VWSD defends role in pre-K funding

Published 12:00 am Thursday, December 2, 2004

[12/1/04]While some national officials say Mississippi is lagging in its lack of funding for prekindergarten programs, the Vicksburg Warren School District is making strides by pairing with the federal program.

“We sought out those in the community who are working with children who will eventually come into our schools,” said James Price, VWSD superintendent. “We’re not going to wait for the state to get its act together and tell us what needs to be done.

Mississippi this week was named one of the “dirty dozen” by the National Institute of Early Education Research in a study called the State of Preschool: 2004 State Preschool Yearbook.

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Its focus is the commitment states make to preschool.

“We see the need; Mississippi Action for Progress sees the need; and we’re working together to get the job done,” Price said.

Mississippi Action for Progress is the federally funded nonprofit organization charged with providing child development and family services to low-income families.

Vicksburg’s regional office operates the Kings Head Start Center and Cedars Head Start Center.

“It is a collaborative effort to provide quality education to our children in Warren County,” said Georgia Dent, Region II manager for MAP. Region II includes Franklin, Lincoln, Claiborne and Warren counties. “So far, it has gone well, and the children will be ready for kindergarten.”

At Kings, 334 3- and 4-year-olds are enrolled with 36 others who are home-based. At Cedars, 179 are enrolled in Head Start with 16 enrolled in early Head Start.

Last year, the school district and the Head Start centers paired up to determine the needs of students and teachers.

“We agreed to form a closer alliance,” Price said. “We needed to be out there to see what they’re doing in their classes and to better support them.”

So, VWSD kindergarten teachers each spent a day in a Head Start class, and, later in the year, Head Start teachers came to the kindergarten classes.

“This year, the teachers are communicating back and forth weekly. It is a team effort to meet the needs of the children,” Price said. “It is invaluable for our teachers to know the children that are coming into their classrooms.”

In response to Mississippi’s being listed by the watchdog group, Price said: “The state might be in the dirty dozen, but I think Warren County is one of the cleaner 82,” referring to the number of counties in the state.