Here are the people who will shape Shelby County’s unprecedented collaboration on early childhood

Thirteen advocates from the education, business, government, and healthcare communities have been named to build a new vision for early childhood education in Shelby County. 

The board will be in charge of distributing funds, as well as shaping the vision of First 8, the new entity which aims to prepare children for kindergarten. First 8 was created as the fiscal agent to oversee public dollars for early education efforts and to leverage private funding as well. 

The joint commitment to fund early education and prekindergarten services, including money for the first time from the city of Memphis, will save thousands of prekindergarten seats that were in jeopardy when federal funding ended June 30.

First 8’s goal is to bring together enough money to pay for pre-K for any child in Memphis who wants to attend, especially children in low-income neighborhoods. It is the first collaboration of its kind in Memphis and comes at a time when other groups around the nation are also trying to figure out sustainable funding for pre-K.

Shelby County Schools also has asked to be on the board, said Mark Sturgis, executive director of the nonprofit Seeding Success, the parent organization from which First 8 was born. First 8 and the school district have been negotiating a contract that would detail the terms of their relationship, and First 8 would provide some funding for Shelby County classrooms.

First 8 board members voted Tuesday to grant the district a board seat for at least one year.

The organization has secured a $7.5 million loan, according to budget documents, which is expected to be repaid from local taxpayer dollars. City and county governments have set aside $11 million in an escrow account for pre-K.

Besides public money and local philanthropic support, First 8 has applied for the three-year, $100 million MacArthur challenge grant and has advanced to the second round. The grant would provide national expertise and present the county’s early education efforts for consideration to other national funders. First 8 will find out if it won in November 2020.

At their second meeting on Tuesday, board members approved a $31,200 annual contract for accounting services with Hughey’s Debits and Credits, and discussed next steps to hire a search firm to find a permanent CEO.

Here are First 8’s board members:

Tomeka Hart, senior program officer at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation

Tomeka Hart
  • Hart serves as a senior program officer, leading education policy and advocacy grantmaking to civil rights and equity organizations and managing the social-emotional learning policy portfolio. She served two terms on the Memphis City and Shelby County school boards.

Patrice Robinson, vice chairwoman of Memphis City Council

  • Robinson was elected in November 2015. She was a  former Memphis City and Shelby County school board commissioner and board president in 2004 and 2007.

Jim Boyd, executive director of the Pyramid Peak Foundation

  • Boyd served more than 15 years as president of BRIDGES, a Memphis youth leadership organization. Pyramid Peak has been a longtime funder in the Memphis education space, and Boyd sits on the board for local charter schools, including KIPP Memphis and Aspire Public Schools.

Amber Huett-Garcia, education policy fellow at the Shelby County Mayor’s office

  • Huett-Garcia serves under Mayor Lee Harris. She also is the director of development for Memphis’ chapter of Teach for America.

Alex Smith, chief human resources officer at the City of Memphis

  • Smith is the lead on city Mayor Jim Strickland’s initiatives involving talent management, training, employee relations, compensation, benefits, and diversity initiatives.
Michael Whaley

Michael Whaley, Shelby County commissioner

  • Whaley was elected in 2018. He serves as the Tennessee Director of Leadership for Educational Equity, where he works with current and former teachers to build their civic engagement and leadership. Whaley also was the founder and executive director of Memphis College Prep, an elementary charter school.

Carol Johnson, interim president of LeMoyne Owen College

  • Johnson is the executive director of the southern region of New Leaders, a national organization providing leadership development for aspiring principals and teacher leaders.

Marion Hare, a pediatrician at Le Bonheur Children’s Hospital

  • Hare has been involved in numerous community projects and research, particularly in underserved communities. Her current clinical and research includes the Family Resilience Initiative, a clinical program designed to screen for and mitigate adverse childhood experiences and unmet health concerns in children younger than 5 years old.

Yvonne Madlock, retired Director of Shelby County Health Department

  • Madlock was Shelby County’s first female and first African American public health director and served in that role for 20 years under three county mayors.

Tanya Hart, senior vice president of total rewards at First Tennessee, a regional bank headquartered in Memphis

  • Hart was instrumental in developing and leading the founding class of First Tennessee’s Emerging Leader Program, expanding the company’s employee resource groups and developing a formal mentoring program.

Rebecca Yeung, staff vice president at FedEx Corporation

  • Yeung joined FedEx in 1999 and her responsibilities are now to accelerate operational excellence and customer experience within FedEx.

Mary McDaniel, president at MHM Investments

Kathy Buckman Gibson
  • For almost 31 years, McDaniel led a team at FedEx of more than 400 employees and managed a multimillion-dollar operating budget. She now runs a consulting firm.

Kathy Buckman Gibson, CFO and president of KBG Technologies

  • Headquartered in Memphis, Tennessee, KBG Technologies is a woman-owned business providing specialty chemistries and smart technologies to pulp and paper. Buckman Gibson also served on Shelby County’s Early Childhood Education Plan, and is a board member of Seeding Success and Tennesseans for Quality Early Education.