Bryant Early Education — BEE — coalition members gathered Thursday, Feb. 9, at The Center at Bishop Park to celebrate one year of successfully enriching the lives of preschoolers in Bryant.
According to BEE Coalition Founder and Coordinator Pam Toler, the goal of the coalition is to work together to provide the highest quality preschool education, so Bryant's "little bees" will be ready to become Bryant Hornets.
"We provide support for early educators and parents in Bryant. Eighty-five percent of a child's intelligence, personality and social skills are developed by age 5, yet 95 percent of funding goes to enhance kindergarten through 12th grade. Ages 0 to 5 are critical; we've got it backward. I wanted to help provide a quality, early childhood environment for our children," Toler said.
Toler, working through ASU Childhood Services, provides support for licensed, early childcare facilities in Bryant.
"The coalition consists of members from each licensed facility; currently, there are 15 providers. We meet once a month to determine their needs. They may request training or materials. Whatever resources they need, I find it, tap it, bring it or create it," Toler said.
According to Toler, the Bee coalition is a pilot program.
"While there is training throughout Arkansas, I believe this is the only coalition in the state," Toler said.
Because of the coalition, Toler has been able to arrange for training to be conducted onsite, in Bryant, rather than educators having to travel to Little Rock or farther to receive it.
In fact, 21 different training workshops came to Bryant. As a result of the increased accessibility, educators in Bryant registered a total of 810.5 hours on the state training registry.
Workshops included: PAS ; Arkansas Fit Kids; Common Core; Framework Basics-Preschool; Essentials of Developmentally Appropriate Physical Activity; Developmentally Appropriate Physical Activities: Books & Movement; Nutrition for Young Children; ITERS-R; ECERS-R; ERS-The Basics; Power of Play from Cradle to K; What Do I Say to Toddlers?; Learning to Play, Playing to Learn; So What? About Brain Research; Learning Spaces – Inspiring Places; Director’s Roundtable 1; Making Every Day Count; Minimum Licensing Updates; Administrative Issues; Staff Retention; CPR.
Toler attributes the success of the coalition to the partnering between the state, city, business community, school district and community at large.
"We have joined with the Imagination Library of Saline County and the Bryant Area Chamber of Commerce to provide resources as well," Toler said.
The coalition also was able to educate parents on child development.
"We offered The Power of Play from Cradle to K," Toler said.
ASU Childhood Services made 79 technical assistance visits in one year.
"Our (child care) providers are taking advantage of every available, professional resource," Toler said.
Bryant's Pre-K children also are able to make a smooth transition to kindergarten due to partnering with the Bryant Schools.
"The definition of kindergarten readiness has changed, now that Common Core is being implemented in the school district. Our children will be prepared. No one else in the state is doing this. We have access to training, website resources, video demonstrations and lesson plans," Toler said.
Better Beginnings is the name for the state’s Quality Rating Improvement System, administered by the Department of Human Services’ Division of Child Care and Early Childhood Education. This voluntary system requires increasing progress by providers in component areas (administration, administrator and staff qualifications, professional development, learning environment, facility assessment, and child health/development).
Every child care provider along with its quality rating is posted on the Better Beginnings website. This serves as a crucial resource to parents, guardians and others as they make choices about their child care provider.
According to Toler, a year ago, when the BEE coalition first began, only two sites of the licensed child care providers had credentials. Now, out of 15 facilities, 13 have achieved a level of certification.
"I have been traveling all over the state doing this through ASU Childhood Services for over six years, and we have done more in one year, in Bryant, than I have in six. It is amazing how the quality of early childhood education has shot up in one year," Toler said.
The following lists Bryant child care facilities and their level of achievement to date:
Better Beginnings Level 3 (highest level quality)
•Dawson Co-op Bryant Elementary
•Dawson Co-op Collegeville ElementaryMiChild Enrichment Center: CARF (level 3 reciprocity)
Better Beginnings Level 1
•Bright Ideas Enrichment Center
•Challenger Plus Preschool
•Childcare Network, Bryant
•Childcare Network, Collegeville
•Small Blessings Learning Academy
•Better Beginnings Getting Ready
•Mrs. Jamy’s Child Care
•Park Place Preschool
•The Union Station
•Wisdom Tree Learning Academy
BEE Coalition members include: Brandy Webb, Bright Ideas Enrichment Center; Nikki Loftus, Challenger Plus Preschool; Christa Johnson, Childcare Network/Bryant; Sarah Appling, Childcare Network/Collegeville; Shannon Calhoun, CNI District Manager of Childcare Network; Tonja Lewis, Dawson Co-op, Bryant Elementary, Collegeville Elementary; Cindy Rowlan, Dawson HIPPY (Home Instruction for Parents of Preschool Youngsters); Ashley Staggs, The Family Church Academy Preschool; Vicki Walker, First Southern Baptist Preschool; Karla Curry, MiChild Enrichment Center of Friendship Pediatric Services; Jamy Caple, Mrs. Jamy’s Childcare; Amber Crumby, Park Place Preschool; Torri Jacobs, Small Blessings Learning Academy; Kayla Jones, Sunshine Academy; Brandy Ray, The Union Station; Arteia Stamps, Wisdom Tree Learning Academy; Bryant Mayor Jill Dabbs; Alicia Atwood, Bryant School District; Jaclyn Cochran, licensing specialist with Arkansas Department of Human Services; Kristen Sangalli, Child Care Connections.
For more information on the coalition or helpful resources for
parents, visit www.beecoalition.com  or www.beeparents.com .