Three SSFC champions of our children recognized by leading local and statewide groups

… Diana Santos Johnson, Doug Punger, and Mike Lawless rack up much-deserved honors …

Doug Punger, JD, 2017 Karen Ponder Award

From the left: Karen Ponder; Leila Punger, Doug’s spouse; Elaine Dana, Doug’s sister; Dr. Nancy Brown, NC Partnership for Children, Inc., Board Chair, 2013 – 2017.

On May 3, in the midst of the National Smart Start Conference, Doug received the 2017 Karen Ponder Award. The award, named for Smart Start’s founding president, recognizes outstanding service to young children and families in North Carolina. A $1,000 cash award will be made to Smart Start of Forsyth County in his name. Doug has been a formidably fixture in Forsyth County educational policies and practices for almost two generations. Doug adopted North Carolina as his home after moving from his native Long Island origins to Winston-Salem, as a Demon Deacon frosh. After completing undergrad and law school at Wake, for almost 34 years he served as general counsel to the Forsyth County Board of Education, eighteen years of which he worked side-by-side with now-State Representative Donny Lambeth, who previously served on the school board. Doug is entering his 9th year of service on the board of directors of Smart Start of Forsyth County, Inc., and his 4th year on the board of the NC Partnership for Children, Inc. in Raleigh.

Diana Santos Johnson, JD, 2017 Leaders in the Law, NC Lawyers Weekly

Diana Santos Johnson during semi-monthly corporate board conversations. To her left, board colleague, Bennett Bruff, CPA (who also just happens to be a member of the Twin City Kiwanis Club, along with Doug Punger, and SSFC staff members Amy Queen, Jackie Lofton & Larry Vellani).

In late July, in ceremonies at the Elon University School of Law in Greensboro, Diana Santos Johnson was among 30 statewide jurists recognized by North Carolina Lawyers Weekly for her service to the bar and to the citizens of North Carolina. The Leaders in the Law award honors legal professionals who go above and beyond in their profession and their community. The honorees represent the most influential individuals within NC’s legal community. A native of Mexico, Diana grew up in eastern North Carolina, completing her undergraduate at Wake Forest and her law degree at NC Central. After completing a three year term on the board of the Winston-Salem Hispanic League, she joined Smart Start’s board in September 2016. Diana has served as a member of the Bolton Law Group for the past three years, and before that on the staff of NC Legal Services.

Diana was honored again on September 15 by the Pro Humanitate Institute at Wake Forest University for this same award. In addition to her recent election as secretary of Smart Start’s corporate board, Diana serves on the N.C. Bar Association’s Minorities in the Profession Committee and on the Winston-Salem Zoning Board of Adjustment. She has also taught bankruptcy courses for paralegals at Forsyth Technical Community College. The Pro Humanitate Institute connects the mission of Wake Forest University to the broader community.

Mike Lawless, MD, 7 Over 70 Award, SPARK Magazine, Winston-Salem Journal

On August 2, Texas native, Mike Lawless, a giant in our nation’s pediatric community, will be one of seven local leaders to receive the 2017 7 Over 70 Award. Living locally, but acting globally, in the many senses of the word, Mike has faithfully served his nation in the US Navy, his students and research colleagues at the Wake Forest Bowman Grey School of Medicine, and his patients in the Forsyth County community, since he began his medical practice in 1972.

Mike served for over eight years on the board of directors of Smart Start of Forsyth County. MIdway during his board tenure, in January 2012, Mike accepted the co-chairmanship of the Forsyth County Pre-K Committee. Under Mike and his WSFCS co-chair Dr. Janie Costello, the Forsyth County Pre-K Committee made steady progress toward improved, expanded service to families of four-year old children–a progress that has continued under his successors Doug Punger and, now, Matt Britt. Mike has the distinction of being the Committee’s longest-serving, community-volunteer co-chair, as well as the Committee’s longest-serving community member. He remains toeday an active member of the County’s Pre-K Committee, which operates under the fiduciary auspices of Smart Start of Forsyth County,

Mike, hard at work with the next generation of medical professionals, hand-over-hand with them along the Hippocratic ropes!.

As a local Smart Start board leader, Mike was instrumental in helping to bring two critical pediatric programs to Forsyth County: Assuring Better Child Health and Development (ABCD) and the Reach Out and Read programs. Because of Mike, and the volunteers and professionals whom he has inspired, over 33 pediatric practices in 10 counties (Davidson, Davie, Forsyth, Guilford, Randolph, Rockingham, Stokes, Surry, Wilkes, and Yadkin), reaching 48,929 children birth-to-five, were able to improve early developmental screenings and proper, effective referrals to treatment. Through Reach Out and Read Forsyth County pediatricians have prescribed more than 37,000 age-appropriate books to children birth-to-five.

