First 8 Memphis, Executive Director

First 8 Memphis - Memphis, Tennessee - Full time

First 8 Memphis

First 8 Memphis is leading the implementation of Shelby County’s first, formal high-quality Early Childhood Education (ECE) system. Starting in 2015, community leaders conducted research to assess the local and national ECE landscape and developed a system of interventions to improve child outcomes and economic mobility in Shelby County. The resulting ECE system consists of four main components: early home visitation; quality childcare; Pre-K programs; and academic interventions for students in grades K-3. First 8 Memphis will also work with local school districts to ensure a smooth transition between pre-k to 3rd grade. By aligning and coordinating resources to high quality, evidence-based programs that serve children from before birth through age eight, First Eight Memphis aims to prepare 90% of children to be “Kindergarten ready” and 90% of 3rd-grade children to be reading on grade-level by 2025. In addition, the initiative seeks to transform the local ECE system into a high performing, sustainable network of learning and nurturing environments that supports our youngest citizens from the start. The required $40m of recurring public and private funds will be distributed through RFPs to eligible local nonprofit, childcare and social service organizations.

First 8 Memphis’ current fiscal sponsor, Seeding Success, has worked with local and national experts to ensure the highest level of fiscal responsibility within the organization to its public and private investors and contracted operators. The new organization will have fiduciary oversight from a small, committed Board of Trustees, partner with City and County government to provide transparent reporting and hire staff to manage its daily operations. In addition, this entity will build formal relationships with the communities it serves, so that their voices will be heard and incorporated into the ongoing implementation efforts. To learn more about First 8 Memphis, please visit

Executive Director Role

The founding Executive Director of First 8 Memphis will be a strategic leader and experienced manager of people and projects, with experience in early childhood education and program services. This individual will have an entrepreneurial mindset and bring experience meeting programmatic, fundraising and financial sustainability goals. This individual will be a proven collaborator and experienced change agent, capable of mobilizing broad coalitions including parents, the board, funders, policymakers, and program partners. This is an ideal opportunity for an impassioned advocate who wants to make a significant impact on Shelby County’s youth and their families. This Executive Director will ensure that these families receive access to high-quality early childhood programs and the wrap-around educational and social services that can dramatically improve their life outcomes.

Key Duties and Responsibilities of the Executive Director include:

  • Overseeing the execution of vision, values, and goals designed to provide access to high-quality early childhood programs in Shelby County;
  • Serving as the public face of First 8 Memphis, interacting with leaders of educational institutions, systems, and government entities as well as the broader community (e.g., speaking engagements, events, forums, etc.);
  • Leading the organization in goal setting and achieving measurable outcomes, including developing annual priorities and targets with a broad group of early childhood stakeholders;
  • Working with a broad coalition of community service providers to understand the work being done in the Early Childhood system within Shelby County, to help build capacity and capability, to identify issues and challenges with delivering high-quality services and then working with the Coalition and others to address the identified needs;
  • Working with the Board of Directors to effectively communicate with the general public key strategy and policy issues within the Early Childhood system;
  • Confronting racial and economic inequities directly in both leadership and program implementation;
  • Establishing strong, trustworthy, and collaborative working relationships with the Shelby County Government, County Commission, City of Memphis, City Council, school districts, school boards, non-profit providers, philanthropic partners (national and local), families and the community at-large, including:
    • Maintain the highest integrity and expectations in financial reporting, internally and externally;
    • Consistently track, organize and report information relevant to First 8 Memphis investments to Board, City and County Government, and other stakeholders.
    • Lead and manage transparent Request for Proposals processes, proposal reviews, and awards procedures;
    • Effectively and transparently communicate the process and administration of funds to stakeholders and investors;
    • Assist in negotiating complex contracts, agreements, and commitments to support Early Childhood education in Shelby County with public and private partners;
    • Establish a strong communications platform to aid in the education and support of First 8 Memphis and its partners.


A successful first year in this role for the new Executive Director will include:

  • Hire and effectively onboard key support staff;
  • Establish performance criteria to ensure high-quality Pre-K and other support services to scale, including the assessment of potential providers against that criteria and implementation of an evidence-based process to determine how funds are distributed;
  • Successfully contract with Pre-K providers to maintain the current level of pre-K operations in Shelby County while establishing a plan to increase the number of high-quality seats in ‘20-’21;
  • Design implementation plan with a broad coalition of partners for expanding early home visitation programs;
  • Support launching a childcare strategy for improved high-quality services and access through, in part, a shared service model;
  • Establish K-3 priorities with local school district partners;
  • Develop the First 8 Memphis Board of Directors, building its capacity to govern the organization, manage the distribution of funds and exercise appropriate fiscal oversight;
  • Launch an effective website and other communications platforms, implementing a communications plan to regularly convey progress to funders, partners and the broader community;
  • Build strong working relationships with key stakeholders, regularly convening working groups to help guide the implementation of the strategy;
  • Partner with the First 8 Memphis Board, Leadership Council, local and national partners and Seeding Success to establish and track progress against expected outcomes and key performance indicators.


In order to fulfill these responsibilities, the ideal Executive Director candidate will be:

  • An accomplished leader with a track record of success in the early childhood, healthcare, social services and/or education sector who is dedicated to First 8 Memphis’ mission and has a deep commitment to ensuring that all children and families can access the opportunities they deserve.
  • Inspiring in his or her management style; one who sees the possibility in all adults and is willing to devote time to coach and develop them while holding them accountable to measurable results.
  • Culturally competent and a self-reflective leader who understands the effects of race, class, ethnicity, income, sexual orientation, gender identity, national origin, and other issues of difference in society and is able to lead direct conversations about them.
  • Skilled in strategic planning, project management, and data analysis; able to focus on big-picture priorities while not losing sight of the details.
  • Systems thinker who understands local constituencies, partners, the program framework and policy considerations.
  • A sound fiscal manager who is comfortable with numbers has a high level of ethics around accounting practices and is successful in budgeting and financial planning.
  • A builder of authentic relationships with community partners, policymakers, funders and other supporters, able to engage with a variety of individuals and speaks in a clear and compelling manner about the organization’s goals and priorities.

To Apply

Please submit a resume and thoughtful cover letter addressed to Mark Sturgis/Kathy Buckman Gibson online at For additional questions about this position or to speak with someone about your interest, please contact Kevin Bryant at or at 510.575.9635.

First 8 Memphis/Seeding Success is an equal opportunity employer and an organization that values diversity. Recruiting staff to create an inclusive organization is a priority, and we encourage applicants from all backgrounds. Candidates are evaluated solely on their qualifications to perform the work required.

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C Level Executive Leadership

Experience Level

Senior Level

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