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Early School Success Leadership Camp 2023

Early School Success Leadership Camp 2023

Temps soared above 100 degrees on August 14 as school teams from four Early School Success (ESS) districts spent the day exploring change ideas and making plans for the new school year.

At the Northwest Regional Education Service District in Hillsboro, more than 30 educators gathered for the Early School Success (ESS) Summer Leadership Camp. The camp, the first of its kind offered by Children’s Institute, created a space to learn about the nuts and bolts of creating change at the school and district levels.

School teams from Beaverton, St. Helens, Forest Grove, and Lincoln County school districts attended the leadership camp and participate continually in ESS.

Erin Lolich, who will oversee ESS starting September 1 as the director of school-based initiatives, said she wants school teams and principals to start the year with a strong understanding of improvement science and aligning preschool and elementary school systems.

“We want the best of what preschool and elementary school have to offer, and we want those learning experiences to be aligned,” she said. “To do that, we need to bring people together to explore what that looks like, practice decision making, and explore change ideas for their school community.”

“Improvement science is like a journey, it’s a framework we use to help change systems,” said Daniel Ramirez, senior improvement advisor for Community Design Partners, a long time CI partner for Early School Success. “It’s not necessarily a linear process. It can be very cyclical, but it keeps teams moving forward.”

This image shows Daniel Ramirez giving a presentation at ESS Leadership Camp.
The improvement process starts by defining problems. School teams explore how the existing system creates those problems, and then work to identify changes that will solve them. From there, changes need to be tested and evaluated for effectiveness. Once something is working, it needs to spread to other classrooms or schools.

The process sounds simple but takes time and intentionality.

Ramirez reminded educators that it’s possible to improve systems. “They can be redesigned,” he said. “But let’s remember that all change is not an improvement.”

This image shows a smiling group of CI Staff members standing in a line.
For a student, improvement and alignment can look like making sure the transition from kindergarten to first grade is smooth. “In a school with a new principal and for a student with a new teacher, it’s important we consider how students experience change,” Lolich said. “They need to know what they can count on when they come to school.”

District teams talked about bright spots and what they were looking forward to this fall.

In Beaverton, Superintendent Gus Balderas has committed to continued preschool expansion throughout the district. In Lincoln County, school leaders are working to locate area preschools inside school buildings.

This image shows a group of ESS participants from Beaverton School District.
The St. Helens team has gotten started on aligning curriculum from preschool through fifth grade.
This image shows a group of participants from the St. Helens School District.
The Forest Grove team discussed how to create a great learning environment for kids by focusing on social and emotional health.

“Social emotional work is so important,” said Rogelio Martinez, principal at Fern Hill Elementary in Forest Grove. “But doing it without a focus on race, culture, and ethnicity is white supremacy with a hug.”


This image shows a group of ESS participants from Forest School District.
Attention to identity and belonging was a theme for the day. “Exploring these are central to the work and key for educators as they work with children,” Lolich said.

In Beaverton, the power of play and using loose parts – a wide array of building and craft materials – is helping teachers and school leaders be more culturally responsive.

“Kids, parents, and teachers all have opportunities to learn and internalize the power of play,” said Monique Singleton, principal at Vose Elementary. “Parents learn to engage with their kids in new ways, teachers generate new ideas for instruction, and kids can better explore complex ideas like racism.”

Ellen Arnold, the assistant principal at Vose Elementary, said cultural responsiveness includes finding new ways to explore storytelling in new and dynamic ways. “We’ve introduced these ideas in our school,” she said, “now we need to grow opportunities for people to use it.”

“Prioritizing student identity and voice helps kids come to conclusions about things where using words might be more difficult,” Singleton said. “Play helps get to a deeper level of understanding, and stories create connection.”

That’s true for kids and adults.

Throughout the leadership camp, educators shared stories and perspectives with each other that explored identity, collaboration, and psychological safety. In some ways it all adds up to what Lolich described as “the art of teaming,” adults pulling together to reshape their school communities in ways that are best for young kids.

