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Pre-K program recognized for educational efforts

Top officials from the Department of Children’s Affairs (DCA) visited the Alabama Pre-Kindergarten site in Greenville last week.

The officials discussed with program directors issues including the upcoming year’s objectives, curriculum, teacher training and student evaluations.

&uot;The fundamental purpose of these programs is to give Alabama’s children a quality, early learning experience to prepare them for continued success in school," said Gov. Don Siegelman. "We’ve sent our team to ensure that these programs are equipped with the knowledge, support and training vital for educational development that is more responsive to young children’s needs.&uot;

The Pre-K sites are coordinated by DCA’s Office of Schools Readiness (OSR), created by Siegelman in 2000.

Shortly after being elected governor, Siegelman created the cabinet-level DCA and gave its commissioner a mandate to develop a plan for early learning. Greenville's Pre-K site opened the last year when the government allocated funds to raise the number of sites to 43. Currently, OSR funds 71 Pre-K sites in 64 counties and is working with the remaining three counties to establish sites by next fall.

Pre-K programs are funded at $75,000 per site and are located in public schools, childcare centers, Headstart centers, colleges and universities, churches and housing authorities.

Pam Baker, commissioner of DCA, and Millie Dorman, acting director of OSR, discussed details with local program officials at the Bright Beginnings Preschool Program located in the former Greenville High School regarding school readiness, parental involvement, curriculum and training. All of which, according to Baker, are vital to making children’s educational journeys successful.

"Three out of every five children are in some kind of structured early learning program, and research clearly shows that quality preschool has a lasting, positive impact on children’s well being, as well as on their ability to learn.

Voluntary, high-quality preschool leads to meaningful improvements in many aspects of life," Baker said.

"Too many of Alabama’s children are missing the opportunity for a quality preschool experience, and it is our goal to change that and to give all of Alabama’s children a chance to succeed."

Butler County Adult / Community Education and Grant Coordinator Gerry Adair said that the Bright Beginnings program has been very popular.

"We opened registration at 11 a.m. a few weeks ago, but people started lining up for it at 8 a.m.," said Adair. "It is so popular that I applied for and received Title 1 grant funds to open another site in McKenzie High School."

OSR is designed to ensure voluntary, quality Pre-K experience for every four-year old at no cost to parents.

OSR offers grants to qualified educational facilities that meet specified guidelines and undergo a competitive grant process.

These guidelines include licensure by the Alabama Department of Human Resources, four-year degree certified teachers and qualified assistants, at least 18 children in a classroom, parental and/or family enrichment components, approved curriculum and participation in OSR training.

OSR provides technical assistance to monitor progress and to provide guidance to the Pre-K program sites.

Technical assistance includes teacher and student performance evaluations, program development, continuous

workshops and training and mentoring.

Michelle Croxton, mother of Jada Croxton, as student at Bright Beginnings said "Jada is an only child and this program has really helped her improve her social and communication skills."

Baker and Dorman presented Adair with a certificate from the Governor expressing his appreciation for the efforts Bright Beginnings has made to the education of four-year-old children.