Path Towards Early Childhood Integration
David Porter, a preschool teacher at Howe, wanted to strengthen his students’ connection with their community, so he created an activity centered around this series of photos. The students recognized their homes, their parents’ workplaces, and when Porter showed them the photo of the school, the reaction was immediate.
“Oh, that’s my school!” one child shouted.
Porter was thrilled.
“It really made that strong connection with them,” Porter said. “Exactly. That’s your school.”
As San Juan Unified completes the first phase of integrating Early Childhood Education (ECE) in the TK-12 system, Porter and others at the forefront of the prototype are excited to watch students and families in preschool, infant-toddler and Discovery Club programs deepen their relationships with their broader school communities. In addition, they have relished the opportunity to collaborate with TK-12 colleagues to better align instruction and make the transition from preschool to upper grades more seamless.
Prior to integration, “we were siloed,” said Shannan Brown, president of the San Juan Teachers Association.
“(ECE) didn’t know what was going on here, and vice versa,” agreed Kathryn Ferreira, principal at Howe.
Today, administrators and teachers in the eight schools that have participated in phase one of the prototype have seen signs that this dynamic is changing.
Donna Kenfield, principal at Coyle Avenue Elementary, describes a time when parents would come to the front office asking questions about ECE programs, and the secretary would have to turn them away, referring them to another phone number or the main ECE office.
Now, she and her staff are armed with the answers.
“A parent can come to the front office and realize that they’re no longer a parent of a preschooler who happens to be at Coyle Avenue School,” Kenfield said. “They’re a parent of a Coyle Avenue student who happens to be in preschool.”
As part of the multi-year integration plan, school site principals will gradually take ownership of the ECE programs at their sites. The eight schools who participated in the first phase of the prototype were: Cottage Elementary; Coyle Avenue Elementary; the General Davie Early Education Center; Dyer-Kelly Elementary, Encina Preparatory High School; Howe Avenue Elementary; Mariemont Elementary; and Pasadena Avenue Elementary.
“At first I didn’t understand it,” admits Patricia Horn, a fifth-grade teacher at Coyle, of the integration process. “The model was confusing and I didn’t understand how it would affect us in the classroom. But it seems to have really benefitted the school.”
Horn says she has built a stronger relationship with Discovery Club teachers, working side-by-side with them to develop behavior plans for students that are consistent during the school day and after school.