• Shelby County commissioners approve millions of dollars for early childhood education

    By: Kirstin Garriss


    SHELBY CO., Tenn. - Shelby County Commissioners approved several resolutions for early childhood education Monday night.

    First, commissioners approved $2.5 million for needs-based Pre-kindergarten with the city and then a $20.25 million contract to a new nonprofit to run the program.

    First 8 Memphis was founded six months ago and it’s a subset of the Seeding Success, which has a track record in education community. 

    Currently, the new nonprofit doesn’t have an executive director. 

    “We wanted to make sure we got the right person for the right job. We have a talented staff right now that can do the work, but we want to make sure we have people who can dedicate just to early childhood education,” said Haley Simmons, policy director for Seeding Success. 

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    He said Seeding Success’s board led by Kathy Buckman Gibson will manage the nonprofit for now. 

    First 8 Memphis has outlined two short-term goals are to get 90 percent of children to be kindergarten ready by 2025 and 90 percent of 3rd graders reading on grade-level by 2025.

    The nonprofit will track attendance records for students and entry level tests for kindergarten students. 

    “We’re also going to look at cognitive and social development of the students as they go along. We’re going to use that continuous improvement model to make sure pre-K providers and teachers have the tools they need to succeed,” said Simmons. 

    Additionally, First 8 Memphis must submit quarterly reports to city and county. 

    Commissioner Michael Whaley said he’s felt good about the accountability measures in place because the funding for the program must be approved by the city and county each year before it’s allocated to First 8 Memphis. 

    “We do also have voting seats on the board and the board of First 8 will be making a lot of the really important decisions around where classrooms go, accountability around performance. So, I think there’s an opportunity before the year is up to get ahead of that,” said Whaley.

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