Pre-K program manager resigns

Jackson County On My Way Pre-K manager Natasha Langford is resigning after 16 months on the job.

Langford, 29, of Seymour, was hired by the Jackson County Education Coalition in March 2015 to oversee the state-funded pilot program, which provides vouchers or scholarships to qualifying low-income families to send their 4-year-olds to preschool.

Her last day is July 15. She is leaving because of issues with her contract and a need for a more balanced work/family schedule, she said.

She also is planning to continue her education to finish her degree in early childhood education.

Before being named to the position, Langford, a wife and mother of four, had been a volunteer with the coalition for more than two years and had helped with grant writing, marketing, social media and community outreach.

Langford said her job has been incredibly rewarding and she will miss many aspects of it.

“I am thankful to have worked with so many people that are dedicated to their work in early childhood education,” she said. “I am going to miss sitting in preschool classrooms, watching children blossoming, laughing and even sharing their imaginary favorite snacks with me.”

As part of her job, Langford developed close working relationships and friendships with area preschool and day care providers.

“I am going to miss talking to providers, even at 10 o’clock at night when they have a great idea on what we can do to continue to improve quality and capacity in the county, helping them to rewrite grant proposals and receiving video messages of their children reading books for the first time,” she said.

She also helped plan community early childhood events, such as the Happy Noon Year’s Eve activity.

But her biggest responsibility has been working with parents to help them provide a brighter future for their children, she said.

“They need someone that they can share their story with as they are trying to find affordable options for their child and which options work best for their family,” she said. “I am going to miss advocating for preschool expansion throughout the state and being involved in making sure that stakeholders understand and help build the system that works for this community.”

The Jackson County Education Coalition is looking to find a replacement for Langford to help continue and grow the On My Way Pre-K program here.

Coalition director Dan Hodge said it won’t be easy to find someone with as much enthusiasm and drive as Langford.

“Natasha has helped move the needle forward on not only the On My Way Pre-K program but in early childhood education overall in Jackson County,” he said.

Hodge said details about filling the position won’t be available until after he has met with state Family and Social Services Administration officials later this week.

“The Jackson County Education Coalition is and will continue to be the spearheading organization for the On My Way Pre-K program here,” he said. “The coalition’s motto is ‘All good things start with a great foundation,’ and having more preschool opportunities in the county is one way to get more children that great foundation.”

Kate Garrity, executive director of Child Care Network, said Langford will be missed.

“Natasha has worked very hard to spread the message of the importance of early childhood education throughout the community,” Garrity said.

Child Care Network is one of 13 On My Way Pre-K providers in the county. The program served 65 children in its first year and has registered 93 children — a nearly 45 percent increase — for the upcoming school year.

“It is very nice to have someone local to talk to and help navigate through everything,” Garrity said of Langford.

Langford said in her time with On My Way Pre-K, she has learned being passionate about one’s work is important, and she hopes to use that passion in her next job opportunity.

“Life is really about making an impact,” she said. “Every day for the past 16 months, I have been able to wake up excited about my work. Every. Single. Day. Who gets to do that?”

Author photo
January Rutherford is a reporter for The (Seymour) Tribune. She can be reached at jrutherford@tribtown.com or 812-523-7069.