Florence Start SMART program receives investment from state

on Wednesday, 26 March 2014. Posted in News

Posted: Monday, March 24, 2014 12:43 pm

FLORENCE, S.C. – Start SMART, a program unveiled by The School Foundation last September, is moving full steam ahead according to an update Florence School District 1 gave educators, supporters and board members Monday at the R.N. Beck Center.

S.C. Sen. Hugh K. Leatherman presented an installment check from the state for $147,500 to see that the program continues to prepare children for kindergarten.

An essential part of the Start SMART program is the availability of resources for families and educators to ensure that all children in the Florence area are developmentally ready for school by the time they enter kindergarten. Some of those resources include psychological services, health and nutrition, early childhood professional development to assist child care centers and the availability of parent workshops.

School Readiness Director Dr. Floyd Creech said that the program, which kicked off last September, has already met many goals and is on track to surpass others.

Currently there are 369 preschool children signed up for the program, which exceeds the goal of 300. Creech said one reason for the success is offering online registration. That service has more than doubled the number of applications organizers would have expected at this point.

One of the highlights announced was the Start 2 Read program that will send a Start SMART-certified early childhood teacher to a business to talk to parents of one, two or three year old children. The teacher will share with the parent one of eight children's books, tips for effective reading aloud to their child and a reading tip sheet. Creech said it's a unique initiative in the workplace. To date, books have been distributed to more than 200 families.
"People sometimes think parents in poverty don't work but that's not true," he said. "Parents in poverty work two jobs and may not have time for home visitors. They do have time on their breaks at work."

School District Board of Trustees Chairman Porter Stewart said the Start SMART program really starts from birth.
"We are seeking to reach these children in their developmental stages," Stewart said. "It makes perfectly logical sense to reach them while they are developing before they get to kindergarten, instead of having to catch up."

Leatherman, chairman of the senate finance committee, was instrumental in getting the $590,000 grant from the state for the program. As a father and grandfather he was a little skeptical at first but, "When I saw the results it was phenomenal what children can do when they have access to these kinds of programs."