Our families, educators, board members, and staff could not be more proud of our local heroes. Diana, Doug, and Mike–we salute you, and pledge to live up to the standards you have set for us and our community! Cheers!

For some scenes of the Winston-Salem Journal’s photo-shoot with Mike and a class of four-year olds at First Baptist Child Care Center in downtown Winston-Salem on Friday July 7, click here! You’ll be glad you did.

For some scenes of the 7 Over 70 award ceremonies at the Wake Forest Bridger Field House on August 2, 2017, click here.

Touchpoints training comes to Winston-Salem

… unique partnership among Imprints Cares, Smart Start, and the United Way Place Matters program brings effective, evidence-based practices to Forsyth County early childhood professionals …

Thirteen early education professionals, under the watchful training eyes of Smart Start and Imprints staff leaders, Jenny Whitley, Shonette Lewis, and Staci McMillian-Smith, formed Forsyth County’s first cohort of Touchpoints professionals.

The learning community of eighteen—including Jenny, Shonette, and Staci, along with Claudia Quigg, Brazelton Touchpoints Center Lead Faculty—devoted three days to intensive study and practice in order to begin their journey of mastery of the Touchpoints techniques.

From left: Claudia Quigg and Staci McMillian-Smith, along with Jenny Whitley and Shonette Lewis (not pictured), led there ECE colleagues in Forsyth County’s inaugural Touchpoints training!

Supported by years of research and refinement, Touchpoints provides a practical, preventive approach that supports professionals in forming a strength-based partnership with families. Touchpoints offers opportunities for providers to support parents’ strengths and their understanding of their child’s behavior, leading to a stronger parent-child emotional bond, which is critical to a child’s development.

Jenny, Shonette, and Staci led their colleagues in three days of intensive, interactive, learner-centered training. Shonette, with Imprints Cares, and Jenny and Staci, with Smart Start, will serve as Touchpoints coaches for their colleagues during six months of case-based, reflective practice to apply their learning to the everyday interactions with families.

The first Forsyth Touchpoints cohort involves professionals from eight private and public, family-serving organizations and businesses, including Cook Elementary School; the Family Engagement Coordinators Office, WSFCS; Family Services, Inc.; The Forsyth Promise; Imprints Cares, Inc.; North Point Academy, Inc.; Special Children’s School, Inc.; and Smart Start of Forsyth County, Inc.

Shonette in action!

Key content of the Touchpoints Approach:

  • The impact of parent-child-provider relationships on a child’s development in the early years of life
  • Understanding the process of a child’s development and looking at how and why change in behavior occurs
  • Strategies for forming a strength based relationship with parents including using the child’s behavior as your language
  • Touchpoints times of development – newborn, 9 month and toddler

Outcomes supported by research on Touchpoints:

  • Increased parental confidence and competence in supporting their child’s development
  • Increased provider job satisfaction
  • Improved provider-family relationships
  • Increased provider knowledge and skill about supporting a child’s developmental process
  • Improved accuracy in referrals of children for additional services

Forsyth COunty’s first foray into the Touchpoints Approach was made possible, in part, through the support of the United Way’s Place Matters Program.

For more information about Touchpoints and the Brazelton Touchpoints Center, visit the Brazelton Touchpoints Center.

For more scenes from the inaugural Touchpoints training, visit SSFC’s FaceBook album.

SSFC Now Provides “One-Stop-Shop” Approach to Finding & Funding High Quality Child Care

… making it easier than ever for families to access the information they need …

Smart Start of Forsyth County, Inc. (SSFC) has made it easier than ever for families to access information about high quality childcare in Forsyth County.  Using the “one-stop-shop” approach, families can now visit SSFC’s offices located on North Point Boulevard in Winston-Salem and speak to a family engagement specialist, who will assist parents and caregivers in making informed child care choices.  SSFC’s family specialists will provide consumer education and support in navigating among the nearly 220 full-day, child care and early learning facilities available in Forsyth County.

SSFC’s Family Scholarship program provides financial assistance to qualifying families to offset the high cost of quality childcare settings.  To qualify, parents must be working a minimum of 25 hours per week or be a full-time student, and meet the income requirements. Income requirements vary by the size of the household.

