Affton School District Channel Article, January 2012

Why the Excitement regarding the Early Childhood Center?

I have been asked on a couple of occasions why this new facility is such a “big deal”. I can only answer this directly from my perspective and anecdotally from what others have said in meetings, discussions, and planning. Suffice it to say I feel it is one of the most important things I have been involved with on the school board. I believe the effects will last for generations and we will not truly see the fruit of this labor for almost twenty years.

It is well known and acknowledged that the first five years of life have the greatest impact on a child’s life choices. A tremendous number of foundational connections are established in a child’s brain. In school, teachers try to pour all of the instruction they can into our children. The child’s capacity to receive it is very much determined before they enter kindergarten. Kids entering Affton schools have come from a wide range of pre-school experiences with differing amounts of attention and training. Some of these situations are:

  1. Living in a home with their parents. One parent works and one cares for the family.
  2. Living in a home with their parents. Both parents work and they go to some sort of day care.
  3. Living in a single parent home and attend a day care.
  4. Living in a home with one or two parents working and are left alone. (ugly but it happens)
  5. Living in a home with one or two parents not working.

I personally believe the best situation is one where the parents provide that continuous developmental care. The reality of our society is only a small minority are cared for that way. Most children are placed into day cares of varying quality for economic, emotional, or personal reasons.

My youngest child is a Senior at Affton High School. As has been the custom for many years at graduation, the students will be asked to stand if they started in Affton from Kindergarten. A majority of the students will rise just as in previous years, they will look at each other knowingly and smile. They know each other. They may not always like each other but through the experience of walking together through the school system, they have a bond that will last their lifetime. This quality is a valuable asset of the Affton School District. I see the Early Childhood Center taking that asset and increasing its value many fold.

In this program we have an opportunity to forge a community of life long learners that will grow together. We have the ability to move kids in less than ideal circumstances into a position to succeed, to become high achievers. We all talk about excellence and academic achievement. This is our opportunity not to fight to catch kids up, but to set them up for success during these formative years.

While we are doing this, I believe we are accurately representing the priorities of this community. I have talked in previous letters about the community in Affton, and the strength and character that are here. I truly see this building as the starting gate to a better sense of community than we have today.

Eighteen years from now, the babies of today will be looking towards their future. As they sit on that stage (newly renovated I am sure), they will be asked a different question. They will be asked to stand if they started their life together at the Affton Early Childhood Center.

They will look at each other and smile a deeper smile than the graduates of today. These students will be anxious to move on to the professional portions of their lives. They will have learned to be life long learners and to excel at their chosen professions. There will be stories of students overcoming adversity through their relationships with each other. They will not be able to remember before they knew their classmates. For kids in difficult situations, the impact will be significant. They will look around themselves and think of their fellow graduates as family.

Yes, there is a bit of conjecture there. Remember you cannot achieve something without vision. This is the vision we have for this program and I know it is shared by others. This vision for early childhood education reflects the values of our community. We also believe the right quality people are in place to build this program, and to care for our children. While the world struggles with the future, while politicians blow all the hot air about it, at the Affton School District we are choosing to take action and build it.

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