Early Childhood Champions: profiles of city leadership.
Profiles of these champions' efforts and accomplishments demonstrate the diverse ways that local officials and state league directors can ensure that the next generation gets off to a successful start in life.
Councilwoman Margaret Barrett-Simon, Jackson, Miss.
As chair of NLC's Advisory Council in 2002, Councilwoman Barrett-Simon led the development of the Futures Report entitled: Our Children, Our Future: Promoting Early Childhood Success in America's Cities and Towns. As she notes in this report, early childhood is critical to cities. "Take one look at the problems affecting many of our cities and towns--from persistent poverty and crime to family instability--and it's crystal clear that they are directly affected by the problems of early childhood."
This commitment to early childhood is clear in the City of Jackson, Miss. The city's Early Childhood Development Division currently sponsors five child centers serving at risk children primarily from Jackson's inner city. The City also created the "Tracking the Graduates" program to measure how well their programs prepare children for kindergarten.
Mayor Ed Garza, San Antonio, Texas
The City of San Antonio has generated public will for early childhood investments by linking the success of young children to the success of the city's economic development through their Better Jobs Initiative.
Under Mayor Garza's leadership, San Antonio's Department of Community Initiatives (DCI) operates the local child care delivery system and Head Start program. Recognizing the importance of quality enhancements, the department is investing city and federal dollars to improve these early childhood centers. They are also streamlining the system by designing a single portal of entry for early care and education and developing a common set of school readiness guidelines.
Mayor Bill LaFortune, Tulsa, Okla.
In October 2002, Mayor LaFortune hosted the "Tulsa Community Conference on Early Childhood Development." This community gathering brought together more than 250 participants from civic and nonprofit organizations, community and faith groups, as well as parents, early childhood professionals and public officials. At this conference, LaFortune personally committed to taking a number of steps, such as creating a formal Tulsa-area partnership for early childhood development and an initiative to encourage volunteer reading to young children.
"As public officials and civic leaders we must be more informed about this issue, and be more involved in action to help assure all children enter school healthy and ready to succeed," LaFortune noted. "I don't believe government programs are a panacea for all of society's ills, but the fact remains: it's obvious that many families in Tulsa need help ... There's no excuse that any child is left behind."
Mayor Mamie Locke, Hampton, Va.
As mayor of Hampton, Va., Locke has been a key partner in a model regional early childhood effort in Southeast Virginia. Launched in 1999, Square One is a collaborative effort growing out of a regional economic development coalition, including local elected officials of 17 localities joined other regional stakeholders.
Square One reports on early childhood outcomes and promotes best practices in the areas of parent education and support, quality preschool and child care, and children's health. The program also trains home visiting staff and provides scholarships for early childhood providers.
The mayor has contributed city resources for Square One, as well as specific early childhood efforts within Hampton. In 2002, she also was a lead partner in developing the Virginia Municipal League's focus on early childhood.
Mayor John Logie, Grand Rapids, Mich.
Mayor Logie has emerged as a leading advocate for municipal action to support early childhood success within the state of Michigan. In partnership with the City of Lansing, Logie has to encourage state-level stakeholders to address early childhood issues.
As co-chair of the Michigan Urban Core City Mayors, Logie also put forward a resolution on January 29 for the Urban Core Mayors to develop early childhood strategic plans as part of NLC's City Challenge for Early Childhood Success. In this resolution, he notes that: "Parents are the child's first teachers and need information, training, and support to help their child be healthy and prepared for school."
Alderman Patrick O'Connor, Chicago
As chair of the Chicago Board of Alderman's Committee on Education, O'Connor has been a strong advocate on early childhood and education issues within the city.
Over the past two years, Chicago has been implementing a city Early Child Care and Education Plan.
This comprehensive plan seeks to increase the number of full day, full year child care slots and help child care staff get needed training. Through the city's Children's Capital Fund, Chicago is also expanding and improving the supply of child care facilities in high need communities.
The city currently manages both the federally-funded Head Start and Early Head Start programs, as well as the state child care subsidy program.
The Chicago Partners for Children (CPC), a collaboration comprised of the City of Chicago-Department of Human Services, Chicago Public Schools, and the Day Care Action Council of Illinois, is researching and developing models to ensure that more children from low-income families have access to comprehensive child care.
In addition, O'Connor was the 2002 chair of NLC's Council on Youth, Education, and Families.