SSFC’s NC Pre-K program provides high-quality, classroom-based educational experiences to enhance school readiness for eligible four-year old children. A child that meets the age requirements is eligible for NC Pre-K if the child meets one of the following criteria:

  • Gross family income is at or below 75% of the State Median Income level.
  • Parent is or was a member of the US military
  • Gross family income is in excess of 75% of the State Median Income and child has one of the risk factors identified below:
    • Identified developmental disability
    • An educational need as indicated by the child’s performance results on an approved developmental screening
    • A chronic health condition as indicated by the diagnosis from a professional health care provider

Applications for the Family Scholarship and NC Pre-K programs are available at SSFC’s office located at 7820 North Point Boulevard, Suite 200, Winston-Salem, NC, 27106 or online at www.SmartStart-FC.org.

We’re hiring. Apply now!

Smart Start of Forsyth County, Inc. (SSFC) is looking for a bilingual professional to join our team as Program Assistant, Family Engagement and Operations.

This position serves as the first point of contact for families, providers, and visitors, in person and over the telephone; is responsible for providing general and program-specific information for initial inquiries; provides support for program enrollment; and assists with meeting and training preparation.

Qualified candidate must be able to work well under pressure, and display a friendly, courteous, satisfaction-focused attitude at all times. Candidate must have an associate’s degree in relevant field. Four-year degree preferred.  Equivalent minimum combination of education and experience will be considered.

Interested candidates may mail resume to Jackie Lofton, Deputy Executive, Program Operations & Impact, 7820 North Point Blvd., Ste. 200, Winston-Salem, NC, 27106; or email to JackieL@SmartStart-FC.org.  Deadline for submission is 8/31.2017.  SSFC is an equal opportunity employer.

 

20th Annual Smart Start Professional Development Conference Closes Out Week of the Young Child Saturday April 29

EdNC.org Interviews Smart Start CEO

… read EdNC correspondent Katy Clune’s full story Closing the Gaps: Smart Start of Forsyth County  as part of EdNC’s on going series Focus on Forsyth

On February 1, EdNC’s Katy Clune sat down with SSFC’s CEO Larry Vellani. Follow the full conversation below. For further information about EdNC’s feature series, Focus on Forsyth, visit EdNC’s Focus on Forsyth.

EdNC: On the subject of relationships. What advice would you offer to a community who is attempting to foster a network among its early childhood education services? (This is clearly one of Winston-Salem’s greatest assets)

LV
.. overlook no one, recognize and embrace the value of the participation of a diversity of opinion; then, once you have folks gathered  around the table, support active listening skills and terrific meeting management … it’s as much about creating the space in which people can participate, and creating a culture of inclusiveness & transparency, so that folks feel respected, feel they know what’s going on, feel that their concerns & perspectives are taken into account, and that the group is rallied around the same, strong, parent-&-child-centered agenda …

– EdNC: What kind of programs/services does Smart Start support that touch multiple generations? (Reach out and Read is one of them, for example)

LV
… with our own staff, of course, our ROR & ABCD programs, our classroom field work, our educator scholarship program through our offices and our itinerant instructor partnership with Forsyth Tech, as well as our own parent engagement & training through our family scholarship program and our subcontractors at Imprints Cares & Work Family Resource Center … and Help Me Grow is an exciting, transgenerational program in its early stages of initiation …

– EdNC: Are there lessons learned at Smart Start of Forsyth County you think can be applied in other counties?

… Larry engaging at the Reggio Emilia exhibit “The Wonder of Learning” at Northgate Mall in Durham, NC, January through May … for more info, visit https://www.northgatemall.com/event/wonder-of-learning-exhibit/

LV
listen to the parents, the teachers and the providers about what they need and want … have a big table and don’t be afraid, don’t back away from asking tough questions to get at deeper understanding and deeper consensus, based upon the valuable experience and insight of each of the players … and in 21st century North America, regardless of the region, state or province, that means lifting up equity, examining privilege, understanding the continuum of opportunities and access that feed the gaps we bemoan … it is no accident that some parts of our educational system are doing great and others are languishing … it’s a system: value in value out, garbage in, garbage out—and I’m not talking about people when I say garbage …

– EdNC: Why is inter-generation support important?

LV
… if by inter-generational you mean programs that provide opportunity for children and adults at the same time, as part of a family system, then doing so keeps us aligned with Mother Nature and in sync with ourselves as social animals … simply put: working with the entire family is nature’s way, it’s the guarantee of the most successful outcomes for the kids and adults long term …

– EdNC: Why is early childhood education so vital to brain development?

