The Board of Commissioners meets on the second Thursday of each month at 1:30 p.m., unless otherwise indicated, at the First 5 LA offices. All meetings are open to the public, and agendas are posted on our website at least 72 hours in advance. Please check our Commission Calendar for all updated meeting information and click here for Commission meeting packets, agendas, summaries and meeting notes.
The July 11 Board meeting began on a bittersweet note when Board members and staff in attendance bid a fond farewell to First 5 LA’s longest-employed staff member (lovingly known as Employee #1), Armando Jimenez, director of measurement, learning and evaluation.
Jimenez, a self-proclaimed “data person” who has worked at First 5 LA since its first days, couldn’t help but run the data on the estimated number of Commission meetings he has participated in over the years. According to Jimenez’s calculations, that number was more than 750.
“The constant theme throughout those 750 meetings,” Jimenez said in his address to the Board, “was being able to engage with folks who have full-time jobs that were already overwhelming, but you [the Commissioners] have the passion to come here and sort through our sometimes-craziness to work in service of better outcomes for children and families.”
Click here to read our recent story covering Jimenez’s 20-year tenure.
Following words from Jimenez, the meeting was opened to public comment. Ana Nieves and Maria Palacios, community leaders from Best Start Metro, addressed the Board with words of gratitude for First 5 LA’s support.
“I would like to thank First 5 LA and Los Angeles Walks for collaborating and supporting my community,” said Nieves.
Los Angeles Walks — an organization dedicated to making Los Angeles a more pedestrian-friendly city — was a strategic partnership that sunset this past June.
“I learned how to do a petition, fill out an application for a special event, and how to get numbers to solicit information,” Palacios said in her public comment. “And I learned that one should have support from the city.”
As a result of their community leadership efforts, Nieves and Palacios have recently been appointed to the L.A. Pedestrian Advisory Committee. Most recently, the two women helped organize a community block party and forum dedicated to raising awareness for safer streets in their community.
[Pictured: Best Start Metro LA Community Leader Maria Palacios]
One of the notable action items from the Consent Calendar was the Board’s unanimous approval of a strategic partnership with Resource Legacy Fund in the amount of $600,000, to execute the Link Governments, Advocates, Families and Parks (Link) Program.
The impetus for the Link project began percolating at First 5 LA following the release of a report entitled “Measures Matter,” funded by Los Angeles Funders’ Collaborative (of which First 5 LA is a part) and written by the University of Southern California Program for Environmental and Regional Equity.
The report focused on why low-income neighborhoods faced obstacles in receiving funds created by Measure M (transportation/mobility) and Measure A (parks/open space, in a 2016 vote). The report found that a key barrier to accessing those resources was a lack of capacity amongst government agencies and Congressional Budget Offices, as well as a lack of inclusion for residents in the decision-making process. This results in resource distribution to wealthier areas rather than the places that most need it.
In response to the report and to help combat this obstacle, First 5 LA created the concept of Link, which focuses on creating partnerships between parents, residents, municipal governments and experts in park development to develop and then mobilize around a comprehensive park/open space plan that would be the basis for applying for Measure A funding.
Through a strategic partnership with Resource Legacy Fund, Link will focus on three goals: 1) capacity building in under-invested communities to leverage Measure M and Measure A funds; 2) ensuring that parents and residents have a voice in decision-making and that the funding meets the needs of children and families; and 3) partnering with L.A. County Regional Parks and Open Space District to integrate Link into the TAP program for Measure A.
To find more details on this strategic partnership, please view the memo to the Board here.
The rest of the meeting was dedicated to the Board’s Strategic Plan Refinement Process (SPR4) retreat. Guided by the “World Cafe” model –– a tool used globally for facilitating “conversations that matter” by mimicking the casual but essential way interactions take place around a dining table –– the retreat consisted of four tables with different topics, each dedicated to an aspect of the strategic plan.
Preceding the World Cafe was a presentation by Vice President of Programs Christina Altmayer, Learning for Action founder Steven LaFrance and Communities Department Coordinator Brittney Hojo. The presentation was to inform the Board of the recent findings of First 5 LA’s internal values refinement workgroups, as to inform and frame the Board’s retreat discussions.
This spring, 11 staff members from across all four divisions participated in a workgroup focused on refining and updating First 5 LA’s internal values with the knowledge that these internal values impact external action.
“These act as guiding principles for how we’ll do our work,” Altmayer said in reference to the findings of the values refinement team. “Our values are one of the guardrails for our Strategic Plan Refinement Process.”
“Just as we are beginning to refine our programmatic strategy based on our learnings and reflections on where we have come and where we want to go, we’ve used a similar process with re-finding our values,” added Hojo, who was the representative of the values workgroup.
Highlights from the values refinement included the addition of a new value to guide First 5 LA’s work, “Diversity, Equity and Inclusion.”
“The three values were combined to recognize the ways diversity, equity and inclusion are all interconnected,” Hojo told the Board. “And in addressing one, you are also addressing elements of the other values.”
LaFrance ended the presentation by explaining how the four topics of the retreat discussions were decided based on areas where Commissioners had shown repeated interest, as well as areas of the Strategic Plan where there might be significant change or newness.
The four topics with main, driving questions were:
- Early Care and Education Quality Supports: How should First 5 LA prioritize its quality improvement efforts in ECE settings, informed by the QSLA quality framework?
- Kindergarten Readiness Assessment: What is First 5 LA’s long-term objective for kindergarten readiness assessment in L.A. County?
- Communications: What are the strategic objectives of First 5 LA’s communications investments and activities in furtherance of our systems change goals?
- Alternative Revenue: What role can First 5 LA play in designing and driving alternative revenue generation strategies, beyond the Prop 10 tobacco tax?
To view the entire list of topic discussion questions, please click here.
Following the retreat discussions, Commissioners shared highlights and reflections. In the ECE Quality Support and Kindergarten Readiness Assessment discussion groups, questions arose about how First 5 LA can better align the K–12 system to fit with the quality being instilled in 0–5 education. One of the themes from the Communications discussion session was how we can better engage parents to have them understand why it’s important to use these different efforts in support of their child. Regarding Alternative Revenues, Commissioner Romalis Taylor shared his reflections, stating that if alternative revenue streams manifested, it would be essential that First 5 LA put the money towards two different goals: systems change and modeling concepts that support evidence that can be used to influence systems change.
Commissioner Deanne Tilton Durfee closed by sharing a common theme she heard throughout the four discussions: “First 5 isn’t the dictator or director, but we are the enabler. So we say, ‘How can we help? How can we work together? And how can we improve?’”
Board input from the July 11 retreat will be used to inform the next step in the SPR4 process, “Refine,” which will be presented at the September 12 Board of Commissioners and September 26 Special Board/Program and Planning Committee meetings.