By Laura Carr
Chara Fisher Jackson was named by the Cincinnati Preschool Promise Board of Managers as the new executive director/CEO as of October 1.
Jackson served the last 16 months as Interim president and CEO with the Urban League of Southwestern Ohio and will take over from Sallie Westheimer, retired 4C executive director, who served as Cincinnati Preschool Promise’s interim director. Cincinnati Preschool Promise makes it possible for families to have equitable access to high quality, culturally competent preschool within the Cincinnati Public School district.
At the Urban League, Jackson led the organization through the launch of the Social INNovation Center and the execution of the 2020 Strategic Plan. Before her interim role, She served as the executive director, focusing on restructuring programs and services to drive continuous improvement and impact in the areas identified by the 2015 report, The State of Black Cincinnati: Two Cities. This report highlighted the issues of inequities and disparities sparking conversations across the region leading to discussions on how to implement system change thinking. She also served on cross-organizational committees such as the Childhood Poverty Collaborative and the Equity Coalition, where she lent her expertise in the areas of equity, social justice, and inclusion.
“When the CPP board found itself with the opportunity to hire a new executive director, we sampled nearly two dozen individuals and organizations in the community to get their thoughts. Over and over, we heard the same things: connections to the community, a proven leader and effective manager, culturally competent and credible, politically savvy, and above all else, a demonstrated commitment to children,” says Fr. Michael Graham, CPP board president.
“Chara does not just touch the bases; she knocks it out of the park,” Graham states. “Now that the Cincinnati Preschool Promise is adapting a variety of policies to broaden and increase tuition assistance, make it easier for providers to access quality coaching, and strengthen wages, she will help deliver even more on all the promises made to our community back in 2016, promises which recent data show are coming to life in all the ways we hoped they would.”
Jackson also has a vast experience as a lobbyist and litigator of complex Civil Rights issues. She has led advocacy campaigns and litigation on voting rights, the school to prison pipeline, and religious freedom issues. She received her B.A. in International Affairs from Oglethorpe University, an M.S. in Criminal Justice from the University of Cincinnati and a J.D. from the College of William and Mary.
“I am honored to be selected. This is an opportunity for me to continue making a difference in the lives of children and their families,” she said.
“In searching for a new executive director for Cincinnati Preschool Promise, we wanted a person who has ties to the community and is mission driven. We wanted someone who has the ability to look deeper, and the competency to look beyond what exists in elevating the priority of preschool education in our community,” said Toilynn O’Neal Turner, executive director, Queen City Foundation and chair of the CPP search committee. “I am excited about the future of CPP under Chara’s direction. Chara embraces the vision of Cincinnati Preschool Promise as an opportunity to engage in the lives of children though the expansion of access to high quality preschools. She believes children who are prepared for school are more engaged in learning.’’
According to a recent Kindergarten Readiness Assessment report, Cincinnati Preschool Promise tuition assisted children show stronger academic readiness in kindergarten than their non-participating peers. Currently, 1,341 CPP students are enrolled for the 2018-2019 school year.
“As an advocate, Chara can help us continue to move forward by identifying and removing barriers to increasing our successful outcomes,” adds Terri England, administrator, New Horizons Child Care Center.
Cincinnati Preschool Promise is a non-profit organization, which will expand access to quality preschools in Cincinnati. Preschool expansion is made possible thanks to a significant investment from taxpayers who approved a 5-year Cincinnati Public Schools levy in 2016. The levy includes $33 million a year to strengthen K-12 education and $15 million a year to expand access to quality preschool.