One of the first people I met when interviewing to join the Under 3 DC team was Sia Barbara Ferguson Kamara. I knew then from her insightful, thought-provoking questions that she was a force in early education. Her actual superstar status was not clear to me until this past January when I read her bio while collaborating to plan and produce a WPFW radio show, To Heal DC, about the early educator COVID vaccine controversy.
Sia is a DC Early Learning Collaborative (DCELC) Board Member and an international early childhood systems consultant with the Open Society Foundations’ Early Childhood Program and the Ministry of Education in Liberia. She is also an active and impactful member of Under 3 DC.
Before joining DCELC and consulting, Sia worked for 21 years as an Administrator of the District of Columbia’s Department of Human Services/Office of the State Superintendent of Early Care and Education (OSSE). During her tenure, she served four mayors and moved DC’s standing in early childhood education to number one.
Sia’s community connections run deep, and she knows how the pandemic has impacted early education. After a recent budget season messaging conversation with Under 3 DC’s Communications Committee, Sia shared her thinking about how our community should advocate this year and move the District closer to implementing Birth-to-Three.
- The District must use funding available through recent federal sources to stabilize the existing center and home-based early education and businesses, emphasizing quality, improved business practices, and technology. These businesses have been negatively impacted because of the Coronavirus pandemic.
- The District must implement varied strategies and policies to create new high-quality programs and establish a pipeline that results in a new cadre of infant and toddler early education and care educators to replace those who have left the field during the pandemic and to ensure that staff is available for newly created programs.
- Early educators must be empowered to become activists in their own interest. This should be accomplished through a formalized training structure. The District must review the results of the 2018 Compensation Study, adjust for current inflation, and establish and implement a salary scale for infant and toddler educators. The study and salary scale should be disseminated to the field to establish equitable compensation regardless of auspice.
- Because early education and care serve as the initial building blocks of a child’s educational and economic trajectory, now is the time for the District to recognize it as a critical part of the public good and use the same public dollars that support K-12 education to support Pre-K and B-3 education regardless of setting. This will require strategies that engage citizens in all eight Wards, the executive and legislative branches of government, the business community, parents and guardians, and early education and care educators. Under 3 DC and other Birth-to-Three supporters should educate and engage diverse families and communities who can educate and engage others regarding the importance of full funding and implementation of the Birth-to-Three law.
From my Under 3 DC interview to last summer’s #SaveDCChildCare rally, Sia Barbara Ferguson Kamara continues to engage, lead, and teach. The community is grateful for her ongoing commitment to making life more equitable for DC’s youngest children and their families.