VA Program Leaders Gather at Schools Readiness Seminar

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Communities from across Virginia came together in Charlottesville Friday to try and help kids get ready for school, especially the very young.

The hope is to have a positive ripple effect from one end of the commonwealth to the other.

Program leaders from all over the state met for the Smart Beginnings Leader Institute to discuss the best way to prepare students for their first day of school. The focus was on children younger than 5 years old.

Kathy Glazer is the head of the Virginia Early Childhood Foundation. This is the fifth conference she's helped organize.

"Most of the learning comes from sharing across peers,” Glazer said. “What one has learned in one corner of the state to be able to share and say we've had this success in our community and see if it works in another area of the state."

Representatives from Albemarle County say the conference joins them with others working toward the same goal.

Barbara Hutchinson, director of community initiatives for the Thomas Jefferson Area United Way, said, “Early childhood education and care is important to all of us because it is the pipeline to the future."

She says the group has an effective home visiting program for improving child school readiness.

“It works with families that have children, starting at birth, to help teach parents how to be good parents and provide the level of care that will help their children succeed developmentally,” Hutchinson said.

Glazer says the real challenge is meeting each individual community's need and working within their funding. And this conference is a big help.

"How do we take the limited funding streams that comes to the community and really braid them in the most efficient ways to provide the best quality services?" Glazer said.

The institute began just last year. Hutchinson says this increased emphasis on early childhood education helped prompt the United Way to expand its services this year to Fluvanna, Nelson, and Greene counties.

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