Durham’s Partnership for Children Staff

Debbie Abdallah

Operations Specialist (Ext. 230)

Debbie is responsible for providing administrative support to the Partnership along with assisting the finance department and purchasing. She earned her Associate’s degree from Wake Technical Community College in Office Administration. She has years of experience in working with children under the age of 5 and working in office administration. Prior to working for the Partnership, she worked at Wake Technical Community College and Durham Technical Community College.

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Laura Benson

Executive Director (Ext. 234)

Laura is the senior executive responsible for leading all aspects of the Partnership, from day to day operations to long-range strategic direction. She is accountable to the Board of Directors and works closely with all Board-level committees to ensure that Partnership activities advance the mission and adhere to management standards of excellence. Laura works to build and maintain strong relationships with local and state partners to maximize collaboration among programs and facilitate efficient use of community resources. She holds a B.A. from Wesleyan University and a Master of Divinity from Union Theological Seminary in New York. Laura brings more than 13 years of nonprofit leadership experience to the Partnership, with expertise in program initiatives for low income families, children and vulnerable populations.

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Wren Davisson

Program Coordinator (Ext. 224)

Wren is responsible for program planning and evaluation of Durham’s Partnership for Children Transition to Kindergarten Initiative. She works collaboratively with Durham Public Schools to implement activities that will help to smooth the transition of 4 year olds into the kindergarten setting. Prior to this position Wren worked in early childhood education for five years. She was a kindergarten teacher in Warren County Schools, as well as worked as a lead classroom teacher at a preschool in Durham, NC. Wren has bachelor’s degrees in psychology and anthropology/sociology from Knox College and master’s degrees in social work and public administration from University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

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MaryJane Dunn

Contracts and Accounting Coordinator (Ext. 220)

Mary Jane is responsible for reviewing and executing all contracts for the Partnership, and assists the Finance Director in a variety of accounting functions. Mary Jane has a bachelor’s degree from Salem College and received her accounting education from NC State University. Prior to joining the Partnership, Mary Jane held a variety of accounting positions including public, corporate, governmental and nonprofit.

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Elaine Erteschik

Communications Manager (Ext. 221)

Elaine is responsible for communications for the Partnership, including public relations, visual communications, social media, website maintenance, and community outreach and event planning.  Prior to joining the Partnership, she worked in public relations and marketing for the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, as well as an entertainment media company in Nashville, TN. Elaine received her bachelor’s degree from UNC-Chapel Hill in the School of Journalism and Mass Communication, with a concentration in public relations.

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Danielle Johnson

Director of Early Childhood Systems  (Ext. 225)

Danielle is the Director of Early Childhood Systems and is responsible for providing oversight for programs within the Program and Evaluation department. These programs include Smart Start, Durham Early Head Start, NC Pre-K, Transition to Kindergarten, and other community initiatives. Previously, Danielle served as the NC Pre-K Manager with the Partnership.  She brings years of experience in early childhood development, Early Head Start/Head Start, and nonprofit management to the Durham community.  She received her Master’s in Education from the University of North Carolina at Wilmington and her Master’s in Public Health from Hunter College, City University of New York.

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Sandra Roberts

Finance Director (Ext. 223)

At the Partnership, Sandra manages the fiscal operations, which includes allocations to funded partners and NC Pre-Kindergarten sites, state contracts and other accounting processes. Sandra possesses more than 20 years experience in all aspects of accounting and fiscal management in the public sector. She worked for another partnership in North Carolina and was former CFO of a nonprofit in the Los Angeles area with a mission to end homelessness. Sandra earned a bachelors degree in Business Administration/Accounting from California State University, Dominguez Hills.

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Paulette Stephens

Director of Training and Community Engagement (Ext. 219)

Paulette is responsible for program development, planning and evaluation of the Early Childhood Training Institute. She develops and coordinates trainings that offer support to providers who work with the most vulnerable young children and families in Durham. In her role, she also provides leadership for the Durham Touchpoints Collaborative. Paulette has over 25 years of experience in education, social work, and training. Her most recent work included providing culturally responsive, family-centered practice trainings to human service professionals across the state. Paulette holds a BA degree in Sociology/Social Work from North Carolina Central University, a Master of Science Degree in Adult Education from North Carolina A & T State University, and additional graduate work from Longwood University.

Taylor Webber-Fields

Training Support Specialist  (Ext. 222)

Taylor Webber-Fields is a University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill alumni with six years of community engagement and non-profit work experience. Her passions revolve around community building efforts that respond to the need for social literacy, access to resources and racial equity. Taylor comes to the Partnership as the Training Support Specialist bringing her creative workshop design, facilitation skills, and commitment to real-world education in support for service providers working with underserved populations.

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Jameka Wells

Program Coordinator  (Ext. 214)

Jameka is a Program Coordinator with a focus in NC Pre-K. She is involved in the screening of parents and children and handling NC Pre-K scholarship information. She holds a bachelor’s degree in psychology and Spanish education.

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Ted Whiteside

Development Manager (Ext. 227)

Ted is responsible for the development and implementation of the Partnership’s overall fundraising strategy, including extensive grant-writing. Whiteside brings with him over 30 years of nonprofit experience. He is a graduate of Providence College and completed his master’s degree work at Rhode Island College. As former Executive Director/CEO of Prevent Child Abuse Rhode Island and the North Carolina-based Summit House, Ted has an extensive history in fund development and agency grant-support achievement.