Council considers early childhood education needs

Published 1:27 pm Sunday, June 9, 2024

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At its June 4 meeting, the Lowndes County Children’s Policy Council (CPC) completed a needs assessment for the Alabama Department of Early Childhood Education. The annual assessment is a statutory requirement, and one which helps refine how the council and state lawmakers work to overcome obstacles to early childhood education.

Lowndes County District Judge Adrian Johnson chairs the council. He explained how the annual assessment serves to identify needs and leads to solutions for meeting them.

“[The assessment gives the state department a snapshot of every county for the legislature to consider,” Johnson said. “So, then policymakers can look at what issues are facing children. If they see consistent trends, then they know they might want to look at how they can go about meeting them.”

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The CPC identifies early childhood education needs in eight categories, then selects the three most urgent needs to address. Needs are selected after discussion among all CPC members, which includes representatives from local schools and agencies working to serve Lowndes County children.

“We have a good cross section of people to try and get ideas of what we really want to focus on,” Johnson said. “For this year’s needs we selected mental health, parental involvement and engagement and poverty.”

Johnson explained that member agencies and organizations already have some programs in place to address the selected concerns. The CPC aims to see what else can be done through collaborative effort, to meet the needs of local children.

“Everything we deal with is impacted in some way by poverty,” Johnson said. “Mrs. [Samita] Jeter was really pushing for that to be one of our needs we will try to address because it’s a common issue in Lowndes County. It touches a lot of kids in our community.”

Lowndes County Board of Education Head Start Director Angela Calhoun works to help local children gain early childhood education on a daily basis. She witnesses firsthand the impact of poverty on children.

“Poverty limits access to those resources crucial for the physical, emotional, and social development of young students,” Calhoun said. “When families are unable to access these essential learning materials, children miss out on the numerous positive benefits of early literacy education.”

In other business, the CPC also received a $4,000 donation from The Calhoun School Class of ‘76. The money, presented by David Cottrell and Leon Bennett, will help the council to grant scholarships for local students attending college in fall of 2025.

“The donation came from money they raised in their efforts towards the Sheriff “Big John” Williams Scholarship,” Johnson said. “That will go towards scholarships for next year, for 2025.”

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