By Paul Thompson
April 20, 2016
KANSAS CITY, Missouri – There was one overarching message at the Kansas City Public Schools early education forum on Tuesday, April 19: there is no such thing as too much attention paid to early childhood education.
KCPS invited a host of educators and experts to speak at the Richardson Early Learning Community School Tuesday evening: MARC director of early learning Dr. Jovanna Rohs; United Inner City Services (UICS) executive director Deidre Anderson; KCPS Parents as Teachers program supervisor Candace Cheatem; KCPS interim superintendent Al Tunis; and Greater KC Chamber of Commerce vice president for strategic initiatives Scott Hall, among others.
While Tunis noted that the district currently serves about 1,200 students in quality pre-school programs, each of the speakers acknowledged that there is much more work to be done. Cheatem discussed the evolution of the Parents as Teachers program, a free initiative in which KCPS parent educators make personal, in-home visits to families with children too young to be enrolled in district schools. The Parents as Teachers program provides guidance, teaches parent-child learning activities to young families, sets up parent connection meetings and play groups, and even offers regular screenings for young children.
Cheatem added that in 1988, the Kansas City, Missouri school district received an award from former President Jimmy Carter for having the best early childhood initiative in the country. Today, a fraction of the staff is attempting to provide the same services to families in the Kansas City area.
“The Parents as Teachers at the Kansas City, Missouri school district was the largest Parents as Teachers initiative in the state, in the region, and internationally,” said Cheatem. “Now something happened, and we could spend lots of time discussing what those things are that happened. But what we do know is if it was done once, it can be done again.”