Myra Jones-Taylor (PhD 2011, American Studies, Anthropology; MA 2003, African American Studies; MA 2002, American Studies) was appointed the first commissioner of the Connecticut Office of Early Childhood (OEC), established in 2013 by Governor Dannel P. Malloy. The agency’s mission is to coordinate and improve Connecticut’s birth-to-kindergarten programs and create a cohesive, high-quality system that supports the state’s youngest children in their development.
As commissioner, Jones-Taylor oversees an annual budget of approximately $275 million and a staff of 150 professionals. Her office is responsible for all early care and education programs in the state, as well as most home visiting services and early intervention.
“We are committed to providing services that allow children’s inherent curiosity and potential for growth to flourish,” she says. “We strive to provide Connecticut's children and families with quality early childhood services so that they are developmentally, intellectually, socially, and emotionally ready for kindergarten and beyond.”
Jones-Taylor had been executive director of the office during the prior year, after serving as a member of the planning team that created it. She is a former member of the New Haven Board of Education.
A cultural anthropologist, Jones-Taylor wrote her dissertation, advised by Kathryn Dudley, on reforms in early childhood education and how they affected both providers and children in New Haven.
“Kate was a wonderful mentor. In fact, a book I read in her class is what got me interested in becoming an anthropologist,” Jones-Taylor says. The book was All Our Kin, by Carol Stack.
All Our Kin is now a national organization based in New Haven. Started by graduates of Yale College and Yale Law School, it promotes a two-generation approach to childcare, addressing the providers as well as the children. As a graduate student, Jones-Taylor became secretary of the board for All Our Kin.
“While at Yale, I built a lot of connections with people in New Haven. Some graduate students limit their activities to the university, but I became involved in the broader community. This is a really special place, where a lot of good, smart people are deeply engaged in making New Haven better.”
For her dissertation, Jones-Taylor knew she wanted to work with people, “and not spend all my time in the library stacks. My adviser was very encouraging when I said I might not be taking an academic career path.”
In addition to Dudley, her other dissertation committee members were Michael Denning, the William R. Kenan Jr. Professor of American Studies and English at Yale; and Carol Stack, professor emerita at the University of California, Berkeley.
“It was really cool to have Stack as one of my advisers, since it was her book that inspired me to go into the field!” she says.
Born and raised in San Jose, California, Jones-Taylor earned her BA from Northwestern University. She was the first member of her family to go to college, and the first to earn a doctorate. She and her husband, Matthew Taylor, live in New Haven with their children, Phoenix, 11; and August, 9. Taylor is director of a training program for school principals that partners with Achievement First (a charter school), and the Bridgeport, Hartford, and New Haven public schools.