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Arizona Early Childhood Task Force (2016-17)

First Things First programs and partnerships are changing outcomes for young children in Arizona. To build on this progress and focus on priorities for the next phase of our mission, FTF convened a statewide Early Childhood Task Force in 2016-17 to help set the strategic vision for the ensuing five years.


Process and Outcomes

Taking a systems change approach, the Arizona Early Childhood Task Force will:

  • Focus broadly on early learning and development, children’s health, and family support and early literacy;
  • Prioritize efforts to increase coordination, address infrastructure and capacity needs of the system, leverage partnerships and increase resources to achieve scale;
  • Build on the strengths and accomplishments of the early childhood system; and
  • Actively engage regional council members and state and community stakeholders in the process.

The Task Force is comprised of a diverse group of key leaders from various sectors across Arizona. It is being co‐chaired by Nadine Mathis Basha, Board Chair of First Things First, and Don Budinger, Chairman and Founding Director of The Rodel Foundations. The Task Force will meet for a total of five (5) meetings with the purpose for each meeting outlined below. To ensure that the Task Force stays focused on high‐level priorities, sub‐committees will be created to allow for the development of more specific recommendations in the areas of Early Learning, Children’s Health, and Family Support/Early Literacy and Research and Evaluation. In addition, throughout the strategic planning process, First Things First’s Regional Partnership Councils will be engaged through online surveys and regional area forums to provide feedback on ideas and decision points made by the Task Force and sub‐committees. The end result will be an ambitious yet attainable statewide plan for advancing the work of First Things First and Arizona’s early childhood system over the next five years. This work will help us collectively hold ourselves accountable so our work will result in positive, measureable outcomes for our youngest children.


  • September 2016: Convene First Things First Leadership Forum and deploy statewide survey to all regional partnership council members. Use data and perspectives collected to help inform the Task Force’s initial conversation in November.
  • November 2016: Assessment of Arizona’s early childhood system—where it is and where we want to go; and review and discussion of latest data and key drivers for system change.
  • December 2016: Define priority roles for First Things First and desired outcomes.
  • January 2017: Finalize priority roles and desired outcomes. Convene First Things First regional area forums across the state to provide direct input and perspective on progress of the Task Force to date.
  • February‐April 2017: Convene sub‐committees to define goals and objectives for addressing the FTF priority roles and desired outcomes.
  • May 2017: Review recommendations from the sub‐committees.
  • June 2017: Finalize strategic direction to present to the First Things First Program Committee and Board.


  • Nadine Mathis Basha
    Co-Chair, Early Childhood Task Force
    Chair, First Things First Board

  • Don Budinger
    Co-Chair, Early Childhood Task Force
    Chairman & Founding Director, The Rodel Foundations

  • Lyn Bailey, Ed.D
    Assistant Superintendent
    Washington Elementary School District

  • Mary Baldwin
    Community Investor
    Boeing Company

  • Rene Bartos, MD
    Vice President of Systems of Care, Medical Director
    Mercy Care Plan

  • Deal Begay
    Vice Chair
    Cocopah Indian Tribe

  • Victoria Begay
    Enterprise Account Manager
    Frontier Communications

  • Andrea Benkel
    Director of Early Childhood Education
    Summit School of Ahwatukee

  • David Bradley
    State of Arizona

  • Keri Campbell
    Senior Director of Preschool Services and Co-Curricular Tuition Programs
    Great Hearts Academies

  • Heather Carter
    State of Arizona

  • Terri Clark
    Arizona Literacy Director
    Read On Arizona

  • Patrick Contrades
    Vice President
    Arizona Business & Education Coalition

  • Amy Corriveau
    Deputy Human Services Director
    City of Phoenix

  • Marilee Dal Pra
    Vice President of Programs
    Virginia G. Piper Charitable Trust

  • Lavonne Douville
    Senior Vice President Community Development
    United Way of Southern Arizona and Tucson

