04/09/12 — Pre-K programs help children get ready for first day of school

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Pre-K programs help children get ready for first day of school

By Phyllis Moore
Published in News on April 9, 2012 1:46 PM

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Wee Wings instructor Nancy Reyes helps K'mya Parker with her reading inside of the Wee Wings bus. Pre-K programs like Wee Wings provide a valuable foundation for children in preparation for school, officials told the school board during a presentation Monday night.

The first 2,000 days of a child's life are vital, educators say.

That's the estimated number of days between the birth of a child and when he shows up for the first day of kindergarten.

"We must do everything we can to ensure that those first 2,000 days are successful," said Charles Ivey, executive director of Partnership for Children of Wayne County, whose target demographic is those between birth and age 5.

The agency is particularly focused on pre-kindergarten efforts, especially as the state continues to threaten funding cuts in those areas.

The retired principal says he is keenly aware of the important role public education plays in building the foundation of a child's education.

He attended Monday night's Board of Education meeting to express appreciation for the district's collaboration with such efforts.

"As a principal, I learned firsthand the difference a quality preschool program has on the education of a child," Ivey said. "It's definitely a smart start, if you would, to a child's educational career."

Gail Herring, director of elementary education and special projects for Wayne County Public Schools, also made a brief presentation about related programs in the district.

She said Wayne County Public Schools currently serves 359 students in 22 pre-K programs, including half-day sessions at Edgewood Community Developmental School, inclusion classes at School Street Elementary School and two Wee Wings preschool buses that canvass the county and serve 60 students.

Criteria for children to be placed in the program include those identified with a disability or chronic health problem, limited English proficiency, family at or below 75 percent income level or having a legal guardian in active military duty.

"We cannot place the children in Wayne County Public Schools," she pointed out. "All applications go to Partnership for Children."

While not all pre-K programs are rated, she said, WCPS is among the few districts that are.

"(Schools superintendent) Dr. (Steve) Taylor decided we want to be rated, so we are 5-star rated in every one of our sites," Mrs. Herring said.

Ongoing assessments are done, with teachers in the pre-K programs evaluated just like every other teacher in the district, she said.

As such, there is much to be proud of -- from the supportive group of workers and staff to the scores earned from the state.

Taylor commended Mrs. Herring as well as the educators and assistants who have contributed to the program's success.

"There's a lot going on in Wayne County and we certainly for many years have understood and advocated for the pre-K program," he said.

The ideal would be to have every child in the county enrolled in a pre-K program, he said, as it allows them to "get off on the right foot" and ultimately do better in school.

"The research is clear, the stats are clear," he said. "I'm just glad we have these programs."