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Early education nonprofit First 8 starts new search for leader in Memphis

Pre-K students at Lucie E. Campbell Elementary in Memphis.
Pre-K students at Lucie E. Campbell Elementary in Memphis.
Jacinthia Jones

First 8, the nonprofit that oversees early education in Shelby County, has reopened its search for a permanent executive director.

The board on Tuesday approved hiring Chicago-based Carrington & Carrington to conduct the search for $50,000 plus expenses. The firm is expected to find up to six “quality” candidates.

Board members emphasized that they would like to have a director in place as soon as possible, but didn’t set a specific timeline other than about six months.

First 8 Memphis was established earlier this year to help prepare children for kindergarten, and oversee public dollars for early education efforts.

Board member Alex Smith, who worked with staff to vet the search firm, advocated for Carrington, saying they best understood the local as well as national talent and appreciated the importance of diversity in the candidates.

Carrington’s cover letter describes itself as a minority and women-owned business with 35 years experience that “specializes in the recruitment and placement of people of color, women and LGBT professionals” in senior management positions. Also, one of the firm’s vice presidents lives in Memphis.

First 8 initially hired Edgility, a California-based consulting and executive search firm, to conduct its first search. Edgility provided three candidates, and the board offered the job to one in June, but the candidate declined after taking another position.

Carrington has a perfect retention rate in recently recruited hires, including candidates at Southwest Community College and LeMoyne-Owen College, said Jamilica Burke, director of collaborative action for Seeding Success, which provides support for First 8. She noted that the firm has developed a strong internal database of professionals over the last 35 years.

“We know more than likely [the executive director] will be someone already working and not even looking for this position,” Burke said.

If the candidate stays on the job less than a year, the firm will conduct a second search at no cost to First 8.

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