Jefferson County

Excel by Eight in Jefferson County

Jefferson County, E8’s newest member community, is led by Cathi Swan at the Arkansas River Education Service Cooperative. The steering committee has been formalized and includes representatives from K-12 education, health, home visiting, business, philanthropy, and higher education.

In 2023, the local steering committee will launch the research phase of the E8 process, gathering community input on priority areas by hosting data walk events and talking with parents, educators, service providers, and other stakeholders who work on behalf of families with children ages 0-8.

Data walks are gallery-style presentations of statistics related to boxes on the E8 resource grid. Excel by Eight presents initial data to participants and asks them to react. This helps us better understand where children are excelling and where we may need to shore up local resources.


East-central Arkansas, bisected by the Arkansas River

University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff and Southeast Arkansas College

Leading producer of cotton, soybeans, rice, poultry, and timber

Trade, entertainment, recreation, and health care center for Southeast Arkansas

Steering Committee


Cathi Swan, Chair, Arkansas River Education Service Cooperative

Committee Members

Peter Austin, Jefferson Regional Medical Center

Jennifer Barbaree, Pine Bluff School District

Dr. Steven Bloomberg, Southeast Arkansas College

Dr. Kimberly Davis, University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff

Jason Duren, United Way of Southeast Arkansas

Sherri James, Southeast Arkansas Behavioral Healthcare System

Angela Lopez, Arkansas Department of Human Services

Dr. Sarper Turker, Arkansas Lighthouse Charter Schools

Chad Pitillo, Simmons Bank

Allison Thompson, Jefferson County Alliance

Dr. Gary Williams, White Hall School District

Tom Wilson, Watson Chapel School District

Read more about E8 Communities

Independence County: Building Brains in Preschoolers One Conversation at a Time

Independence County: Building Brains in Preschoolers One Conversation at a Time

Preschools in Independence County have adopted innovative technology to support early brain development. LENA – short for Language ENvironment Analysis – is a professional development opportunity for early childhood educators that uses cloud-based software and a small, wearable device – often referred to as a “talk pedometer” – to measure and increase conversational turns that happen between a child and an adult caregiver.

Independence County hosts Excel by Eight fall 2022 Learning Community

Independence County hosts Excel by Eight fall 2022 Learning Community

For the first time, Excel by Eight hosted its semiannual Learning Community outside of Arkansas’s capital city, bringing more than 30 community leaders to Independence County in mid-October for local site visits and informative sessions. The two-day event took place in the cities of Batesville and Southside and focused on early care and education for infants, toddlers, and preschoolers.
Jill Wilson, executive director of two child care centers in Mountain Home, and Garrett Dolan, senior manager of corporate social responsibility at Tyson Foods, served on a panel moderated by Roby Brock, editor-in-chief and host of Talk Business and Politics. The panelists discussed the challenges facing employers and child care providers in Arkansas, including quality of care, workforce, and affordability.