County preschools earn prestigious distinction

“We know that the first five years,” Bill Gates told a group of business, civic, and philanthropic leaders in a 2007 speech, “have so much to do with how the next 80 turn out.”
It is this recognition of the importance of a strong intellectual and emotional foundation that inspired members of the Santa Barbara County Education Office’s Child Development Program as they recently sought re-accreditation for the six state preschools in Santa Barbara County.
The office oversees a number of vital initiatives which directly impact young children and their families, including school age family education, the child care food program, Health Linkages, and state preschools for Santa Barbara County. It is the lattermost program that occupied a great deal of their time for the last several months. But the efforts of county officials and the preschool site supervisors recently paid off. In April, all six of the state preschools in Santa Barbara County were simultaneously awarded full accreditation by the National Association of Educators of Young Children (NAEYC), the regulatory and accreditation body based in Washington, D.C.
That puts the Santa Barbara County state preschool program in some pretty exclusive company.
Child Development Program Director Trudy Adair-Verbais and her team started on this journey almost 12 years ago. It was their idea to seek the initial accreditation for all the county preschools in one initiative.
“When we did it the first time,” she says, “we were one of the first offices to put forward all of our schools at once. The industry standard at the time was to submit just a single school or site. People told me we were crazy. But I felt strongly that we would be better served going at it from a team approach. Each teacher could support other teachers, and as an administrator, I could better support the process if we underwent it together.”
“It was a collective commitment to excellence,” says Adair-Verbais. “And we knew it was a huge undertaking. You don’t just wake up one morning and decide that this is what you’re going to do. It is a lengthy, detailed process,” she concludes, “but the teachers and supervisors at those schools, as well as my staff and I, felt very strongly about.”
NAEYC’s standards are based on a very specific, lengthy set of criteria that outline what constitutes a quality early education experience for kids. They accredit programs for infants and toddlers, preschool, after-school care, and family childcare.
“You have to achieve demonstrable measures of quality,” says Kathy Hollis, Assistant Superintendent for Educational Services for the County Education Office. “NAEYC is known for applying intense scrutiny; it a very high quality review process. But Trudy’s team wanted to achieve national accreditation,” Hollis continues. “It took them two years of intensive prep work to get there.”
The assessors conduct classroom visits, interviews, portfolio reviews, training documentation, observations of health and safety records, handbook reviews, and other items that ensure teachers are meeting children’s academic, emotional, and physical needs.
“Their team is looking at over 140 different indicators of quality,” Adair-Verbais says. “They don’t leave a stone unturned.” After their site visit, the inspection team returns to Washington to score the programs they just reviewed. It is an anxious waiting period, but for three successive reviews, Santa Barbara County has exceeded standards at every site.
Congratulations to the state preschools and site supervisors who did so much work en route to full accreditation:
La Honda State Preschool at La Honda Elementary (Site Supervisor: Rosalinda Fletes)
Just for Kids State Preschool at Hapgood Elementary (Site Supervisor: Rebecca Arreola)
Learning Place State Preschool at Crestview Elementary (Site Supervisor: Shari Bostwick)
DeColores State Preschool at Clarence Ruth Elementary (Site Supervisor: Anna Patterson)
Santa Ynez State Preschool at College School District (Site Supervisor: Lynda Wright)
Los Alamos State Preschool at Olga Reed Elementary (Site Supervisor: Luz Bernal)
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Kris Bergstrom; Trudy Adair-Verbais, 964-4710, ext. 4464

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