LV

… Larry engaging at the Reggio Emilia exhibit “The Wonder of Learning” at Northgate Mall in Durham, NC, January through May … for more info, visit https://www.northgatemall.com/event/wonder-of-learning-exhibit/

… as walking and running and tumbling, with sufficient rest, is fundamental to physical development, so providing enriching, serve-and-return environments is key to how the human brain develops … nurture launches nature … early ed is about nurturing the entire child within a safe, healthy, stimulating human and natural environment … when a child is fortunate to be positioned in that way, his or her brain takes off … I believe as a society we owe every child the opportunity for that kind of start … in failing one child, we fail all of us …

– EdNC: What is one of the challenges in your work, and how do you get around it?

LV
… summoning your best thoughts in the moment for a camera … 😉 … more seriously, the greatest challenge is the oppressive, suffocating power of poverty, and our inability as a social and economic community to maximize market return on human capital with the same spare-no-expense commitment that we seem to approach maximizing return on financial capital …and how do I deal with it? … I have limited control, in the short run, on gross economic inequalities that result in the grinding poverty in our midst … I do frequently have to deal with channeling my own sense of urgency for change with an awareness of the privilege that I enjoy to be able to help create & lead change … everyone is not at the same level of understanding or same level of passion for the opportunities for progress that I and others see around us … how do I seek to meet & be in tune with folks where they are at in the moment, and, at the same time, know that I’m in the business to help people move toward the goals we truly do share …that’s often my greatest challenge each day … and, believe me, I’m a work in progress and working on it … with the support and patience of my staff, my board, and other allies and mentors in the community … but, in the end, real, lasting change can only move at the speed of trust …

– EdNC: What motivates you to keep striving when the work gets tough?” 

LV
… my sense that people have struggled long & hard on my behalf to help fearlessly clear the way for me in my early childhood & youth &

What’s buzzin’ with Don Quixote & Sancho Panza on Larry’s desk?

into young adulthood … and that people did the same for my parents & their parents before them … and they did so, because they believed I had something to contribute to the world … I’m here to make a difference, not to be indifferent … and as long as I think I’ve got the energy & passion to do that professionally in the early childhood arena  then I’ll be at this post … and when the time for change comes, I hope I’ve made this post & this organization & this community a bit better place to be for the folks who come after me …

 Extra:

Two brief video excerpts from a later EdNC video-taping at SSFC’s offices …

 

Brief excerpt on the importance of Birth – 3, and Serve-and-Return Relationships

 

… Larry doing his level best to work on serve-and-return with a very patient, youth-volunteer at the SSFC Children’s Area at “Christmas For the City 2016” at the Benton Convention Center in downtown Winston-Salem, Dec 21, 2106 … la música y las historias continúa

Our Teaching Partners coaching program prepares for the 2017-2018 school year!

… a 9-month program for early educators to work one-on-one with a certified coach to improve interactions that impact children’s learning …

Our Teaching Partners is a joint venture of SSFC and the Kate B. Reynolds Charitable Trust to develop stronger language and communication skills from birth, by improving the language-development and behavioral- interaction skills of early educators. The centerpiece of the program the MyTeachingPartnerTM (MTP) curriculum, a research-based professional development program that has been proven to boost teacher-child interactions and improve child outcomes.

MTP focuses on teacher’s strengths to enhance CLASS®-related interactions and support positive social and academic outcomes for children. Research shows that teachers who participate in MTP report higher levels of job satisfaction, increased effectiveness of their instructional interactions, and children with MTP teachers show greater gains in language/literacy development and lower levels of problem behavior.

During a 9-month coaching program, MTP teachers will work one-on-one with a certified coach to improve their interactions that impact children’s learning. Using video from teacher’s own classrooms and the CLASS framework, coaches provide individualized feedback and support through structured observation cycles. MTP teachers spend two to three hours every two weeks engaging in 5-step coaching cycles during the program: 5 StepMTP Coaching Model

To learn more about how to participate in MTP, please contact our MTP coaches:

Jib Chattrabhuti JibC@smartstart-fc.org, or
Catherine Burke CatherineB@smartstart-fc.org

Click on the following link to download an informational flyer on the program: MTP Flyer 2017-2018_Final

 

… Aplicaciones de NC Pre–K para el año escolar 2017-2018 ya están disponibles …

Aplicación 2017-18 final versión española

Pre K Application 2017 18 Color Page English Final

Where can I pick up applications in the community? Dónde puedo recoger aplicaciones en la comunidad? Where Dónde

NC Pre-K applications for the 2017-2018 school year now available …

It’s time! If you would like your child to participate in the NC Pre-K program, please download Pre K Application 2017 18 Color Page English Final for more information.

