Recognizing high quality care and early education in Vermont


(From left) Aly Richards (Permanent Fund CEO), 2015 Early Educator of the Year Award winner Gerri Barrows, award finalist Elsa Bosma, and Rick Davis (Permanent Fund president/co-founder) in Killington during the VAEYC Annual Conference (photo credit: Karen Pike photography)

The beautiful foliage in Killington provided an excellent backdrop for the presentation of Vermont’s first Early Educator of the Year Award last week. Holding the award ceremony during the VAEYC Conference was the obvious choice for recognizing the important work being done in Vermont’s early childhood community. After all, this is where the early childhood community comes together to share ideas and experiences, learn from one another, and celebrate their work.

In an earlier post, I mentioned why the Permanent Fund created its Early Educator of the Year Award. But it’s worth repeating: Besides parents, early educators are the first teachers our children have and their work lays an important foundation at the most crucial time of development in our children’s lives.

Early educators are working in what I believe is Vermont’s most important profession. By honoring those who are doing great work, we are demonstrating to all Vermonters what high quality early care and learning looks like.

In this post, we give you a look at the two providers (and their programs) that we honored with this year’s award: Award finalist Elsa Bosma (Puddle Jumpers) and award winner Gerri Barrows (Discovery Hill Family Child Care and Preschool).


Looking ahead: 2015 and beyond

6919539028_71c540da4e_zIn our last post summarizing the highlights of 2014, I shared a major decision that the board of the Permanent Fund made that will affect how we move forward over the next 10 years. In our decision to spend down our endowment and “put all our chips on the table,” our board is communicating a sense of urgency in our work. We strongly believe there is no time to waste as we work to transform Vermont’s early care and education system and give all Vermont children a solid start in life. As board member Tom MacLeay said in a previous post: “The greatest opportunity we have to improve our economy and our community in so many ways is in how we support and invest in our youngest citizens.”

The real gamble, if you will, is in not making these strategic early investments. Fasten your seatbelts, as you read what we’ve got on the plate for this year, you’ll see, it is: Full. Speed. Ahead.

VB3 and VCPC to merge: Continued emphasis on quality

To increase their efficiency and effectiveness, plans are underway to merge our Vermont Birth to Three (VB3) and the Vermont Community Preschool Collaborative initiatives. A new name and a more public announcement will be forthcoming, but those who have worked with either team can continue to expect an emphasis on the importance of high quality in early care and education. VB3 will continue to provide incentives, mentoring and training for child care professionals to gain credentials and achieve high quality ratings through many services. And VCPC will continue to provide technical assistance to school districts and child care providers as Vermont implements the universal preschool law. Both teams are committed to strengthening our network of home-based, center-based and school-based early care for all Vermont children from birth to five.

New partnership with the health care community

In an effort to align our work with that of the health care community, VB3 will partner with the Vermont Child Health Improvement Project (VCHIP) to improve early identification and response to potential developmental delays. Child care professionals are in a unique position to identify potential developmental issues in the children in their care. They see the children and families year-round, five days a week and have established trusting relationships with the families they serve. VCHIP will provide training to support registered and licensed child care professionals in using developmental screening within their programs.

Blue Ribbon Commission to study costs and affordabilityLGK_Logo_4c

Let’s Grow Kids has been working with many individuals and organizations in the early childhood community to clearly define high quality care—what it is and what it looks like. At the same time, they’ve been working to garner support for the formation of a Blue Ribbon Commission that would study the costs of providing high quality, affordable child care and research how to fund it in a sustainable manner. Affordability and quality are two key issues that we must tackle in our quest to develop an early care and education system that benefits all Vermont children.
(While on the theme of affordability, we’re also researching the potential of privately-funded scholarships for child care, including what has worked well in other states. Stay tuned for more on this.)

New tools for tracking early childhood data

We know that children who arrive in kindergarten “ready to learn” are much more likely to experience success later in life. The Kindergarten Readiness Survey is one tool for assessing whether or not our children are prepared for kindergarten. Unfortunately, the tool is not used in a uniform way by every Vermont teacher. That’s why we’re advocating for a credible, reliable, and universally-applied Kindergarten Readiness Survey and continuing to explore other viable measurement tools from birth to five so that we can measure a child’s progress before entering preschool.

New pilot projects in the works

You may have seen Burlington Mayor Weinberger’s February announcement about the launch of a pilot project in Burlington, which is designed to improve kindergarten readiness, reduce special education costs and other public spending and help break the cycle of multi-generational poverty in Vermont’s Queen City. We were happy to provide funding to support this exciting launch and it inspired us to explore the possibility of piloting a similar project in a rural Vermont community. The hope is that these pilots, while collecting good data, will demonstrate the benefits of strategic early investments, connecting high quality experiences to successful childhood outcomes.

