by Amie Sites
LOGANSPORT — A network made of educators is working to address the needs of children in Cass County.
Melissa Woolever of Kid’s Connection has found ways to use a door prize she won at a School Readiness Network meeting.
Woolever has used the clock timer prize in her classroom with tips she received.
Woolever is part of the School Readiness Network, which is made up of early child advocates including daycare providers and preschool and kindergarten teachers.
The School Readiness Network meets once a week and shares tips so those in attendance, like Woolever, can swap ideas with local childhood educators.
Nikki Reed, Reading Railroad program coordinator, started the network this year.
She said it’s been a part of the Cass County Resource Network since 2011 and a yearlong process went into planning it.
Reed said Reading Railroad went through the program management process in 2011 to see if programs, like Begindergarten, were making an impact. Reed said they found they were making an impact, but there was a need for a school readiness initiative.
Begindergarten is a program to help kindergarten students get a head start in being prepared for school.
“School readiness in the county is a problem,” Reed said. “Forty percent of children going into kindergarten are unprepared in Indiana. The number of children unprepared in Cass County is 60 percent.”
Reed said of the 257 students in Logansport’s kindergarten round-up, 96 students were unprepared and invited to attend Begindergarten. After the six-week program, 73 percent of students raised from at-risk to adequately prepared. Since then, a lot of communities have called to find out what they are doing and it’s become a model program, Reed said.
“In a lot of communities, school readiness is a new topic,” Reed said. “The network is a way to bridge gap between preschool and kindergarten teachers. What we’re doing here is developing these programs so we are ahead.”
Through the awareness of the issue, the school readiness network was formed. Reed said when United Way kicked off the Cass County Resource Network, they identified community needs and early education was one of those needs. She said childcare and preschool became a task force and, from there, the school readiness network came about.
The school readiness network brings together local teachers and day care leaders to work on needs in the community, build relationships and raise the quality of care that is happening, Reed said.
Woolever has been attending network meetings since it started, she said.
“I think it’s a good idea to help reach out into the community and help the children who are in need in preschool and get them ready for kindergarten,” Woolever said. “I’ve already incorporated things I’ve heard from other teachers at meetings.”
At the October meeting, people discussed how to use timers to keep a classroom running smoothly. Woolever said she has used the timer in her classroom for what she calls “center time.” She said she allows 7 to 10 minutes at a work station and the timer keeps things moving forward smoothly.
Dina Dominick, a kindergarten teacher in the Logansport Community School Corporation, attended her first School Readiness Network meeting in October. Dominick said that she has been going back and forth from teaching Kindergarten to first grade and this is the first opportunity she had to attend. Dominick said she heard about the network last year and sent an email to Reed.
“I think the network is a good thing and it would be nice to get a few more kindergarten teachers here,” Dominick said. “We can communicate with preschool educators and kindergarten teachers to let them know what we’re doing.”
Woolever and Dominick said it was nice to get with other daycare, kindergarten and preschool facilities to get ideas.
Woolever said she learns something new every time she attends a meeting.
“I like the sharing, they have some good ideas,” Dominick said. “Teachers do the same thing year after year and it’s great to hear, not only new ideas but, ideas that have been put into practices.”
Dominick said it’s interesting to see she shares the same problems as other teachers.
“Others are feeling how we are and it’s nice we’re all on the same boat,” Dominick said. “It’s a good thing.”
• Amie Sites is a reporter at the Pharos-Tribune. She can be reached at 574-732-5150 or firstname.lastname@example.org.