DEAR READER, Early Connections is pleased to present the information in this annual report to the community. We remain committed to our mission, providing leadership, advocacy, and quality programs in early care and education. We believe this represents the best means to assist young children and their families, giving young learners the enthusiasm and tools to succeed in their future education. We work closely with our community partners to continually increase children’s access to quality early learning, and to provide an increasingly-diverse community of learners with multiple opportunities and means to explore new information, skills, and ideas. In this report, we highlight Early Connections’ work during the 2016-2017 year within our organization and with our many community partners and supporters. We continue to work for Erie County’s future by inspiring children’s love of learning and by connecting with families to ensure their children’s success. Laura Schaaf President of the Board of Directors Darlene E. Kovacs Executive Director BOARD OF DIRECTORS 2016-2017 Board President Laura Schaaf Director of Giving Barber National Institute Board Vice President Michael Plazony Senior Vice President Erie Insurance Life Division Board Secretary Sarah Howard Wellspring of Life LLC Board Treasurer Lori M. Hetrick Vice President of Finance Village at Luther Square Katie Jones Community Office Manager ERIEBANK Harborcreek Michael Thomas, Esq. Associate MacDonald, Illig, Jones & Britton LLP ADMINISTRATIVE STAFF Darlene E. Kovacs Executive Director Michelle Harkins Associate Executive Director Family Support Program Supervisor Matthew Turek Vice President of Finance Tracy Robison Chandler Vice President of Professional Development Kimberly Beers Vice President of Outreach/Success By 6 Scholarship Director Holly Platte Human Resources Coordinator Abby Perry Family Support Case Manager Jayne Deutsch Administrative Assistant EARLY CARE AND EDUCATION DIRECTORS Nancy Dahlquist Maggie Heslop Early Connections, City Center Kate Beer Early Connections, Housing Authority of the City of Erie Stephanie McIntosh Early Connections, North East Stephanie King Early Connections, West Side Carlie Eck Early Connections, Union City Jacqui Catrabone Director, Nonprofit and Community Services Strategy Solutions Dr. Janet Wojtalik Former Special Education Teacher and School Administrator, Author Early Connections is a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization-contributions to which are tax deductible to the fullest extent permitted by law.
Early Connections Organizational Overview Early Connections has operated in Erie County for over 100 years, providing outreach and programming to young children and families. Currently, Early Connections provides quality STAR 4-level programming at six sites, four in the City of Erie, one in North East, and one in Union City. STARS is a quality rating system used by Pennsylvania to determine the quality of Early Care and Education sites based on specific standards, with one STAR being entry level in the system and four STARS being the highest quality. STARS sets requirements for early childhood programs to promote the best learning environment and safest setting possible. At Early Connections’ centers, in the care of competent, qualified staff, children experience developmentallyappropriate learning activities which fulfill the PA Early Learning Standards and provide a variety of opportunities for a diverse community of learners. We serve approximately 300 children daily in our centers, from infant through school age. All locations include PreK Counts; two provide inclusive classrooms where children with identified special needs attend programming with “typically-developing” children while receiving needed supports. All centers participate in our contract with Erie County to provide full-time programming for children in our Family Support program. Young children in Erie County are considered "high risk" for early school failure (OCDEL Reach and Risk Report, 2017). Research has shown that if children receive a high quality early childhood education, they are more likely to succeed in school, graduate, and enter the skilled workforce. Quality early childhood education provides a positive long-lasting effect on a child’s educational and economic future, in turn helping improve their community’s economy and future workforce (http://www.readynation.org). Early Connections accepts CCIS (subsidy) child care funding for qualified families, and will direct families to the local resource for subsidy. Currently, EC also provides up to 30 funded preschool slots for children whose families meet the qualifications through United Way of Erie County funding. United Way has also provided Early Connections with Bridge Funding, so that children whose families are on childcare subsidy wait lists are not forced to wait for programming. In addition to early learning and child care, Early Connections administers: • Erie’s Future Fund, a scholarship program supporting economically-challenged families in enrolling their children in high-quality early learning throughout Erie County. • Success By 6, United Way’s initiative to ensure that children enter kindergarten ready to learn and succeed in school. • Supported Play Groups, funded through CIZ Race To The Top, to assist families in helping their children develop school and social skills. • Erie Free Taxes (Rural Outreach Component), to increase families’ awareness of and access to no-cost, professional-quality tax preparation. • Contracts with the Northwest Regional Key, to provide technical assistance to child care centers in Erie County and neighboring counties; professional development for child care practitioners; and Child Development Associate programs for CDA credentialing. We welcome questions regarding our work, and invite you to read our Annual Report in the pages that follow. Early Connections is truly dedicated to creating lifelong learners through exciting and engaging programs!