Jennifer Simpson Serves Teaching Staff as DonorsChoose Advocate
Decatur City Center Director Jennifer Simpson was selected as a Teacher Advocate for DonorsChoose.org, a non-profit organization whose mission is to make it easy for anyone to help a teacher in need.
It gives us the extra income we need. It supplements the budget for the Partnership so they (teachers) can really get some of the things that we can’t always supply them through the company. It’s a win-win for everybody.
Jennifer Simpson, DonorsChoose Teacher Advocate
Jennifer was introduced to DonorsChoose.org by Children’s Services Director Kim Dodd in 2017 when she was serving the Partnership as a Pre-K teacher in Sylvania (DeKalb County). See how Jennifer now supports other classroom staff with on-demand guidance for submitting projects to the non-profit classroom funding site.
As Joe Biden was sworn in as the nation’s 46th president just before noon E.T. on Wednesday, January 20th, Ratchford B (Oneonta, AL) teacher Ashley Chumley led her Preschool Head Start class of three- and four-year-olds in a history lesson.
Ashley and teacher assistant Claudia Zamora led the students in conversations about being a President, such as where they live, some of the things they do as president, and how they keep us safe.
The children were shown photos of all presidents from past to present as well as an image the White House. Ashley reported that the children were visibly excited to be able to watch Mr. Biden become President while they watch. The children were asked to help make a list of what makes a good president:
After the inauguration, the children were asked what would they do if they were President. Some answers included, “Go to Walmart and buy some flags,” “Dance with my dog,” and “Watch a big TV.”
Families who are interested in applying for Ratchford Early Head Start (ages birth to 3) or Preschool Head Start (ages 3 to 5) may contact the center at (205) 625-6254, or visit us online at CAPNA Children’s Services.
The winter holiday season is for most a time spent with family, sharing home cooked meals, and shopping for gifts. For Head Start staff, it is also a time to connect with the community and recruit families for Early Head Start and Head Start.
Center Director Theresa Dalton (Ft. Payne) and her staff participated in a Recruitment & Community Involvement event last December by entering a float in the Ft. Payne Christmas parade to get the word out to families that Head Start recruiting season lasts all year. As the parade moved through the downtown streets, members of the Ft. Payne team walked alongside their school bus-themed float and passed out recruitment flyers while others rode atop the float, throwing candy and greeting parade spectators from the DeKalb County town of about 14,000 people.
Families interested in Ft. Payne Early Head Start (ages birth to 3) or Preschool Head Start (ages 3 to 5) can call (256) 845-9176 for Preschool Head Start or (256) 845-5951 for Early Head Start, or visit us online to complete an application at CAPNA Children’s Services.
Moulton Head Start rallied the community during their December Be the Light event as vital fire safety information, equipment, and assistance was shared with area families with low incomes.
Moulton Head Start Center Director Edie Dugger and Assistant Center Director Carolyn Brackin Orr sought and received support from community leaders to provide participating families with items such as high efficiency light bulbs, smoke detectors, power surge protectors, flashlights, and lamp.
During the Be the Light event alone, more than 50 energy assistance applications were distributed to local families. Thanks to monetary contributions by local agencies, public and private businesses, multiple families received assistance with their utility bills. All families receiving assistance were screened for eligibility before being entered into a random drawing (excluding CAPNA employees).
A total of 46 smoke detectors were donated along with HOMEnergy efficiency kits from CAPNA, courtesy of TVA. The kits included energy efficiency tools such as weather stripping, switch plates, caulk, and other materials to help reduce energy consumption.
In addition to the items distributed to families, Moulton Head Start students participated in fire safety activities that included materials donated from the local fire department. Thanks to the extensive community support, Moulton Head Start families are able to live a little safer and sleep a little warmer.
Community Action Partnership of North Alabama CEO Tim Thrasher has been aware of the many challenges brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic, both professionally and personally. He is also aware of the continued effects of the pandemic on agency programs, staff, and the families served. As the 2020 calendar year began to wind down, the CAPNA CEO decided to step up and reach out to those staff serving on the front lines each and every day.
Beginning in November, Tim and agency photographer/videographer Josh Garretson set out to capture the essence of Children’s Services in the midst of a pandemic. What they found was evidence of continued high-quality early childhood services that have long been the norm. Staff were masked, cleaning efforts were beefed up, and children were learning.
Here is some of the conversation we had with Tim about his goodwill tour:
CAP Connection:Why did you decide to tour the classrooms?
Tim Thrasher: I was on a WOW team call and heard a Center Director talk about how the challenges of the coronavirus were draining on the emotions of their staff due to wearing masks, social distancing, isolation, etc. I decided based on the needs expressed by this Director for encouragement and support for her staff and based on my desire to see our services firsthand, that I would attempt to visit all of our classrooms before year end. In effect, the pandemic allowed me to step back and see the need and afforded me the time to make it happen for our amazing staff!
CC: What stood out to you when you visited the classrooms?
TT: I was so impressed as I visited classrooms in regard to the resilience of the children and staff. I was especially impressed with our Classroom personnel as they continued to support families through intentional learning opportunities and structure. The staffs’ display of sincere care for the children and overall passion for serving others was very evident. The children’s ability to adapt to new scheduling, masks, and their positive response to their instructors was exciting to witness. A couple of instances that stand out were when I crawled on the floor through a maze of boxes with the children, when I played catch with another child helping him to catch, and of course the new interactive dance moves modeled to me by the children.
