Chattanooga 2.0 is a coalition of organizations with a backbone team that helps coordinate and drive collaborative work from birth to career in Hamilton County, Tennessee. This year, our small, but mighty, team has been working with community leaders and organizations to roll out strategies and create proof points in the early childhood, K-12, and postsecondary sectors. So, what have we been up to? Quite a lot!
Jennifer Andrews convenes and coordinates the Early Matters action team and the Early Matters-Bright Start steering committee. Early Matters has three working groups: Access to Quality Child Care (AWG), Early Childhood Health Equity (ECHC), and Advocacy. The Bright Start steering committee helps ensure the work of the 2025 Early Childhood Action plan is progressing forward and removing barriers along the way.
This month we announced the launch of the Child Care Dedicated Substitute Teacher Pilot, which we believe will be a game-changer for child care providers and teachers. Did you know most child care teachers don’t receive paid time off? When their own children are sick, they often don’t have the luxury of staying home to care for them. This new substitute teacher program can help ease that stress. Ten agencies will be selected to receive a dedicated substitute teacher. The substitute can fill in when a teacher needs to take a wellness or professional development day. On days when centers are fully staffed, substitutes will assist teachers.
We’re eager about our work in other areas of early childhood development, as well. For example, what does the phrase “Kindergarten readiness” mean to you? We’re leading conversations on how to define “K Ready.” The end goal is to establish Kindergarten prerequisite skills (agreed upon by teachers and parents) and identify helpful tools to nurture foundational skill development in children, so they are equipped to excel in Kindergarten and beyond.
Additionally, we’re keeping an eye on several legislative bills impacting children and families. One of particular interest is Promising Futures, which would create a dedicated child care scholarship for middle and low-income families in Tennessee.
A key initiative Brandon Hubbard-Heitz is leading in partnership with several other stakeholders is to develop culturally sustaining literacy supports for Guatemalan-American families in our community.
Another literacy effort involves amplifying the voices of students. Brandon is conducting student focus groups to hear from our youth on how best to improve elementary literacy.
Brandon convenes the Out-of-School-Time (OST) Alliance. So far this year, the OST Alliance has hosted several professional learning experiences for community partners on topics including literacy, STEM, and more.
He also supports Hamilton County Schools’ Student Success Planning efforts. A key point of student success plans is to improve collaboration among schools in the same feeder pattern. We’re working with the school district to strengthen relationships with schools at all grade levels to ensure a smooth transition from elementary to middle to high school.
Hamilton County Children’s Cabinet
In Fall 2022, members of the Hamilton County Children’s Cabinet, supported by Chattanooga 2.0 Executive Director, Keri Randolph, set out to understand how they might better support systemically disengaged youth across our community. After reviewing data on chronic absenteeism, housing instability/homelessness, and youth violence, the cabinet has agreed to coordinate a summer youth-enrichment effort in the Bushtown/Avondale neighborhood of Chattanooga. The goals of this program are two-fold: decrease the number of youth-involved crimes taking place during the summer in the Bushtown/Avondale area and connect with youth through location-based programming. If you already work in this community and haven’t yet heard from cabinet leadership, please email firstname.lastname@example.org.
A look ahead to Q2:
As we move into summer, we are excited to bring on more team members who will join the efforts to create viable pathways to thriving wage careers.
As part of our place-based strategy rollout in zip codes 37404, 37406, and 37412, we will build stronger connections in those communities by holding listening sessions with families, teachers, students, and service providers. We are also reaching out to faith leaders to become Community Literacy Champions.
Stay tuned, as we continue to work for a brighter future for the children of Chattanooga and Hamilton County!