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The Board of Directors of CommUnify ( is pleased to announce that after an extensive recruitment process, Head Start has approved the nonprofit’s recommendation to promote Jennifer Macdonald as Director of Children’s Services following the retirement of Lorraine Neenan, who served the organization for more than twenty years. Effective August 1 st , 2023, Ms. Macdonald will oversee CommUnify’s 23 Head Start and Early Head Start campuses, and the 200+ staff who work at those locations throughout Santa Barbara County.

Jennifer Macdonald | Credit: Courtesy

Ms. Macdonald has worked in the field of early childhood education for 30 years, including the past 12 years with CommUnify’s Head Start and Early Head Start programs, and most recently as the Associate Director for Children’s Services. In addition, she previously served as Education Program Manager, Early Head Start Program Support Specialist, and Site Supervisor. Ms. Macdonald has also worked as a Master Teacher at Cal State Fullerton Children’s Center and Toddler Teacher II at UC Irvine Infant Toddler Center. Ms. Macdonald is particularly qualified for this position as she has worked at every level, ensuring the highest quality of early education for our community’s youngest children, from infants to pre-kindergarten, preparing them for entrance into elementary school and making sure they’re set-up for success in their academics.

“When we learned of Lorraine’s retirement, we knew we had big shoes to fill in our Children’s Services division,” said Patricia Keelean, Chief Executive Officer for CommUnify. “Our decision was clear given Jennifer’s rise through the ranks of our Head Start program and her firsthand, ‘boots on the ground’ experience having worked in so many of the positions she will now oversee. Her promotion will ensure consistency in the direction of this program and will provide a seamless transition as the new school year approaches.”

In addition to holding a Bachelor’s degree in Interdisciplinary Studies from Sonoma State University, and an Associate’s degree in Liberal Studies from Allan Hancock College, Ms. Macdonald is currently completing coursework towards her Master’s degree in Education from University of Massachusetts Global and is credentialed as a Head Start Director by the National Head Start Association. She holds numerous certifications in early childhood development including Child Development Program Director Permit, CA Commission on Teaching Credentialing, CPR & Pediatric First Aid & Member of the NAEYC, Certified Trainer of PITC Module I-IV, Certified Toddler and Pre-K CLASS Observer. Ms. Macdonald also participated in the Leading From Within program and is alumni of Leading for Community Impact. She serves as Vice Chair of the Santa Barbara Child Care Planning Council, is an active member of both the Steering Committee and Facilities Committee, and served as Secretary of the Pacific Coast chapter of California Association for the Education of Young Children for 5 years.

“Under the mentorship of Lorraine, I have been afforded opportunities to grow and develop both professionally and personally, as a leader and as an individual. I am thankful for the experiences these positions have provided and am excited to lead the Children’s Services team and contribute at greater levels to the continued development of our Head Start program. I am committed to making a difference in the lives of children, families, and staff,” Ms. Macdonald stated.

Ms. Macdonald’s hobbies include running, CrossFit training, and being outdoors in nature. She was born and raised in Santa Maria and is a graduate of Santa Maria High School. Ms. Macdonald currently resides in Orcutt with two amazing daughters, along with a 12-year-old rescue pit bull mix, chickens, a rabbit, and a guinea pig and is engaged to be married. Their family visits Yosemite every year, a tradition carried on from Ms. Macdonald’s childhood.

For more information about CommUnify’s new Director of Children’s Services, Jennifer Macdonald, to request high resolution images, or to arrange an interview please contact Joni Kelly at CommUnify at 805-964-8857 ext. 1109 or 805-886-1869 (cell) or via email


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