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Kristina DiMaria

“My mother was the secretary of the K-to-4 principal at the Malden public schools, so I was always around education,” Kristina DiMaria says of her childhood. “It was amazing. My mother knew the children, their families, their grandparents on a first name basis. And she wouldn’t leave for the day until the last child left.” 

“But what really made me an early educator was when I was at Pope John for high school. I had to do community service my senior year, so I volunteered in the kindergarten classroom.” 

DiMaria fell in love with the volunteer job, but at age 18, she didn’t think she could make a career out of working with children. 

So DiMaria went to Bay State College and earned a two-year degree in fashion merchandising. But she also kept her connection to her mother’s school, volunteering and working in summer programs. And she continued her own education, earning a bachelor’s degree from the University of Massachusetts Boston, where she majored in English, minored in psychology, and took several early education classes.

Earning this degree was bittersweet, a personal achievement and something DiMaria did to honor her father who had passed away, but always emphasized the importance of going to college. 

Eventually, DiMaria took a job as a kindergarten teacher at a private school, Independence Route. The curriculum included STEM activities and “purposeful play.” 

“It became my passion, and I learned so much about teaching.”  (more…)

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As they steer Massachusetts through the pandemic, Governor Charlie Baker and Lieutenant Governor Karyn Polito have released a new report on the future of work. It’s an economic blueprint for rebuilding the economy that includes new plans for child care.

Before the pandemic, Massachusetts had a thriving economy with a conventional “look” that included commuters traveling by car or public transportation to offices in busy commercial areas.

But now — in the wake of layoffs, less business travel, and more Zoom meetings – Massachusetts could see less demand for office spaces, shifts in employment, and the worsening of pre-existing social inequities.

To address these challenges, the report explores “what work could look like… in both the near term (to 2025) and the longer term (to 2030),” across the state’s “regions, economic sectors, commercial centers, local downtowns, transportation, and public spaces.”

Among the top eight insights in the report: (more…)

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Photo: mentatdgt from Pexels

 
Massachusetts child care providers – get ready to apply for a federal COVID-19 relief fund grant!

The funds are coming soon, and they will help providers emerge from the pandemic and rebuild.

Based on feedback from the field, the Department of Early Education and Care (EEC) is committed to creating an “accessible application process.”
 

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Strategies for Children

 
There are a number of ways that you can learn more about these grants before the application is released. (more…)

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Melissa Charles

Melissa Charles

I am a student at Bunker Hill Community College pursuing my associate degree. However, this fall I will transfer to Smith College and study economics.

I was born in Geneva Switzerland and left the country at age three. By the time I started kindergarten in the United States, French and Haitian Creole were my first languages. As a child. I was not celebrated for my multilingual abilities. In fact, compared to my peers, I was seen as having a deficit. Fortunately, I learned English quickly, and within a few months, I had completely adapted.

During my internship at Strategies for Children (SFC), I have been carrying my early childhood experience with me. I am interested in early education and care that includes a focus on emerging multi-language learners and on families who rely heavily on assistance programs and would benefit from supportive, grassroots policies.

In my policy and advocacy work, I hope to grow SFC’s social media presence through outreach and campaigns, drawing on my experience as a marketing intern for my hometown of Stoneham, Mass. Through my work with the SFC team, I hope to advance budget and policy ideas that may have not been prioritized in the past. (more…)

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The new 2021 KIDS COUNT Data Book is out.

Released by the Annie E. Casey Foundation, this 32nd edition describes “how children across the United States were faring before — and during — the coronavirus pandemic.”

“This year’s publication continues to deliver the Foundation’s annual state rankings and the latest available data on child well-being. It identifies multiyear trends — comparing statistics from 2010 to 2019.” The KIDS COUNT data center provides more details.

This year’s good news: Massachusetts ranks an impressive #1 among all 50 states in overall child well-being.

The caveat: Massachusetts and all the other states still have to do substantial work to create equitable systems that serve all children and families and that provide access to high quality early education and care to everyone.

“The rankings in this edition of the Data Book, which are based on 2019 data, show that despite gains since the Great Recession, the nation was not ensuring every child had the opportunity to thrive.” (more…)

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Attorney General Maura Healey

Earlier this month, we were excited to welcome Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey to Strategies for Children’s 9:30 call, our daily briefing for members of the early education and care field.

Healey, a longtime advocate of early education, was joined by Angela Brooks, the director of Healey’s Children’s Justice Unit.

Healey’s story:

Responding to the question of how she became attorney general, Healey said she didn’t grow up wanting to be a politician. In fact, after college, she was a professional basketball player in Europe. When she returned to Massachusetts, she enrolled in Northeastern University School of Law, and went on to work for the Boston law firm Wilmer Hale. She the joined the Attorney General’s office as chief of the Civil Rights Division. And in 2014, she was elected attorney general.

One insight from her time abroad:

“I remember living in Europe. It was amazing to me, the recognition of the role of child care providers, early education providers, and the primacy of that from day one.”

Fighting for child care during a global pandemic:

When the pandemic first hit, Healey and her office took on unexpected but needed roles, trying to secure personal protective equipment for first responders and searching out hotels for families in which one family member had COVID-19.

