Lisa Roy in 2017 when she led early childhood education for Denver Public Schools.Ann Schimke for Chalkbeat

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Lisa Roy, who previously served as executive director for early childhood education in Colorado’s largest school district and has held leadership roles in several philanthropic organizations, is the sole finalist to lead the state’s new Department of Early Childhood.

The new department, in existence since March 1, will oversee a host of early childhood programs now housed in the state’s Department of Human Services and the Department of Education. It will also manage Colorado’s new universal preschool program, an ambitious effort to provide tuition-free preschool to 4-year-olds statewide starting in the summer of 2023. 

Roy will take on the new department’s top job at a pivotal time for early childhood in Colorado. In addition to a major preschool expansion, she will oversee ongoing efforts to help the hard-hit child care industry recover from the pandemic and a major effort to streamline early childhood applications and cut red tape for parents and providers. 

“We are thrilled to have a sole finalist in our search for an executive director for the new Department of Early Childhood who shares our passion for education and our commitment to ensure every Colorado kid can thrive,” Gov. Jared Polis said in a statement. 

Roy is currently the director of program development at the Buffett Early Childhood Institute at the University of Nebraska. She led early childhood education programming in Denver Public Schools from 2016 to 2019. Before coming to the district, she was the executive director of the Denver-based Timothy and Bernadette Marquez Foundation and did consulting for Grantmakers for Education, a national network of education grant-makers. She’s also worked for two other Denver-based foundations: the Piton Foundation and the Daniels Fund. 


Senior reporter — Chalkbeat Colorado. Email: Twitter: @annschimke