WINSTON-SALEM, NC (July 27, 2023) – The Pre-K Priority, a collaboration of community organizations committed to early childhood education in Forsyth County, is putting its $4 million in ARPA grant funds into action with the selection of 32 local Pre-K classrooms as part of an innovative, two-year initiative to support early childhood educators, young learners and families.
“With this cohort of classrooms, we’re developing the roadmap to an accessible, equitable, high-quality Pre-K system for Forsyth County. This initiative also demonstrates the collective impact that partners can achieve when they collaborate,” said Leslie Mullinix, project director for The Pre-K Priority. “For Winston-Salem and greater Forsyth County to fully realize the vibrant community it can be, we want every child to have a high-quality Pre-K opportunity available to them, and to provide parents and caregivers the options when it comes to choosing that experience.”
Selection of the 32 Pre-K classrooms was made by community and coalition partners of The Pre-K Priority. “It was important to us that the participating classrooms represent the diverse Pre-K landscape in Forsyth County,” said Glynnise Highsmith, director of Pre-K Initiatives at Smart Start, which is the administrator of the grant. “Our cohort includes classrooms in the Winston-Salem/Forsyth County School (WS/FCS) system, Head Start, NC Pre-K and independent/private Pre-K providers serving a total of 518 children.”
The participating classrooms, educators, students and families will be supported by various community service providers who are all coalition partners of The Pre-K Priority.'
- Smart Start is partnering with Child Care Resource Center to provide the 64 lead teachers and teacher assistants with Early Childhood Education Success Coaches, professional development courses and training to strengthen their skills and confidence in delivering high-quality care and instruction.
- Smart Start is managing and coordinating salary support for participating educators to attain parity with the WS/FCS salary schedule and tuition support for those educators wanting to continue or advance their professional credentials.
- Family Services of Forsyth County is providing trained family engagement specialists who will be paired with specific classrooms to support those parents and families.
- The Hispanic League is providing translation and interpretation services to support English language learners and their families, especially during enrollment periods and community-based activities.
- WS/FCS, through its Office of Equity, will apply an equity lens to the practices and policies within the classroom cohort as well as promote and support sustainable equity practices in Pre-K classrooms system wide.
- Forsyth Futures will coordinate, collect and streamline related data and partner with Prismatic Services, the project evaluator, to track and capture best practices, progress and outcomes.
“We should be incredibly proud as a community that we are investing in an initiative that is all about creating the very best outcomes for our children,” said Highsmith. “When we improve children’s readiness for kindergarten, we set them up for educational and life success. And, when we ensure our educators have the training and resources they need to feel confident and valued in the classroom, we’re setting them up for success as well.”
North Point Academy and Victoria’s Academy are two of the private/independent centers selected for The Pre-K Priority Initiative.
"For more than three decades, I have proudly championed the cause of early childhood education as a steadfast private childcare provider. Witnessing the tender growth of countless young minds has been a privilege beyond measure, and it has only fueled my unwavering commitment to nurturing the potential that blossoms in those formative years,” said Victoria Frazier, owner/operator of Victoria’s Academy.
“The importance of investing in high-quality Pre-K programs cannot be understated. With a solid start, children become equipped with the tools to explore the realms of knowledge and creativity, fostering a love for learning that will pave the way for future successes. The ripple effects of this initiative will undoubtedly extend far beyond the walls of our classrooms, leaving an indelible mark on our community, and ultimately, the world,” said Dr. Sabrina Hinton, owner/operator of North Point Academy.
Leaders of The Pre-K Priority could not agree more. “Starting with these 32 classrooms, this initiative will demonstrate with tangible, evidence-based outcomes that high-quality Pre-K can be a game changer for Forsyth County,” said Mullinix. “We look forward to reporting back over the next two years about the positive impacts to our community made possible by investments of county and city dollars in our Pre-K systems.”
ABOUT THE PRE-K PRIORITY
The Pre-K Priority was formed in 2014 as a coalition of education, childcare and community leaders with the goal of providing every four-year-old in Forsyth County with the opportunity to attend a high-quality Pre-K program. Our studies and reports document that Pre-K providers in Forsyth County are prepared to increase the quantity and quality of their programs. Most importantly, surveys have found that 90 percent of parents with young children would enroll their children in affordable, accessible, high-quality Pre-K programs were they available.