Early childhood program in Florence 1 showing progress

on Wednesday, 03 December 2014. Posted in News

Posted: Tuesday, December 2, 2014 7:26 pm

BY MELISSA ROLLINS Morning News

FLORENCE, S.C. – S.C. Sen. Hugh Leatherman, R-Florence, visited Alfred Rush Academy in Quinby on Tuesday to hear about the progress of the school readiness program started by Florence School District 1 and The School Foundation.

Leatherman said he was pleased to see how much the program has grown in its first year. “I saw the results today and thought, ‘Wow, it’s working,’” Leatherman said. “That’s why I am going to talk to the new Superintendent of Education, Molly Spearman, and see if we can get this program statewide.”

Leatherman said he sees the benefits of Florence 1’s Start SMART program and wants to see South Carolina politicians focus on other programs like it that will improve the lives of the state’s citizens.

“This is what I have tried to do in my time in the Senate,” Leatherman said. “I have tried to look for programs like this that will be better for all of our citizens, particularly these young ones.”

Part of the presentation Tuesday included Leatherman giving Florence 1 representatives a check for $147,500. The check was the final quarterly payment from the state for its share of the financing of the five-year pilot program. The state agreed to pay for the first four years; Florence 1 will be responsible for paying for the fifth year.

School board member Trisha Caulder was present Tuesday and said that as a big proponent of early education, she is thrilled the district has made it a priority.

“It is fantastic, seeing the excitement in the parents and the children in the program,” Caulder said. “Family literacy is what I did in the district for a long time. To be able to see things that we have wanted to happen for so long happening now is amazing. And it is all because we all came together. It is a partnership, and Sen. Leatherman is a huge part of that partnership.”

The preschool program in Florence 1 had about 400 students enrolled last year at the start of the early childhood initiative. Now roughly 700 students, including special needs children, are enrolled.

The school district and The School Foundation partnered with businesses in the community, working with their employees to encourage them to start their children’s learning early in their homes.

Relationships also were formed with local childcare providers and doctors’ offices to ensure children are receiving health screenings.