Embracing School Readiness in Tallmadge

Administrators formalize efforts by developing a Readiness Coalition

The enhancement of early childhood education has been an ongoing conversation among school administrators in Tallmadge.

“We’re lucky to have a close-knit community, in terms of the investment and willingness of residents to support schools,” says Courtney Davis, principal of Dunbar Elementary School.

Tallmadge City Schools logoAlthough Readiness Coalitions debuted in Summit County earlier this year, Davis, along with Superintendent of Tallmadge City Schools Jeff Ferguson, had already collaborated on several early childhood initiatives.

“Because we have a large number of preschools, we decided to use the size of our district (14 square miles) to our advantage,” says Davis, who has been Dunbar’s principal for seven years. “Although it’s difficult to make decisions under those circumstances, we found ways to positively impact preschool teachers.”

In spring 2016, nine preschool directors from Tallmadge met separately with Dunbar’s administration to simply open lines of communication.

“We wanted to know how to better support the preschools, as well as how to best meet the needs of our incoming students,” Davis explains. “Increasing Transition Skills Summary (TSS) participation was also important. At the time, we were averaging about 150 students per grade level in Tallmadge, but our seven kindergarten classrooms received only 20 to 25 total TSS student reports.”

The impact of joining representatives from preschools and kindergartens was overwhelmingly positive. Last fall, kindergarten teachers received 100 total TSS student reports.

Tallmadge City Schools superintendent

Tallmadge City Schools Superintendent Jeff Ferguson (left) and Dunbar Elementary School Principal Courtney Davis accepted their $500 to support the Readiness Coalition forming in Tallmadge.

“This huge increase was fantastic to see and has been very helpful to kindergarten teachers this school year,” Davis says. “Having an opportunity to see the difference in programs and where they’re focused (e.g. building vocabulary, etc.) shows just how valuable a tool the TSS can be.”

To expand further the dialogue focused on early childhood education, Dunbar has scheduled an open house for local preschools to attend in March.

“We’re the only elementary school in the district, so our goal is to level the playing field at which kids start school,” Davis says. “Although nearly 25 incoming kindergarten students don’t attend preschool at all year-to-year, we’d like to better implement outreach programs to reach these kids before they enter their classroom at Dunbar.”

Time to Rally

Davis’ number one goal? To rally around Tallmadge students and their preschool providers.

“We strive to do whatever we can, however we can, to provide the best we can for students,” Davis says. “It’s important we keep preschools and the parents of their students informed.”

All kindergarten teachers have already expressed interest in joining Tallmadge’s Readiness Coalition.

“We’ve visited many local organizations, such as faith-based programs and the local Rotary Club, to promote the date of our first meeting, which is scheduled for April,” Davis says. “We are very excited to get this going, and we’re hoping ongoing communication will come out of this effort. We want to give our students even more exposure in the community.”

According to Davis, it’s most important to stay focused on providing “every opportunity to our youngest students to have a strong foundation at the beginning of their educational careers.”