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.

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.

Paul Osterman is the Nanyang Technological University (NTU) Professor of Human Resources and Management at the MIT Sloan School of Management as well as a member of the Department of Urban Planning at MIT. From July 2003 to June 2007 he also served as Deputy Dean at the MIT Sloan School. His research concerns changes in work organization within companies, career patterns and processes within firms, economic development, urban poverty, and public policy surrounding skills training and employment programs. Osterman has been a senior administrator of job training programs for the Commonwealth of Massachusetts and has consulted widely for government agencies, foundations, community groups, firms, and public interest organizations.

Mark Elliott, President, has more than 35 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, Eleven Year Gains, Stepping Up, Philanthropy, Outcomes and Impact and Partnerships for Skills Gains.  He is a member of the executive committee of New York City’s Workforce Development Board.

Board Members Emeritus

Robert Curvin, Jack Litzenberg, Russ Pomeranz and Harry Holzer