Agenda for Children, Louisiana’s oldest child advocacy organization, has announced that a new chief executive officer will begin in August 2021 upon the retirement of current CEO, Dr. Anthony “Tony” Recasner. Jennifer “Jen” Roberts, Agenda’s current president, will serve as the organization’s new CEO.
Agenda for Children was founded by community advocates in 1984 to create an independent voice for Louisiana’s children and work on a diverse set of children’s issues from birth through 18 years of age. Judy Watts, one of the group’s organizers, became Agenda’s first President/CEO, a position she would hold until her retirement in 2010.
Dr. Recasner took the helm in 2011 after spending nearly two decades working to reform public education in New Orleans. An esteemed charter school founder and K-12 leader in New Orleans, Recasner strengthened Agenda’s focus on early childhood initiatives that would improve child wellbeing and kindergarten school readiness. His innumerable accolades include recognition by President George W. Bush in his 2009 State of the Union address, the Scott Cowen Service Award from the Tulane University Alumni Association (2015), the Loyola University Alumni Association’s Adjutor Hominum Award (2016) and distinguished fellowships with the Annie E. Casey Foundation and The Aspen Institute.
Linetta Gilbert, an Agenda board member and one of the organization’s original founders, stated, “Throughout Dr. Recasner’s tenure as CEO of Agenda, he has helped the community to understand how to demonstrate its love and concern for our most vulnerable residents, our children. He has strengthened and developed partnerships with other child-focused nonprofits and continued the critical work of enhancing professional development among early childhood staff and directors while holding inclusive spaces for early childhood thought leaders, policymakers and providers.”
Ana Gershanik, Agenda’s Chair of the Board of Directors, echoed these sentiments. ”I have been inspired by what Agenda has accomplished in the past ten years under Tony’s leadership.
He has been a relentless advocate for improving the quality of childcare, increasing the diversity of programs and staff to create a solid support system for early education, and securing more government support for these programs.”
As Agenda’s President, Roberts manages the organization’s day-to-day operations. During her tenure, the organization has expanded programming to include grantmaking for early education organizations, supporting academic research, fostering national partnerships, and directly advocating for children, families, and child care providers. She has also guided the organization through the COVID-19 pandemic, helping to stabilize the child care sector and developing new ways to connect families to important services during this challenging time.
A graduate of Bryn Mawr College (B.A.) and Harvard University (M.Ed), Roberts has spent more than twenty years advocating for children and youth, previously serving in leadership roles in philanthropy, higher education, secondary education schools, and youth development organizations.
“I am delighted to serve in this capacity for a community institution that so many hold dear. Agenda’s legacy of work on behalf of millions of Louisiana’s children is a profound responsibility and I am grateful to the Board of Directors for entrusting me with part of its future at such a pivotal time in our history. We still have so much work to do to ensure that all Louisiana children can thrive,” she stated.
Gershanik added, “Jen’s leadership and professionalism during her tenure at Agenda for Children and especially during the pandemic demonstrated that she is the right leader at the right time. I look forward to working hard with Jen to make a difference in the lives of children in Louisiana.”