I read the article of Dec. 22, 2022 in the Powell Tribune regarding the possible changes to the PCSD1 preschool program and the liaison position. I would like to share some …
I read the article of Dec. 22, 2022 in the Powell Tribune regarding the possible changes to the PCSD1 preschool program and the liaison position. I would like to share some history and some of the information I have since I worked with the original grant in 2014. In 2014, I worked with R.J. Kost, Holly Howell and Kenny Jones so that PCSD1 would launch a liaison program modeled after the one initiated by Mrs. Amy Ready of Thermopolis. I attended the informative presentation by Mrs. Ready in Thermopolis as she described her liaison program. Mrs. Ready’s program which was featured in the Thermopolis Independent Record newspaper issue of Aug. 30, 2012, describes the liaison program as one that is a bridge between the school and the entire community. When I attended the informative meeting presented by Mrs. Ready, it was quite obvious that the program was designed to be a source of support for all early childhood professionals including child care providers and preschool programs as well as their families. Mrs. Ready visited all early childhood professionals which included child care providers and offered her services and resources free of charge. At times her services included helping families find car seats, community resources such as the food bank or whatever the families’ needs were. Mrs. Ready, as a representative of the public school system, became the bridge between the school district and the community. She built a positive relationship with the community which eased the transition to school.
When I worked with Mr. Kost, Mrs. Howell and Mr. Jones, Mrs. Howell reached out to all the early childhood professionals including child care providers and preschool programs. After meeting with each program, she and the director/owner of the program set up a schedule where she came in at least once a week and spent time in the program. Mrs. Howell built positive relationships with the providers and found out about their services, their strengths, and areas where they needed help and support. Mrs. Howell and I worked on creating a Community Child Development Associate Program where I designed and developed the CDA program and she delivered it to the providers at their locations and when it was convenient for them. The CDA program is a national accreditation specific to early childhood professionals. Some colleges will award three credits towards an early childhood degree for a valid CDA. Mrs. Howell and Mr. Jones and Mr. Kost and I worked with a state agency that funded the CDA program for the providers ($500 per individual) so it was free for participants. This was tremendous support for providers because if they are licensed by the state, they are required to complete a certain number of training hours annually. Many providers have to attend trainings during their off time or shut down to attend a training and have to pay for it but the CDA program PCSD1 Liaison offered was free, was delivered to the providers and they received national credentials as well fulfilling the state required training hours (45 training hours per CDA).
In addition to providing education, modeling and offering training to providers, Mrs. Howell screened the students at the beginning of the school year (usually in September) and again at the end of the year (usually in May). All the providers that participated in the screenings received the results from both screenings. This was a terrific way to see how much the children had grown in the course of a year. The screenings also demonstrated strengths and weaknesses so that the teachers could actually see areas in need of growth and guide their professional development. As a teacher I want to know methods that are effective and areas that I need to grow and develop. I worked in the field of early childhood and education for 25 years and I always appreciated learning more about what works best with little ones and how I could improve my skills to help them grow and develop.
Having a liaison program that supports our community is essential because we have amazing early childhood professionals which include child care and preschool programs in our community and we sure could use the help and support. These early childhood professionals are self-employed, investing their resources, and putting their heart and soul in a field that is rarely appreciated. Birth to 5-years are the foundational years and the early childhood professionals are preparing children for school and life. I have spent time in some of our child care programs and they do a remarkable job of partnering with families to raise and educate our children and they deserve our help, support and gratitude.
The article of Dec. 22, 2022 said that the liaison and the preschool program will be reviewed and I am delighted to hear that. I remember having this conversation with Mr. Sleep a few years ago and I shared a few resources with him. He was very pleasant and listened. I too shared my concerns about the free preschool program offered by the PCSD1 because it was taking children away from private business owners. School districts are here to offer free appropriate public education to all, not just a few. If the school district wants to offer free preschool then it needs to be open to all and freely advertised so that business owners have advance notice and do not invest their life savings in their programs. I know of a young lady with a MA in education who invested in purchasing a preschool because she loves to work with children but she told me that she lost three families to the PCSD1 preschool program and she wasn’t even sure if she was going to be able to stay open.
In moving forward to revamping the liaison program, I would love to see a program that will free the liaison to spend time in the community and provide support and services. The current model does not allow the liaison to have much contact with all the providers. From what I understand the liaison has not had time to be present in some of the preschool programs and they have not even met her. I don’t blame her at all. Running a preschool six hours a week is very time consuming. For every hour of teaching there is at least two to three hours of prep time which would take up 18-20 hours a week. We need to visit the original grant model and the model launched by Mr. Kost because it was really quite successful. Many of our PCSD1 employees have children in child care and preschool programs and I am sure they would agree that providers in our community are doing a superb job and offering help and support to them would be most appreciated.