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Education

Pre-K 4 SA, Edgewood Partnership May Be Temporary

Pre-K 4 SA speaks to parents at Gardendale Elementary during an information night in January 2019.
Contributed photo/Pre-K 4 SA
Pre-K 4 SA speaks to parents at Gardendale Elementary during an information night in January 2019.

Starting next school year, the city’s preschool program will operate an early education center in the Edgewood Independent School District.

The partnership qualifies Edgewood and Pre-K 4 SA for additional state funding through SB 1882, a 2017 law intended to encourage school districts to partner with outside organizations. But school leaders are describing it as a learning opportunity.

“I believe we have strong teachers here in the district, but just like doctors would call on another doctor for a second opinion, I am one who believes that a teacher can call on another teacher or organization and get the support they need in terms of building their skills up,” said Edgewood Superintendent Eduardo Hernandez.

Pre-K 4 SA CEO Sarah Baray said she plans to step back from running Edgewood’s Gardendale Elementary once the district is ready to continue on its own, a process she expects to take three to five years.

“The goal is to develop capacity,” said Baray. “We want to develop the ability of Edgewood to carry on without our intensive support … so that we can provide support to other programs to develop their capacity as well. What we don’t want to do is build a program that requires Pre-K 4 SA to be there for eternity.”

The organizations have a three-year contract granting Pre-K 4 SA the authority to take charge of Gardendale’s early grades, beginning with preschool and kindergarten and phasing in first and second grade.

Teachers will continue to be Edgewood employees, but they will receive additional training and guidance from a Pre-K 4 SA instructional specialist.

Hernandez and Baray said they’ve been careful to share their plans with teachers and parents as they developed them, answering questions and inviting feedback.

They held an information night in January and are planning another event at Gardendale March 4 with sessions both during the day and in the evening.

The Texas Education Agency still needs to approve the partnership in order for Gardendale to receive additional funds, but the agency approved a pilot version of the program last year when Edgewood students were at one of Pre-K 4 SA’s education centers. Baray expects the partnership to provide Gardendale with an extra $220,000 to $240,000 a year.

The amount of additional funding varies depending on the school funding formula, but it averages $1,200 to $1,500 per student. Because the state only funds half-day preschool, the district would receive roughly $600 to $750 per pre-k student.

Baray said Gardendale will not be supported by the dedicated local sales tax that supports Pre-K 4 SA’s other programs.

Camille Phillips can be reached at Camille@TPR.org and on Twitter at @cmpcamille.