February 10, 2010

Ocracoke Child Care earns five-star rating


Ocracoke Child Care earned five stars – the highest rating – for the first time, after its recent state licensing inspection by the North Carolina Division of Child Development.

The center is inspected and given a star rating every three years, and the last score they received was a very respectable four stars. Since then, the staff and board at OCC have continued to work towards improving that rating, and their hard work has paid off.

“The state looks at a combination of program standards and staff education, and at the center’s compliance history,” said OCC director Paige Bennett. “The five-star rating means we’re doing all the things we’re supposed to be doing.”

For the program standards part of the score, the state looks at the classroom environment and what the teachers are doing in the classroom.

“They look at everything from our sanitation rules to our personnel policies to making sure our policy handbook is clearly-written and up-to-date,” said Bennett. “They judge us on the choices we make to improve child care. A good example is the child/teacher ratio, which we choose to keep below the legal limit.”

The state inspectors also look for evidence of good teaching – classroom organization, activity centers, children’s art on the walls, classroom libraries, quality toys and supplies.

OCC earned seven out of seven possible points for program standards.

“Program standards are about safety, supervision – all those things that, as a parent, you’re concerned about,” said Bennett. “We did so well on that score, and that’s good for us and good for the parents. It’s the child care goal.”

For OCC, the journey from four stars to five stars was mostly about staff education. The center’s teachers continue to take classes from Beaufort Community College, and there are currently four staff members (one for each classroom) with lead teacher qualifications. Lead teachers are those with experience in child care and who have achieved education requirements set by the state.

Bennett, who holds a master’s degree in early childhood curriculum and instruction, recently completed the requirements for a Level 3 Administrator. She did coursework in administration and completed a portfolio project for the Early Childhood Department at Beaufort Community College last semester.

The improvements in staff education gave OCC a score of five out of seven.

“Everyone worked so hard to reach this goal,” Bennett said. “It was such a team effort.”

Bennett added, “There’s nothing wrong with four stars, or even three stars. You can have quality childcare and a great center, but still not have all the staff education requirements for five stars, so I want to stress how hard these teachers worked to take classes and improve our score. This is, ideally, what all centers strive for. We aimed for it and it happened.”

“We’re so proud of Paige and the staff for all of their hard work,” said Leslie Monticone, OCC board president. “We look forward to continuing to provide quality child care for the island. OCC is a work in progress. The teachers will continue to grow and learn and take classes, and we’re very proud of that.”

“Now we just need to maintain this quality,” Bennett said, already thinking about the next star rating three years from now.

Ocracoke Child Care is a non-profit childcare center. Board members include Leslie Monticone, Leslie Cole, Phyllis Wall, David Scott Esham, Susie Kennedy, Gael Hawkins, Junior Perez, Kim Meacham, and Claudia Lewis.

OCC is always looking for volunteers and you can be a help for as little as 1 hour a week.

The annual OCC Hoop-A-Thon fundraiser will be scheduled for some time in March – keep an eye out for posters about this fun event. Last year’s 50/50 raffle was so successful that OCC is planning about for this year; details to be announced. And, it’s not too late to get your “Ocracoke Off-Season” 2010 desk calendar by photographer George Brown. They’re available at the Variety Store for $5 and all proceeds benefit OCC.

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