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Archive for the ‘Dept. of Early Education and Care’ Category

It was time to say goodbye at this week’s meeting of the Board of the Department of Early Education and Care (EEC). 

Board chair Nonie Lesaux and Massachusetts’ Secretary of Education Jim Peyser are both stepping down.

To acknowledge their contribution Amy O’Leary, Strategies for Childrens’ executive director, spoke at the meeting and later reflected further on the service of Lesaux and Peyser, especially as EEC and its board have navigated the historic challenges of the pandemic. 

Amy appears at the 13:09 timemark in the video posted above. Her full statement is posted here. And here are some excerpts of her comments and additional thoughts: 

“To say that the decisions made by leaders in the Baker-Polito administration and the Massachusetts legislature over the last three years saved lives may sound dramatic. But I believe it is true.

“From setting up emergency childcare in a matter of days, to supporting COVID testing for children, families and staff, to listening to the field when drafting responsive new policies to ensure safety and health, to funding programs to stay open and support parents’ choices about when to send their child back to a program to the creation and continued funding for the C3 grants. Just keeping the day-to-day operations of the Department running was an incredible achievement.”

Amy also praised “the incredible stories of the educators, program directors, family child care providers, school age staff, CEOs and community leaders who have shown up for children and families every single day.”

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Photo: Kate Samp for Strategies for Children

“My name is Gillian Budine. I have been a Coordinated Family and Community Engagement (CFCE) grant program coordinator for many years, including during the Community Partnership and Family Network days. Locally we call our CFCE program the Community Network for Children (CNC) Program and our priority communities are Erving, Leverett, New Salem, Shutesbury and Wendell, but our programs reach families beyond those five towns to neighboring towns with our CFCE programming.”

“CFCE programs have been a crucial hub of support and resources for families. Especially in our small rural communities.”

Testimony submitted to the Board of the Department of Early Education and Care, p. 6, November 8, 2022

* * * *

What parents said:

“Working with CNC has been incredible throughout the time we have been involved, from last trimester of pregnancy to current days of our daughter being 1. Our daughter has learned so much and is quite advanced as a result of this program and what it offers.”

“My son and I have been attending CNC programs since he was a few months old. He now has such a fondness for music and stories. During the pandemic, we have been so grateful to have a safe, welcoming environment to attend, learn, and grow. Without the CNC programs, my son would not have had the opportunity at his young age to listen to live guitar, [engage in] singing as a group, read alouds, and exploration. Thank you for this incredible opportunity!”

“Our playgroups in Shutesbury and Erving have been of utmost importance in maintaining social connections and parental support throughout the pandemic, especially during the winter months. We have appreciated the efforts of all staff involved in planning, coordinating, and implementing these groups. My daughter lights up with excitement to see Ms. Katie play guitar and sing songs. She practices social skills of waving and taking turns when with her peers. She’s developed a sense of pride and independence when giving supplies back to Ms. Gillian to help clean up. To see other parents has also helped give me support and comfort during these times of being in isolation throughout the cold months.”

Testimony submitted to the Board of the Department of Early Education and Care, p. 7, November 8, 2022

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Congratulations to Maria Gonzalez Moeller for being appointed by Governor Charlie Baker to the Board of the Department of Early Education and Care (EEC)! 

As the CEO of The Community Group (TCG) in Lawrence, Moeller brings the perspective of early educators and families, and she has become an expert in managing the global pandemic so that children and families can get needed support.

She can also share how local early childhood innovations have helped move Massachusetts through the Covid-19 era.

“We had to do everything from scratch,” Moeller says of how her staff coped with the pandemic, “and we adjusted and evolved. That required a lot of flexibility from our staff and a lot of empathy. We knew everyone was going through a hard time.”

To keep its early childhood classes running even when staff were out sick with Covid, The Community Group developed its own employee pipeline, an apprenticeship program for early educators that began as an internal pilot program and then, with funding from the United Way, expanded to include other early childhood centers in the city.

“Training has been a big priority for us, specifically training in Spanish,” Moeller says. “There are a lot of new residents who come to Lawrence looking for a new career. Many of them are women who were teachers in their own countries. So we offer them the opportunity to become an early childhood professional.”

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State House

Photo: Alyssa Haywoode for Strategies for Children

The fiscal year 2023 budget was signed by Governor Baker last week, and thanks to your advocacy, the budget includes historic state investments in early education and care!

Please take a minute to thank your legislators and thank Governor Baker for taking action.

The new budget includes: 

• $250 million in Commonwealth Cares for Children (C3) Stabilization Grants – which ensures that C3 grants continue through December 2022 (visit the Department of Early Education and Care’s website for more C3 info)

• $60 million for a rate increase for early educators

• $25 million for a new Early Education & Care Infrastructure and Policy Reform Reserve to bolster the statewide system of care, assist families in navigating the early education landscape, and help early educators with costs associated with personal childcare

• $15 million for preschool expansion in the Commonwealth Preschool Partnership Initiative

• $15 million for resource and referral agencies

• $3.5 million for early childhood mental health, and

• $175 million for a new High-Quality Early Education & Care Affordability Fund [Outside section 180]

For a full breakdown, visit our budget page

And once again, please thank your legislators and thank Governor Baker for these much needed investments.

In addition to these critical investments, the Legislature had proposed additional early education and care investments in its Economic Development bill. And last week, Strategies for Children joined 70 organizations and 214 individuals in asking legislators to include these investments in the final “conference committee” bill. However, the formal legislative session ended on July 31st, and the bill was left in conference. We will continue to monitor the bill and report any future updates.

