Our community conversation on Head Start, Pre-K, and early-childhood education in Tyler

From transparency to funding to continuation of services, panelists and community members shared questions, concerns, and context about recent decisions impacting low-income students and families in Tyler.

On Thursday evening, The Tyler Loop hosted a community conversation about Head Start, Pre-K, and early-childhood education in Tyler at St. Louis Baptist Church.

We organized the forum after a decision at last month’s TISD school board meeting to discontinue Head Start. That decision was altered three weeks later after significant community pushback, and conversations between TISD leaders and national Head Start officials in Washington, D.C. Now, the district plans to continue Head Start “wraparound” services—programs that help connect low-income students’ families with additional resources beyond education— for the 2019-2020 school year, alongside Pre-K.

Our panelists were Dr. Christy Hanson, TISD assistant superintendent for curriculum and instruction; Christina Fulsom, CEO of the East Texas Human Needs Network; Daniel Sells, parents of kids involved with Head Start and member of the local Head Start Policy Council; and Cory McCoy, education reporter for the Tyler Morning Telegraph. The conversation was moderated by Loop executive editor Tasneem Raja.

All members of the TISD board of trustees were invited to participate as panelists or forum attendees. No school board members attended this event.

Nearly 60 people joined us for this forum, and we hope it’s the first of many more community conversations on Tyler’s greatest challenges and opportunities. To make that happen, we need your help. Become a monthly supporting member of The Tyler Loop and help us bring more information, context, and perspectives to these issues.

You can follow the whole conversation about Head Start and Pre-K in Tyler below, and we hope to provide full video of the event soon from KETK, which reported on the event.

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Yasmeen Khalifa, a Loop 2019 summer intern, is a Mass Communication and English student at the University of Texas at Tyler. She is the managing and lifestyle editor of The Patriot, a student-run newspaper investigating issues on- and off-campus, exploring the changing East Texas culture, and giving students a voice. Khalifa recently co-founded a new music series in The Patriot titled “Music in the Pines: Exploring Eclectic East Texas.” The series highlights local musicians, venues, concerts and other events as the music scene in East Texas evolves and thrives. Yasmeen also works as a lab technician in the Mass Communication department. Khalifa is the founding president of the Keep Tyler Beautiful Youth Advisory Committee, a group of students working together to encourage beautification, litter reduction and recycling in Tyler.
Tasneem Raja is the Executive Editor of The Tyler Loop, a nonprofit journalism startup that explores policy, history, and demographics in Tyler, Texas. She is an award-winning journalist who has reported for NPR, The New Yorker, the Atlantic, Mother Jones, and other national outlets. A former senior editor at NPR, she launched a popular podcast exploring issues of identity and race with NPR's Code Switch team. At Mother Jones, she specialized in data visualization and led a team that built the first-ever database of mass shootings in America. She's a pioneer in the field of data-driven digital storytelling, a frequent speaker on issues of digital journalism, and a die-hard fan of alt weeklies, where she got her start as a local reporter. She lives in Tyler with her husband, her stepson, and two imperious terriers.
Claire Wallace, a Loop 2019 summer intern, is a senior in the Mass Communication department at The University of Texas at Tyler; she graduates in December 2019. She attends the university as part of the Honors Program. Wallace is Editor-in-Chief of Patriot Student Media Products, which houses The Patriot, U.T. Tyler's student-run newspaper, as well as other broadcast and multimedia avenues. Wallace has lead the recent revitalization of The Patriot and built it to be a digital-first platform by creating a new website, using social media news-reporting, and adding new aspects such as podcasts. Wallace works at the university as a lab technician in the Mass Communication department and is the social media advisor for the Communications Club. Wallace hopes to one day work as an investigative journalist. She believes to be a journalist, it is important to be curious, passionate, and dedicated, and that journalism is an integral aspect of creating change and informing the public. Wallace looks forward to expanding her abilities with The Tyler Loop.
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