Dr. Deborah Cassidy, professor emeritus of Human Development and Family Studies, died July 20. She was serving as president on the Governing Board of the National Association for the Education of Young Children. She focused her life’s work on advocating for early childhood educators and high quality early learning, the association said in an announcement of her death.
She recently retired from UNCG’s Department of Human Development and Family Studies, where she spent 26 years as an early childhood professor and researcher. That included a four year leave to serve as Director of North Carolina’s Division of Child Development and Early Education.
She was UNCG’s nominee for the 2015-16 O. Max Gardner Award. The award was established by the UNC Board of Governors to recognize faculty who have “made the greatest contributions to the welfare of the human race.” She was selected by UNCG’s Gardner/Holshouser Award Committee because of her significant contributions to the field of early childhood education. Her career has been dedicated to understanding the complex factors that contribute to the high quality early childhood experiences so critical to the future well-being of our youngest citizens. Cassidy provided substantial leadership for the development and widespread adoption of the 5-star rating system for early education settings, and her contributions included working to increase the efficiency and effectiveness of education for early childhood teachers.
A recent UNCG HDFS “Family Matters” e-newsletter reflected on her career, as she retired. “Deb’s record of scholarship is equally impressive. Over the years, she and her colleagues have secured millions of dollars of grant and contract funding to further work in the field of early childhood and make a difference in the lives of children and families.
“Her work on the North Carolina Rated License Assessment Project is a clear example of this impact. Beginning in 1999, this project has completed thousands of assessments of quality in licensed child care programs and schools around the state. These assessments provide direct feedback to programs to improve in their level of quality, thus impacting the experiences of the over 250,000 children enrolled in child care in North Carolina and progressively increasing the quality in child care across the state. This work has national implications as well, as Deb has regularly consulted with other state administrators and legislators to discuss how to improve the systems that exist in other states.”
The article also cited her work as director of the Division of Child Development and Early Education (DCDEE), where she advocated strongly for improved wages for teachers of young children and for improvements in the quality of care and education that children were receiving. “In her role as the director of DCDEE, she helped guide and advocate for Race to the Top Early Learning Challenge grant funding that eventually brought nearly $70 million dollars to North Carolina. In her role as the director she also helped strengthen the early childhood system across the state, increasing the number of high quality programs and drastically reducing the number of low quality programs.
See her obituary here.