Inside Education: Why the Early Years Matter

For those not familiar with the Santa Cruz County Office of Education’s community leadership series, Inside Education, it is a series of workshops conducted once a month over a period of nine months and designed to better acquaint the community with the programs and services of public education in Santa Cruz County. Registered participants meet with school leaders, teachers and administrators, visit classrooms and specialty programs to obtain a first-hand, interactive, in-depth look at the business of education and the methods of teaching students in our public schools.

Why the Early Years Matter

Now in its second year, the first session of the 2009-10 sessions titled, Why the Early Years Matter, concentrated on preschool education. Research indicates that growth in connections and organization of the brain structure of a child between birth and five years of age creates the foundation for healthy child development and influences how an individual will think, learn and function throughout life. The early years of a child’s life are a window of opportunity to chart a course for a lifetime of learning.

Inside Education participants were provided a recently researched and published report by the Santa Cruz County Office of Education, funded by a grant from the David and Lucille Packard Foundation, titled ASAP: All Succeed with Access to Preschool. The grant was awarded to research local needs and produce a “blueprint” for establishing a successful preschool program for all children in the County. An overview of the ASAP report and the status of preschool opportunities in the County were provided by Michael Watkins, County Superintendent of Schools, and Mark Stone, Fifth District County Supervisor.

The group traveled to the Cabrillo College Children’s Center to learn about Cabrillo’s early care programs as well as the College’s Early Childhood Education program that educates the preschool education workforce inclusive of teachers, caregivers, supervisors, parent educators and small business owners. Cabrillo’s Children’s Center serves approximately sixty infant and toddlers.

A stop at Rolling Hills Middle School campus introduced participants to the national, federally funded Head Start Program which serves children from low income families. Head Start provides free comprehensive health, nutrition, early childhood education, parent involvement and social services to income-eligible families to ensure the children are prepared to succeed when they enter kindergarten. Visits were made to the Freedom Elementary School and Pajaro Valley Unified School District’s Child Development Programs.

Childhood education research and services offered in Parajo Valley Unified School District as summarized in a presentation by the district director of Child Development Programs wrapped up the session.

Quotes from participants:

“I was surprised by the complexity of our education system specifically in regards to early childhood education.”

“I learned the importance of early childhood education in providing opportunities that raise the probability of children successfully navigating our K-16 educational system.”


For more information

For more information regarding Inside Education, contact Cheryl Morris at (831) 320-3625.