Partnership looks to increase educational success of Rhinelander children
By Eileen Persike
“Alone we can do so little; together we can do so much.” It’s a popular quote attributed to Helen Keller, but it’s also likely one about which two Rhinelander education professionals would agree.
Collaboration between the School District of Rhinelander and Family & Child Learning Centers, which runs Head Start programs in nine northeastern counties, including the one in Rhinelander, has led to an additional four-year-old kindergarten (4K) classroom being placed adjacent to the Head Start classroom on North Stevens Street.
“We are working in collaboration with the Head Start schedule, so it’s Tuesday through Friday,” School District of Rhinelander director of instruction Teri Maney said. “If the kids are in the Head Start program in the morning, they can come over to the 4K program in the afternoon and vice versa.”
“We’re blending state-funded resources and federal-funded resources and just trying to get the biggest bang for our buck.” -Carol Jackomino, director of Rhinelander Head Start
The School District of Rhinelander provides full day, twice a week 4K classes at Crescent and Pelican Elementary Schools. The four-year-olds are bused to and from school, riding with the other district children. Children enrolled in the 4K program at the Stevens Street location attend classes four half days per week, either morning or afternoon.
“Our full-day schedules are truly driven by transportation,” Maney said. “We cannot afford to provide midday busing. If we could have no barriers, we would prefer to have the option of full or half-day 4K, whatever meets the needs of each child.”
The district’s 4K and Head Start are on the same site, but they are two separate programs.
“We’re neighbors, we’re renters and we’re also collaborators…we are teaching the same goals but they are two separate programs,” Maney explained.
Head Start was created in 1965 as part of President Lyndon B. Johnson’s “War on Poverty.” The focus of the federally-funded program remains unchanged 52 years later: Looking at the whole child rather than simply the educational needs.
“Head Start looks at not only the cognitive learning of children, but what makes them ready for school,” Head Start director Carol Jackomino said. “Are they socially, are they emotionally, are they physically ready to learn. That includes making sure they are up to date on health services, physical exams, immunizations, dental care – a lot of those things can be barriers to learning.”
Eliminating a physical barrier or separation between the school district and the Head Start families is a plus for Maney.
“We are so appreciative of (the families) for letting us try this approach and building the partnership,” Maney said. “They’re all our kids and we’re all working together toward the same goals, they play with each other, they know each other, the families interact. I want to get rid of any division like that.”
“We are a very family-centered program, so, in addition to the services for the children, the family is highly connected,” Jackomino said of Head Start. “One of the goals of the four-year old kindergarten, too, is to do parent outreach activities. So the partnership (with the school district) was very appropriate… to get the parents more involved in the education of their children.”
So far, about a month into the school year, both Maney and Jackomino said the collaboration is going well; parents “love” it, children are excited and the programs’ “kinks” should be ironed out by spring.
“It’s just the maximum utilization of resources,” Jackomino said. “We’re blending state-funded resources and federal-funded resources and just trying to get the biggest bang for our buck, which is good for everybody.”
Maney said there are opening for community children at the Stevens Street 4K location; parents interested in having their child attend the half-day program should call Kathie Woodford at the district administration offices.