Five months after Gov. Dannel P. Malloy tapped her as his new coordinator for the early childhood ed, Myra Jones-Taylor accepted a new mission Monday for New Haven schools.
Jones-Taylor (pictured), an East Rock mom with a PhD from Yale in American studies and anthropology, became the newest member of the city school board at its meeting Monday at 54 Meadow St.
Mayor John DeStefano led her through her oath of office as she began a four-year term. DeStefano, who serves on the eight-person board and appoints its members, chose her to fill a vacancy left by Selase Williams, a former provost at Southern Connecticut State University who left the state in June for a new job.
Williams joined the school board three years prior, as the mayor launched an ambitious campaign to improve city schools. He helped establish SCSU as a partner in that effort, including on a new K-4 public school that’s being planned for SCSU’s campus.
Jones-Taylor, who’s 36, said she brings to the table “a focus on early childhood.” Gov. Malloy appointed her in May to craft a statewide plan for educating and caring for kids from birth to 8 years old.
She noted New Haven Public Schools already has a robust system of pre-K offerings—the largest in the state, according to city officials. The city serves 1,600 pre-kindergartners, according to schools Superintendent Reggie Mayo. All new K-8 schools now offer pre-K.
In her first day on the school board, Jones-Taylor heard from several parents who had struck out in the magnet school lottery and are seeking to expand the city’s pre-K options.
“I hear those concerns,” she said.
Jones-Taylor said she has close friends who didn’t get chosen in the lottery.
“We have an incredible system, but it’s not feeding the needs of enough families,” she said.
Recognizing budgetary constraints, Jones-Taylor said the city needs to find “creative ways to fund these programs.”
Asked about the biggest challenge facing city schools, Jones-Taylor declined to say: “I don’t know. I’m just so new to this.”
Jones-Taylor lives in East Rock with her husband, Matt Taylor, a former Amistad Academy principal who’s now coordinating a partnership between New Haven Public Schools and Achievement First to train aspiring principals. She said was lucky enough to be able to afford to pay for quality pre-K spots for her two kids, ages 6 and 9.
A cultural anthropologist, Jones-Taylor is the author of a forthcoming book that looks at how New Haven child care providers “responded to changes in child care policy at the turn of the twenty-first century,” according to a city press release. She also serves on Malloy’s P-20 Council, which “supports collaboration among early childhood, K-12, higher education and workforce training sectors.”
In a press statement, Superintendent Mayo called her “a valuable asset, especially as we seek to strengthen preschool opportunities for our children.”