1st Church Preschool is committed to providing a safe, nurturing, and supportive community for young children and their families. Our morning and full day programs are developmentally based and age appropriate. We provide a hands-on learning environment both in and out of doors each day. We stress a literacy-based curriculum that is interactive with the natural world. We value and maintain low child/teacher ratios for enhancing language development, social skills, and creativity. Children at 1st Church Preschool are guided by a skilled, professional early childhood staff.
First Congregational Church Day Care and Nursery, Inc. (D.B.A. 1st Church Preschool) operates as a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization providing education and child care for children ages three to six. The NAEYC accredited program is overseen by a volunteer Board of Directors consisting of up to twelve members which include the program director, a teacher representative, current parents and community members. The staff consists of one Director and ten teachers. The program provides morning and full day preschool programs serving the families of Cheshire and surrounding communities.
In early 1994, Marilyn Donovan, a member of the First Congregational Church of Cheshire, along with Karen Kaczenski, the Director of Christian Education, worked with various Church committees to create a child care program to meet the needs of both non-working and working families both within and outside the church community. Funding for the project was borrowed from the Church congregation in September 1994 and First Congregational Church Day Care and Nursery, Inc. was set up as a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization. By November 1994, the Center became incorporated and renovations were quickly under way to meet licensing requirements by the Connecticut Department of Public Health. On January 3, 1995, the center was issued its initial operating license. In June 2004, the preschool was Accredited by the National Association for the Education of Young Children.
At the end of the 2006-2007 school year, Marilyn Donovan retired. In her honor, a donation from a preschool family helped to establish a scholarship fund to support families in need with preschool tuition. In August 2007, Dawn DeFeo was hired and served as program director through August 2010. During this time, the program began doing business as 1st Church Preschool. After Dawn’s departure, Karen Bergstrom, a parent and previous board member served as interim Director until a permanent Director could be hired.
In December 2010, the board hired Brenda Ward-Kelley. Brenda began teaching at 1st Church Preschool in August 2004, as Lead Afternoon program teacher and then co-taught in the 4’s Room Program until taking on the role as Director. In August of 2015, the program was expanded by adding a fourth classroom increasing its licensed capacity from 36 to 46 children. 1st Church Preschool continues to maintain NAEYC Accreditation and was re-accredited in May of 2016 with a valid until date of May 2021.
PROJECT – PROGRAM EXPANSION 2016 ($60,000)
1st Church Preschool applied for and received a $30,000 matching grant through the DECD Small Business Express Program. These funds were sought after to help cover the costs of renovations, furniture, supplies and salaries to expand the program by adding a new classroom of 10 children with 2 full time teachers. This grant was based on the creation of two new full time teaching positions. Our new classroom opened for the 2016-17 school year increasing our licensed capacity from 36 to 46 children and increased our staff from nine to eleven members.
NAEYC ACCREDITATION RENEWAL – MAY 2016
1st Church Preschool renewed its NAEYC accreditation. Our NAEYC Site Visit occurred on December 12, 2016. In February 4, 2016, we received word that 1st Church Preschool (First Congregational Church Day Care and Nursery, Inc.) had been re-accredited--Valid until date May 1, 2021
BOARD OF DIRECTORS REVIEWED AND REVISED BY-LAWS (2016-17)
The Board of Directors reviewed the organization’s by-laws which were last adopted in 2009. Through discussion, the guidelines for parent representatives were updated along with the guidelines for length of term served by a board member. The revised by-laws were adopted on June 15, 2016.