Es tiempo! Si desea que su hijo participe en el programa NC Pre-K, por favor descargan Aplicación 2017-18 final versión española para más información.

Where can I pick up applications in the community? Dónde puedo recoger aplicaciones en la comunidad? Where Dónde

DSC_0899

I want to be … Yo quiero ser …

 

 

http://smartstart-fc.org/attention-parents-atencion-padres-time-to-apply-for-the-2017-2018-nc-pre-k-program/

Leadership Matters Institute (LMI) honors participants at October 18 networking banquet

… TED-Talk celebrity, David Rendall inspires participants and guests to remember that “What makes us weird also makes us wonderful … and what makes us weak also makes us strong!” …

He calls it the “freak factor”—that thing or things that define us as unique, those things that cause us problems in “normal situations,” that cause us to doubt perhaps our truest gifts.

dsc_0923

David Rendall talking, walking, and working for himself–to help others!

The purveyor of the Freak Factor, David Rendall, sees himself as his own best, six-foot-six (“six-foot-nine in heels”) living exemplar of FF. To paraphrase from his talk, his elementary and middle school experiences as a nightmare for some of the adults in his life: he couldn’t keep quiet, he couldn’t sit still, and he couldn’t follow instructions.

And today? He makes a very comfortable living pacing a public stage for hire, with a rat-ta-tat, non-stop delivery, working for himself.

“What makes us weird makes us wonderful. What makes us weak also makes us strong.”

That is if you’re willing to use your uniqueness to your advantage.

dscn0639

From the left: Banquet M.C. Matthew McKeown; LMI participants Vanessa Sawyer-Wilson; Cara Jankowski McKeown, and Victoria Frazier.

Borrowing from Peter Drucker, Rendall notes “Strong people always have strong weaknesses too. Where there are peaks there are valleys.” Rendall notes the trick is to “amplify” your weaknesses into a strength.

Another great observation from the Drucker canon he often shares is, “Organizations exist to make people’s strengths effective and weaknesses irrelevant.”

The October 18 recognition dinner and “performance lecture by David Rendall marked the beginning of the second stage of the three-stage Leadership Matters Institute (LMI). LMI is a project of Smart Start’s Teaching and Learning Services program.

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Institute participants in a deep dive discussion on the “Four Factors of Effective Leadership” with David Rendall.

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Milton Rhodes Center for the Arts

LMI’s principal organizer, Cara Jankowski McKeown, and her planning team involving fellow Smart Start staff and board members, Vanessa Sawyer Wilson and Theressa Stephens, have modeled the institute off of the Early Childhood Director’s Leadership Institute conducted at UNC – Greensboro from October 2013 through April 2015. The institute provides directors from across Forsyth County a distinctive opportunity for professional and personal growth, fine-tuning leadership technique, tailoring methods of motivation in the workplace, and exploring new pathways to create a holistically positive environment for children, families, and employees.

For more information about LMI, contact Cara McKeown at 336.714.4351 or CaraM@SmartStart-FC.org.

“Every ending is a new beginning!” David Rendall.institute-ii-agenda-and-housekeeping

Here’s a link to one of David’s recent TED Talks: http://www.bing.com/videos/search?q=david+Rendall+%2b+TED&view=detail&mid=44A4EB695372424EC45C44A4EB695372424EC45C&FORM=VIRE

Leadership Matters Institute Facilitators:

  • Cara McKeown, Teaching and Learning Specialist, SSFC
  • Vanessa Sawyer-Wilson, Teaching and Learning Services Coordinator, SSFC

Leadership Matters Coaches:

  • Theressa Stephens (pronounced “Theresa”), Owner and Director, Church Childcare
  • Karen Young, Developmental Day Director of the Special Children’s School
  • Shawn Martin, Operations Manager, Centers for Exceptional Children

Leadership Matters Cohort Participants:

  • Carol Grubbs, Assistant Director, Church Childcare
  • Ann Wherry Dunn, Owner and Director, Waughtown Kids-R-Us
  • Paula Cancro, Director, Our Lady of Mercy Preschool
  • Victoria Frazier, Owner and Director, Victoria’s Academy
  • Saleena Frazier, Director, Oak Summit Learning Center
  • Sabrina Hinton, Director, North Point and TLC Learning Academies
  • Amanda Donaldson, Owner and Director, A Better World Learning Center
  • June Miller, Owner and Director, Maxx Kinder Kollege
  • Carrie Zeigler, Director, The Potter’s House for Children

Early voting has begun and your vote counts!

