Community Partners E-News
March 2017
In Our Communities

Adams: Early learning partners in Adams County have opened registration for the 2017 Bridging the Gap Seminar. This year's event will be held on March 29 at the Adams County Emergency Call Center. This is a day long seminar for preschool educators, kindergarten teachers and agency employees who work with children. The agenda includes professional development and networking opportunities. Click here for more information.

Fayette & Westmoreland: A network of 40 volunteers are trained and managed each year to conduct vision screenings throughout Westmoreland and Fayette Counties.  A partnership with the Westmoreland County Blind Association and the Fayette County Association for the Blind provides additional resources for  screening efforts.  Each year, over 3,000 3, 4 and 5 year-olds are screened prior to entering kindergarten. Get more info.

Greene: CIZ partners in the Jefferson-Morgan Elementary School recently had their efforts highlighted in the Greene County Messenger. Read how the funding has been used for high-quality educational materials, state of the art equipment and technology.

Greene, Fayette & Westmoreland:  Partnerships with all 17 school districts in Westmoreland, all six in Fayette and one in Greene County help improve collaborations between the school districts & the early care community.  Each district creates a transition team filled with school district personnel, early care providers, community members and librarians.  Each team meets a minimum of two times per year to discuss and plan transition activities for next year's kindergartners. Best practices throughout the network are shared. The partnership allows for leveraging additional resources to support the successful transition to kindergarten.  Since July 1, 2016 this partnership has put over 6,000 quality children's books into the community to various libraries, early care centers and school districts throughout our service area. For more info, contact Jess Sprajcar at jesse.sprajcar@unitedwayswpa.org.

Juniata: Success By 6 and Juniata County School District are hosting Family Fun Nights on March 14 and March 21. Parents and children who will be coming to kindergarten in the fall have an opportunity to participate in fun hands on kindergarten readiness activities. For more info, contact Cristy Yoders at CYoders@mjunitedway.org.

Lackawanna:  The Northeast Regional Key, in partnership with the Scranton-Lackawanna Head Start and Community Library of Hamlin, will host a Transition to School Story Time on March 9. This story time is to target families who don't have a child in an early learning program to share important information about the transition into school and ways to help prepare their child this important transition. The story and activities will be geared towards going to school.  There will be a representative from Western Wayne School District come to talk to families about the transition into school, and each family will receive resources and a free book. For more info, contact Beth Gambone at bgambone@cscinc.org.

Mifflin: Success By 6 and Mifflin County School District have been partnering to offer four Kindergarten Readiness Workshops for families who have children entering kindergarten this fall. Parents receive lots of great information and children receive manipulatives to use while preparing for school. As preparations are underway for kindergarten registration, the first round of kindergarten transition packets have been mailed to all children registered for kindergarten. Each packets includes a book, school district information and school readiness materials- to date approximately 260 packets have been mailed. Each child attending kindergarten registration will also receive packets in April and June. March 30, 2017 will be the Early Childhood mini conference organized by Success By 6, Mifflin County School District and the Tuscarora Intermediate Unit #11. PBIS, technology, math and early literacy sessions will be offered. Due to generous funding there will not be a cost to attendees. For more info, contact Cristy Yoders at CYoders@mjunitedway.org.

Schuylkill: The Schuylkill County LEARN Team is planning their first Transition Event on March 30, 2017 at the IU29.  This event is bringing together the early learning programs and school districts in the county.  They are also planning a professional development event on the Early Learning Standards and then a time for the early learning programs and school districts to network and talk about their transition practices. For more info, contact Lisa Zimmerman at rftsdaycare@verizon.net. 

Susquehanna: The Susquehanna County LEARN Team is planning their next Transition Event with school districts and early learning programs to be held during March or April.  There will be a focus on bringing books alive in the classroom. Each participant is going to be asked to bring one of the favorite books that they use in their classroom along with an activity they use around the book.  There will be copies of the activities, so everyone who attends can go home with some new and exciting activities to take back to their classrooms and to share with families. For more info, contact Joanne Sivers at angelbeginningsclc@yahoo.com.

