Summit focuses on preparing Dayton area children to enter school

Finding joy and belonging was the theme of a half-day summit Friday in Dayton focused on improving the well-being and readiness of children to begin school.

The 14th Readiness Summit at Sinclair College, organized by Preschool Promise and Learn to Earn Dayton, included breakout sessions on ideas on how the community could come together to support area children and families.

Participants found joy with two musical performances. The WestPark Academy Children’s Choir performed to close out the morning session and Treonte King sang “Joyful” to begin the morning.

But the serious moments were there too. Takiema Bunche Smith, founder of Anahsa Consulting, which focuses on equity in early childhood education, gave the keynote speech.

She listed inequities that preschool-age children still face: Black children are 3.6 times more likely to be suspended from preschool than their white counterparts; children with disabilities make up 12% of student enrollment, but between 71% and 66% of all children that are restrained and secluded are children with disabilities; and more than 1,500 preschool children were subjected to corporal punishment in 2015.

“All these statistics represent children and people right, who deserve better than what they’re currently getting,” Smith said.

She called on the room as leaders to do what they thought was right, not just to do what they think they should be doing. When steps towards equity are being made, also take a step back and look at the overall vision of the work.

“If we’re going to shift our society, it’s going to take everyone and you’ve got to know that you have to disrupt for justice,” she said. “Disrupt. If everyone agrees with you and your work towards equity, then you’re probably not doing something right.”

She also told the room that if it feels impossible to have an equitable school environment, that’s not a surprise. The U.S. and Somalia are the only two countries in the world who have not signed the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child, an agreement among countries to protect children’s rights.

“When you wonder why it feels hard to lead for equity, understand that we don’t have an overarching mandate from our government,” she said.

Debbie Leiberman, president of the Montgomery County Commission, spoke at the morning’s event and said the county has a long-standing commitment to early childhood education. She said she wants Montgomery County to become the best county in Ohio to raise children.

Robyn Lightcap, executive director of Preschool Promise, said getting people together in one place to discuss early childhood education was key.

“This is a really important event because we bring hundreds of people together to talk about what can we do differently to support our youngest children, and make sure they have the foundation they need to be successful in life,” Lightcap said.

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