real-time collaboration and project management application organization-wide, streamlining scheduling and billing programs, and establishing a robust cloud strategy for the company and its business units. He is developing a first-class mobility solution and directs ChanceLight Behavioral Health and Education’s Business Analysis function and staff. Alan earned a bachelor’s from Austin Peay State University and an MBA from Howard University.

Chad Wheelus
Executive Vice President, Chief Human Resources Officer

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Chad Wheelus
Executive Vice President, Chief Human Resources Officer

Chad Wheelus leads the Human Resources department for ChanceLight Behavioral Health, Therapy and Education and its operating units. He is a graduate of Duke University and has more than 20 years of experience in operations management and leading all disciplines of human resources, including employee engagement and performance management, diversity, ethics, compliance, talent acquisition, compensation and benefits administration. Chad has an extensive leadership background in the military, education services, manufacturing and retail industries and brings a unique perspective to his role.

Kevin Mitchell
Senior Vice President, Finance

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Kevin Mitchell
Senior Vice President, Finance

Kevin Mitchell has expertise in financial analysis, forecasting, and mergers and acquisitions. He has a background in public accounting and is skilled in creating deal specific financial models and analyses to capitalize on acquisitions and growth opportunities. Kevin is responsible for forecasting performance across both divisions of ESA and serves key roles in banking relations, mergers and acquisitions. He is a CFA charterholder and a member of the CFA Society of Nashville.

Gail Henderson
Executive Vice President, Special Projects

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Gail Henderson
Executive Vice President, Special Projects

Gail Henderson provides leadership and mentoring to new leaders in the organization, assists in acquisitions integration and leads other special projects as assigned by the CEO. With more than 40 years of experience in special education leadership and juvenile justice alternative education, she previously served as ChanceLight’s Chief Instruction Officer and Chief Operating officer of ChanceLight Education Division’s Spectrum Center Schools and Programs.

As CIO, Gail developed ChanceLight’s instructional framework, which included aligning systems, processes, professional development and progress monitoring of all classrooms to ensure fidelity of practices and provided oversight, leadership and direction for all academic and behavioral programs to ensure high rates of student growth and achievement.

In her role as Chief Operating Officer of Spectrum Center Schools and Programs, she managed multiple school district partnerships, and designed and implemented evidence-based programs for students with special needs.

Cate Lewandowski
Executive Vice President and Chief Marketing Officer

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Cate Lewandowski
Executive Vice President and Chief Marketing Officer

Cate Lewandowski is an experienced marketing, public relations and media professional. She has managed international and national marketing and communications programs for a variety of corporate, consumer and educational organizations and is responsible for the company’s advertising, marketing and media communications.

John McLaughlin, Ph.D.
Executive Vice President and Director of Research and Analytics

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John McLaughlin, Ph.D.
Executive Vice President and Director of Research and Analytics

John M. McLaughlin, Ph.D., directs the Research & Analytics unit of ChanceLight Behavioral Health and Education, which evaluates initiatives, provides reviews of literature, examines specific performance inquiries for school district partners, and conducts and publishes original research. With a background in research design and far-reaching industry connections, John has written extensively about the interface of public education and private capital, and, with Mark Claypool, he is co-author of We’re in This Together: Public-Private Partnerships in Special and At-Risk Education, a book that explores public-private partnerships in education and behavioral learning. With Mark, he is writing a book about autism and the Individuals With Disabilities Education Act (IDEA).

In addition, John is responsible for identifying transaction opportunities for the company, which have contributed significantly to ChanceLight Behavioral Health and Education’s growth. Before joining the company in 1999, John published the influential Education Industry Report and was a tenured associate professor of educational administration. In 1977, he founded Benton Hall Academy, a school in the Nashville area for students in need of a small and caring environment.

Emily Langfeldt
Executive Vice President, Chief Program Officer

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Emily Langfeldt
Executive Vice President, Chief Program Officer

Emily Langfeldt is the instructional leader of ChanceLight Behavioral Health and Education, responsible for driving the development of  systems and processes to ensure educational programs are designed to meet the needs of diverse student and district populations; establish performance metrics to ensure performance accountability; and maintain consistency and accountability across the company.

Emily has led major strategic initiatives resulting in increased student achievement and significant improvements in learning, outcomes and program operations. Emily leads curriculum and instruction, clinical and behavioral services, integrity assurance and data and reporting. She began her career at ChanceLight as a teacher in 1998; since then she has served as regional manager, assistant vice president of operations, vice president of program operations and vice president of program integration and accountability. She earned a bachelor’s in Psychology from Boston University and is pursuing a master’s in Educational Psychology.

Ralph Thompson
Vice President, Customer and Community Relations

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Ralph Thompson
Vice President, Customer and Community Relations

Ralph M. Thompson is an experienced education leader who is responsible for Customer and Community Relations, including assisting with contract retention, working with school district staff and board members, community advocates, local government, law enforcement and juvenile courts, and community organizations such as local YMCA’s, Boys & Girls Clubs, Urban League chapters and child advocacy groups.

Ralph held a number of leadership positions in Metro Nashville Public Schools, Tennessee’s second-largest school district, until he retired after 33 years. He has been named teacher, principal and educator of the year, and was awarded the state’s highest honor when he was named Tennessee Colonel Aide de Camp in recognition of his contributions to education. Ralph is a member of the Tennessee State University Education Wall of Fame and a member of Kappa Alpha Psi.

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