Last summer, Healey led “a coalition of 22 attorneys general urging the United States Senate to provide robust financial support [$50 billion] for childcare providers” in a federal stimulus bill.

The letter said in part: (more…)

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EEC Commissioner Samantha Aigner-Treworgy

Dear Program Leaders, 

Thank you all for the continued partnership and feedback as we continue to navigate this unprecedented time. As we continue to receive questions and feedback about the transition to post-COVID conditions, we wanted to assure you that EEC will continue to provide information and support throughout the months ahead as communities work to recalibrate our work through the summer. 

The Baker-Polito Administration announced that the remaining COVID-19 restrictions would be lifted beginning May 29, and EEC retired the Minimum Requirements for Health and Safety. We recognize that child care programs still face many challenges and our stakeholders need time to ensure the appropriate policies are put in place to meet the needs of the families you serve. EEC continues to be committed to supporting programs through this transition and assist you as you work to identify the path forward that works for your programs. As previously referenced, EEC will be establishing revised guidance around regulations and monitoring throughout the month of June and will not begin on-site monitoring until July. During the month of June we will send weekly communications to update providers and provide answers to the on-going questions received through office.commissioners@mass.gov.
 
EEC introduced Suggested Strategies for the Prevention and Response to COVID-19 in Early Education and Care Programs. We will continue to update this document with answers to frequently asked questions received through the months ahead.
 
To continue the ongoing dialogue with you all, I will be hosting a Conversation with the Commissioner on June 29th at 6pm. I look forward to hearing from you about the progress in your programs and to strategize together as we forge ahead.
 

Thank you for your commitment to the children and families of the Commonwealth and to the field of early education and care as a whole. We are building a better future together. 


Samantha Aigner-Treworgy
Commissioner of Early Education and Care
 

(more…)

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Yesterday, Governor Charlie Baker announced that the state will revise its COVID-19 policies, a move that includes good news for early education and care providers.

“…the Commonwealth is on track to meet the goal of vaccinating 4.1 million residents by the first week of June,” a press release from the governor’s office explains, and “all remaining COVID-19 restrictions will be lifted effective May 29.”

Massachusetts will also update its guidance on masks and face coverings to be consistent with recent mask updates from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. However, individual businesses and employers in Massachusetts will still be able to set their own mask rules.

On June 15, 2021, Baker will end the state of emergency that was triggered by the pandemic.

What does this mean for early educators?

The governor and the Department of Early Education and Care (EEC)are providing answers.

As the governor’s press release says, as of today, the Department of Early Education and Care will “no longer require masks for outdoor activities like recess.” This guidance will “remain in effect beyond May 29.” Children and adults should, however, continue to wear masks when they are indoors.

EEC also has a list of frequently asked questions regarding the current version of the state’s Child Care Playbook that provide additional useful information. Some partial examples are:

(more…)

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Marcela Simpson

Photo courtesy of Marcela Simpson

All Marcela Simpson wanted was a part-time job to carry her through to graduation. She was living in her native country of Honduras and majoring in business administration at UNITEC, the Central American Technological University.

Simpson applied for a position at a school called La Estancia, a renown bilingual school where she met the school’s director, Ana Aviles, who assigned Simpson to be a lead teacher in a preschool classroom.

“That’s where it all started. I learned that I loved children,” explains Simpson.

Because her grandfather insisted, Simpson completed her Business Administration degree and came to the United States to get her master’s degree from the University of Massachusetts at Amherst, where she studied with George Forman, coauthor of The Hundred Languages of Children: The Reggio Emilia Approach to Early Childhood Education.

Simpson went on to work at the Winston Prouty Center for Child and Family Development in Vermont, an early education program that provides inclusive classes for both typically developing children and for children with special needs and rights. In this position, she worked with teachers, assistant teachers, and paraprofessionals providing them with educational resources and sharing opportunities for professional development.

“Based on this experience, I felt the need to learn more about adult learning,” Simpson recalls, “and that guided me to a whole different place.” She contacted the local Resource and Referral Agency in Western Massachusetts and they connected her to provide professional development and coaching opportunities. She also joined the Institute for Professional Education, where she learned more about adult learning theories and principles.

(more…)

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Fifty years ago, Sandy Faiman-Silva was a young, single mother with a teaching job who couldn’t afford to pay all her bills, including her rent and child care costs. She ended up quitting her job and going on public assistance.

Today, Faiman-Silva is a professor emerita of Anthropology at Bridgewater State University – and she’s an activist pointing out that too many women still face the same challenges she did all those decades ago.

Faiman-Silva shares this story on a video posted by the Cape and Islands chapter of the Common Start Coalition, which is advocating for a bill in the Massachusetts State House – nicknamed the Common Start Legislation — that would set up a system of affordable, high-quality, universal child care. This bill is particularly crucial now, as Massachusetts and the world navigate the COVID-19 pandemic.

One of the bill’s sponsors, Representative Susan Moran (D-Falmouth) also appears in the video. A mother of three and a lawyer who has represented a child care center, Moran says:

“I lived the daily trials parents suffer to find the consistent, dependable child care and early education they need — and their children deserve — to allow them to focus on work so they can advance their careers. You all know what I’m talking about.”

(more…)

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