By Ansley Brackin
Preschool Directors of United Methodist churches are invited to analyze and improve school programs through the United Methodist Preschool Directors Association.
The goal of the association is to provide support for directors and assist churches in providing better school settings, regardless of budget. The association does this by looking through the guidelines of several accreditation processes and focusing on all aspects of a preschool program through an in-depth self-study.
The assessments focus on elements like providing members with Safe Sanctuaries training and encouraging directors to invest in a stable number of teachers and support.
Application requires a small fee that grants directors access to these guidelines, and provides them with a mentor that will visit the preschool and go over the highlights and needs for improvement of their current area.
This group, currently made up of roughly 125 preschool directors, awards certificates of excellence to those who complete the process every April. If an applicant does not finish the process within a year, they are encouraged to continue the following year.
Once members receive their certificate, they complete a recertification process every three years. After recertifying twice, they go through the original process again in order to stay up-to-date as guidelines and requirements change over the course of time.
The group provides further compliancy by hosting each quarterly meeting in a different location to better reach every member.
“It’s a wonderful support group and sounding board for preschool directors,” adds association president, Sally Newkirk of Roswell UMC.
Debby Daniel-Bryant witnessed a drastic change at Griffin First United Methodist Church after going through the program.
Daniel-Bryant worked as a school psychologist before accepting the children’s director position at the church. Before this transition she was unaware of the detail and preparation it took to organize and upkeep a teaching facility and team.
One of her first actions as director was to go through the Preschool Directors Association Program, after the school had gone 65 without such a process.
“It opened my eyes to what needed to be done,” she says. “It’s very proactive in terms of setting standards.”
As the preschool improved, it gained more attention from both the congregation and the community. Griffin Daily News, the local newspaper, awarded the program with Best Preschool two years in a row.
“People see it in the church,” she adds.
Support from the church is enthusiastic and more involved. Currently the preschool is working towards providing a Spanish class, with full support and aid of Griffin First members.
One project encouraged by the association’s assessment was to improve the Griffin First UMC’s playground. This was done by fundraising through the church congregation, along with some help from local Eagle Scouts.
The United Methodist Preschool Directors Association helped launch Dahlonega UMC into the success it now has.
Dahlonega UMC’s preschool program has been certified as a “Program of Excellence” since 2004. Preschool director, Angie Mayo, completed the program and now runs the thriving preschool, which includes a special Mothers’ Morning Out program alongside it.
Newkirk commends the United Methodist Preschool Directors Association for providing a “springboard to help preschools in our United Methodist Churches.”
Preschool directors are welcome to contact Sally Newkirk to learn more about the program and how to begin the certification process.