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Children succeeding school readiness outcomes

Kindergarten-eligible children enrolled in Head Start are seeing progress in five essential outcomes throughout the school year.

BY Anna Erickson Head Start and Early Head Start children are seeing growth in several essential outcomes, according to a 2012 School Readiness Report. Mahube-Otwa Community Action Partnership executive director Leah Pigatti and Head Start director Margaret Aho presented the report to the Park Rapids Area School board this week. “We have one purpose for being here this evening,” Pigatti said. “It’s to say thank you to you and to tell you how much we appreciate working with the Park Rapids School District.” Mahube-Otwa has a long relationship with the Park Rapids district. Head Start is one of the programs offered through Mahube-Otwa and was the focus of this week’s presentation. “This school district was one of the very first collaborating school districts with early childhood in the state of Minnesota,” Pigatti said. “There were long conversations early on trying to determine how we could work together and better collaborate with early childhood in this community. Through it all we decided to do the best things for children and families in our community.” In 2012, Mahube Community Council, Inc. expanded to become Mahube-Otwa. The collaboration now includes Mahnomen, Hubbard, Becker, Otter Tail and Wadena counties. The council is working to add Head Start programs to Otter Tail and Wadena counties. Head Start has been part of the Park Rapids district for many years already. “Over the years, our Head Start program and early childhood programs have worked together to collaborate, share,” Pigatti said. “We’re working to take it to the next level.” The Head Start approach to school readiness means that children are ready for school, families are ready to support their children’s learning and schools are ready for children, the report said. “This document represents the families that we serve. It has a lot of statistical information,” she said. “The telling part is that the job of Head Start is to get kids ready to enter school. We don’t think these kids are our kids. They’re your kids. School readiness goals include physical and development and health; social and emotional development; approaches to learning; language and literacy development; cognition and general knowledge; and family engagement. Kindergarten eligible children were observed and documented on these goals during three periods throughout the year. “Our teaching staff can direct the teaching and change the teaching in each period for each individual child as well as for each classroom,” she said. Children should leave the program at level 4 and the report shows children just above level 4. “At least 30 percent of our kids are on IEPs (Individual Education Programs) and this includes those children as well,” Aho said. “We have excellent staff that works with these children.” The Park Rapids School District also works with Head Start on transportation and catering. “It’s a community effort and we just so appreciate Park Rapids district,” she said. “Everybody says ‘why can’t we do what we do in Park Rapids?’” Park Rapids has worked hard to “make it work for communities and families. That’s the best thing.” Mahube-Otwa also provides support services for low income families. A number of families take advantage of things like energy assistance, weatherization and even housing assistance. “We just think it’s a wonderful way to work together and we thank you for what you’ve done,” Pigatti said.

Anna Erickson
Anna Erickson is editor of the Wadena Pioneer Journal.
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