The number of allotted slots available to Clinton City Schools students in the pre-kindergarten program has decreased, leaving board members questioning what will happen with some of the positions currently held by the teachers and assistants.
Clinton City Schools superintendent Dr. Stuart Blount recently notified board members that Clinton City Schools has been allotted 81 slots for the upcoming year. This number is 27 less than the 108 slots that were available last year. On the other hand, Sampson County’s allotment increased from 155 slots to 189 for the 2016-2017 school year.
According to Dr. Victoria Byrd, executive director for the Sampson County Partnership for Children, a new process for applying to the NCPK program was initiated in January as a response to the service providers requesting information in July in order to facilitate planning for staff and transportation services. Allotment numbers for each district are based on the number of applications received and the need for the program in that particular area.
“In the past, we have accepted applications year round and will continue to do so,” Byrd said. “However, the difference for this year is that we had a May 31 deadline for the initial application phase to encourage families to apply sooner.”
At the end of the application process, Clinton City Schools had 68 students to complete the application. In all, from both Clinton City and Sampson County schools, the program served 317 students this past school year. Head Start accommodates for ages birth-5 years old many parents, Byrd said, are choosing to leave their students in the Head Start program rather than pulling them out and putting them in the county’s Pre-K program.
“We are trying to serve the needs of the entire county,” Byrd said.
According to Byrd, a majority of the applying families have commented on how helpful the early deadline is, allowing the family to know if their child qualifies for the program or if they need to make other arrangements.
“Equally important, this early application process provided data to allow the state mandated NCPK Advisory Committee to make need based site and child placement decisions earlier to assist the school system as they make arrangements for instructional staff and bus routes,” Byrd added.”
With the Pre-K program being funded through the state, Blount said the reduction in the number of allotted slots means a reduction in the number of teachers and assistants who are currently working with the program. Based on the number of slots Clinton City has been allotted for the upcoming school year, Blount said there is a possibility of the city system losing two teaching and two assistant positions.
Some of the teachers who work with the Pre-K program are certified to teach birth-kindergarten, and those teachers, Blount said, could possibly be utilized in a kindergarten classroom.
“This doesn’t necessarily mean there will be a reduction of people,” board member Carol Worley stated. “We could still have a place for these people.”
Blount said it would be ideal for the teachers in this position to move into existing vacancies.
Once the applications are received, Blount said a committee makes the final decision on how many slots are made available to each school system. According to Byrd, families will and should continue to submit applications and will be placed on a waiting list.
Worley expressed her concern for how the application process was made public to those families who may not currently have a child attending school in the system.
According to Byrd, the new application process began in January with county-wide recruitment strategies that included flyers for elementary students to take home in their backpacks, providing flyers for kindergarten registration events and placing flyers in strategic locations throughout the county. The central offices for both school systems assisted in placing multiple all-calls and these strategies were successful as families immediately began contacting the Partnership office for in-take appointments.
“We know that this shift in the application process was successful and will be used as we move forward with NCPK application and enrollment,” Byrd added. “The initial application deadline for next year may be moved to May 15, however, in order to comply with a state required submission date of May 31. If the date does change, the information will go out to the public and recruitment will begin in December in order to allow ample time for families to apply.”
While the reduction in the number of allotted slots may mean a reduction in staff positions, board chairman Jason Walters said it doesn’t necessarily mean a reduction in classrooms.
“We don’t have to reduce the number of classrooms,” Walters said. “The money that is allotted is per child and based on the number of applications we receive.”
Walters and Dr. Mark Duckworth, assistant superintendent for curriculum and instruction, both serve in an advisory role on the Partnership for Children board. Both Walters and Duckworth said they fought to obtain more position for Clinton City Schools, but with less parents expressing a need for the program, CCS lost the 27 slots.
“There is no need to stop enrollment for the 2016-2017 school year in 2015-2016 school year,” Duckworth said. ” We are stopping at-risk kids by putting them on a waiting list and not in a classroom.”
Applications will continue to be accepted throughout the entire school year and filled as slots become vacant, according to Byrd.
About the program
According to Byrd, the Sampson County Pre-kindergarten Program provides high quality educational experiences for income-eligible, at risk four-year old children in order to enhance their kindergarten readiness.
Byrd said upon completion of the program, the children are prepared to step into the kindergarten classroom with the skills necessary to be successful. In Sampson County, there is a large population entering NCPK who only speak Spanish. One of the most important aspects for these dual language learners is that they may have entered the NCPK program not speaking English, but finish the year fully bi-lingual allowing them to understand instruction as well as communicate with their teacher and peers from their first day in kindergarten.
The Advisory Committee is mandated by the state and each program is required to have representation from school systems, private child care, parents, Department of Social Services and Smart Start; additionally, the Sampson County committee also includes retired educators and a representative from Sampson Community College.
Reach Kristy D. Carter at 910-592-8137, ext. 2588. Follow us on Twitter at @SampsonInd. Like us on Facebook.