CC: What is the feedback you are getting from staff?
TT: The staff were very receptive to my visits and appreciated the support. I am grateful for all the emails, cards and comments received. The visits seemed like they accomplished the encouragement and support for those in the trenches each day!
CC: What are the biggest challenges staff are facing?
TT: Many staff had or were facing struggles with their health, their family’s health, the children’s safety, the fear of contracting the virus, or the fear of a loved one having COVID-19. One of the biggest challenges for those I spoke with was instructing students/families remotely and the additional time involved.
CC:What has impressed you the most?
TT: The respect I felt as I visited not only for myself and those in the central office, but for the children and their individual team members. I was very impressed with the structure and the resilience of all involved. I was also impressed with the overall experience and dedication of our staff and leadership.
CC: Any anecdotes from teachers, children, families, etc.?
One teacher commented that “We are one big family and family works together even during COVID.” Another stated that “It has been difficult but I feel supported.” When I asked what they needed, the majority replied, “I can’t think of anything,” but I also got “a raise, a turkey, a bonus, classroom furniture, a new sign, help with the unemployment process, etc.” I think we covered all of these this year except for the turkey, as it would have been a logistical nightmare to ship turkeys to our almost 400 [classroom] staff members.
Tim sums up his reflections on the goodwill classroom tour by saying, “[I am] So proud of the work our organization does to bring high quality education into the homes of families with children who have the potential to one day make this world a better place! Thanks to all the Leaders, classroom and support personnel making this happen! Special thanks to Deborah Cottingham for scheduling and to Josh for his video/photography skills. As CEO, I loved my visits and was reminded of the need for high quality educators and services for the families we serve! I still have a few more classrooms to go as a handful were closed early in December due to the rise in the virus. I truly look forward to my upcoming visits and learning more from our dedicated staff. “
From the initial shutdown in mid-March, classroom staff have put their creativity into overdrive to ensure their families are served by Head Start. From home deliveries of learning materials and other supplies to virtual classrooms through online platforms, Children’s Services staff have held the torch and forged ahead to answer their calling: Getting young children and their families ready for school and ready for life.
As the coronavirus pandemic continues its unrelenting hold on populations around the world, Partnership staff continue to go above and beyond to provide vital services to the most at risk. The CEO goodwill tour confirmed what most already knew: CAPNA continues to serve, continues to support, and continues to set the bar a little higher with each challenge it faces.
For Head Start grantees, 54 is more than just another birthday
The number 54 can mean many things. In units of measurement, things can weigh 54 pounds, be 54 inches long, or last 54 days. A 17-foot Delta Expedition kayak weighs 54 pounds. Twice around the circumference of a bowling ball is 54 inches. And some consider 54 days the perfect amount of time before a trip to book a flight. But for those who are immersed in the Head Start world, 54 has an even more important meaning. On May 18, 2019, Head Start celebrated its 54th birthday.
On May 18th, 1965, in the White House Rose Garden, President Lyndon B. Johnson announced to the nation the creation of Project Head Start. Since that date, more than 32 million children and their families have benefited from Head Start. Each child and family has a story. Each has experienced different outcomes. All have been prepared for school, work, and life, thanks to Head Start.
In the last 54 years, we have seen the birth of the internet, our first African-American president, the advent of electric cars, and so many more improvements on our daily lives. But none so impactful as the the quality of early childhood education provided by Head Start.
In addition to life and school preparedness, Head Start is also the nation’s laboratory for early learning innovation. Head Start offers a unique whole child/whole family program design coupled with a delivery system that includes local programs, national standards, monitoring, professional development, and family engagement. This has been the basis for many subsequent statewide and community initiatives.
National Head Start Association
According to the National Head Start Association, children are 93% less likely to become a statistic in the foster care system when they participate in Head Start as compared to not enrolling in an early childhood education (ECE) program. No other ECE program can make that claim. And Head Start’s outcomes last well beyond a child’s last day of Head Start enrollment. Compared with children who were cared for exclusively by parents during early childhood, the performance of Head Start children on cognitive and social-emotional measures in kindergarten exceeded those of their peers. Plus, children who had completed a Head Start program had fewer attention and behavior problems as their peers.
The Partnership’s early childhood programs include Early Head Start, Preschool Head Start, Pre-K, EHS Home Bound, First Teacher Home Visiting, and Child Care Partnerships. For program year 2018, more than 2,600 children and families received early childhood education services that included health and wellness screenings, developmental screenings, and family engagement opportunities in addition to the classroom education provided for enrolled children. Across six developmental domains (math, literacy, cognitive, language, physical, and social-emotional), children enrolled in Partnership programs exhibited an average of 23% gains in development from fall to spring.
Thanks to Head Start’s Learning Outcomes Framework and Program Performance Standards, children enrolled in Head Start benefit from one of the nation’s oldest and most successful early childhood programs in history. The War on Poverty continues. And so does the commitment of Head Start grantees across the nation to provide the highest quality early childhood education possible to help move children and families out of poverty for good.