Independence County

Excel by Eight in Independence County

Independence County is one of the inaugural community partners for Excel by Eight. Led by the Batesville Area Chamber of Commerce, E8 joins other education-related initiatives in the area and incorporates goals that are inclusive of ages birth to eight as a foundation for improving outcomes for the whole child.

The steering committee in Independence County formed four subcommittees based on priorities determined by the Data Walk events, a community input process:

  • Child care quality and availability
  • Oral language and literacy
  • Early childhood development (including physical and social-emotional development)
  • Oral health

During fall 2022, all four school districts’ public preschool centers will participate in LENA Grow, a 10-week program intended to measure and improve adult-child interactions in early care. Read more about the program here.

Additionally, Independence County received funds from Delta Dental to launch the Healthy Smiles project. Its aim is to increase the number of young children going to the dentist early. All four school districts and STARS Academy are participating, reaching over 1,000 children under age 5.

A second round of Early Development Instrument (EDI) results has been released. The EDI is a population measure of how young children are developing based on the five domains of early childhood development: physical health and wellbeing; social competence; emotional maturity; language and cognitive skills; and communication skills and general knowledge. Kindergarten teachers in each school district completed the assessment for their students in spring 2022.


North-central region of Arkansas, adjacent to the White River

Specialties in agriculture, healthcare, banking and retail

Lyon College

Implemented first community school model in the state

Steering Committee


Jamie Rayford, Batesville Area Chamber of Commerce

Committee Members

Jennifer Douglas, Batesville School District

Amy Finster, White River Health System

Jessica Gilmer, Midland Preschool

Mary-Katherine Hardin, STARS Academy

Novella Humphrey, Southside School District

Kristie Jenkins, ARCare

Crystal Johnson, Batesville Area Chamber of Commerce

Abbi Limbaugh, Cedar Ridge School District

Whitney Massey, Baker Family Dentistry

Lisa Mcghee, Southside Schools

Bani Meharg, Midland Elementary

Dr. Lesley Milton, Tooth Be Told Pediatric Dentistry

Debbie Mize, Child Care Aware

Brandi Nelson, University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences North Central

Kimberly Poole, Southside School District

Dr. Julia Roulier, University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences

Mindy Shaw, Batesville Preschool

Brooke Stevenson, Parent

Dr. Nikki Yonts, Lyon College

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