ECCS discusses community plan for families

Lisa Capobianco
Staff Writer
The Early Childhood Collaborative of Southington (ECCS) is preparing to unveil a community plan that will address some challenges of families in town.
Although an exact date has not been scheduled, Michelle Slimak, the co-chair of ECCS, said the plan is almost done, and will most likely be shared with the community at the end of May.
The plan was made possible through a grant from the William Casper Graustein Memorial Fund and the Community Foundation of Greater New Britain.
ECCS is a group of concerned parents, educators, teachers early childhood care providers and citizens working to ensure that “all Southington children enter school ready to learn.”
“We’re about 95 percent done,” Slimak said, adding that she hopes to have some programs in place by September. “We’re totally on track to have the plan written and completed and submitted to our grant funder in April, and rolled out to the community at the end of May.”
Mary Yuskis, the new coordinator of ECCS, has written the community plan, which she calls comprehensive.
Yuskis said the plan will identify strategies to improve the development and wellness of children from birth to grade three in several areas.
These areas include prenatal care and kindergarten entrance inventory scores.
“The plan is designed to compile several years of data collection and community input into a single document that can be updated and revised as needed in the years to come, especially as the ECCS identifies what is working well and what still needs to be improved,” said Yuskis, adding that she feels connected to the work of ECCS, as she is a mother of three young children herself.  “There is still much work to be done but it is exciting that the work of ECCS is moving forward.”
During a workshop last November, ECCS shared the results of a study conducted over a period of time through focus groups, surveys, data reports and interviews.
The research showed a number of challenges that Southington families face, including low scores on the numeracy section of the kindergarten entrance inventory and women receiving late or no prenatal care.
According to the study, 10.2 percent of women received late or no prenatal care in 2009. In 2006, this rate was 7.6 percent.
“We were looking at prenatal care because Southington has a high incidence of women who receive low or no prenatal care,” said Slimak, adding that ECCS is also looking into providing a birth packet to new mothers. “We’re trying to figure out why that is and try to put some strategies in place.”
Another finding of the study suggested that children entering kindergarten need more preparation for the numeracy section of the kindergarten entrance inventory.
An assessment that examines what children learned before they entered school, the kindergarten inventory occurs each fall, and measures six different areas, including numeracy, literacy, language, personal, physical and creative.
Teachers score each student on scale of one to three for each area depending on how consistent he or she demonstrates those skills.
“The kindergarteners are scoring low on the kindergarten entrance inventory on the numeracy scores,” Slimak said. “We’re talking about reaching out to local early childhood care providers, and giving them concrete ways of incorporating more numeracy into their day, not necessarily academic…but how to talk about numeracy.”
Jim Williamson, the president of the Community Foundation of Greater New Britain, said he looks forward to working with ECCS once the plan is released.
During the meeting in November, Williamson addressed to the community that fostering high quality early childhood education serves as the foundation’s number one priority.
“We’ll do everything in our power to implement the plan,” said Williamson. “We’re eager to work with them on its implementation because it is a community plan.”

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