  • Riley Frei
    Bullhead City Elementary School District and Colorado River Union High School District

  • Annapurna Ganesh, Ph.D
    Faculty, Early Care and Education Program
    Mesa Community College

  • John Giles
    City of Mesa

  • Neil G. Giuliano
    President and Chief Executive Officer
    Greater Phoenix Leadership

  • Erin Hart
    Chief Operations Officer
    Expect More Arizona

  • Darren Hawkins, D.Min.
    Senior Pastor
    Sierra Vista Presbyterian Church

  • Shalom Jacobs
    Deputy Director of Field Operations
    Arizona Department of Child Safety

  • Jessica Jarvi
    Senior Vice President, Deputy General Counsel
    Alliance Bank of Arizona

  • Verna Johnson
    Health Program Specialist
    Inter Tribal Council of Arizona

  • Leah Landrum Taylor
    Assistant Director for the Director’s Office
    Arizona Department of Economic Security

  • Laurie Liles
    President and Chief Executive Officer
    Arizona Grant Makers Forum

  • Darlene Little, Ed.D
    Chief Executive Officer
    Tanner Community Development

  • Erin Lyons
    Chief Executive Officer
    Child-Parent Centers

  • Shana Malone
    Critical Initiatives Project Manager
    Arizona Health Care Cost Containment System

  • Liz McKenna, MD
    Pediatrician, Healing Hearts Pediatrics, PLC
    Arizona Chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics

  • Joyce Millard Hoie
    Executive Director
    Raising Special Kids

  • Franciso Muñoz
    Tribal Council Member
    Pascua Yaqui Tribe

  • Dana Naimark
    President and Chief Executive
    Children’s Action Alliance

  • Jill Norgaard
    State of Arizona

  • Karen Ortiz, Ph.D
    Vice President and Program Director for Early Childhood Education
    Helios Education Foundation

  • Marie Peoples, Ph.D
    Chief Health Officer
    Coconino County Health Department

  • Suzanne Pfister
    President and Chief Executive Officer
    Vitalyst Health Foundation

  • Bryant Powell
    City Manager
    Apache Junction

  • Pam Powell, Ed.D
    Chair of Teaching and Learning, College of Education
    Northern Arizona University

  • Kim Russell
    Executive Director
    Arizona Advisory Council on Indian Health Care

  • Nicol Russell
    Deputy Associate Superintendent of Early Childhood Education
    Arizona Department of Education

  • Sheila Sjolander
    Assistant Director Public Health Prevention Services
    Arizona Department of Health Services

  • Laurie Smith
    Board of Advisors
    The Arizona Community Foundation of the Gila Valley

  • Ruth Solomon
    First Things First Board

  • Brian Spicker
    Senior Vice President, Community Impact
    Valley of the Sun United Way

  • Kelly Townsend
    State of Arizona

  • Ginger Ward
    Chief Executive Officer
    Southwest Human Development

  • Robert Weigand
    Senior Lecturer, T. Denny Sanford School of Social and Family Dynamics
    Arizona State University

  • Richard Yarbough
    Pilgrim Rest Baptist Church

First Things First Staff

Marilee Dal Pra

Chief Executive Officer

Michelle Katona

Chief Program Officer

Facilitation Team

Lori McClung

Advocacy & Communication Solutions

Scarlett Bouder

Advocacy & Communication Solutions

Sharon Flannagan-Hyde

Flanagan-Hyde Associates

Children’s Health Sub-Committee

Kevin Earle

Executive Director, Arizona Dental Association

Debbie McCune Davis

Executive Director, Arizona Partnership for Immunization

Early Learning Sub-Committee

Melissa Busby

Director, Central Arizona College Early Childhood Program
Incoming President, Arizona Association for the Education of Young Children

Family Support Sub-Committee

Irene Burnton

Associate Director and Professor of Practice, ASU School of Social Work
Former Chief, Office of Children’s Health, Arizona Department of Health Services

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