… one area in which we truly have a consensus as a polity is investing in early education …

When considering candidates and referenda this fall, keep in mind that we are the only voice our children have.

In this mercurial campaign season, one thing remains constant: voters want Congress and the next president to work together to make quality early childhood education more accessible and affordable.img_6030

The annual national poll by the First Five Years Fund shows that early childhood education is one of the best ways for candidates to connect with voters, because it is one of our top priorities — regardless of political persuasion. These numbers include 78 percent of Trump supporters and 97 percent of Clinton supporters.

Quality early childhood education is a political winner. In fact, there is overwhelming polling support — with little opposition — for a federal plan to help states and local communities provide better access to quality early care — particularly for low and moderate-income working families.

Make no mistake: Child care and early education are critical public investments in the success of families and local private enterprise. High quality, affordable child care is a necessary ingredient for working parents to be successful on the job. It is also a primary building block for the fitness of our next generation of employers and employees.

Nearly three-quarters of the electorate support this conclusion: 73 percent favor and only 24 percent oppose such investment — 54 percent of Republicans, 70 percent of independents, 91 percent of Democrats. Large majorities of key swing-voter groups — including 85 percent of Latinos, 79 percent of suburban women, 65 percent of moderate/liberal Republicans, and 58 percent of Republican women — all favor investing more in early childhood education from birth to age 5.dsc_0742

How do these findings line up with the work of our state and local elected officials?

The most recent legislative session sent home a multi-million dollar, pre-school backpack, worth just south of $8.5 million ($8,390,345) — across the NC Pre-K program, children’s developmental service agencies and the Nurse Family Partnership program — along with important, follow-up study committees to bring recommendations forward in 2017 and 2018.

The investments are quite modest, but real, and garnered support across the political spectrum.

Only teacher raises and an additional $34 million toward private vouchers received more. (Is there a voice among the salons for the voucher-subsidy system to support families’ pre-k choices?)

To keep things in perspective, North Carolina’s early education system is yet to recover from the devastating bipartisan cuts in early learning that took place between 2010 and 2012, reducing overall birth-to-5 funding by more than 25 percent, from $381 million to $279 million.

As in so many other endeavors, however, Winston-Salem/Forsyth County may be growing as an innovation hub for early learning.

We know what high quality early learning looks like and how to measure it. We have a limited, but high quality, mixed public-private child-care delivery system, managed by private independent and corporate providers, as well as Winston-Salem/Forsyth County schools, made possible through pooling the available federal and state Child Care Development Funds (Social Services), Head Start (Family Services, Inc.), NC Pre-K (Smart Start, Inc.) and Title I (Winston-Salem/Forsyth County schools) funds with parental resources.

However, for example among our 4-year-old children, these funds reach only about a quarter of our children. And there is much evidence that perhaps as many as 90 percent of households would place their children in 4-year-old classrooms, if they could afford the $8,000 in tuition costs.

Champions of children and economic development can take some encouragement from the most recent, very cautious restoration in birth-to-five state investment. However, it is not nearly what we need, and critical, local private initiative is stepping up.

The Kate B. Reynolds Charitable Trust has set aside approximately $2.5 million in annual spending for the next decade in its Great Expectations early education program, which begins at birth. The Reynolds American Foundation is leading a coalition of visionary corporate donors in the ambitious Project Impact to the tune of approximately $6 million annual support in Forsyth County, 4-year-old through third-grade classrooms. That about matches in Forsyth County what the legislature has managed to find for the entire state!

Is this level of private investment in early education sustainable? We doubt it. But advocates plan to work with donors to make the case for greater public commitment — local, state and federal — to early learning and pre-k funding.

The whole state is watching our local experiment. We cannot continue to short-change our families and young children. We must ensure that innovative local, private-public partnerships help more of our children succeed, our families thrive and our community prosper.

That’s the clear message from most of us to all the candidates: from City Hall to Jones Street to Pennsylvania Avenue.

Much of this post originally appeared in the July 22, 2016 edition of the Winston-Salem Journal, under the title, “On the road to recovery and innovation in early education.”