Governor Kitzhaber Appoints Acting Early Learning System Director

August 19, 2014

(Salem, OR) — Governor Kitzhaber announced today the appointment of Megan Irwin as Acting Early Learning System Director. Ms. Irwin’s appointment follows the retirement of Jada Rupley, whose last day with the Division was August 15. The appointment is immediate.

“Megan is an energetic and engaged leader who will foster the talent of both Early Learning Division staff and community leaders who are doing great work,” Governor Kitzhaber said. “She will continue to partner with communities and the Legislature to help shape a quality early learning system that follows through on the promise we made to our youngest Oregonians.”

Ms. Irwin takes over as Acting Director after holding key leadership positions in the Early Learning Division in which she oversaw policy and programs, managed the state’s Race to the Top Early Learning Challenge grant, and supported the creation of cross-sector early learning hubs.

Ms. Irwin double majored in journalism and mass communications and in political science at Arizona State University. She began her career as a journalist in Phoenix, Arizona, focusing on issues related to children, families, and immigrants. As part of a team, she is a two-time winner of the Payne Award for Ethics in Journalism and has also received multiple Arizona Press Club awards for her coverage of vulnerable children and families in the Phoenix-metro area. Ms. Irwin has also worked in education advocacy, overseeing community organizing and family engagement programs in 11 states. She is the proud daughter of two public school teachers.

“The Early Learning Division is full of highly qualified, committed individuals with decades of experience working with children and families,” Ms. Irwin said. “My job will be to listen, continue to bring alignment and clarity to this complex work, and ensure that everything we do helps to eliminate disparities across the state so that all children and families have the opportunity to succeed.”

With Ms. Irwin moving into the Acting Director role, David Mandell has been appointed Early Learning Policy and Partnerships Director. Mr. Mandell has been active in early childhood policy in Oregon for close to a decade. He spent seven years as the Policy & Research Director of the Children’s Institute, where he focused on such topics as early childhood professional development, kindergarten assessment, and integrating social-emotional development into early childhood services. Mr. Mandell received his Ph.D. in political science from the University of Chicago and most recently served as the Special Advisor on Early Childhood to Oregon Speaker of the House Tina Kotek.

The Early Learning Division of the Oregon Department of Education oversees the early learning system, including policies and programs that support stable and attached families and school readiness. The Division was created on July 1, 2013, and is overseen by the Early Learning Council, a 17-member public policy board.

Read the original press release here.

Child Care Rules

On August 6, 2014 the Early Learning Council took unanimous action to adopt child care licensing rules that clarify policies about the use of alcohol and tobacco products as well as illegal controlled substances including medical marijuana. You can find the approved temporary rules below:

Central Background Registry
Registered Family
Certified Family
Certified Center

OPK Expansion Grants

The Early Learning Division had a small pot of funds available to support the expansion of current OPK/Head Start programs. Grant recipients were announced in June 2014. In the spirit of transparency, you can see all of the grants and scoring results here.

Grant Proposals

In the Media: Oregon’s Quality Rating & Improvement System

Please take a minute to read OPB’s latest article on the Quality Rating and Improvement System (QRIS). In 2012, Oregon received $20 million to help rebuild our early learning system, with a particular focus on promoting quality early learning environments in child care settings. As you will read, Oregon’s QRIS is continuing to grown and has given over 27,000 children access to quality programs throughout the state so far.

Oregon Early Learning and Early Head Start Partnerships

Thank you for your interest in the federal Early Head Start Child Care Partnership funding opportunity.  Alignment and coordination of applications with state early learning systems will ensure that we achieve the best possible outcomes for as many children as possible in Oregon.  The document below is designed to support your efforts. Please contact Christa Rude or Dawn Barberis with any questions.

Download the guide.

Early Learning Council Announces Eight Additional Early Learning Hubs

(Portland, OR)- Oregon’s Early Learning Council is moving toward establishing more early learning hubs across Oregon. Today the Early Learning Council announced eight applicants who will begin the process to become full-fledged hubs coordinating early education and family support services help to children and families.

“Our learning hub model will expand across Oregon so that more children and their families have access to a comprehensive set of education and social services,” said Jada Rupley, Early Learning System Director. “Hubs allow communities to tailor resources and collaborate to better prepare our young Oregonians for school success.”

Early learning hubs bring together a community’s childcare, health and education efforts to focus on supporting children and their families. This coordinated approach allows for each of the sectors to be more cohesive in preparing children, particularly the most vulnerable, to be successful in kindergarten and beyond.

The eight early learning hubs and their respective counties are:
Blue Mountain Early Learning Hub
(Umatilla, Morrow, Union)
Clackamas County Early Learning Hub
Eastern Oregon Community Services Hub
(Malheur, Wallowa, Baker)
Linn Benton Lincoln Early Learning Hub
North West Regional Early Learning Council 
(Columbia, Clatsop, Tillamook)
Southern Oregon Early Learning Services Hub 
(Jackson, Josephine)
Washington County Early Learning Hub
Wellness and Education Board of Central Oregon 
(Crook, Jefferson, Deschutes)

The Early Learning Division will provide support to the selected hubs as they finalize their plans and enter into contracts with the state.

The eight new hubs join six existing early learning hubs created to coordinate early learning services for Oregon’s at-risk children and families. The existing hubs serve the communities of Douglas, Harney, Grant, Lake, Lane, Marion, Multnomah and Yamhill counties.

Hubs, which focus on early childhood education, are part of the state’s 40-40-20 goal to build a seamless system of education from birth to college and career. The goal calls for 40 percent of students to receive a bachelor’s degree or higher; 40 percent of students to receive an associate’s degree or certificate; and the remaining 20 percent to earn a high school diploma.

The Oregon Legislature passed a statute to create hubs in July 2013. The first set of hubs were announced in November.

Oregon’s Early Learning Council is charged with improving kindergarten readiness and family stability, while making sure multiple systems are more coordinated and aligned to most effectively support families.

Families Encouraged to Participate in Free Summer Meals

Oh June 2nd, Deputy Superintendent of Public Instruction Rob Saxton announced the upcoming Summer Food Service Program which provides free, nutritious meals to students over the summer months here in Oregon. During the school year, many students rely on the free and reduced-priced breakfasts and lunches that schools provide to supplement what’s available at home. Over the summer, there are free meal sites set up throughout the state to help ensure that students have access to nutritious food even when they aren’t in school. Similar meal programs exist around the country to combat student hunger.

You can read the full press release here:

Want to learn more? Resources on combatting childhood hunger and summer meals include:


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