Our Featured Leaders are Early Childhood Community stakeholders who work to make Oakland smarter and stronger. They are parents/caregivers, providers, educators, and collaborators.
Robyn Levinson, City of Oakland Head Start Program
Robyn Levinson is the Data and Continuous Quality Improvement Manager for the City of Oakland’s Head Start Program and the new co-chair for the OSSS Data Committee.
She says that when data is most powerful, it brings people together to ask questions and drive change.
Tell us about your work on the OSSS Data Committee. I’ve been with the City of Oakland for two years. OSSS was one of the first organizations I learned about and leaned on to get a sense of the early childhood landscape in the city.
Head Start is the 2nd biggest early learning provider in the city, after OUSD, but it still only supports a fraction of the kids. So it’s really helpful to have a shared space with likeminded people from different organizations where we can come together to look at data on early childhood and chew on the material together. And challenge each other: for instance, ask each other what it looks like to truly center equity, whether that’s how to better support Black boys in our classrooms or ensuring multilingual kids have access to education materials in various languages.
What’s an example of how data has helped providers in Oakland to meet families’ needs? At Head Start, we are very closely tracking the number of families experiencing housing challenges or homelessness. This led us to recently create a mobile classroom that goes to shelters to meet families where they’re at, provide classes plus access to physical exams and social supports. We also are using this information to help families have an easier enrollment process, for instance. We are using data to design programs to serve families.
How did you get involved in early childhood work? I was born and raised in Oakland; I’ve had family and friends who’ve gone through Head Start and sent their kids through the Program. Working in early childhood is a way for me to contribute to addressing issues early on and giving families information so they can navigate the supports they’re entitled to. I used to work in anti-trafficking. Many of the experiences that led youth to have to engage in commercial sex were related to the failure of systems in the first 5 years. After working there for almost ten years, shifting to early childhood work enabled me to focus on hope and resilience.
How are you making Oakland smarter and stronger? I believe that all Oaklanders are smart and all Oaklanders are strong. So my work is helping to ensure that the systems in place enable Oaklanders to share their potential and strength.
This is a question from our last featured leader: what are you passionate about when working with children and families? I love making connections with children and families and seeing them build confidence in themselves to share their strengths with the community. I also love that working in early childhood education means supporting families holistically, through promoting kindergarten readiness, health, and well-being.
If you could ask our next featured leader one question, what would it be? What myth or assumptions do you feel like you want to dispel about early childhood education? What truth do you want people to know about ECE?