Barbara-Ann Mattle —after 37 years on the job: ‘It’s been a fun ride from beginning to end’
By Melody Burri
After nearly 40 years of leadership at Child Care Council Inc., CEO Barbara-Ann Mattle will pass the baton to her successor, Jeffrey Pier, former executive director of The Healing Connection.
“I’ve enjoyed it from beginning to end,” said Mattle from the dining room table-turned-temporary office in her Webster home. “All those new things were always out there to do. We just took a look and said ‘we could do that.’”
During her 37-year tenure at the council helm, Mattle earned regional and national recognition as a go-to resource for childcare development and quality child care training. Under her leadership, CCC grew from an agency with a $20,000 budget and a staff of 1.5 people into the largest child care resource and referral agency in the state, boasting a $7 million budget, 60 employees and offices in Monroe, Livingston and Wayne counties.
“At my first board meeting after being hired,” recalled Mattle, “I was told we only had one contract from the city of Rochester — a $20,000 grant — and it was set to expire in November. I was told to figure out if we should stay in business, and if so, what should we do.”
The challenge was sobering, even more so when she learned there were no standardized training programs or materials for child care workers on file. So Mattle and her half-time assistant set about writing and developing training programs and manuals for area child caregivers.
Fast forward 37 years and the council is now contracted by New York state to provide oversight, inspection, training and fingerprinting for all registered family child care providers and registered school child care programs.
Under Mattle’s leadership, programs and services flourished, including New York state family and school-age child care program registration and inspection services, New York state legally exempt child care enrollment and inspection, an early childhood professional library, a print shop that serves area nonprofits and a Repurpose & More Store.
Mattle also facilitated the Region II New York State Regional Infant-Toddler Resource Center in nine counties; the New York State Pyramid Model program; the USDA Child and Adult Food Program sponsorship, and the Eat Well-Play Hard nutrition program in eight counties.
Other program accomplishments included launching a special needs service, multilingual interpretation and support services (Spanish, Swahili, Arabic and Urdu), and a nine-county infant-toddler childhood mental health consultation service.
Child Care Council also became one of only 10 sites across the country selected to participate in the Vroom project, a partnership with the Bezos Family Foundation and Child Care Aware of America designed to strengthen the relationship between child care providers and families by focusing on brain-building language and tools.
Obligation to staff
Mattle’s 37-year journey has had its rewards, with two in particular topping the list.
“There was always a chance to grow, something new to do, and I never had a chance to become bored,” said the life-long pioneer and creative problem-solver.
The joy of that invigorating and always-morphing work environment was evenly balanced by Mattle’s passion for helping advance the careers of her colleagues and staff members.
“I’ve always felt responsible for the people who worked for me,” said Mattle. “We were building the company, but I was also responsible for their continued personal and professional growth and development.”
Whether they were long- or short-term employees, Mattle’s aim was to help them grow in their careers while growing the business and keeping it going.
She hopes that’s a core value that will carry into the future.
“We have a lot of long-term staff — some who’ve been working for us for more than 30 years,” she said. “We consider ourselves a work family. Our managers talk about the reasons they’ve stayed as long as they have, and it’s because of the family support. We always put family first.”
According to her successor and other nonprofit champions, Mattle urges tenacity.
“Don’t give up. Keep presenting your vision. It can work,” she said.
A case in point is the CCC’s Repurpose & More Store, a craft supply resource center for child care facilities that Mattle said took “literally 10 years” to launch after its initial conception.
After visiting Boston Children’s Museum and seeing its shop that sold surplus art supplies, Mattle’s team wanted to offer a similar resource for area daycares. A decade later, after multiple pitches and iterations, the 300-square-foot Repurpose & More Store opened its doors to provide craft supplies for child care agencies. The store offers fabrics, paper, wood, foam, poster prints, scrap materials and over-run goods — items that otherwise would end up in a landfill — to use in art projects and as teaching tools.
“When we wrote to Boston Children’s Museum to let them know they were our inspiration, they offered to sponsor us and sent us a truckload of stuff from their shop to help us start up,” said Mattle.
Another piece of advice for Pier and other nonprofit champions: “Be open to opportunities,” she said. “And not just the ones you find, but the ones presented to you by your staff. Keep an open mind. Keep growing. Keep innovating, because there’s got to be more ahead to do.”
Laden with awards
A nationally recognized expert in the childcare field, Mattle was inducted into the Notable Women in Human Services Hall of Fame and was named 2017 Rochester Institute of Technology’s Alumnus of the Year. She received The Human Services Council of New York’s 2020 Strong Nonprofits Leader Award, the Rochester Business Journal’s 2019 Icon Honors award, the Family Child Care Association of New York State’s 2018 Friend of Family Child Care Award, and was recognized for the 2018 National Family Child Care Organization Family Child Care Accreditation Project of the Year.
She has also made national presentations on topics, from how to operate a child care center, to career options and child care center financial management. She is a certified accredited facilitator and an accredited observer trainer from the National Family Child Care Association, a certified trainer in eco-friendly child care, and a SUNY-certified New York state health and safety trainer.
Mattle earned her bachelor’s degree in business administration and finance from RIT, her child care certificate from St. John Fisher College, and her certificate in child care center facility design from Harvard and Tufts University.
“I am extremely proud of my more than three decades of work to improve and support the development of high-quality child care programs in New York state,” said Mattle. “We accomplished a great deal on behalf of area children and families, child care providers and early educators, working with the council board of directors, leadership team and staff.
“I want to thank each of them for their amazing work and support over the years to improve access to child care and to connect families with quality child care,” she said. “I’m going to miss the people on staff and the whole child care community. It’s been a fun ride from beginning to end.”
What’s next for the retiring CEO?
“I’ll worry about that after the 30th of June,” she said. “It’ll fall in place. It always does. I’ll just be open to what could happen.”
Photo: A nationally recognized expert in the childcare field, Barbara-Ann Mattle was inducted into the Notable Women in Human Services Hall of Fame and was named 2017 Rochester Institute of Technology’s Alumnus of the Year. She received many other accolades during her 37-year tenure at Child Care Council Inc.