Barbara Prescott, longtime champion of public education in Memphis, will now lead city and county efforts to strengthen the metro talent pool.
As the first full-time director of PeopleFirst, Prescott will be responsible for promoting prekindergarten, improving high school and college graduation rates and launching strategies to retain workforce talent.
She begins Oct. 15.
"The work of PeopleFirst is central to economic growth plans for our community, because its goals are to improve educational outcomes and to expand the pool of talent in Memphis and Shelby County," said Gary Shorb, chairman of the PeopleFirst Partnership and CEO of Methodist Le Bonheur Healthcare.
As chairwoman of the Transition Planning Commission, Prescott, 62, has been widely praised for leadership that resulted in detailed recommendations for how the merged school district would operate.
"We will look at the development of the people," Prescott said. "It's really a cradle-to-career approach. We are developing people and pushing the education agenda for Memphis and Shelby County."
While the TPC has completed is statutory task, Prescott is still its chairman and "still very much interested in what happens," she said.
She will remain a partner in Allie Prescott & Partners, the consulting business she founded with husband Allie.
PeopleFirst is one of five streams of work under the umbrella of Memphis Fast Forward, a public-private partnership that formed in 2005 between city and county government and Memphis Tomorrow, an association of the area's largest employers.
Together, they work for causes that improve health, safety, efficiency of government and strengthen the industries that drive most job production here.
"It's about culling and identifying a very high-impact education and talent agenda for this community," said Blair Taylor, Memphis Tomorrow president.
Fast Forward has been a strong advocate for improving prekindergarten access.
It also endorsed the TPC plan, including recommendations to compensate teachers based on performance instead of years of service.
"Economic development is at the top of our agenda in Memphis and Shelby County, but we can't have successful economic development without successful talent strategies ...", said Memphis Mayor A C Wharton. "We have the ability to transform our educational landscape and to do so much more with Dr. Prescott's help."
Prescott served on the Memphis City Schools board of education 1992-2003 and was president of the Tennessee Schools Boards Association in 2002. She is a licensed counselor.
Her office will be in the Urban Child Institute, 600 Jefferson. She will report to Shorb and the Fast Forward board.