Fraser Hammersly | First 5 LA Digital Content Specialist

March 28, 2023

First 5 LA’s Meeting of the Board of Commissioners convened in a hybrid format on March 9. The agenda included information about an upcoming request to dispose of eligible public records and a presentation on First 5 LA’s Strategic Plan Reset, followed by breakout groups and Board discussion. Additionally, the meeting served as a farewell to outgoing Commissioner Romalis Taylor, who has served on the Board of Commissioners for six years.  

The First 5 LA Board of Commissioners met in a hybrid format on March 9. Following the unanimous approval of the consent agenda, L.A. County Supervisor and Commission Chair Holly J. Mitchell utilized chair remarks to bid a fond farewell to Commissioner Romalis Taylor. 

“Your experience and willingness to serve have not gone unnoticed,” Mitchell said. “I recognize that serving on a commission requires a lot of time — particularly this one. I’m convinced that the Commission has thrived and is better, as well as all of L.A. County’s children, as a result of your service and commitment.”  

Appointed to First 5 LA’s Board by former L.A. County Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas in May 2017, Taylor brought over thirty years of experience working across mental health and social services, as well as program and administrative systems development. He also served as the chair of First 5 LA’s Compton/East Compton Best Start Leadership Group, which advocated, developed, and implemented community activities to strengthen families with children prenatal to age 5. 

“Romalis, we go way back in the children and families field,” Commissioner Jacquelyn McCroskey added. So, I have a really clear vision of just how dedicated you’ve been to children, families and community. I think First 5 has benefited enormously from your vision and from your consistency and from your deep passion for this work,”.  

As a token of appreciation for his dedication to the Commission, Mitchell presented Taylor with a scroll signed by all five L.A. County Supervisors. The First 5 LA team also gave Taylor a seedling plant as a symbol of all the countless seeds he has planted over the years for children’s futures.  

Next on the agenda was a presentation on an upcoming request to authorize the disposition of eligible records. Chief Operating Officer JR Nino and Enterprise Content Management Specialist Danna Schacter gave an overview of First 5 LA’s records management and disposition policy, sharing how the process of reviewing and disposing of public records that have met retention requirements is part of best practices for public agencies.  

The Board will vote on the item at the May 4 commission meeting. For more information, click here. 

 In July 2022, First 5 LA began the process of reviewing and refining its 2020-28 Strategic Plan. The next presentation was focused on how that review and refinement process has shifted into a fundamental Strategic Plan reset in light of the recent passage of Proposition 31. 

As shared at the February Board meeting, Proposition 31, which banned the sale of flavored tobacco products in the state as of Jan. 1, 2023,  has resulted in a greater-than-anticipated decrease in Proposition 10 revenues that fund all First 5 commissions in California. The context of this updated fiscal reality has led First 5 LA to reexamine its strategies, approaches and priorities. 

To guide the Board in a discussion around this topic, Chief Transformation Officer Antoinette Andrews-Bush and Senior Strategist Kaya Tith joined the Board to present First 5 LA’s “2023 Strategic Plan Reset.” 

In her overview of the review and refinement process to date, Andrews-Bush noted how, prior to Proposition 31 and since the approval of the refined North Star in November 2022, First 5 LA had planned to make limited refinements to its values, investment guidelines, systems change approaches, strategic priorities and objectives. With this updated fiscal reality, however, a fundamental change to the organization’s approach is needed to address diminishing revenues.  

“Our Strategic Plan reset is not about starting from scratch,” Andrews-Bush said, explaining what the reset entails. “We have knowledge and insights from over 20 years of experience. We’ve learned a lot about ourselves and about our work during the first three years of implementing our current Strategic Plan. We have solid working relationships with communities, with County public agencies, and across the statewide First 5 system that informs our thinking and approach to the work. So, we have a very strong, solid foundation.” 

Tith spoke next to explain what the Strategic Plan reset means for where the organization is going. She shared that the data and analysis of the current landscape, along with the engagement of Board members, internal team members, communities, and partners, are critical to redefining First 5 LA’s strategies.  

“We know that we live in a very different world now than we did when the plan was approved in 2018,” Tith said. “So, that means really being informed by data and analysis — What is the current landscape for young children and families in L.A. County? Throughout the reset process, we also want to hear from and be in partnership with the Board, staff, communities, public agency partners and other key stakeholders to inform the strategies that we will prioritize.”  

Given the organization’s unique vantage point and updated fiscal reality, Tith stated that narrowing First 5 LA’s priorities to achieve greater impact was critical; achieving this would require both an exploration of which public systems to focus on and a deeper understanding of First 5 LA’s role. 

Commissioners then broke out into smaller groups to share their thoughts regarding these two key areas. As part of these talks, commissioners discussed which components of the Strategic Plan should be considered in the reset; what data and analysis were needed to better understand the current landscape; what public systems First 5 LA should focus on to drive change; and what top three roles First 5 LA should play in this process 

Key themes from the breakout conversations were reported at the end of the meeting, with Center for Child and Family Impact Executive Vice President John Wager sharing takeaways from the questions regarding which systems First 5 LA should focus on and what role the agency should play.  

Wagner reported that, although commissioners stated that it was difficult to pick exactly which systems First 5 LA should focus on, an underlying theme in their comments was the importance of focusing on systems that connect families with basic needs as a preventative, upstream approach. He called out the example of schools as a central place where families are connected to services, noting that it was important not just to ensure that kids are ready for kindergarten but that schools are ready for kindergartners.  

On the topic of First 5 LA’s role, Wagner reported that commissioners repeatedly underscored the agency’s roles as an advocate, convener, and connector between systems. In addition, First 5 LA also serves as an amplifier of the community voice, bringing community representatives to the table to influence how policies and systems are designed and implemented.  

Health Systems Director Tara Ficek shared Board members’ feedback on what components of the Strategic Plan should be considered in the reset and what data and analysis are needed to understand the current landscape. According to Ficek, the commissioners expressed a need for milestones within the Strategic Plan to create accountability and tangibility when measuring results, as well as concrete language to communicate and define goals. Ficek also stated that commissioners recommended that First 5 LA should work with county and state partners to leverage and share data, as well as work more intentionally with the community to gather community input and feedback on First 5 LA’s strategies.  

For more details on Board feedback, click here for the video replay.  

Board feedback will be reviewed and incorporated into a presentation at the May 4 Board of Commissioners meeting. For details about the meeting, please visit 72 hours in advance of the date. 

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