A big win for our early childhood education community | Guest column

by The Early Childhood Education Steering Committee

Over the past weeks, our community has witnessed a healthy, public exchange of ideas between members of the Early Childhood Education Initiative, their supporters and Orcas Island School District staff and board members.

In the press and at a public board meeting on Jan. 23, frank, evidence-driven communications occurred around three issues:

• Our community’s unique and robust early childhood education landscape and ECEI’s role in helping create that landscape;

• The lack of fit between this current landscape and the state’s Transition to Kindergarten program designed to place a preschool classroom on our public-school campus serving primarily high-risk students; and,

• A vision for a collaboration between our independent preschools and OISD. Its purpose to identify the needs of Orcas’ preschool children and their families, to develop innovative responses to these needs, and to seize the opportunity to obtain significant, sustainable public and private funds to meet those needs together, going forward.

This vision of thoughtful, innovative collaboration has won the day!

Going forward with this vision represents a clear victory for all parties involved.

First and foremost, our preschool children will continue to thrive in their developmentally appropriate educational settings while gaining better access to customized supports, as designed by collaborative teams of qualified staff from the preschools and OISD.

Our children’s families will continue to be heard, seen and respected for the economic and personal challenges they face trying to work and ensure affordable and quality care for their children. In this shared, new vision, the independent preschools and OISD commit to seeking, sustainable public and private funding sources that help all parents who face these challenges

Finally, the preschool educators at the independent preschools and OISD will receive the increased, more flexible support they need to work even smarter, more collaboratively, and more efficiently to address all preschool children’s needs.

It took hard work by all parties to craft and embrace this vision. Participants had to listen to each other’s perspectives as professionals seeking the best solutions for our children and families. They had to figure out their organization’s role in finding those solutions, while they genuinely sought but ultimately did not find a fit between our community’s unique needs and the conditions required to get currently available dollars.

All involved deserve our community’s sincere thanks for their efforts.