Board of Directors

Plinio Ayala became President and CEO of Per Scholas in November 2003 after having served as Vice President of Operations with oversight for the bulk of our programs. Today he leads the organization in its national expansion. Plinio previously served as Director of Program Operations at SOBRO, and before that as Chief Program Officer at Jobs for Youth. In 2012, he joined a diverse group of stakeholders with decades of experience in New York City’s workforce system to develop a blueprint for the new Mayor, Re-Envisioning the New York City Workforce System. In 2006, he received the Liberty Award from the New York Post for his work, and in 2005 was issued a Citation of Merit by the Bronx Borough President for his leadership in Bronx County. Mr. Ayala has more than 20 years of nonprofit management experience and is deeply committed to the fight against poverty.

Harry J. Holzer is a Professor of Public Policy at Georgetown University and a Visiting Fellow at the Urban Institute in Washington DC. He is a former Chief Economist for the U.S. Department of Labor and a former Professor of Economics at Michigan State University. He received his A.B. from Harvard in 1978 and his Ph.D. in Economics from Harvard in 1983. He is a Senior Affiliate of the National Poverty Center at the University of Michigan and a Research Affiliate of the Institute for Research on Poverty at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. He is also a Nonresident Senior Fellow with the Brookings Metropolitan Policy Program and a member of the editorial board at the Journal of Policy Analysis and Management.

Cynthia Shoss, Chair, is a senior partner in the New York office of Sutherland Asbill and Brennan LLP, a law firm with 475 attorneys. She counsels clients in the insurance industry on regulatory matters in connection with mergers and acquisitions, demutualizations and other restructurings and transactions, legislation, compliance and other matters. She has represented insurance companies in all sectors of the industry and also State Departments of Insurance and Attorneys General. Previously Ms. Shoss was a partner at Dewey and LeBoeuf LLP, where she served as the firm’s Director of Pro Bono Legal Services for ten years, during which time the firm won the New York State Bar Association’s Award for Excellence in Pro Bono. She has advised many not-for-profit organizations on corporate, tax, and regulatory issues throughout her 35 years of practice, and is currently on the Boards of several: The Association of Life Insurance Counsel; The School of Risk Management, Insurance and Actuarial Science of The Peter J. Tobin College of Business of St. John’s University; The Risk Foundation. She formerly chaired the Boards of Lawyers Alliance for New York and Power of Attorney. She holds a B.A. from Newcomb College of Tulane University, a J.D. from Tulane Law School and an LL.M. in Tax Law from NYU School of Law.

Mary Pena is a native of San Antonio, Texas. She was a community organizer for Communities Organized for Public Service and Executive Director of Project QUEST, a workforce development organization preparing low-income San Antonio residents for careers in growing sectors of the local economy.

Russell Pomeranz has twenty-five years experience in senior financial function management roles in leading non-profits with missions related to independent school education, the arts, social services, and key think-tanks. Most recently, he has started his own consulting firm, The Claverack Advisory Group, where he intends to focus on the critical connection between the non-profit financial function and organizational programmatic, strategic, and financial trajectories.

He served as the Manager of Financial Advisory Services for Fiscal Management Associates, a consulting firm focused on the financial function continuum of non-profit organizations of differing sizes, missions, and organizational health. His role varied from Interim CFO positions, leading business planning engagements, organizational budgeting, situational consulting, coaching with regards investment pools, and, training for social service, settlement house, arts, association, foundation, and government clients.

Prior to becoming a consultant, Russ was the COO/CFO of the Vera Institute of Justice, a $20 million criminal justice think tank where he worked closely with program staff to start and ultimately spin-off societal justice mission focused but financially viable non-profits (such as Esperanza).

Mark Elliott, President, has more than 20 years of experience in senior positions in the public, philanthropic and nonprofit sectors. Mr. Elliott served as Deputy Budget Director of the City of New York under Mayors Koch and Dinkins; was a program officer at the Ford Foundation responsible for economic development and housing portfolios; and, was executive vice president of Public/Private Ventures where he launched P/PV’s efforts in the workforce development field and managed its communications department. As part of that work, Mr. Elliott led the development and evaluation of several national demonstrations including Bridges to Work, Fathers at Work and the Sectoral Employment Initiative. He also created P/PV’s Working Ventures program to improve the implementation of workforce development programs. Mr. Elliott is the author or co-author of several publications including Stimulating Opportunity, A Promising Start, Overcoming Roadblocks on the Way to Work, Labor Market Leverage, Gearing Up and Deepening Disparity. He is a member of the executive committee of New York City’s Workforce Investment Board.