Share your outreach on PA's Promise for Children website! 
Submit online or send to Mary at marhal@pakeys.org
Governor releases proposed budget for 2017-18, including increases for early childhood education

On February 7, Governor Wolf released his proposed budget for 2017-18. Watch his budget address and download budget documents from the Governor's website.

The proposed budget would provide:
  • $9 million increased investment to serve approximately 1,700 additional families in evidence-based home visiting;
  • $10 million increased investment in Child Care Works to serve approximately 1,800 additional children from the Child Care Works waiting list;
  • maintained investment in Keystone STARS to serve approximately 1,000 additional children;
  • $65 million increased investment in Pre-K Counts to serve at least 7,400 additional children;
  • $10 million increased investment in Head Start Supplemental to serve at least 1,030 additional children; and
  • $11 million increased investment in Preschool Early Intervention to serve approximately 1,100 additional children.
Get Early Learning GPS Bookmarks for Your Event

Hosting a Month of the Young Child event? The Early Learning GPS Bookmarks are available at no cost to you and are perfect for distribution to families at your next event.  One side of the bookmark features five easy tips families can use to help their child learn, while the other provides information about the Early Learning GPS. The bookmarks come in packs of 100 and online ordering is easy

The Early Learning GPS provides 10 questions families answer about their child's development to get simple tips and links to reliable resources to help their child learn and grow.  The Early Learning GPS is available online and as an app.
Register to be a PA One Book Guest Reader or Host Site
Registration through March 8

Help support early literacy during April through Pennsylvania's One Book Every Young Child! Individuals are invited to be a PA One Book reader during the month of April at an early learning program in your community. Registration is also open for early learning programs to host a guest reader during April. The PA One Book, Every Young Child is Pennsylvania's collaborative project using the vehicle of "One Book, One State" program to highlight the importance of early literacy development. 

This year's selection, Daniel Finds a Poem, written and illustrated by Micha Archer, is a story about a boy who goes on an adventure through a park trying to find answers to his question, "What is poetry?" 

Reading events will take place during April. Guest readers are provided with a copy of the book and can select a time and date during April that works best with their schedule. Register to be a guest reader by completing the Guest Reader Online Registration. Register to be a host site by completing the Host Site Online Registration.
Share the Impact of Early Learning

As we approach a new budget season, hearing how early learning has made an impact can be a powerful message. PA's Promise for Children provides an opportunity for families and early learning partners to provide their stories about how early learning has made an impact in the lives of children. Now is the time for families and partners in your communities to share their early learning stories!
 
Family or partner stories don't have to long or poetic. They don't have to be dramatic or perfect. Some of the most amazing stories are from families whose children have participated in programs like PA Pre-K Counts, Early Intervention, Head Start, Nurse-Family Partnerships, or have received Child Care Works or attend a Keystone STARS early learning program. Like:

Sharing a story is easy. It can be sent to marhal@pakeys.org as a document or in an email, or it can be submitted online at the PA's Promise for Children website. You can even share a picture if you'd like!

 
Let your voice be heard. Share your story.


Celebrate Reading in March
 
You may know that March 2, 2017, is
Read Across America Day, but did you know it is also Read Captions Across America Day?  This event is designed to emphasize the importance of captioned media (e.g., broadcast, internet, DVD, CD-ROM) as a reading tool for all children, not just those who are deaf or hard of hearing.
 
