Biz Harris named as new Executive Director for the Mississippi Early Learning Alliance

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Statement provided by the Mississippi Early Learning Alliance Board of Directors: 

The Board of the Mississippi Early Learning Alliance is thrilled to share that Biz Harris has been promoted to the role of Executive Director. Harris has served as MELA’s Interim Executive Director since July 2022, and was recruited by the Board for the role of permanent Executive Director. This decision comes following a thorough search process. After careful review of all the applicants, the Board identified Harris as the individual with the best combination of experience, knowledge, and passion to fill the role of Executive Director for MELA. 

“Everyone on the Board is committed to MELA’s vision to ensure all young children in Mississippi have the early childhood supports they need to thrive in school and life,” said Dr. Devon Brenner, MELA Board Chair. She continued, “We are confident that Biz is the right person to accomplish MELA’s mission to support cross-sector collaboration within and beyond our existing early childhood systems. Not only has Biz ensured MELA’s stability throughout a leadership transition, she and the MELA team remained on target with all benchmarks laid out in their three-year strategic plan.”

Harris has demonstrated continued success in bringing people together to work toward a common goal. Early in her career, she was the co-coordinator of the Mississippi Education Policy Fellowship Program, which focused on building the capacity of preschool-12 and higher education leaders, practitioners, and advocates to advance equitable policies for Mississippi students. Following that, she worked with the Tallahatchie River Foundation to launch their local collective impact initiative around pre-kindergarten. When Morgana Freeman, Executive Director of the Tallahatchie River Foundation, devised the concept for the Mississippi Early Learning Alliance in 2018, she asked Harris to join the team as one of the organization’s founding members, alongside former Executive Director Dr. Angela Bass. For the past four years, Biz has served as Deputy Director of MELA. In addition to her work with MELA, Biz is the founder and volunteer director of Nurture Our Future, a non-profit that provides out-of-school learning & enrichment experiences, parent support and service referrals, and books to families in Laurel, Mississippi.

“It has been a privilege to serve MELA as the interim Executive Director since July,” Harris said, continuing, “I knew we needed consistent leadership throughout this time of transition and I was happy to have the opportunity to support my teammates, live out MELA’s values, and continue our important work. When the Board asked me to apply for the position of Executive Director, I felt tremendously honored. I believe deeply in our mission, and I’m grateful to work in service of that mission in this new role. I’m excited to continue building relationships, expanding MELA’s impact, and continuously learning from new and existing partners as MELA grows and evolves.” 

The executive director is tasked with charting the course for the organization, building strategic partnerships, and maintaining a culture of innovation, equity, and core-values alignment. Brenner praised Harris’s qualifications for the role, stating, “Biz’s coalition-building expertise and her dedication to improving outcomes for Mississippi children have always made her an outstanding member of the MELA team. What will make her a great Executive Director is her commitment to making sure that the experiences of early childhood and child care professionals, parents, and community members are at the forefront of the work that MELA does to support the development of a state-of-the-art early childhood system. She approaches complex issues with optimism, and is devoted to work that puts the needs of children and their families, teachers, and caregivers first. We know that Biz has the experience and skills to lead this organization. She also has the conviction and humility to do what’s best for the early childhood community as a whole.” 

Harris will officially assume the role on February 15, 2023. The MELA team will work closely with their Board to determine any additional staffing needs moving forward. We are grateful to all of our partners for their continued support throughout this leadership transition, and we’re looking forward to expanding and deepening our collaborative efforts moving forward. If you have any questions or need additional information, please email your information requests to