By STEVEN NALLEY
The Excel By 5 Oktibbeha County Coalition met Wednesday at First Baptist Church’s Applegate Building to discuss the final steps necessary to secure Oktibbeha’s certification as an Excel By 5 community, uses for the $10,000 grant it received from Starkville Kiwanis Club and other future plans.
Ellen Goodman, Oktibbeha County Excel By 5 certification manager, said there are only two remaining requirements for the coalition to fulfill for certification. First, certification requires 60 percent or more of licensed early child care centers to participate in environmental evaluations through the Early Childhood Environmental Rating Scale-R or the Infant/Toddler Environment Rating Scale-R. Only one more child care center is needed to meet this criterion, Goodman said, and the coalition plans to secure it July 17.
The second, she said, is a partners’ meeting with representatives from the Starkville School District, Head Start and local childcare centers on July 18.
“We’ve got to get these few things achieved within a few days of each other,” Goodman said. “We are getting very close here. I have a letter saying we want to have a final evaluation done, and then we’ll be set. If everything goes well, we should be able to (celebrate) in August or September.”
Goodman said she hopes to hold an “Excelebration” of the certification in conjunction with its annual town hall meeting, but the date has not yet been set. She also said the coalition does not intend to rest on its laurels after achieving certification.
“This is a continuous target,” Goodman said. “We have to continuously do all the activities we have been doing after certification. We won’t be able to rest very long, because the Back to School Bash is the next week.”
The Back to School Bash, set for July 28 at the Starkville Sportsplex, is one of several events Goodman said Excel By 5 has planned for the remainder of the year. Several of the later dates are still tentative, she said, but others include a Grandparents’ Picnic July 29, childbirth classes on Tuesdays in October, a “Read or Treat” program the second week of October and a Family Christmas Extravaganza Dec. 8.
The coalition also discussed distribution of the $10,000 it received from Starkville Kiwanis Club July 3. Major allocations include $1,000 for the annual Back to School Bash, $2,000 for an annual community-wide early care and education event and $2,500 for materials for child care centers.
Joan Butler, coalition member and director of the Starkville School District’s Family Centered Programs, said these figures represented only a segment of the coalition’s full budget. She said this is the second year Kiwanis has supported the coalition, and others have provided strong support as well, but Excel By 5 will need more visibility to build a larger network of supporters and continue assisting with child care in the county.
“We’re going to have to look at other community organizations who are really, truly interested ... in making sure all of this takes place,” Butler said. “These are just some of the many activities we have planned each year.”