Howard County Executive Allan Kittleman has formed a task force to look at early childhood education, his office announced Monday.
The group will consider ways to expand pre-kindergarten opportunities for children in the county.
"We have one of the best school systems in the country. However, we must also attend to preparing our children from the very beginning with access to the best early childhood education available," Kittleman said in a statement. "This foundation is a critical component of our work to close the achievement gap in the county and support kindergarteners in the critical first step on a path to success in school and in life."
Pre-K programs were a focal point of many Democratic campaigns throughout the state this past fall, including that of gubernatorial candidate Anthony Brown, a Democrat who lost to Republican Gov. Larry Hogan, and Kittleman's opponent in the county executive race, Democrat Courtney Watson.
As a state senator, Kittleman, a Republican, was a co-sponsor of the Prekindergarten Expansion Act of 2014, which passed with bipartisan support.
The task force, named the Early Childhood Education Action Group, was created by executive order and will be chaired by County Council Chairwoman Mary Kay Sigaty, a former teacher at Running Brook Children's Nursery in Columbia.
""As a former childhood educator, I know the importance of creative, academically rich programs for young children," Sigaty said in a statement. "I look forward to working with the diverse members of the action group as we seek innovative programs and partnerships to ensure a high quality preschool education for all of our children."
The group comprises 16 members, including representatives from the school system, department of social services and local nonprofits, and will submit a report on its findings by Jan. 1 of next year.
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Full roster of task force members:
· Karen Butler, Director, Howard County Department of Social Services
· Angel Cartagena, Associate Pastor, Family and Children Services, Bridgeway Community Church
· Bita Dayhoff, President, Community Action Council of Howard County, Inc.
· Jacqueline Dougé, M.D., Medical Director, Bureau of Child Health, Howard County Health Department
· The Honorable Robert L. Flanagan, Delegate, Maryland General Assembly
· Renee Foose, Ed.D., Superintendent, Howard County Public School System
· Hector Garcia, Executive Director, FIRN
· Ellen Flynn Giles, Member, Howard County Board of Education
· Chinnababu Gudapati, Manager, Srinergy Educational Services / Maryland Montessori Academy / V V Technologies
· The Honorable Guy Guzzone, Senator, Maryland General Assembly
· Kursten Jackson, Senior Director, Human Resources, Howard County General Hospital
· Leonardo McClarty, President, Howard County Chamber of Commerce
· Ruth Nimmo, Assistant Director of Operations, Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory
· John Tenarowicz, Vice President of Human Resources, The Coastal Companies
· Louis Valenti, Regional Manager, Maryland State Department of Education, Office of Child Care