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Amy O’Leary at the Massachusetts State House in 2011

We’re thrilled to wish Amy O’Leary a happy 20th anniversary! She started working at Strategies for Children on June 24, 2002.

We sat down with O’Leary to talk about this milestone.

“I have to say how grateful I am to have been at Strategies for Children for the last 20 years,” O’Leary says. “I would have never imagined that I would have this kind of job.”

O’Leary’s work with young children started at Skidmore College where she earned a degree in psychology and early education.

“I didn’t do a traditional K-12 education major,” O’Leary recalls, “because I was very interested in understanding why children did what they did, and how they sat in the context of family and community.” 

O’Leary’s campus job as a financial aid student was working as a classroom assistant at the Skidmore Early Childhood Center, a laboratory school affiliated with Skidmore’s Education Department, where she also did her student-teaching. 

“It was such an important part of my college experience to have that world where I could go three times a week, whether it was to my campus job or [for] student teaching, and develop relationships with families.”

“I don’t think I realized how wonderful the program was, and how it prepared me for my next job as a preschool teacher in Boston.”

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The Massachusetts Legislature is poised to take an exciting step forward. 

The Legislature’s Joint Committee on Education has just released a bill, An Act to expand access to high quality, affordable early education and care.

It’s an investment in young children and the early education workforce that promises to make the state stronger as these children grow.

The bill draws heavily on the recommendations of the Early Education and Care Economic Review Commission, which released a report in March. The bill also includes many of the policies advocated for by the Common Start Coalition in a bill it worked to file in 2021.

When it’s fully implemented, this legislation “will be transformative in expanding access to high quality, sustainable, and affordable early education and care for young children and families in Massachusetts,” according to a statement released by the co-chairs of the Joint Committee on Education Representative Alice H. Peisch (D-Wellesley) and Senator Jason M. Lewis (D-Winchester).

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The Board of the Department of Early Education and Care (EEC) is having a meeting today at 1 p.m., the first meeting with Acting Commissioner Amy Kershaw, who was appointed in March.

You can watch the meeting live by clicking here. Afterwards, a recording of the meeting can be found here.

The three items that will be discussed are:

• Early Learnings and Proposed Framework for Strategic Action Plan Implementation

Commonwealth Cares for Children (C3)

                      • Stabilization Grants Update & Preliminary Outcomes

                      • Workforce Bonus Funds, and

• a Market Rate Study

Please tune in! Watching the board meeting is a great way to hear directly from state-level policymakers!

As Amy O’Leary, the executive director of Strategies for Children, says, “This is not a time to slow down or stall. It is a time to continue the important work of EEC, to ensure a stable early education and care field.”

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Here’s an update on two of our Advocacy Network participants.

Stay tuned for more Advocacy Network updates in the coming weeks.


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Huong Vu

Huong Vu is a family engagement counselor at Boys and Girls Club of Dorchester – which is one way of saying she does a little bit of everything. She supports families in the Boys and Girls Club as well as families in the community. 

“We offer a free play group, a parent support group, and family engagement events,” she says of programs for families with young children, “and home visits and developmental screening.”

“Most of the families that we work with are low income or immigrants. English is not their first language. We work with families who speak Vietnamese, Spanish, Cape Verdean, and Haitian Creole. And they are not just from Dorchester, they’re from all across Boston.”

It’s work that has given Vu a great perspective on families and that makes her a great participant in Strategy for Children’s Advocacy Network, a year-long advocacy experience for early educators and emerging leaders.

One thing Vu has learned: “I didn’t know that I was already an advocate,” she says. “Every day, when it comes to work, my hope is that I can make small changes in families’ lives. Maybe I can connect them to a food program, or I can refer a child to an intervention program.

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Photo: Yan Krukov from Pexels

A long awaited and welcome report from the Massachusetts Legislature has been released this week, and it charts a policy course for early education and care.

“Building a sustainable and well-functioning system for early education and care is critical and urgent, especially for Massachusetts’s most vulnerable families,” the report from the Special Legislative Early Education and Care Economic Review Commission says.

The commission was chaired by Representative Alice H. Peisch (D-Wellesley) and Senator Jason M. Lewis (D-Winchester), and was composed of “a variety of stakeholders… including legislators, providers, professional organizations, business leaders and employers, advocates, and state agency leaders.”

As Chair Peisch says in a press release, “Long a leader in K-12 public education, Massachusetts now has an opportunity to build on that success in the early education and child care sectors by acting on the recommendations contained in this report.” 

“This work is critical to our goals of advancing racial justice and an equitable economy that works for all,” Chair Lewis adds.

Maria Gonzalez Moeller, CEO of The Community Group in Lawrence, Mass., adds: 

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Amy Kershaw

We’re excited to welcome Amy Kershaw as the new acting commissioner of the Department of Early Education and Care (EEC).

Or, more precisely, we’re excited to welcome her back.

As EEC Board Chair Nonie Lesaux says in an EEC press release, “Commissioner Kershaw’s professional roots in early education policy and her very strong track record of public service and leadership in Massachusetts will greatly benefit EEC, especially at this pivotal time.”

Kershaw is currently the commissioner of the Department of Transitional Assistance. But long before this, she worked in early childhood, first as the director of Research and Policy here at Strategies for Children, and then as a deputy commissioner and later as acting commissioner of EEC. 

She is scheduled to become acting commissioner on March 28. Until then, Education Secretary James Peyser will serve in the position.

As acting commissioner, Kershaw will be able to steer the field through what appears to be the dwindling of the pandemic and on to what could become a period of great progress.

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