Mayor Alex Penelas, Miami-Dade County, Fla.
Under the leadership of Mayor Penelas, Miami-Dade has initiated an aggressive campaign, in partnership with community members and various organizations, to improve the lives of children and families.
Entitled "Champion Our Children," the campaign's most notable success came in 2002 when the mayor spearheaded an initiative to get free, voluntary pre-kindergarten for all Florida four-year olds on the ballot and ultimately approved.
Asked by ChildCare ActioNews (January/February 2003) what fueled his passion to fight for pre-K, Penelas responded: "That's easy to answer. My two sons, William and Christopher. I wanted to make sure that every child in Florida had the same opportunities that my sons did."
The mayor also convened community groups to create a child-centered strategic plan and hosted a Mayor's Children's Summit for citizens to vote on the strategic plan's priorities.
Miami-Dade also contributes more than $9 million to reduce the waiting list for subsidized child care.
Finally, a "Diaper Changing" ordinance requires all new or remodeled building in the county to have diaper-changing accommodations in both men and women's restrooms.
Councilmember Carroll Robinson, Houston, Tex.
As a member of the NLC Advisory Council, Robinson committed to helping NLC develop resources and tools to promote early childhood in other cities and towns.
In the summer of 2002, he was instrumental in testing the Institute for Youth, Education, and Families' community assessment tool, which helps cities assess local early childhood needs and resources.
As part of the process, Robinson invited representatives from a number of key community groups to work together to complete the assessment.
This group of stakeholders discussed the current status of children in Houston, shared data and information and created a comprehensive inventory of available resources in the community to help serve young children.
Members of the stakeholder group were particularly pleased to have a local elected official bring this issue to the table and work with them to identify key needs for children ages birth through 5.
Mayor Bart Peterson, Indianapolis, Ind.
Since 2001, Mayor Peterson has served as vice chair of NLC's Council on Youth, Education, and Families. In this role, he has actively helped shape the Institute's expanding activities to promote early childhood.
Within his own community, mayor Peterson has led a city-wide effort to promote family strengthening, a critical component of early childhood success.
Efforts have included Family Strengthening Summits to provide community members an opportunity to share their priorities and ideas with city leaders, as well as model programs to ensure economic security for families with children.
Mayor Bill Purcell, Nashville, Tenn.
During his term as the 2003 Chair of NLC's Council on Youth, Education, and Families, Mayor Purcell is seeking to generate momentum for NLC's Campaign for Early Childhood Success.
Purcell strongly believes in the role municipal leaders can play in promoting early childhood success. "The future success of our cities depends on how well we prepare and educate our children and youth. Together we can make a real difference for our nation's youngest citizens."
In 2002, the mayor made early childhood a priority in Nashville by establishing the Mayor's Office of Children and Youth, with an early childhood specialist to help coordinate the city's work in this area.
In April 2003, he will also host a Mayoral Summit on Children and Youth in Nashville, with a strong focus on early childhood.
Michael Amyx, Executive Director, Virginia Municipal League (VML)
In the fall of 2002, VML published a guide entitled, "Building Stronger Communities Through Early Childhood Success."
This resource highlights the importance of the first years of life not only to the long-term success of children, but also for the overall quality of life and economic vitality of a community. In addition, the publication offers specific suggestions for how local officials can take action, and provides Virginia-specific statistics and statewide initiatives.
At the VML annual conference in October 2002, Amyx made early childhood a focal issue, incorporating a keynote address by then-NLC First Vice President John DeStefano Jr., (mayor, New Haven, Conn.) and three workshops focused on local efforts to improve outcomes for young children and their families
Joel Cogen, Director, Connecticut Conference of Municipalities (CCM)
In order to provide dedicated support to promoting municipal early childhood efforts, Cogen successfully applied for grant funding from the Annie E. Casey Foundation for CCM.
Once on board, the new state league staff person will conduct outreach activities to raise the awareness of municipal leaders and to identify those cities and towns that are most likely to be engaged in efforts to promote early childhood success.
CCM will also convene interested local officials to promote sharing of ideas and strategies for future progress across communities throughout the state. Based on these efforts, they will develop and disseminate a compilation of promising practices and lessons learned.
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|Title Annotation:||profiles: municipal officials who work for young children and their families|
|Publication:||Nation's Cities Weekly|
|Date:||Apr 7, 2003|
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