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Developmental Kindergarten Program Coming to Dublin Schools for Fall 2012

April 4, 2012

For the Dublin Unified School District, the Transitional Kindergarten (TK) program announced during a School Board meeting several months ago has recently evolved into the Developmental Kindergarten Academy (DK). Last fall, reported on the changes to this program and its ultimate impact upon incoming kindergarten students for the next school cycle.

In its original incarnation, Senate Bill 1381 was approved in 2010 to provide a two-year transitional program for all newly enrolled California kindergarten students. Previously, any incoming enrolled student must be at age five as of December 2, 2012. SB 1381 was originally developed to incrementally advance the entry (birth date) of incoming kindergarteners up through September 2 over a three-year period starting in 2012-13. However, the ongoing uncertainty of the CA state budget, coupled with the prospect of a mid-year revision by Governor Brown, resulted in the withdrawal of funding for this program. This led to a dilemma: supporting an initiative passed into law, but without the required funding. This led every school district in the state scrambling to find a solution that would fit their needs in the next fiscal year.

Dougherty Elementary Principal Catherine Ward-Mikes

To gain clarity on the direction that DUSD chose for this very important subject, we sat down with Catherine Ward-Mikes, Principal of Dougherty Elementary School. Ms. Mikes obtained a B.A. in Business Administration with an emphasis in Organization Leadership from Chapman University. Subsequently, she earned a M.S. in Education from the same institution. Over the past 15 years, Catherine has worked as a both a classroom teacher and administrator – most recently joining DUSD in July, 2011 from Newark Junior High. You have served multiple capacities on the Transitional Kindergarten (now the Developmental Kindergarten) committee. But funding from the state has been the “wild card”. Where are we today?

Catherine Ward-Mikes: “Unfortunately, there has been a lot of back and forth as it relates to funding sources for this program. We continued our committee work knowing that there was no certain “clarity” coming from Sacramento. When funding was ultimately pulled by Governor Brown, we sought to find a way support a program that we knew would ultimately serve our students. At the same time, I would like to applaud both Superintendent Hanke and the Board of Trustees for creatively finding a way to give every student the opportunity to succeed and to allow this program to move forward.” So let’s talk specifics – how does this change the dynamics/enrollment for kindergarten enrollment for 2012-13? What does this mean for the students?

Mikes: “Any child is eligible for Kindergarten enrollment that will turn five years of age between November 2 and December 2, 2012. Subsequently, the child will be invited into the elementary school that serves their home location for an assessment. This assessment follows both state of California guidelines as well as benchmarks that have been established for our district. The assessment and additional factors will help us determine if the child is a candidate for Developmental Kindergarten or a conventional Kindergarten class. The exciting part of this program is that it will offer a wonderfully creative strategy for students that fall into both categories. As educators, we’re mostly concerned about providing an environment where there is a joy for learning.” Why is it important to offer a two-year option for Kindergarten?

Mikes: “It’s quite simple. In today’s Kindergarten, there is an expectation for the students to be in their seats, ready to read, prepared to write, having them learning sounds and even prepared for an introduction to algebra. These students must come prepared to learn. If the assessment demonstrates a different level of mastery, we are blessed to offer these students an alternative.” So, dependent upon upcoming assessments, where will the Developmental Kindergarten classes be held?

Mikes: “We will work that out through the spring and summer. It will largely be dependent upon where we have spaces at our respective elementary sites. We will be striving to make it as convenient as possible for all of our families. Finally, what are your aspirations for Developmental Kindergarten within DUSD?

Mikes: “As an educator at both the primary and secondary levels, I know that we must imprint the joy of learning as early as possible. The foundation at an early level is critical. I’m confident that this program will make a positive difference for our students.”

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