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Early Learning

Where EVERY Child is prepared to THRIVE and SUCCEED

Department of Early Learning Main Line - (423) 287-5055

The Department of Early Learning was a newly formed department under the Kelly administration in 2021 with department leadership established in Spring 2022. This department manages the following divisions:

  • Office of AmeriCorps Seniors- Foster Grandparents
  • Office of Community Forward
  • Office of Early Learning
  • Office of Head Start/ Early Head Start

Our Mission:

We work to help Chattanooga’s children receive the best possible start in life by increasing their access to high quality early learning experiences in efforts to meet the diverse needs of children, families and providers within our community by; providing equitable opportunities for them to succeed in kindergarten and beyond.

Our Vision:

The Department of Early Learning will lead the movement in our local community to create and implement a comprehensive, integrated, and coordinated system for Chattanooga’s children prenatal through age eighteen, their families and communities. It is our desire to build a universal path to not only high quality early learning, but high quality living.

Our Pledge:

The Department of Early learning is dedicated to the safe and healthy development of our city's most valuable assets; our children. We are committed to creating a system that fosters every child's ability to thrive and learn in efforts to reach their highest potential. We will promote, support, and optimize early childhood development by enhancing fundamental skill development. We will provide public investment, expertise, and leadership to put resources into the hands of those who nurture and educate our children. We will broaden and deepen opportunities and experiences for Chattanooga families and children by strengthening early foundations for little learners and leading sustainable efforts to aid them as they matriculate through their primary and secondary education journey.

ONE CHA Strategic Plan Goal and Priorities:



  1. Expand access to early learning for all families
  2. Integrate our early learning programs from prenatal care to kindergarten
  3. Train the next generation of excellent early learning professionals
  4. Partner with Hamilton County Schools to provide high-quality learning opportunities and services for families
  5. Make Chattanooga an investment-ready early learning model for the nation

DEL Universal Goals ( source: NLC & CSSP Early Learning Community Action Guide):

  • Young Children and pregnant women are healthy
  • Children are ready to succeed in school
  • Children live in safe, stable, and nurturing families and communities

Department of Early Learning Focus Areas* for FY 23-24

  • Brain Development
  • Early Literacy and Language Development
  • Prenatal to Age 8 resources and supports
  • Pre - K, Kindergarten and 3rd Grade Readiness
  • Multi - generational whole child/family approach strategies
  • Best Practices for Early Learning Provider Workforce
  • Child Friendly Workplace, Best place for working parents designation ( ** take assessment in folder from conference)

*Direct alignment with Head Start/Early Head Start, Hamilton County Schools Opportunity 2030 plan, Hamilton County- Chattanooga Children’s Cabinet, Chattanooga 2.0 Early Matters 2025 Early Childhood Action Plan, local, regional and national initiatives/priorities.


Department of Early Learning Main Line - (423) 287-5055

Administrator - Karitsa M. Jones

Deputy Administrator - Christy Vandergriff

AmeriCorps Seniors (Foster Grandparents) Director - Claudius Pratt

Community Forward Program Director - Jacqueline Thomas

Photo by Billy Weeks