During the entire month of March, celebrate "Read Aloud Month" with Read Aloud 15 Minutes, a non-profit organization that recognizes the benefits of reading aloud to children and encourages families and caregivers to read aloud every day for at least 15 minutes. At readaloud.org there are tons of great resources that you will want to share with others in order to inspire reading every day. There are items available to download in the Partner Toolkit including:
If you're looking for new books to share with or explore with children of various ages, check out the book selections webpage that is also available.  Please use these resources and share them with others to help promote reading aloud every day!
Johnstown Area Students and Teachers Invited to Take Part in Bookmark Design Contest
Deadline March 18

The Children's Book Festival of Johnstown is an annual event that connects top-selling, critically-acclaimed children's authors, illustrators and storytellers with area kids. To kick off the festival, The Learning Lamp is calling on local students to use their imaginations and create a bookmark that tells a story focused around our theme of "READ, ROCK & ROLL." Their hand-drawn creations will be featured at the 9th annual Children's Book Festival of Johnstown, which takes place April 1-2, 2017. Read more.
PA One Book's Classic Countdown: 2014-2016

Are you keeping up with PA One Book's Classic Countdown? March brings more than just winds--we're 
highlighting the final selections to the PA One Book classics! 

Since January, we've explored the past PA One Book selections. There have been tons of fun activities, videos and stories to share. See what's in store for March as we wrap up the Classic Countdown.

What's coming in March
  • March 1-3: Stripes of All Types by Susan Stockdale (2014)
  • March 6-10: Number One Sam by Greg Pizzoli (2015)
  • March 13-17: Kite Day by Will Hillenbrand (2016)
  • March 20-31: ...Keep your eyes on your email inbox for a special announcement! 

Tools to Strengthen Connections

Have you ever been to a meeting where you felt nothing was decided, where solutions were never discussed, or you left drained and frustrated?  Yeah...us too! OCDEL recognizes the vital role collaboration plays in our complex world and has been taking steps to support local communities to design meetings where people come to agreement, solutions are proposed, and attendees leave feeling energized and refreshed.

In 2016, OCDEL offered two P-3 Networking Meetings, Strengthening Connections Across Pennsylvania, where approximately 150 school and community leaders came together to  learn from each other and continue sustainability efforts by using creative collaborations and stakeholder engagement. The goals of the meeting were to:
  • Understanding shifts in funding and the desire to continue the momentum and learning;
  • Experiencing methods and tools to apply in regional meetings, and understanding the underlying concepts that support them;
  • Adding knowledge about early learning both locally and statewide; and
  • Develop plans for conducting regional meetings.
We have been excited to see and hear what teams have continued to work on in their own communities.

Leah Spangler from The Learning Lamp & Ignite Education Solutions in Johnstown shared:

I used one of the activities from the P-3 networking meeting with my staff. They really help with team building.
 
Desiree Rockwell, M.P.A., Nurse-Family Partnership Administrator with the Guthrie Towanda Memorial Hospital in Towanda shared the following story.

We just wanted to share with you that we used some of the strategies that we learned at the conference for the first time. At our Early Childhood Coalition meeting yesterday - we used the active idea share and the carousel with those who attended. We chose these tools because we felt that our team engagement had greatly decreased.  In fact, sometimes we felt that team members were "just showing up" to meetings and not really taking on an active role.

We just wanted to share with you that the strategies we used REALLY WORKED.   We had a great meeting with lots of sharing. Everyone was truly engaged and admitted to not feeling more involved previously. We had a great two hour conversation and are looking forward to meeting again.

If you weren't able to attend these meetings, there are still many great resources to help your team be more effective and support your capacity to become a more collaborative leader.  In the book Collaborative Leadership in Action (Sanagahan and Gabriel, 2014), the following five fundamentals for collaboration are offered.
  1. Be intentional. Great things don't happen by accident. Intentionally plan for a design meeting, using strategies that are engaging.
  2. Build trust. Without trust, not much else will happen. Transparent communication, fulfilling promises and commitments, and providing a way to discuss difficult topics all help to build trust in as team.
  3. Be inclusive. If people feel like an outsider, they won't engage. Good meetings connect with diverse learning styles, focus on engaging all participants, and help everyone feel like they belong.
  4. Create alignment. People are more engaged and more productive when they feel connected to the organization's vision and values. Gaining group commitment to the greater goals of the organization happens continuously through frequent and intentional meetings.
  5. Develop a team. Making sure all team members understand the strengths they and other members bring to the team helps increase performance. 
Let's explore tips, tools, and strategies for implementing the five fundamentals!