Ultimately, that’s what ESS is all about.

Toward Human Centered Education: An Interview with Ulcca Joshi Hansen

Toward Human Centered Education: An Interview with Ulcca Joshi Hansen


In this episode of the Early Link Podcast, our host Rafael Otto speaks with Dr. Ulcca Joshi Hansen, interim executive director and chief program officer at Grantmakers for Education, about the need for transformational change in the education system.  


Dr. Hansen discusses the importance of equity and access, the role of philanthropy in creating long-term infrastructure investment, and rethinking traditional assumptions about the public school system. With that, she shares her thoughts on the cultural discontent and dominant worldview in education, and how returning to our humanity can lead to positive change for all.


She also speaks to the principals laid out in her book, “The Future of Smart: How Our Education System Needs to Change to Help All Young People Thrive,” which explores how we can build an education system to nurture the unique abilities of each child and build a foundation for a more just and equitable future. 

Press Release: Public Opinion Supports Expanded Investment in Early Childhood

Press Release: Public Opinion Supports Expanded Investment in Early Childhood



Amaury Vogel, Associate Executive Director, Oregon Values and Belief Center, 503.734.6748

Marina Merrill, Director of Research and Strategy, Children’s Institute, 503.860.3833

Public opinion about Oregon’s child care crisis is clear: most people across Oregon want the state and federal government to create solutions and increase investments in child care and preschool.

A recent representative survey of 1,926 residents conducted by the Oregon Values and Belief Center (OVBC) indicates that 80 percent of Oregonians support increases in state funding to support child care needs, regardless of whether they have children.

Amaury Vogel, associate executive director at OVBC, said the data shows strong bipartisan support for child care and early childhood investments broadly. “People can see the impact of the child care crisis in their own lives and for others in their community. And they are looking for solutions that include public investment to strengthen infrastructure, increase wages and benefits, make care more accessible, decrease the cost of care, and create more equitable early childhood opportunities.”

More Key Findings

  • 60 percent of Oregonians spend 20 percent of the monthly income on child care.
  • 54 percent of Oregon employers say that access to child care impacts their ability to hire and/or retain employees.
  • 80 percent of Oregonians think it is important to increase spending on early learning opportunities.
  • 77 percent of Oregonians think it is important to increase spending on infrastructure for more child care centers.

Today, less than one third of children age 0-5 have access to regulated child care facilities. Nearly 75 percent of communities in Oregon are child care deserts.

2023 Advocacy

“When we listen to economic updates, the re-occurring theme tends to be that we need more affordable housing, and we need child care,” said Kali Thorne Ladd, chief executive officer at Children’s Institute. “But the conversation too often ends there, and we don’t thread the two together. Thriving communities requires that we do so. This is what economic development looks like at its finest.”

Children’s Institute is currently trying to bring this to fruition by advocating for the passage of HB 3005, which would create an early learning and care facilities fund to build infrastructure for early childhood across the state. Two additional bills would strengthen the state’s facilities infrastructure from a policy perspective: SB 599 creates protections for child care providers operating in rental homes; HB 2727 initiates a review of zoning, land use, and building core requirements and makes recommendations that would facilitate and incentivize the construction of new child care facilities.


“The cost of child care is a huge barrier for all families but particularly lower income families. The cost of care often outpaces the income generated by the employed person. This ties the lower income parent, generally the woman, to the home and inhibits professional development that would provide gateways to higher income jobs.”
OVBC Survey Respondent


Children’s Institute’s mission is to shift systems toward justice for families so that all children in Oregon, prenatal to grade five, have access to opportunity. Children’s Institute advocates for and secures public investments in early childhood programs and services, and works directly with school communities to improve the learning experience for children. Learn more at

The mission of the Oregon Values and Beliefs Center is to provide accurate, inclusive opinion research to help Oregonians working to build stronger communities. OVBC’s research is ongoing; independent and nonpartisan; representative of rural Oregon and communities of color; valid and statistically reliable; and quantitative and qualitative. Learn more at



Home Visiting Provides Personalized Care to New Parents & Strengthens Families

Home Visiting Provides Personalized Care to New Parents & Strengthens Families


On this episode of The Early Link Podcast, our host Rafael Otto speaks with Jennifer Gould who currently works as a Nurse Home Visitor for the Nurse Family Partnership program with the Multnomah County Health Department. Gould has been in this role for more than 15 years, is a Registered Nurse, and is also an International Board Certified Lactation Consultant. 

