Beginning with the 2013-2014 school year Williamstown Independent Schools and Grant County Schools will each operate their own Preschool programs. This is a departure from the 24-year-old partnership between the two districts.
The Head Start / Preschool partnership between Grant County and Williamstown Schools began in 1989 when Williamstown applied to be the fiscal agent for Head Start, a federal program for which there can be only one fiscal agent per county. When the state Preschool program was initiated several years later, the two districts opted to maintain the partnership for both the Head Start and the Preschool programs.
The result was a fairly unique, blended Head Start and Preschool partnership in which Grant County released their Preschool funds to Williamstown, and provided space and other in-kind services while Williamstown provided transportation, staff, and the administration of both programs.
Now, however, new academic accountability standards and fiscal responsibility (affected by increased enrollment, together with funding formulas and caps) have both districts acknowledging that the blended Head Start / Preschool program cannot be sustained.
After several weeks of consideration, the two districts have each voted to now simply establish and maintain their own Preschool programs. The new arrangement will keep Williamstown Independent Schools as the fiscal agent for Head Start services for all Grant/Williamstown students needing those services. Preschool, however, will follow district and school boundaries, with all Preschool children attending the school of their residence and that school / district being responsible for the management of each respective program.
“For the past several years, Grant County has been one of only a few districts in the state that, essentially, contracts out its Preschool services,” states Phyllis Case, Director of Special Instructional Services for Grant County Schools. “We maintained the partnership because it was a good arrangement that worked well for our students. Williamstown brought a great deal of experience to the table. Now, however, as increased enrollment has required Williamstown to seek a re-negotiation of our contract, it was only appropriate that we consider the much more prevalent arrangement of both districts operating their own program.”
Sally Skinner, Superintendent of Williamstown Independent Schools, echoed her sentiments. “I don’t think dissolving the Preschool partnership was either district’s first choice. We each brought and considered different proposals, but in the end, both districts are called upon to use their resources to best meet the needs of their students, and that is what we both have done.”
Despite the success of the past, both districts see positives in the new arrangement and feel the more direct supervision of each program and the more seamless transitions for students, families, and staff will prove to be a distinct advantage for all students.
“This transition has been under consideration for some time,” states Case. “The funding formula and enrollment numbers have made it increasingly more difficult on Williamstown. With this reality, together with the new academic standards, we felt it was most advantageous for the students if we could ensure more seamless instruction. By incorporating the Preschool in everything we do in each individual building -- from teachers meetings and the implementation of long-term goals to providing resources and sharing instructional strategies for individual students – we feel this organizational structure will be most beneficial in targeting and meeting individual needs.”
“With the new accountability structure implemented by the Kentucky Department of Education, I can certainly see where each district wants and needs to be responsible for their own students,” states Skinner. “The preschool years are very critical years. I’m very proud that through this decision-making process both districts were steadfast in putting the needs of students first.”
For additional information about the Preschool program, contact Phyllis Case, Director of Special Instructional Services at Grant County Schools at (859) 824-3323 -or- Sally Skinner, Superintendent of Williamstown Independent Schools at (859) 824-7144.