There is an ever-increasing national emphasis on the importance of early childhood learning.
There is one couple in Sugar Land with such a passion about this, that they are devoting their energy, resources, time and ideas to be the prime example of the merits of early education for those Fort Bend children who begin learning , many of them while they’re still in diapers.
Lonnie and Sue Hutson are on a mission to change the world through their young students. They are convinced that young people are capable of learning far more than most people can imagine.
“I absolutely believe that we’re guiding some young people who will alter our world, ” says Lonnie, who, with his wife, Sue, are hands-on operators of a Kids R Kids Private Pre-School at SH 6 and West Airport Boulevard, and also own three other such facilities. Lonnie has counseled 18 other wouldbe preschool owners, and is increasingly lobbying state, regional and national entities for more funds and programs to promote early childhood education.
If there were a national ranking of such centers, this Kids R Kids center would be Number One!
• A major regional evaluation team, after exhaustive interviews and study, recommended a rare full accreditation for this facility.
• It has a webcam system where any parent, grandparent or guardian can monitor children’s day long activities.
• It has an innovative 60-inch Smart Board iPad-type interactive information center on which even 2-year olds can play and learn.
• There is a free-standing facility – Kidopoly – for associated physical education, recreation, and special events.
• It has the first of its kind splashpad and playground.
• These youngsters become conversant and capable on computers, go on field trips, have special educational programs brought to them, all in a secure environment.
• There are dance classes, recitals, sign language, all aimed to promote self confidence.
• All food is prepared, in house, under strict health regulations.
• The school partners with a CPR training agency so that all staff members are qualified for CPR emergencies.
The Hutsons have invested several million dollars in this nine-year old, two-acre center with a plethora of educational programs and equipment, and a staff that allows, on average, one teacher or aide for every six young students.
All staff members receive yearly evaluations. There are weekend professional training sessions for improving teaching skills. (A teacher attending Saturday classes gets another day off during the week).
The more the Hutsons learn about child development, the more they read about the worldwide studies that consistently show that” time’s a wasting” in a child’s brain development if they are not being properly stimulated.
“Studies show about 75% of the brain being developed by age three,” Lonnie said. “It’s 85% complete before a child’s sixth birthday. Brain cells must be ‘activated’ through specific stimulus and there is a limited time frame for each cell to receive this proper stimulation. If that doesn’t happen then that cell never will be used. It’s ‘use it or lose it ‘forever.”
Lonnie notes that their center has multiple trainings on methods to stimulate the child’s brain. “Our curriculum and activities are designed to do it correctly.” said Lonnie. “There is a need to develop the entire child – social, emotional, physical and educational.”
Lonnie noted that, while adults seek new experiences through vacations and other venues, a very young child is discovering new worlds all day every day, and their center hopes to make it a pleasant experience for the child.
Some 250 youngsters, six months to five years, and then after school up to 12, come to this center Monday through Friday, and it’s a diverse student body. These children come from homes where 36 different languages are spoken.
“We’ve had a young Russian boy who didn’t know a word of English when he came to us,” Lonnie reports. “Within six months he was fluent in English and he fits in perfectly with his peers.”
The accreditation award which the center received recently came after a week long evaluation by a Quality Assurance Review Team of the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools on Accreditation and School Improvement (SACS CASI). It’s a division of AdvanceED, the premier accreditation organization in the world, which for more than 100 years has been dedicated to advancing educational excellence worldwide – at all levels.
Dr. James May, a former principal of Kempner High School in FBISD and a 30-year educator, and his wife, Jane, conducted scores of lengthy interviews of the owners, teaching staff and other key members.
Dr. May stated, “This Kids R Kids childhood educational center clearly is a quality school. Without hesitation, after exhaustive interviews with virtually every member of this staff, I take great pride in recommending full accreditation for this facility.
“Fortunately, there is increasing focus on recognizing the importance of early childhood education, and what’s being done in this center is an outstanding program which many public schools need to emulate. This is one of the fastest growing segments of early childhood education.”
In the 21-page report on this center, the team stated that SACS CASI accreditation engages the entire school community in a continuous process of self-evaluation and improvement. The overall aim is to help those be the best that they can be on behalf of the students they serve.
The report states, “This school goes above and beyond mere compliance with established curriculum. It has established partnerships with education leaders such as University of Texas Health Science Center and Children’s Learning Institute. Consequently, the teachers, education coordinator and other staff members aim to incorporate their shared vision into research-based curriculum and institutional methods that facilitate achievement for all students.”
The team commended the school for “a systematic commitment to continuous improvement…rather than a celebration of the status quo.” It stressed that “parents have access to important information about the child’s activity and development.”
Regarding parents’ access, the school installed an expensive webcam system whereby all interested parents may “tune in” on their child’s activity at virtually any time of the day.
The SmartBoard, also an expensive addition with numerous software programs, allows youngsters to ask any question they can ask at any age. It’s their first opportunity at “googling” something. The owner of Kids R Kids International in Atlanta was impressed when he first visited the Sugar Land center and found this innovative and fun learning tool. He went back to headquarters and urged other KRK centers to investigate the SmartBoard.
The Atlanta management team frequently calls on the Hutsons for comment or review of proposed programs. Lonnie never has accepted a penny for all of the counseling and time that he has spent with new owners of these centers.
On February 1 Lonnie is heading a group of center owners to demonstrate some of their educational programs to Austin, in hopes of convincing Texas legislators to fund more early childhood learning. Most of this proposed funding would benefit students and families in less affluent populations in the state.
Other educational entities are beginning to salute the Hutsons’ advanced programs. Lonnie sits on the advocacy workgroup of TECEC (Texas Early Childhood Education Coalition). He’s a member of the Coalition for Pre-K Quality and Accountability which was established by the Texas Association of Business. He recently was an invited panelist on TECEC’s annual summit, Preparing Highly Effective Childhood Teachers in Texas: A Focus on School Readiness and Professional Development.” He’s on the board of directors for the National Child Care Coalition, and he and Sue are lead agents for the Texas School Ready program in the Greater Houston area. After this recent accreditation he was asked to be a part of a future SACS audit team.
Lonnie said that he always has been dedicated to helping young people learn. At 15 he taught a Sunday School class to youngsters. He’s headed Boy Scouts and other youth groups ever since.
Now, the Hutsons are convinced that their mission is about to pay off.
Mission Statement: “We change the world.”
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