Be Intentional
The book,  The Surprising Power of Liberating Structures: Simple Rules to Unleash A Culture of Innovation (Lipmanowicz and McCandless, 2014), offers many great activities to help leaders plan for and design engaging and impactful meetings. You may find as you try some of these new meeting designs and become more collaborative, people might say things like, "This won't work here." What you are really hearing are fears - fear of the unknown, fear of letting go of control, fear of doing it wrong. Fortunately, such fears dissipate quickly since more engaging strategies invariably generate much more satisfying and energizing interactions than participants experience with familiar conventional structures. Visit the Liberating Structures website to get more information on how to work through the initial phases of designing new meetings.

Build Trust
The BUILD Initiative works with early childhood leaders within states and nationally to better prepare young children to thrive and succeed. BUILD supports leaders from both the private and public sectors as they work to set policy, offer services and advocate for children from birth to age five. BUILD developed The Community Systems Development Toolkit which supports the hands-on implementation of collaborative systems work at the local level, providing resource tools that cover the full spectrum of community systems and coordination work. The toolkit offers an entire section on communication - a valuable strategy in gaining and sustaining trust on a team.

The Communicating Across Collaboration section includes tools, strategies and examples to support the planning and implementation of communication across all levels of the collaboration and community. The communication includes both internal and external communication to engage the public in the work.

Be Inclusive
According to Productive Workplaces (Weisbord, 2012), as people decide whether or not to invest themselves in a group, they ask themselves these three questions.
  1. Am I In or Out?
  2. How much Power/Influence do I have?
  3. Will I be able to Contribute/Learn something?
Am I In or Out?
Most of us want to be valued, to have tasks that matter, and to belong. The more "in" we feel, the better we cooperate and engage. The more "out" we feel, the more we withdraw, work alone, and lose attention.

How much Power or Influence do I have?
Faced with situations we can't influence, we feel powerless, and in turn, we may lose self-efficacy. The more "elbow room" we have to shape our circumstances and learning, the more apt we are to work harder and persist.

Will I be able to Contribute or Learn something?
Tremendous skills, experience, and common sense are present in every group. Limiting assumptions about who can and should do what prevent us from engaging. When we sense that we will have an opportunity to learn or contribute, we step up.

Create Alignment
The BUILD Initiative toolkit also has the section,  Creating and Sustaining a Shared Vision. These resources will support creation and reassessment of a shared vision across community stakeholders.  The Self-Assessment/Self-Identification Tool in particular provides an opportunity to self-reflect, to encourage discussion, and to brainstorm ideas on how to further cultivate an organizational culture amenable to partnership and see where individual goals and values align with the organization.
 
Develop a Team
The Surprising Power of Liberating Structures: Simple Rules to Unleash A Culture of Innovation (Lipmanowicz and McCandless, 2014) offers valuable tools to help teams learn more about each other's strengths. The Liberating Structures website offers a wonderful and enlightening activity called Appreciative Interviews. In less than one hour, a group of any size can generate the list of conditions that are essential for its success. Positive movement is sparked by the search for what works now and by uncovering the root causes that make success possible. Stories of success can also offer insight into what drives team members, where their strengths lie, and how their experiences can impact the work of the team. 

Why am I getting this email?
OCDEL recognizes that many community based groups across the commonwealth are doing similar work and are comprised of similar team members. This newsletter can be used to help promote collaboration and awareness of others across the commonwealth. The goal is that as groups become aware of each other, events can be coordinated, resources shared and leveraged.  Check your email's in-box for future editions!
PA's Promise for Children | www.papromiseforchildren.com
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