Dayton’s Preschool Promise group on Thursday celebrated a year of serving more than 800 students in Kettering and northwest Dayton, while preparing to pivot to 2017-18, when they will serve the entire city of Dayton.
Preschool teachers explained curriculum and discipline advancements, school directors talked about additional resources and coaching that Preschool Promise provided, and Dayton’s mayor said she is “super-pleased” with efforts so far.
“I am very excited about the number of sites across the city,” Mayor Nan Whaley said. “They’ve exceeded their goal on sites, which is really key for us to make sure it’s in every single neighborhood. … I feel really good about where we’re going to be this August.”
Preschool Promise Director Ashley Marshall said 72 preschool providers are signed up for next school year — 55 in Dayton and 17 in Kettering.
Executive Director Robyn Lightcap said this was the first school year that Preschool Promise officials worked on boosting school quality. She said 17 coaches provided more than 2,000 hours of training at 31 Preschool Promise sites.
Lightcap also cited a recent state report showing that students who had attended star-rated preschools scored higher on the Kindergarten Readiness Assessment. Preschool Promise has helped three local preschools earn their first star rating from the state, with four more to apply this summer.
Vanessa Roy, a 20-year preschool teacher at Northern Hills Child Care in Dayton, said at first she was uncertain about making changes with Preschool Promise because of “fear of the unknown.”
“As a teacher, I had become stagnant and did not transition into new teaching strategies,” Roy told Thursday’s gathering of more than 70 educators and supporters.
She said school director Mary Kay Watkins supported her, and coach Sandra Raye-Redmond pushed her to grow, holding her accountable to standards she hadn’t thought were possible to reach — “expanding my strengths and empowering my weaknesses.”
MartiAnne Wells Johnson, a preschool teacher in Dayton Public Schools, said Conscious Discipline training she received through Preschool Promise made a huge difference in her classroom, helping her turn 4-year-olds who were hitting, fighting and biting, into students who could self-regulate their behavior.
“What a difference it has made,” she said. “They are ready for kindergarten … and I’m no longer a traffic cop or a firefighter at school always putting out fires. I’m a teacher.”
State Sen. Peggy Lehner, R-Kettering, has been one of the biggest advocates for early childhood education funding in Ohio. But she said Thursday that given the budget hole the legislature is facing, it could be a challenge just to keep that funding flat in the two-year budget to be approved this month.
“One of the big things we’re fighting right now is over graduation requirements, and we have so many kids not meeting those,” Lehner said. “Well, we can’t send a message of trying to fix it at that end and not send a message that it has to start at this (preschool) end.”
Much of the preschool effort here is locally funded, with support for Dayton coming largely from the 0.25 percent city income tax increase that voters approved in 2016. Other funds come from Montgomery County, the city of Kettering, Dayton and Kettering schools, and private foundations.
But state funding plays a large role in publicly funded childcare that operates hand-in-hand with preschool efforts.
Anissa Lumpkin and other Preschool Promise officials talked about putting on “a full-court press” to make sure residents know the options that are available.
“Preschool Promise is a promise to our children, to make sure that we don’t leave them in a place where they are unprepared for kindergarten,” she said.
The Dayton Daily News has been the only news organization tracking the multi-million dollar preschool expansion effort and will continue to bring you in-depth coverage of the important story.