Continue renovations to repair/update current space (new flooring in center bathroom)
Update outdoor playground equipment and repair yellow playhouse
Continue to build scholarship fund to support families needing financial assistance with preschool tuition
Improve weekly communication between teachers and working parents
Explore options for installing air conditioning to improve air quality during warmer months
Create a vegetable garden in collaboration with the Community Connections Program made available through the Cheshire Public Library
Ability to provide competitive teacher salaries and benefits
Funding teacher continuing education through college coursework to maintain NAEYC teacher qualifications
Continue to build our Scholarship Fund to help with tuition costs for families with financial need
Install air conditioning to improve air quality during warmer months
Long Term Goal – Relocation
The current preschool space provides many challenges to the program. The preschool has reached its maximum enrollment capacity with no further physical space to grow. Bathrooms are not located in the classrooms or within proximity that they can be supervised from the classrooms. Storage of program materials is a constant challenge. Also, there is not space specifically dedicated to staff for breaks, planning or storage of personal items. Teachers must expend a great deal of energy weekly setting up and taking down classrooms as the space is shared on the weekend with the Church Sunday school program. The acquisition of a new, updated space would: 1. Support more efficient supervision of children; 2. Improve program quality; 3. Fulfill the need of teacher break room; 4. Allow more adequate space for storage; 5. Provide more equally divided square footage per classroom to allow for a more uniform number of children and staff per classroom; 6. Allow classrooms to include or have immediate access to bathrooms and hand washing; and 7. Provide a space solely used by the preschool to eliminate need to set-up and take-down classrooms to accommodate Church Sunday school.
1st Church Preschool has been in operation since January 1995 and I have been fortunate to have worked here since August 2004—first, as a teacher and now, as the preschool’s Executive Director. Each day, I look forward to the smiling faces of the children as I enter the school at the beginning of the day. I can hear their happy chatter and laughter as I walk through the hall and their artwork proudly displayed on the walls. I see a small group of children gathered with their teacher around the sensory table as they try to manipulate egg beaters to create suds in the soapy water. A squeal of delight as one child manages to turn the hand beater to create a growing mound of suds while a teacher praises the child for the ability to turn the crank while steadying the beater. In the room across the hall, two children paint at the easel while another group of children work together to build a large block structure, each taking turns as the building becomes taller and taller. In each classroom, I see children engaged in the exciting activities that the teachers have carefully planned.
We view play as essential to the development and growth of every child. In the context of imaginative play, children are able to set up and resolve social and emotional conflicts, extend their ideas about the world, expand conversational skills and develop thinking skills. We offer a hands-on learning environment both in and out-of-doors. Our literacy-based curriculum, provides an overall quality preschool experience which prepares children for their kindergarten experience. Our playground extends growth and learning outdoors and supports children to develop and awareness of the natural world. The interactions and successes of the children, the nurturing, dedicated teachers working to meet each child’s needs, and the supportive parents and families always ready to lend a hand combine to create our 1st Church Preschool community. A place where learning is experiencing!
1st Church Preschool provides a high quality, caring, educational experience to meet the needs of the children and their families in Cheshire and the surrounding communities. We continuously work to maintain a supportive preschool community with integral parent involvement and a professionally educated, dedicated staff with many years of early childhood teaching experience. Our 4-hour morning preschool program ensures optimal learning in a relaxed environment. Our full day preschool programs with flexible scheduling offer quality full day learning experiences that meet the needs of most working families. Our low child to teacher ratios provide better supervision and individualized instruction that supports each child’s development. Children learn by manipulating, exploring, discovering, creating, and questioning. In every endeavor, children take an active role in the learning process without pressure or fear of failure.
At 1st Church Preschool, we consider it a privilege to share in a child’s growth and development. Our program operates as a partnership between parents and staff to promote high quality, developmentally informed early childhood education and loving childcare.
Executive Director, 1st Church Preschool
I came across 1st Church Preschool when looking for a quality center for my son a few years ago, with a background in child development, I knew what I was looking for and found it immediately upon entering the school. The children were doing a number of activities and each one impressed me more than the next. I saw all the different developmental domains being addressed in a way that was engaging, fun and educational. The teachers were sitting on the floor with the children asking open ended questions that were thought provoking for the children, and the teachers were clearly enjoying themselves. I knew right away that this was where my son should be.
Our preschool is a 10-month school year program offering a 4-hour morning or full-day program with low child/teacher ratios.
Our integrated curriculum and literacy-rich environment provide children with an abundance of experiences which intentionally promote their developmental skills and knowledge across all developmental domains.
PRESCHOOL PROGRAM (Last week of August to second week of June)
Morning Program 8:30 am – 12:30 pm
Full-Day Program 8:30 am - 5:30 pm
(Early morning drop-off available beginning at 7:30 am)
We serve approximately 65 children, 2.9 to 6 years old, in full and part-day preschool.
