Liberty County elected officials, civic leaders and school administrators heard Liberty County Pre-K Center staff tout the importance of early education last week during visits in celebration of Georgia Pre-K Week, a state-wide celebration.
State Rep. Al Williams, D-Midway, Board of Education Chairwoman Lily Baker, BoE member Marcia Anderson, Sheriff Steve Sikes, Hinesville Mayor Jim Thomas and LCSS Chief Administrative Officer Jason Rogers were among those who stopped by and read to students.
Baker and Williams were there Thursday morning. As he was escorted through the center, Williams stopped by classrooms to interact with children and read “I Love My White Shoes” from the “Pete the Cat” series.
“Programs like this — and Liberty County has one of the leading (pre-K programs) — is a testament to public education,” said Williams, who has participated in pre-K week in previous years. “When you come and look at a program like this and the dedication of these teachers, you know that it’s a labor of love, and (LCSS) has one of the best.”
Georgia’s lottery-funded pre-K program operates nearly 500 centers state-wide.
“Georgia’s pre-K program is an exceptional program that can serve as a model for our country,” said Pat Willis, executive director of Voices for Georgia’s Children, a child-advocacy organization. “About 84,000 4-year-olds in Georgia benefit from this remarkable program, a milestone in the critical phase of education that takes place from birth to age 8.”
Williams said that he views pre-K as the “single-most important part of public education,” because it sets the foundation for learning and instills discipline, as well as social-interaction skills.
“Some of these kids come out of very undisciplined homes, and they just don’t have the structure that’s conducive to moving on in life,” he said. “Without this, it’s twice as hard on their first-grade teacher.”
Liberty County Pre-K Center Assistant Principal Bronwyn Smith, who recently returned to LCSS after serving in another county’s school district, said the strength of Liberty’s program is its teachers.
“It’s just totally different, and it’s because we have quality teachers — college-educated, veteran teachers,” she said. “But we’re facing budget cuts that could move us away from that.”
Williams also heard from pre-K teacher Sandra Railey about what students were learning that week.
“This week we’re talking about apples,” Railey said, adding that students learned the differences between Granny Smith, red delicious and gala apples before taste tests. Students also cored apples, counted seeds and graphed charts representing differences.
“Statistics tell us that children who attend at least one year of pre-K enter kindergarten with better pre-reading skills,” Railey said. “Pre-K is vitally important to all students across the state and in the nation.”
Williams marveled at the advancements in education since his childhood, and emphasized the importance of funding education to keep programs like pre-K alive and thriving.
“Every legislator should come and get involved like this and get a better appreciation for public education,” he said.