With her appointment to the Texas Early Learning Council, Ector County ISD’s Director of Early Childhood Beatris Mata has taken on what she sees as the awesome responsibility of being a voice for public school education.
Gov. Greg Abbott appointed Mata, Jennifer Stockemer, and Meaghan Young to the Texas Early Learning Council for terms set to expire at the pleasure of the governor. The Texas Early Learning Council serves as Texas’ State Advisory Council as required by the Improving Head Start for School Readiness Act of 2007.
The Council utilizes its breadth of stakeholder representation to increase coordination and collaboration across state agencies and local program and service providers in order to improve the quality of and access to early childhood services across Texas. In 2019, the Council led a statewide birth-five needs assessment and developed the Early Learning Strategic Plan as part of Texas’ Preschool Development Grant project.
“I was really excited,” Mata said.
She added that she was able to apply for the spot because the position was open and the other two positions were as well.
“TEA (the Texas Education Agency) put my name in to be appointed, so they reached out to me. I filled out the paperwork then I went through a series of interviews with Gov. Abbott’s office and then I received an email saying I was appointed,” Mata said.
She added that she wasn’t sure if she was going to get it.
“When I got it, it was a great surprise for sure because I am the … local education agency representative for the state. … I’m able to serve as the voice for public schools on the council, which is a big honor,” but it’s also a big responsibility, Mata said.
“It’s going to help me be more in tune with what’s going on within the state and beyond, so I can help make the best contribution to the council as possible,” she added.
The council meets quarterly as a group unless something comes up and they have to convene more often. Recently, the council has met more frequently as they are working on a strategic plan. The plan includes pieces of what the district, Education Partnership of the Permian Basin and Literacy Coalition of the Permian Basin are working on.
“As an advocate for our youngest learners, I’m looking forward to the collaborative opportunities across the agencies, local programs and service providers in order to improve upon the access and quality of early education statewide. The work that the council is currently engaged in is we are creating the Texas Early Learning Strategic Plan 2024 to 2026,” Mata said.
The plan is expected to be released in early 2024. What the accountability process looks like with local education agencies, childcare facilities and state agencies are still a work in progress.
“That’s where the work is because you can have a plan, but the delivery of the plan, the accountability, the follow-up, because it’s ‘24 to ‘26, so what are those big goals? How can we as a community, not just as a district … working together, help reach those goals because you can’t do it alone. As a school district, there’s only so much that we can do … We need the help of our families, of our parents, of our government, of our childcare …,” Mata said.
“… The purpose of that strategic plan is to improve early childhood outcomes in Texas by increasing access and availability within the state, which includes connecting families to services, so sharing resources (with) families, so that they’re aware of the services that their communities offer, such as health resources and educational resources,” Mata said.
She added that many families come to a community and they don’t know where to start and they need support.
Because this is a “childcare desert,” existing childcare facilities are full and have waiting lists.
Mata said this is a statewide problem.
“With this big push of kindergarten readiness, it’s hard to have a push when there’s not accessibility,” she said.
She added that the state is working toward strengthening early childhood care and the education workforce. ECISD is working with Odessa College and University of Texas Permian Basin to open opportunities for people in the community who are interested in childcare to get the certificates and degrees they need to go into the field.
If everyone works together, the future is exciting, because they can see what other parts of the state are doing to improve on early childhood outcomes. Those ideas or programs could potentially be brought back to Odessa.
Mata, of Odessa, is the director of Early Childhood for the Ector County Independent School District. She is a board member of the Texas Association for Administration and Supervisors of Programs for Young Children, member of the Odessa East Rotary Club, and volunteer at the Ellen Noël Art Museum and Ector County Library. Mata received a Bachelor of Art in Fine Arts and Mass Communications and a Master of Art in Educational Leadership from The University of Texas Permian Basin.
Associate Superintendent of Curriculum and Instruction Lilia Nanez said Abbott made the right choice when he picked Mata for the Texas Early Learning Council.
“Beatris is a gifted educator and leader. She was key in expanding ECISD’s PreK program to serve our 3-year-old children and trained staff in the PreK 4 program to transition from half day to full day,” Nanez said. “She is also very active in community outreach and stays connected to our community stakeholders. She is brilliant.”