Why babies matter to business

We travel around the state talking to CEOs and HR professionals about why babies—and quality childcare—are important to economic development and a company’s bottom line. Surveys have shown that businesses that offer child care as a benefit to their employees experience increased productivity. After all, when parents know their children are well cared for, they can focus on their jobs without worrying about how their children are spending their time. These children are also our future workers. Giving them a solid start in life through quality care and nurturing environments supports their healthy development socially, emotionally, physically and cognitively—skills that will help ensure their future success. This year, we plan to develop several models of business-supported child care and promote these concepts to Vermont businesses.

Recognizing the work of early educators

You may have heard that the Permanent Fund announced the Early Educator of the Year award, an annual award established to recognize the important work of early educators—our children’s first teachers—and educate Vermonters that education does indeed begin at birth. We received many nominations for outstanding home-based child care professionals—those that go above and beyond for our children. The nomination period for 2015 is now closed and nominees must submit an application by May 31 to be considered for the award. We plan to announce the top two individuals in October at the annual VAEYC conference.

This year is shaping up to be a busy one and we’re excited to see how everything unfolds. Be sure to subscribe to our blog to continue to receive our updates and be on the lookout for the next issue of our newsletter.

Why Babies Matter to Business

Learning why babies matter to business

Several years ago as a member of the Vermont Business Roundtable, I attended an annual meeting at Basin Harbor where I first learned about the latest “brain science” in relation to early childhood development. The Roundtable had long been a big proponent for early childhood issues, but something changed for me that day. Maybe it was being a relatively new grandfather marveling at those new human beings developing before my eyes or maybe it was that the message that day was so compelling on its own. Regardless, I became convinced that the greatest opportunity we have to improve our economy and our community, in so many ways, is in how we support and invest in our youngest citizens.

It wasn’t long before I joined Rick Davis and the board of the Permanent Fund for Vermont’s Children.

The economic case for early childhood education

In the program “Are We Crazy About Our Kids?”, economists and others present a powerful economic case for supporting quality early childhood experiences and why this should be of importance to every business in America. It includes much of the same “brain science” message I heard in Basin Harbor. This segment is a supporting piece of the “The Raising of America” documentary series—to be aired on PBS later in 2015—that was recently previewed across Vermont by the Let’s Grow Kids campaign and its many supporting partners. I invite you to take a look, and perhaps you, like I, will feel that sense of urgency and that need to get involved and make a difference for all of Vermont’s children.

Tom MacLeay, treasurer and board member of the Permanent Fund for Vermont’s Children, is board chair and former CEO of National Life Group

On the Radio with Mark Johnson: Quality Home-Based Care and Pre-K

I recently had the opportunity to join Vermont Birth to Three Executive Director Barbara Postman and Vermont Community Preschool Collaborative Educational Consultant Sherry Carlson for two recent programs on the Mark Johnson Show (WDEV).

A wall of headphonesBarbara and I spoke with Mark Johnson about Vermont Birth to Three and the importance of developing our network of quality home-based care in Vermont. As a mostly rural state, our home-based providers don’t have access to many resources for professional development, training and other support. Vermont Birth to Three can be a great lifeline for these providers who, in addition to a child’s parents, are the first teachers in a child’s life. You can listen to the podcast here.

Sherry and I spoke with Mark Johnson about the Vermont Community Preschool Collaborative and our mission to provide access to quality pre-K in Vermont for all three- and four-year-olds. In Vermont, about 65% of our four-year-olds are enrolled in pre-K but only about 16% of our three-year-olds are enrolled. While 65% may seem like a high percentage, the quality of pre-K programming varies greatly. The cost of quality child care is also a huge burden on all families. It’s important that we improve the quality of these programs and help all working parents take advantage of publicly-funded pre-K in their communities. You can listen to the podcast here.

If you’d like more information about either of these programs, please visit our website or drop us a note.

photo via flickr: License  AttributionNoncommercialShare Alike Some rights reserved by Drakh

Meet VCPC on TV

I was delighted to join Frank Perotti and Diana Langston recently on Live at 5:25 to talk about the Vermont Community Preschool Collaborative (VCPC). We talked about the vision of bringing universal, quality Pre-K to every child in Vermont, why the Permanent Fund believes this is such a critical effort, and exactly how VCPC helps school districts like Springfield, where Frank was formerly superintendent — and Burlington, where Diana heads a robust preschool program — partner with high quality local childcare providers.

For those interested in finding out more about how VCPC can help your community, there is a contact form on our website for school districts, providers, and parents.

You can watch the 30-minute program on TV through August, or you can view it here.

Airtime Schedule

*WATCH ON TV : * You can watch this program on Channel 17/ Town Meeting Television, on Comcast Cable and Burlington Telecom at the following times:

  • Tuesday July 30, 5:25 PM
  • Wednesday July 31, 7:00 PM
  • Sunday August  4, 4:30 PM
  • Monday August  5, 4:00 PM
  • Friday August  9, 4:30 PM
  • Sunday August 11, 4:00 PM
  • Friday August 16, 3:00 PM
  • Sunday August 18, 5:30 PM
  • Tuesday August 20, 1:00 PM