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  • Writer's pictureState Rep. Kelly Keisling

Tennessee Department of Education Announces COVID-19 Child Wellbeing Task Force

NASHVILLE, TN— Today, the Tennessee Department of Education announced members and objectives of the statewide COVID-19 Child Wellbeing Task Force, which was convened to support the holistic needs of Tennessee children in response to extended school building closures.

Governor Bill Lee charged Commissioner Schwinn to convene the COVID-19 Child Wellbeing Task Force in response to the pandemic’s long-term effects on Tennessee’s school districts and students.  The goal of the taskforce is to help communities come together to check on our kids.

“The Child Wellbeing Task Force will work to ensure that the needs of Tennessee children are met during and after extended periods away from school, and to empower local communities to meaningfully engage in ways that support child wellbeing,” said Commissioner Penny Schwinn. “I am encouraged by these dedicated individuals from across the state who have stepped up to serve.”

The department’s strategic plan, Best for All, prioritizes the whole child as one of three priority areas.

The Task Force will operate with the following concrete objectives:

  • Empowering Local Implementation: Identify local infrastructure, relationships, and resources to promote supports for students and families.

  • Supporting Rapid Response for late summer and back-to-school 2020: Develop a set of action items that local communities may utilize over the summer and throughout the traditional back-to-school season to support the needs of children.

  • Determining Ongoing Support for Academic Year 2020-2021: Develop a set of action items that local communities may utilize to support the needs of children when school resumes in the fall of 2020.

The Task Force will produce the following deliverables:

  • By July 6, 2020, the Task Force will produce a postmortem report on the impacts of school closure on critical services to children that occurred across the state and will identify opportunities for locally established and maintained infrastructure.

  • By July 10, 2020, the Task Force will provide guidance for conducting child wellbeing checks during the summer and/or throughout back-to-school season as children begin a new school year.

  • By July 24, 2020, the Task Force will provide guidance for community-based child wellbeing checks, services, and supports throughout the academic year.

  • By October 2, 2020, the Task Force will develop the Pandemic Preparation Toolkit, outlining a more comprehensive set of recommendations, action items, and planning tools for local communities for any future school closures.

  • By December 11, 2020, the Task Force will produce a report to the Governor summarizing the work of the group and making recommendations for the future.

The members of the COVID-19 Child Wellbeing Task Force are:

  • Senator Raumesh Akbari, Tennessee General Assembly

  • Naomi Asher, Executive Director, United Way of Anderson County

  • Janet Ayers, President, The Ayers Foundation

  • Guy Barnard, Co-Founder, Synchronous Health

  • Dr. Jared Bigham, Senior Advisor, Workforce and Rural Initiatives, Tennessee Chamber of Commerce and Industry

  • Molly Blankenship, Executive Director, Chattanooga 2.0

  • Sonji Branch, Chief Executive Officer, Communities in Schools - Memphis

  • Linda Brown, Board President, The ARC

  • Mary Nell Bryan, President, Children's Hospital Alliance of Tennessee

  • Juliana Ospina Cano, Executive Director, Conexión Américas

  • Nancy Dishner, President and Chief Executive Officer, Niswonger Foundation

  • Clark Flatt, President, The Jason Foundation

  • Alexis Gwin-Miller, Co-Chair of the Education Equity Taskforce, MICAH (Memphis Interfaith Coalition for Action and Hope)

  • Senator Ferrell Haile, Tennessee General Assembly

  • Chief Richard Hall, Board President, Tennessee Association of Chiefs of Police

  • Representative Yusuf Hakeem, Tennessee General Assembly

  • Katie Harbison, President, Chambliss Center

  • Representative Kirk Haston, Tennessee General Assembly

  • Kim Henderson, President, Tennessee PTA 

  • Melissa Hudson-Gant, Chief Executive Officer, Big Brothers/Big Sisters

  • Beth Goodner, Chief Executive Officer, Trust Point Hospital

  • Elaine Jackson, President, Rural Health Association of Tennessee

  • Cato Johnson, Vice President, Methodist Le Bonheur Healthcare

  • David Jordan, President and Chief Executive Officer, Agape Memphis

  • Shawn Kimble, Director of Schools, Lauderdale County Schools

  • Kati Lohr, Co-Founder, Synchronous Health

  • Amy Martin, President, Tennessee Cable and Broadband Association

  • Jerry Martin, President, YMCA of Memphis & the Mid-South

  • Johnny McDaniel, Outgoing Superintendent, Lawrence County Schools

  • Brian McLaughlin, Tennessee Teacher of the Year

  • Jeff Moorhouse, Director of Schools, Kingsport City Schools

  • Chapple Osborne-Arnold, Program Specialist, Save the Children

  • Kristen Robinson, Advocacy Coordinator, Disability Rights Tennessee

  • Patrick Sheehy, President, Tennessee Business Roundtable

  • Dr. Flora Tydings, President, Tennessee Board of Regents

  • Dr. Le Andrea Ware, Tennessee Principal of the Year

  • Angela Webster, Executive Director, AIMHiTN (Association of Infant Mental Health in TN)

  • Samantha Wigand, Chief Executive Officer, Communities in Schools

The Task Force will convene bimonthly through June and July 2020, with monthly meetings August through December 2020.

Reopening toolkits and guidance is available on the department’s reopening guidance webpage:

To reach State Representative Kelly Keisling, call 615-741-6853 or email him at


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