Picayune and Pearl River Central School Districts joining Excel By 5

Published 7:00 am Thursday, May 12, 2016

STORY TIME: Students at Picayune’s Early Head Start listen to as their teacher reads the book Brown Bear.  Photo by Cassandra Favre

STORY TIME: Students at Picayune’s Early Head Start listen to as their teacher reads the book Brown Bear.
Photo by Cassandra Favre

In March 2016, the Southern Pearl River County Excel By 5 coalition became a candidate community and officials said they are hoping to have all information submitted for certification by this September.
According to Excel By 5 literature, the program uses community collaborations to identify gaps in early childhood resources and addresses the health, education and safety needs of children from birth to age 5. The program’s goal is to ensure children are ready to start school.
Awareness about early childhood education is on the rise, Picayune School District Early Head Start program director and Excel By 5 Certification Manager Dr. Pamela Thomas said.
In April 2015, Thomas said she was contacted by Linda Hanberry, coordinator for Make a Plan: Together Everyone Accomplishes More, about the program.
MAP is a group of people from many community organizations such as the Department of Human Services and health care organizations, Family Advocate for Picayune Early Head Start and MAP member Sylvia Mark said. They provide support services for children.
Since Poplarville is already a certified Excel By 5 community, their group wanted to focus on the southern end of the county, which included bringing in representatives from the Picayune and Pearl River County School Districts, Thomas said.
Once the coalition was organized, group members formed committees. Each committee is responsible for a certain required activity, Thomas said.
The health committee is responsible for managing two health fairs and the education committee works with local childcare facilities to ensure they are meeting quality standards and teachers are receiving the required professional development. The family and parent support committee gathers resources for the resource center, which will be completed once certification is granted, Thomas said.
There will be two resources, one in the Picayune School District and the other in the Pearl River County School District.
“Families with children under the age of five will have access to resources and developmentally appropriate toys, books and resource guides in one location,” Dr. Sonya Meyers, developmental psychologist and Early Head Start Research and Data manager Dr. Sonya Myers said.
Once each committee completes their assignments, proper documentation is sent to the Mississippi branch of Excel By 5, Thomas said. Members of the coalition are required to document each event with sign-in sheets and photographs.
The coalition is made of members from a broad spectrum of careers, Thomas said. The coalition meets quarterly and is scheduled to meet again in August. Committees meet in between quarterly meetings to plan their assignments.
Thomas said it typically takes about two years to complete the certification process, but she set a goal of nine months.
“We want to make sure that all children have an equal playing field,” Thomas said. “Daycares, private institutions and Early Head Start are all on board and understand what is required of children before they start kindergarten. We want to connect all these agencies in the community to provide resources for our children. We want to help people understand and communicate the importance of children’s education.”
Southern Pearl River County Excel By 5 coalition steering committee includes Mike Posey, Fr. Jonathan Filkins, Thomas, Dr. Sonya Myers, Suzan Wilson, Jan Stevens, Toni Watts, Debra Wale and Pamela Frazier.
Learn more at www.excelby5.com/southern-pearl-river-county.

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