Following a special presentation by Geoffrey A. Nagle, Ph.D., President and Chief Executive Officer of the Erikson Institute, David Seleb facilitated a conversation with the public on behalf of the Collaboration for Early Childhood about how people perceive the early childhood environment in Oak Park. Below are the notes from that community conversation:

Special Community Conversation for Collaboration for Early Childhood and District 97
(Early Development Instrument)

Thursday, November 16, 2017
Oak Park Public Library, Maze Branch, Meeting Room
Conversation facilitated by David Seleb, Executive Director, Oak Park Public Library
Flipchart notes taken by Kathleen Spale, Oak Park Public Library

What kind of community do you want?

  • Equitable
  • EACH child’s needs met
  • Accessible to all and universal
  • Rich in opportunities and experiences
  • Strongest focus is on early ages and is a value of Oak Park
  • Provides support and resources, especially in collaboration with parents
  • Focuses on relationships, which should be equal to other skills
  • Welcoming to children so they feel belonging and connected to the community
  • Importance of diversity
  • Education and resources regarding toxic stress.

 

Why is that important to you? Is that the way you see things now?

  • Gap in resources that children receive and can access, especially because of financial inequity
  • Early childhood is still private
  • Need men and women to participate and work together
  • Educators are not valued as they should
  • Given lower salaries
  • Treated like babysitters
  • Need a better way to navigate resources.

 

What does success look like? What would you see that would tell you things were starting to happen?

  • Policy changes
  • Fewer logistical issues
  • Consistent for everyone
  • Access to preschools, especially for children at risk
  • Connecting services with the community
  • No gap when entering school
  • All involved, including men and women and not just educators
  • High-quality professional development
  • All kids between ages 3 and 5 in high-quality school
  • Recognition of the importance of experiences before age 3.

 

Who needs to be involved in this work? Whom would you trust to be involved?

  • People in and familiar with Oak Park
  • Physicians
  • Libraries and museums
  • Leaders of religious communities
  • Village board
  • Everyone, even people outside of Oak Park, so no gaps exist
  • Federal, state, and county
  • Does trust exist for these groups?
  • School district.

 

What is keeping us from making progress? What could be done to make a difference?

  • Inequitable funding and resources, especially in Austin
  • Children and individuals can’t do everything themselves
  • Policy changes through Board of Education
  • Historical mindset
  • Continuing with practices not relevant at the present time
  • Birth to five undervalued and associated with “women’s work”
  • Look to other places for better practices, such as parental leave
  • Too many resources to navigate and not enough time for solving bigger issues
  • No unified and coordinated system, like school systems, for early childhood so separate groups competing with each other when they should be serving the community first
  • Need for holistic view and financing.

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