The Nurse Family Partnership is a community based, public health program with 45 years of research showing evidence of significant improvements in the health and lives of first-time moms and their children affected by social and economic inequality. 


Gould kicks off the episode with the history and meaning behind the Nurse Family Partnership program, what brought her into the work, and how she became a home visitor.  

She also explains how families are connected to the program, shares about what it looks like to work with families and discusses how services have changed because of the pandemic. Gould shares some of the experiences she’s had while supporting new parents, with the hope that more people will be aware of how impactful and important these programs are to so many young children and families.


[00:00:00] Rafael Otto: Hello everyone. This is the Early Link Podcast. I’m Rafael Otto. Thanks for tuning in. As always, appreciate your ears on our segments. You can catch us on 99.1 FM in the Portland Metro on Sundays at 4:30 PM or tune in at your convenience wherever you find your podcasts. That includes Spotify, Amazon Music, Apple Podcasts, and as always, you can listen on our website at

I’m talking today with Jennifer Gould, who currently works as a nurse home visitor for the Nurse Family Partnership Program with the Multnomah County Health Department here in Oregon. She has been in this role for more than 15 years and is trained as a registered nurse and also an international board certified lactation consultant.

That program, the Nurse Family Partnership is community based public health program with more than 45 years of research. Showing evidence of significant improvements in the health and lives of first time moms and their children affected by social and economic inequality.

Jennifer, it’s great to have you on the podcast today. Thanks for joining me.

[00:01:11] Jennifer Gould: Great. Thank you, Rafael. It’s nice to be here.

[00:01:13] Rafael Otto: I wanted to just start, if you could tell me a little bit about the program Nurse Family Partnership, and then what drew you to the work? How did you become a home visitor?

[00:01:26] Jennifer Gould: Yeah, thank you. You know, the program was originally called The Olds Model. Based on the, the. NAN researcher that actually developed the program, who was Dr. David Olds, who is still involved. And the story I always kind of have heard from him and that I tell is when he finished his first kind of round of studies, I believe he’s a, you know, sociologist, psychologist, that kind of realm of world, was working in a daycare center kind of similar to like a head start. And he said, you know what I realized is that at age three or four, some of these families were doing great. These families all had to qualify by income to come in. Some of them were doing great and their kids are thriving, and other families by age three or four really needed some support for a couple of years before their kids showed up at our center.

And so he really started to look at what programs already existed that potentially supporting families before they hit school age. And how he could really not just replicate, but also really… I mean, what to me was fascinating about him is that he was one of the first people to really kind of started to say, how can we…? We need to actually do some kind of studies and do some research to really see is it just the information or is it the program?

And so he and his teams and teams of people at this point have done a few really long term trials, and they can really quantify a little bit the positive outcomes that we see by this kind of a relationship, this based program. The basic idea is that a especially trained home visiting nurse is matched with a family during pregnancy. We do prioritize first time parents and we prioritize families before the last trimester of pregnancy. He really found that it was a true window of opportunity where people were really open for support and really thinking about change.

Please download the full transcript below.

Honoring Children with Dr. Dolores Subia BigFoot

Honoring Children with Dr. Dolores Subia BigFoot

The Early Link is back with an all new episode!