Red Pre-K Room
Yellow Pre-K Room
Each year, 1st Church Preschool provides developmentally appropriate learning experiences that supports each child’s development of skills to prepare for a successful kindergarten experience. Using the Connecticut Preschool Assessment Framework, teachers monitor each child’s development socially, emotionally, cognitively, physically and creatively and use this information to continue to challenge children and support their readiness for kindergarten as well as to identify children needing additional support services. 1st Church Preschool emphasizes the importance of the role of the family and their participation in their child’s education. The program supports the development of meaningful, lasting relationships between parents, care givers, teachers, children and families.
1st Church Preschool’s Annual Program Evaluation utilizes the information gathered from families, staff and the preschool board of directors to annually evaluate its program: The program utilizes the following evaluation tools:
The information from the annual surveys and program assessment forms are compiled and used to identify both program strengths and areas needing improvement on all areas of program functions including:
The annual evaluation information is compiled and used to create an annual evaluation report. The report is posted and shared with staff, families and board members via an email. The report contains the results of the family surveys, interpretation of findings, the past year’s annual goals, and evidence supporting the outcomes of the goals. The outcomes are discussed with the staff at the August staff meeting and with the governing board of directors at the September board meeting. The feedback is used to determine successful aspects of the program and to develop improvement strategies where needed.
Through collaboration and shared decision making, program goals are established for continuous program improvement and innovation. The following people are included in the decision-making process:
Our regular preschool
program is closed during school vacation weeks. April Optional Days are offered
for families needing child care during the school vacation. This program is a
multi-age level program and is provided at an additional cost.
Full-Day Program 8:00 am - 5:30 pm
Ages served: 3 to 6 years
This program pays for itself through April optional day tuition.
Our nine-week Summer Program follows the same general philosophy and guidelines as our 1st Church Preschool Program with opportunities for social interactions and learning through guided, child-centered, play experiences. Weekly themes provide the basis of a variety of planned indoor and outdoor activities and games. Children are provided opportunities to explore their natural environment creating a program around their own interests and needs. Summer cooking, art, and science activities keep children engaged and happy. Much time is spent outdoors on our large playground and backyard area. Water activities such as sprinklers and water tables are available to keep children cool.
Enrollment: Minimum of 2 mornings for 2 weeks up to 5 full days for 9 weeks
This program pays for itself through summer care tuition.
Brenda Ward-Kelley holds a B.S. in Elementary Education and a B.A. in Liberal Studies with minors in Psychology and Studio Art. She holds current Connecticut State Elementary Teaching Certification and has college credits in Early Childhood Education Administration, Management and Finance. She has many years of experience as a family day care provider and worked as a preschool teacher in the Wallingford Public School System. Brenda began at 1st Church Preschool in 2004 as Afternoon Head Teacher and then taught in the 4’s Room classroom. She became director of the program in December of 2010.
Indirect Public Support HelpIndirect public support represents revenue received through solicitation campaigns. This includes funding United Way and other federated fundraising organizations, but does not include donor designated contributions.
Earned Revenue HelpEarned revenue represents income generated in direct exchange for a product or service.Earned income includes income from government contracts.
This profile, including the financial summaries prepared and submitted by the organization based on its own independent and/or internal audit processes and regulatory submissions, has been read by the Foundation. Financial information is inputted by Foundation staff directly from the organization’s IRS Form 990, audited financial statements or other financial documents approved by the nonprofit’s board. The Foundation has not audited the organization’s financial statements or tax filings, and makes no representations or warranties thereon. The Community Foundation is continuing to receive information submitted by the organization and may periodically update the organization’s profile to reflect the most current financial and other information available. The organization has completed the fields required by The Community Foundation and updated their profile in the last year. To see if the organization has received a competitive grant from The Community Foundation in the last five years, please go to the General Information Tab of the profile.
Educate a child and you change a community. For the child, a good education means better career opportunities and higher lifetime earnings. College graduates enjoy better health and are more inclined to volunteer and vote. For the community, supporting our youths’ educational goals results in a stronger society.
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