Letter from our Chair:
The 2011-2012 fiscal year was one filled yet again with great challenges, hard work and exciting results. Although both our local and state economy continue to struggle, our Coalition continued its push for early learning child care quality as we continued to offer numerous provider trainings through our quarterly regional training schedule as well as being able to serve nearly 2,000 children each and every month.
Beginning in 2005, Florida increased its investments in early learning with the implementation of the Florida Voluntary Prekindergarten (VPK) Program. However, access to School Readiness services for children of low -income working families has declined. Current School Readiness funding levels do not meet the needs of eligible children and families in Florida. In order to serve the 68,000 children on the state-wide waiting list, with nearly 800 of those children here in Putnam and St. Johns, approximately $272 million in additional funding is required.
Although we have been challenged with another year of budget reductions, our forward-thinking ELC Board and proactive staff and generous community partners have teamed up to achieve astounding outcomes to the goals we set for fiscal year 2011-2012. With all of these outcome accomplishments, it is understandable that I say happily that this past year has continued to be non-stop busy serving as Board Chair for the ELC of Putnam and St. Johns Counties. Non-stop busy has included nearly 100 volunteers, coordinated by Joan Whitson, our Early Literacy Coordinator, to assure we are providing Literacy Outreach to the community, our children and our providers. Joan’s work includes having Reading Pals available to our children who may need a ‘reading pal’ as well as themed story times, book distribution and building community partnerships.
As Board Chair, I have the privilege of leading an inspired local board and working with an incredibly committed staff. With Joan’s Outreach and engagement of community partners, the other staff members, in addition to their administrative work, are engaged in outreach as well. Our Grants and Operations Manager, Tajaro Dixon, stays consistently busy with monitoring and mandatory state reviews. However, she has made her position work with outreach in the community to include books provided to at-risk children and serving as a volunteer to areas needing her expertise such as the new Putnam County Charter School.
Our Executive Director, Dawn Bell, works to assure the ELC is represented in all community venues to include working with the local Commissioners to build awareness of the impact our work has on the local economy in terms of assuring the workforce needed has access to quality early learning for their children.
In addition to the strides we make for improving child services at the local level, we work in cooperation with state and regional entities. As local Board Chair, I also serve on the state Early Learning Advisory Council. This state-level council consists of 31 state board chair persons as well as Governor appointed council leaders and the Florida Office of Early Learning (FOEL) directors and staff.
Our commitment to building partnerships allows us to maximize expertise and resources within our community, eliminate duplication of services and work toward the common goal of educational success for our children. Although we have had a fiscally challenging year, we have found ways to work with community partners to expand our community efforts. I continue to be both thrilled and honored to be serving as Chair of this organization.
Nancy R. Pearson, Board Chair
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