An Upper Arlington resident and longtime educator is now leading an advocacy organization that supports early childhood education and wellness initiatives throughout Columbus.

Jane Leach was named the new executive director of FutureReady Columbus March 22.

Leach, 60, fills the position a year after the organization's first director, Dr. Lillian Lowery, stepped down to take a job with the Washington, D.C., Education Trust think tank.

"I am honored to serve as the executive director of FutureReady Columbus," Leach said. "Every bit of research validates that investments made in the lives of young children change the trajectory of their lives.

"That's a powerful truth."

Columbus Mayor Andrew Ginther, also a co-chairman of the FutureReady board, said he has "no doubt that with Jane at the helm, FutureReady will develop and carry out our community's vision for a comprehensive birth to five early learning and wellness strategy.

"Jane's knowledge and passion for this work is well known in the community," he said. "She is a respected leader."

Leach has lived in Upper Arlington for more than 20 years. She is married to former Upper Arlington City Council member Don Leach.

She is the daughter of the late Joseph L. Davis, former Columbus City Schools superintendent, and served as both a teacher and principal with the district for nearly 20 years.

Leach also served as an administrator with Hilliard City Schools, including five years as principal of Hilliard's Beacon Elementary.

For the past year, she chaired Ginther's Hilltop Early Childhood Partnership, which seeks to double the number of children in Columbus' Hilltop neighborhood enrolled in a "quality early learning programs" by 2020.

Leach is a former principal of Highlands Elementary on the Hilltop, and she founded Hilltop Preschool in 2007 to help prepare the neighborhood's most disadvantaged children for kindergarten.

Her work with the Hilltop Early Childhood Partnership included a report to Ginther that outlined numerous findings related to early childhood learning and student and career success.

It pointed to an analysis by the Harvard Graduate School of Education that tracked progress of students into and beyond high school.

The study determined that those who had quality preschool experiences were 11.4 percent more likely to graduate from high school.

Those same students also were 8 percent less likely to repeat a grade or require special education.

"I am an educator with a passion for giving all children, especially those living in poverty, a chance for success," Leach said. "The investment in youngsters today breathes life into tomorrow.

"Every piece of data and anecdotal evidence validates this understanding."

Leach is a graduate of Whetstone High School. She earned a bachelor of science degree in elementary education and a master of arts degree in educational leadership, both from Ohio State University.

She's a past Columbus City Schools Community Involvement Award winner.

"In Jane Leach, we have found an educator experienced in public school systems with a deep knowledge of early childhood education, the primary focus of FutureReady Columbus," said FutureReady board co-chairman and Cardinal Health board chairman George Barrett.

"Jane is experienced in building and leading teams of educators and also in the build-out of an organization in its formative years.

"She is trusted in our community and is passionate about creating opportunities for our children. We couldn't be more thrilled to have her lead the important work of FutureReady Columbus."