Pre-K 4 SA board faces tough challenge

Group in planning phases of new program

SAN ANTONIO – On Thursday, the city council approved the appointments to an 11-member governing board of Mayor Julian Castro's Pre-K 4 SA program. The group will meet in January to begin the process of constructing the new tax-payer funded education initiative.

Leading the group is the board's chair, Elaine Mendoza, who was appointed by the mayor. She said the group must draw on their professional experience in order to make the program a success.

"Strategic planning, putting the right strategies in place, measuring outcomes, everybody does that," Mendoza said. "But what's unique about the board is…we will all look at this from different perspectives that, in the end, will make the best approach possible."

The governing board is made up of current and former educators and business leaders.

Member Gloria Ramirez is an editor at La Voz de Esperanza, but she spent a majority of her career in early childhood education. She said the program must be constructed in such a way that each of the more than 20,000 children expected to be served will be ready to enter the classroom.

"The principal challenge for me is making sure that the curriculum that the children are exposed to are geared toward the whole child, and that the skills that are being taught are developmentally appropriate," she said.

Pre-K 4 SA is expected to create four full-day pre-K programs housed at various locations and provide professional development for teachers. Eventually, school districts and other early childhood education organizations will be able to apply for grants through the program.

The initiative will be funded through a voter approved 1/8th-cent sales tax increase.

Group member and interim executive director for San Antonio Youth Literacy Dave Force said the 11 members must spend that money wisely.

"There's still 47 percent of the people not sure of what they bought," Force said referring to voters opposed to the initiative. "It's our job to make sure what the product is and that they believe in it."