Legendary Alabama Department of Early Childhood Education Secretary Jeana Ross to retire, consult for Harvard
Governor Kay Ivey on Thursday announced that Jeana Ross is retiring as secretary of the Alabama Department of Early Childhood Education (ADECE) effective June 1.
Ross has served in this position since 2012, and under her exemplary leadership, the department has received national recognition for their work.
“I am extremely grateful for Secretary Ross’ tireless efforts and dedication to our children,” Ivey said in a statement.
The National Institute for Early Education Research (NIEER) recently ranked Alabama First Class Pre-K as the nation’s highest quality state pre-kindergarten program for the 14th consecutive year. The program is run by ADECE.
Last year, a major study concluded that students who participate in the voluntary pre-k program are more likely to be proficient in math and reading, with no evidence of fade out of the benefits over time. These long-term results hold true even after the study controlled for student demographics and other variables such as poverty.
During her tenure, Ross and her team have grown the world-class pre-K program by more than 470%, from 217 classrooms in 2012 to 1,250 classrooms located in all 67 counties of the state in 2020.
ADECE earlier this week just announced an expansion of 55 additional classrooms, with the voluntary First Class Pre-k program this coming fall now serving 22,500 children, or 38% of four-year-old children in the state.
Ivey added of Ross, “On behalf of our state, she deserves a ‘job well done’ for her work in expanding voluntary, high-quality pre-K to all 67 counties. She is leaving the Department of Early Childhood Education with a great legacy, and we thank her for her service.”
In retirement, Ross will remain in Alabama and plans to consult for the Harvard Graduate School of Education and the Saul Zaentz Charitable Foundation as part of their efforts to promote the importance of early learning throughout the United States.
“It has been an honor and a privilege to serve as Alabama’s secretary of Early Childhood Education for the past eight years,” Ross stated. “I appreciate Governor Ivey’s leadership and commitment to our efforts in ensuring as many children possible have access to a strong education foundation. For 14 years, Alabama’s program has ranked No.1 and serves as a model of excellence in early learning, and I am grateful to be a part of this achievement.”
Ivey is appointing Dr. Trellis Smith to serve as acting secretary until Ross’ replacement is named. Dr. Smith has been employed with ADECE for 19 years, currently serving as the Alabama Head Start collaboration director. She holds a bachelor’s and master’s degree in Family and Child Development from Auburn University and a doctorate in Child and Family Development from the University of Georgia.
Smith’s appointment is also effective June 1.
Sean Ross is the editor of Yellowhammer News. You can follow him on Twitter @sean_yhn