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The Road to Smooth Transitioning Is Paved with

Partnerships Head Start agencies have the best chance at meeting goals and helping students transition with a little help from local districts

By Stephane Babcock As of this writing, the staff of Head Start agencies and the par-

ents and children they serve sit with their fingers crossed to see how the newly-elected members of Congress will effect funding for the next year. Tere have been grass-root campaigns set into motion by organizations like the National Head Start Associa- tion, but only time will tell how these centers and the children they support will survive now and in the near future. For some Head Start agencies, it is the relationships they grow on the local level that can have the greatest benefits.

BETTER FOR BOTH SIDES In Jackson, Mich., seated halfway between Battle Creek and

Detroit, the Region II Community Action Agency (CAA) works with the local school district for transportation and techni- cal support. Te center, which first opened its doors in 1965 just two years after Martin Luther King delivered his “I Have a Dream” speech, is supported in the form of school bus service for students whose older siblings ride the bus as well, which Di- rector of Children Services Mary Cunningham Deluca considers a “win-win for both programs.” But, like any operation, there are inevitable bumps in the road. “Te only real confusion results from getting new routing in-

formation to the district in a timely fashion so new students can be routed and parents can be notified of pick-up times with a quick turnaround,” said Deluca. Te relationship also increases the safety of the students and

their parents’ piece of mind. Te transportation department at Jackson Public Schools has access to Child Plus, the CAA’s child tracking system, which allows for real-time updates of par- ent contact information. Te partnership with the district also gives its drivers access to CPR and first aid training, as well as

28 School Transportation News Magazine February 2011

de-escalating hostility training and age-appropriate behavior in- terventions for preschoolers training. “We have also found that it is beneficial for administrators to

participate on public school committees such as the Coordinat- ed School Health Council and the homeless liaison meetings and we work closely with the school districts and local ISD in regard to testing for kindergarten readiness,” added Deluca.

SMOOTHING THE TRANSITION Help can come in other forms as well, and as many parents and

teachers already know, the transition from pre-school to elemen- tary requires a considerable amount of support on a number of levels. At Casa Central, a social services organization in Chicago, a memorandum of agreement with Chicago Public Schools in- cludes transitional services for their special needs students. “We have transitional visits with parents and children to their

assigned school and classrooms before the end of the school year,” said Head Start staff member Ellen Chavez. “For other chil- dren, local kindergarten teachers will come to read stories.” But there is no uniform approach for the 12 different Head

Start programs that Casa oversees. Te decision to interact (or not) is left up to each local Head Start agency and each local school. Communication is very important in these situations, be- cause sometimes credentials come into question when districts are approached by Head Start staff members. “I think that the public school teachers and personnel need to

recognize that other people know and understand children,” said Chavez. “We often get a rather reserved response to our program and staff, until it is determined that our staff have credentials in Early Childhood Education at the bachelor’s degree, master’s degree and teacher-certified level.

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