Thursday, October 1, 2015

Early Learning Regional Coalitions Meet for Statewide Summit

Community-minded early learning advocates from around the state gathered in Spokane for their third statewide summit this year. Geared towards networking, the sharing of best practices, and local empowerment, the statewide regional coalition summit supports the advancement of quality early learning throughout the state.

The agenda included: 
  • legislative advocacy, 
  • standards alignment, 
  • a statewide early learning dash board and may other important topics.  
There was even an opportunity for local leaders to meet the new director of the Department of Early Learning, Ross Hunter and engage in a brief Q&A. 

Early Learning Regional Coalition Map
The gathering of over 70 people included representation from every corner of the state spanning from Vancouver to the Olympic Peninsula to the Tri-Cities and, of course, Spokane.  There was representation from all 10 of the state’s regional coalitions, many of which are broken down even further to better capture the needs and potential of local systems.  This summit in Spokane was the third this year with the first taking place in Olympia (to facilitate greater coordinated advocacy during the legislative session) and the second in Vancouver.

When asked about the value of these summits, recently appointed early learning coordinator of Skagit County, Lyndie Case, said enthusiastically, 
“I’m new here, this is my first summit and I am grateful for the opportunity to hear from my counter parts across the state." Flying in from Bellingham for the event, Case used the summit as an opportunity to learn about her local connection to the larger effort taking place across the state, “I feel now like I better understand the state system and can put names to faces of my fellow coalition leads.”
Empowering understanding at the local level has long been a theme of these summits that have been taking place regularly for 5 years.  The effort is spearheaded by ThriveWashington and is supported by the leadership of Dan Torres, Director of Community Momentum with Thrive.  The father of two young sons himself, Dan is excited about the impact that regional coalitions can have on early learning opportunities for all of Washington’s young children. 
“These events are a chance to share best practices and build a common voice for the advancement of quality early learning through functional relationships geared towards on the ground action and results,” said Torres. 
DEL Director, Ross Hunter
Dan, who has been leading this effort with thrive for three years, has built an event that promotes networking, idea sharing, and increased collaboration.

Making a special appearance at the event, newly appointed Department of Early Learning Director Ross Hunter shared his passion for early learning and showed a real responsiveness to those on the ground.  
“My job is to help break down barriers so that those committed to working for the advancement of quality early learning can better serve the youngest kids in our state,” said Hunter.  
After a brief introduction, Director Hunter addressed audience questions that touched on a range of topics, including the passage of the Early StartAct, the hard work that it took to get the act through the legislature and his thoughts on how to best support advancing the field of early learning.  

This is the final summit of 2015 with the next scheduled for 2016 during the legislative session to better encourage direct advocacy from on the ground early learning professionals.

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