On this episode of The Early Link Podcast, host Rafael Otto speaks with Dr. Dolores Subia BigFoot. Dr. BigFoot is a presidential professor in the Department of Pediatrics, University of Oklahoma Health Sciences Center, and directs the Indian Country Child Trauma Center where she is recognized for her efforts to bring traditional American Indian practices and beliefs into the formal teaching and instruction of professionals working with Native populations. She is an enrolled member of the Caddo Nation of Oklahoma and affiliated with the Northern Cheyenne Tribe, where her children are enrolled.


The episode begins with Dr. BigFoot sharing a story about her mother, who had made a comment about all her years going to school only to teach what humans themselves live every day. However, there is a much larger picture, and Dr. BigFoot further elaborates on how her work is informed by the history of colonization, historical trauma, loss and grief. And ultimately how they show up in her work with children and families.

Indigenous culture is primarily honor-based, but Dr. BigFoot has recently observed that shame has replaced honor. She details what this finding means for indigenous culture overall, and how and why evidence-based treatment can help heal that shame and trauma, particularly in children in Indian country. She further states what it has been like to adapt these treatment models and how it was accomplished to begin with.

Closing us out, Dr. BigFoot touches on doing some work here in Oregon on parent-child interaction, and potentially working with tribal communities in Oregon.


[00:00:00] Rafael Otto: Hello everyone, this is the Early Link Podcast. I’m Rafael Otto. It’s been a few months since we’ve recorded a new segment, so it’s great to be back behind the mic and hitting record in the studio today. We really appreciate you tuning in.

You can catch us on 99.1FM in the Portland Metro on Sundays at 4:30 PM or tune in at your convenience wherever you find your podcasts, including Apple Podcasts, Spotify, and Amazon Music, and as always, on our website at

Today my guest is Dr. Dolores Subia BigFoot. She’s an enrolled member of the Caddo Nation of Oklahoma with affiliation with the Northern Cheyenne Tribe where her children are enrolled. She’s a Presidential Professor in the Department of Pediatrics, University of Oklahoma Health Sciences Center, and directs the Indian Country Child Trauma Center, where she is recognized for her efforts to bring traditional American Indian practices and beliefs into the formal teaching and instruction of professionals working with Native populations.

Dolores, welcome to the podcast. It’s great to have you here.

[00:01:04] Dolores BigFoot: Thank you.

[00:01:05] Rafael Otto: I wanted to start, you’ve described yourself as a storyteller, and I wanted to ask you to share a story about your mother. She made a comment about all of your years going to school and training to be a psychologist, and then to teach what you live every day. Can you elaborate on that?

[00:01:22] Dolores BigFoot: When I first came on as faculty, some 30 plus years ago. I had finished my PhD and was hired at the University of Oklahoma Health Sciences Center to create a culturally based intervention for behavioral health programs to better serve American Indian, Alaskan Native children. So one of the things that we would do is to help behavioral health clinicians who are working in Indian country to understand the history. So the historical aspects of how our communities have got where they were at currently. Understand the disparities as well as understand particularly the strength. And so in order to share about what the strengths are for various communities, we provided opportunity to engage in some of the cultural experiences that I certainly grew up with.

And that included prayer, feeding people, ceremony, have an opportunity with storytelling to telling stories. And so because it was culturally based, certainly with my family, then my mother and others in my family would be present for these kind of activities. Some ceremonial, some cultural, some social, some all three.

As we were sitting there one evening. My mother who was, you know, very supportive of my efforts, was asking me, why did I go through a PhD program? She saw the, the hardship of that PhD program. I was a single mom with three kids going through a PhD program. And she said, “Why did you go through all that hard time, hard struggle to teach not even teach but just engage and participate and share the way that we have always lived?” For me that was one of the greatest compliments my mother could give to me. So being able to help others experience or participate in things that have meaning in terms of cultural knowledge, in terms of cultural based understanding, cultural based application.

And I think that was what we want to do with the Honor… Honoring Children series is to allow individuals an understanding and how they can still apply the Indigenous knowledge that we have had for a long time to those things that have been harmful or have created dysfunction in our family and in our relationships.

Please download the full transcript below.

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