Barre Supervisory Union Receives Grant
When Vermont’s Universal PreK bill, Act 166, was signed into law one year ago, it was a remarkable new approach to delivering prekindergarten with both public and private collaboration. Many public schools offer PreK classrooms, but so do some private community-based providers who have been prequalified – and under the law, parents have choice – to enroll their children in a prequalified prekindergarten in a center or home-based program or to enroll them in PreK at their local public school.
This remarkable endeavor to provide a public service – with parental choice, and through both the private and public sector – has significantly increased access to Vermont’s youngest students in its first full year of implementation.
In Barre, Sandra Cameron, Barre Supervisory Union’s Early Education Director, recognized some challenges as prequalified PreK providers often had students in their programs from many different Supervisory Unions/School Districts. Sometimes as many as eight Supervisory Unions are represented at a local, community-based prekindergarten program and because PreK is paid for through School Districts, prekindergarten providers often had eight different complicated agreements, eight payment systems, and a variety of forms to report on their students, in order to process tuition reduction for students in their prekindergarten classrooms.
Mrs. Cameron looked across the state and found funding to develop a model to make the process of Act 166 implementation more efficient and less confusing for everyone involved. Together with her Superintendent, John Pandolfo, Mrs. Cameron wrote and received a grant from Vermont Birth To Five to work with twelve different Supervisory Unions. The SUs/SDs collaborating in this effort are referred to as the Winooski Valley Superintendents Association, located in Central Vermont. From Lamoille North (way up in Hyde Park) to White River Valley (way down in Stockbridge)…from Harwood Unified Union SU in the west to Twinfield in the East….the goal is to align systems, streamline paperwork, and reduce confusion and frustration. Over the summer, Mrs. Cameron invited and was thrilled to discover that all 12 SUs/SDs were interested in a collaborative model. In two months’ time, she has standardized the expectations of twelve SUs/SDs, in areas such as local agreements and invoicing/payments. But the work is not done; there are issues that need to be addressed, such as keeping attendance records and simplifying student progress monitoring. The hope is that this work will not end when the grant period ends.
Samara Mays, from the Montpelier Children’s House stated, “My experience this year in comparison to last is like night and day. I don’t hesitate to say that I’ve spent a tenth of the time on the administration of Act 166 as I did last year. Questions are answered quickly and completely and standardization of billing will save me time throughout the school year. I am so grateful that this project was made possible.” The Winooski Valley Superintendents Association is also grateful for the support from Vermont Birth to Five, having one person who can organize, develop and communicate common practices across the region and prequalified prekindergarten programs throughout Central Vermont are breathing a sigh of relief – now they’re able to spend more time with their kids, and fewer late nights in the office.
What a great example of innovation, public-private partnership and efficiency!