Early Childhood Development Gets New Financial Security – Verde Magazine
Boarding a small yellow school bus on a Thursday afternoon, early childhood development students eagerly discuss their plans for the day’s visit to Palo Alto High School’s Greendell Preschool . However, a cloud of uncertainty hangs over them, even as they look forward to seeing their five-year-old pals again.
In recent months, there have been concerns about the potential halt in financial support from the Palo Alto Unified School District for transportation, which is by far the largest ECD expense, according to program teacher Hilary McDaniel.
“Transportation is vital,” said ECD manager Ruthie Roach. “There’s no way for us to get there [to the schools] without buses.
However, that uncertainty has come to an end, as McDaniel confirmed on March 22 that transportation will be fully covered by the district for the foreseeable future.
“I am very relieved and excited,” McDaniel wrote in an email. “Thanks for [Assistant Principal Jerry] Mr. Berkson and district staff.
Paly’s ECD course, taught exclusively by McDaniel, allows students to earn dual enrollment credit and visit a local preschool by bus twice a week.
According to McDaniel, one of the main goals of the course is to expose students to teaching young children as a profession. McDaniel is acutely aware that in a female-dominated industry, there is an uphill battle to gain proper recognition and support.
“I want to set good examples for my students on how to value their work and demand appropriate compensation for their work,” McDaniel said. “I train people to enter the field of early childhood, which is significantly underpaid, and I have to be a role model for my students.”
The ECD class, including senior Hailene Stitt, volunteered time away from school for fundraisers and awareness of the program.
“Children love teenagers and i saw them [ECD students] make a real difference. I have participated in the Paly program for a number of years and have seen how the program has developed, the Senior the students are fabulous.”
– Barbara Carlson, “Young Fives” preschool teacher
“Now I think we’re going to be able to focus more on the program and the kids instead of brainstorming and fundraising and fundraising events,” Stitt said.
During the school year, ECD students organize three main fundraising events, host a week-long summer camp, and sell graduation necklaces.
“When a community continually depends on this [teachers volunteering their time] to keep things going, it ends up putting some pressure on teachers to provide perhaps an unrealistic level of service,” McDaniel said.
Now that there is no worry about covering transportation costs, their fundraising profits will go towards other expenses, including arts and crafts supplies, books, color printing , lamination and other essential materials needed to work with young children.
“I’m so excited and incredibly happy, especially for Ms. McDaniel, because she now has less to worry about next year,” Stitt said. “The class was so happy and grateful that we received the funding.”
The impact of class
Barbara Carlson, a teacher at “Young Fives” preschool, said she had nothing but praise for Paly’s ECD program, which allows students from Paly to visit her preschool twice a week.
“Kids love teenagers and I’ve seen them [ECD students] make a real difference,” Carlson said. “I have been involved with the Paly program for several years and have seen how the program has grown, the senior students are fabulous.”
By guiding the children in their afternoon activities and games, ECD students also learn.
“It definitely had a huge impact on my life and my thoughts on what I want to do in the future,” said senior Anisha Gandhi. “I know now that I want to continue working with children because I’ve learned that I really enjoy it.”
The pathway offers the opportunity to be one step ahead of the teaching profession. According to McDaniel, most ECD students take the dual-entry college credit course at Foothills College. Students who qualify can apply to receive a license to teach child development in California.
Many students, including Roach and Mikeala Fedder senior, plan to pursue a career in teaching.
“It’s a really good class if you like hands-on activities,” Fedder said. “It also opens up a career opportunity.”